Weighing in on juvenile parole

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) -- Connecticut has repealed the death penalty and now it must change the law that allows minors to be sentenced as adults when they commit violent crimes.

A federal court ruling says Connecticut must make the change that people who commit violent crimes when they are under age 18 must have a chance at parole.

As of Thursday, there are 16,600 prisoners in the Connecticut Correction system, as many as 250 are prisoners sent to jail for crimes they committed when they were under age 18.

"There is such a thing as somebody getting a second chance and I think that Luiz would be a great candidate to be considered for this program," said Evaristo Pabon, of Farmington.

"He's very remorseful, my friend committed a murder at the age of 16, and at 17 he was convicted and sentenced to 50 years," said Trent Butler, of New Haven.

The Connecticut Sentencing Commission heard Thursday from dozens of family members and friends of people who committed crimes when they were 14, 15, 16 and 17, and were sentenced as adults, in many cases without the possibility of parole.

That has to change because the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled it's illegal because people at that age aren't fully developed and deserve an opportunity to receive parole at some point.

"That there are psychological, physical factors concerning brain development that limit juveniles responsibility for crimes," said Judge Joseph Shortall, CT Sentencing Commission, "they don't excuse them, but they limit their culpability."

"It would be retroactive because the U.S. Supreme Court was acting on a case that was indeed an old case," said Commissioner Leo Arnone, CT Dept. of Correction.

"I would be for giving juveniles a second break when you can give my son and wife a second break," said John Cluney, of Norwich.

A woman and her 15-year-old son were shot to death in 1993 by a 14-year-old who was sentenced to 60 years without parole. They were John Cluney's wife and son.

"I don't want to see him out. I don't want to ever see him on the streets, okay," said Cluney. "Once you cross the line...you've committed a double murder of a 15-year-old boy and his mother...you're capable of anything."

The special commission made up of judges, prosecutors, public defenders and members of law enforcement must make a recommendation on changing the law by the first of the year.

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