Skip to main content

I remember when this first happened. I felt sad for all of the parties involved and just wanted to cry whenever I thought about it. I'm so happy that this case is being looked at again. I just felt like this boy was too young to be sentenced to life in prison (he was 12 at the time of the crime).

See below:
Court Tosses 'Wrestling Death' Conviction

By JILL BARTON, Associated Press Writer

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - An appeals court Wednesday threw out a boy's conviction for beating a 6-year-old playmate to death in a case that focused attention on a Florida law that says child murderers must be locked away for the rest of their lives.

"¢ Tate v. Florida(Fla. District Court of Appeal)



The 4th District Court of Appeal ordered a new trial for Lionel Tate, 16, saying his mental competency should have been evaluated before his trial. He was tried as an adult and is serving life without parole at a maximum-security juvenile prison.


"Questions regarding Tate's competency were not lurking subtly in the background, but were readily apparent, as his immaturity and developmental delays were very much at the heart of the defense," Judge Barry J. Stone wrote.


Tate's lawyers argued that Tate, then 12, was imitating the pro wrestling moves he saw on television and did not mean to kill Tiffany Eunick. The 48-pound girl was punched, kicked and stomped to death by Tate, who weighed 170 pounds.


The case has raised questions about a controversial Florida law that requires children convicted of first-degree murder to get life in prison without parole. Florida has been widely criticized for using the law to lock up children.


Tate's age at the time of the killing made him the youngest defendant in Florida to get a life-without-parole sentence under the law.


"I feel like somebody lifted a 200-pound weight off my head. It's just a beautiful thing, and I hope now that Lionel's going to have a chance at a life," said Jim Lewis, Tate's lawyer at his trial.


Broward County prosecutors said only that they are reviewing the ruling to determine whether to hold a new trial. Tate will remain behind bars in the meantime.


The boy and his mother had insisted he was innocent and turned down a plea bargain before the trial that would have given him a three-year sentence. If he had accepted the deal, he could have been out of prison 10 months ago.


Lewis said he hopes prosecutors offer a similar plea bargain and allow Tate to be released.


Defense attorney Richard Rosenbaum had argued before the appeals court that Tate was too immature to understand what was at stake during the trial.


The appeals court said at a minimum, the trial judge had an obligation to ensure that Tate understood the plea offer and the possibility of a life sentence if he rejected it. The three-judge panel noted that Tate had "significant mental delays" and a below-average IQ of about 90.


At his trial, Tate's lawyers argued that the boy thought he could body-slam people and they would walk away unhurt, just like his wrestling idols on television.


"I don't think Lionel intended to kill this little girl. I don't think Lionel intended to hurt this little girl," Lewis said. "This is not somebody who goes to school with a gun and tried to kill somebody. This is an innocent 12-year-old boy who played too rough."


The appeals court judges did not challenge the law that allowed Tate to get life without parole.


"Florida courts have long recognized that there is no absolute right requiring children to be treated in a special system for juvenile offenders," Stone wrote.


When the judges heard the appeal in September, however, they repeatedly questioned the law, which allows any person, regardless of age, to be prosecuted as an adult.





"There's no discretion exercised at all in this "” no societal judgment," Judge Martha C. Warner said. "Age is not a consideration."

Judge Fred A. Hazouri asked then what is to stop prosecutors from charging a 6-year-old with murder if the child gets angry at a Little League game, picks up a bat and kills a teammate. "At what point do we say as a society that that is just too young?" Hazouri said.

Assistant Attorney General Debra Rescigno would not answer what would be a reasonable age cutoff. She said Tate's life sentence was deserved because he horrifically beat the girl for more than five minutes.

Alarmed by a sharp rise in juvenile crime, Florida changed its laws during the late 1980s and 1990s to make it easier to try youths as adults and subject them to the same penalties. Florida leads the world in prosecuting juveniles as adults, according to the Juvenile Law Center.

As of March, Florida had 121 inmates serving life sentences for crimes such as murder, sexual battery and armed robbery that were committed when they were 15 or younger.

Tiffany suffered a fractured skull, lacerated liver, broken rib, internal bleeding and cuts and bruises.

The boy told police that picked her up and accidentally hit her head against a table.

But the defense's own experts conceded that Tate's story would not have accounted for all of Tiffany's injuries, which one prosecution expert said were comparable to a fall from a three-story building.
Original Post

Replies sorted oldest to newest

This case is a tragedy. A boy has been locked up for four years when _jail_, IMO, was not the answer. The case also brings up very disturbing issues of racial bias in the Florida legal system when this boy goes to prison for life and the two young white brothers who essentially admit to killing their father - are free.


