Lawrence Co. lawmaker, DA discuss proposed law change for parolees after young boy’s murder

Local News

The suspect in the killing of an 8-year-old boy from Lawrence County had just been released from prison for a previous murder conviction

NEW CASTLE, Pa. (WKBN) – A Pennsylvania lawmaker wants to change the state’s parole system. If the change was already in place, the man accused of murdering an 8-year-old Lawrence County boy would never have been released last spring.

As Keith Burley sits in the Lawrence County Jail facing murder charges, the local district attorney is criticizing Pennsylvania’s Department of Corrections for putting Burley back on the street.

“We are not making a distinction between the violent offenders and the non-violent offenders,” said Atty. Josh Lamancusa.

Before being charged in the stabbing death of Mark Mason in July, Burley spent 20 years in prison for another murder conviction. He was released by the state parole board last March after serving the minimum sentence, even though Burley was convicted of assaulting another inmate while he was still behind bars.

“Since our parole system in Pennsylvania has failed our citizens in the commonwealth, it’s important that the Pennsylvania state House of Representatives, the Pennsylvania state Senate and Governor Wolfe take immediate action,” said State Rep. Aaron Bernstine.

Bernstine will be introducing what he’s calling “Markie’s law,” named after the young victim. It would delay parole eligibility by two years for each new violent conviction while in prison.

Bernstine claims had the law already been in place, Burley would still be locked up.

“Our legislation, like I said today, what would have happened is Markie Mason would have been today in school instead of a cemetery,” Bernstine said.

Burley is one of five Pennsylvania parolees charged with murder just this summer, something that’s prompted a review of the state’s early release policies to see what could have been done differently.

The DOC is also reviewing active parole cases to ensure that they’re being properly supervised. The review should be completed within 60 days.

Lamancusa criticized that review, saying there needs to be an independent evaluation from outside eyes.

“However, the process is never more important than the outcome,” Lamancusa said.

Bernstine hopes his measure can be signed into law before the end of the year.

In the meantime, Lamancusa confirmed Thursday morning that he is going to seek the death penalty if Burley is convicted.

Lamancusa said he filed court papers earlier this month listing what Pennsylvania calls “aggravating circumstances” in Mason’s death.

“In this particular case, there were three factors. One, that he had previously been convicted of murder before. Two, that he was committing a felony when someone died. Three, is of a child under the age of 12. We don’t need three of them, we don’t need two of them, we just need one,” Lamancusa said.

The next step in the case will be for Burley to appear in common pleas court sometime next month to answer to the new charges.

Watch the full press conference above.

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