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February 19, 2011

Florida still dealing with the fall-out and challenges of Graham

This local article, headlined "After U.S. Supreme Court ruling, local juveniles seek to have sentences thrown out," spotlights some of the issues that Florida continues to confront as a consequence of the Supreme Court's Eighth Amendment decision last year in Graham. Here are excerpts:

Nine months after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that juveniles can't be sent to prison for life without parole for crimes other than murder, two convicted rapists will be in Palm Beach County court next week seeking to have their sentences thrown out.

David Slocum and Emmanuel Paul were convicted of raping a 17-year-old student from Switzerland after grabbing her at gunpoint on Flagler Drive in 1994. Because they were 17 when the grisly crime was committed their sentences are no longer valid. Their cases will be considered Wednesday.

Florida leads the nation in the number of youths serving life sentences for non-homicide crimes. Resolving the issue is complex because the Legislature abolished parole in 1983. Identical bills have been filed in the Florida House and Senate to establish parole for juveniles who are sentenced to life in prison for non-homicide crimes. However, it would only impact those sentenced in the future.

Even so, Rep. Michael Weinstein, R-Jacksonville, says he doubts the measure he is sponsoring will pass. Having slammed the door on criminals' hopes for early release, many lawmakers don't want to give anyone — even those sentenced as juveniles — the chance for parole, said Weinstein, a Duval County prosecutor.

To make it more palatable, Weinstein is suggesting that teen criminals serve 25 years before they could be considered for parole. Further, they would be required to have exemplary prison records, completed educational courses and taken other steps to prove they could live outside prison walls. Still, Weinstein said, "I would be surprised if it gets done."

A lawyer who has long fought injustice in the criminal justice system told a group of attorneys and judges in West Palm Beach on Friday that Florida's record is disturbing. A staggering 79 percent of the 77 teen criminals in Florida who are serving life sentences for non-homicide crimes are either black or Latino, attorney Bryan Stevenson told members of the F. Malcolm Cunningham Bar Association.

February 19, 2011 at 11:58 AM | Permalink

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Comments

Graham is a joke. States should do their utmost to thwart its reach. The animals that raped that 17 year old woman in Florida should NEVER be let out of jail. Personally, I wouldn't have a problem with death for that sort of crime. If you grab someone off the street at gunpoint, commit rape and robbery, at a minimum, you should never ever be free, and I don't care if you're 15 when you do it. Death, in my view, would be a preferable solution.

Posted by: federalist | Feb 19, 2011 1:22:43 PM

To the previous blogger:
If it was your child you'd care. Children's minds are not fully developed until around 23-25. Yes, they are adults at 18. Truely, you can't set an age. At 16 they can join the minitary, can marry at 18 and can't drink till 21. How messed up our system is? Graham does nothing more than attempt to level the playing field.

About the ruling:
If Florida wants to have the "Toughest-laws-on-Juvinals" in our great nation, that is their right, except that they CANNOT met out those sentences for non-homicide crimes. I would go one step further and say that they cannot also hand out life sentences for those crimes either. ANYONE in florida who attempts to thwart Graham should be required to serve a sentence equal to the sentence of the child's sentnce they just tried to give. We need accountability. That means that those we place in office should be liable for the untoward sentence they attempt to give that is unjustified. Whether, it be too short or too long. The prosecutor and/or judge, yes I said judge, needs to serve the sentence that departys from what is appropriate. There are guidelines abd even some of those are questionable. This is what needs to be fixed and then those that met out justice need to be, clearly informed, that departure from these guidelines could subject them to incarceration, period. SEND out a clear and concise message that their freedom is at stake on departures of the law.

Posted by: DC | Feb 19, 2011 3:47:10 PM

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