A&E just released their latest docu-series and it's called Kids Behind Bars: Life or Parole. Week after week, Kids Behind Bars tells the stories of child offenders who were sentenced to mandatory life terms without parole and are now seeking resentencing.
While some of them may be resentenced to life, others are immediately released, granted clemency, or given new sentences that make them eligible for parole.
The most recent episode will look at the case of Curtis Brooks, who, at 15, was sentenced to life without parole. But what did Brooks do and where is he now?
Why was Curtis sentenced to life behind bars?
In 1995, Curtis Brooks was 15 and homeless in the Denver area. He had left Maryland for Colorado in order to reunite with his drug-addicted mother, but that didn't go at all as planned. Rather, Brooks took to couch surfing and sleeping on garage floors, until he met a group of teenagers at the local arcade.
After crashing on Deon Harris' couch for a few nights, Harris and a few of his friends asked Brooks to help them steal a car. Brooks, who at the time had no criminal record, agreed to the plan and was handed a gun he was supposed to fire into the air to distract the unsuspecting car owner.
However, that night didn't go at all as planned. The group indeed approached a stranger, and Brooks shot into the air as instructed, but Harris shot the car owner in the head and killed him on the spot. The teenagers attempted to flee the scene, but police found them easily by following their tracks in the snow.
Brooks explained his role and confessed to his participation in the crime. But even though he wasn't the one to pull the trigger, Brooks was convicted of first-degree murder and given a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Refusing to give up hope, Brooks became a model adult in prison.
During the quarter century he spent behind bars, Brooks amassed a group of supporters who often show up at his court hearings. These supporters include his elementary school principal, one of his biggest advocates, who is now a state senator in Maryland, where Brooks spent his childhood.
The original trial and sentencing judge also wrote letters advocating Brooks' early release and clemency, and a former juror on the trial, who regrets the conviction, are some of Brooks' most devoted supporters. As for Brooks, he demonstrated stellar behavior during his time behind bars.
He has spent much of his time in prison studying foreign languages and philosophy. "I think it would be the biggest waste and the greatest disrespect if I just sat in prison for 24 years biding my time," Brooks told the Colorado Public Radio. "My mission is to vindicate any person that has supported me in any way."
Where is Curtis Brooks today?
Just a few months ago in December, Governor John Kichenlooper commuted Brooks' sentence along with that of five other young men who were sentenced to life behind bars as young men or teens. And although Brooks was certain he'd die in prison, today, he's a free man.
"You are a prime example of extraordinary rehabilitation and illustrate our hope for every offender who spends time in the Department of Corrections," read the governor's decision. "You have demonstrated that you will respect society's laws and productively contribute to our society." "You are remorseful and ready to advance to a new phase of life. I believe you will be successful upon your release."
"You are remorseful and ready to advance to a new phase of life. I believe you will be successful upon your release," he added.
According to Wair Networks, Brooks is about to start working for his former elementary school principal, the state senator we mentioned above.
"The time I spent in prison hasn't gone to waste," Brooks said.
Watch Kids Behind Bars Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on A&E.