A juvenile convicted of first-degree murder in the stabbing death of a middle school classmate was given a mandatory life sentence back in 2008.
However, a recent U.S. Supreme Court case held that juveniles cannot be given a mandatory life sentence, even in first-degree murder cases.
In Florida, any person 18 or older convicted of first-degree murder receives a mandatory life sentence.
Today, the 3rd District Court of Appeal (DCA) - the appellate court that deals with all cases originating out of Miami-Dade County - held that the mandatory life sentence of a boy who was 14 at the time he murdered a classmate at a Miami-Dade middle school must be overturned and remanded for re-sentencing.
The Circuit Court (trial court) will have to consider the defendant's age and how that can factor into poor decision-making. Essentially, a the trial court must take into account how a child is different from an adult and what role, if any, that difference should play in imposing a sentence.
The court is still free to sentence a defendant to life in prison for murder. However, they are no longer required by law to do so if the defendant was a juvenile at the time of the offense.
Eric Matheny is a criminal defense attorney serving Miami-Dade and Broward.