(West Plains) – Students in South Central Career Center’s Creative Design class designed and made sweatshirts for the Food for Thought program at the West Plains High School.
A total of forty-five shirts were made to give to high school students who may need a warm piece of clothing next fall.
Food for Thought is a food bank for students of West Plains High School that might not have enough to eat. The Food for Thought food bank provides items such as canned soups, tuna, oatmeal, juice, school supplies, shampoo, deodorant, clothing and more.
If you would like to donate food or supplies or make a monetary donation to the Food for Thought program contact Cyndi Wright at 256-6150.
(Jefferson City) (AP) – A western Missouri prosecutor who heads a statewide association for prosecuting attorneys said Tuesday that lawmakers’ failure to pass a new sentencing structure for juveniles could delay or jeopardize the trials of teens accused of murder.
Under Missouri law, anyone convicted of first-degree murder is either sentenced to death or life in prison without the possibility of parole. A U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2005 said death sentences for juveniles are unconstitutional, leaving life without parole as the only sentencing option for Missourians younger than 18 who are convicted of murder.
But in June 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down automatic life without parole for juvenile offenders – sentencing the federal government and at least two dozen states including Missouri all followed.
That decision has left juveniles currently locked up and those awaiting trial in limbo. Missouri lawmakers tried to change the state’s automatic sentence but could not reach agreement before adjourning last week.
Eric Zahnd, prosecuting attorney in Platte County, north of Kansas City, said the Legislature’s inaction is “really disheartening” and the entire criminal justice system is now “in a lurch.”
“We are extremely disappointed that lawmakers failed to specify a punishment for these heinous murders,” said Zahnd, who is president of the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.
The U.S. Supreme Court said life without parole sentences could not be mandatory or automatic and that state courts had to look at certain factors before sentencing, including a juvenile’s role in a crime and his or her upbringing.
“Under these (current) schemes, every juvenile will receive the same sentence as every other – the 17-year-old and the 14-year-old, the shooter and the accomplice, the child from a stable household and the child from a chaotic and abusive one,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the court’s 5-4 majority.
The chairman of the Missouri Senate’s judiciary committee proposed a measure that left life without parole as a possibility but also would have allowed a court to sentence a juvenile to 50 years in prison. The proposal from Sen. Bob Dixon, R-Springfield, would have required a second hearing to determine sentencing if the juvenile was convicted of first-degree murder. It also would have allowed those already in prison for killings committed while they were juveniles to ask for new sentencing hearings.
Opponents said the plan would not have solved the problem because 50 years in prison amounts to a life sentence, violating the court’s directive against automatic life sentences for juveniles. Others argued that life prison sentences should not be an option for teens.
“We doubt that life without parole is ever appropriate for a juvenile,” said Anthony Rothert, the legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri.
Other states also have been scrambling to pass new sentencing guidelines for juveniles after the Supreme Court decision striking down automatic life without parole sentences for juveniles.
California Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill allowing judges to reduce sentences to 25 years to life if an inmate shows remorse and is working toward rehabilitation. In Iowa, Republican Gov. Terry Branstad commuted all juvenile life sentences to 60 years. Pennsylvania lawmakers set minimum sentences of 25 years for defendants 14 or younger convicted of first-degree murder, while those 15 to 17 would have to serve at least 35 years.
But the fate of Missouri’s 84 inmates who were convicted before the 2012 court ruling remains uncertain. The decision could fall to the Missouri Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments for three cases on April 30 in which people serving prison sentences for murder sought new hearings because the crimes occurred before they turned 18.
Rothert said the state high court has the ability to fix juvenile murder sentences “one way or the other.” But Zahnd said he hopes lawmakers act as soon as possible because they are responsible for defining crimes and determining punishments. The Missouri Supreme Court has not issued a ruling on the pending cases.
Lawmakers are not scheduled to return and consider new legislation until January.
(Little Rock) (AP) – Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe is sending the state’s condolences to neighboring Oklahoma after a tornado devastated the city of Moore.
Beebe says this type of tragedy “strikes deep into the hearts of Arkansans” because communities know how destructive tornadoes can be. But the governor says few people can imagine the scale of loss and devastation that happened in Moore, where at least two dozen people died in Monday’s tornado.
Beebe says Arkansas’ thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by the tornado, including those who lost loved ones and property. He also says he’s thinking of the first responders and volunteers who are working at the scene.
The Bentonville, Ark.-based company said Tuesday that it will make donations of cash and materials equal to $1 million.
Walmart is also sending truckloads of food, water and other basic items to serve as immediate aid.
The world’s largest retailer says no customers or employees were injured in its two stores in Moore. But the company says some workers’ homes were destroyed and that it is still checking on the needs of its employees.
The company is sending workers from Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Texas to the affected areas so members of Oklahoma crews can be with their families.
(Kansas City) (AP) – About 30 tea party activists are rallying outside the IRS building in Kansas City to express outrage that the agency singled out conservative political groups for additional scrutiny.
The demonstration was among dozens planned nationally Tuesday. IRS officials have acknowledged that some groups received inappropriate attention when they applied for tax-exempt status.
