New Mexico SB 247


SB 247 was defeated! Thank you to all victims, victim advocates, and victims’ rights supporters who helped to oppose it! And thank you to all lawmakers who considered victims!

SB 247 would have mandated parole eligibility for all juvenile criminals after only 15 years. NOVJM strongly opposed it because, as we explain on this page, such lenient sentences would demean serious crimes and devalue victims. SB 247 also would have re-traumatized victims at parole hearings.

For more information, please contact [email protected].

Anyone who is interested in writing legislation that is more sensitive to victims should contact [email protected] and [email protected].

Please sign this petition to block SB 247, which could free Clovis Carver Library mass shooter Nathaniel Jouett after only 15 years and would re-traumatize victims.


New Mexico SB 247 is yet another bill that seeks to significantly reduce juvenile offenders’ sentences at the expense of justice, safety, and victims’ rights. The first version would have required juvenile criminals to be eligible for parole after no more than 10 years in prison. With a new amendment, juvenile perpetrators would be entitled to parole hearings after 15 years. Under the first version, juvenile offenders, including those responsible for serious crimes, would be entitled to parole hearings every two years. By requiring sentences that are grossly lenient for some crimes, SB 247 denies justice and demeans serious crimes. It also would force victims to endure traumatic parole hearings. NOVJM stands firmly against SB 247.

What it would do

All juvenile criminals would be eligible for parole after only 15 years. They would be entitled to parole hearings every two years after that. The first version mandated parole eligibility after only 10 years.


First version

Section 31-21-10.2 NMSA


A. A serious youthful offender sentenced under

Section 31-18-15.3 NMSA 1978 or a youthful offender sentenced

as an adult under Section 32A-2-20 NMSA 1978 shall be entitled

to a parole hearing after serving ten years of the offender’s

sentence, unless the offender is subject to earlier eligibility

for parole pursuant to another provision of law or on the

recommendation of the warden of the facility in which the

offender is incarcerated. The parole hearing shall occur

whether the offender is serving sentences for multiple crimes

concurrently or consecutively.

B. If parole is denied, the offender shall be

entitled to a parole hearing not less than every two years

thereafter, unless the offender is subject to earlier

eligibility for parole pursuant to any other provision of law.

F. The parole board shall annually conduct a review

of all offenders currently serving an adult sentence for an

offense committed as a child to ensure that parole eligibility

hearings required pursuant to this section are timely


Bold text added.

Text after amendments

Section A was amended to read:

A serious youthful offender sentenced under

Section 31-18-15.3 NMSA 1978 or a youthful offender sentenced

as an adult under Section 32A-2-20 NMSA 1978 shall be entitled

to a parole hearing after serving fifteen years of the offender’s

sentence, unless the offender is subject to earlier eligibility

for parole pursuant to another provision of law or on the

recommendation of the warden of the facility in which the

offender is incarcerated. The parole hearing shall occur

whether the offender is serving sentences for multiple crimes

concurrently or consecutively.

Bold text added.

Why we oppose SB 247 (first version)

Clovis Carver Library shooting victim Wanda Walters

NOVJM strongly opposes SB 247. The bill would make all juvenile criminals, even those responsible for serious crimes like rape and murder eligible for parole after only 10 years in prison and every two years after that. This would deny justice to victims and impose additional suffering upon them. 

For there to be justice, a sentence must be proportionate to the crime. 10 years is a grossly lenient sentence for some serious crimes and denies justice. SB 247 demeans serious crimes by stating that they only warrant 10 years in prison. Consider, for example, the murder of Katherine Cardenas in the neighboring state of Texas. 16-year-old Jose Arredondo kidnapped Katherine, raped her, and strangled and beat her to death. Katherine was two years old. To say that 10 years to life is a proportionate punishment to a highly aggravated murder like that demeans it. Sentencing a murderer like Arredondo to 10 years to life would also demean the value of what he took-Katherine’s life. 

Clovis Carver Library shooting victim Krissie Carter

One offender who could be released early by SB 247 is Nathaniel Jouett. Jouett was 16 when he went on a shooting rampage at the Clovis-Carver Library that left two women dead and four others, including a 10-year-old child, injured.

