1. Archive

Protesters rally around teenager sentenced to life withoutparole

The Rev. Al Sharpton led a rally Sunday in support of a 14-year-old boy sentenced to life in prison without parole for the beating death of a 6-year-old family friend.

Sharpton, founder of the National Action Network, was one of several black leaders who spoke at the three-hour rally at Fort Lauderdale's Rev. Samuel Delevoe Memorial Park.

On March 9, Lionel Tate was given life in prison _ the mandatory sentence for first-degree murder _ for the July 1999 slaying of 6-year-old Tiffany Eunick.

"Clearly, we think this is an outrage," Sharpton told the crowd of more than 150 people.

"Charles Manson can go before a parole board, you have mass murders that can go before a parole board. Yet a child that was involved in a situation at 12 years old is told he will never see a parole board. You are dealing with a human rights violation."

Tate, who is serving time at the maximum security Okeechobee Juvenile Offender Center, said he accidentally killed the girl while imitating pro wrestlers. The girl suffered numerous injuries, including a skull fracture and a severed liver.

Sharpton said he was "not excusing any redemption and reformation" Tate may need.

The civil rights leader said he will meet Monday with Tate on a clergy visit to give him encouragement. He will also meet with attorney Johnnie Cochran, who will assist Tate's legal defense team in a push for clemency before Gov. Jeb Bush.

Gov. Bush said last week that he would consider speeding up the clemency process for Tate.

Tate's mother, Kathleen Grossett-Tate, who last spoke with her son on Thursday, said she is focusing on the fight to free her son.

"They had the dream team," Grossett-Tate said, referring to Cochran's defense in the O.J. Simpson trial case. "Now we have the miracle team."

Tate's lawyers would have to persuade Bush and at least three of the six elected Cabinet members to grant clemency and reduce his sentence.

They hope he would get a sentence comparable to the plea deal previously offered by the prosecution: three years in a juvenile center followed by a year of house arrest and 10 years of probation and counseling. The boy's defense attorney rejected the deal.