DA Blodgett Urges Judiciary Committee to Increase Juvenile Murder Sentence
District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett urged the Legislature “to restore some measure of justice for murder victims’ families,” in testimony before the Joint Committee on The Judiciary today on legislation which increases the parole eligibility of juveniles convicted of first degree murder from 15 to 35 years. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently ruled juveniles may not be sentenced to life without parole as it violates Article 26 of the Massachusetts Constitution which protects against cruel and unusual punishment.
“Because the ruling was retroactive, the families of the victims of the 63 convicts currently serving life without parole for a murder they committed when they were a juvenile must now face the possibility that their loved ones killer could walk the streets again. In my mind, this is unconscionable,” D.A. Blodgett said.
D.A. Blodgett explained that District Attorneys understand that juveniles are to be treated differently under the law in most cases, which is why they offer diversion programs to Juvenile and Youthful Offenders. “However, there are some acts that are so heinous that the perpetrator forfeits their opportunity for a second chance. First degree murder is such an act. To be convicted of this crime, prosecutors have to prove one of three theories – deliberate premeditation, extreme atrocity and cruelty and/or that the defendant was in the act of committing another felony. This is not an act done in the heat of passion or through negligence,” D.A. Blodgett said.
D.A. Blodgett stated that while not ideal, increasing parole eligibility to 35 years balances the Court’s concern that juveniles should be given the opportunity to reform themselves with the grave nature of the crime and its impact on the victims’ families. “The criminal justice system can only offer limited solace to families of the victims who are murdered. Nothing can be done to return their loved one. No one can give back the weddings, graduations, birthdays and other milestones of life that have been torn away from them by a cold blooded, pre-meditated, cruel murder,” D.A. Blodgett said.
D.A. Blodgett is the President of the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association, a Vice President of the National District Attorneys Association and is on the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Office of Victim Assistance.