COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Ohio Senate is expected to begin consideration of a bill to stiffen mandatory sentences for convicted murderers after the House approved its version of the legislation last week.
“Justin’s Law” would increase the number of years those convicted of murder and aggravated murder must spend in prison before becoming eligible for parole. The bill increases mandatory sentences of 20, 25 and 30 years to 25, 30, 35, 45 or 55 years. It also increases potential penalties for premeditated murder and for convicted murderers under age 18. Minors would still be ineligible for the death penalty.
The parents of Justin Back have urged lawmakers to stiffen the penalties for killers after their teenage son was strangled and stabbed to death by two men during a home invasion in January 2014. The family lived near Waynesville in Warren County, northeast of Cincinnati.
Austin Myers, 21, was sentenced to death after being found guilty of aggravated murder and other charges. Co-Defendant Timothy Mosley, 21, received life without parole after pleading guilty to aggravated murder and other charges and agreeing to testify against Myers. Justin’s Law would not have affected their sentences.
House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger said he hoped the bill will be ready for Gov. John Kasich to sign this summer.
“It’s right that we are looking at things like Justin’s Law to make sure we are holding more people more accountable for what they’ve actually done,” Rosenberger, a Republican, told The Cincinnati Enquirer.
The Ohio public defender’s office said the bill is arbitrary and unnecessary because the U.S. Sentencing Commission defines a life sentence as around 39 years based on life expectancy in prison.