Big Win in Florida for Juveniles Serving Life

     TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CN) – Though the juvenile committed a murder in the same criminal episode as nonhomicide transgressions, it was unconstitutional to impose a life sentence on the latter crimes, the Florida Supreme Court ruled.
     The decision comes five years since the U.S. Supreme Court threw out life sentences for juveniles convicted of nonhomicide offenses with the decision Graham v. Florida.
     Florida’s 2nd, 3rd and 4th District Courts of Appeal have read Graham, however, as creating a homicide-case exception to this categorical rule, meaning that judges can sentence juveniles to life without parole for a nonhomicide offense if the juvenile also committed a homicide in the same criminal episode.
     In the case at hand, the 3rd District found that Torrence Lawton deserved a life sentence without parole for armed robbery and attempted murder, crimes he committed as a juvenile, because Lawton also committed a homicide in the same criminal episode.
     The Florida Supreme Court reversed last week, finding “that Graham‘s categorical rule leaves no room for the homicide-case exception.”
     Florida is one of several states undergoing a transformation in the courts to redefine sentencing laws for juveniles.
     Three years ago, Miller v. Alabama made it unconstitutional for courts to impose mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole for juvenile murderers.Mi
     And just last month, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the unconstitutionality of the life sentences applies retroactively to the juvenile offenders.
     Lawton will be resentenced for his conviction for attempted first-degree murder with a firearm and arm robbery with a firearm in conformance with the new legislation.
     The unsigned April 9 ruling concludes with a note of disapproval for the 2nd District’s decisions in two other cases, and the 4th District’s decision in another case, “to the extent those decisions recognize a homicide-case exception to Graham.”

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