The Kansas City protesters held signs and waved flags as they congregated outside the building. One sign had a picture of President Barrack Obama with the word “liar.” Another said, “Hold IRS Accountable.”
Fifty-eight-year-old Vicki Watkins of suburban Liberty says the extra scrutiny was a way to “get conservative groups to throw in the towel.” Another protester, 75-year-old Mary Weimholt, of Shawnee, Kan., described what happened as “scary” and said the IRS has “gotten out of control.”
(Jefferson City) (AP) – Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is considering whether to sign legislation that would let state regulators intervene in federal utility cases.
Missouri’s Public Service Commission was allowed to appear before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission until last year, when the state Supreme Court ruled it had no authority to do so.
The ruling came in the case of an interstate natural gas pipeline operator. The company wanted to prevent the Missouri regulators from intervening when it sought federal permission to build and operate new facilities and change prices.
A bill restoring the commission’s authority cleared the Legislature before it adjourned last week. The measure is now on the governor’s desk.
(Jefferson City) (AP) – A proposal to study the effects of mandatory health insurance coverage for eating disorders is awaiting the signature of Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon.
Lawmakers approved the legislation last week before adjourning their annual session.
The bill would require the Joint Committee on Legislative Research to do an actuarial analysis of the costs associated with the potential coverage mandate. The analysis would also cover a possible mandate for orally-administered cancer medications.
The report would need to be completed by Dec. 31 and sent to legislative leaders.
The legislation was sponsored by Republican Sen. David Pearce, of Warrensburg.
(Springdale) (AP) – Authorities say a teenager was killed in northwest Arkansas on Monday night when storm debris crashed into his car.
Arkansas State Police say 19-year-old Austin Deere of Prairie Grove died at about 7:30 p.m. Monday while driving on U.S. 412 in Springdale. A preliminary report says a street sign that was uprooted by high winds landed on top of Deere’s car.
Deere was pronounced dead at the scene by the Washington County coroner.
The Storm Prediction Center says a wind gust of 69 mph was recorded in Springdale at the same time as the accident.
(West Plains) – In the spirit of those who established Missouri State University-West Plains 50 years ago, campus officials presented local businessman and former university board member Jerry Hall and his wife, Sue, with the prestigious Granvil Vaughan Founder’s Award during Missouri State-West Plains commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 18 at the West Plains Civic Center.
The award, named in honor of the campus’ founder, the late Missouri State Rep. Granvil Vaughan, was presented to the Halls by Missouri State-West Plains Chancellor Drew Bennett. The award is given annually at commencement to recognize individuals who have made a significant impact upon the mission of Missouri State-West Plains.
During Jerry Hall’s six-year term on the university’s then Board of Regents, West Plains campus enrollment increased 60%; the campus was given an expanded mission statement and the authority to offer associate degrees by the Missouri General Assembly; a board resolution was passed allowing campus officials to develop a separate Faculty Senate and adopt its own mission statement, objectives and philosophy; and the campus received separate accreditation from the North Central Association to offer the Associate of Arts in General Studies and Associate of Science in Nursing degrees.
It was also during Hall’s tenure on the board that the campus established the Garnett Library (1991), the Grizzly Athletics Program (1993), the Drago College Store (1993), renovation of the Putnam Student Center (1993), and construction of the Grizzly House residence hall (1994).
In addition to his service on the Board of Regents, Jerry Hall has served on the campus’ Development Board (1991-96) and Advisory Board (1989-1995). In addition to being charter members of the Grizzly Booster Club, Jerry is a charter member of the Grizzly Booster Club’s executive board, a position he continues to hold 20 years later.
(West Plains) – Couch resident Edith Williams, who has devoted over 10 years of her life to helping her daughter achieve a college education, received an honorary Associate of Arts degree Saturday, May 18, during Missouri State University-West Plains’ commencement ceremony at the West Plains Civic Center arena.
This is the third year an honorary degree has been bestowed by the university. It is designed to recognize extraordinary individuals who have given a substantial part of their lives to serving others and/or who have distinguished themselves.
Williams, a 1964 graduate of Ellsinore High School, never had the opportunity to go to college herself, but she made sure her daughter, Jennifer, did, despite the debilitating injuries Jennifer suffered in an 1997 automobile accident that left her wheelchair bound. When Jennifer decided in fall 2001 that she wanted to go to college, Edith was by her side, driving her daughter nearly 100 miles round trip from their home to West Plains several times a week so Jennifer could attend classes.
While Jennifer was in class, Edith spent her time reading, visiting with faculty and other students, and helping other students any way she could, university officials said.
By taking just a few classes each semester, Jennifer, with the support of her mother, completed her Associate of Arts in General Studies degree in 2006. She then enrolled in the Bachelor of Science in General Business degree program offered through Missouri State University’s Outreach Program on the West Plains campus. Because of Edith’s support and assistance, Jennifer was able to accomplish her goal of completing bachelor’s degree, which she received at Saturday’s commencement ceremony in West Plains.
Even though her own education did not extend beyond high school, university officials praised Edith’s support for her daughter’s education and for understanding its importance in her daughter’s future.