Some Fla. Juveniles Face Virtual Life Sentences Despite Supreme Court Ruling

A May U.S. Supreme Court ruling that buoyed juvenile justice advocates isn’t having much of an impact in Florida, even though at least 116 inmates qualify for sentencing relief under the decision.

The Supreme Court held in Graham v. Florida that a sentence of life in prison without parole is cruel and unusual punishment for juveniles who have not been charged with murder. But six months after the ruling, not a single juvenile facing such a sentence has found much relief, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports.

Instead, Florida courts in several cases have resentenced the juveniles to terms that still amount to life sentences, the story says. One youth who committed a series of robberies and rapes at the age of 13 was resentenced to 65 years in prison, to be served after a 27-year sentence for a separate crime. Another youth represented himself in court and received a new sentence of 90 years in consecutive terms for raping and robbing a woman at the age of 17.

The Florida lawyer who successfully argued the Supreme Court case, Bryan Gowdy of Jacksonville, told the Herald-Tribune that the Supreme Court decision required a “meaningful opportunity” for release. “But I don’t think anybody can reasonably argue that a 65-year or 50-year sentence provides that, especially if we’re just going to put the juvenile in an adult institution where no (rehabilitation) programs are made available for him or her,” he said.



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