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  Posted on: Thursday, July 5, 2012
Florida Bill Planned on Sentences for Juveniles
Florida's criminal justice system is scrambling to close what could be a massive gap between judicial discretion and the state's mandatory minimum sentence laws in cases involving juveniles in the wake of a recent court decision. In two cases, Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Arkansas, the U.S. Supreme Court last week said laws in 28 states - including Florida - that require mandatory life sentences for juveniles convicted of homicide were unconstitutional. That opens up a can of worms, said state Rep. Mike Weinstein (R-Jacksonville) and a prosecutor. "The (Florida) judges are in a box because if they sentence the way our statutes require them to, the Supreme Court has said that's unconstitutional. If they sentence the way the Supreme Court wants them to, it violates the statutes," he said. Weinstein said he will sponsor legislation next year to try to allow judicial discretion for juvenile killers, but acknowledged it might be hard to pass. The court ruling still allows judges to give juvenile murderers life sentences without parole. But they must now consider a juvenile's age and the nature of the crime before deciding on such a sentence. That means it can't just be given automatically. In Florida, however, murders involving guns require a minimum life term.
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