BOSTON — In the first hearings of their kind, two Massachusetts men sentenced to life in prison as juveniles on Thursday begin making their case for freedom to the state Parole Board.
The hearings come after a ruling in December by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court that said mandatory life without the possibility of parole sentences are unconstitutional for juveniles. The court cited scientific research that shows juvenile brains aren’t fully developed.
The decision followed a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2012 that outlawed such mandatory life sentences. The Miller v. Alabama case did not abolish juvenile life sentencing but rather gives judges an opportunity to consider mitigating factors on a case-by-case basis.
The state Parole Board will review the case of Joseph Donovan, now 38, who was convicted in 1993 for the murder of MIT student Yngve Raustein.
The second hearing involves Frederick Christian, now 37, who was convicted in 1998 for killing two men during a drug-related robbery.
Both Donovan and Christian were convicted when they were 17. Neither did the actual killings.
The Parole Board is not expected to make a decision on parole Thursday.
There are 65 Massachusetts inmates now serving life sentences for murders committed when they were juveniles; 44 are eligible for parole.
With reporting by WBUR’s Deborah Becker and The Associated Press