Maryland may release man who helped kill a Baltimore man at age 16

Maryland is considering the release of a teenage lifer who came under national scrutiny 15 years ago for his role in helping to kill a Baltimore man.

The Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services is soliciting input on whether to release Duane Buck, now 44, who could be released because of a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found life sentences without parole for juveniles was too harsh.

Buck was 16 years old when he became involved in the case of 24-year-old Joseph Pickett, who was killed in February 1997.

Buck and another suspect, Malva Thompson, were tried as adults for Pickett’s murder. A jury found Buck guilty of first-degree murder with intent and Thompson guilty of second-degree murder. Both served time in prison before their conviction was thrown out, due to discrepancies in the way a jury was instructed. Thompson was released.

The Supreme Court ruled last year that the decision to try juveniles as adults violated their constitutional rights. Since then, more than 20 states have clarified the sentencing guidelines.

But Buck’s release is mired in controversy.

The current governor has previously expressed public support for Buck’s release but the stance of the previous governor, Martin O’Malley, has been unknown, while the attorney general has staunchly opposed Buck’s release.

The State Board of Public Works approved a recommendation from the governor’s office to conduct a “moratorium” on the state’s life sentences for juveniles, which was then overturned by the board. The moratorium was sent back to the board for consideration, which is set to hear Buck’s case on March 21.

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