TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A divided Florida Supreme Court on Thursday upheld simultaneous 1,000-year prison sentences for a man who was convicted of what the court described as “brutally” assaulting women when he was juvenile in 1983.
Arthur O’Derrell Franklin, who was convicted in three Duval County cases of armed kidnapping, kidnapping, armed sexual battery, sexual battery, armed robbery, robbery and aggravated assault, could be eligible for parole in 2352 -- when he would be about 387 years old.
But the Supreme Court ruling Thursday focused heavily on how justices should carry out U.S. Supreme Court decisions in recent years that treat juvenile offenders differently from adults who commit crimes.
A landmark 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision, in a case known as Graham v. Florida, said that life sentences for juveniles who commit non-homicide crimes must be accompanied by “some meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation” before the end of the sentence, according to Thursday’s ruling.
The basic idea behind the Graham decision and a later U.S. Supreme Court decision involving juveniles convicted of murder is that young people differ from adult offenders in maturity levels and stages of brain development.
Attorneys for Franklin, who is now 53, argued that he is entitled to resentencing because of the Graham decision and a later Florida Supreme Court case involving a juvenile who committed murder.
But in a 4-3 decision Thursday, the Florida Supreme Court said Franklin should not receive a new sentence under the Graham decision. In part, it said Florida’s parole process “fulfills Graham’s requirement that juveniles be given a ‘meaningful opportunity’ to be considered for release during their natural life based upon ‘normal parole factors,’ as it includes initial and subsequent parole reviews based upon individualized considerations before the Florida Parole Commission that are subject to judicial review.”
The majority, made up of Chief Justice Charles Canady and justices R. Fred Lewis, Ricky Polston and Alan Lawson, said that “because Franklin’s sentences include eligibility for parole there is no violation” of the requirements in the Graham decision.
But Justice Barbara Pariente, in a dissent joined by justices Peggy Quince and Jorge Labarga, wrote that there was no “indication that the Parole Commission has made the constitutionally required considerations regarding whether Franklin is entitled to release based on maturity and rehabilitation.”
“At the very least, this case should be remanded to the trial court for an evidentiary hearing, where Franklin is represented by counsel, to determine whether the parole process, as applied to his case, provides Franklin the constitutionally required individualized consideration and a meaningful opportunity for release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation,” Pariente wrote.
Franklin received three 1,000-year sentences, though they were "concurrent," meaning they run at the same time. Thursday’s majority opinion gave an overview of his crimes against the three women, though it did not go into extensive details.
“In each case, the female victim testified that Franklin violently attacked her, kidnapped her, drove her to a secluded area and brutally battered, raped, and robbed her while evidencing an extraordinary cruelty and a perverse enjoyment of the suffering he was inflicting. In one case, ‘the physician who performed the sexual assault battery exam testified that the victim suffered the worst injuries the physician had ever observed,’ ” the opinion said, quoting a lower-court opinion in the case.