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Part 1: Should Barry Massey Leave Prison?

March 24, 2010

You’ve probably never heard of Barry Massey.  When I tell you he is serving life in a Washington State prison, you may want to turn the page altogether.

Massey carries the distinction of being the youngest person in our country’s history to be tried as an adult for murder in the first degree, convicted, and given the rest of his natural life to spend in prison; he was just 13 years old, from Tacoma.

It’s been 23 years since Massey was sent to prison, but he, his supporters and family still have hopes that one day he’ll be free.

Society isn’t too keen on putting convicted murders on the streets, even if it has been more than 2 decades since the crime.  But is Barry Massey a murderer?

His supporters say no.

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Nevertheless, what cannot be denied is Massey was at least present with an older friend when Paul Wang, a store owner in Steilacoom was shot and stabbed to death in a petty robbery gone wrong.

By putting Massey away for life, the state determined that throwing him away was the only reasonable course of action, as if this young teenager would never do anything of value in his life- he would never contribute to society in a constructive way.

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In prison he maintains a job making $8 an hour, obtained his GED, participates in inmate programs, and runs a fitness program for his fellow inmates.  He has been a model inmate, following the rules, not causing trouble.

At issue are two things; Massey’s case individually, and the decision to charge children as adults and then punish them as adults.

On the one hand, I feel such a harsh sentence is comparable to cruel and unusual punishment.  On the other hand, if a 13, 14, or 15 year old murdered my loved one in cold blood, I’d have a hard time seeing them walk out of a detention facility at 18 or 21.

When does the punishment fit the crime, and when does it cross over to destroying a life- that of the convicted?  Is it really okay to lock someone up, as young as 13, and throw away the key?  Many probably don’t know there is an international treaty which forbids such harsh punishment for children so young.  At the time of Massey’s conviction- and to this day, the only developed nation not to sign the treaty agreement is The United States.

Massy’s only way out of prison is clemency; for that, he must get past the State Clemency Board- 5 individuals appointed by the governor and approved by the senate.  The final decision is handed down by the governor.

Support for Massey came from across the board.  Friends, family, fellow inmates and ironically, prison guards and personnel, all supported his release and urged the state to set him free.

The children of Paul Wang, left without a father for so long, objected in passionate statements; they want Massey to accept the punishment given to him- life in prison.

In 2007 the Clemency Board voted 4-1 in favor of Massey- but Governor Gregoire said no.

Without ever offering a detailed explanation, her office said it came to a different conclusion than the Clemency Board and denied their recommendation; she suggested he try against in three years.  Massey would not be leaving prison.

But the struggle for freedom is getting new support- the social media kind.  Three years have passed, and as the governor suggested, he is trying for clemency again.  Massey’s supporters have set up a website with information about him, asking the public to contact the Governor’s office and urge clemency on his behalf.

It’s an uphill battle.

Gregoire has always been conservative in granting clemency- even when the Clemency Board has made unanimous recommendations on behalf of prisoners.

And in the wake of the Maurice Clemmons debacle- the man who shot and killed 4 Lakewood Tacoma police officers when he should have been behind bars- the Governor is working hard to show residents of Washington she takes public safety seriously- particularly where ex-cons are concerned.  Many familiar with the Massey case believe he has no real chance of getting out of prison as long as Gregoire is in office.

Massey’s case could suffer because of a cop-killer he’s never even met.

Barry Massey is 36 years old.  Should he leave prison after serving more than 20 years of a life sentence?  Should he be given a second chance at life?  Does he even deserve it?

How different are you now compared to when you were 13?

To learn more about Barry Massey and how you can lend support, go to http://barry-massey.com/

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. Hard to say!! permalink
    March 16, 2010 5:04 pm

