NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

May 15, 2014

Victims' families urge minimum sentences for juvenile killers

(Continued)

Its ruling was retroactive and opened the door for 63 inmates convicted as juveniles to become parole-eligible after serving 15 to 25 years — the same as those convicted of second-degree murder.

Sean Aylward, brother of Beth Brodie, a 16-year-old Pentucket Regional High School cheerleader who was beaten to death in 1992, told lawmakers juvenile killers should stay behind bars.

Richard Baldwin, then 17, was convicted and sentenced to life without parole in Brodie’s murder. He became parole-eligible under the ruling. Though Baldwin declined a hearing this month, Brodie’s family expects him to seek parole.

“We were promised that he would spend life in prison,” said Aylward, who lives in New Hampshire. “That promise has been broken.”

Prior to the court rulings, Massachusetts boasted some of the country’s toughest laws on juveniles convicted of first-degree murder. A 1996 law mandated that juveniles 14 years and older charged with murder be tried as adults. Those found guilty faced life in prison - the mandatory sentence for first-degree murder.

The SJC ruling explicitly noted that the Legislature could treat juveniles convicted of first-degree murder more harshly than those found guilty of other crimes.

Tarr’s legislation seeks to apply the 35-year minimum sentence to cases where convictions have already been handed down, though it’s unclear if that will be included in the final bill.

His legislation would also require parole boards to weigh additional requirements — including whether the offender had the maturity of an adult when the crime was committed — when considering the release of first-degree murderers.

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