SB 247 would impose significant suffering onto murder victims’ families and other victims. Many victims whose loved ones are brutally murdered or whose lives are destroyed by violent criminals oppose the criminals’ release. They are especially opposed to the idea of the offenders being released after only 10 years in prison. To prevent release, they will speak up at parole hearings. 

The parole process is very traumatizing for victims. Mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD flare up. They relive the worst experiences of their lives, leading them to suffer nightmares, flashbacks, and panic attacks. For many victims, the release of the assailant is not only an injustice, but a potential danger. Many victims fear retaliation and justifiably so–perpetrators do sometimes hunt down victims and retaliate against them. Victims’ understandable fear of the offenders is indescribable.

For murder victims’ families, one parole hearing is traumatizing enough. SB 247 would force victims to endure not one parole hearing, not two parole hearings, not three parole hearings, but up to dozens of parole hearings in their lifetimes.  A 17-year-old murderer would get a parole hearing at age 27. Then at 29. Then at 31. Then at 33. Then at 35, 37, 39, 41, 43, 45, 47, 49, 51, 53, 55, 57, 59, 61, 63, 65, 67, 69, 71, 73, and 75. If he lives to be 75, he will get 25 parole hearings, assuming he doesn’t ultimately get out. His victims would relive the crime over two dozen times. They would experience a never-ending cycle of traumatizing and painful parole hearings and live knowing that even if they prevent parole this time, they will have to do it all over again after two years and then two years after that and two years after that. They would never get a break. To inflict this onto victims is beyond cruel. 

The goal of SB 247 is to release as many juvenile criminals as possible. It seeks to achieve this goal by giving juvenile offenders excessive numbers of parole hearings after short amounts of time in prison. Forgotten are the victims, who would be forced to relive the crimes again and again and again. Also forgotten are the public, who would be endangered. SB 247 is perhaps the most extreme and most harmful bill that has ever been advanced by juvenile offender advocates. And that’s a high bar.  NOVJM strongly opposes this outrageously cruel bill. 

Position on amendment

We are thankful that the Senate Health & Public Affairs Committee was willing to amend the bill by mandating parole hearings after 15 years instead of 10. This is an improvement. However, 15 years still may be too lenient for some highly aggravated crimes. And the amendment did not address our other major concern–the repeated tormenting of victims every two years.

Under the first version, a 17-year-old murderer who lives to be 75 would be entitled to 25 parole hearings, assuming he isn’t released at some point. Under this new version, a 17-year-old murderer would get his first parole hearing at age 32. Then another one at 34. Then another one at 36. Then more hearings at 38, 40, 42, 44, 46, 48, 50, 52, 54, 56, 58, 60, 62, 64, 66, 68, 70, 72, and 74. That’s 22 parole hearings, three less than under the first version. So while increasing the offenders’ sentences by five years may seem like a major compromise, it really isn’t so long as these criminals get parole hearings every two years.

In addition to mandating potentially dozens of parole hearings–a move that will trap victims in an eternal cycle of trauma and pain–the new version requires sentences that are grossly lenient for some crimes. And 15 years is, without a doubt, grossly lenient for some crimes. Consider the case of Johnny Orsinger. At 16, he murdered four people. In one case, Orsinger and his accomplices carjacked and kidnapped two men and shot them to death. Two months later, Orsinger and a co-defendant tricked a woman into giving them a ride. The woman and her nine-year-old granddaughter were on their way to visit a traditional Native American medicine person in Tohatchi, New Mexico. But they never got there. Orsinger and his accomplice stabbed the grandmother 33 times and kidnapped her granddaughter. They took the child on a 30-40 mile ride into the Chuska Mountains. During this ride, they forced the little girl to sit in back next to her grandmother’s body. They then murdered her to avoid getting caught. They did so by slitting her throat and dropping large rocks on her head. Orsinger and his fellow killer then severed the victims’ hands and heads from their bodies. They buried the hands and heads and hid the torsos in the woods.

Under SB 247, a quadruple murderer like Orsinger could potentially be released after 15 years, serving less than four years per victim. 15 years is a deeply unjust sentence for a man who brutally murders four people, including a nine-year-old child. After the 15 years have gone by, he would be entitled to dozens of parole hearings and would be able to continue tormenting and torturing the victims’ families. This is just not fair.

