SCOTUS ruling gives second chance to prisoners sentenced to life as juveniles

Kerry Shakaboona Marshall, center, flanked by his grandmother and mother. (Photo Credit: Prison Radio)

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that could free people currently in prison who were sentenced as juveniles to life without parole.  In 2012, the court ruled in Miller v. Alabama that sentences of life without parole for adolescents are unconstitutional.  This week’s decision in Montgomery v. Louisiana applies that ruling retroactively to juvenile lifers nationwide. According to the Environmental Justice Initiative, nearly 3000 people in U.S. prisons were sentenced to life without parole as juveniles.  One of them is Kerry Shakaboona Marshall.

Marshall was convicted in the 1988 shooting death of a robbery victim, fish vendor Suzette Richardson. He serves as editor of the Human Rights Coalition’s magazine The Movement and is on the advisory Board of the Real Costs of Prisons Project. He also contributes audio commentaries to Prison Radio. After more than 25 years in prison, Shakaboona Marshall will now be eligible for a case review and possible parole.

Just after the Monday ruling was released, Prison Radio’s Noelle Hanrahan talked with Shakaboona Marshall by phone from Pennsylvania’s SCI Rockview prison.

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Noelle Hanrahan: So, Shakaboona, what do you think about the U.S. Supreme Court today in holding that Miller v. Alabana applies, retroactively?

Kerry Shakaboona Marshall: I think it’s great, and I think all the juvenile, or child lifers, within the state of Pennsylvania, over 500 of them, and thousands more across the country, is going to be elated to hear this news and to know that they may get a second chance of being released back into society again.

NH: What does it mean for you, personally?

KSM: You know, I get a chance to return to society as well, and show people that I’m not the animal that they was portraying me to be, not the criminal that they was portraying me to be, and that I am a productive person in society, and a good person as well.

NH: What’s it going to mean to your Mom?

KSM: She’s going to be very, very excited, because one of the things that she always wanted was to see me once again, before she passes away. It always brings emotions up in me that I can’t suppress.

NH: It’s a long way from here to there. Pennsylvania’s notorious for going slow.

KSM: Pennsylvania, they really don’t want to carry out the spirit of the Miller decision and let the child offenders who are serving life without parole imprisonment to be released into society. Some of the children who have went down to court to be re-sentenced under Miller have already received life without parole sentences all over again. They want child lifers to die in prison. Even though the Supreme Court has just ruled that Miller must be retroactively applied to child lifers, Pennsylvania courts is going to try to stonewall that. So, we’re going to need people in society to really put the pressure on Pennsylvania’s court system to make sure that the children who have been sentenced to life without parole get the opportunity to actually return to society again.

Prison Radio’s Noelle Hanrahan spoke with Kerry Shakaboona Marshall by phone from Pennsylvania’s SCI Rockway prison. 

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