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HOUSE DOCKET, NO.                 FILED ON: 6/16/2014

HOUSE  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  No. 4184

 

 

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts

 

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In the Year Two Thousand Fourteen

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An Act relative to juvenile life sentences.

 

              Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:
 

              SECTION 1.  Section 130 of chapter 127 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2012 Official Edition, is hereby amended by striking out, in line 6 the words “violating the law” and inserting in place thereof the following words:- committing a violent offense.

              SECTION 2.  Section 133A of chapter 127 of the General Laws is hereby amended by striking out section 133A, as so appearing, and inserting in place thereof the following section:-

              Section 133A. (a) Every prisoner who is serving a sentence for life in a correctional institution of the commonwealth, except prisoners confined to the hospital at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution, Bridgewater, except prisoners serving a life sentence for murder in the first degree and except prisoners serving more than one life sentence arising out of separate and distinct incidents that occurred at different times, where the second offense occurred subsequent to the first conviction, shall be eligible for parole at the expiration of the minimum term fixed by the court under section 24 of chapter 279. The parole board shall, within 60 days before the expiration of such minimum term, conduct a public hearing before the full membership unless a member of the board is determined to be unavailable as provided in this section. Notwithstanding the previous sentence, the board may postpone a hearing until 30 days before the expiration of such minimum term, if the interests of justice so require and upon publishing written findings of the necessity for such postponement. For the purposes of this section, the term unavailable shall mean that a board member has a conflict of interest to the extent that he cannot render a fair and impartial decision or that the appearance of a board member would be unduly burdensome because of illness, incapacitation, or other circumstance. Whether a member is unavailable for the purposes of this section shall be determined by the chair. Board members shall appear unless said chair determines them to be unavailable. Under no circumstances shall a parole hearing proceed pursuant to this section unless a majority of the board is present at the public hearing. Unless a board member is unavailable due to a conflict of interest, any board member who was not present at the public hearing shall review the record of the public hearing and shall vote in the matter.

              Said board shall at least thirty days before such hearing notify in writing the attorney general, the district attorney in whose district sentence was imposed, the chief of police or head of the organized police department of the municipality in which the crime was committed and the victims of the crime for which sentence was imposed, and said officials and victims may appear in person or be represented or make written recommendations to the board, but failure of any or all of said officials to appear or make recommendations shall not delay the paroling procedure; provided, however, that no hearing shall take place until the parole board has certified in writing that it has complied with the notification requirements of this paragraph, a copy of which shall be included in the record of such proceeding; and provided further, that this paragraph shall also apply to any parole hearing for an applicant who was convicted of a crime listed in clause (i) of subsection (b) of section 25 of chapter 279 and sentenced and committed to prison for 5 or more years for such crime and does not show that a pardon has been issued for the crime.

              After such hearing the parole board may, by a vote of two-thirds of its members, grant to such prisoner a parole permit to be at liberty upon such terms and conditions as it may prescribe for the unexpired term of his sentence. If such permit is not granted, the parole board shall, at least once in each ensuing ten year period, consider carefully and thoroughly the merits of each such case on the question of releasing such prisoner on parole, and may, by a vote of two-thirds of its members, grant such parole permit. If the parole board extends the parole period beyond five years, the prisoner shall have the right to petition the chairman for reconsideration of the period of time before the prisoner is presented before the full board for a hearing.

              Such terms and conditions may be revised, altered and amended, and may be revoked, by the parole board at any time. The violation by the holder of such permit or any of its terms or conditions, or of any law of the commonwealth, may render such permit void, and thereupon, or if such permit has been revoked, the parole board may order his arrest and his return to prison, in accordance with the provisions of section one hundred and forty-nine.

              (b) Every prisoner who is serving a life sentence for murder in the first degree who committed such offense on or after his fourteenth birthday and before his eighteenth birthday shall be eligible for parole at the expiration of the minimum term fixed by the court under section 24 of chapter 279. The parole board shall, within 60 days before the expiration of such minimum term, conduct a public hearing before the full membership unless a member of the board is determined to be unavailable as provided in this section. Notwithstanding the previous sentence, the board may postpone a hearing until 30 days before the expiration of such minimum term, if the interests of justice so require and upon publishing written findings of the necessity for such postponement. For the purposes of this section, the term unavailable shall mean that a board member has a conflict of interest to the extent that he cannot render a fair and impartial decision or that the appearance of a board member would be unduly burdensome because of illness, incapacitation, or other circumstance. Whether a member is unavailable for the purposes of this section shall be determined by the chair. Board members shall appear unless said chair determines them to be unavailable. Under no circumstances shall a parole hearing proceed pursuant to this section unless a majority of the board is present at the public hearing. Unless a board member is unavailable due to a conflict of interest, any board member who was not present at the public hearing shall review the record of the public hearing and shall vote in the matter.

