On July 28, our client, Tyrone Jones, was among the first of Pennsylvania’s juvenile lifers to be granted parole. Four years ago, in Miller v. Alabama, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the imposition of a mandatory sentence of life without parole for juvenile homicide offenders violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Earlier this year, in Montgomery v. Louisiana, the Supreme Court held that Miller applies retroactively, making every juvenile lifer sentenced prior to the Miller decision eligible for resentencing.
On June 3, Tyrone and Henry Smolarski were the first two juvenile lifers to be resentenced in Philadelphia. Court of Common Pleas Judge Lillian Ransom resentenced each to 35 years to life, making them immediately eligible for parole. Assistant District Attorney Chesley Lightsey wrote a letter to the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole strongly advocating for Tyrone’s release. A number of Tyrone’s fellow inmates wrote supportive character references to the Parole Board as well, speaking to the positive effect Tyrone has had on the lives of those with whom he has been incarcerated.
In granting Tyrone parole, the Board cited, among other things, his positive institutional behavior, the positive recommendation made by the Department of Corrections, his demonstrated motivation for success, and the positive recommendations made by the trial judge and prosecuting attorney.
Tyrone was convicted for murder in 1975 after giving two false confessions. Tyrone has maintained his innocence for decades, including through the parole process. Now 59, Tyrone will finally be able to leave prison after more than 40 years. Once released, he plans to live first with a sister in Chester County, Pennsylvania, to reconnect with his family in the Philadelphia area and then with another sister in North Carolina, where employment opportunities and a supportive community await him.
Tyrone has been represented by the Project’s senior staff attorney Nilam A. Sanghvi, as well as former staff attorney Charlotte Haldeman Whitmore, and volunteer co-counsel Hayes Hunt and Michael Broadbent of Cozen O’Connor, Rachel Fendell Satinsky of Littler Mendelson, P.C., and Joshua Ruby of Donnelly, Conroy & Gelhaar, P.C. Former Project staff investigator Shaina Tyler also played a critical role in Tyrone’s case.