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Convicted school shooter who killed 6-year-old asks for reduction of life sentence and ‘some hope to live with’

Jesse Osborne in court on Monday and his victims (WSPA screenshots)

Jesse Osborne in court on Monday and his victims (WSPA screenshots)

A school shooter in South Carolina currently serving a life sentence without parole for killing his own father and a 6-year-old boy on a playground when he was 14 has sparked a heated debate over whether his sentence should be reconsidered.

Jesse Osborne appeared in court on Monday where his attorney, Frank Eppes, requested that the court revisit his client’s sentence and “give Jesse some hope to live with,” The Associated Press reported. Eppes reportedly argued that the court should take into account a psychologist’s report indicating that Osborne’s actions were fueled by abuse and suggesting that the now-21-year-old could be rehabilitated

Eppes during Monday’s hearing appealed for compassion, asking District Court Judge Lawton McIntosh to provide Osborne with the opportunity to work towards his own freedom, even if it couldn’t be a reality until he was well over 50.

“This crime was horrible. This crime was horrific. It happened 20 days after he turned 14,” Eppes said in courtroom footage provided by Spartanburg CBS affiliate WSPA-TV. “He was not capable of understanding what he was doing.”

Osborne also addressed the court, expressing remorse and apologizing to the family of his 6-year-old victim, Jacob Hall. He also apologized to everyone at the school affected by the tragedy and expressed a desire to better himself while serving his sentence. Two other students and a teacher were also injured during the shooting at the school’s recess playground.

“I would just like to say sorry to every single one of them. Because my evil actions hurt their lives,” Osborne said. “I would just like to say sorry to my family for everything that I’ve done. I’m sorry to the Hall family for everything, and I’m sorry to every kid that was at that playground that day.”

However, multiple individuals who were directly impacted by the shooting vehemently opposed the possibility of Osborne’s potential release, according to reports. The teacher whose class was on recess during the incident, a parent of a wounded child, the father of the student whose birthday was being celebrated, the superintendent, and the school principal all testified in court, stressing their firm stance against Osborne’s release from prison.

Principal Denise Fredericks vividly recalled the day when Osborne paced outside Townville Elementary School with a backpack full of ammunition, moments before the authorities arrived, the AP reported. Fredericks acknowledged that while she wished for Osborne to live a life with basic human rights, she believed he should remain in prison.

“I do wish Jesse a life where he can wake up, breathe, eat, work, be productive — but not outside the walls of a prison,” Fredericks reportedly said. “In my opinion, his current sentence is still so, so much more merciful than the sentence he gave to Jacob and our school family.”

Prosecutors noted that Jacob Hall’s family did not wish to speak in court but strongly advocated for Osborne’s continued incarceration.

Osborne had pleaded guilty to the charges and received two life sentences for murder plus 30 years for the attempted murders, to be served consecutively.

Prosecutors reportedly recounted Osborne’s confession, which revealed that he had kissed his pets goodbye, stolen his father’s truck, and deliberately targeted his former elementary school for the attack. Osborne crashed into the school fence and began shooting at the first grade class which was celebrating one of the children’s birthdays. Hall was struck in the leg and bled out.

Jeff Bernard, the father of the birthday child, shared the lasting impact on his son, reportedly telling the court that his son “hates his birthday now.”

Additionally, prosecutors reportedly argued that Osborne intended to cause more harm that day, but his gun repeatedly jammed, preventing further casualties.

Osborne’s defense team told the judge that a video chat they uncovered showed him sobbing and expressing distress, indicating a willingness to surrender after the initial shots, the AP reported. Osborne’s attorneys also presented a supplemental report from a psychologist, which supposedly contradicts the prosecution’s assertion that Osborne is an unrepentant liar incapable of being honest.

The defense reportedly emphasized that Osborne’s brain was still developing during his teenage years, with psychiatrists attesting to his display of guilt, grief, and responsiveness to treatment throughout the nearly seven years since his arrest.

Eppes reportedly proposed a reduced sentence of 30 years minimum for the two murder counts, 15 years for the charges related to the other victims being injured, and a lifetime of supervision and GPS monitoring should he ever be released.

The defense experts are required to provide the court with a detailed report on the defense team’s claims within a month and told prosecutors they will have a minimum of 10 days to provide the court with a written response.

According to a report from The Sentencing Project earlier this year, the U.S. is the only developed nation in the world that sentences juveniles to life without the possibility of parole. Even in the U.S., the majority of states — 27 and the District of Columbia — have outlawed life sentences without parole for juveniles while an additional nine states have no juveniles currently serving such a sentence.

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.