Retired Florida judge J. Rogers Padgett says he mistakenly sentenced Kenneth Young to a life prison term without parole eight years ago in an armed robbery case, reports the St. Petersburg Times. Young was 14 when he helped a 25-year-old crack dealer pull armed robberies of hotels. Young is the poster child for law Prof. Paolo Annino of Florida State University, who with students have crafted a proposal that could help Young and about 300 more Florida inmates who got life or hefty sentences when they were kids.
Called the Second Chance Act for Children in Prison of 2009, the bill says those who were 15 or younger and sentenced to at least 10 years in prison without parole should be considered for release if they’ve committed no other crime, shown remorse, stayed out of trouble in prison and participated in educational programs. In Young’s case, Judge Padgett knew that a change in the ’90s meant that a life sentence for first-degree murder and sexual battery truly meant life. He said he thought it was for capital crimes only; he didn’t realize it applied when he sentenced Young to life for armed robbery. “I didn’t know he was stuck,” the judge said. “I thought corrections officials had the latitude to look at his record down the road and let him out if he did well in prison, which is how it should be.”