Nonfiction

True Crime Storytime pt 3

Life Sentences

Life sentences are pretty much exactly what you’d think. A judge sentences a criminal to serve life in prison; sometimes they’re given an opportunity for parole, sometimes they aren’t. Generally when dealing with a life sentence, they’re given to adults generally for murder, some forms of assault, anything involving children, treason, larger issues with drugs, trafficking, piracy, and crimes against humanity.

In some jurisdictions, a “life” sentence is a misnomer: The defendant may be eligible for parole after a set number of years, like 25. But even where the sentence is life without the possibility of parole, consecutive life sentences may serve a practical purpose.

By Micah Schwartzbach, Attorney (nolo.com)

So, in the regards of being handed a life sentence, why would anyone give multiple life sentences, or a life sentence plus extra years? Depending on the crimes involved with the criminal, a judge will sentence multiple life sentences to make sure that the criminal will be unable to leave prison and return to society. Such as the example below:

Suppose, for example, that a defendant is on trial for two murders. The jury convicts him of both, and the judge sentences him to consecutive life sentences. He appeals the convictions and a court overturns one because the prosecution didn’t comply with its discovery obligations. That takes one life sentence off the books—at least until the defendant can be retried. But the other life sentence remains in effect.

BY MICAH SCHWARTZBACH, ATTORNEY (NOLO.COM)

Bobby Bostic was from St. Louis, Missouri where he was one of four siblings. His family wasn’t made of money, and so he had a rough childhood growing up; performing actions that weren’t healthy. By age 10, Bobby was smoking and drinking, and by 13 he was doing harder drugs, he was also stealing cars or riding in stolen ones.

Bobby was 16 in December of 1995, when he and some friends were at someone’s house, drinking and smoking when one of his female friends went outside to speak with someone from the neighborhood who hit her. She threatened to bring Bobby and the other friends out, the neighborhood man accepted the threat and had her bring the friends out. Bobby, who had brought a gun with him to the house, and the group of friends were able to end the argument without using a gun and everyone except for Bobby and his friend Donald Hutson who stayed outside to smoke.

Hutson and Bostic had seen a truck drive and park nearby, it carried some Christmas items that would be delivered to a needy family. They looked at each other and headed to the truck, intending to rob the people who were doing a good deed. A woman and her boyfriend were getting ready to carry things to the house when the woman had a gun put to her head, and her boyfriend was shot at. Bostic demanded money from the boyfriend, and it wasn’t until the boys shot again, and grazed the boyfriend was when they were given $500 and took the leather jacket from the woman before leaving.

Bostic and Hutson headed to a female friend’s house, but was told they couldn’t stay. They headed out, turned the corner and ran into their second victim who was taking packages from her car. The two forced her into the backseat of the vehicle, and took the keys from her before driving off. She was robbed of her coat, earrings, and purse before she was dropped off in an alley.

The two were arrested an hour later.

After only four months while in prison, waiting for trial, Bostic was offered a deal; “plead guilty and take a life sentence – 30 years – with the chance of parole.” Bostic, however, did not accept the deal.

Eight months after that, Bostic was offered a second deal, a “mercy of the court” deal: “plead guilty and take what the judge decides.” Again, Bostic turned down the offer. His belief leading him to think that he had a better option with the jury, than with a blind plea.

In 1997, Bostic’s trial came and he was given 17 counts; 8 counts of armed criminal activity, 3 of robbery. His lawyer suggested that Bostic write letters to the judge, explaining himself and making himself more human, which he did. Within four letters, Bostic expressed his views on the trial and what was going on, not taking any form of responsibility.

Unfortunately for Bostic, his letters did the exact opposite of helping his case, and instead the judge presiding, Judge Evelyn Baker, chose to ran his sentences consecutively ending in a total of 241 years in prison. Hutson however, chose the mercy of the court deal, and the judge only gave him a total of 30 years.

“You made your choice, and you’re gonna die with your choice,” said Judge Baker. “Because Bobby Bostic – you will die in the Department of Corrections.”

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Bostic was in juvie dorms for two months before he was transferred to the adult dorms, where he was involved in fights and had his food stolen since he was new. Not long after, Bostic got his act together after reading the autobiography from Malcom X; Bostic felt a kinship to the man since they grew up under similar difficulties. Bostic continued reading, improving himself, and soon received his GED; and began to write his own books, some non-fiction and poetry.

Bostic started taking college courses; one being a victims’ advocacy class, where he was finally able to realize what his victims had gone through during and after his crimes. As he got closer to receiving his Associate’s Degree, Bostic began contemplating others’ education and trying to assist those outside of the prison who lived the same story he did. Of running a charity to help whomever he could, unfortunately he needs to get out to start anything.

In 2010, thanks to the case ‘Graham v Florida’ the Supreme court ruled that any juvenile that did not commit homicide, should not be given a life sentence. This was adapted in 2012, to juveniles who ‘did’ commit homicide, and in 2016 the Supreme Court changed this again to apply to future and past cases.

Bostic watched as more than 250 of his fellow prisoners are released, however, he was not. When asked and having tried to appeal, Bostic is told that the courts in Missouri did not give him a ‘life sentence’, but instead gave him a ‘long sentence’ with chance to appeal for parole in his ‘old age’; they also added that the release only applied to those with single offenses, while Bostic had 17 counts.

