'Our Youngest Killers': Juvenile Sentencing Varies Widely Report Shows 07:57

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It's the harshest sentence the state of Massachusetts has: life in prison without the possibility of parole. It's a promise that every day, including a prisoner's last, will be spent behind bars.

Meaning it's a sentence for the very worst of all criminals, because it offers no chance of rehabilitation. It's such a severe sentence that several states refuse to give it to juveniles. But not Massachusetts.

In 1996, Massachusetts changed the law to allow so-called juvenile "super-predators" to be tried in adult courts. Since then, seven teenagers have been sentenced to life with no possibility of parole for having killed someone before they turned 17.

The New England Center for Investigative Reporting reviewed scores of murder cases with teen suspects since the change in the 1996 law. Their results were surprising. There seemed to be no clear reason why some juveniles received the state's harshest penalty, while others didn't.

Maggie Mulvihill is the co-director of the New England Center for Investigative Reporting, and she oversaw the recent project, which appeared in Tuesday''s Boston Globe. She joins us to discuss their findings in detail.



This segment aired on December 27, 2011.