Missouri inmate Bobby Bostic, who was sentenced to 241 years in prison for a series of robberies he committed aged 16, has been released on parole thanks to an unlikely ally — the very same judge who had condemned him to die in lockup.
Bostic, now 43, on Wednesday walked out of Algoa Correctional Center in Jefferson City after serving 27 years and was greeted by dozens of overjoyed family members and well-wishers.
But the first person Bostic hugged was retired Judge Evelyn Baker, who told him “you will die in the Department of Corrections” when she sentenced him in 1995.
Baker has since had a change of heart about Bostic’s sentence and worked for four years to secure his release, even appearing at a state parole board hearing on his behalf.
“I don’t know if it ever happened before, but it was something I wanted to do,” she told “48 Hours” correspondent Erin Moriarty. “‘Cause it was time for Bobby to come home and be with his family. He wasn’t the kid I sentenced.”
The board in December granted parole to Bostic and scheduled his release for Nov. 9, just in time for Thanksgiving, which he now plans to spend with his family and Judge Baker.
“The Bobby Bostic I put in prison is not the Bobby Bostic who got out,” Baker told Moriarty. “Bobby did what many people can’t do. He created himself.”
Bostic was 16 in Dec. 1995 when he and another teen robbed at gunpoint a group of six people who were delivering Christmas presents to a needy family.
Prosecutors said Bostic fired a shot that grazed one victim, and that he and the other teen then carjacked and robbed a woman before releasing her.
Then-Circuit Judge Baker believed at the time that it was unlikely that Bostic could be rehabilitated and she sentenced him to a total of 241 years in prison on 18 counts, with convictions for every count to run consecutively, meaning he wouldn’t be eligible for parole until he was 112 years old.
“You made your choice,” Baker told Bostic at his sentencing. “You’re gonna have to live with your choice, and you’re gonna die with your choice because, Bobby Bostic, you will die in the Department of Corrections.”
Later, she said, “I feel nothing for you. I feel the same thing for you that you apparently felt for those victims and you feel for your family.”
In an interview last month, Bostic said he was not angry at Baker for her ruling.
“It motivated me to say, ‘One day, if I ever do get out, I will see her. And she’ll realize the mistake she made when she sees the person I became,’” he told CBS.
Bostic for a while found hope in a 2010 US Supreme Court ruling that outlawed life sentences for people under 18 for non-homicide crimes, but the Supreme Court refused to hear his case in 2019.
After retiring from the bench, Baker came to regret her decision in Bostic’s case and in 2018 publicly called for throwing it out, saying it was grossly unfair.
“What I learned too late is that young people’s brains are not static; they are in the process of maturing,” she wrote in an essay published by The Washington Post.
In a 2021 interview with CBS, Baker doubled down on her reassessment of the case, describing the 241-year sentence that she had handed down to a “little boy” as “insanity.”
Despite facing the prospect of dying in prison, Bostic turned his life around after discovering a love of reading. He earned an associate degree and wrote 15 books behind bars, including a biography of his mother.
After the Supreme Court rejected Bostic’s case, the American Civil Liberties Union worked with the Missouri Legislature to pass a law based on his case that allows teens imprisoned essentially for life for crimes other than murder to get a parole board review after 15 years.
The Bobby Bostic law was adopted in 2021, allowing its namesake and other inmates like him to apply for parole.
None of Bostic’s victims opposed his release — and one even penned a letter to the state parole board urging the panel to set him free.
With Post wires