In Reversal, Phila. DA Seeks Life Terms in Youth Cases

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Last June, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams made national news and got wide praise after he said he would no longer seek sentences of life without parole for juveniles. “It’s my goal to give all of these individuals some light at the end of the tunnel,” he said then, discussing the resentencings required by a pair of Supreme Court decisions that found automatic sentences of life without parole for juveniles unconstitutional and required states to apply that ruling retroactively. Philadelphia is home to 300 juvenile lifers, more than any other city, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Now, his office has told a federal court that it intends to seek life without parole in at least three of the cases it has reviewed so far.  It has made offers in 89 other cases; 71 of the offers would make the defendants, who already have served 35 years or more, eligible for immediate parole. One of the three facing a life sentence once again is Andre Martin, who was 15 years old when he fatally shot a police officer, John Trettin, in 1976. Both the defense lawyer and the prosecutor at the time were intent on making their names on this case, “a crime that shocked the city.” Williams spokesman Cameron Kline said the prosecutor “prefers not to seek sentences of life without parole, but there will always be exceptions. The office looks at each case individually and makes sentencing offers based on the evidence, defendant’s history, and the law, among other factors.” Bradley Bridge of the Defender Association, which is representing more than two-thirds of the city’s juvenile lifers, said the reversal surprised him.

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