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Mass. rules LWOP for teens unconstitutional

Mass. SJC bars no-parole life terms for youths:

HelenLovejoy

Right before the holidays the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that life without parole for minors is unconstitutional. Not just mandatory LWOP but LWOP in general. Once again the argument of a teen’s brain not being fully developed was used as the reasoning behind the decision.

“Simply put, because the brain of a juvenile is not fully developed, either structurally or functionally, by the age of eighteen, a judge cannot find with confidence that a particular offender, at that point in time, is irretrievably depraved,” the court wrote. “Therefore, it follows that the judge cannot ascertain, with any reasonable degree of certainty, whether imposition of this most severe punishment is warranted.”

So what does this mean? It means a cold-blooded killer like John Odgren could one day be free. If you’ll recall Odgren was sentenced to life without parole after stabbing James Alenson to death at the age of 16 in a bathroom at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School. Odgren had an unhealthy obsession with knives and crime scene forensics and often bragged to classmates that he could commit the perfect crime. He was recorded in prison conversations with his parents admitting that it should only be manslaughter since he didn’t know his victim.

Then there’s 14-year-old Philip Chism of Danvers High School who is accused of not only slitting the throat of his teacher, Colleen Ritzer, but also allegedly raping her with a tree branch.

Of course the brains of teenagers are not fully developed. That doesn’t mean that they don’t know the difference between right and wrong. That doesn’t mean that they don’t know the difference between life and death. That doesn’t mean that they don’t know that murder is wrong. If the brains of teens are so undeveloped that this isn’t common knowledge then they shouldn’t be allowed on the streets. The reality is that these teens have an overinflated sense of self-worth and feel that the world owes them something and with this ruling the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court just enforces that misguided notion.

Before I die I’m afraid we’ll see a society where no one is held responsible for their actions anymore.

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  • edrebber

    There is no reliable way to determine that the murderer wouldn’t kill again once their brain is fully developed. Maybe when these murderers are released from prison and kill again, this ruling will be overturned.

  • Ed

    Most teenagers also know that vandalism and shop lifting is wrong, buit that doesn’t mean we charge them as adults when they commit those crimes. And last I checked, America was one of the only 1st world countries where minors can get LWOP. Providing adult punishment to minors is more commonly associated with 3rd world countries.

    • http://trenchreynolds.me/ Trench Reynolds

      So by your logic we should treat vandalism and shoplifting the same as slitting your teacher’s throat with a box cutter and raping her with a tree branch.

      • Ed

        No. A minor that commits murder should serve more time than a vandal or a shoplifter, but not LWOP. There should always be possibility of parole for minors.

        • http://trenchreynolds.me/ Trench Reynolds

          Why?

    • edrebber

      Ed

      Poor analogy on your part. A minor isn’t likely to be charged as an adult for vandalism or shoplifting. The threat to society is insignificant for these petty offences compared to murder. The minor is being charged as an adult for murder and should be subject to the same penalties. Protecting society outweighs any leniency because of the age of the offender.

      • Ed

        Prison isn’t about “protecting society” its about punishment. And America is one of the few places where we still punish minors as adults. What does that say about how civilized we really are compared to the rest of the world?

        • http://trenchreynolds.me/ Trench Reynolds

          Why should we be civilized when the crimes these kids are committing are far from civilized. A lot of people I talk to from overseas wish they would send some of their juvenile criminals to prison.

          • Ed

            “Why should we be civilized when the crimes these kids are committing are far from civilized.”

            The problem with people who think like that is that nothing will ever satisfy your need for “justice” (aka revenge). If they are thrown in prison for 20 years, you will moan about how they should never walk the streets again. If they go to prison for life, you will moan about how they should be put to death. If they are put to death, you will moan about how they are given a trial and a humane form of execution unlike their victims.

          • edrebber

            Ed,

            The converse can be said about people like you. Once you get rid of life sentences, then you will moan about how long the sentence is. Once the sentence is shortened, you will moan that the defendant was even sent to prison. The difference here is that society must pay the price for your moaning when the criminal reoffends.

        • edrebber

          Ed,

          You are incorrect.

          In the United States, 18 U.S.C. § 3553 states that one of the purposes of criminal sentencing is to “protect the public from further crimes of the defendant.”