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November 22, 2010

Reviewing the limited impact of Graham in Florida

Thanks to How Appealing, I just saw this lengthy article from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, which is headlined "Juvenile offenders still get near-life terms." Here is how the piece gets started:

More than six months after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Florida's practice of sending juveniles to prison for the rest of their lives for non-murder crimes was unconstitutional, not a single former juvenile sentenced in such cases has found much relief.

Instead, Florida courts, in several high-profile cases are re-sentencing the juveniles to new terms that still amount to life sentences.  And Gov. Charlie Crist and the state Cabinet are now poised to reject the clemency case of a 15-year-old who received four life sentences for armed robberies in the Tampa Bay area.

In Crist's last Clemency Board meeting, set for Dec. 9, lawyers are asking state officials to consider the case of Kenneth Young, who is representative of a group of 116 Florida juveniles who were sentenced to spend the rest of their lives in prison for non-murder crimes.  So far, that appeal has gone nowhere.

Crist's apparent shunning of Young's request comes at a time when the Florida governor is attracting national headlines for his pledge to seek another pardon, for Jim Morrison, of the rock group the Doors, who has been dead for 39 years.  While Crist has given numerous interviews about the Morrison case –- saying “my heart bleeds” for Morrison's family –- the Young case has attracted almost no attention from the governor or other state officials, even after Florida's judicial process was condemned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Legal experts say there are at least 116 prisoners in Florida like Young –- sentenced for non-murder crimes committed when they were juveniles to life in prison without chance for parole.  Florida has sentenced far more juveniles to such sentences than all other states combined.

In May, the Supreme Court ruled that such sentences violate the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.  But, as Young's case illustrates, Florida has done little to right that wrong.

November 22, 2010 at 09:20 AM | Permalink

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