Joe Ligon, an African-American who was incarcerated in 1953 when he was just 15-years old (America’s oldest and longest-serving juvenile lifer) has now been released at the age of 83-years old.
Joe was given a mandatory life sentence after pleading guilty to charges from a robbery and stabbing spree in Philadelphia with four other teenage boys which left six people wounded and two people dead.
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,” Bridge said.
“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.”
“I’m a grownup now,” Ligon said to CNN
“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,” Bridge said.
“He chose not to seek parole under those terms. ”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.