Senator Proposes Change to Sentencing of Juveniles

How young is too young to be sent to prison for the rest of your life? Lionel Tate was convicted of murder at the age of 13 and handed a mandatory life sentence.

A Florida lawmaker said Wednesday he doesn't want what happened to Lionel Tate to happen again. At 13 years old, Lionel Tate became the youngest person ever in Florida to be sentenced to life in prison without parole. An appeals court threw out that sentence, and now Florida Sen. Steven Geller says it's about time Florida law changed too.

"When you're talking about children who may still believe in the tooth fairy, dragons and magic, it's inappropriate, in my opinion, to say these people will spend life in prison without the possibility of parole," says Sen. Steven Geller, (D) Hallendale Beach, FL.

Geller is proposing that any killer or criminal under the age of 15 who has no prior felony record be sent to a youthful offender prison and be given the opportunity for parole after eight years.

"They can still be sentenced to life in prison as adults, but we will eliminate the minimum mandatories," says Geller.

"Every time we get the system working, somebody wants to fix it. It's crazy," says Meggs.

While we were interviewing top prosecutor Willie Meggs, Florida's attorney general buzzed in to talk about this very issue, Meggs says, “If it ain't broke, don't fix it.”

"We're not sending 12 and 13 year olds to prison for life very often and there are all kinds of options available to folks to avoid that, so we're trying to solve a problem that doesn't exist," says Meggs.

Geller's bill is one of several bills expected to be filed in the upcoming session to address Florida's number one ranking for trying teens as adults.