, Newburyport, MA


January 28, 2014

Our view: Common sense changes proposed to juvenile murder law


Brodie’s family and friends are understandably outraged by the SJC decision.

Kellie Schaffer, the sister of Beth Brodie, told the State House News Service the SJC ruling “feels like a slap in the face.”

“I don’t believe we should be forced to relive our tragedy again,” she said. “Our murdered loved ones deserve better than that. They deserve justice.”

The ruling would also affect the case of Philip Chism, the Danvers High student charged with the rape and murder of teacher Colleen Ritzer of Andover. If convicted, Chism’s sentence would include the possibility of parole.

While not perfect, the bill offered by Finegold and Tarr is a good step toward restoring justice to the families of victims of these heinous crimes. Tarr notes the bill also requires that, to grant parole, the Parole Board would have to find that the juvenile did not have the mental state of an adult when the crime was committed.

Predictably, those whose sympathies rest with murderers oppose the bill. Joshua Dohan, director of the Youth Advocacy Division of the Committee for Public Counsel Services, the state’s public defender agency, told the news service judges must have discretion on when to set parole eligibility.

“I understand where it’s coming from. Everybody feels for the families that have had to go through this and there’s nothing you can do to make that better for them. But when it comes to then how do you deal with the youthful offender, the answer is no, this is not fair,” Dohan said. “It needs to be after a reasonable term. Thirty-five years is not reasonable.”

It seems more than reasonable to us; more like lenient to a fault. But it’s more practical than the alternative of trying to push through a constitutional amendment.

Sympathy for the killers here is misplaced. We’re not talking about “kids” who made a “mistake.” These are first-degree murders, which means they were carefully planned and executed killings.

Baldwin used a mutual friend to lure Brodie to where he was waiting. Then he bludgeoned her to death with a baseball bat.

Baldwin and other killers like him deserve to spend the rest of their lives in prison.

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