Appeals court rejects teen's life sentence

Then-16-year-old convicted of killing 49-year-old in $3 robbery

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Florida Department of Corrections booking photo of Thomas Partlow

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Florida First District Court of Appeals has thrown out the sentence of life in prison for a Jacksonville man who was 16 at the time he stabbed to death a 49-year-old man in 2010 in a random crime.

Thomas Partlow, now 19, and two other teens robbed Grady Williamson of $3 they wanted for gas money, and Partlow stabbed him in the chest, killing him. The other teens pleaded guilty and got 25- and 30-year prison terms. Partlow opted for trial and was convicted.

The ruling to throw out the life sentence was based on the recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that struck down life in prison sentences for juveniles as unconstitutional.

The First District Court of Appeals did not offer any guidance as to what sentence Partlow should receive, but pointed out there are potentially hundreds of similar cases that will be sent back for resentencing. The appeals court said that as a result, either the Florida Supreme Court or the Legislature needs to address the situation.

Florida's law that governs the sentencing of juveniles convicted of first-degree murder is no longer valid. As was argued in the case of Cristian Fernandez, who was 12 when he was arrested on a charge of first-degree murder in the death of his 2-year-old half brother, prosecutors are suggesting the state revert back to the law as it was in 1993 before it was changed.

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