TAMPA — He held a knife on a 62-year-old day care worker before he raped her. He dragged a teenage girl into a dark field behind a library and changed her life forever.
Today, teenage rapist Kendrick Morris will get his punishment.
As an adult, Morris would have faced life in prison. But he raped at 15 and 16, and the U.S. Supreme Court made a ruling last year for juveniles like him, those who committed crimes in which nobody died:
They must get a "meaningful opportunity" for release.
Life without parole is "cruel and unusual."
Hillsborough Circuit Judge Chet A. Tharpe must consider his math — a too-high sentence could be rejected on appeal.
Prosecutors want a judge to impose a 60-year sentence in each rape, given consecutively to add up to 120. They argue the ruling doesn't restrict judges from sentencing back-to-back for multiple crimes.
"A lengthy prison sentence in each case cannot undo the damage that has been done to these victims," prosecutors Rita Peters and Michael Sinacore wrote in a sentencing memorandum filed in court, "but it will provide a small measure of justice."
Public defenders Rocky Brancato and Maria Pavlidis want a term less than 45 years, the amount of time their statistics estimate that Morris, as an African-American male, has left to live.
They say the judge can't discount the possibility that Morris might be rehabilitated.
And they ask him to consider aspects of Morris' childhood — the abuse he endured, violence he witnessed, his mother's absence.
Prosecutors will detail the damage done to the young woman raped behind the Bloomingdale library, once an ambitious high school senior, now someone trapped in a body with a damaged brain.
Those who knew her then, and now, will speak on her behalf.
And Morris will have to listen.
Check Tampabay.com for updates, and follow a live feed on Twitter, at twitter.com/tampabaycom. Alexandra Zayas can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3354.