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First Two Juveniles Sentenced to Life Get First Chance at Parole

Hearings come in wake of SJC ruling to allow youths convicted of murder the chance to receive parole.

Patch File Photo
Patch File Photo

Parole hearings start this morning for two Massachusetts men who were sentenced to life in prison as teenagers.

Joseph Donovan, 38 and 37-year-old Frederick Christian will attend their first parole hearings Thursday morning. Both have been been in prison for two decades.

Earlier this year, the state Supreme Judicial Court ruled to allow youths convicted of murder the chance to receive parole from a life sentence in prison.

The ruling was retroactive and affects a number of cases where present-day convicts were juveniles at the time of the murder.

It will most certainly affect sentencing for 14-year-old Philip Chism of Danvers if he is found guilty of murdering teacher Colleen Ritzer, who lived in Andover.

There are currently more than 60 imprisoned on murder charges that stem from when they were juveniles.

Donovan was convicted of first degree murder when he was 17, but didn’t kill anyone when he robbed  two MIT students with friends. He admitted to punching the victim while a friend stabbed one, according to NECN. Christian watched his friend gun down two Brockton men when he was also 17.

Whether or not Donovan or Christian are granted parole and how the hearing plays out  is a good test of the new ruling.

Gail Garinger, a Massachusetts Child Advocate and former Juvenile Court judge told the Globe the case will be watched very closely to see if they will receive a valid hearing.

Both hearings are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Thursday morning.
BW May 30, 2014 at 08:36 AM
I thought you were an adult at 17 years. At age 17 men and women can join the armed forces, go into foreign countries and defend American causes at risk of their own lives. So at 17 years of age still means they are juveniles ?
Stuart Van Tine May 30, 2014 at 08:37 AM
I love Ms. Garinger's thinly veiled threat, obviously aimed at intimidating the parole board. She'll be watching closely to see if they receive a "valid" hearing. Valid? She must mean that if the thugs aren't paroled, the hearing wasn't properly conducted. Board should reject both requests to prove that threats don't work.
May Hitaj May 30, 2014 at 11:30 PM
I believe these men should not be paroled! I also strongly believe no-one of these convicted murderers should receive parole they should all rot in jail where they belong! I'm the niece of Bonnie sue Mitchell who was murdered by George Christopher McNEill in 1981 I will do everything I can to make sure that happens I will fight every step of the way! I seen him the day he murdered her he had no remorse! Life in prison I'd what they deserve it's what they got and it should stay as is! George Christopher McNEill strangled my aunt with clothes line rope until he held her lifeless body in hid hands that takes a "special" kind of person to do that he knew what he Was doing what rage that took... rot in hell!
steve forte May 31, 2014 at 07:31 AM
Thanks to Miller vs Alabama they cannot be held for life.

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