Several high-profile Florida defendants once sent to prison for life may get a chance at early freedom after the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the juvenile killers are entitled to a “judicial review” of their sentences after 25 years, the Miami Herald reports. The decision has immediate consequences for convicts such as Michael Hernandez, who was just 14 when he viciously stabbed a classmate to death at a school in 2004. Hernandez, originally sent to prison for life for the brutal killing, is slated to begin a new sentencing hearing in August.
Under the Supreme Court decision, a court must now sentence Hernandez to at least 40 years in prison. But after 25 years, a judge could decide to “modify” the term if Hernandez has rehabilitated himself. Across Florida, judges have struggled to determine appropriate sentences ever since the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012, outlawed mandatory life prison terms without the chance for parole for minors convicted of murder. The decision, in Miller v. Alabama, left room for life sentences but ordered judges to first hear evidence of a killer’s youth. The case followed another landmark ruling in Graham v. Florida that outright banned life sentences for juveniles in non-homicide cases, saying they amounted to “cruel and unusual” punishment.