Sunday, April 22, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: New guidelines needed for juvenile offenders

By failing to revise state law, the Florida Legislature has put trial courts in a bind over the sentencing of juveniles. New restrictions on punishments for minors convicted of serious crimes have been established by recent U.S. Supreme Court opinions. But since the Legislature failed to adjust state law, the courts are left, as Pinellas-Pasco Chief Circuit Judge Thomas McGrady says, to shoot "in the dark." That dereliction of duty is bad for the courts and creates unnecessary pain for both convicted minors and the families of their victims.

State courts are on their own to decide what to do with cases like that of Nicholas Lindsey, who was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for shooting and killing St. Petersburg police Officer David Crawford in 2011. Lindsey was 16 years old when Crawford stopped to question him about a burglary and the young man opened fire because he didn't want to go to jail. But Lindsey's mandatory sentence for first-degree murder is no longer valid. In Miller vs. Alabama, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that a life sentence for a juvenile offender can only be imposed if their youth and other circumstances are taken into account.

For heinous homicides, life imprisonment is still a valid option, but in light of a young person's lack of maturity and capacity for change, the Supreme Court ended mandatory life sentences. Those considerations are similar to the ones that led the court in a 2010 case from Jacksonville to find that a juvenile offender could not be given life without the possibility of parole for non-homicides. And in 2005, the court barred the death penalty for minors convicted of murder.

These fair-minded changes recognize that young people are different from adults. Their developing brain means teens are typically less likely to recognize the consequences of their actions or control their impulses. Unlike adults, children may be subject to a dysfunctional or violent home environment they cannot escape.

Florida courts are bound by the U.S. Supreme Court rulings. Measures in the state House and Senate that would have provided new guidance in cases like Lindsey's and the state's other 221 Miller inmates failed to be considered by the full chambers. The bills, SB 1350 and HB 7137, directed judges to evaluate a series of factors relative to youth and level of participation in the crime when sentencing a minor convicted of murder. A judge could then impose a life sentence or alternatively a sentence of no less than 50 years — an unduly harsh minimum sentence. The measures also put a 50-year upper limit on sentences for non-homicide juvenile offenders.

By failing to do its job, the Legislature has opened the door to trial judges imposing widely disparate sentences for similar crimes and made the criminal justice system less uniform and more unfair. Minors such as Lindsey who are convicted of murder should be punished, but neither the criminals nor their victims should be left with such uncertainty about what comes next.

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Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

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Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

A bipartisan Senate bill clarifying that only the attorney general or a high-ranking designee could remove a special prosecutor would send an important message amid President Donald Trump’s attacks on the investigation into Russia’s inter...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18