Judge Talks About Youthful Offender Status for Murder Convict

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Judge Rusty Johnson says he does not have regrets about granting youthful offender status to a man once again charged with murder.

Stephen Mason was arrested for the 2015 death of Ke’Lei Morris on Monday. In 2003 he was convicted of murder for killing his ex-girlfriend Kesha Anglin. Mason only served three years for that crime because of the youthful offender designation.

“He was a young black man, had both parents with him, two middle-class people as I recall. He might have had an arrest before that but no conviction, he was in school and had a job after school and the only thing blocking on his record was what he was charged with. And what you are charged with can’t be used as a basis to deny youthful offender,” said Johnston, who granted the status.

Johnston says youthful offender status for murder suspects is rare, but he does not regret the decision.

“I offer my sympathy to everyone but I don’t want to imply that he is guilty because I don’t know any of the facts and the law presumes him. At the time he was given youthful offender status under the law he deserved it,” said Johnston.

Youthful Offender status is a program that allows for lighter sentences for someone younger than 21 with a focus on rehabilitation and avoiding a criminal record.

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