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July 17, 2014

Murder victims' families decry juvenile parole bill

'We had justice, but it's been taken away'

Families of several murder victims are blasting Beacon Hill lawmakers for watering down parole guidelines for juveniles convicted of first-degree murder.

“We feel totally let down by the Legislature,” said Jen Boisvert, whose cousin, Amy Carnevale, was brutally murdered behind Memorial Middle School in Beverly 22 years ago. “We were promised that something was going to be done.”

The legislation is a compromise between House and Senate lawmakers, who have been debating the issue for months in response to court rulings that life sentences without a chance of parole for juvenile killers are unconstitutional.

The compromise law would make juveniles convicted of first-degree murder eligible to apply for parole after serving 20 to 30 years in prison, depending upon the circumstances.

But the new guidelines, which are expected to come up for a vote in both chambers this week, would apply only to murders committed after the law takes effect. That has infuriated families of homicide victims, who say the law should include past cases where the killers, convicted as juveniles, are already serving sentences of life in prison.

“Not ruling retroactively on parole for juvenile killers puts public safety at risk,” said Sean Aylward, brother of Beth Brodie, a 16-year-old cheerleader at Pentucket Regional High School who was beaten to death in 1992.

“We had justice, but it’s been taken away to spare the few souls who don’t deserve it. Who benefits from this decision? A killer. Someone who brutally took an innocent life.”

Richard Baldwin, then 16, was convicted and sentenced to life without parole in Brodie’s murder. He became parole-eligible under the court rulings. Though Baldwin declined a hearing in May, Brodie’s family expects him to seek parole.

Sens. Bruce Tarr, a Gloucester Republican, and Barry Finegold, an Andover Democrat, had filed legislation — with backing from more than a dozen other lawmakers — to require at least 35 years in prison before a juvenile convicted of first-degree murder could be eligible for parole, and to apply that retroactively to convicted murderers. Those provisions were removed from the final version of the bill.

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