His Brother Was the Murderer, but He's the One Doing Life

David Maldonado was 17 when the crime occurred; Sammy was 18
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 26, 2017 11:19 AM CDT
His Brother Was the Murderer, but He's the One Still in Jail
The cell door opened for David ... but not for Sammy (stock photo).   (Getty Images/bigjohn36)

They were brothers bound by a crime—and ultimately separated by the Supreme Court. The BBC has the story of Sammy and David Maldonado, who on the evening of Aug. 13, 1980, met some teens at Devil's Pool in Pennsylvania. Sammy and David eventually decided to make off with a box the others had with them, hoping it held valuables. Sammy took it, David grabbed a steak knife, and 19-year-old Steven Monahan chased after the two. Sammy says he dropped the box; Monahan took him to the ground, and David stabbed Monahan twice, piercing his aorta. The two brothers were convicted of second-degree felony murder and handed mandatory life sentences without the chance for parole. But now David is out and Sammy remains behind bars 37 years later—even though he didn't commit the murder.

That's because the Supreme Court in 2012 ruled mandatory life sentences for juveniles are unconstitutional. David was 17 when the murder occurred; Sammy was 18 years, 4 months, and 10 days old. "Sammy didn't do the stabbing, he got beat up," says a lawyer for the brothers. "He is far less culpable than David." But as a court document explains, because Sammy was an accomplice "in the perpetration of a felony"—the felony being the robbery of the box—he, too, was guilty of murder in the second degree. The BBC looks into the science of brain development to make the argument that it's not finished until we're 24 or 25, which one could argue doesn't jibe with our legal system's definition of an adult. It's an idea that's "gaining some traction." As for what was in that box: a report card, $10 bill, steak knife, pink comb and brush, red towel, and lone black sock. Read the full story here. (Read more Longform stories.)

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