LARGO — Convicted cop killer Nicholas Lindsey will return to a Pinellas County courtroom today as his attorneys argue that he should not spend the rest of his life in a prison cell.
That's the sentence the 18-year-old was given last year after being found guilty of killing St. Petersburg Officer David Crawford, whom he shot five times on Feb. 21, 2011.
Earlier this summer, however, a Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court granted a motion for Lindsey, who was 16 at the time of his crime, to be resentenced.
What will happen at the hearing is anyone's guess.
Lindsey's case — and that of other juveniles who were automatically sentenced to life without parole for their crimes — fell into a legal gray area last year when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional in the case of Miller vs. Alabama.
The justices said courts must at least consider the defendant's background and possible alternative punishments.
It remains to be seen how courts in Florida, which only allow either the death penalty or a life sentence for first-degree murderers, will rectify cases like Lindsey's. So far, the Legislature has not passed a law to resolve the issue.
"I know the family would like to see him get life again," said St. Petersburg police Maj. Mike Kovacsev, who keeps in touch with Crawford's wife and daughter.
Officials with the Public Defender's Office, which is representing Lindsey, could not be reached for comment.
Among those included in a witness list filed with the court is a Tampa psychologist.
Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe has said his office will argue for the same sentence. The state filed a nine-page motion Thursday, saying the Supreme Court ruling gives Florida judges more discretion when sentencing juvenile murderers, but it does not mean they have to disregard life sentences altogether.
“Miller does not prohibit a life without parole sentence for a youthful murderer, it merely requires that a court imposing such a sentence has discretion to impose something less," prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memo.
How much less?
Just days ago, a Pasco County judge sentenced a teen murderer to life in prison — but said the boy would get a shot at parole in 25 years. The sentence was likely guided by an August appellate court decision that held that a 1993 statute giving life with parole for juvenile murderers is once again available in Florida.
Crawford's fatal encounter with Lindsey came just a month after two other St. Petersburg police officers lost their lives in the line of duty in 2011.
On that February night, residents in a neighborhood near the edge of downtown reported seeing someone breaking into cars and throwing bricks. Crawford, who worked the midnight shift, spotted Lindsey and stepped out of his cruiser to question him.
The 46-year-old officer didn't even have time to draw his gun before the teen shot him several times with a gun he had bought on the street weeks earlier. Crawford was holding only a note pad when Lindsey shot him.
Several representatives from the Police Department, including Chief Chuck Harmon, are expected to attend the hearing. Crawford's daughter, Amanda, and his former partner, Stu Crisco, also are planning to go, Kovacsev said.
It is unclear if anyone will be able to speak, although that's usually allowed at sentencing hearings.
"It's important for us to be there for his family," Kovacsev said. "It shows unity. It's important we be there."
Kameel Stanley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8643.