The American Civil Liberties Union reviewed Bostic’s case before asking the Supreme Court to look into Bostic, and see if anything could be done; however the courts in Missouri did not want Bostic’s case to be upturned. When Judge Evelyn Baker saw this she knew she needed to speak up; having heard of Bostic’s evolution from an angry 16-year-old to a responsible adult.

“They’re entitled to their point of view,” he says. “If they think I should die here, if they think it was a terrible crime – which it was – they’re entitled to feel that way.”

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The Aftermath

It took Bostic awhile, but he wrote letters to his victims and went on TV, apologizing for his actions, but none of the victims responded to either form.

In April of 2018, the Supreme Court was supposed to look at Bostic’s case, however they turned the case away and Bostic’s case was left alone. Currently, Bostic, 41, is still behind bars in the Jefferson City Correctional Center, trying to educate other cellmates and taking care of the prison’s garden. If you’re interested in reading Bostic’s story, or want to support Bostic, there has been a website created to help free Bobby Bostic: here.

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Sources:
https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/why-judges-hand-multiple-life-sentences.html

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-43461521

https://www.graphic.com.gh/international/international-news/the-teenager-sentenced-to-241-years-in-prison.html

https://www.themarshallproject.org/2020/04/30/a-juvenile-lifer-finds-peace-in-the-prison-garden

https://www.missourinet.com/2020/01/22/retired-missouri-judge-justice-cries-for-bobby-bostic-to-be-released/

http://www.freebobbybostic.com/

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Side Story!

Our next story also has to do with a teen being sentenced to life in prison, and was denied release with the Supreme Court’s ruling with ‘Graham v Florida’.

Kathleen Bedsole

The story starts near Halloween with a 16-year-old couple in Birmingham, Alabama. Kathy Bedsole and Chuck Leonard were planning to head to a haunted house in Trussville, Alabama, however they had gotten lost and parked on the side of the road, figuring they should head back to their homes since it was nearing Bedsole’s curfew.

At this point, two guys, Richard Kinder (left-17) and David Duren (right-21) had spotted the parked Oldsmobile and headed towards it; intending to abduct the passengers, throw them in the trunk, and rob a fast food restaurant. While Duren was armed with a gun, and Kinder a knife, the two ordered Bedsole and Leonard into the trunk and they drove to Mrs. Winner’s drive-through. As they arrived at the drive-up window, Duren showed off the gun too soon and the cashier screamed they were being robbed; forcing the boys to flee.

Duren drove off and parked, deciding that their scheme had failed and that they needed to get rid of Leonard and Bedsole. Kinder was ordered to remove the two from the trunk and tie them up, before heading back into the car, and stealing money from Bedsole’s purse. Duren, left with the two teens, let out five gunshots before entering the car and the two guys drove away.

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Unfortunately for the two teens, of those five shots one hit Bedsole in the head; killing her instantly. While Leonard was shot in the chest, legs, and hips. Duren had assumed the two to both be dead, however none of the shots Leonard received were fatal. Removing the ropes from himself, Leonard made his way to a couple at home, Mr. and Mrs. Dosier, who were able to contact the sheriff and alert them of the murder, botched robbery attempt, and assault.

Duren and Kinder were found and caught in Huffman, Alabama, where Leonard was able to identify the two.

At the trial in March of 1984, jury convicted Duren with the death penalty, however the judge presiding over the case had to stop any sentencing as he eventually found out that Duren was vaguely related to him, and they had to transfer the trial to another judge 6 months later; the new judge also sentenced Duren to the death penalty. In 2000, Duren finally received the death penalty.

Kinder on the other hand, had the jury suggest the death penalty, but an Alabama law allowed judges to overturn the jury’s suggestion, and the judge deemed Kinder to have a minor role in the murder; instead giving him a life sentence with no possibility for parole.

In 2017, 33 years since Kinder’s original sentencing, Kinder had a resentencing hearing; to see if he could get parole, or remain in prison. Since he’d been locked up, Kinder had cleaned up his act, receiving college degrees and even marrying a volunteer. He had only had one minor incident, and all of this was brought as additional evidence to the judge. The judge took notes that Kinder had truly intended to rehabilitate, and agreed to a parole hearing.

Kinder was 52 when he was granted the parole hearing. However, it wouldn’t be an easy meeting as Kinder had Bedsole’s father and sister demanding he be forced to remain for his full sentence; Bedsole’s father even going so far as to write a letter to the board who would review the petition for parole.

“An early release would defeat the retribution purposes of the State’s penal system and would undermine the overall goal of incarceration.”

Anthony bedsole (father of Kathy Bedsole)

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The Aftermath

Unfortunately for Kinder, the board denied Kinder’s appeal for parole with no reason given for explanation in 2018. However, they did suggest that he try again to appeal for parole in five years; the largest amount of time one can wait before appealing again.

Kinder will appeal again when he is 57, hoping the board will choose to release him so he can live outside with his wife as a free man.

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Sources:
https://theappeal.org/alabama-life-without-parole-denied-freedom-supreme-court/

https://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-11th-circuit/1381602.html

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