— By CHRISTIN COYNE
Though the Texas Legislature initially failed to pass a bill addressing the issue of punishment for 17-year-old capital murder defendants, lawmakers have another chance to fix the portion of the state law that leaves in limbo several ongoing capital murder cases involving younger defendants, including one in Parker County.
Gov. Rick Perry added the issue to the Legislature’s special session on Tuesday.
Local prosecutors hope the proposed change to the law will allow them to proceed with the capital murder case against Annetta South resident Jacob “Jake” Ryan Evans, who was 17 at the time authorities say he killed his mother and sister in October.
In a 911 call and written statement released by authorities, Evans says he repeatedly shot and killed his 48-year-old mother, Jami Evans, and 15-year-old sister, Mallory. During the call, Evans stated that he had been planning to kill them for a while.
Though 17-year-olds are treated as adults under Texas criminal law, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that defendants under 18 years old cannot be sentenced to death and, in a 2012 ruling, banned life imprisonment without parole for anyone under 18. Those are the only allowed punishments for capital murder under current state law.
The proposed change in the law would allow for life imprisonment with the possibility of parole for 17-year-old defendants convicted of capital murder.
Evans’ attorneys say the state should not be pursuing a charge for which there is no lawful punishment and that any change to the law shouldn’t apply to the case retroactively, something prosecutors dispute.
The punishment issue regarding the Evans case is currently before the Texas Second Court of Appeals after 415 District Judge Graham Quisenberry ruled against Evans’ defense attorneys’ arguments on the issue.