A Pennsylvania man has turned down parole after serving 63 years behind bars, saying he is innocent and should never have been locked up in the first place.
Joseph Ligon, now 79, has been in prison since he was 15 and is considered the longest-serving juvenile lifer in the world. He was convicted for the 1953 murders of two people, killings he says he did not commit.
He rejected the parole offer on principle, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
“His view is, he’s been in long enough,” Bradley Bridge of the Defender Association of Philadelphia told a court last week. "He doesn’t want to be on probation or parole. He just wants to be released,” the paper reported.
He and five other youths were charged in the stabbing deaths of Charles Pitts and Jackson Hamm.
His chance for release came after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled at the beginning of this year that sentencing juveniles to life in prison was unconstitutional and that they should have the possibility of parole.
Some 300 inmates in Philadelphia are eligible for re-sentencing under the ruling. Ligon was approached about an agreement that would immediately make him eligible for parole, but he rejected it, his attorneys said.
Three other inmates have also rejected re-sentencing offers, the paper reported.
Dwight D. Eisenhower was president when Ligon went to prison, and the Dodgers were still in Brooklyn.
Ligon was arrested at age 15 in connection with the killings of two teens during a gang brawl. Developmentally disabled, he admitted he had been part of the melee, but did not stab the two youths who were killed.
His co-defendants have since died or been released from prison. He is the only one among them still incarcerated.
"I've been able to deal with this situation because, in my mind and in my heart, I didn't kill somebody. If I had, that would have worried me to death. There's no way I could have done that and survived in here," he said in a 2010 interview with the paper.