Court ruling could release killer of Jennifer Mullin, 17, in Weymouth

WEYMOUTH — Joseph Mullin’s family had a small sense of closure in 1998, when a judge sentenced the man convicted of the rape and murder of his 17-year-old sister to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

But that could change after a Massachusetts Superior Court judge recently ruled that it is unconstitutional to automatically sentence people under 21 to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

“I was shocked, but not surprised to learn of this decision,” said Joseph Mullin, brother of 1993 murder victim Jennifer Mullin. “I don’t think it’s fair in any way, and I don’t think it should be up to a parole board.”

What happened to Jennifer Mullin?

Jennifer Mullin was 17 when her body was found frozen and half-buried in a wooded lot in Rockland on January 30, 1993. Her clothes were ruffled and torn, and the Weymouth teenager had been strangled with her own belt after an acquaintance . took her after a party. She never returned home.

Investigators focused on that acquaintance, William Jewett Jr., of Weymouth, but needed evidence to make an arrest. After a lengthy two-year investigation and grand jury proceeding, Jewett was arrested in October 1997.

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A jury found Jewett guilty of first degree murder and rape at a trial in 1998. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He was under 21 at the time of the crime.

In 2003, Jewett requested a new trial, but the state Supreme Judicial Court denied his request and upheld his convictions. Jewett appealed to the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, but was unsuccessful.

A brother speaks

Joseph Mullin was an 18-year-old freshman when his sister was murdered. Now, he works as an assistant public defender at the El Paso County Public Defender’s Office in Texas.

The Mullin family, including parents Marion and John, and Joseph and Jennifer.

“I understand that people have rights and they need to be protected, but you can’t murder people in cold blood and get away with it,” Mullin said. “I have thought of my sister every day of my entire life.”

Mullin said her mother died more than a year ago, but she and her father, a retired Weymouth firefighter, never got over the loss of her sister.

“My dad has the biggest heart and he lost his daughter,” Mullin said.

John Mullin holding his daughter Jennifer Mullin, who was murdered in 1993 aged 17.

How did it happen?

A decade ago, the state prohibited judges from sentencing defendants under the age of 18 to life without parole. But state law still required life sentences without parole for those who were between the ages of 18 and 20 when they committed first-degree murder.

The state Supreme Court recently asked Judge Robert Ullmann to review the latest neuroscience on brain development in people under 21 and review two cases involving teens sentenced to life in prison without parole. .

Ullmann said the mandatory life sentences for adults under the age of 21 amounted to “cruel or unusual punishment”.

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Based on four experts, Ullmann said the brains of 18- to 20-year-olds aren’t fully developed, so they tend to be more prone to risk-taking, more susceptible to peer influence and less able to control their impulses.

He said those convicted of first-degree murder when they were between the ages of 18 and 20 should receive life sentences and serve at least 15 years in prison before becoming potentially eligible for parole.

“The Court’s decision in no way excuses acts of violence committed by young people between the ages of 18 and 20,” he wrote in his decision. “…Others, depending on the facts, can be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, but only if this sentence is justified.”

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If the Massachusetts high court upholds Ullmann’s decision, Jewett and about 200 other inmates could potentially be eligible for a second sentence or become eligible for parole.

Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy Cruz said in a statement that Jewett did not file a motion asking the Superior Court to review his conviction, and Ullmann’s decision is not binding on the remainder. of State.

“If and when we receive a request in this matter, we will consult with the victim’s family and pursue our duties in a responsible, thoughtful and measured manner,” he said in the statement. “We will seek justice, considering the wickedness of this crime, a horrific rape and murder of a teenage girl, the loss to her family and the community of this young life, and we will do so in court.”

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About Jessica J. Bass

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