York murderer freed after 40-plus years in prison

Liz Evans Scolforo

A York County man is free after serving more than 40 years in prison for murdering his girlfriend when he was 15 years old.

Scott Griffin, 60, was released on parole March 30, according to Amy Worden, press secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.

Scott Griffin

He is living with family in the York area, his attorney, George Margetas, said.

Griffin fatally shot girlfriend Linda D. Hagens, 17, in the chest with a deer rifle during an argument in his York City home in 1974.

Griffin had been sentenced to life without parole after being convicted of first-degree murder in May 1974. But he and 10 other teenagers convicted as adults of first- and second-degree murder in York County Court and automatically sentenced to life received a second chance at freedom in June 2012.

Unconstitutional: That's when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to automatically sentence juveniles to life in prison without parole. Life sentences may still be handed down for juveniles, the highest court in the land ruled — but they can't be automatic. In Pennsylvania, first- and second-degree murder convictions carry automatic life sentences with no parole.

The 11 defendants' cases remained in limbo in the ensuing years, although several have been resentenced already.

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In November 2013, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled only those whose cases that were still in the appeals process could be resentenced. But the U.S. Supreme Court overruled that, saying it's unconstitutional for every juvenile lifer, and each must receive a resentencing hearing.

Griffin had his resentencing hearing in December, and it included witness testimony.

At the close of the hearing, presiding Common Pleas Judge Richard K. Renn resentenced Griffin to 43 years to life.

Remorseful: Margetas represented Griffin for the past four years and said Griffin routinely, and remorsefully, mentioned murdering Hagens.

"He's always expressed to me that not a day goes by that he doesn't think about what happened," the attorney said. "He's always talked about how remorseful he is. He did the most heinous crime there is, but he was 15 years old at the time, going on 16. He's a much different person now."

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Margetas recalled the day in December that Griffin was resentenced and realized he was eligible to be paroled.

"He said to me, 'You know what's really messed up, Mr. Margetas? Today's her birthday,'" the attorney said. "He remembers that after all these years."

Model prisoner: Griffin was a model prisoner who took advantage of educational programming in the prison and tried to offer advice to new inmates about the pitfalls of prison, according to Margetas.

"He tried to improve himself the best he could," the attorney said. "Forty years of (causing) no trouble? I find that very unusual. I have clients who can't make it six weeks in York County Prison without getting in trouble."

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Griffin served his time at the state prison in Camp Hill, which Margetas said is unusual.

'Walked the line': But he said Griffin was allowed to remain there because he was doing well and was considered a low-risk inmate.

"Now he has to show the community that he earned this break, and that he deserves it," Margetas said. "He walked the straight line (in prison), and that says a lot about him."

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Also telling about Griffin was his top priority after being released, according to his attorney.

"One of the first things he asked me was, 'Are you hiring? I do paralegal work,'" Margetas recalled. "He's been out for a week and one of the first things he did was try to find a job."

There are about 460 inmates in Pennsylvania who had been serving life sentences for murders they committed as teens, The Associated Press has reported.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.