NECIR: Mass unevenly applies mandatory life law for teen murderers

Massachusetts is one of the few states to sentence teens convicted of first-degree murder to prison for life without the possibility of parole, according to a recent New England Center for Investigative Reporting story.

The state has a mandatory life sentence law for juvenile murderers — a law most states like Texas consider so harsh that they refuse to hand it out or even keep it on their law books.

Massachusetts passed its law after Somerville teen Eddie O’Brien stabbed his best friend’s mother 97 times in 1995. The juvenile life law, which passed a year later, was meant to crack down on juvenile “super predators” like O’Brien.

NECIR-BU interns and staffers Sarah Favot, Kirsten Berg and Jenna Ebersole spent months reviewing juvenile justice cases across the state to find out how the law has been applied since it was enacted in 1996.

The results are definitely interesting. Read the full report on NECIR-BU’s site here.

You can also hear Maggie Mulvhill, co-director of the New England Center for Investigative Reporting, discuss the story and the center’s findings on WBUR.

Congratulations to Maggie, Kirsten, Jenna and Sarah for the publication of their report.

Latest work: Sinking System: Tracking and Taxing Bay State Boat Owners

My colleagues at the New England Center for Investigative Journalism and I recently finished an investigation into Massachusetts’ excise tax system. The formula used to determine how much Mass. boaters pay in excise taxes means that a $60,000 boat would pay the same amount in excise tax as a $6 million boat as long as they were the same length and built in the same year.

We also discovered that the system, which a former state auditor referred to as “broken” and “ineffective,” results in the loss of millions in tax revenues from Commonwealth cities and towns.Simply finding boat owners is so difficult for some towns and cities so they have given up on collecting the statutorily required tax.

The final story appeared last Sunday in newspapers in Lowell, Attleboro, Cape Cod, and Worcester. The Dallas Morning News even linked to the story. The story ran last night on WCVB Channel 5 in Boston.

Read the full story here on NECIR’s website.

See WCVB Channel 5’s report here.

See the story in the following publications:
Lowell Sun
The Sun Chronicle
Cape Cod Times