SB 247 still needs substantial improvement. It is just wrong to force victims to relive the crimes dozens of times. It is just wrong to allow mass murderers to be released after serving a handful of years per victim. The current version does not adequately consider victims and is not a compromise. NOVJM respectfully requests that lawmakers show victims at least the same amount of compassion that they are showing our loved ones’ murderers.

Position on new amendments

NOVJM is grateful that the New Mexico Senate was willing to amend the bill. With this new amendment, juvenile offenders would be entitled to parole hearings after 15 years and every five years after that. Once they have been incarcerated for 30 years, they will be entitled to parole hearings every two years.

While this amendment is a substantial improvement, we still have concerns. 15 years remains a grossly lenient sentence for some crimes. As explained above, such a light sentence denies justice, demeans serious crimes, and devalues victims.

NOVJM testimony

Read NOVJM testimony on SB 247.

Victims speak

Read letters from New Mexico victims here.

What you can do

Sign and share our petition.

Send an email to the NM House. House members’ emails are listed below.

[email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected] [email protected]@[email protected]

Here is a letter you can send to the House.

Dear New Mexico House,

I strongly oppose SB 247, which would mandate parole eligibility for all juvenile offenders after only 15 years. Victims were not communicated with or considered during the drafting of this bill. Most victims who wished to speak against this bill in Senate Committees were denied the opportunity. We ask that you give more time to address victim concerns. Victims will be significantly impacted by this and deserve to be heard.

Here is another letter you can send the House.

Hello New Mexico House,

My name is _____,

I write to you today because I stand in opposition to SB247. I find the nature of this bill to be insulting to the victims of juvenile murders. It poses zero consideration for those who are suffering due to extreme acts of violence- such as the acts perpetrated by Clovis Carver Public Library shooter, Nathaniel Jouett. Jouett committed his crimes at 16 years old. The argument that the adolescent mind is ill-developed hardly poses an excuse in crimes such as these.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 41,852,838 youth between the ages of 10 and 19 in the United States, 13% of the total U.S. population, in 2019. Reported-Feb 12, 2021 (

There were 44,010 arrests of juveniles for violent crimes made in 2019. Violent crimes were defined as murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. (

44,010 is 0.10% of the 2019 total number of US youths aged 10-19. The remaining 99.9% of these youth also had underdeveloped brains, yet they did not commit violent crimes. They still exhibit empathy and conscience as they continue to develop into adulthood through all of their wide ranges of emotions, family environments, personal traumas, circumstances, and personal convictions. Human beings are creatures of free will from the moment we begin to crawl.

There are grey areas, and so the spectrum of severity needs to be considered in a bill such as SB247. As written, the bill can be interpreted as saying that one sentence fits all crimes committed by juvenile violent offenders.  I speak against the sheer possibility that teenage mass shooters or adolescent rapist killers can walk free after a mere fifteen years. The victims should not have to rip the stitches out of their wounds every two years as the perpetrators proceed with parole hearings. Felons like Jouett will repeatedly go before the New Mexico Parole Board in hopes that the victims of their crimes will give up on defending the names of their loved ones. Let them redeem themselves from behind bars by serving their judicious terms to completion.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. 

Contact [email protected] if you want to do more.

Roberta Glass True Crime Report

This Is Dangerous! featuring NOVJM volunteer “Jane,” who speaks about New Mexico SB 247. 

Offenders SB 247 could free

Darcy Smith

Victim: Adam Price, 17

Age at time of murder: 17

Crime date: November 23, 1992

Crime location: Bernardo, New Mexico

Partners in crime: Eric Smith, 22, and Mark Apodaca, 20

Crimes: Kidnapping and murder

Murder method: 10 gunshots

Weapon: .44 revolver, 9 millimeter handgun, and shotgun

Convictions:  First degree felony murder & false imprisonment

Sentence: Life imprisonment for the murder and 18 months for false imprisonment (consecutive)

Incarceration status: Incarcerated at the Western New Mexico Correctional Facility (0ffender# 25231)

Offender 25231 Photo

Summary of the crime

Darcy Smith and her partners in crime decided to “scare the hell” out of someone. They kidnapped Adam and shot him over 10 times.


