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Missouri man serving 241-year sentence released from prison with help of judge who put him behind bars

Missouri inmate gets a second chance
Missouri inmate released after 27 years, with help from the judge who sentenced him 07:03

When Bobby Bostic got out of prison last week, the first person he hugged was Evelyn Baker, the now-retired judge who sent him to prison nearly three decades ago.

Baker, who spent the last four years fighting to get him out, said she was "ecstatic" to see Bostic walk out of prison after serving 27 years for a series of robberies he committed when he was 16.

"This is better than Christmas, Easter, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving rolled into one," she told "48 Hours" correspondent Erin Moriarty, who has been covering the case for years.

Bostic, now 43, changed his life in prison. He went to school and read and wrote books — even though he had no hope of getting out. But that all changed thanks to his unlikely ally, Baker, who even appeared at a parole hearing to call for his release.

The day of his release once seemed inconceivable. Bostic was incarcerated in 1995 after he and a friend committed a series of armed robberies in St. Louis. One victim was grazed by a bullet.

Convinced Bostic was a lost cause, then-judge Baker showed no mercy after he was convicted on 17 counts and ordered his sentences to run consecutively, for a total of 241 years.

In a prison interview two weeks before his release, Bostic said he was not angry with Baker.

"It motivated me to say, 'One day, if I ever do get out, I will see her. And she'll realize the mistake she made when she sees the person I became,'" he said.

That didn't seem very likely as Bostic wouldn't be eligible for parole until he was 112 years old. Many people would just give up, but Bostic found drive even when he had nowhere to go.

"Once you make so many mistakes, you get tired, and you want to do something different," he said. "So I started reading. That's how I found myself, in books. And that's the most peace I ever get in the world. It's a natural high, basically."

Bostic obtained an associate degree and is working on his bachelor's degree in business. He wrote poetry and prose — 15 books in all, including a biography of his mother. 

His stunning turnaround convinced Baker she'd made a mistake. 

"241 years is insanity, when I think back on it," she told Moriarty in a 2021 interview. "And I'll say it right now: it's insanity. He was a kid. He was a little boy."

Baker acknowledged the case haunted her and that she also changed over the years.

"As he evolved, I have evolved," she said.

Baker began advocating for Bostic and in the summer of 2021, the Missouri legislature passed the Bobby Bostic law, which allowed him and other inmates incarcerated as juveniles to apply for parole. 

It was an unusual scene when Baker appeared at a parole hearing asking for the release of an inmate she herself had sentenced.

"I don't know if it ever happened before, but it was something I wanted to do," she told Moriarty last week. "'Cause it was time for Bobby to come home and be with his family. He wasn't the kid I sentenced."

Late last year, the parole board gave Bostic a date when he could finally go home.

"The Bobby Bostic I put in prison is not the Bobby Bostic who got out," Baker said. "Bobby did what many people can't do. He created himself. He took the good, the bad and the ugly, and he turned it into something that's quite beautiful."

None of Bostic's victims objected to his release and one of them even wrote a letter supporting it. 

Nationally, more and more inmates arrested as juveniles are getting second chances. In Missouri, none of those released in the past year have re-offended, nor returned to prison.

Bostic, who plans to spend Thanksgiving with his family and Baker, said he understands that some people don't think inmates who were convicted as juveniles deserve a second chance.

"They got a right to feel that way, basically," he said. "It's up to us, the juveniles who get out and get the second chance, to do something different, to prove to those people like, 'I'm just like you.'"

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