Roberio v. Massachusetts Parole Board

Jeffrey Roberio was convicted for a homicide that occurred when he was 17 years old. He was initially sentenced to life without parole in 1987, with his conviction reversed in 1998. In 2000, Jeffrey was retried, reconvicted, and sentenced again to life without parole. After the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that life without parole for juvenile homicide offenders constituted cruel and unusual punishment, Mr. Roberio attempted to secure release, only to be denied. After a series of petitions and motions filed by Jeffrey, he is now appealing a judgment granted to the Parole Board who denied his release.

Juvenile Law Center joined Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and other organizations in filing an amicus brief on behalf of Mr. Roberio. Our brief argued that the 1996 Amendment which provided for a maximum of a 5-year setback after parole application denial does not apply retroactively to juveniles or adults. Arguing that the amendment risked increasing terms of incarceration for those it is applied to retroactively, the brief suggests that it violates the state and federal constitutional ex post facto provisions. To prevail on this claim, it must be demonstrated that the law was applied to conduct which occurred prior to its enactment, and raises the penalty from whatever the law provided at the time of the conduct; the brief argues that there is a violation here and requests the court reverse the five-year setback and issue an order mandating the Parole Board impose no more than a three-year setback.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court vacated and remanded, holding that “[t]he 1996 amendment does not create a significant risk of prolonging incarceration on its face,” but “[w]ithout a comprehensive demonstration of the board’s practical application of the 1996 amendment since the date of its enactments [this Court] is unable to reach a conclusion concerning Roberio’s as-applied challenge.”