Darcy Smith (“D. Smith”), 17, her future husband Eric Smith (“E. Smith), 22, and their friend and Smith’s brother-in-law Mark Apodaca carried out the viscous murder of Adam Price on November 23, 1992. The three assailants decided to go out and shoot rabbits. At some point, they decided to pick someone up at random to “scare the hell” out of them. Their victim was Adam Price, a 17-year-old high school senior. They kidnapped him at gunpoint from an area near the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. The kidnappers took Adam on a drive of terror. They stopped a short distance from the Bernardo exit of Interstate 25 and forced Adam out of the car.

E. Smith beat Adam and shot him twice with a .44 revolver. After Adam fell to the ground, D. Smith shot him twice with a 9 millimeter handgun. After shooting him, D. Smith picked up one of the spent casings from her gun to take as a souvenir. E. Smith then got a shotgun and he and Apodaca each shot Adam three more times. According to Apodaca’s testimony, Smith was excited about the shooting and “hyped” during the ride back to Albuquerque. The murderers were apprehended in December 1993.

John Gamble

Victim: Joseph Garcia, 15

Age at time of murder: 16

Crime date: October 2008

Crime location: Near Carlsbad, New Mexico

Murder method: Beating

Weapon: Person and rifle

Murder motivation: Retaliation

Convictions: Convicted by a jury of first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping and bribery of a witness, and guilty plea to one count of tampering with evidence

Sentence: 60 years

Incarceration status: Incarcerated at the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility (offender #475622)

Offender 475622 Photo

Summary of the crime

Gamble believed that his close friend Joseph Garcia had “ratted” on him. In retaliation, he tricked Joseph into coming to a secluded area outside of town where he confronted him about the alleged “ratting.” Joseph denied the allegation and a fight began. Gamble beat Joseph, got a rifle, and hit him on the head with it. He tried to shoot Joseph but could not get the gun to fire. He poured gasoline on Joseph’s body and set him ablaze. He then returned to a party he had attended previously that day.


Nathaniel Jouett

Murder victims: Wanda Walters, 61, & Kristina “Krissie” Carter, 48

Injured victims: Jessica Thron, 30, Noah Molina, 10, Alexis Molina, 20, & Howard Jones, 53

Age at time of murders: 16

Crime date: August 28, 2017

Crime location: Clovis-Carver Library, Clovis, New Mexico

Crimes: Double murder & attempted mass murder

Murder method: Gunshots

Weapon: Firearm

Conviction: Guilty plea to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated battery, assault with intent to commit a violent felony, child abuse, and first-degree murder

Sentence: Life with parole

Incarceration status: Incarcerated at the Lea County Correctional Facility (offender # 526675)


Jouett went on a shooting rampage at the Clovis-Carver Library in Clovis, New Mexico, murdering two people and injuring four. One of the injured victims was a 10-year-old boy. The killer was sentenced to life with parole. If SB 247 had not been defeated, he would be eligible for parole after serving 15 years.

Offender 526675 PhotoPrison picture 


This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is a01_jd_30aug_cloviswalters-400x301.jpgWanda


Nehemiah Griego

Victims: Greg Griego, 51, (father); Sarah Griego, 40, (mother); Zephania, nine, (brother); Jael, five, (sister); and Angelina, two (sister)

Age at time of murders: 15

Crime date: January 19, 2013

Crime location: South Valley

Crimes: Mass murder, mass shooting, murder of children, familicide, patricide, matricide, fratricide, and sororicide

Murder method: Gunshots

Weapons: .22 caliber rifle & AR-15-style rifle 

Convictions: Child abuse resulting in death & second-degree murder

Sentence: Life with parole after 30 years

Incarceration status: Incarcerated (offender #531136)

Offender 531136 Photo
Petition · No Release for Mass-Murderer Nehemiah Griego ·


Nehemiah Griego (“Griego”) fatally shot his parents and three younger siblings in their home. He was sentenced to seven years for the murders of his parents and given three life sentences with parole for the murders of his siblings. He is eligible for parole after 30 years of incarceration.

The details of Griego’s murders are horrific. According to his confession, around midnight, he shot his mother with a .22 rifle as she slept. Nine-year-old Zephania then woke up. Griego informed Zephania that he had just shot their mother. But Zephania did not believe him. Griego “picked up his mother’s head to show his brother her bloody face.” Zephania became upset, so Griego shot him in the head with the .22 caliber rifle. Griego then went to Jael and Angelina’s bedroom where he found the girls crying. He shot both children in the head. After murdering his mother and siblings, Griego went downstairs and waited for his father to return home. When his father came home at 5:00 am Griego shot him multiple times with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle with a scope. Griego then reloaded the weapons with the intention of driving to an area to shoot more people.



