SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

January 10, 2014

Our view: Legislature should act on parole ruling

(Continued)

In a statement, the Ritzer family said it felt betrayed that the SJC showed more concern for the rights of killers than compassion for their victims.

“This decision should not be applauded, rather overturned as an act of justice and humanity to victims of violent crimes and their families,” the family said.

Finegold told reporter Dustin Luca the ruling “caught a lot of people off guard. I disagree with the decision, and I do believe it should be life without parole for someone who commits a crime like what has happened.”

Finegold said the Legislature “may have to look into a constitutional amendment. We need to look into legislation.”

That won’t be easy. Passing a constitutional amendment in Massachusetts is a complex task requiring the support of a majority in a joint convention of the Legislature in two successive sessions. Then, the proposed amendment is placed on the ballot for the consideration of voters.

There is already locally sponsored legislation regarding juvenile sentencing working its way through Beacon Hill.

A bill filed by State Rep. John Keenan of Salem after the Miller v. Alabama decision, but before the SJC ruling, called for imposing at least 35 years in prison before a juvenile convicted of first-degree murder becomes eligible for a parole hearing and maintained life without parole as a sentencing option for judges.

“The difficult cases are those like Miller (and some other Massachusetts juveniles) where it was not premeditated and not even the defendant who did the actual murder,” Keenan said. “A young kid makes a stupid mistake in agreeing to go along with friends who are going to rob a convenience store, not knowing they are armed, and when the clerk pulls a gun, the other kid shoots and kills the clerk. Those are the difficult cases, as each of us as teenagers made many dumb decisions.

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