Part 1: Should Barry Massey Leave Prison?
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.
[vsw id=”rUgwzziOpwk” source=”youtube” width=”425″ height=”344″ autoplay=”no”]
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.
[vsw id=”JMFWan_NDSk&feature=channel” source=”youtube” width=”425″ height=”344″ autoplay=”no”]
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/