Legislation proposes parole eligibility for juveniles serving life sentences

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – A couple of Democratic state lawmakers are looking to get kids who are serving life sentences eligible for parole after 15 years. However, the proposal is facing pushback. Proponents said people who’ve committed crimes when they were younger and who are still paying the price for it by staying behind bars for decades, can return to society as productive members.

“We are not monsters,” said Eric Alexander in support of the bill; Alexander said he faced time behind bars after a crime he committed when he was younger. “Yes, we made critical errors in our judgments as adolescents but we are all more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.”

In Senate Bill 247, it would make sure that juveniles sentenced anywhere from 15 years to life could be up for the possibility of parole after 15 years behind bars. In a committee meeting, people who were sentenced for crimes as a child spoke out in favor of this, adding that redemption is possible.

However, families of victims of crimes committed by juveniles spoke out in opposition saying the proposal is cruel to victims and their families. The horrific 2017 Clovis library shooting, caused by then 16-year-old Nathaniel Jouett, was referenced often. One woman who lost her mom, Kristina Carter, in that shooting spoke out strongly against the bill.

“The violence that the men, women, and children witnessed in the library that day is inescapable,” said Kristina Carter’s daughter, Evie Fisher. “We will be haunted in a prison of our own for the rest of our days because we can’t have our loved ones back.”

New Mexico has seen some other horrific cases from juveniles, like Nehemiah Griego who was only 15 years old when he killed his father, mother, and three young siblings inside their South Valley home in 2013. He was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

The bill is now waiting to be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee. If this gets passed, analysts believe more than 40 people who are currently serving time for crimes committed as juveniles could become eligible for parole. There is now a petition online in opposition to this legislation.

Petition circulates against Senate Bill 247

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Nearly 2,000 people have signed an online petition to get a proposed bill thrown out of the legislature, but not everyone is against the legislation. “The sounds, the smells, the screaming, the gunshots,” Jessica Throne remembers the day Nathaniel Jouett walked into the Clovis Carver Library, where she worked and started shooting.

“You’re stuck with that,” said Throne. “Not only was I shot and injured, I lost two of my very close friends,” said Throne.

A judge gave Jouett two life sentences with a chance at parole back in 2019. With good time, he could be eligible for parole in 30 years. Senate Bill 247 would give Jouett and other juvenile offenders serving 15 years to life, an opportunity for parole after 15 years behind bars.

“We obviously don’t want this bill to be passed,” said Chelsey Jorde. Her mom, Kristen Carter was killed in that 2017 library shooting. “Some of the acts that have been performed to get these juveniles to have these sentences are just terrible,” said Jorde.

Jorde, along with her sister Evie Fisher, and friend Jessica Throne are helping circulate a petition to try and keep this legislation from being passed. “It’s a slap in the face that this legislation is even on the table right now,” said Fisher.

But, not everyone is against the bill, Carissa Mcgee fully supports Senate Bill 247. When she was a teenager, Mcgee was sentenced to 21 years in prison for trying to kill her mom and sister. She served nearly nine years at the correctional facility in Grants.

Since doing her time, Mcgee says she’s turned her life around. “I had the fortune to know what it’s like to be given a second chance,” said Mcgee, who is now a referee for the New Mexico Athletics Association, and an advocate for youthful offenders. She says Senate Bill 247 will give other kids just like her that same chance.

The bill is now waiting to be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The petition has received more than 17-hundred signatures, they’re trying to get 25-hundred.

Senate to vote on juvenile sentences bill

Friday, March 5th, 2021 at 10:20pm

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – A bill that would reform the way children are sentenced in New Mexico garnered opposition from victims who said repeated parole board hearings would re-traumatize them.

The Juvenile Life Sentences Without Parole bill, sponsored by Rep. Dayan Hochman-Vigil and Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, both Albuquerque Democrats, passed the Senate Judiciary Committee Friday evening, but with an amendment proposed to ease the burden on victims.

