Boston University News Release
New England Center for Investigative Reporting Investigates Juvenile Lifers
(Boston) – Fifteen years after the Massachusetts Legislature passed one of the harshest juvenile murderer sentencing laws in the country, a New England Center for Investigative Reporting (NECIR) investigation reveals, for the first time, serious disparities in the way juvenile killers have been punished under the law. Our Youngest Killers: Juveniles Serving Life without Parole in Massachusetts is the first of a series of stories emerging from a year-long investigation into more than 60 juvenile murder cases in Massachusetts.
The project is in collaboration with The Boston Globe, which published today’s story. Among the investigation’s key findings:
• Though dozens of Massachusetts teens have been charged under the 1996 law, just seven juveniles, some with no past violence or any criminal history, have been sentenced to life without any chance for release. Some of the teen lifers acted impulsively, settling petty disputes with lethal attacks, while others rejected plea deals that could have given them a chance at freedom in as little as 15 years.
• The sentence has failed to catch the “super predator” juvenile killers whose cases triggered the 1996 law.
• Massachusetts is the only state in New England that has sentenced someone under 17 to life without parole since 1996, drawing criticism from even law-and-order Texas, which allows teen killers to apply for parole after serving 40 years.
• Teens committing more grisly slayings than the seven incarcerated for life cut deals with prosecutors allowing them a chance at release in some cases in as few as ten years.
• Judges and jurors who have participated in teenage murder trials have misgivings about the harsh sentence.
The NECIR investigation involved months of collection and data analysis, scores of interviews with attorneys, judges, defendants, victims and their families, jurors, juvenile justice advocates and lawmakers. The investigation focuses on seven teenage boys who committed murders in four Massachusetts counties between 1997 and 2011, tracking their cases through from pre-arrest activity to incarceration and appeals.
The stories were researched, reported and written by NECIR student reporters Sarah Favot, Kirsten Berg and Jenna Ebersole. The project was supervised by NECIR Co-Director Maggie Mulvihill. Also participating in the project were NECIR contributing editor Rochelle Sharpe and interns Jill Carlson, Susan Zalkind, Carol Cole and Alexandria Burris.
All text and multimedia excerpts must be credited to “The New England Center for Investigative Reporting and The Boston Globe.”
The New England Center for Investigative Reporting is a non-profit, non-partisan regional investigative reporting newsroom based at Boston University’s College of Communication (COM).