I was a lost and troubled 16 year old soul trying to find my place in the world but always seemed to be looking in the wrong places and doing the wrong things.
In December of 1995, while walking through an impoverished city neighborhood, I, along with an associate Donald Hutson, was walking down a street and saw some people who were not recognizable and decided to rob them. There were five people in this crowd but we only robbed two of them and one victim was shot at but not injured. Subsequently from the incident I was charged with 2 counts of first degree robbery, and 3 attempted robbery for the other three people in the crowd, 2 first degree assaults and 7 counts of armed criminal action. Shortly thereafter, about 30 minutes later and about 8 blocks away we committed another robbery and took the victim’s car driving a few blocks away from the robbery. Consequently, I was charged with kidnapping and armed criminal action as well. In all, I was charged with 17 counts from these incidents due to accomplice liability. The trial for all these charges was held at the same time.
The only plea bargain I was offered was for a life sentence. I went to trial and a jury found me guilty of all counts. The jury recommended 30 years for the three robberies, and 15 years for the first degree assaults and kidnapping, and 5 to 10 years for the attempted robberies and armed criminal action charges. The final decision was left to the judge to run the sentences concurrently for a 30 year sentence or consecutive for a total of 240 years. For false reasons that had nothing to do with the crime itself the judge acted biased and sentenced me to die in prison by giving me 240 years in prison. The judge acknowledged my age of 16 and then said these words: “Mr. Bostic, you made your choice, you will live with your choice, and you will die with your choice because Bobby Bostic you will die in the Department of Corrections. Do you understand that? Your mandatory date to go in front of the parole is 2201; nobody in this room will be alive in the year 2201”.
Two hundred and forty years was my cruel and unusual punishment and this is the equivalent of life without parole. I was only 16 years old and no one was injured in my crimes. Several months after I was sentenced, my adult co-defendant who was 18 years old on the day of the crimes was sentenced after a guilty plea to 30 years for our crimes. He goes home in 6 years while I remain serving a life without parole sentence. When I was sentenced I was given the opportunity to speak, I said the following words at my sentencing hearing: “YOUR HONOR, I feel that during my incarceration I feel that I have learned my lesson from the past crimes, And I feel that I should deserve a time cut and I feel about the time I’m due when I am a prisoner, I’m gonna take college courses or whatever I can learn and rehabilitate myself back into society and be a productive person in the community”. Right after I said these words that judge sentenced me to die in prison. The judge did not consider rehabilitation while sentencing me even though I was a child when I committed these crimes. Rehabilitation is one of the main factors according to law that the judge is suppose to take into consideration, knowing that there is a chance for reform in juveniles. The judge also did not take my age as a mitigating factor. There are so many constitutional violations with sentencing a child to die in prison, especially when he did not kill or serious injure anyone. There is an increasing body of scientific evidence and research which recognizes that children at the age of 16 do not have fully developed brains and there are cognitive differences between children and adults, revealing that the last region of the brain to develop, the pre-frontal cortex, which governs abilities such as response to inhibition, self-control, anticipation of consequences, and logical decision-making has not fully developed in children of 16 years old and does not fully develop until the early 20’s. Furthermore under the laws in our country, state legislators have historically recognized the differences between children and adults in many areas of the law, as evidence by provisions pertaining to voting, joining the military, eligibility for marriage, service on a jury, eligibility to buy tobacco and alcohol, all of which a person must be at least 18 years old to do. If a child is not allowed to do these things under the law why should he be able to be sentenced to die in prison when he did not kill or seriously injure anyone? Is this justice or injustice to sentence a 16 year old to die in prison for one mistake such as this in one hour of his short life? I received 210 more years than my adult co-defendant for the same crime.
I have rehabilitated myself since coming to prison. A few years into my prison sentence my mother Diane died of cancer at the age of 42 years old. Not long after that my little brother Shawn died due to complications of a gunshot that left him paralyzed ten years prior. Despite these tremendous obstacles, I navigated through my feelings of despair and remained optimistic. I still keep hope alive and pray that one day the courts will re-evaluate my sentence and give me a second chance. I take complete responsibility for my role in this senseless crime and I am truly remorseful and live with regret everyday for what I did.
I have been in prison 19 years, which is longer than the amount of time I lived in society as a 16 year old juvenile before my arrest. During my incarceration I have written letters of apologies to the victims of my crime. I have taken self-education very seriously. All of my efforts to transform my thinking have been pursued with the utmost earnestness. During my first year in the Department of Corrections I obtained my G.E.D. Since then I have obtained a Paralegal Diploma and took a Victim Advocate Course through Adams State College. I have also completed a course in non-profit management and grantsmanship. I have established several blueprints for non-profit organizations for troubled teens and charity. I have written four non-fiction books and 8 books of poetry. I have completed over 25 rehabilitation classes.
The progressive visions for my life goes beyond the prisons that I am incarcerated in. My story suggests a need for a second chance. This is the only country in the world that sentences children to die in prison (even if they did not kill or rape anyone). America is a country of second chances and children sentenced to die in prison should be given a second chance.
I yearn to be free one day instead of merely surviving and existing in a prison cell for a mistake that I made as a 16 year old juvenile. If you are willing to support my plea for freedom then please help me petition the courts or the governor for a sentence reduction. Thank you for reading this. Letters of support should be sent to my attorney at the following address.
Patricia Harrison, Professor of Law
St. Louis University School of Law
100 N. Tucker Blvd. Suite 704
St. Louis, Mo. 63101