Changes to mandatory life sentence law prompts men to ask for second chances
Two Massachusetts men who were sentenced to life in prison under a mandatory life sentencing law when they were juveniles pleaded for freedom Thursday.
Joseph Donovan, 38, and Frederick Christian, 37 are hoping that their voices will be heard in light of recent changes to the state’s law regarding juvenile offenders.
[The state’s] highest court struck down the law in December, part of a cascade of such legal moves around the country. Both [men] were convicted of felony murder charges for their part in separate killings, though neither killed anyone. They’re among 63 inmates in Massachusetts serving life without parole under the juvenile sentencing law.
Donovan was convicted for his participation in the 1992 robbery of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology student who died of stab wounds. He punched the student, Yngve Raustein, and said he was trying to show off in front of new friends by seeming tough.
“I was such a stupid kid,” he added, saying he was rash and impulsive and never thought about consequences.
The person convicted of stabbing Raustein was released from prison a decade ago.
In December, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that mandatory life sentences for juveniles constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment.” The court used scientific research showing that the brains of juveniles were not fully developed as evidence for the decision.
The decision followed Miller v. Alabama, a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2012, which struck down such mandatory life sentencing laws. Hawaii, West Virginia and Texas are among just a handful of states that have followed suit through either state court rulings or legislative action.
Numerous studies continue to show the importance of keeping our youth in the classroom and out of the prison system. Should the men be granted a second chance?
Should lawmakers do away with mandatory life sentencing laws in general?
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