Joe Sullivan has been in prison since he was 13. Now, thanks to a landmark Supreme Court ruling, he may qualify for parole.
The Supreme Court ruled last month that juveniles can no longer be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for non-homicide crimes. The ruling means that the 129 juveniles who are currently serving such sentences are now eligible for re-sentencing or even release.
Joe Sullivan is one of those cases. He was convicted of rape at age 13 — though there are doubts about his guilt — and has served 21 years on his life sentence.
With the help of a lawyer who represents the poor, Sullivan took his case all the way to the Supreme Court. Though the court did not take the case, it later agreed with his lawyer’s argument that “parts of the brain involved in behavior control continue to mature through late adolescence” in its ruling on a similar case.
Building on a previously aired segment, Need to Know takes a closer look at Sullivan’s story and whether a still-maturing brain affects teens’ decision making — and capacity for change.