30-Year Sentence Upheld for Lionel Tate

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A Florida youth infamous as perhaps the youngest person in the U.S. ever to receive a life sentence, before it was subsequently overturned, now appears likely to serve a lengthy prison term after all.

Lionel Tate’s 30-year sentence for violating his probation in the murder case was upheld today by a Florida appeals court, reports the Miami Herald. Tate, now 20, was initially sentenced to a life prison term in 2001, at age 14, for murdering a six-year-old girl two years earlier, when he was 12. Although he was later sentenced to a 10-year term of probation for the same crime, after an appeals court reversed his conviction and he accepted a plea in the convoluted case, it didn’t take him long to get into more trouble.

Tate is now accused of robbing a pizza deliveryman, in a 2005 case that involves a considerable procedural history of its own. The upshot: although Tate is facing an upcoming trial in the armed robbery case, he has been found to be in violation of his probation in the murder case because of the alleged robbery. His 30-year sentence for that probation violation was upheld today.

”This is not a good development, but it’s not the final nail,” says his lawyer, Jim Lewis, of today’s appellate ruling. “We’ll probably have to try the pizza robbery case in front of a jury because he’s not guilty.”

Lewis says he plans to file another appeal of the 30-year sentence, claiming ineffective assistance of counsel by Tate’s former lawyer, who is now deceased, according to the Associated Press.

Details of the ineffective counsel claim are discussed in an earlier post.

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