Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Florida Ignores Supreme Court Decision on Juvenile Lifers

Florida lame-duck governor Charlie Crist has generated national attention for his pledge to seek a pardon, for Jim Morrison, of the rock group the Doors, who died more than 39 years ago. Morrison was arrested in 1969 for indecent exposure during a concert in Miami.

While Crist has given numerous interviews about the Morrison case – saying “my heart bleeds” for Morrison's family – he has ignored the plight of 116 inmates who are serving life sentences without parole for non-homicide conviction they incurred as juveniles.

The governor's failure to act is in contravention of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. ___ (2010). The Court ruled that sentencing a juvenile to life in prison without parole for a non-homicide offense violate the Eighth Amendment ban against cruel and unusual punishment.

Florida has more juveniles serving life without parole for non-homicide offenses than all other states combined. Yet, Governor Crist, the Florida legislature and courts have all but ignored the Supreme Court's decision in Graham. According to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, in several high-profile cases Florida courts are re-sentencing the juveniles to new terms that still amount to life sentences.

Governor Charlie Crist and the state Cabinet are now poised to reject the clemency case of a 15-year-old who received four life sentences for armed robberies in the Tampa Bay area.

At Crist's last Clemency Board meeting, set for December 9th, lawyers will ask state officials to consider the case of Kenneth Young, who is representative of the 116 Florida juveniles who were sentenced to spend the rest of their lives in prison for non-murder crimes, reported the Herald-Tribune.

While Jim Morrison gets the attention of the out-going governor, 116 offenders who have been granted relief by the country's highest court are ignored or worse, are subject to efforts that are intended to thwart the Court's action on behalf of youthful offenders.

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