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Case Name Atwell v. State of Florida CJ-FL-0006
Docket / Court SC14-193 ( State Court )
State/Territory Florida
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Case Summary
This case is an appeal to the Florida Supreme Court of Angelo Atwell's sentence to life in prison without parole for a murder he committed when he was 16 years old. Represented by the Florida Public Defender's Office, defendant appealed his sentence to the Florida Supreme Court after the decision ... read more >
This case is an appeal to the Florida Supreme Court of Angelo Atwell's sentence to life in prison without parole for a murder he committed when he was 16 years old. Represented by the Florida Public Defender's Office, defendant appealed his sentence to the Florida Supreme Court after the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Miller v. Alabama, decided in 2012, which held that the Eighth Amendment prohibits life in prison without parole for juvenile offenders.

In 1992, Atwell was convicted of first degree murder and armed robbery, for which he was sentenced to a mandatory sentence for life in prison. In February 2013, he moved for postconviction relief under Miller, arguing that his life sentence was cruel and unusual punishment. The trial court denied his motion, holding that he was technically eligible for parole. The Fourth Judicial Circuit denied his appeal, holding that Miller only applied to mandatory sentences of life in prison without parole. Miller then appealed to the Florida Supreme Court.

On September 16, 2014, the Florida Supreme Court accepted jurisdiction and invited briefing on Miller's claims. Atwell filed his initial brief on the merits on November 13, 2014 and the State of Florida replied on February 11, 2015, with a reply brief from Atwell on March 9, 2015. Various supplemental and amicus curiae briefs were submitted over the course of 2015. In addition, while Atwell's case was pending in June 2015, the Commission on Offender Review set a presumptive parole release date of December 27, 2130 for Atwell, with a new interview date for reevaluation in February 2022.

On May 26, 2016, the Florida Supreme Court overturned Atwell's sentence, holding that his sentence effectively constituted a life sentence without parole and therefore violated the U.S. Supreme Court's holding in Miller. The Court concluded that Florida's sentencing guidelines did not provide for the individualized considerations for juvenile sentencing required by Miller. In a footnote, the Court also noted that his mandatory life sentence for armed robbery was almost certainly unconstitutional under the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Graham v. Florida, which held that mandatory sentences for non-homicide felonies violated the Eighth Amendment, and that Atwell could raise the issue on re-sentencing.

The Court remanded the case for re-sentencing, where the sentencing court could impose a sentence of 40 years to life imprisonment, taking into account "youth-related" sentencing factors. The Court also indicated that his sentence had to be reevaluated by a trial judge in 25 years. According to the Miami Herald, approximately 300 juvenile murderers in Florida could receive new sentences due to this decision.

On August 23, 2016, the State of Florida's motion for rehearing was denied and on October 13, 2016, the Fourth Judicial Circuit remanded Atwell for re-sentencing.

Craig Streit - 02/08/2017


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
General
Juveniles
Parole grant/revocation
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action State law
Defendant(s) State of Florida
Plaintiff Description Petitioner was convicted of first degree murder at the age of 16 and is seeking a new sentence pursuant to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Miller v. Alabama.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Overturned sentence and remand for new sentence
Source of Relief Litigation
Case Closing Year 2016
Case Ongoing No
Docket(s)
SC14-193 (State Supreme Court)
CJ-FL-0006-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/20/2016
Source: State Court Website
General Documents
Petitioner's Initial Brief on the Merits
CJ-FL-0006-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/13/2014
Source: State Court Website
Respondent's Brief on the Merits
CJ-FL-0006-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/11/2015
Source: State Court Website
Petitioner's Reply Brief
CJ-FL-0006-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/09/2015
Source: State Court Website
Opinion (197 So.3d 1040)
CJ-FL-0006-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 05/26/2016
Source: State Court Website
Order (2016 WL 4440673 / 2016 Fla.LEXIS 1848)
CJ-FL-0006-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 08/23/2016
Source: State Court Website
Judges Pariente, Barbara J. (State Supreme Court)
CJ-FL-0006-0004 | CJ-FL-0006-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bettendorf, Heidi L (Florida)
CJ-FL-0006-0002 | CJ-FL-0006-9000
Bondi, Pamela Jo (Florida)
CJ-FL-0006-0002 | CJ-FL-0006-9000
Terenzio, Consiglia (Florida)
CJ-FL-0006-0002 | CJ-FL-0006-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Haughwout, Carey (Florida)
CJ-FL-0006-0001 | CJ-FL-0006-0003 | CJ-FL-0006-9000
Petillo, Paul E (Florida)
CJ-FL-0006-0001 | CJ-FL-0006-0003 | CJ-FL-0006-9000

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