BOSTON (AP) — Inmates serving life sentences for murders committed when they were juveniles are constitutionally entitled to lawyers and expert witnesses at their parole hearings, the state’s highest court ruled Monday.
The 5-2 decision by the Supreme Judicial Court builds on a December 2013 ruling that found mandatory life sentences for juveniles without the possibility of parole is unconstitutional. That ruling followed a U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down such mandatory life sentencing laws, and opened the door for dozens of people in Massachusetts convicted of first-degree murder to seek parole after at least 15 years behind bars.
The SJC’s latest ruling would require the state to pay for a lawyer and any expert witnesses at state parole board hearings if the inmate seeking parole was unable to afford private counsel.
Writing for the majority, Margo Botsford said the protections were necessary to assure that juveniles convicted of…
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