Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court rendered a pivotal decision concerning whether juvenile offenders – even if convicted of first degree murder – may be automatically sentenced to life behind bars without the possibility of parole.
According to the Court, the inherent immaturity of minors – coupled with their inability to fully understand the potential lifelong consequences of their actions – dictates that a mandatory life-without-parole sentence violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment – and state statutes must be updated accordingly.
In keeping with the Supremacy Clause, Florida was then required to revisit its own juvenile sentencing guidelines, as well as several former cases that resulted in lifelong sentences for offenders arrested as children. As a result, former offenders – including the individual discussed in today’s post – were given an opportunity to revisit their sentences and possibly receive a reduction or release for time served.
What Led to the Man’s Incarceration in the First Place?
In 1996, a then 16-year-old New Jersey transplant fell in with the wrong crowd while trying to adjust from living in the Northeast to life in Central Florida, resulting in his involvement with local gang activity. In April of that year, the young, impressionable youth participated in an armed robbery of a rival gang member, which resulted in that gang member’s demise.
According to trial testimony, the young man rendered several punches to the gang member, but it was an older affiliate that ultimately committed the act of murder – shooting the victim in the head five times.
While the gunman awaits execution on Florida’s death row, the young teen faced a life sentence without the possibility of parole – all for a murder he did not commit, at a time when he had not yet reached adulthood. According to the prosecutor’s office, the teen had “aided and abetted” the killer simply by being involved in the incident and was considered equally as guilty under the law.
Defendant Was Offered a Second Chance
Impressed by his clear remorse and mature reaction to the imposition of punitive consequences, the former prosecutor assigned to the case actually joined with his former adversary in advocating for the offender’s re-sentencing, pointing to the recent changes in Florida’s juvenile sentencing guidelines.
More specifically, the prosecutor remarked that he was “completely shocked that he was being so forthcoming … I was amazed by the person that he was. Not only did he reiterate this idea that everybody who did something needed to be punished for it, he was completely accepting of his own guilt. He wasn’t angry; he didn’t blame other people.”
Faithful that he will transition well from prison to society, the judge assigned to the case ordered the former offender to complete five years of probation and secure gainful employment. As one of 45 Florida offenders currently eligible for re-sentencing, the now 34-year old man graciously thanked the judge for the second chance and is looking forward to a new life outside of the prison walls.
Contact a Bradenton Juvenile Attorney as Soon as Possible
If you are in need of representation for recent criminal charges, please do not hesitate to contact the compassionate juvenile attorneys of the Fowler Law Group today: (941) 900-3100.