John Odgren Receives Life In Prison Without Parole for Massachusetts Murder of Schoolmate

Middlesex Superior Court Judge S. Jane Haggerty has sentenced John Odgren to life in prison without parole. Yesterday, a jury convicted the 19-year-old, who has Asperger’s syndrome and a history of mental illness, of Massachusetts first-degree murder.

The Princeton teenager fatally stabbed Lincoln-Sudbury 15-year-old James Alenson in 2007. The two boys teens didn’t know each other but they happened end up in the high school bathroom at the same time.

Odgren’s Boston criminal defense team had mounted an insanity defense, claiming that paranoia, depression, Asperger’s, and the fear of the number 19 are what compelled Odgren to attack the high school freshman. Now, his homicide lawyer is arguing that because Odgren was a juvenile when he stabbed Alenson, the life sentence he received should come with the possibility of parole. The teenager’s legal team is calling the sentence a violation of not just the Eighth Amendment but also of an international treaty that was signed by every United Nations members except for Somalia and the United States.

Massachusetts and Connecticut are the two US states where a child can be sentenced to life in prison without a parole. Citing constitutional issues, the Odgren murder defense team has filed a motion with Judge Haggerty to sentence him as a youthful offender. She has yet to rule on the motion.

Odgren is being sent to MCI-Cedar Junction, a maximum security facility in Walpole, while he waits for his permanent assignment. His criminal defense attorney wants him to stay in a mental health unit and is concerned for the 19-year-old’s well-being. People with disabilities are at risk of being victimized while in prison.

John Odgren sentenced to life in prison; lawyer concerned for safety, MetroWest Daily News, April 30, 2010
John Odgren guilty as charged, Boston Herald, April 30, 2010

Related Web Resources:
Juvenile life-without-parole sentence too harsh, reports says,, September 30, 2009
The Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts

What’s Unique about Asperger’s Disorder?, Autism Society
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