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.