HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania inmate who has served decades in prison for a murder committed when he was 14 asked the state’s highest court Tuesday to prevent him from having to spend the rest of his life on parole.
Richard Lee Olds, 52, asked the state Supreme Court to allow bail under certain circumstances for him and others like him: inmates convicted of taking part in homicides as juveniles without doing the actual killing or intending to kill.
His request comes as courts across the state are re-sentencing inmates sent away for life for murders they participated in as juveniles.
A Pittsburgh judge last month resentenced Olds under recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions regarding juvenile lifers. He was given 20 years to life and the judge ordered Olds released, but reversed himself after prosecutors objected to letting him out on bond while his case is on appeal.
Mike Manko, a spokesman for the Allegheny County district attorney’s office, said the office would respond to the filings but its position has not changed.
“Under the Pennsylvania Constitution, an inmate serving a prison sentence that has a maximum term of life is not eligible for bail,” Manko said.
Olds remains in Somerset State Prison but hopes to be released by the state Board of Probation and Parole.
Olds is challenging a requirement that he spend the rest of his life on parole, arguing such a punishment is unfair for those who were children and did not actually kill or intend to kill the victim. His lawyers say prosecutors around the state are insisting that those who are resentenced must all receive a maximum of life under the state’s sentencing system, meaning Olds would never get off state supervision.
“Mr. Olds has been in continuous custody since the age of 14,” his lawyers wrote . “His adjustment to prison has been outstanding. Not only does he not require a lifetime parole; to impose such a sentence on him would be onerous and unjust.”
They said he has the promise of a real-estate maintenance job upon release.
Olds was with two older teens in October 1979 when one of them shot and killed a clerk in the Fort Wayne Cigar Store, an all-night convenience store in Pittsburgh. He was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to life.
Recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions have ruled out mandatory life sentences for juveniles, and Olds is among about 500 lifers in Pennsylvania expected to be resentenced as a result. His new court filings argue those decisions emphasized the need for individualized sentences, a principle his lawyers say would be violated by mandatory life parole.