A Miami Gardens teen was just 16 years-old when he and two other teens carjacked and murdered a Miami man and woman at a Mobil station on the corner of NW 57th Avenue and NW 167th Street in Miami Gardens, Florida.
Tried and convicted of first-degree murder, the teen is set to be sentenced today.
Under normal circumstances, a defendant who is 18 or older at the time the offense is committed will receive a mandatory life sentence upon conviction for first-degree murder.
The law in Florida gives judges no discretion when sentencing adults convicted of first-degree murder.
In Florida, life is life. There is no early release or parole.
In 2012, the United States Supreme Court ruled that courts cannot simply sentence juveniles convicted of murder to life without parole without first considering the age of the defendant as a factor in sentencing.
A judges can still impose a life sentence upon a defendant who was under 18 at the time of their offense so long as they consider the fact that the defendant was under 18 at the time of the offense.
In other words, a court cannot automatically sentence a juvenile to life in prison the way that they can with an adult offender.
During the sentencing hearing, the defense will present mitigating evidence to demonstrate to the court that a 16 year-old does not possess the cognitive wherewithal to understand the consequences of their actions.
This is usually done through expert testimony, such as psychologists and other mental health professionals who have interviewed the defendant.
The state will likely put on their own expert who will counter the defense’s claims, asserting that the defendant was able to comprehend right from wrong when he shot and killed the two victims during the carjacking.
This was a particularly heinous crime that attracted a great deal of media attention due to the random nature of this crime. Two people were getting gas at a Miami-Dade County Mobil station when the defendant and his two co-defendants drove up, got out of their car, and committed the crime.
I believe that the judge will impose a life sentence.
Eric Matheny is a Miami criminal attorney and Broward criminal attorney.