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June 15, 2010

Despite Graham ruling, Florida prosecutors have violent teen on path to LWOP sentence

This local article from Florida, which is headlined "Teen faces adult charge, contrary to high-court ruling," reports on an interesting case stuggling to deal with the aftermath of the Supreme Court's landmark Eighth Amendment ruling last month in Graham. Here are the interesting details:

Prosecutors have decided to try 16-year-old Henry "Peanut" Baker as an adult in the shooting of a Sanford police officer two weeks ago.

That puts him in the cross-hairs of a dispute about what to do with violent juveniles.  If convicted, Baker faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

But two weeks before his arrest, the U.S. Supreme Court barred that sentence for anyone under 18 who had not committed murder. Ordering a child who was not a murderer to prison with no possibility of release is cruel and therefore unconstitutional, the court ruled.

So what will happen to Baker, who will be charged with attempted murder of a law officer, a crime that carries a sentence that no judge legally can impose?  That is unclear....

Authorities said Baker wounded the young cop during a foot chase.  The suspect disappeared around the corner of an apartment building, and when Worrall rounded the corner, the gunman opened fire from 10 to 12 feet away, the officer said.

The suspect fired three times. Worrall was unscathed after the first two shots, but the third slug hit him under the right arm, above his bullet-proof vest.  He fell to the ground bleeding, and the gunman looked down and pulled the trigger a fourth time, Worrall told reporters last week. That bullet also missed, and the gunman fled, Worrall said....

Chris White, chief assistant state attorney in Seminole County, said Tuesday that his office would prosecute Baker as an adult.  That's because the crime was serious and violent, White said. Baker's prior criminal record also pushed prosecutors toward that decision, White said.

Because Baker is a juvenile, much of his criminal record is a secret, but he's to stand trial in Sanford next week, accused of committing a schoolyard robbery.  In March, according to a Sanford police report, he stole the wallet of a student at Seminole High School and punched him.  Baker has been arrested at least three other times, according to records with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and was found guilty in three Ocoee burglaries in 2008.

Bryan Gowdy is the Jacksonville lawyer who convinced the U.S. Supreme Court to vote 6-3 to outlaw life-without-parole sentences for non-murdering juveniles . He said it appears there's only one solution for the Baker case: The Florida Legislature must rewrite the law which he is accused of violating: attempted murder of a law enforcement officer.  That's because the law provides for just one sentence — life without the possibility of parole.

The Legislature also should review and rewrite some if not all of Florida's other laws that allow judges to impose life-without-parole sentences.  "The Legislature should act to bring Florida's sentencing laws into conformity with common sense, the (U.S. Supreme) court's opinion and standards of decency," Gowdy said.  "If they don't act, they're going to tie a judge's hands."

June 15, 2010 at 09:44 PM | Permalink


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The States started this country, and are senior to the Federal government. The federal government should do as it is told by the states, not the other way around. There is the Supremacy Clause, to which the States agreed. There is the Civil War that enforced it. There is Army Airborne that is the sole source of legitimacy for fatuous, garbage, self-dealing rulings by Legal Realists on the Supreme Court.

Nevertheless, states should feel free to ignore Supreme Court rulings when they have no basis in law, logic, or empirical validation.

The "standard of decency" is most often a procedure, one that generates, maintains, and secures more lawyer jobs. That is the best correlate for this synonym of arbitrary judge personal preference.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 16, 2010 6:43:40 AM

"So what will happen to Baker, who will be charged with attempted murder of a law officer, a crime that carries a sentence that no judge legally can impose?"

The article isn't clear as to why Baker can't just be charged with plain vanilla attempted murder.

Posted by: . | Jun 16, 2010 8:09:52 AM

I agree with to the above and they could add, assault, battery, jaywalking, trespass, evading arrest, disturbing the peace, unlawful possession of a firearm...

Posted by: Jardinero1 | Jun 16, 2010 10:01:07 AM

true BUT as of right now the u.s supeme court has said it's illegal to sentece anyone under 10 with LWOP for anything LESS than murder. Therefore if the state's want it's citizens to recognize the supreme court when it is persecuting them in other areas i would suggest that any DA dumb enough to carry this out and any judge to approve it be arrested and tried to treason in federal court.

Posted by: rodsmith3510 | Jun 17, 2010 12:24:03 AM

lord you'd think i was drunk last night.

Posted by: rodsmith3510 | Jun 17, 2010 5:38:53 PM

he will probably get something close to life, like 70 years

Posted by: milos bejda | Jun 18, 2010 2:12:43 PM

what a terrible situation

Posted by: coreen jansen | Jul 22, 2010 7:05:13 PM

i was acctually incarcerated with henry in the seminole county jail truthfully he is not a bad person i think it was just a case of wrong place at the wrong time. i am a juvenile and i was tried as an adult thats why i was on his pod. the kid has completely changed his outlook on life at this point he just reads the bible and tries to bide his time until he is sentenced i pray to god that he is found not guilty

Posted by: connor | Oct 5, 2010 11:49:13 AM

This article touched my heart,hope the author will bring us a better articles.

Posted by: Supra Skate | Oct 30, 2010 5:32:32 AM

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