As I have discussed at length in the past, one of the issues added to the call of the Special Session was providing a penalty to 17 year-old offenders convicted of capital murder. This is because 17 year old offenders are classified as adults by Texas and juveniles by the Supreme Court. Accordingly, the 17 year old is given the adult penalty options: death or life. And in Texas, parole has been abolished for capital murderers so it is automatically life without parole. This created quite the conundrum, because the Supreme Court has said such penalties for 17 year-old offenders is a violation of the Eighth Amendment.
Anyways, the Senate has passed a bill that solves the problem. The Texas Tribune reports that the bill, sponsored by Joan Huffman, would allow a single, mandatory sentence for these individuals: life with parole (after 40 years). Such a penalty is constitutional right now, but the way the Court is evolving on these issues means there could be a problem in the future. The decisions which struck mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juveniles, Miller v. Alabama, mainly drew its concern from the fact that Judges and Juries were unable to consider the mitigating circumstances and unique evidence pertaining to each case. In fact, the Court specifically condoned the idea of individual sentences of life-without-parole.
The bill passed the Senate unanimously and now heads to the House. For what it is worth, I would not have added this to the call, as the issue was raised in the Regular Session, and did not pass. Contrary to what many in the State would have you believe, there is not a choice between trying these individuals for Capital Murder and letting them go. One may still be convicted of 1st Degree Murder, which carries the penalty of life-with-parole.