Patrick’s legislation does not address how those cases would be resolved. But his aides say they believe those defendants will eventually win the right to new sentencing hearings in the courts.
“We think this legislation provides clear parameters when those offenders are resentenced,” said Kate Cook, Patrick’s chief legal counsel.
Before meting out a sentence of life without parole to those under 18 years old, judges, under Patrick’s legislation, would be required to consider 11 factors, including the defendant’s age, maturity, mental capacity, and upbringing, as well as the impact on the victims. Without those findings, a judge would be required to sentence the juvenile to a life sentence, with parole eligibility between 15 and 25 years in most cases. In some cases, where a defendant is convicted of first-degree murder but did not directly kill someone, he or she may be eligible for parole after 10 years.
Garinger told the Globe in November that she would not support a bill that required youths sentenced to life in prison to serve more than 15 years without the opportunity for parole and that she supported banning life without parole for all juveniles. But Saturday, she released a statement through Patrick’s staff praising the proposed legislation.
“While the governor’s bill does not entirely preclude these sentences, it requires that an appropriately heavy burden be met before a judge could impose such a sentence,” she said. “Many of my other recommendations are included in the governor’s proposal. If enacted, the governor’s proposal would be a significant step forward.”
Joshua Dohan, director of the state public defender’s Youth Advocacy Division, also expressed disappointment that Patrick’s option would allow judges to sentence youths to life without parole.
“We’re the only modern country that does that to children,” Dohan said. “At least it does give the court a better range of discretion.”
For the same reason, the proposal could please some victims’ advocates.
“Most of us, I can tell you, believe that a life without parole sentence should be an option, and it should be rare,” said Jennifer Bishop Jenkins, head of the National Organization of Victims of Juvenile Lifers, an Illinois-based group, whose pregnant sister and brother-in-law were killed by a teenager.
Leone, the Middlesex district attorney, opposes several aspects of Patrick’s bill, which may loom as a major factor in the Legislature.
Representative Eugene O’Flaherty, a Chelsea Democrat who expects to be a co-chairman of the Legislature’s judiciary committee this year, said lawmakers will wait to hear testimony from prosecutors, victims, and advocates before making up their minds, though he agrees something has to be done in light of the Miller decision.
Representative Christopher M. Markey, a Dartmouth Democrat who served as a prosecutor for 12 years, said he supports parole eligibility at 25 or 30 years.
“To me, a 12-person jury deliberately decided that the defendant committed a premeditated murder,” he said. “Having it as a simple 15-year parole eligibility is not enough. You’re 31 years old when you potentially get out.”