Those Who Fell Through The Gap of Justice

Marie “Mechie” Scott

Marie “Mechie” Scott has been serving a life sentence without parole since she was 19 years old in Pennsylvania. She is now 60 years old.  Mechie developed a persuasive legal essay arguing that under rulings by the SCOTUS that take into account that “children are different” when sentenced to the harshest prison sentences, life without parole along with research in brain development which proves that the youthful brain is not fully developed until the age of 25, rulings such as Graham, Roper, Miller/Jackson ought to apply to offenders up to the age of 25 retroactively.  Below is an excerpt from Mechie’s essay:

Personal Background

My co-defendant was 16, I was 19. He is the principal offender of our case. He will be released on the SCOTUS decision in Miller/Jackson if the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania accepts the decision retroactively.  Yet I will remain in prison based on the felony act law that he is no longer governed by. My brain at 19 was no more developed than his and he was more culpable than I was.  I was only a teenager, who had been physically and sexually abused from the age of five to 15, I had been hospitalized in a mental institution in my adolescent years,  I had become a severe co-dependent who had my life saved at my job during a hold-up in Philadelphia by my co-defendant 10 days prior to this terrible tragedy.  I didn’t have the ability to say no when he asked me to be the look out in his hold up 10 days later. Afterwards, I had tried to overdose on pills.

Imprisoning me until I die alters the remainder of my life by a “forfeiture that is irrevocable.” If this lengthiest possible incarceration  is an “especially harsh punishment” for my co-defendant, then it is the same for me. I will have inevitably served more years and a greater percentage of my life in prison than an adult offender.  Forty years ago, my judge sentenced me to life while at the same time, instructed my lawyer to explain to me that my release on parole would be the sole discretion  of the PA Board of Pardons.  I had no reason not to believe that the judge, district attorney  and defense attorney didn’t know what they were talking about! Soon after I met my judge on a tour of SCI Muncy and he visited with me.  He told me that if I “behaved” myself, that he would sign my parole papers after I have served at least the maximum sentenced required for 3rd degree murder.  Unfortunately when I matured, the PA legislature had changed the maximum to 40 years. The is my 40th year in prison. I applied for parole. The BOP responded that they have no jurisdiction over my life sentence.  This leaves me with no meaningful opportunity to obtain my release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation.  (There have been only nine women in PA to be granted commutation since 1971.  Therefore, commutation of a life sentence in Pennsylvania is currently not a meaningful option.)

What is a juvenile under Pennsylvania Law

In the Commonwealth of PA, when juveniles are sentenced to juvenile facilities for violent crimes, they can be held in such facilities until they turn 21.  Pennsylvania child labor laws state that minors are between the ages of 12 and 21.  Juvenile Matters classify disorderly minors between the ages of 18 and 20. A child is an individual who is under the age of 21 who committed as act of delinquency before reaching the age of 18.  A juvenile is a person who has attained 10 years of age and is not yet 21 who is alleged to have, upon or after the juveniles’s 10th birthday, committed a delinquent act before reaching 18  years of age.

Felony Murder

I recognize that in the context of felony-murder cases the question of intent is complicated.  Felony-murder is based on “transferred intent.”  In my opinion transferred intent is not sufficient to satisfy the intent to murder that could subject a juvenile to LWOP. We do not rely on transferred intent if an adult may receive the death penalty.  For juveniles, the inability to consider the full range of consequences  is precisely what we know about the brain under the age of 25.

Wait no longer

The Honorable Judge Mary Jane Bowes wrote in the decision of Commonwealth v. Ludwig that, “Perhaps the SCOTUS may in the future determine mandatory life sentences  for adults under the age of 25, violates the 8th Amendment…that day has not come yet.”  I say that day has come and it is now!  As I enter my 40th year of incarceration at the age of 60 and experience the deaths and terminal illnesses of my aging sisters who have been serving life, I’d like to hold on to the hope that I will one day be released.

Marie “Mechie” Scott


SCI Muncy

PO Box 180

Muncy, PA 17756

(Photo Credit: Worldwide Womens Criminal Justice Network)