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Montgomery McCracken Wins Best Possible Result in Former Juvenile Lifer’s Pro Bono PCRA Appeal

July 11, 2022


Tracey Marrero, age 50, has been in prison over 30 years, since being convicted of a drug-related homicide as a child. He was under two, and then one, life sentences without parole, until last week. He is now eligible for parole, a decision that will be up to the Pa. Parole Board, thanks to the work of Johnny Myers and Rachel Goodman of  Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads LLP (MMWR) and Philadelphia’s Youth Sentencing and Reentry Project (YSRP).

In 2018, MMWR undertook Tracey’s representation to challenge the legality of his 1993 life sentence for an assault that occurred in prison when he was just 20 years old. After a twisted procedural history that included a judicial notice of intent to dismiss Tracey’s PCRA petition, an intervening Pa. Supreme Court decision, and a stipulation dismissing the assault by life prisoner charge on which he had been convicted, Johnny and Rachel convinced Luzerne County Common Pleas Court Judge Joseph F. Sklarosky to impose a new sentence for aggravated assault with credit for the 28+ years Tracey had already served. He is now eligible for parole.

During the 2-hour hearing in Luzerne County, Johnny and Rachel argued both that the law required that he be made parole-eligible and that he deserved to be made parole-eligible based on how Tracey has evolved as a person and the incredible family and institutional support he will have when released. In collaboration with YSRP, they contrasted Tracey’s traumatic and impoverished North Philadelphia upbringing and youthful aggression, with the calm, thoughtful, lovely man he is today. Tracey’s older brother, Johnny Marrero, demonstrated, through his testimony, the resilience and change from that upbringing to a current life that includes a stable family, children, a home, and steady employment. Tracey’s cousin, Cassandra Rodriguez, a former police and corrections officer, told the judge that she had a bedroom waiting for him on his release. When Rachel asked her, on the stand, whether she had any worries about having Tracey live with her, she told the judge, “None at all. I wouldn’t let him in my house, with me and my children, if I wasn’t sure.” Nearly two dozen family members and friends attended the hearing which was both live and on Zoom.

Although the judge was troubled by the seriousness of Tracey’s past crimes, in the end he agreed with Johnny and Rachel that the law required him to make Tracey parole-eligible. He followed the law, despite his misgivings.

Tracey Marrero, who celebrated his 50th birthday just days ago, now finally has a chance to be released from the prison system that has incarcerated him since he was a child.