Defense moves to block life term for mom killer
Bryan Freeman awaits resentencing in 1995 family murder spree.
Prosecutors hired two mental health experts to examine Bryan R. Freeman, a former teen neoNazi from Salisbury Township who admitted taking part in a gruesome triple murder that stunned the Lehigh Valley 24 years ago.
One doctor said Freeman, who was 17 when he was sentenced to life in prison for stabbing his mother to death, remains incorrigible. The second doctor opined that Freeman can be redeemed.
That disparity, argued defense attorney Karl D. Schwartz, should disqualify prosecutors from seeking a life prison term for Freeman, who is awaiting resentencing under a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that banned automatic life sentences for juvenile killers.
“When is it safe and appropriate to release this man into the community, should be the only question,” Schwartz said.
Freeman was in Lehigh County Court on Friday for a hearing in advance of his resentencing, which will occur sometime in 2019.
Prosecutors are arguing that Freeman, who was convicted along with his brother David Freeman, should remain behind bars for the rest of his life.
First Assistant District Attorney Steven M. Luksa told Judge Maria L Dantos Friday that his experts' differing opinions should not disqualify him from arguing for a life sentence for Freeman. Luksa said other factors, including the impact of the crime on the victims and community, can still advance that position.
Schwartz disagreed, saying the law requires prosecutors to ignore any community outcry.
“The only decision is not whether, but when … he should be released from prison,” he said.
Dantos said she will rule on the motion at a later date.
Freeman, now 41, admitted stabbing Brenda Freeman to death in a Feb. 26, 1995, killing spree in the family's Ehrets Lane home. His brother, David Freeman, then 16, admitted bludgeoning his father, Dennis Freeman. The brothers' cousin, Nelson “Ben” Birdwell III, then 18, also was convicted of murder.
The Freeman brothers are among dozens of former juvenile “lifers” being resentenced for their crimes under a 2012 Supreme Court decision that ruled automatic life sentences for juvenile killers to be cruel and unusual punishment.
David Freeman will be in Lehigh County Court for a hearing on Jan. 28.
The killings at the Freeman home occurred after weeks of arguments between the brothers and their parents. Bryan and David Freeman dressed and acted like skinheads, sporting facial tattoos of the phrases “Sieg Heil” and “Berserker.”
The brothers pleaded guilty to the killings in December 1995. Bryan Freeman admitted he grabbed his mother as she came down the stairs, stuffed a pair of shorts in her mouth and stabbed her repeatedly.
David Freeman pleaded guilty to beating his father, Dennis Freeman, to death with an aluminum baseball bat and metal exercise bar as he lay asleep in bed. A jury found that Birdwell took part in the father's killing.
The Freemans' younger brother, 11-year-old Erik, also was killed, although none of the three ever admitted to or was convicted of his murder.
Bryan Freeman did not speak in court Friday. His hair was combed down to cover a tattoo on his forehead.