Session Law

2014

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Chapter 189 AN ACT RELATIVE TO JUVENILE LIFE SENTENCES FOR FIRST DEGREE MURDER

     Whereas, The deferred operation of this act would tend to defeat its purpose, which is to provide forthwith for the further regulation of juvenile sentences for first degree murder, therefore it is hereby declared to be an emergency law, necessary for the immediate preservation of the public convenience.

     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 4 of chapter 27 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2012 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting after the word “members”, in line 2, the following words:- , 1 of whom shall at all times have experience in forensic psychology.
     SECTION 2.  Section 72B of chapter 119 of the General Laws, as amended by section 24A of chapter 84 of the acts of 2013, is hereby further amended by inserting after the fourth paragraph the following paragraph:-
     The department of correction shall not limit access to programming and treatment including, but not limited to, education, substance abuse, anger management and vocational training for youthful offenders, as defined in section 52, solely because of their crimes or the duration of their incarcerations.  If the youthful offender qualifies for placement in a minimum security correctional facility based on objective measures determined by the department, the placement shall not be categorically barred based on a life sentence.  
     SECTION 3.  Section 133A of chapter 127 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2012 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting after the word “degree”, in line 5, the following words:- who had attained the age of 18 years at the time of the murder.
     SECTION 4.  Section 133C of said chapter 127, as so appearing, is hereby amended by inserting after the word “degree”, in line 6, the following words:- who had attained the age of 18 years at the time of the murder.
     SECTION 5.  Chapter 265 of the General Laws is hereby amended by striking out section 2, 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 shall not be eligible for parole pursuant to section 133A of chapter 127.
     (b)  Any person who is found guilty of murder in the first degree who committed the offense on or after the person’s fourteenth birthday and before the person’s eighteenth birthday shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for life and shall be eligible for parole after the term of years fixed by the court pursuant to section 24 of chapter 279.
     (c)  Any person who is found guilty of murder in the second degree shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for life and shall be eligible for parole after the term of years fixed by the court pursuant to section 24 of chapter 279.
     (d)  Any person whose sentence for murder is commuted by the governor and council pursuant to section 152 of chapter 127 shall thereafter be subject to the laws governing parole.
     SECTION 6.  Section 24 of chapter 279 of the General Laws, as so appearing, is hereby amended by adding the following paragraph:-
     In the case of a sentence of life imprisonment for murder in the first degree committed by a person on or after the person’s fourteenth birthday and before the person’s eighteenth birthday, the court shall fix a minimum term of not less than 20 years nor more than 30 years; provided, however, that in the case of a sentence of life imprisonment for murder in the first degree with extreme atrocity or cruelty committed by a person on or after the person’s fourteenth birthday and before the person’s eighteenth birthday, the court shall fix a minimum term of 30 years; and provided further, that in the case of a sentence of life imprisonment for murder in the first degree with deliberately premeditated malice aforethought committed by a person on or after the person’s fourteenth birthday and before the person’s eighteenth birthday, the court shall fix a minimum term of not less than 25 years nor more than 30 years.
     SECTION 7.  There shall be a commission to study and determine the usefulness and practicality of creating a developmental evaluation process for all cases of first degree murder committed by a juvenile. For the purposes of this section, a juvenile shall mean a person between the ages of 14 and 18.  The evaluation process shall determine the developmental progress and abilities of the juvenile offender at the time of sentencing and parole eligibility and the parole board shall utilize the evaluation process for future parole decisions regarding the juvenile offender. In making recommendations, the commission shall establish factors to analyze in determining the developmental progress of a juvenile offender. The commission shall consist of: the secretary of public safety and security or a designee, who shall serve as chair; the executive director of the Massachusetts office of victim assistance or a designee; the commissioner of mental health or a designee; the chief justice of the trial court or a designee; the chief justice of the juvenile court department or a designee; the chief counsel for the committee for public counsel services or a designee; the president of the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association or a designee; 2 members of the senate, 1 of whom shall be appointed by the minority leader of the senate; 2 members of the house of representatives, 1 of whom shall be appointed by the minority leader of the house of representatives; and at least 2 people who specialize in child psychology and mental development, who shall be appointed by the governor. The commission shall submit its report and findings, along with any drafts of legislation, to the house and senate committees on ways and means, the joint committee on the judiciary and the clerks of the senate and the house of representatives by December 31, 2014.
     SECTION 8.  Sections 3, 5 and 6 shall apply only to a person who commits a murder after the effective date of this act.
     SECTION 9.  Sections 2 and 4 shall apply regardless of when the murder for which the prisoner was convicted took place.

Approved, July 25, 2014.