Only Senate Minority Leader Greg Baca, R-Belen, voted against the bill. The legislation, Senate Bill 247, is now headed to the Senate floor for a vote. If passed, it will head to the House.

The bill would allow people sentenced as juveniles to get their case reviewed after 15 years and then have parole board hearings every two years until released. Before the amendment, the crime victims would have to be notified and involved in each parole board hearing. Most crime victims who testified said this would re-traumatize them.

Nathan Spulak spoke in opposition of the bill and said his sister was attacked and left for dead by a juvenile offender. He said his family wouldn’t be able to move on from the crime if they’re forced to relive the trauma every two years at a parole board hearing.

Among the crime victims who spoke in opposition of the bill were survivors of the 2017 Clovis Library shooting. Nathaniel Jouett was 16 years old when he killed two people and seriously wounded four others, according to previous news reports.

The amendment, brought forward by Sen. Bill O’Niell, D-Albuquerque, would allow crime victims to opt-out of these parole hearings. If they changed their mind later, they could opt back in.

But crime victims weren’t the only ones opposed to the legislation.

The New Mexico Attorney General’s Office voiced its opposition to the two-year parole provision of the bill, also mentioning the burden it has on victims.

Matt Baca, chief counsel for the office, said the office has heard an outcry from crime victims against the bill. He said the office isn’t against the intent of the bill, but can’t support the frequency of the parole hearings and the toll it takes on crime victims.

First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said she supports the bill and it’s based on the recognition that young people have the capacity to change. She said she accepts the science that juvenile offenders are unable to asses the risks and consequences before committing a crime. Young people can also change and be rehabilitated, she said.

Carissa McGee was one of those people. At the age of 16, McGee was sentenced as an adult to 21 years in prison for two counts of attempted murder.

After eight years in prison, she said she was a changed woman. She was given a second chance at a parole board hearing and has now successfully completed her probation and parole.

She said she’s in the process of earning a graduate degree, has a full-time job and started a nonprofit and wrote a book about her experience. She said all this was possible due to the second chance the court system gave her.

She was a violent felon convicted as a child, she said, and proof that redemption is possible.

Bill seeks to give violent youth offenders opportunity for parole after 15 years

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- Lawmakers will soon hear a bill that would end life without parole for violent juveniles and could reduce life sentences for youth offenders who were sentenced as adults.

The bill could impact 75 people who are currently in New Mexico prisons.

Those backing the bill, including the ACLU of New Mexico, said it won’t give people a free pass out of prison. Instead, they claim it will give prisoners a chance to show how they’ve improved after 15 years behind bars.

“In their early 30s, we will know much more about them,” said Denali Wilson, an attorney with the ACLU.

Wilson said 24 states already did away with juvenile life without parole. Half of those states also have an early parole program.

“I am the population that this bill directly targets,” said Carissa McGee, who was sentenced, at age 16, to 20 years in prison for attempted murder. “I know what it is to be a violent youthful offender.”

McGee now works as a motivational speaker. She’s also written a book and works with youth advocacy groups.

“Violent youthful offenders can still make a huge impact in their community in a positive meaningful way if given a chance,” she said.

McGee said offenders would have to meet various criteria to be let out of prison after 15 years.

“You have to demonstrate you are a safe member, you have been productive in your healing, that you’ve taken full accountability of your actions,” She said.

Senate Bill 247 has a lot of opposition. A petition, with thousands of signatures, claims letting youthful offenders out early is a danger to the community and would undo the healing of crime survivors.

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas said it’s important for lawmakers to remember the victims.

Balderas said in a statement, “The legislature must carefully balance the protection of victims and families traumatized by violence, while improving long term mental health treatment options for violent offenders in a safe way that does not re-traumatize these survivor families.”

Currently, in New Mexico, people sentenced to life in prison are eligible for parole review after serving 30 years.

‘It’s frustrating’: Clovis library shooting victims speak out against SB 247

CLOVIS, New Mexico (KFDA) – Victims of the Clovis Carver Public Library mass shooting are speaking out against a bill making its way through the New Mexico legislature.

Senate Bill 247 gives violent juvenile offenders who have been given a life sentence a chance at parole after 15 years.

On Wednesday, it passed the senate floor.

