Dawkins condemns DA’s decision to seek life without parole for juveniles

PHILADELPHIA, March 6 – State Rep. Jason Dawkins, D-Phila., voiced his strong opposition to District Attorney Seth Williams’ decision to seek life without parole sentences in at least three cases with juvenile defendants.

“Last year, District Attorney Williams did what was right, and announced that he would no longer pursue life without parole for those under 18 years old,” Dawkins said. “It is disheartening to see him go back on his word, and I condemn in the strongest terms his decision to revive a punishment the Supreme Court has called cruel and unusual.”

In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled in Miller v. Alabama that mandatory sentences of life without parole for juvenile offenders violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. The court later held in Montgomery v. Louisiana that its decision in Miller applied retroactively.

Dawkins said as the courts began resentencing hearings, Williams announced that his office “will not be asking for cases going forward for life without the possibility of parole for people under the age of 18” in order “to give all of these individuals some light at the end of the tunnel.”

“I hope that the district attorney returns to his original position, and provides these individuals – whose decades in prison began in their teenage years – what he once called ‘some light at the end of the tunnel,’” Dawkins said.

As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, Dawkins has led criminal justice reform efforts in the House. In February, he and state Rep. Seth Grove, R-York, introduced a bipartisan resolution to establish a task force on juvenile life sentences.