Releases and Announcements
Duane Morris' Pro Bono Team Provides Juvenile Sentenced to Life Without Parole Opportunity to Have Sentence Revisited, Reduced
May 24, 2018
Push Part of Juvenile Lifer Initiative, in Furtherance of Constitutional Charge of Miller
PHILADELPHIA, May 24, 2018—Duane Morris LLP’s Pro Bono Program, working with the City of Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, the Juvenile Law Center and the Youth Resentencing and Reentry Project, successfully petitioned the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Criminal Division, to reduce the sentence of an inmate, incarcerated as a juvenile, from life without parole to 30 years to life. The effort is part of the firm’s Juvenile Lifer Initiative and in furtherance of a U.S. Supreme Court order in the 2012 decision Miller v. Alabama – where mandatory sentences of life without the possibility of parole were found unconstitutional for juvenile offenders. The court’s 2016 decision in related matter Montgomery v. Louisiana retroactively applied Miller’s holding.
“The charge put forth in Miller and Montgomery was concise and direct: States need to revisit and reconsider life without parole sentences for juveniles,” said Duane Morris partner Aliza Karetnick, a member of the firm’s Juvenile Lifer Initiative. “The firm is committed to providing significant pro bono resources to help ensure that individuals receive proper legal representation in these types of matters.”
Jorge Cintron Jr. is presently incarcerated at State Correctional Institution – Graterford in Collegeville, Pennsylvania (SCI Graterford). In 1996, Cintron confessed to multiple murders and was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Cintron’s father sold illegal drugs, and Cintron started drinking alcohol at 8 years old and using illegal drugs at 11. He recently described the period prior to turning himself in to the police: “I was so far gone, and addicted to cocaine and [codeine] syrup and PCP. I had no regard for life and my actions. There was nothing there. I was in such a dark place, I started becoming suicidal. I knew someone either had to kill me or I had to go to prison.” To date, Cintron has been incarcerated for more than 21 years.
The Duane Morris Pro Bono team representing Cintron – Karetnick, special counsel Brian Slipakoff and associate William Shotzbarger, all of the Philadelphia office – in their Petitioner’s Sentencing Memorandum to the court, delved into the Supreme Court’s thinking in Miller:
The Supreme Court in Miller reasoned that because children’s brains have not yet fully developed and are still immature, juvenile offenders lack the necessary judgment, fail to appreciate risks, and cannot foresee consequences. The Supreme Court held that these juvenile offenders are not irredeemable. Rather, they can be rehabilitated in the vast majority of cases. Moreover, juveniles are particularly susceptible to the traumas inflicted by their families and environments.
As detailed in his Petitioner’s Mitigation Report, Cintron has tapped into numerous betterment resources available to inmates during his time in three correctional facilities. He earned a General Educational Development (GED) certificate; participated and served as a leader volunteer in Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous groups; and obtained his barber’s license. In total, Cintron has – to date – successfully completed more than 23 personal improvement programs offered by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. He also was ordained a deacon in the Church Behind Bars program. As part of his spiritual outreach efforts, Cintron created a mentoring program inviting members of the Mennonite community to visit inmates lacking connection to the outside world.
Pending completion of the remaining eight years of his sentence and parole being granted, Cintron, per the Petitioner’s Mitigation Report, intends to “open a barber shop one day so that he can mentor returning citizens and at-risk youth looking [to learn] a trade.”
“Ninety-nine percent of Duane Morris attorneys provided pro bono legal services in 2017, and 50 percent provided 20 or more hours,” said Philadelphia partner and Pro Bono Partner Valentine Brown. “We are dedicated to giving back to the community and offering our services to those who need quality legal representation in a variety of matters.”
About the Duane Morris Pro Bono Program
Duane Morris’ Pro Bono Program provides free legal services to those in our communities least able to afford them. The importance of pro bono work and volunteerism has been an integral part of Duane Morris’ culture and a backbone of our value system since the firm’s inception more than 110 years ago. Among the firm’s pro bono clients are two Philadelphia-based judicial advocacy groups involved in the Cintron case, the Juvenile Law Center and the Youth Resentencing and Reentry Project.
About Duane Morris
Duane Morris LLP provides innovative solutions to today’s multifaceted legal and business challenges through the collegial and collaborative culture of its more than 800 attorneys in offices across the United States and internationally. The firm represents a broad array of clients, spanning all major practices and industries.