Reduction in sentence for Barry Massey
Who is Barry Massey? Maybe a better question is who Barry Massey was when the State of Washington made a very heavy decision about the rest of his life. At thirteen years of age, Barry was sentenced to life in prison system without the possibility of parole for murder, even though evidence available then and now strongly suggests Barry’s co-defendant—not Barry—actually planned the crime and committed the violent homicide. Sober and exhaustive reviews of the terrible crime strongly suggest that thirteen year-old Barry—with a true developmental age of only 9.9 years at the time of the crime—had absolutely no idea a violent act was about to occur. But that evidence made no difference then. Barry was tried as an adult and his sentence was a mandatory minimum, leaving the sentencing judge no option to consider any mitigating factors such as Barry’s age, likelihood of being rehabilitated or the fact that Barry was a first-time offender. As a result, Barry has now served over 24 years in prison, more than two thirds of his life. Barry has literally grown up in prison, serving more time than many adults with clearly exclusive and direct responsibility serve for murder. One more detail. When Washington State sentenced Barry to life in prison without the possibility of parole, he became the youngest person in American history to get a “life-without” sentence. Now, who is Barry today? Perhaps most important, Barry is consistently apologetic and remorseful about that terrible shattering crime. With that, Barry is a thoroughly punished man, incarcerated for more than twenty-three years with no rational reason for hope of a normal life. Despite that, Barry is free of all major infractions for fourteen years and actively involved in positive educational, vocational and volunteer activities. Barry has passionately worked with the Department of Corrections for over ten years as a speaker reaching out to at-risk youth to help them understand the consequences bad decisions. In fact, Barry’s behavior is so exceptionally positive that fifteen current and former correctional officers have written letters supporting his release. Many have also testified on Barry’s behalf. Now, having been approved for clemency by a 4 to 1 margin (the sole member of our state’s very conservative parole and pardons board casting a dissenting vote has said he would vote to approve clemency now) Barry awaits the approval of the board’s recommendation by Governor Gregoire. Barry is clinging to a small spark of hope. Barry went back to the clemency board December 16th, 2010 and was denied a positive recommendation for clemency by a vote of 3-2. The reason given he fell in love and married a prison guard. Board member Raul Almeida said he was disturbed by Massey's "error in judgment"-- a decision Almeida stressed Massey made as an adult. However board member Amanda Lee countered by saying "I can't make sense of the notion that a board that was inclined to grant clemency four years ago is now inclined to deny it because he engaged in the most basic and positive endeavor-loving another human being". The question now is – “Who are we – the people of the State of Washington?” We, the people, have changed. We know more now about how juveniles think and make decisions. Since Barry was tried, scientific advances in adolescent brain assessment have shown us that juveniles’ brains are not fully developed – that they cannot reason or weigh consequences as well as adults. This same research shows us that juveniles are more likely to rehabilitate than adults. In other words, we – as the people of the State of Washington – almost definitely would not take away a thirteen year-old boy’s life as we did Barry’s if the same dreadful crime should occur today. In fact, recent legislation and court rulings have made such a sentence today very unlikely. Neither Barry nor the State of Washington can change what happened more than two generations ago. But if grace and mercy can guide our collective public behavior now, we can make a change for the future. Please join us in signing this petition to present to the Governor of the State of Washington in support of the reduction of sentence for Barry Massey to 25 years. THANK YOU!