Dear Attorney General Healey
Dear Attorney General Healey, On March 23rd, the state’s highest court ruled that prisoners who committed murder as juveniles can appeal parole denials to a Superior Court judge and are entitled to legal representation and expert witnesses at their parole hearings, which creates an overwhelming concern for us - the victims’ families. Justices Francis Spina and Robert Cordy both opposed this decision, stating that the court was overstepping its bounds by now making the parole process, which is an executive branch of government, part of the judicial sentencing process. We ask for a clear and definitive explanation on this new ruling. If the SJC did overstep their boundaries, is there any recourse for legal action that we, as a group, can take? Why would the SJC not offer the same representation and support to the victims’ families who plan to attend every parole board hearing? We, like the juvenile homicide offenders, also lack the skills and resources to gather, analyze, and represent our evidence adequately. We are concerned that the survivors of the victims, who have testified in a court of law that convicted these murderers, have been forgotten. Is there a plan for protection moving forward on our behalf? We continue to search for avenues of support regarding the failure to address the retro-activity of those inmates currently incarcerated. We would like an answer as to why juveniles now convicted of first-degree murder with premeditation become parole-eligible in 25 to 30 years. Yet, those inmates who are currently incarcerated are eligible for parole in only 15 years? How is this a balance of justice for the victims who were heinously murdered and the family and friends who had to endure trials and constant media attention? As a group, we have attended hearings at the state house, provided testimonies in person to the senate, hand delivered a petition with over 3,000 signatures opposing parole to the Governor's office, fought for a bipartisan bill to be passed with the support of Senator Bruce Tarr and DA Johnathan Blodgett, which would increase the parole eligibility timeline to a minimum of 35 years vs the current 15 years, attended the voting session at the state house and watched the bill not pass. Yet, we observed the bill presented by Senator Welch pass, which only applies to murders committed in the future. We attended the 2014 Massachusetts Victim Rights Conference and award ceremonies, and an informational parole board meeting presented by Diane Coffey, Director of Victim Services at the MA Parole Board. In an effort to create public awareness, we have created websites, Facebook pages, and individual petitions for each family member we have lost as a result of a juvenile homicide offender. We have gained overwhelming support of the Massachusetts voters in the past year. We feel it is our civic responsibility to provide answers to them. We are relying on you to help clarify the SJC’s latest ruling. What action is necessary to create a more positive balance for the coalition of victims’ families of juvenile homicide? The lack of effort on our behalf is deeply concerning for us, especially when there has been immense effort put forth to accommodate and support the parole and ultimate release of our families’ killers. It was unfortunate to learn of the recent SJC ruling through social media and the Boston Globe and not from any state office. It was also very disconcerting when one of our members contacted her victim advocate, only to be told they had no prior knowledge of the SJC ruling. The family members of homicide victims Beth Brodie, Janet Downing, Amy Carnevale, Lewis Jennings, Bonnie Sue Mitchell, and Virginia Woodward.