BOSTON — Five years ago, a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision shocked dozens of families in Massachusetts as the country's highest court struck down life-no parole sentences for juveniles convicted of first-degree murder.
The decision meant 63 Massachusetts inmates, many serving decades in prison, suddenly were entitled to parole hearings.
George Christopher MacNeill is the latest Massachusetts convicted teen killer to get a parole hearing after the landmark 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling declaring life no parole for teen killers unconstitutional.
The reason for that decision is scientific studies showing juvenile brains are not fully formed. Since then, other convicted teen killers, who have served decades in prison with no hope of release, have gone before the parole board.
So what are the chances that MacNeill and other convicted teen killers will be able to walk the streets after their very first parole hearing? According to court records obtained from the parole board by Boston 25 News, it's not exactly a long shot.
In 2014, the parole board held 13 hearings for teen killers, more than half, seven were released, but the next year, 2015 only four out of 18 juvenile lifers were set free.
In 2016, five convicted teen killers sought release, the board granted parole to just one. Then in 2017, the last year we have figures. three out of four convicted teen killers were granted parole.
To date, 40 juvenile lifers sought parole release, nearly half, 15 of them, got out.
"It's becoming troubling, certainly," said Sean Alyward.
Sean Alyward's sister, Beth Brodie was killed by a teen killer in 1992. He has not yet asked for parole.
"I'm surprised by the number though, I knew there was a fair share of them that would probably be paroled due to their role in the murder," said Alyward.
Boston attorney Brad Bailey looks at the number differently, saying it shows the board is doing its job.
"It's not opening the door. It's also not slamming it shut," said Bailey. "The parole board is being discerning. They are not being automatically out after 15 years. They are considering all the facts that need to be considered, I think it is working."
The issue is not likely to go away anytime soon. More than 20 convicted teen killers are still due to have parole hearings.
Cox Media Group