Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

News

January 9, 2014

Ritzer family decries state SJC decision

'Betrayal, anguish' over parole potential for juvenile killers

(Continued)

The Ritzer family crafted a letter to Gov. Deval Patrick, which Finegold delivered to the governor’s office on Tuesday, he said. He would not disclose the contents of the letter.

While there is nothing legislators can do to overturn the court’s decision, Finegold said there is still room for action.

Finegold said while the state Legislature is not in a position to alter the ruling, the laws enforcing it are subject to amendment.

The court is “the law of the land, but what we’re focusing on is how long someone could be convicted and not be eligible for parole,” Finegold said. “Right now, it’s 15 years. Could we make it later? Could we make it a lot longer?”

The heart of the discussion, at that point, becomes measuring when denying the opportunity for parole becomes cruel and unusual punishment for a minor who has received a life sentence, according to Finegold.

The Ritzer family is not the only ones upset by the court’s decision, Finegold said. A day after a story on Finegold’s planned meeting with the Ritzer family was published in The Townsman’s sister paper, The Eagle-Tribune, the senator said he was contacted by other families who have experienced similar situations.

“(They) are really disappointed by this ruling,” he said.

The Dec. 24 ruling by the court came in the case of Gregory Diatchenko, who was 17 when he stabbed a man as he sat in a car in Boston’s Kenmore Square in 1981. It held that life sentences without parole failed to take into account a young defendant’s likelihood of being rehabilitated.

Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett has also voiced his opposition to the ruling at a broader level — from the vantage point of the prosecution.

His office is now preparing for parole hearings for nine convicted killers currently serving life sentences.

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