Joe Ligon, who was sentenced to life imprisonment at age 15 has been released from a Pennsylvania prison after spending 68 years behind bars.
Ligon who is now 83-year-old, was convicted of taking part in a string of robberies and assaults with a group of drunk teens which left two people dead in Philadelphia in 1953.
A hearing found Ligon guilty of two counts of first-degree murder, and Ligon admitted to stabbing at least one of the eight people stabbed that day but his attorney, Bradley Bridge said his client maintains he never killed anyone.
“The child that committed those crimes back in 1953 no longer exists. The person that came out of prison in 2021 is 83 years old, has grown, changed, and is no longer a threat,”
“He has amply repaid society for the damage and harm that he did. And now, it’s appropriate that he spends the last years of his life in freedom,” his lawyer said.
In a chat with CNN, Ligon said, “I’m a grownup now, I’m not a kid anymore. Not only am I a grown man, I’m an old man and getting older every day.”
In the 1970s, Ligon and his accomplices were granted the option of clemency from Pennsylvania’s governor. But since clemency meant being on parole, Ligon rejected it.
He turned down another offer of parole in 2017, stating parole would not grant him the freedom he desired after decades in prison.
“The state parole board presumably would have released him but on condition that he would be under their supervision for the rest of his life.
“He chose not to seek parole under those terms,” Bridge said.
Bridge, who has represented Ligon for 15 years now, ultimately argued that a mandatory life sentence for a crime Ligon committed as a juvenile was unconstitutional.
Bridge brought the case to the federal court and won the issue in November 2020, which ultimately granted Ligon freedom under his own terms in 2021.