By Adam Lynn/The News Tribune
TACOMA, Wash. (AP) – Barry Massey was 14 when he became the youngest person in the United States ever sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Massey was convicted of killing Steilacoom marina owner Paul Wang in 1987. On June 6, Superior Court Judge Thomas Larkin erased Barry Massey’s original sentence and resentenced him to 25 years to life.
This means Massey, who is now 40, can petition for release. His release date, if he gets one, is up to the state’s Indeterminate Sentence Review Board. He has already served more than 25 years.
“There’s no discretion here as far as Mr. Massey is concerned,” said his attorney, David Zuckerman. The judge had to sentence him to a minimum term of 25 years and a maximum term of life, said Zuckerman.
The murder of Paul Wang shocked Pierce County, both for its brutality and the age of his assailants.
Massey was 13 and co-defendant Michael Harris was 15 when they entered his shop, shot him twice, and then stabbed him numerous times before looting the store of candy, cash, and merchandise.
Both were prosecuted as adults and convicted of the state’s highest crime — aggravated first-degree murder. Both were sentenced to life without parole.
In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional for juveniles to receive automatic sentences of life without the possibility of parole.
Such sentences constituted cruel and unusual punishment for people whose brains still were developing and who might not have the wisdom or judgment to always know the impact of their actions, the high court ruled.
The Legislature last year passed a law eliminating mandatory life sentences for juveniles convicted of aggravated first-degree murder. Instead, the law now makes people convicted of the crime before they turn 16 eligible for parole after 25 years.
A judge still could sentence someone who is 16 or 17 to life in prison without parole, but only after holding a hearing to consider possible mitigation.
The law also was made retroactive.
Massey apologized Friday to Wang’s family.
Harris has not petitioned for relief under the new law, which went into effect June 1. (end)