If it becomes law, it could affect the outcome for the convicted library shooter, Nathaniel Jouett.

Jouett was 16-years-old when he killed two people and wounded four others at the library.

Two years ago, he received two life sentences for his actions and the pain he caused others, pain some are still dealing with today.

“I feel like it’s an absolute disregard to the victims and family members who lost loved ones,” said Jessica Thron.

Thron was on[e] of the victims who was wounded in the shooting.

She and others said they feel ignored by legislators when it comes to SB 247.

“The justice system has already given them sentences,” she said. “And it feels like we’re just going back on that. I feel like the victims are just kind of pushed to the side. We don’t really have a say.”

Mandie Walters and Evie Fisher both lost their mothers Wanda Walters and Krissy Carter in the shooting.

“I just want to make people aware of this and also, you know, be my mom’s voice because she can’t do it anymore,” said Walters.

“I have just kind of barely begun my healing journey because I didn’t want to believe it for so long,” said Fisher.

They feel the age, in this case, doesn’t matter.

“I understand that he was under 18 at the time but I also firmly believe that he knew exactly what he was doing,” said Walters. “It was premeditated. And I just really don’t feel that he deserves to be out in such a short time. My mom didn’t deserve to be [] shot like that.”

Eric Dixon, a Portales defense attorney believes the bill gives juveniles the second chance they deserve.

“A child’s brain at 15 or 16 or even later is not fully developed,” said Dixon. “That makes a huge difference. This gives somebody who is much different at 30 years old, a second chance at life.”

Although, the victims disagree.

“We’ve all been teenagers, we’ve all gone through our own angst, we’ve all gone through periods of just probably just really wild anger that we probably couldn’t even fathom at this point right now and in our adult lives, but there’s still lines that we know are not to be crossed,” said Fisher.

‘What about us?’: New Mexico crime victims outraged over youth parole bill

Bethany FreudenthalLas Cruces Sun-News

n this Aug. 31, 2017, file photo, Nathaniel Jouett, who would later plead guilty to fatally shooting two workers inside a public library and wounding four others, enters a courtroom in Clovis, N.M.

LAS CRUCES – On Aug. 28, 2017, Nathaniel Jouett walked into the Clovis Carter Library and opened fire, killing two and injuring others.

Jouett, then 16, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two life sentences without the possibility of parole, plus 40 years.

The families affected by the mass shooting didn’t think they’d have to hear from Jouett again following his lengthy sentence. But those victims are now speaking out after a bill passed by the New Mexico Senate last week could impact Jouett’s sentence, as well as the sentences of other juvenile offenders.

Senate Bill 247 would prohibit juveniles from being sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. The most serious child offenders could still be sentenced to life in prison, which in New Mexico is 30 years incarcerated. If the bill is successful, law would mandate those juvenile offenders go before a parole board after 15 years and every five years after that.

Proponents say this bill gives a second chance to juveniles who may not have been capable of realizing the impact of their crimes. Families and victims of crimes committed by juveniles say having to continually attend parole board hearings is like pulling a scab that has just begun to heal. 

An X-ray shows Jessica Thron's shoulder after it was shattered by a bullet fired Aug. 28, 2017, by 16-year-old Nathaniel Jouett.
Jessica Thron’s shoulder after it was shattered by a bullet fired by Jouett

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Dayan Hochman-Vigil and Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, both Democrats from Albuquerque, still need to be passed by the New Mexico House and signed by the governor before it becomes law. The House has until Saturday to debate and vote on the bill.

Hochman-Vigil said the bill would impact juvenile offenders currently serving time, meaning Jouett could be eligible for a parole hearing after 15 years.

Victims speak out

Jessica Thron, a library worker whose shoulder was shattered by a bullet fired by Jouett, said she’s speaking out against the bill for Wanda Walters and Krissie Carter, the two killed in the Clovis shooting, who no longer have a voice.

“It’s hurtful, because it seems like lawmakers want to do everything they can in their power to help these murderers — get them rehabilitated and get them back out into society as soon as possible, and it’s like what about their victims? What about the ones who were killed that are gone forever? What about those of us who are still alive? What about us,” she said. 

Carter’s daughter, Evie Fisher, said the bill blindsided the victims and families in the Jouett case, who now feel a “pretty good chunk of time for peace” has been taken away. 

