BOSTON — A 38-year-old man who has spent more than half of his life in prison is the latest Massachusetts inmate to be granted parole after being sentenced to life imprisonment for a murder committed as a juvenile.
Joseph Donovan was convicted of first-degree murder in 1992, when he was 17, because he took part in an armed robbery that led to someone else fatally stabbing an MIT student.
The person who fatally stabbed the MIT student was 15 at the time, and received a 10-year prison sentence because he was charged as a juvenile.
At his parole hearing in May, Donovan said he was a “stupid kid” but is a changed man.
The Massachusetts Parole Board unanimously approved Donovan’s release Thursday.
“Donovan has been severely punished by serving 22 years for a stabbing murder that he did not intend or commit,” the board wrote in its decision. “He intended and committed a robbery, for which he has been adequately punished.”
The day before, the board made a similar decision on Anthony Rolon. The 36-year-old was sentenced to life in prison as a teenager for a 1996 stabbing death in New Bedford.
Rolon was 17 at the time of the killing.
The family of Rolon’s stabbing victim and prosecutors told the Associated Press Wednesday that they’re upset with the parole board’s decision.
Before Donovan and Rolon, in June, Frederick Christian was granted parole. He has been imprisoned since 1994, when he was 17, for his role in a deadly robbery.
The three decisions come after rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court and Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court that sentencing juveniles to life sentences without the possibility of parole is unconstitutional.
Donovan, Rolon and Christian and 60 other state prisoners sentenced to life in prison as juveniles were affected by the court rulings.
A new law, signed by the governor in 2013, places 17-year-olds in juvenile court, though judges retain the ability to impose an adult sentence.
Previously, all 17-year-olds were tried as adults in Massachusetts.
With reporting by The Associated Press and the WBUR Newsroom