WHEREAS, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania permits juveniles of any age to be certified and tried as adults when they are charged with a homicide;
WHEREAS, if a juvenile is convicted of a 1st or 2nd degree homicide, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania sentence is life imprisonment without the possibility of parole;
WHEREAS, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has over 5000 individuals serving life sentences, which is the largest such population in the nation;
WHEREAS, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has over 450 juveniles serving life sentences without the possibility of parole, which is the largest such group in the nation;
WHEREAS, the United States is the only country that sentences juveniles to life without parole;
WHEREAS, although the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania once had a viable commutation system that released up to 30 individuals per year under the administrations of Governors Shapp and Schaffer, the process has only granted three such applications in the past sixteen years;
WHEREAS, in 2005, the United States Supreme Court ruled in the Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005), that juveniles may not be sentenced to death because they have not yet had the benefit of the maturation process that allows them to fully distinguish right from wrong;
WHEREAS, the United States Supreme Court has recently ruled in the Graham v. Florida, 130 S. Ct. 2011 (2009), that life sentences for juveniles without the possibility of parole violate the 8th Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment for non-homicide convictions;
WHEREAS, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is considering, in Commonwealth v. Batts, 79 MAP 2009, whether sentencing a 14 year old offender to die in prison is unconstitutional in light of Roper v. Simmons;
WHEREAS, House Bill No. 1999, Printers No. 2699, has been introduced in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, which would allow for parole eligibility for juveniles serving life sentences upon reaching the age of 31 years old; and House Bill No. 1994, Printers No. 2694 also has been introduced, which would establish a 10 year term for parole review for similarly situated persons; and
WHEREAS, HR 2289, a similar piece of legislation, has been introduced in the United States House of Representatives.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Philadelphia Bar Association supports enactment of legislation that would permit a juvenile serving a sentence of life imprisonment without parole to be eligible for consideration for parole after serving a substantial portion of such sentence;
AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Chancellor or his designee communicate the Philadelphia Bar Association’s position to the Pennsylvania General Assembly and the Pennsylvania Congressional Delegation and urge them to support such legislation.
PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION
BOARD OF GOVERNORS
ADOPTED: July 29, 2010