Sentenced to Life at 14, What He Did on First Day Out

Barry Massey was youngest in America sentenced to life without parole
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 16, 2016 8:11 AM CDT
Sentenced to Life at 14, What He Did on 1st Day Out
This photo taken Feb. 23, 2016, shows Barry Massey at his home in Monroe, Wash.   (Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times via AP)

Exactly one month ago, 42-year-old Barry Massey walked out of a Washington state prison. It's a day that may very well have never come. At age 14, Massey became the youngest American at the time to be sentenced to life without parole; as a 13-year-old, he and a teen two years older shot and stabbed a store owner in the course of a robbery. But things took a turn in 2012, when the Supreme Court found sentences such as Massey's to be cruel and unusual punishment in the case of juveniles. The AP reports that Washington state law was subsequently altered to permit juvenile lifers to petition for release once they had served 25 years; Massey's case was reviewed first, and conditional release was approved. The Seattle Times takes a look at what awaited him after 28 years behind bars.

Massey took a trip to Walmart, a place he had only heard about, on his first day out. It was one of a slew of things that are new to him: He has never driven a car, or even taken public transportation outside of a school bus. He's never tried alcohol (and can't, per his release stipulations, notes KIRO 7). He has forgotten how to swim but remembers how to ride a bike. KIRO 7 reports Massey had to submit a release plan during his petitioning process, and that plan included moving in with a woman he married in a 2009 prison ceremony—a woman he met when she worked as a corrections officer at Monroe Corrections Center, where he served his time. Rhonda Massey quit her job to be with him and is now an investigator with the Snohomish County Office of Public Defense; the Times has more on their controversial relationship. (In Texas, an exonerated inmate got his prosecutor disbarred.)

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