Thursday, December 8, 2016

Julie is interning at the ACCR in Pennsylvania. ACCR attorneys have added juvenile life without parole (JLWOP) work to their already busy capital workload since the Supreme Court held in 2012 that juvenile offenders should not be automatically sentenced to life without parole and courts must consider each individual's circumstances.  

Pennsylvania has about 500 JLWOP prisoners now eligible for parole, 300 of them in Philadelphia. This constitutes the largest concentration in any single jurisdiction in the world. These defendants have served decades incarcerated, sometimes without even having committed the murder with which they were charged. In Pennsylvania you need only conspire to commit a felony and if a murder results, even if you did not do the actual killing, you can be found guilty of second degree murder. 

Hence, Ricky Olds: a 14-year old who was mandatorily sentenced to life without parole when he took no part in the robbery, let alone the killing, but has served 37 years.

Below is a message from Dana Cook regarding Ricky: 

As you may recall, Marc Bookman published this article in VICE back in July about Ricky Olds - a 14 year old African American kid who was convicted by an all white jury and sentenced to Life Without Parole [in 1981].  Ricky was not the shooter; indeed, the evidence was quite compelling that he didn’t even know about the robbery.  He simply bought a bag of chips, headed out the door, heard gunshots and ran.  On Monday [21 November 2016], after a lengthy sentencing argument, the judge went the DA’s way and [re-]sentenced Ricky to 20 years to life. However, saying that to call his case “compelling would be an understatement,” the judge ordered Ricky to be immediately released on bond.  Thus, Ricky was going home that day.  This article recounts the heartwarming story of a much-deserved second chance at freedom for Ricky right as the holiday season approached.  
Unfortunately for Ricky and his family, the DA disagreed that Ricky should get out of jail immediately versus having to wait for his turn in front of the parole board, and appealed the judge's ruling to the Superior Court.  Yesterday, all the paperwork was set and Ricky was about to come home, but the appeal put a halt to that and the judge revoked the bond order.  So, Ricky isn’t coming home.  This will be the 37th Thanksgiving in a row and possibly Christmas and who knows what else that Ricky will miss being with his family.  It’s not lost on us that the victim in this case will never have another Thanksgiving or Christmas with their loved one.  The victim’s family was not in court and according to the DA had indicated that they had put this all behind them. However, it is also not lost on us that Ricky’s role in this case was virtually nonexistent. 
Ricky has served almost 4 decades in jail - practically twice the minimum that the DA offered - for what the re-sentencing judge referred to as being the wrong kid in the wrong place at the wrong time.  He’s been a model prisoner.  He had a job lined up and a family that was ready to support his transition back into the community.  You all know Marc, and I don’t think I have ever seen or heard him so upset over a miscarriage of justice.  Please help us spread the word about Ricky’s story.  While it may accomplish nothing, this DA should absolutely be ashamed of the lengths he went to to keep this man in jail - two days before he could have been home with his family for Thanksgiving for the first time in over 37 years.  Please tweet, post, blog, etc. the stories linked below that detail this sad turn of events for Ricky.  I for one will be thinking of Ricky and his family as I sit around the Thanksgiving table tomorrow - I wonder if the DA will?  I encourage you to even call them out by name - Steve Zappala and Ron Wabby. (this article includes a very appropriate quote from an academic at the University of Pittsburgh) (this article includes a news coverage clip)