Two weeks ago, I wrote an article about a 15 and 16-year-old. These teenagers were arrested after leading police on a high-speed chase through Putman, Clay, and St. Johns County (See Juveniles Arrested in Clay County After Fleeing From Police). They were suspects in the shooting death of a convenience store clerk in St. Augustine FL. A week prior to writing that article, I wrote another article about the Florida law used to direct file a juvenile case to adult court. Today, the St. Johns County State Attorney’s office announced that the 15-year-old that is accused of shooting the store clerk would be charged as an adult. Sergio Morgan-Wideman is only 15-years-old, but he will face several charges in St. Johns County, including one count for the murder of Malav Desai. Action News of Jacksonville reported the story:
“Police charged two teens in connection with the crime: Sergio Morgan-Wideman, 15, and Andre Jerome Robinson Jr., 16. The State Attorney’s Office said a grand jury indicted Morgan-Wideman, and he will be charged as an adult. Morgan-Wideman faces a count of first-degree murder and a count of armed robbery with a firearm, and two counts of aggravated assault with a firearm. Morgan-Wideman, who is considered the shooter in the case, faces life in prison if convicted. The investigation continues into Robinson Jr. in connection with the case.”
The Jacksonville news article stated that Morgan-Wideman “faces life in prison.” I wanted to clarify this. Although Morgan-Wideman will be charged as an adult, he will not be automatically sentenced to life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder. This is different from adult sentencing. An automatic life sentence is considered cruel and unusual punishment when it comes to juveniles and would violate the 8th Amendment of the United States Constitution. In Miller v. Alabama, the United States Supreme Court banned mandatory life sentences for juveniles. The Florida Supreme Court has recently ruled on the issue of juvenile life sentences:
“The State Supreme Court unanimously ruled…. that all of Florida’s juvenile killers who received automatic sentences of life in prison must be resentenced under a law passed in 2014. The long-awaited ruling answers the question of whether the United States Supreme Court’s 2012 decision in Miller v. Alabama, which effectively banned automatic life sentences for juvenile killers.” (NY Times)
“(1)(a) Except as provided in paragraph (b), a person who has been convicted of a capital felony shall be punished by death if the proceeding held to determine sentence according to the procedure set forth in s. 921.141 results in findings by the court that such person shall be punished by death, otherwise such person shall be punished by life imprisonment and shall be ineligible for parole.
(b)1. A person who actually killed, intended to kill, or attempted to kill the victim and who is convicted under s. 782.04 of a capital felony, or an offense that was reclassified as a capital felony, which was committed before the person attained 18 years of age shall be punished by a term of imprisonment for life if, after a sentencing hearing conducted by the court in accordance with s. 921.1401, the court finds that life imprisonment is an appropriate sentence. If the court finds that life imprisonment is not an appropriate sentence, such person shall be punished by a term of imprisonment of at least 40 years. A person sentenced pursuant to this subparagraph is entitled to a review of his or her sentence in accordance with s. 921.1402(2)(a).”