Archive | May, 2010

Florida Leads U.S. in Youth Sentences

Posted on 25 May 2010 by The Florida Star Online

   Florida is called “The Sunshine State”.  We have a governor who made one of his first changes:  the ability for former prison inmates to vote.  We have Walter A. McNeil, Secretary and person in charge of the Department of Corrections, and Franchatta Barber, Assistant Secretary, is in charge of the Florida Re-Entry program.  Yet, Florida has the largest number of youth (over 70%) in the United States, serving life or many years of prison terms, all without parole, for crimes committed that did not include murder.  In fact, one report shows that no other prisoner in the United States is serving a life sentence without parole for a juvenile burglary conviction.  The three youth pictured above are from Jacksonville.

  Another concern is race in the State of Florida since only 16 percent of the general population is black.  Yet, almost half of Florida’s prison population is black and 84 percent of juveniles sentenced to life for offenses that did not include murder, are black.

    Shimeek Gridine, 15 was sentenced on the last day of April, 2010 to 70 years in prison, with no chance of parole, even though the Supreme Court determined this week that juveniles can no longer receive a life sentence if they are not accused of murder, without the chance for parole.   Such a sentence, according to the Supreme Court, is unconstitutional.  But Gridine’s case is different.  The Jacksonville judge did not give him a life sentence; he gave him 70 years, which is the longest term to date, in the state, for a youth who has committed a crime in which no one was killed.  At 15 years of age, he will be 85 years old when he is released.  He is not eligible for parole as the state does not allow parole.  He can apply for parole after serving 85% of his sentence, which means he will serve 59 and a half years before he can seek parole, which will make him 74 years of age.

  These youth are placed in a juvenile facility until they reach the age of 18.  At that age, they will be placed with other adults.

  So, what is the reason for a re-entry program for these youth? There is none.  Even though they may regret what they did as children, only those who come under the new Supreme Court’s decision will have the opportunity to prove they can serve and be a part of the community without a problem, and that is not a guarantee. 

  When talking with the attorney for Gridine, he stated that he is seeking a method,  information and materials to give the 15 year old a chance, including help from political personnel and the community since the Supreme Court’s decision did not include him.  The longest term given a youth prior to Gridine, was 40 years, and that too was in Florida.  Gridine’s family is out of money.  How will they be able to seek him a ‘chance.’?

  Terrance Graham, now 23, was implicated in armed robberies when he was 16 and 17 and has been locked up in Florida since.  Gridine did not have a history of crime as his only offense prior to this one was for petty theft.

  No one wants to see crime continue but everyone deserves a chance to change.

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Boy 15, Gets 70 Years for Attempted Murder

Posted on 16 May 2010 by The Florida Star Online


Shimeek Gridine, 15 years old



 Boy 15, Receives 70 Years for Attempted Murder

By:  Clara McLaughlin

Jacksonville, FL. – Shimeek Daquiel Gridine is now 15 years of age.  On Friday, May 15, 2009, he walked into the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office with his grandparents to give himself up for shooting Dana Battles behind a restaurant on Main Street.  Battles received a non-life threatening injury and was released from the hospital on the day of the shooting and attempted robbery.

  Shimeek, who was 14 at the time, and a 12-year-old friend, said they had found a small shot gun nearby, lying underneath a car after leaving the barber shop.  They saw Mr. Battles, according to Battles’ brother, taking out the garbage at the restaurant they thought was owned by him and said, “Give it up.”  Both boys are of small statue.  Mr. Battles is not.  So, according to Battles, Shimeek, standing between 6 and 10 feet away from the victim, shot him and quickly ran away.  However, we were told last year that the boys attempted to struggle with Battles and the gun went off.  When Shimeek turned himself in, he was charged with first degree attempted murder, attempted armed robbery and aggravated battery.  Because of the State Attorney’s new policy which is based on intent, at his first hearing before Juvenile Judge Linda McCallum, Shimeek was ordered held without bond until his arraignment.  At the arraignment, he was charged as an adult, again, because of his intent.  The 12-year-old was charged as a juvenile even though Shimeek claims the robbery was the 12 year olds idea.

  Shimeek’s family said he was basically a good boy who had suffered much during the past year.  He lost two family members about two weeks before his situation with Battles.   His mother lost her job and they moved to Jacksonville to live with his grandparents. According to the family, he had one previous incident with the law which was a petty theft charge.  His family said he had ‘good’ grades in school and they were willing to work with him to get him through his trying times.  From May 28, 2009 to the hearing on April 30, 2010, Shimeek’s family had given their all in trying to get him charged as a juvenile rather than as an adult.  They were comfortable that as a juvenile, he would receive the opportunity to get counseling, continue his education and receive job training after serving a reasonable amount of time for his mistake.  In fact, his attorney said that even other officers of the system felt that he would get a much lesser sentence with a maximum of 25 years since he pleaded guilty to armed robbery.  It was clear that he regretted his mistake, said his grandfather. 

  With an understanding and feeling that the judge would give Shimeek an opportunity to get his life on the right track, the youngster  went before Judge A.C. Soud, formerly of Family Court, without a jury.

  We were told by the family that the judge listened to the information provided as he witnessed that Shimeek had family members from as far away as New York and South Carolina there to support him.  The family members are very well spoken.

   After hearing the information from family, and seeing the support,  Judge Soud said, according to family, “Because you were known to be a good kid, because you have good grades and a good family that loves you, you knew better.  Therefore, for the first charge of Premeditated Attempted Murder, I sentence you to 70 years in prison.  On the second charge of Armed Robbery, I sentence you to 25 years. You will serve the sentences together.  The third charge of Aggravated Battery is being dropped.”  The judge then deducted the 300 plus days he had already served, leaving him around 69 years to finish his sentence.  The court was appalled.

  State Attorney Angela Corey said their policy is to focus on the perpetrator’s plan, not the outcome of the event.  When you pull a trigger that is pointed at someone’s head, you intend to kill.  It was fortunate for Mr. Battle that he did not die.  This crime affected two families.  She said.  She added that it is her wish that shooters would think of their love ones before shooting and perhaps carry a picture of the ones they love in their pockets to look at before pulling a trigger.

  Isaiah Rumlin, president of the Jacksonville NAACP said that they do not condone wrong doing but this is a very harsh sentence for a 15 year old and the NAACP will seek to have changes made.  He said if the judges are trying to send a message to our youth, using this young man as an example, is not the way.  Gridine’s attorney is seeking an appeal.

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