Maine Gov. John Baldacci joined the family of a teenage manslaughter victim Tuesday in marking passage of a bill to allow blended adult and juvenile sentences in certain cases. The bill became known as “Marlee’s Law” in memory of Marlee Johnston, who was 14 when she was killed by a teenage neighbor in 2005, reports the Associated Press. Patrick Armstrong, 14 at the time of the killing, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in December 2006 in juvenile court and was ordered to serve nine years in prison.
The case prompted Ted Johnston, the victim’s father, to advocate for legislation allowing combined or blended sentences for the youngest offenders. Due to special circumstances in Armstrong’s case, he could be given a mixed juvenile-adult sentence. His pleas on unrelated burglary charges enabled authorities to send him to juvenile detention, while charging him as an adult for the more serious crime. But if that had that not been the situation, prosecutors would have had to choose between trying Armstrong as an adult and sending him to an adult prison, or trying him in juvenile court where the maximum penalty is incarceration until age 21. Armstrong has been confined to the state juvenile facility in Charleston and will transfer to the state prison between ages 18 and 21.