Bill to modify parole for juvenile offenders heads to governor’s desk

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SANTA FE, N.M. – Should a child convicted of a crime and sentenced as an adult be sentenced to life without parole? A majority of New Mexico lawmakers say no. 

Senate Bill 64 is on the governor’s desk the question now is will she sign it? 

KOB 4 reached out to the governor’s office with that question and has a closer look at the bill, and what we’re hearing from her office. 

Nicole Chavez’s life changed in 2015 when her 17-year-old son was hit by a stray bullet during a drive-by shooting and killed. 

Since then, she’s become an advocate for homicide victims and their families. 

“It’s this is just a heartbreaking bill and I completely understand the purpose of this bill, right? We hope that everybody can be rehabilitated. I work with juveniles in YDC and try to mentor them, we hope that they can be rehabilitated. But I still think that the penalty should fit the crime,” said Nicole Chavez, co-founder of Robbed New Mexico and homicide victim advocate. 

Chavez is talking about SB 64 that would modify parole for juvenile offenders, and end the possibility of a sentence to life without the possibility of parole. 

“Juveniles’ minds and brains are not as developed when they commit these heinous crimes, and they too especially as children need the opportunity for redemption, and they need hope,” said state Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez and bill sponsor back in January. 

Lopez’s bill sets up a parole hearing for most offenders after 15 years. 20 years for premeditated first degree murder convictions and 25 years for multiple murders. 

“Every time we come with another bill that would increase a penalty for a violent crime, it gets tabled in every committee. But this bill is actually making it out,” said Chavez. 

The bill passed both the House and Senate and is now on the governor’s desk. 

KOB 4 reached out to the governor’s office to find out where things now stand SB 64, and a spokesperson said they’re:  

“Still evaluating this proposal, as it is critical that the right balance is struck between the rights of victims and their families and the chance for youthful violent offenders to be rehabilitated.” 

The spokesperson also says conversations with advocates on both sides continues. 

“I was thankful that they put the amendment in that we fought for last year that they said no to. So if the governor does sign this bill, I can live with the bill. And just pray that all of the faith that we have in the parole board that they do their job, and they do it well by looking at that individual, looking at his background and looking what he is truly doing while incarcerated,” said Chavez. 

The governor has until April 7 to sign the bill or veto it. If she takes no action the bill will die in what’s called a “pocket veto.” 

Track SB 64 during the legislative session.