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May 15, 2014

Victims' families urge minimum sentences for juvenile killers

BOSTON — Jen Boisvert stepped to the microphones and fought back tears as she recalled how her cousin, Amy Carnevale, was brutally murdered behind Memorial Middle School in Beverly 22 years ago.

“Her killer was sentenced to life without parole. Justice was served, and a promise was made,” Boisvert, of New Hampshire, said at a Statehouse press conference Wednesday. “We want that promise kept.”

Boisvert and dozens of family members of murder victims called for minimum sentences for their killers, convicted as juveniles. They’re watching up pressure on lawmakers in the wake of a ruling by the state Supreme Judicial Court last December that made dozens of inmates convicted as teens eligible for parole.

The families of five victims — Carnevale, Beth Brodie, Janet Downing, Lewis Jennings and Bonnie Sue Mitchell – presented Gov. Deval Patrick a petition with more than 15,000 signatures demanding the state prevent their killers from being paroled.

The Legislature’s Judiciary Committee is taking up nearly a dozen bills that seek minimum sentences for first-degree murderers charges as juveniles.

A bill filed by Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, and Sen. Barry Finegold, D-Andover, would keep juvenile killers in prison for at least 35 years before they are parole eligible. A bill filed by state Rep. John Keenan, D-Salem, would require life in prison.

Boisvert said she doesn’t know if Jamie Fuller, who was 16 when he stabbed and beat Carnevale to death, will ever appear before a parole board.

“There’s nothing that can bring back my cousin,” she said after the press conference. “But the last thing the family wants is to have to relive this heinous crime.”

In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down mandatory life sentences for juveniles convicted of first-degree murder as “cruel and unusual punishment” under the Constitution.

The state Supreme Judicial Court followed with a similar ruling in the case of Gregory Diatchenko, who was 17 when he stabbed a man as he sat in a car in Boston’s Kenmore Square in 1981. The state high court ruled that sentences of life without parole failed to consider a young defendant’s likelihood of rehabilitation.

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