BOSTON — When Richard Baldwin, Jamie Fuller and other juvenile murderers were convicted of their crimes, their victims' loved ones may have had some comfort in their sentences: Life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The state Supreme Judicial Court, however, decided late last year that sending away underage killers for life is "cruel and unusual punishment" and therefore unconstitutional. Anne Brodie, whose 15-year-old daughter Beth was murdered by Baldwin when he was 16, said that decision felt like a "punch in the stomach."
The Legislature has been attempting to reconcile Massachusetts law regarding juvenile killers with decisions rendered by the U.S. Supreme Court as well as the SJC. The House passed a bill that would allow parole for juvenile murderers after they have been incarcerated for 20 to 30 years.
Yesterday the Senate rejected a bill that would have kept those who committed murder before they turned 18 behind bars for 35 years before being eligible for parole. The vote was 23-16.
An amendment setting the threshold at 25 years lost 20-19.
Anne Brodie, now the town clerk of Groveland, said the legislation now being considered on Beacon Hill "does not mention retroactivity." So Baldwin, who killed Beth Brodie by hitting her with a baseball bat Nov. 18, 1992, would still be eligible for parole.
Underage killers in Massachusetts can now be paroled after being locked up for 15 years, Anne Brodie said.
The Criminal Justice Policy Coalition wants to keep it that way. Members gathered at the Statehouse yesterday to lobby against the effort to keep juvenile murderers locked up for at least 20 years.
Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett said requiring underage killers to be incarcerated for 35 years before getting a hearing before the Parole Board "is a sensible and balanced approach." The state's other district attorneys support that standard, he added.