NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

January 20, 2014

Victim's rights are now at risk in Mass.

To the editor:

I am writing to address how in Massachusetts, the state Supreme Judicial Court and Governor Patrick have interpreted the Miller v. Alabama ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court that addresses the potential illegality of incarcerating juveniles for life once they commit heinous crimes.

The SJC ruling attempts to align itself with the Supreme Court ruling that a sentence of life without parole for a juvenile is cruel and unusual punishment. The Supreme Court did not impose a flat ban on life without parole for a minor who commits murder; it only ruled that it cannot be a mandatory requirement.

Regarding the murder of Beth Brodie of Groveland, her assailant Richard Baldwin was accused and tried of first-degree murder. When found guilty in 1994, it was an automatic life without parole sentence. He was not charged with that specific crime lightly or fool-heartedly. There was premeditation and intent (the bringing of the baseball bat) and coercion (convincing a neighbor to bring Beth Brodie to him). Because of this evidence, it was determined that although he was a 16-year-old youth at the time, he would be tried as an adult and a first-degree murder charge was warranted.

The criminal justice system did consider the defendant’s youth and the nature of the crime.

Massachusetts has interpreted the law in their typical fashion, in the sense that they are one of the few states that decided to apply this ruling retroactively. That means that each case now needs to be brought before a judge so that they can “consider the defendant’s youth and nature of the crime” again, and then decide if the sentence should be changed, or possibly even release them on parole!

And what exactly is the difference between a 17 1/2-year-old and an 18-year-old? Is there an internal biological clock for brain development that clicks off at 18 years of age?

This digs up all the horrible memories of what happened to Beth Brodie’s family over 20 years ago, and with this ruling, they and other families in this situation will go through a new parole hearing every 5 years. This is an enormous waste of taxpayer money for a state that is not only fiscally strapped, but judiciously strapped as well.

Tammy Sanders

Newton, N.H.

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