A judge who sentenced a man to more than two centuries in prison now says that man deserves to be freed. Judge Evelyn Baker is joined by numerous House members and others lobbying for clemency for Bobby Bostic.
“I will talk to anybody and everyone who is in a position to help undo an injustice,” said Judge Baker.
Baker sentenced Bostic to 241 years in prison after a string of crimes in 1995. Now 40, Bostic would not be eligible for parole until the age of 112.
“We had that whole concept of the violent predator juveniles. What we didn’t have was the knowledge from science in terms of brain development in adolescents,” said Baker of when she sentenced Bostic. “The law said he is a certified juvenile, therefore can be treated as an adult. Bobby was far from being an adult. He was a 16-year-old kid and I treated him as if he were a hardened adult criminal. I know now that was wrong.”
Judge Baker traveled this week to Jefferson City to meet with Representative Nick Schroer (R-O’Fallon), who earlier this year began gathering lawmakers’ signatures on a letter asking Governor Mike Parson (R) to grant clemency to Bostic. About 50 legislators have signed that letter and Schroer said more have committed to, but he put the effort on hold while the clemency process is advancing.
Bostic was 16 in 1995 when he and an accomplice robbed a group of people delivering Christmas presents to the needy. He shot one victim who sustained a minor wound. The pair then carjacked and robbed a woman.
Baker said Bostic has turned his life around in prison. He obtained his G.E.D. and a paralegal diploma, took a victim advocate course, and completed a course in non-profit management and grantsmanship. He’s written four non-fiction books and 8 books of poetry.
“He’s turned into a responsible young man who accepts full responsibility for his actions. He doesn’t minimize what happened. He doesn’t excuse what happened,” said Baker. “My experience as a judge has always been that people who accept full responsibility, make no excuses for their actions, express true remorse … don’t come back into the system again, and that’s Bobby.”
Schroer and Baker both believe that being sent to prison was actually a benefit to Bostic, who himself told the judge he expected to be dead in his early 20s.
“God is working miracles. It if wasn’t for the judge cracking down and being as hard as she was on Bobby, it wouldn’t have probably opened his eyes to create the man that he is today,” said Schroer. “If she would’ve been soft on him he might’ve been back out on the street to commit more crimes and actually become a more hardened criminal.”
Schroer has talked to the governor and First Lady Teresa Parson about Bostic’s case and said they are both receptive. He also hopes that in this effort to see Bostic be granted clemency, it will open doors for others in Missouri’s prisons who have similar arguments to be made.
“Bobby’s not the only Bobby. There are Bobbys and Bobbetts not only in the Missouri Department of Corrections but all throughout this country,” said Baker.
Schroer said he learned that the governor’s office has a stack of clemency requests that date back to the administration of Governor Bob Holden (D), who left the office in 2005. He hopes to see those examined.
“The Parson administration has indicated that they were taking a fresh look at all of those petitions and I know that they are still doing it right now … but whether we need to form a task force or a committee to help expedite that process, I’m wide open to forming something like that,” said Schroer.
“My time up here is to serve the people of Missouri, and what better way to serve the people than look at their pocketbooks, look where the money’s going, and look at the people that have actually been placed under the control of the state to see how we can actually get them out [to] become a productive member of society,” said Schroer.
Judge Baker said she has corresponded with Bostic regularly and she plans to meet with him in prison.
Schroer said it could be a couple of months before he submits legislators’ signatures with the letter urging Governor Parson to grant clemency to Bostic, while other parts of that effort move forward.
Mike Lear works for House Communications