HENRY MONTGOMERY, CLIFFORD HAMPTON AND ANDREW HUNDLEY
Should juveniles be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole?
Does skin color matter?
What about wealth?
The United States is hardly united on these matters.
Approximately 2,600 inmates nationwide serve life without parole sentences for crimes they committed as juveniles.
More than 450 are serving in Pennsylvania, the most of any U.S. jurisdiction.
Twenty-five states still allow life without parole as a sentencing option for juveniles.
In the United States, more than 12,000 people are serving a life sentence for a crime they committed under the age of 18.
The U.S. is the only country in the world that permits youth to be sentenced to life without parole.
In fact, sentencing children to die in prison is condemned by international law.
In Jones v. Mississippi (2021) the Supreme Court decided that age matters in sentencing, but gave states the latitude to create their own procedures for sentencing youth.
The Court relied upon scientific research to conclude that even youth who commit the most serious or violent crimes have the capacity to change.
It was deduced that because of their developmental immaturity, impetuousness and susceptibility to negative peer pressure and influences, children are less blameworthy for their criminal conduct than adults.
Black and Brown youth offenders are disproportionately sentenced to life without parole and other extreme sentences.
Or simply the facts of the case?
Meet Henry Montgomery, Clifford Hampton…and Andrew Hundley.
On November 17, 2021 Henry Montgomery was granted parole and released from prison–-the Louisiana State Penitentiary, otherwise known as “ANGOLA”; “THE ALCATRAZ OF THE SOUTH”; and “THE FARM”–after nearly 58 years of incarceration.
In 1963, he was convicted of killing East Baton Rouge sheriff’s deputy Charles Hurt, who caught him skipping school.
Montgomery was 17 at the time.
He was initially sentenced to death.
But the state’s Supreme Court threw out his conviction in 1966, saying he was denied a fair trial.
When the case was retried, Montgomery was again convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole…until almost 58 years later, following a resentencing and parole board release denials in 2018 and 2019.
Then, the 2021 Board of Pardons and Committee on Parole rendered a unanimous decision to release him.
Clifford Hampton killed 18-year-old Bertha Ann Gibson in 1958, after she refused to have sex with him.
He stabbed Gibson 28 times.
Seventeen at the time, he was sent to Angola for life.
Inside, Hampton killed fellow inmate Camey Time 3 years later, for “telling lies about him.”
Another life sentence.
Decades of problems ensued: a sex offense conviction; caught with three shanks, rigged with nails and needles; his refusal to take a sex offender treatment class…
Things were further muddied when his initial charge of Gibson’s murder was reduced to manslaughter, and her family publicly opposed it.
But in early 2019, at age 78 and after 61 years behind bars, the Louisiana Board of Pardons and Parole released him from prison for good.
Andrew Hundley’s prison curve was a little different.
At 15, he was arrested and convicted of second-degree murder.
A mandatory life without parole (LWOP) sentence.
It was 1999–2000.
He earned his GED.
LSU correspondence courses followed, at his family’s expense.
Ten years into his incarceration, basic community college courses were offered as part of a pilot program–one or two a semester.
Hours of credits were piling up.
The 2016 Supreme Court judgment in Montgomery v. Louisiana which held that a previous ruling (Miller v. Alabama-2012) dictating that a mandatory life sentence without parole should NOT apply to persons convicted of murder as juveniles,
SHOULD BE APPLIED RETROACTIVELY.
This ruling paved the way for Hundley to be released from prison after 19 years.
Sentenced to life without parole at 15, his sentence was one of the first, of more than 200 people in Louisiana, who secured their release under landmark Supreme Court rulings.
Hundley was convicted of second-degree murder in the 1997 slaying of 14-year-old Terri Elizabeth Pitre.
He founded and now runs the Louisiana Parole Project, helping the formerly incarcerated find a path to success, on the outside.
The 501 © (3) entity defines itself as a human services provider and advocacy organization, working to reduce recidivism through second chances for released lifers.
There is no rub here.
Second chances are good.
All three men–Montgomery, Hampton and Hundley–deserve credit, at the very least, for their tenacity of purpose and will.
Perhaps we should discount that Montgomery and Hampton were poor Black men and that Hundley was White and came from a family of means.
Maybe it’s not that simple.
What do you think?
[Editor’s Note: This piece was written by Mr. Kaplan in February 2023.]