Lionel Tate may face a life sentence again?
This troubled youth is back in the news. Tate age 18 was convicted of murdering a 12 year old girl in 1999. At the time of the killing Lionel Tate was 12 and he got nationwide publicity. Especially after he was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.
Eventually Tate's conviction was overturned and he was re-sentenced to time served and 10 years probation. At the time I felt this was the best solution. A life sentence I thought was extreme.
Tate is back in the news because he tried to holdup a pizza delivery man at gunpoint. That was last May. Now Tate goes back before a Broward County judge. Gun posession alone is grounds for revocation of Tate's probation and that would mean he returns to jail to serve a life sentence.
What a mess this young man has made of his life. Many people make excuses for Tate, but I'm not buying them. Everyone has a sob story, me included. Tate's troubles are self-inflicted and he was given a second chance. Society needs to be kept safe from those who will kill or threaten to kill others. Tate has proved he will do both and won't learn from first offense. He needs to go back to jail, justice demands it.
Open Post- Right Wing Nation, Bright & Early,
FORT LAUDERDALE -- Lionel Tate killed a young girl when he was 12, was convicted of her murder at 13 and got a fresh start when he was released at age 16. Now, Tate faces a possible return to prison for life for allegedly robbing a delivery man at gunpoint of four pizzas worth $33.60.
Tate, now 18, was once the youngest person in the United States to receive a life prison sentence in a case that made international headlines and sparked intense debate about how serious child offenders should be handled.
Tate has been on probation since reaching a plea deal after that initial conviction and sentence were overturned on appeal.
Gun possession is enough to revoke probation and send Tate back to prison. And the judge hearing the case set to begin Monday, Broward County Circuit Judge Joel T. Lazarus, can put Tate back behind bars whether or not he is actually convicted of the new allegations.
"We're in an uphill battle," said Tate's attorney, H. Dohn Williams. "The state has only to put on evidence to satisfy the conscience of the court that there was a violation. You don't have to prove that a crime was committed."
To many juvenile justice experts, Tate is a high-profile embodiment of a justice system that has difficulty dealing with children who commit serious crimes. Rather than seeking to rehabilitate them, Florida and dozens of other states have laws permitting them to be tried and punished as adults.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International reported in an analysis released in October that at least 2,225 people are serving life sentences without parole for crimes they committed under age 18. Six of them were 13 when their crimes were committed; none were 12 as Tate was.
"We don't seem capable of recognizing that our traditional approach to crime and justice often fails with adolescents," said Jeffrey A. Butts, a research fellow at the University of Chicago's Chapin Hall Center for Children. "Prison by itself doesn't do a lot to change behavior or improve someone's chances of success."
Tate killed 6-year-old Tiffany Eunick, a neighbor his mother was baby-sitting, on July 28, 1999. His lawyers initially claimed Tate had accidentally killed the girl while imitating wrestling moves he saw on television; experts said the girl died of skull fractures and a lacerated liver in a severe beating that lasted one to five minutes.
He was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison in 2001. In early 2004, an appeals court tossed out the conviction and sentence after finding that it was not clear whether Tate understood what was happening to him.
He was sentenced to time served and 10 years' probation after pleading guilty to second-degree murder.
Given this rare second chance, some of Tate's supporters sought to remove him from the Pembroke Park neighborhood where he lived with his mother, Florida Highway Patrol trooper Kathleen Grossett-Tate, but she wanted him with her. Grossett-Tate has refused repeated requests for an interview.
Tate's former attorney, Jim Lewis, said Tate returned as a notorious teenager under close watch by police, with a mother raising him alone who had full-time job and served in the U.S. Army Reserves.
"Here's a kid who really needed some strong direction and guidance, and maybe didn't get it," Lewis said.
An early ominous sign was Tate's arrest in September 2004, when he was caught by police outside at 2 a.m. carrying a knife with a 4-inch blade. Judge Lazarus opted not to sent Tate back to prison then, but did add five years' probation and announced he would have "zero tolerance" for future violations.
A few months later, there were signs that Tate might get his life together. He was attending culinary school and was given court approval in February 2005 to purchase and carry knives for those courses.