Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Miller v. Alabama, banned mandatory sentences of life in prison without the possibility of parole for juveniles convicted of murder.
Since the Miller, Florida courts have struggled to apply the ruling — and a Miami-Dade cases may shed some light on some key lingering legal questions, reported the Miami Herald.
Does the Miller ruling apply to past cases? A Miami appeals court, ruling on a South Miami-Dade killer convicted in 2000, doesn’t think so. That decision, which affects at least 180 cases statewide, is likely bound for higher courts.
The nation’s high court in Miller, and a companion case, struck down laws in 28 states that handed out mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole for minors convicted of murders. The ruling, while hailed by civil rights activists, doesn’t mean Florida judges can’t still impose a life sentence for murder. But they now must at least consider a defendant’s age.
The Supreme Court never explicitly said Miller should apply to past convictions for juveniles, according to the Herald.
Florida has at least 180 defendants who could be eligible for new sentences under the Miller case, according to Barry University’s Juvenile Life Without Parole Defense Resource Center. At least 50 in Miami-Dade may be eligible, according to the Miami-Dade Public Defender’s Office. So far, none have been resentenced.
In the case of Drewery Geter, he was 16 when he raped and slit the throat of nurse Helen Barker in front of her young son in 2000.
After the Miller decision, convicted killer Drewery Geter asked Miami-Dade’s Third District Court of Appeals to toss his murder sentence for raping and slitting the throat of nurse Helen Barker in front of her young son when Geter was 16 years old.
But the court in September ruled Geter couldn’t get a new sentence because judges considering youth during sentencing was merely “evolutionary” and a “procedural change.”
The court also ruled that applying Miller retroactively “would undoubtedly open the floodgates” of long-ago convicted killers seeking new sentences, reported the Herald.
The effect: new judges and prosecutors would be unfamiliar with old cases, trial transcripts might have vanished and relatives of the dead would be forced to live through a new set of court hearings, the panel ruled.
To read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/11/12/3094364/state-courts-struggle-with-supreme.html#storylink=cpy