Florida Supreme Court opens the door for new hearings for juvenile killers
The Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday that juvenile killers serving lengthy sentences tantamount to life in prison must have their cases reconsidered by a judge, even if they are eligible for parole.
The opinion could dramatically expand the number of juvenile offenders who must be resentenced, granting a second chance for release to potentially hundreds of people who committed murder in their youth. It's unclear how broadly the decision would be applied to juveniles serving similar sentences
The ruling was 4 to 3 with the majority decision written by Justice Barbara J. Pariente.
The case centered on Angelo Atwell, who was 16 years old in August of 1990 when he was charged with armed robbery and murder. At the time, the death penalty was still permissible for underage defendants - it has since been declared unconstitutional - but a jury recommended a life sentence for the teenager by a vote of 7 to 5.
Atwell was given the only sentence available at the time for murder: life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years.
But that did not mean the state had any intention of releasing him.