Thursday, January 23, 2014

Press Release Regarding Parole for Juveniles Convicted of 1st Degree Murder

Today I distributed the following press release regarding a bill I filed with a coalition of legislations that would set parole at 35 years for juveniles convicted of 1st degree murder:

Boston- Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) and State Senator Barry Finegold (D-Andover) have joined with a coalition of legislators including Senators Richard Ross (R-Wrentham), Donald Humason (R-Westfield), James Timilty (D-Walpole), Richard Moore (D-Uxbridge), Eileen Donoghue (D-Lowell) and Joan Lovely (D-Salem), and Representative Theodore Speliotis (D-Danvers) in filing legislation requiring juveniles convicted of first degree murder to serve a minimum of 35 years before becoming eligible for parole.

The legislative measure comes on the heels of a 2012 United States Supreme Court decision stating that it is cruel and unusual punishment for states to require all juveniles who commit the crime of murder to be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, and a decision made last year by the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling that all juveniles convicted of first degree murder under the age of 18 must be eligible for parole.

“In the wake of court decisions eliminating life without parole for these offenders, we must act now to ensure that those murderers serve the sentences their crimes deserve, and that we protect public safety from their premature release,” said Senator Tarr.  “If we must consider parole in these cases, it must be done with respect to victims and their families and the security of our communities as much as to the rights conferred by the judiciary.”

The bipartisan, bicameral bill, which meets the recommendation of District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett and the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association, was filed on Tuesday and currently has a total of 22 sponsors.  More legislators are expected to sign-on to the public safety bill before the deadline of Friday, January 31st at 5:00pm.

“The Supreme Court said that it is cruel and unusual punishment that a juvenile would have to spend their life behind bars without parole, but it is also cruel and unusual punishment that after only 15 years and every 5 years thereafter, a victim’s family would have to relive such a horrible tragedy,” said Senator Finegold.

Currently, due to the courts’ recent rulings, Massachusetts now requires parole eligibility of 15-25 years after a first degree murder conviction, which is the same period for a second degree murder conviction.  The new process will now allow families of victims to appear before the parole board to provide testimony and relive the tragic details concerning the death of a loved one, making it difficult to ever truly recover from such a horrific event.

The family of Beth Brodie said “Serving fifteen years of a life sentence does not seem like a reasonable punishment for a killer of any age.  Could we find a number of years that’s more reasonable?  No we don’t think we could, but this feels like a slap in the face.  Preparing for parole hearings forces us to re-live the worst days of our lives.  The pure and innocent are paying the price for the evil and twisted.  We seek justice, justice for Beth Brodie, justice for all families involved.”

“Lost in the decision of the Supreme Judicial Court is justice for victims and those that mourn such devastating losses. We are thankful for this effort to right a great injustice for victims and their families. It is our hope that Senator Finegold’s proposal will pass the legislature and be signed into law so that those convicted of first degree murder serve longer sentences before they are eligible for parole and therefore prevented from harming others,” said the Ritzer family.

Once the deadline has past, the bill will be assigned to a committee for further action.