[The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. John 1: 5]
I am not Erin Downing. My mother was not brutally murdered. Most likely, I will never know what it means to be Erin Downing.
As Erin Downing painfully and well-knows, the facts are these: On July 23, 1995, Erin’s pretty and vivacious mother, Janet Downing, was found by Erin’s brother, Ryan, lying in a pool of blood on the dining room floor of the Downings’ Somerville home. Janet had been stabbed 98 times and had eventually bled to death. Almost immediately, suspicion centered around the Downings’ neighbor, Edward/Eddie O’Brien, age 15, who lived across the street. Two years later, deemed beyond redemption by the prosecution, Eddie was tried as an adult, found guilty, and sentenced to life in prison without parole. (In 1997, had he been tried as a juvenile, Eddie would have faced the possibility of parole after 20 years.)
And Erin knows this: On December 24, 2013, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that juveniles sentenced to life imprisonment for first-degree murder are entitled to the opportunity for parole. This ruling was made retroactive; Eddie’s entitled to appear before the MA parole board.
Here’s what I know:
Nothing will bring Janet Downing back.
The criminal justice system will never alleviate the pain and suffering of victims’ families.
Eddie O’Brien isn’t 17 any more. And while I don’t know what kind of counseling or therapy or help he’s received behind bars over the past 17 years, I believe that whoever he was when he entered prison is not who he is, today. (And don’t all of us know so much more re “the adolescent brain” than anyone knew in 1997?)
Since 2010, parole in Massachusetts has been and remains no slam dunk. So although I believe Eddie O’Brien’s entitled to his shot at parole, he won’t get it. Even if he’s completely and convincingly and, in Truth, reformed, redeemed, remorseful. No way.