“Mass shooters, you just don’t think, no matter what, that that kind of act really warrants the sentence that he got and it’s just really frustrating to pick it back up so soon after, because we’re just barely beginning our healing journey at this point,” she said.

Youthful offenders, Fisher said, should have to earn their redemption, instead of just having to wait out their sentences, because that’s what it’s like in the real world. 

What about the ones who were killed that are gone forever? What about those of us who are still alive? What about us?

“We have to take our lives into our own hands and make our own future, and they should have to as well,” Fisher said. “Even more so, because of what they have done.” 

Mandy Walters, whose mother was killed in the attack, said she’s forgiven Jouett, but that doesn’t mean that he should be able to get out of prison. 

“He needs to serve the time for what he did,” she said. 

Why allow parole?

New Mexico’s Senate passed the bill on 28-11 vote.

Sen. Carrie Hamblen, D-Las Cruces, said she voted in favor of the legislation because at 16 years old, she was a completely different person from who she is now at 52, and these “children” should have the opportunity to develop.

The bill, she said is not an excuse for the crime. 

“This is an explanation of how people are thinking and how people are developing at that age when they make very bad decisions,” she said. “According to this bill, they’re still in jail for 15 years and then get reevaluated for parole, so if they’re not rehabilitated, they’re not going to get parole.” 

Wanda Walters left, and Jessica Thron right, working at the Clovis Carver Library. Walters was murdered during a mass shooting at the library on Aug. 28, 2017, and Thron was injured in the incident.
Wanda and Jessica working at the library

Hamblen said her focus is on giving adolescents who make really bad decisions an opportunity to become better people and doesn’t see it as negating the pain of families affected by these crimes.

Fisher said she feels lawmakers in support of the bill are ignoring the “real” victims.

“They’re treating the child as the victim, they’re treating the adolescent as a victim, when they’re really just a victim of their own choice,” she said. 

Supporters of criminal justice reform bill make final push as deadline nears

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- Time is running out for a criminal justice reform bill in the New Mexico legislature.

As of this posting Friday night, Senate Bill 247 is still alive, but would need to pass in the House in the session’s final hours in order to become law.

The bill asks the question: when is the right time to give violent offenders who committed crimes as teenagers a second chance?

One of the sources of support might come as a surprise.

The bill’s supporters say, right now, New Mexico sends the wrong message to people who commit serious crimes before turning 18.

“It doesn’t matter the person you have become and the ways you commit yourself to repairing the harm you have caused, but it does matter. It matters that all children, even those that commit serious crimes, are capable of change and redemption,” said Denali Wilson with ACLU New Mexico.

The bill would give these offenders a chance at an earlier release. They could have a hearing 15 years into their sentence, instead of 30 years or more.

The 1994 case of Michael Brown helps illustrate what’s at stake.

At age 16 he received a sentence of life plus 41 ½ years after the state said he orchestrated his grandparents’ murders in Rio Rancho. He’ll be 67 at his earliest chance for release, according to his attorney.

“I just hope that one day I’ll have another chance and life, so that I can do something with my life,” Brown said during his 1995 trial.

 His sister, Shannon Fleeson, hopes that chance comes as soon as possible, though, at first, all those years ago, she was hurt and grieving.

I had nightmares and flashbacks and I spent years and years and years in counseling,” Fleeson told KOB 4 Friday.

She didn’t have a good relationship with her brother right away, but that changed.

“Over the years my brother started to mature and change,” she said. “He’s a remarkable person. He’s definitely not the person he was 27 years ago.” 

Fleeson believes her grandparents would want him to be free.

“It would mean a lot because at this point I don’t believe that keeping him, or even the other two individuals involved, keeping any of them in prison does my grandparents any justice or helps our family heal,” she said.

But many victims don’t feel the same way. The bill has a lot of opposition. A petition, with thousands of signatures, claims letting youthful offenders out early is a danger to the community and would undo the healing of crime survivors.

Many victims, like those in the 2017 Clovis library shooting, can’t imagine the offender getting a second chance so soon.

“I haven’t cried this much since Nathaniel’s been sentenced,” shooting survivor Jessica Thorn said.

Supporters of the bill say that in other states that have similar laws in place to what’s proposed in Senate Bill 247, just 1% of offenders end up back in jail.