Support for Joe Donovan

On Monday, May 19, the Cambridge City Council will consider a policy order resolution in support of East Cambridge native and CRLS-grad Joseph Donovan, who is currently serving a natural life sentence for his role in the 1992 death of Norwegian MIT student Yngve Raustein.

The resolution -- which is co-sponsored by Councillors Dennis Carlone, Marc McGovern, and Vice Mayor Dennis Benzan -- acknowledges "the gravity of the crimes perpetrated against Yngve Raustein" and calls on the council to "go on record in expressing support for Joseph Donovan's application for parole, which will be reviewed on May 29, 2014."

Donovan's case has received attention in recent years from The Boston Phoenix, The Boston Globe, and Cambridge Day, in part because of the disparity between the life-without-parole sentence he received and the more lenient sentences given to others involved in the crime, including the actual killer, who served just ten years in prison. Donovan initiated the altercation by throwing a single punch; he was 17-years-old at the time.

Meanwhile, both the United States Supreme Court and the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court have recently struck down laws that impose sentences of life-without-parole for juvenile offenders. With these recent high court rulings, Mr. Donovan may get the opportunity to rebuild his life.

Members of the public wishing to testify on this matter are invited to participate in public comment this Monday at 5:30 pm. To sign up, call the city council office at (617) 349-4280 between 9 am and 3 pm on Monday, or just show up at City Hall and add your name to the list in the Sullivan Chamber prior to 6 pm. Be sure to note that you wish to speak on item O-9. Each speaker will be given up to three minutes to testify. Alternatively, you may email the council via

The full text of the policy order is available online and is also posted below...

  Policy Order Resolution  
  May 19, 2014


WHEREAS: On September 18, 1992, 21-year-old MIT student Yngve Raustein was fatally stabbed on Memorial Drive in Cambridge in a horrific incident involving three Cambridge Rindge & Latin School students; and
WHEREAS: This dark chapter in the City's history continues to cause pain for the family of Yngve Raustein and the family of Joseph Donovan, one of the three Cambridge teens involved in the incident; and 
WHEREAS: Joseph Donovan initiated the incident by throwing a single punch and was convicted of felony murder even though the evidence showed that he did not intend to kill any human being and, in fact, did not kill Yngve Raustein; and 
WHEREAS: The 15-year-old who stabbed Yngve Raustein was tried for homicide and convicted as a juvenile and later released following ten years of incarceration, while 17-year-old Joseph Donovan was tried and convicted as an adult on felony murder charges and received a mandatory natural life prison sentence; and 
WHEREAS: Retired Superior Court Judge Robert Barton, who presided over more than 150 murder trials during his 22 years on the bench, has called for Joseph Donovan's release, stating that, "[o]f all the murder cases that were assigned to me, Mr. Donovan's case stands out in my memory. I heard the evidence presented against him first hand, and even at the time of trial, I did not believe that sentencing Mr. Donovan to prison for life was a fair result"; and  
WHEREAS: Judge Barton maintains that a life sentence without the possibility of parole is "unjust and excessive" in Joseph Donovan's case, and members of the jury that convicted Joseph Donovan have also gone on record stating that his continued incarceration is unjust; and 
WHEREAS: Both surviving members of Yngve Raustein's immediate family, including his mother, Inghild Køhler Raustein, and his brother, Dan-Jarle Elmersønn Køhler Raustein, announced in 2010 that they believe Joseph Donovan should be released from his life sentence, and in addition, they have also formally stated their support for Joseph Donovan's current parole application; and 
WHEREAS: The Boston Globe editorial board has called for Joseph Donovan's release because he "has had time to evaluate, change and come to terms with his actions" and his sentence of lifelong imprisonment was a "grossly disproportionate result" in light of his role in the killing of Yngve Raustein; and  
WHEREAS: More than 1,500 people from across the world, including hundreds of Cambridge residents and U.S. Congressman Michael E. Capuano, have signed petitions and letters of support calling for Joseph Donovan's release; and 
WHEREAS: In 2012, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the mandatory sentence of life without parole for juvenile offenders (under the age of 18) violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment; and
WHEREAS: In 2013, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court went even further, striking down life sentences without parole for juvenile offenders (under the age of 18), noting that lifelong imprisonment for juveniles is cruel and unusual because their brains are not fully developed; and 
WHEREAS: Because Joseph Donovan was 17 years of age at the time of Yngve Raustein's murder, these high court rulings have provided him with the opportunity for parole after spending the past 21 years in the Massachusetts Correctional Institution system; now therefore be it  
RESOLVED: That without discounting the gravity of the crimes perpetrated against Yngve Raustein, the City Council does hereby go on record in expressing support for Joseph Donovan's application for parole, which will be reviewed on May 29, 2014; and be it further 

That the City Clerk be and hereby is requested to forward a suitably engrossed copy of this resolution to Josh Wall, Chairman of the Parole Board for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 12 Mercer Road, Natick, MA 01760, on behalf of the entire City Council.


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