Mass. Men Sentenced to Life as Juveniles Plead for a 2nd Chance

Frederick Christian and Joseph Donovan, both sentenced to life in prison as youths in separate cases, are asking for freedom months after the state’s highest court struck down mandatory life sentences for juveniles.

Posted:
 
prison_black_exoneration_052112_400jrw

Generic image

Thinkstock

Two Massachusetts men were sentenced to a mandatory life sentence when they were 17 years old after being convicted of felony murder charges, but now they are hoping to grasp at freedom.

Joseph Donovan, now 38, and Frederick Christian, now 37, took part in the state's first parole hearings since the controversial juvenile-sentencing law was struck down by the state's highest court in December, which ruled that mandatory life sentences for juveniles were "cruel and inhuman punishment," according to the Associated Press. Donovan and Christian are among about 60 other prisoners in the state serving a life sentence without a chance of parole under the law.

"I will forever feel ashamed of the actions that night that resulted in the death of such a promising young man," Donovan, who was convicted for his part in a 1992 robbery that left a Massachusetts Institute of Technology student dead, said at the hearing. "I was such a stupid kid," he added, saying that he was rash and impulsive and never thought about consequences.

Donovan, who punched the student, Yngve Raustein, said that he was just trying to show off to seem tough. The irony is that the person who was convicted of stabbing Raustein was released from his prison stint about 10 years ago.

"He doesn't deserve to be in there anymore," Donovan's cousin Carol Hallisey told the AP. 

Donovan has had a few violent incidents during his term but none in the past 14 years, the AP notes.

The other prisoner, Christian, was locked up for his part in a 1994 robbery that resulted in the death of two people. Like Donovan, he did not actually kill anyone, although he was, reportedly, the mastermind behind the premeditated robbery. He has served 20 years with a clean record, and his lawyer said that he "is remorseful and takes full responsibility for his crime."

The men may have to wait a few months more while the board decides on the best course of action. Even if they are released, the first step would be moving them to a minimum-security facility, the AP points out.

Read more at the Associated Press.

Comments
The Root encourages respectful debate and dialogue in our commenting community. To improve the commenting experience for all our readers we will be experimenting with some new formats over the next few weeks. During this transition period the comments section will be unavailable to users.

We apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate your continued support of The Root.

While we are experimenting, please feel free to leave feedback below about your past experiences commenting at The Root.