There is no passion to be found playing small, in settling for a life
that is less than the one you are capable of living. - Mandela
quote:
Originally posted by MBM:
This case is a tragedy. A boy has been locked up for four years when _jail_, IMO, was not the answer. The case also brings up very disturbing issues of racial bias in the Florida legal system when this boy goes to prison for life and the two young white brothers who essentially admit to killing their father - are free.




So true.... The legal system is bias in Florida.
I remember this case also. I think that it is tragic anytime a child is tried as an adult. It is all political and has very little to do with justice, by using America's expendibles (blacks, other minorities, poor whites, children) to make it appear as if they (politicians/prosecutors/judges) are "tough on crime."

I must say, however, that in this particular case, this boy had a very stupid mother. I think that 3 years was more than fair sentence for the crime that he had commited considering that he was twelve years old and he had killed a 6-year old child. Also, I do not buy that he did not know that he was hurting her or could have hurt her unless he is also severly retarded. It is my opinion that by the time you are 12 years old (actually long before), you know if you are hurting someone or if a certain action will hurt or could hurt a human being. Besides, this boy was huge for a twelve year old, he was not a puny little weaklin. And another thing, I saw his mother on a talk show and she had bearly showed any remorse for what he had did; she showed more anger at the thought his even being charged with murder/killing the child. Her attitude was disgusting. I have often wondered where she was when all this was going on and why she was not charged with some form of negligence/etc.
Thank God this injustice has been corrected.

Here is my take on this case from November 15,2002.

What you have here is a clear case of injustice. I thought about these cases as well when I read the two young boys who killed there dad got 7 and 8 years in jail. What was even more interesting is that when the young brother who killed the young sister doing wrestling moves was on trial all the experts were on TV saying how he should get life in jail and so on. When these two young white boys were on trial they were saying just the opposite and of course providing excuses for the killers. What we must realize when we and those who look like us are in front of a judge and prosecutor who look nothing like us is that they can not identify with us, but when they see these two little white boys they see their sons, their nephews and sometime themselves. We can not say the judge and prosecutor that agreed to give these young white boys seven and eight years are racist but we can say the impact of such a decision is racist. Intent does not have to be present for the impact of an action to meet the criteria of racism. We should not be surprised at this case or the many more like it that will follow.

I am happy this brother will receive a new trial.... upfro

-------------------------
"We got to organize ourselves, We got to mobilize and there can't be no confusion in our collective solution, If not for ourselves, then for our kids, because we know who our enemy is!"

DPZ "for the hood"

More to come later!

Your Brother Faheem
quote:
Originally posted by sunnubian:
I remember this case also. I think that it is tragic anytime a child is tried as an adult. It is all political and has very little to do with justice, by using America's expendibles (blacks, other minorities, poor whites, children) to make it appear as if they (politicians/prosecutors/judges) are "tough on crime."

I must say, however, that in this particular case, this boy had a very stupid mother. I think that 3 years was more than fair sentence for the crime that he had commited considering that he was twelve years old and he had killed a 6-year old child. Also, I do not buy that he did not know that he was hurting her or could have hurt her unless he is also severly retarded. It is my opinion that by the time you are 12 years old (actually long before), you know if you are hurting someone or if a certain action will hurt or could hurt a human being. Besides, this boy was huge for a twelve year old, he was not a puny little weaklin. And another thing, I saw his mother on a talk show and she had bearly showed any remorse for what he had did; she showed more anger at the thought his even being charged with murder/killing the child. Her attitude was disgusting. I have often wondered where she was when all this was going on and why she was not charged with some form of negligence/etc.


I feel bad that this child had to suffer because of the decision his mother made. This is the same woman that I believe claimed to have been home, upstairs and sound asleep when all of this happened. She said she didn't hear anything.....

If the boy is really mentally challenged, he may not have fully known what he was doing even though it's hard to comprehend.

I feel bad for the girl that was killed. I think the mother could have prevented it, especially if she knew her child had a mental problem.
I have always felt that this trial and verdict were a bit unfair to the young man. I also feel that the victim's mother was satisfied that he was convicted, but I don't think that she ever agreed with the sentence. I didn't get that feeling from her. I'd like to say of course the boy is not mentally deficient, but was just very immature like many 12 year old boys. I kind of think that it is an insult to label him as mentally deficient. It's more like he was very immature and he did something that was not appropriate due to his age.
I'm glad they are giving him another shorter sentence.

Add Reply

Post
×
×
×
×
Link copied to your clipboard.
×