A U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down laws requiring automatic life sentences without parole for juvenile killers is presenting some difficult legal issues for Florida judges, including the 1st District Court of Appeal(1st DCA) splitting over how to apply the decision to a Jacksonville case. The 1st DCA unanimously upheld Thomas Partlow’s murder conviction but ordered a new sentencing hearing. Partlow was 16 years old when he fatally stabbed a man after robbing him of $3 three years ago. By a 2-1 vote, though, the panel declined to offer the trial judge any guidance.
The U.S. Supreme Court last year in a pair of cases from Alabama and Arkansas decided that mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles constitute cruel and unusual punishment and, thus, are unconstitutional. The Judges in this case say all judges considering these particular cases must consider age and other factors when sentencing juvenile convicted of murder crimes.
Most states, including Florida, required life without parole for certain types of murder if juvenile defendants were prosecuted as adults. This decision could shake hundreds of Florida cases, particularly Jacksonville juvenile cases, if the decision is determined to be retroactive.
The Appellate courts, when returning or “remanding” a decision to a lower court, typically the trial level, have the option of advising the lower court as to legal issues. In this case, the 1st DCA’s majority thought it a better course for the court to exercise restraint and for the parties to make their case before the trial judge. In other words, the 1st DCA was attempting to keep from encroaching on the trial court’s ability to decide. However, some defendants are subject to those Judges who do want to bare down their personal thoughts.
In the Partlow case, a district judge dissented on the issue of advising the trial judge. The district judge agreed with the state’s argument that teenage killers should be eligible for parole after serving at least 25 years of their life sentences because that’s what Florida law said before it was changed to eliminate parole in 1994. Furthermore, other judges on the case concurred, saying that the Florida legislature foolishly relied on parole as an alternative to prison.
From what one can gather from above, the Courts differ in opinion from Judge to Judge. This can be a scary reality for a potential defendant, who most likely does not know anyone in the legal system or how the process works. One charged with something like this should obtain an experienced Jacksonville juvenile crimes defense attorney who could offer testimony and present evidence, which is not allowed in appellate cases, as well as make legal arguments, so one’s problems could be solved and never have to go to the higher courts.
Adolescents are unfortunately involved in violent acts every day. Not every one of those individuals were intending to kill anyone and are just teenagers making bad decisions. One in a situation like this should obtain an experienced Jacksonville juvenile crimes defense attorney to fight the case and ensure one’s rights and defenses are known and protected.
The Forbess Law Firm has been aiding clients who face criminal charges in Jacksonville for years and are here to provide aggressive criminal defense to anyone accused of a crime. If you or a loved one require a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer, contact our firm today. We are available through our website or by calling us at 904-634-0900.
Additional Source: Florida courts facing juvenile sentencing issues, Bill Kaczor, Bradenton Herald