Legislators to Consider Measure for 17-Year-Old Capital Murderers as Jake Evans Trial Looms

The Parker County district attorney is keeping an eye on the Legislature's special session. Next month, Jake Evans' case is scheduled to go to trial. The 17-year-old kid from a gated community in Aledo is accused of methodically gunning down his mother and his little sister then calmly phoning 911.

"It's weird," he told the operator on the night of October 3. "I wasn't even really angry with them. It just kind of happened. I've been kind of planning on killing for a while now."

Trouble is, there's no legal punishment for Evans should a jury convict him. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that juveniles can't be sentenced to life without parole -- that's anyone under 18. In Texas, 17-year-old criminal defendants are considered adults. And, under current state law, juries have little discretion in sentencing. It's either life without parole or the death penalty.

On Tuesday, Governor Rick Perry added a measure to the special session that would allow 17-year-old capital murderers to be sentenced to life with the possibility of parole after they've served 40 years. One of the bills was authored by Representative Phil KIng, whose district includes Aledo.

"We've been watching and we've been working with legislators to get something passed," a spokesman for the Parker County district attorney tells Unfair Park. "And we're happy Governor Perry added it to the agenda so we have a chance to get this figured out."

As written, the legislation would apply retroactively to include Evans if it receives two-thirds of the vote in both chambers of the Legislature, says Shannon Edmonds of the Texas District and County Attorneys Association.

Evans certainly isn't the only 17-year-old to fall into this constitutional gap created by Miller vs. Alabama. Edmonds says the Harris County district attorney has 12 pending capital murder cases involving 17-year-old defendants.

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Brantley Hargrove