barrymasseykid.jpg
barry-massey.com
Rep. Roberts says someone this young should never get life, even in the case of murder.
To Rep. Mary Helen Roberts, D-Edmonds, the U.S.

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Mary Helen Roberts, State Rep. From Edmonds, Wants to Go Farther Than the U.S. Supreme Court Did on Life Sentences for Juveniles

barrymasseykid.jpg
barry-massey.com
Rep. Roberts says someone this young should never get life, even in the case of murder.
To Rep. Mary Helen Roberts, D-Edmonds, the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to throw out state laws that allow offenders under the age of 18 to be sentenced to life without parole for crimes other than murder is good news. But it doesn't go far enough. She'd like to eliminate life sentences for juveniles convicted of murder as well.

During the last legislative session, she sponsored a bill that would have done just that but it never made it out of committee. If it had passed, people like Barry Massey--who, at 13, became the youngest person in the United States to receive life without the possibility of parole--could have had their sentences reevaluated.

Massey is one of 28 individuals in Washington serving life-without-parole terms after being sentenced as juveniles, according to a report last year by Columbia Legal Services (pdf) in Seattle.

At 13, Massey robbed a store with a friend and in the process the owner was stabbed, shot and killed. Massey denies involvement but was convicted in the killing.

As Nina Shapiro detailed in 2007, Massey has since become a model prisoner, earning the respect of both fellow inmates and guards. But thanks to the sentence handed down while he was still a child, he is ineligible for parole, and Gov. Gregoire has denied his petition for clemency.

In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out the death sentence for anyone under the age of 18 in part on the basis that adolescent brains are still developing. "[I]t would be misguided to equate the failings of a minor with those of an adult, for a greater possibility exists that a minor's character deficiencies will be reformed," wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Rep. Roberts uses that same logic in arguing that children also should not be given the highest possible sentence short of death.

 
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