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April 8, 2013

Florida still trying to figure out its Miller fix

As reported in this local article, headlined "Lawmakers differ on how to fix juvenile sentencing laws," Florida is still not yet sure how it will change its laws to comply with the Supreme Court's ruling last year in Miller.   Here are the basics:

[W]ith the 2013 legislative session at its midpoint, it’s unclear if legislation will be passed fixing the problem. It’s also unclear if the legislation will allow judges to sentence minors to lesser sentences, or if some form of parole will return to Florida for the first time in a generation.

“It is something that needs to be fixed,” said state Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, who has introduced one of the several bills that would amend Florida’s sentencing laws. “But there doesn’t seem to be much will to get anything done.”...

Florida law now mandates anyone convicted of first-degree murder gets life in prison without the possibility of parole, if they are not sentenced to death. There are no exceptions for people younger than 18....

State Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, has introduced a bill that would allow judges to sentence minors to less than life in prison. It requires any minor convicted of first-degree murder to go through a sentencing hearing where both sides would argue what the sentence should be.

Issues like a defendant’s background, remorse, education and family history could be introduced for a judge to consider. The family of the victim would also be allowed to testify. Parole was eliminated for anyone convicted after 1994, and Bradley’s bill still prohibits it.

“I am not comfortable with a hearing occurring every five years or so where a family shows up and argues about why the defendant who killed their loved one should stay in jail,” he said. “A parole-like system is not in the best interests of Florida.”

Soto’s bill does the opposite. Life sentences are still required, but juvenile defendants will be up for parole 15 to 25 years after the sentencing occurred. “I do think they need to go to jail for a long time,” Soto said. “But children that age do deserve an opportunity to get out.”

When they’re up for parole, whether they’ve educated themselves in prison and what their family life was like beforehand will be considered, Soto said. Soto’s legislation also permits parole for juveniles who get life sentences for lesser offenses like second-degree murder. Those people would be up for parole after 15 years while first-degree murderers would have to wait 25 years.

J.D. Moorehead, a professor at Florida Coastal School of Law, said Bradley’s legislation would likely survive a court challenge because it addresses the major concern the Supreme Court had. Soto’s plan to bring back the parole system might be more problematic, although it does make a certain amount of sense to bring back parole for juveniles, Moorehead said.

The most logical step might be to take a hybrid of both bills, give judges the option of life without parole but allow them to impose a lighter sentence, and also let judges decide whether the defendant should be eligible for parole at some point, Moorehead said. “Judges know the people in front of them best,” he said.

April 8, 2013 at 07:23 AM | Permalink


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I don't see what the need is for a "BIG FIX" the USSC has said it's now illegal to lock up a kid for life. PERIOD!

End of story. Any law now on the books that requires that is DONE. Anyone in charge of keeping up with laws needs to get out the black magic marker and get busy. it's GONE!

If the individual states are too stupid to pass a new law then guess anyone kid now get's to walk till they get off thair ass.

As for those in prison now. Time to relase them via parole!

Posted by: rodsmith | Apr 9, 2013 11:34:37 PM

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