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Clemency Board Votes AGAINST Barry Massey

January 3, 2011

Earlier this year I told you about Barry Massey.  From Tacoma, 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.

Paul Wang- a husband, father and convenience store owner was shot and killed when Massey and boy named Michael Harris went into his store, intent on shoplifting.

Exactly which of the boys committed the murder is debatable, nevertheless, what cannot be denied is Massey was at least present with an older friend when Mr. Wang was shot and stabbed to death in a petty robbery gone wrong.

By putting Massey away for life, the state determined that at 13 years old, he would never do anything of value in his life- he would never contribute to society in a constructive way. They were wrong, and not just morally. Changes have been made to the law since Barry’s case. If he was found guilty of the same crime today, life in prison would never be an option.

Massey’s only way out of prison is clemency; for that, he must get past the State Clemency Board.  In 2007 they 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.

That time has come. Last week Barry Massey returned to the Clemency Board with even more support than he had before, including the former lead attorney for the governor herself.  Barry has stayed out of trouble while waiting for his second opportunity to ask for clemency.  Without the support of rehabilitative services, he’s spent the last many years as a model inmate.  He even fell in love and got married; I interviewed his wife on KBCS earlier this year.

So imagine what it must have been like to sit before the clemency board with his wife and countless supporters and watch them vote 3 to 2 to deny clemency.  What reason did the board cite?

Rhonda Massey, Barry’s wife, was a prison guard when they met and fell in love.  She left the position before they married, but still, the relationship went against the rules. 3 members of the clemency board, ignoring compelling testimony about Barry’s character, his accomplishments or his potential future life outside of prison, said the relationship with his wife showed extremely poor judgment.

It’s ironic. One of the things a clemency board looks for is the level of support an inmate has outside of prison to help determine whether they’ll be successful on the outside, or re-offend.  Barry proved he has that support but it wasn’t enough.  He must wait another 3 years before he can go before the clemency board again.

How does a person cope with hearing something like that? How do you maintain hope and a sense of perspective after having the best parts of your life thrown back in your face?  If Barry had come before the clemency board unmarried and admitted to resisting a relationship with a woman he fell in love with who worked in the prison, I doubt they’d see it a reason to set him free.

This isn’t about who he married.

To hear my interview with Rhonda Massey, visit KBCS.FM.

One Comment leave one →
  1. mr bossett permalink
    January 3, 2011 9:33 am

    Unreal! I’m speechless that a group of adults who all are probaly married or divorced would deny a man his freedom because he married a woman he pretty muched work with! There is a difference between justice, & what’s just!

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