The state’s Clemency and Pardons Board this evening voted to reject a plea for mercy from Pierce County’s Barry Massey, who was convicted at 14 of killing Steilacoom marina owner Paul Wang.
At the time of his 1988 sentencing, Massey was the youngest person in the nation ever sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Massey appealed to the board three years ago. Board members recommended on a 4-1 vote that Gov. Chris Gregoire commute his sentence to 25 years, but she declined.
He tried again this year, but the board voted to reject recommending clemency.
News Tribune reporter Rob Carson covered the hearing, which ended about 7 p.m., and will have more details in the Friday print edition of the newspaper and on thenewstribune.com.
In the meantime, here’s a story we ran about the case three years ago:
By Stacey Mulick
April 11, 2007
Barry Massey will have to wait.
Gov. Chris Gregoire has denied the convicted killer’s plea for relief from his life sentence in the 1987 shooting and stabbing death of a Steilacoom marina owner.
In a letter to one of his attorneys, Massey was invited to petition the Clemency and Pardons Board again in another three years.
“Please bear in mind that this invitation is not a guarantee that Mr. Massey will receive a favorable recommendation from the Board and, if so, will be granted clemency by the Governor,” said the March 14 letter from general counsel Richard Mitchell.
Massey, now 33, was the youngest person in the country to be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release when he was convicted at age 14 of aggravated first-degree murder.
Massey‘s attorney, Charles Sipos, said Tuesday that they were disappointed in the governor’s decision.
“We continue to believe that Mr. Massey, who was only 13 years old with a mental age of 9.9 years old, had limited culpability for the crime and that his exemplary behavior and rehabilitation will ultimately lead to his release,” Sipos said.
Massey and his 15-year-old friend, Michael Harris, went into Paul Wang’s Steilacoom Marina store on Jan. 10, 1987. Wang, a 41-year-old father of two, was shot twice and stabbed seven times. Massey and Harris stole candy, fishing poles and more than $140.
They were tried separately as adults, convicted of aggravated first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison in 1988.
In September, Massey asked the state Clemency and Pardons Board for mercy. He told the board he’d confessed to the killing to protect his friend, that he took responsibility for his part in the crime and that he’d changed in the past 10 years.
Wang’s daughter, his son and his widow asked the board to keep Massey in prison.
In a 4-1 vote, the board recommended to Gregoire that Massey‘s sentence be commuted to 25 years, which would have meant he’d be released in five years.
Gregoire made her decision last month.
“The Governor carefully considered Mr. Massey‘s petition and the Board’s recommendation, but arrived at a different conclusion,” Mitchell’s letter stated. “I regret to inform you that his request for a commutation has been denied at this time.”
The letter to Massey‘s attorney doesn’t give a reason for the governor’s decision. Holly Armstrong, Gregoire’s communications director, also declined to give more specifics.
Sipos said Massey had been informed of the decision but declined to give more details. He also declined to say what Massey would do next.
Wang’s daughter declined to comment on the decision.
Pierce County Prosecutor Gerry Horne, who had criticized the clemency board’s decision as flawed, said the governor’s decision “seems appropriate.”
“The wounds in the community are still pretty ripe,” he said.
Harris also petitioned the board for clemency more than five years ago but was turned down.