“Massachusetts prides itself on being enlightened on victims’ rights,” Blodgett said at a press conference Dec. 27. “And yet this decision comes out on Christmas Eve day? That’s a pretty tough, bitter pill to swallow for victims’ families who thought that these cases had been put to rest.”
It’s a ruling that goes beyond the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding in Miller vs. Alabama, Blodgett said.
The Miller decision, like the SJC ruling, pointed to recent research showing that the brains of teenagers are still developing, and concluded that it is a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment to summarily sentence someone to life without parole under those circumstances.
Blodgett said that while he and other prosecutors do not dispute that teen brains are different from those of adults, that is already factored into decisions on whether to charge a teenager with first-degree murder.
“We’ve always understood that,” Blodgett said. “That’s why district attorneys have robust juvenile and young adult offender diversion programs, to give recognition to the fact that juveniles sometimes make mistakes.”
“There are some crimes that are so abhorrent and so heinous a juvenile should be sentenced to life without parole,” Blodgett said. “We don’t charge first-degree murder unless the facts are so heinous and horrible that it warrants a first-degree charge.”