It appears that young Floridian Lionel Tate will accept a prosecutors’ offer to plead guilty to murder in exchange for a sentence that would free him next month, the Miami Herald reports. “I don’t see any major problem,” said Henry Hunter, a Tallahassee lawyer who would take over Tate’s defense in the unlikely event the case goes to trial again. Hunter plans to meet next week with key members of Tate’s defense team, including famed defense lawyer Johnnie Cochran and Kathleen Grossett-Tate, Tate’s mother. Grossett-Tate continues to have problems with what Hunter calls procedural issues in the plea offer.
Tate, now 16, was 12 when he beat 6-year-old Tiffany Eunick to death. Eunick’s mother has said she wants to complete the deal and to return the focus of the case to her deceased daughter. Tate was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison, but a new trial was ordered by an appeals court because of questions about how well he understood the legal system. Before his trial, Tate turned down a deal that would have given him three years in juvenile detention followed by house arrest and probation.
Former prosecutor Ken Padowitz, who has represented Eunick’s mother, objects to Grossett-Tate’s “brazen attempt to once again interfere in a decision that is not hers to make.” When Eunick died, he said, “Kathleen Grossett-Tate was upstairs, allegedly sleeping with her door closed, when she should have been downstairs supervising Lionel and Tiffany….she has no moral authority and certainly no legal authority to interfere with Lionel Tate accepting this plea offer.”