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Ritzer Family Feels 'Betrayed' by SJC Ruling on Parole for Juvenile Murderers

The high court's ruling strikes down mandatory life sentences for juveniles convicted of murder and allows them instead to be eligible for parole.

Colleen Ritzer, 24, of Andover, was a math teacher at Danvers High School. Credit: Courtesy
Colleen Ritzer, 24, of Andover, was a math teacher at Danvers High School. Credit: Courtesy
The family of slain Danvers High teacher Colleen Ritzer says it feels a “deep sense of betrayal” by the recent ruling from the state Supreme Judicial Court to allow youths convicted of murder the chance to receive parole from a life sentence in prison.

The Ritzers issued a statement to media outlets on Friday, offering their reaction to the SJC's ruling last week. They, and the rest of the public, learned about the decision on Christmas Eve.

The statement said the court's decision “provides more rights to those youths convicted of horrible and heinous crimes than victims and their families.”

“While these convicted murderers are now provided a second chance through the possibility of parole, victims slain at the hands of ‘youthful offenders’, possibly even our precious daughter Colleen, will be victimized again and again,” the family said.

The Boston Globe reports the justices, in reaching their decision, cited research that shows juveniles' brains aren't fully developed yet and therefore mandatory life sentences are "cruel and unusual" punishment.

The ruling was retroactive and affects a number of cases where present-day convicts were juveniles at the time of the murder.

It will most certainly affect sentencing for 14-year-old Philip Chism of Danvers if he is found guilty of murdering Ritzer.

Essex County District Attorney Jon Blodgett expressed his frustration at the ruling in a recent interview with the Salem News, which you can read here.

He told the paper prosecutors make those same evaluations the SJC is concerned about when charges are brought in court and when making recommendations on sentencing.

The rest of the Ritzer family's statement is as follows:

"Our daughter and sister Colleen was taken in a cruel manner; we are now forced to endure a tremendous loss for life while her likely attacker will be afforded the opportunity for parole if convicted. There will never be ‘parole’ for our family’s life sentence without Colleen.

"If the individual charged with her horrific murder is convicted and sentenced to life in prison, he must never, ever have an opportunity for parole. Paroling such violent offenders would be more cruel and unusual punishment to victims’ families and loved ones.

"This decision should not be applauded, rather overturned as an act of justice and humanity to victims of violent crimes and their families.”
Dale Marino January 03, 2014 at 04:34 PM
Untill they can bring Colleen Ritzer back to life, and to her loved ones, that "boy" should ROT in jail. Even that is too good for him. Even 3 year old brains know the difference between life and death, and not to kill. There are no words, and my deep condolences, which could never be enough, go out to her family.
Guy Dickinson January 07, 2014 at 11:41 PM
Cannot agree with this family more. Evil knows no age at times. It is possible for a child of many ages in youth to be pure evil. This poor excuse for a human being should be put away for ever.
Richard A Peinert January 10, 2014 at 01:41 PM
Think about it the next time you vote. No surprise tho that this would happen here in the Peoples' Republic of Mass
John January 13, 2014 at 08:50 AM
Unfortunately, decency, common sense, and doing the right thing -- hallmarks of any civilized society -- left this state a loooong time ago. Think about it. We have politicians more interested in protecting the "rights" of murderers, illegals, and the increasingly rapidly growing non-producing (welfare) class over those of us who work, pay taxes, and play by the rules. Yeah, sounds about right and fair to me. Doesn't matter if you're an Independent, Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green Party member -- whatever -- if you're tired of "business as usual" in this state and constantly getting destroyed by the "progressive" Democrats who have their collective hands on the levers of power to our detriment, there's only one way to change things: vote these anti-Americans out of office before it's too late.

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