Last week, the Florida Supreme Court decided Kelsey v. State, the latest case to guarantee juvenile defendants serving long prison terms a chance at a new sentence. To understand the opinion, some background on juvenile resentencing in Florida is required. In the landmark decision of Graham v. Florida, the United States Supreme Court held that Florida's practice of giving juvenile offenders life sentences for non-homicide crimes violated the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.
Many people accept violence between prisoners as an every-day facet of life for incarcerated individuals. Some even argue that such violence should be tolerated as part of the punishment for committing a crime. While these issues often remain unaddressed by policy-makers and prison officials, the Eighth Amendment provides recourse for certain individuals who have been the victim of violence at the hands of another inmate. An Eighth Amendment claim for failing to protect an inmate from violence is difficult to bring. However, a recent decision, Lane v. Philbin shows that these causes of action remain viable in the Eleventh Circuit. The Lane case reversed a lower court which had granted a prisoner's motion to dismiss.
Earlier this week, the First District Court of Appeal denied a juvenile offender's request for the court to remand his 45 year term for a non-homicide crime for resentencing, which he contended violated the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The case, Kelsey v. State, involved a defendant whose sentence had already been lowered once as a result of conflicts with the Eighth Amendment. Kelsey initially received two life sentences after he was convicted for Aggravated Robbery, Aggravated Burglary, and two counts of Sexual Battery. However, while his case was on appeal, the United States Supreme Court decided Graham v. Florida, which held that a life sentence for a non-homicide juvenile offender, without possibility of parole, violated the Eighth Amendment.