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A chance at redemption

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.

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  • Emily H.

    this is heartbreaking, and unbelievable… the details of the trial sickened me. i truly hope that real justice will eventually be served and joe will be set free. thank you for bringing this story to light.

  • Rena

    We can no longer afford to pay for “questionable incarcerations” which waste the lives of the those locked-up, as well as revenue. Revenue which would be better used on the outside rather than stockpiling human beings when their intial arrests are suspect!
    Certainly the prisons are fitting for mass-murderers and those found guilty beyond doubt.
    But, the large population of young men swept-off the streets during the race to build the prison industrial complex, and keep them full, has been in question for years now. Being in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with no resources to get proper representation has proven to be fatal!
    Atty. Bryan Stevenson and his associates are to be commended for this effort to help Joe Sullivan, who is a true survivor, and others like him.
    Blessings to you, Joe Sullivan.

    P.S. Thanks for adding comments by Dwayne Betts…a refreshing success story.

  • Youfs

    Bleeding heart excuse-making for TNB!