By: Jamie Mathis, Editor-in-Chief, J.D. Candidate, May 2019, St. Thomas University School of Law

In Florida, and other states across the country, hundreds of juvenile murderers are getting a second chance at having a life outside of prison. These are juveniles who were convicted and sentenced to life in prison decades ago, but because of the Florida Supreme Court’s decisions in Falcon v. State, their sentences must be reconsidered by a trial judge. Because Falcon mandates that the factors set out in the 2012 United States Supreme Court decision, Miller v. Alabama, apply retroactively to these juveniles who were mandatorily sentenced to life decades ago, Florida judges must consider and apply these factors when conducting the re-sentencing hearings and any future juvenile sentencing hearings. Upon initial sentencing, judges are now required to weigh a non-exhaustive, ten-factor list when considering whether a life imprisonment is appropriate for a juvenile. However, during a sentence modification, if a juvenile defendant is entitled to this review, the judge must also consider any factor it deems appropriate, including a required nine-factor list. These factors give a judge discretion to analyze each juvenile defendant individually instead of having their hands bound by mandatory life sentences for this particular offense in decades-past.

This Comment addresses the point that although the Miller-mandated factors are necessary to ensure juveniles are sentenced fairly and within the constitutional confines of justice, they are not proportionate. This Comment argues that because there are far more factors considering the juvenile defendant’s rights compared to the victim’s family and the tragedy that this particular juvenile caused, these factors should be re-considered and weighed in proportion to the actual weight they carry in each specific case. Allowing juveniles who have committed murders to have
an opportunity for early release may appear to be justice for the juveniles and their families or advocates, but this idea of justice will not be equally reflected on the victim’s families who were affected by these juvenile’s actions.