              Said board shall at least thirty days before such hearing notify in writing the attorney general, the district attorney in whose district sentence was imposed, the chief of police or head of the organized police department of the municipality in which the crime was committed and the victims of the crime for which sentence was imposed, and said officials and victims may appear in person or be represented or make written recommendations to the board, but failure of any or all of said officials to appear or make recommendations shall not delay the paroling procedure; provided, however, that no hearing shall take place until the parole board has certified in writing that it has complied with the notification requirements of this paragraph, a copy of which shall be included in the record of such proceeding; and provided further, that this paragraph shall also apply to any parole hearing for an applicant who was convicted of a crime listed in clause (i) of subsection (b) of section 25 of chapter 279 and sentenced and committed to prison for 5 or more years for such crime and does not show that a pardon has been issued for the crime.

              After such hearing the parole board may, by a vote of two-thirds of its members, grant to such prisoner a parole permit to be at liberty upon such terms and conditions as it may prescribe for the unexpired term of his sentence. If such permit is not granted, the parole board shall, at least once in each ensuing ten year period, consider carefully and thoroughly the merits of each such case on the question of releasing such prisoner on parole, and may, by a vote of two-thirds of its members, grant such parole permit. If the parole board extends the parole period beyond five years, the prisoner shall have the right to petition the chairman for reconsideration of the period of time before the prisoner is presented before the full board for a hearing.

              Such terms and conditions may be revised, altered and amended, and may be revoked, by the parole board at any time. The violation by the holder of such permit or any of its terms or conditions, or of any law of the commonwealth, may render such permit void, and thereupon, or if such permit has been revoked, the parole board may order his arrest and his return to prison, in accordance with the provisions of section one hundred and forty-nine.

              SECTION 3. Section 133C of chapter 127 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2012 Official Edition, is hereby amended, in line 6, by inserting after the word “degree” the following words:-

              who committed such offense on or after their eighteenth birthday

              SECTION 4. Section 2 of chapter 265 of the General Laws is hereby amended by striking out section 265, as so appearing, and inserting in place thereof the  following section:-

              Section 2. (a) Except as provided in subsection (b) , any person who is found guilty of murder in the first degree shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for life, and such person shall not be eligible for parole under subsection (a) of section one hundred and thirty-three A of chapter one hundred and twenty-seven.

              (b) Any person who is found guilty of murder in the first degree who committed  such offense on or after his fourteenth birthday and before his eighteenth birthday shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for life and, notwithstanding any provision of subsection (b) of section one hundred and thirty-three A of chapter one hundred and twenty-seven to the contrary, may be designated by the court as eligible for parole at the expiration of the minimum term fixed by the court under section twenty-four of chapter two hundred and seventy-nine.

              (c) Whoever is found guilty of murder in the second degree shall be punished by imprisonment in state prison for life.

              (d) Any person whose sentence for murder is commuted by the governor and council under the provisions of section one hundred and fifty-two of said chapter one hundred and twenty-seven shall thereafter be subject to the provisions of law governing parole.

              SECTION 5. Section 24 of chapter 279 of the General Laws, as most recently amended by Chapter 192 of the Acts of 2012,  is hereby amended by striking out section 24 and inserting in place thereof following section:-

              Section 24.  If a person is sentenced to the state prison, except as a habitual criminal, the court shall not fix the term of imprisonment, but shall fix a maximum and a minimum term for which he may be imprisoned. The maximum term shall not be longer than the longest term fixed by law for the punishment of the crime of which he has be convicted, and the minimum term shall be a term set by the court, except that, where an alternative sentence to a house of correction is permitted for the offense, a minimum state prison term may not be less than one year. In the case of a sentence to life imprisonment, except in the case of a sentence for murder in the first degree, and in the case of multiple life sentences arising out of separate and distinct incidents that occurred at different times, where the second offense occurred subsequent to the first conviction, the court shall fix a minimum term which shall be not less than 15 years nor more than 25 years.

              In the case of a sentence to life imprisonment for murder in the first degree with either deliberately premeditated malice aforethought or with extreme atrocity or cruelty committed by a person on or after his fourteenth birthday and before his eighteenth birthday, the court shall fix a minimum term of not less than 25 years nor more than 30 years.

              In the case of a sentence to life imprisonment for a murder in the first degree that resulted exclusively from the commission or attempted commission of a crime punishable with death or imprisonment for life committed by a person on or after his fourteenth birthday and before his eighteenth birthday, the court shall fix a minimum term of not less than 20 years nor more than 25 years.

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