Latest News, WV Press Videos

Court ruling sparks major change in juvenile law

GRAFTON, W.Va. — A change the Legislature has made to state law means juvenile criminals in West Virginia — past, present and future, and no matter how heinous their crimes — now will have a chance at parole in 15 years.

State lawmakers made the change last legislative session in response to a June 25, 2012, decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Miller vs. Alabama. In the 5-4 opinion, the court ruled juveniles no longer can be sentenced to life in prison without parole, citing the Eighth Amendment.

However, multiple sources, including West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety spokesman Lawrence Messina, say the way the West Virginia law was written means juveniles prosecuted in adult court now will get to see the parole board in 15 years, no matter what.

The U.S. Supreme Court opinion didn’t appear to establish a baseline at that amount of time — or any amount — short of defendants in these cases having a chance to possibly get out of prison at some point during their lifetimes.

Sources are also quick to point out that seeing the parole board doesn’t mean that parole will be granted immediately, or even ever. And they also note that the Supreme Court case doesn’t say that the convicts in these cases must be released at some point — just that there has to be the opportunity.

The impact already has been felt locally in the 1995 Taylor County case of Larry Donald Hall. Then-prosecutor Alan D. Moats had taken the case to adult status, and, with Judge John Waters presiding, Hall had been convicted by Taylor County jurors of first-degree murder without mercy.

On Wednesday, current Taylor Prosecutor John Bord’s office received a letter dated July 8 from Chair Benita Murphy of the West Virginia Parole Board that indicated Hall, now 37, will be eligible for parole Sept. 2 at the Mount Olive Correctional Center…

Comments are closed.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

And get our latest content in your inbox

Invalid email address