High Court Decision May Reduce Florida Killers' Sentences

Tuesday, 26 Jun 2012 12:37 PM

By Andra Varin

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Hundreds of convicted murders in Florida could get reduced sentences because they were under 18 when they killed, thanks to a new ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The high court on Monday struck down laws in 28 states that require mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole for juveniles convicted of homicide.

Under the ruling, judges can still sentence a juvenile killer to life behind bars, according to the Miami Herald. But now, the judge must take into account the defendant’s age, meaning that hundreds of convicted killers could have the opportunity to argue for new sentencing hearings and reduced terms.

Most of the 28 states will be able to keep life sentences already imposed on juvenile killers, but will have to grant them the possibility of parole. Florida, however, abolished parole in 1983.

Civil rights activists hailed the high court decision.

“Kids are different. They are very impulsive. They follow other people. They don’t have a full understanding of the consequences of what they’re doing,” Miami-Dade Assistant Public Defender Stephen Harper told the Herald.

He said some 225 convicted killers in Florida could get new sentences based on the Supreme Court ruling.

The Florida Attorney General’s Office, which will have to handle the appeals, expressed dismay.

“We’re disappointed that the Court has disallowed mandatory life imprisonment for juveniles who commit heinous murders,” spokeswoman Jennifer Meale said.








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