    Urgh! I am torn but I must say I think Barry does deserve a second chance. He has been stripped of his child hood something that can’t be given back – Yes he probably deserved it, however punishment can’t be forever. Humanely speaking, what will someone have to look forward too? When a child gets in trouble and we give them time out…we don’t sit them there forever and let them stay. We allow them to earn their way back by setting the terms of being good for whatever time being. I do understand that is a huge difference from committing an actual crime, my reason is to show that there is a line between punishment and restoration. Also, I don’t believe that a child should be given a life prison as an adult, is a suitable punishment. However, I know we can’t undo or take that back either. The only thing I would say about him being released is that maybe, he may need to participate in rehabilitation programs, moral recognition therapy or something – before and after release. We all know that, prison is not a place to rehabilitate if anything a person becomes institutionalized and then is thrown out to society with few or little resources and told go for it..I would like to say that a person getting out from serving such a long sentence not only be required to attend such programs before and after release but also be required to attend mental health counseling for a minimum of 5 years…or more depending on how there evaluations go. Maybe twice a week to begin or three times and gradually release them of this and maybe still send them back every few months or until they seem to be able to fit back into society, as a normal functioning civilized citizen

  2. Khaliah Purnell-Simpson permalink
    June 6, 2010 11:16 pm

    I feel that Massey deserves a second chance at life. At thirteen years old, who really knows what they are doing. I have been reading up on Mr Massey, whom I have never formally meant, but I am his cousin’s sis in law, and Regardless I think he was convicted very wrongly, and I feel that people need to voted Gregoire OUT OF OFFICE because, she wasnt in office when he was younger so she doesnt really know. PEOPLE can change, and I believe that 24years in prison is long enough for being an ACCOMPLICE to a murder than was done at a young age. There are people in the world that have done way worse and have planned a murder and fulfilled it that have gotten way lesser sentences. Look at the green river killer, he shouldve been given death, his crimes were purposely and he is still alive in WASHINGton state prison system. Mr Massey, has changed his life, and NOONE or atleast 96% of the world out there today are way different than what they were at age 13. He was young, and just with the wrong people, I would like to know what the hell was the sentence of the boy that actually carried the murder out, far as the family of the victim, they are entitled to how they feel, but at the same time, life in prison for a thirteen year old is more than harsh, if it were one of they family members and vice versa, they wouldnt feel the way they are saying. I dont condone what happen, but I do feel that clemency should be granted. Mr Massey seems like a well respected person and he has a great FAMILY that are beside him, and this is BS totally. GRegoire needs to get her shit together and her stick out of her ass, and grant this MAN a chance to show society and others, esp her dumb ass that he has changed from being a young man making mistakes. what would she do if it were her gotdamn SON?

  3. Christopher Rybar permalink
    October 19, 2010 4:55 pm

    NO he should not be released. What will you people tell the families of his next victims if he is released. I would bet this is not his first arrest for a violent crime, but because of it being on his juvenile record we will never know.

  4. stewart permalink
    December 16, 2010 6:30 pm

    the measure of mercy you use on another shall be the level used on you

  5. November 3, 2011 10:50 pm

    Are you a moron ? A robbery went bad ? You might as well say Barry did not do it. Don’t put your stupid comment online

  6. Rob permalink
    January 30, 2012 2:37 pm

    Have everything you know and your whole life torn apart and think, would you feel that the cause of your pain be allowed to lead a life that he has stolen from you?

  7. Rick permalink
    July 14, 2012 2:09 pm

    I attended the same school and was a senior when this happened. His older brother was my best friend at the time. I knew the family for years and I knew Barry well.
    This past week I read what the family had to say on their website, and I can understand their frustrations but they are upset at the wrong person. In my mind I’ve thought about what if this was my family in this situation, and without a doubt I would be hell bent on NOT letting the 15 year old a**hole that led him into this get out EVER.
    Notice who is not saying anything about getting out – M.H. He doesn’t want to get out, he has all he needs where he is. M.H. never had family except his sister and she was always bailing him out of some crap back then.
    Barry loved to play football and got an ear full and nuggey’s when he was late from his older brother and sometimes hit on a sore spot from football practice too!
    Society frowns on older boys dating younger girls, say a 15 year old boy and a fresh faced, just turned 13 year old girl. Society should frown on the same for two boys hanging out. Two years accounts for a huge amount of maturity. Yet, the justice system allowed Barry to be raised shoulder to shoulder with MEN much older than him and call him a threat to society. Barry was a follower then and is a leader now.
    Let him go free, he served more time than he should have.

Trackbacks

  1. Should Barry Massey Leave Prison? — theFreshXpress.com — The PULSE of Young Black America
  2. Part 2: The Freedom Fight For Barry Massey

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