Tuesday, December 26, 2017
This is the twenty-first in a series of posts on the "51-To-Life" Project. In Tennessee, if a juvenile is convicted of first-degree murder, there are two sentencing options: (1) life without the possibility of parole; or (2) life with the possibility of parole, with that possibility only existing after the juvenile has been incarcerated for 51 years. In this post, I will explain why Maryland treats juvenile homicide offenders better than Tennessee.
Maryland still allows for a sentence of life without parole for juvenile homicide offenders. Maryland also allows for a sentence of life with the possibility of parole, and Section 6-222 of the Maryland Code of Criminal Procedure, however, states in relevant part that
(a) A circuit court or the District Court may:
(1) impose a sentence for a specified time and provide that a lesser time be served in confinement;
(2) suspend the remainder of the sentence; and
(3) (i) order probation for a time longer than the sentence but, subject to subsections (b) and (c) of this section, not longer than:
1. 5 years if the probation is ordered by a circuit court; or
2. 3 years if the probation is ordered by the District Court
So far, the lightest sentence I have seen for a person convicted of first-degree murder in Maryland is life imprisonment with all but twenty years suspended. See Bonilla v. State; Wilder v. State, Appellant's Brief and Appendix 2017 WL 5467932 (Md.App. 2017). Therefore, a juvenile homicide offender could be released after serving twenty years, possibly less. As a result, Maryland treats juvenile homicide offenders better than Tennessee.