Court Reconsidering Case of 12 Year-Old Sentenced to Life Imprisonment

September 03, 2003

Lionel Tate was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the 1999 killing of a 6-year-old girl when he was 12. We speak with Under Our Wings founder Bishop Thomas Masters.

A Florida appeals court is reconsidering the case of Lionel Tate. Tate was sentenced two years ago to life in prison without the possibility of parole for killing a 6-year-old girl when he was just 12 years old.

Judges are questioning whether some juveniles are too young to be sentenced to life without parole. Tate’s lawyers are saying that he was too immature to understand what he was doing. They argued he accidentally killed the girl in 1999 while imitating wrestling moves he had seen on television. But a state prosecutor said the life sentence was justified because of the brutal way the girl was killed.

A judge asked what would keep prosecutors from charging a 6-year-old with murder if the child got angry at a Little League game, picked up a bat and killed a teammate.

  • Bishop Thomas Masters, founder of Under Our Wings a grassroots coalition fighting against the juvenile death penalty.