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Pam Bondi: Supremes' Ruling on Teen Life Sentences will 'Greatly Impact' Florida

June 25, 2012 - 6:00pm

A U.S. Supreme Court decision to ban mandatory life sentences with no chance of parole for minors who commit murder will greatly impact the states justice system, Attorney General Pam Bondi said Tuesday.

Ive seen firsthand juveniles commit some of the most egregious, gruesome crimes imaginable, Bondi said.

Bondi, a former prosecutor, said her agency is reviewing the ruling Miller v. Alabama that could require about 250 state prisoners to get new sentencing hearings because they were sentenced for life terms for murder committed prior to the age of 18.

Hopefully the right thing will happen and the juveniles who desire to stay in prison for life will stay in prison, Bondi said.

In the courts 5-4 ruling, the sentence of life without parole for juveniles is deemed cruel and unusual punishment."

Justice Elena Kagan writing for the majority, declared that teens are less morally culpable for their actions. As the years go by and neurological development occurs, his deficiencies will be reformed, Kagan wrote.

While the ruling could require a new hearing, judges could uphold the sentences.

Juvenile advocates in Florida have argued that those under 18 have yet to fully mature and shouldnt be bound to adult guidelines.

"It's a landmark decision that was expected based on the previous decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court," Paolo Annino, a Florida State University law professor who specializes in children's legal issues told the Naples Daily News. "We know that kids are different, and therefore they need to be treated differently in the sentencing process."

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing a dissent to the decision, questioned the blanket statement that teens are more open to change than adults.

Perhaps science and policy suggest society should show greater mercy to young killers, giving them greater chance to reform themselves at the risk that they will kill again, Roberts wrote. But that is not our decision to make.

Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 215-9889.

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