DECEMBER 30, 2013
Until last week, Massachusetts’ statute imposing a mandatory sentence of life without parole for those convicted of first degree murder applied equally to adults and juveniles who were under the age of 18 at the time of the crime. However, interpreting a 2012 decision from the United States Supreme Court, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) has held that denying such juveniles the opportunity to be considered for parole is unconstitutional under both the federal Constitution and the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights.
In 1981, Gregory Diatchenko, who was 17 years old at the time, stabbed a man nine times, killing him. Diatchenko was convicted of first degree murder and was sentenced to a mandatory term of life in prison without the possibility of parole. The sentence ensured that Diatchenko would die in prison.