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New juvenile sentencing rules prompt more re-sentencing hearings in Florida

Teenage killers in Florida get a new chance at freedom

Some of the juvenile defendants who will qualify for the judicial review in Florida include Michael Hernandez, Eric Ellington, Jason Beckman, Jimmie Bowen, Benito Santiago and Jesus Roman.
Some of the juvenile defendants who will qualify for the judicial review in Florida include Michael Hernandez, Eric Ellington, Jason Beckman, Jimmie Bowen, Benito Santiago and Jesus Roman.

MIAMI-DADE, Fla. – The Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday that juvenile convicts sentenced to more than 25 years in prison now have the right to a judicial review of their sentences.

While considering each individual's capacity for rehabilitation, judges have to determine sentences in accordance with the 2-year-old U.S. Supreme Court decision prohibiting sentences of mandatory life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The U.S. Supreme Court case, Miller v. Alabama, no longer allows a juvenile to be automatically sentenced to life for committing murder. Life sentences are still allowed, but the case mandates an "individualized" sentencing hearing.  Graham v. Florida  held that a juvenile cannot be sentenced to life or a term of years equal to life for a non-homicide crime. 

The question remains, "What term of years will the court consider not equal to life?"

The four Florida Supreme Court decisions released Thursday --  Horsley v. State,  the case of   Falcon v. State, the case of Henry v. State, and Gridine v. State -- change sentencing structure for juvenile defendants who commit both homicide and non-homicide.

In the case of Shimmeka Gridine, who is now 20, the court tossed a 70 year sentence. Gridine will return to Jacksonville to be re-sentenced.

All of the decisions on the new rules for juvenile defendants were unanimous. If a killer is freed, there must be a minimum of five years probation period.

RELEVANT FLORIDA STATUTES: General penalties | Criminal procedure and corrections | Judicial review