East Penn Press

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Re-sentencing scheduled for Bryan R. Freeman

Thursday, June 9, 2016 by April Peterson apeterson@tnonline.com in Local News

Bryan Robert Freeman, who pleaded guilty in a case involving the murder of his parents and youngest brother in 1995, will receive a re-sentencing hearing later this year due to a United States Supreme Court decision mandating new sentencing guidelines for juveniles convicted in homicides.

In a hearing June 1 in the Lehigh County Courthouse, Allentown, Judge Maria L. Dantos, scheduled the re-sentencing hearing for Freeman Sept. 22.

In a conversation following the hearing First Assistant District Attorney Steven M. Luksa said prosecutors will again seek a life sentence for Freeman who was 17 years old in 1995.

Freeman, along with his younger brother David Jonathan Freeman and a cousin Nelson Benjamin Birdwell III, was involved in the deaths of Brenda and Dennis Freeman, his parents and Eric Freeman who was 11 at the time. According to court records, Bryan Freeman pleaded guilty Dec. 7 1995 to criminal homicide, murder in the first degree.

Freeman was imprisoned for life.

In a court decision based upon the cases Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs the United States Supreme Court ruled mandatory life sentences for juveniles who were under 18 years old at the time violate the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment, according to the Juvenile Law Center website. Plus, by the ruling, a judge or jury must be given the opportunity to consider “mitigating circumstances” before “imposing the harshest possible penalty for juveniles.”

Luksa said the re-sentencing hearing would revisit all facts, evidence and witness testimony in the case consistent with the Supreme Court decision.

Freeman, now 38, appeared in court shackled and dressed in a dark blue jumpsuit. A tattoo of the word “Berserker” in an Old English style font is still visible along his hairline just above his eyes. Once described in media reports as an aspiring neo-Nazi skinhead, his light colored hair is now cropped short.

A criminal case involving a juvenile from Easton also may have a bearing on the upcoming re-sentencing, Luksa said.

In February 2006 Qu’eed Batts, then 14 years old and reportedly in a gang, shot and killed one man and seriously injured another in an attack at a residence in Easton. According to court records, Batts was convicted of first-degree murder, attempted murder and aggravated assault and sentenced to life without parole.

The Batts case led to new sentencing guidelines signed into Pennsylvania law in October 2012 by which, according to Pennsylvania Supreme Court records, a juvenile under 15 years old may receive a sentence different than a juvenile over 15 but under 18 years old.

Luksa said six such cases will be reviewed by the new guidelines, including the Freeman brothers. David Freeman was 16 years old in 1995.

According to media reports at the time and court records, Dennis and Brenda Freeman and their 11-year-old son Eric were killed in their home in the 1600 block of Ehrets Road, Salisbury Township, Feb. 26, 1995. Dennis and Eric were beaten to death. Brenda Freeman was stabbed.

In a video taped confession David J. Freeman reportedly told authorities the crimes were in reaction to his mother’s strict rules.

A hearing for David J. Freeman regarding re-sentencing is scheduled June 14.

Birdwell, who was 18 years old in 1995, was found guilty of homicide and conspiracy.