EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Haverhill

May 7, 2014

Family of slain Groveland teen urges mandatory time for juvenile killers

BOSTON — The family of a Groveland teenager slain 22 years ago is urging lawmakers to pass a bill forcing juveniles convicted of first-degree murder to spend at least 35 years in prison before becoming eligible for parole.

Beth Brodie, a popular 16-year-old cheerleader at Pentucket Regional High School, was beaten to death in 1992 by a bat-wielding former classmate. Her killer, Richard Baldwin, who was 16 at the time, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, but he became eligible for parole along with dozens of other inmates under a December 2012 ruling by the state Supreme Judicial Court.

Yesterday, Brodie’s brother, Sean Aylward, met with lawmakers to press for legislation filed by Sens. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, and Barry Finegold, D-Andover, to keep juvenile killers in prison for at least 35 years.

A hearing on the bill is set for next Wednesday before the Judiciary Committee, which could set the stage for a vote by the House and Senate before the legislative session ends July 31.

“Life without parole should mean life without parole,” said Aylward, who lives in New Hampshire. “While this might not help with our situation, it will help future victims.”

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 up with a similar ruling.

The court’s 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 — held that sentences of life without parole failed to take into account a young defendant’s likelihood of being rehabilitated.

“Given the unique characteristics of juvenile offenders, they should be afforded, in appropriate circumstances, the opportunity to be considered for parole suitability,” the Massachusetts justices wrote.

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