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Panel advances parole bill for juvenile lifers

June 17, 2014

BOSTON (AP) — A bill that would allow parole for juveniles convicted of first-degree murder in Massachusetts has been advanced by a legislative panel.

Under the measure approved by the Judiciary Committee, a person convicted of first-degree murder for a crime that occurred while he or she was between the ages of 14 and 18 could be eligible for parole after serving 20 to 25 years in prison.

For crimes that were deemed to involve deliberate premeditated malice or extreme atrocity or cruelty, the wait would be 25 to 30 years.

First-degree murder carries an automatic sentence of life in prison without parole in Massachusetts, but the state’s highest court ruled last year that it was unconstitutional to deny the possibility of parole to juveniles who were convicted of murder.

Relatives of several murder victims attended a Statehouse hearing last month in support of a bill co-sponsored by Republican Sen. Bruce Tarr and Democratic Sen. Barry Finegold that would have required a significantly longer period — 35 years — before parole could be granted.

The measure advanced Monday by the Judiciary Committee still needs approval from the full House and Senate. No date has been set for a vote.

The state’s parole board has already begun hearings for some of the 63 prisoners serving life without parole in Massachusetts for crimes that were committed when they were juveniles.

Earlier this month, the board approved parole for Frederick Christian, who has been imprisoned since age 17 for his role in a deadly robbery in 1994.

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