After two high-profile cases, a special Georgia Senate committee is reviewing laws affecting juveniles and will recommend legislative changes next year, says the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. State Sen. Bill Hamrick chairs a panel created after the death of Amy Yates, 8, whose body was found April 26. A 12-year-old boy who lives in her neighborhood was charged with her murder. Georgia law bars judges from committing a youth under 13 to more than two years in prison. Hamrick said he is open to tougher sentences for juveniles convicted of murder.
In the other case, Marcus Dixon, now 19, was cleared of raping a 15-year-old schoolmate but convicted of aggravated child molestation, which carries a mandatory 10-year sentence. Dixon spent more than a year in jail until the state Supreme Court reversed the ruling last month. He remains convicted of misdemeanor statutory rape. Hamrick has “no appetite” for lowering the age of sexual consent from 16 or reconsidering the mandatory sentence that would have put Dixon in prison for 10 years. Prosecutor Danny Craig warned lawmakers that changing the law, despite its inconsistencies, could lead to lighter sentences for sexual predators. “We must not forget the innocent victims of crimes,” he said. Others argued that mandatory minimum prison sentences cripple the decision-making power of judges. Douglas County Juvenile Court Judge Peggy Walker said lawmakers should allow judges to deal with cases on an individual basis. She called for resisting knee-jerk legislation in response to well-publicized cases. “Making law on a case-by-case basis is not an effective way of moving us forward as a state.”