Wednesday, May 23, 2018
News Roundup

Some inmates given long sentences as teens would be eligible for release in 15 years under proposed bill

TALLAHASSEE — Kendrick Morris was 16 when he brutally raped and beat a teenager outside the Bloomingdale Regional Public Library.

Last year, he was sentenced to 65 years in prison.

Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico, invoked his case Wednesday before grudgingly voting for SB 212, which would give perpetrators of non-homicidal crimes the opportunity for a re-sentence or parole after 15 years.

Inmates like Morris should never go free, she argued.

"Just because we practice forgiveness doesn't mean you don't have to suffer the consequences of your own choices," she said, adding that the Bloomingdale rape victim is permanently paralyzed. "This sweet baby that has been shattered ... how can I face this sweet baby if her perpetrator walks free?"

In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a Florida case that juveniles who didn't commit murder can't be sentenced to life in prison. Last year, a state court said in some cases, really long sentences are the "functional equivalent of a life sentence."

The case in question was Graham v. Florida, in which 16-year-old Terrance Jamar Graham of Jacksonville was an accomplice in an armed robbery and then violated his plea agreement in another armed robbery six months later.

The Florida court left it to the Legislature to determine the conditions and length of time under which inmates given very long sentences as teenagers would be eligible for the possibility of release.

Under SB 212, inmates would only be eligible for release if they had good behavior, expressed remorse and met other requirements. The feelings of the victim or next-of-kin may also be considered, Sen. Steve Oelrich, R-Gainesville, said.

Despite unanimously passing the bill, senators in the Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee voiced concerns the measure goes too far in some cases and not far enough in others.

Minority Leader Nan Rich, D-Weston, argued it's too harsh to make juvenile offenders wait 25 years, as stated in the original bill, before an opportunity for release. She pointed to cases in which people are sentenced far too long for crimes in which they are merely the "door watcher" or the "money grabber" and the committee complied with her suggestion to amend the bill to allow hearings after 15 years.

Storms, on the other hand, threatened not to pass the bill if it didn't incorporate a tiered system that would keep sexual criminals in prison.

About 110 inmates would be affected if the bill passes, said state attorney Earl Moreland.

Oelrich, who sponsored the bill, said the change "is only a start" in figuring out how to deal with inmates whose sentences were suddenly illegal after the Florida Supreme Court decision.

As a former police officer, Oelrich said, he believes in the power of people to change and wants to see opportunity for redemption.

"I've been involved in prison ministry for many years. There are people in there who have a revelation or spiritual change in their lives where they're not the same person," he said. "The idea that a person at the age of 16 could commit a crime and be irredeemable for the rest of their lives seems somewhat draconian to me."

The bill has one more stop in the Senate and its House companion is ready for the floor.

Correction: Ronda Storms is a Republican state senator. An earlier version of this story was incorrect.

Comments
CareerSource Pinellas bought a science center. Now the bill is due.

CareerSource Pinellas bought a science center. Now the bill is due.

In 2014, Tampa Bay jobs chief Edward Peachey sought to save the failing Science Center of Pinellas County. He asked a small panel of CareerSource Pinellas board members to let him acquire the educational center for $100. The Science Center, he said...
Updated: 5 minutes ago
Commandos to unleash fury in downtown Tampa, but it’s just a demonstration (w/video)

Commandos to unleash fury in downtown Tampa, but it’s just a demonstration (w/video)

TAMPA — Machines of war will unleash their fury in downtown Tampa on Wednesday afternoon, but it’s just a demonstration.Special operations forces from around the world are scheduled to stage a mock confrontation of good guys versus bad guys from 1:30...
Updated: 13 minutes ago
Termite damage poses a threat as hurricane season approaches, study says

Termite damage poses a threat as hurricane season approaches, study says

The start of hurricane season is just days away, and Florida residents might want to add one more thing to their preparation list: a termite inspection.Termite damage in houses and trees can leave homes vulnerable to suffering even more damage during...
Updated: 25 minutes ago
Comcast may outbid Disney for Twenty-First Century Fox

Comcast may outbid Disney for Twenty-First Century Fox

Associated PressPHILADELPHIA — Comcast may make an offer for Twenty-First Century Fox, potentially putting it in a head-to-head bidding war with Disney. Comcast Corp. on Wednesday did not provide specific details on a bid, other than to say that it w...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Dade City honors deputy killed 15 years ago

Dade City honors deputy killed 15 years ago

DADE CITY — Fifteen years after the slaying of Pasco Sheriff’s Capt. Charles "Bo" Harrison brought shock and sadness to the community that loved him, emotions still run high as more honors come his way.Pasco County is preparing to honor Harrison’s me...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Gasparilla Bowl moving from Tropicana Field to Raymond James Stadium

Gasparilla Bowl moving from Tropicana Field to Raymond James Stadium

After a decade at Tropicana Field, the Gasparilla Bowl is moving across the bay to Raymond James Stadium, bowl officials announced Wednesday morning.The move begins this year, with RJS set to host ESPN's game at 8 p.m. on Dec. 20. The stadium's other...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Twitter agrees: This plaque looks nothing like Brandi Chastain

Twitter agrees: This plaque looks nothing like Brandi Chastain

A bronze plaque meant to honor U.S. soccer great Brandi Chastain is said to look more like actor Gary Busey or Biff from Back to the Future than it does the World Cup winner and Olympic athlete.In a ceremony hosted Monday at the Westin St. Francis Ho...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Trash fees to appear on tax bills in the Spring Hill mandatory zone

Trash fees to appear on tax bills in the Spring Hill mandatory zone

BROOKSVILLE — County commissioners knew what they were in for.Inundated with emails and phone calls before Tuesday’s meeting, and facing an unhappy crowd of customers from the county’s garbage hauler Republic Services, county officials tried to get a...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Brunch-based alcohol will be available at First Watch’s new Orlando location

Brunch-based alcohol will be available at First Watch’s new Orlando location

ORLANDO — The popular breakfast and brunch chain First Watch will be opening a new restaurant in Orlando that will add cocktails, beer and wine to the menu. The new concept restaurant, set to open on Memorial Day at 1448 N Alafaya Trail, will be 1,00...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Ridgewood High faithful recall ‘Pride of Pasco’ as school forges a new path

Ridgewood High faithful recall ‘Pride of Pasco’ as school forges a new path

NEW PORT RICHEY — The line snaked through the hallways and into the cafeteria, as the Ridgewood High faithful waited for their chance to secure a piece of the school’s 40-year history.They came by the hundreds — current and former students, staff and...
Updated: 1 hour ago