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District Court of Appeal of Florida, First District.

ALFRED E. HAWKINS, Appellant, v. STATE OF FLORIDA, Appellee.

CASE NO. 1D16-1120

Decided: April 28, 2017

Valarie Linnen, Atlantic Beach, for Appellant. Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, and Sharon S. Traxler, Assistant Attorney General, Tallahassee, for Appellee.

After a jury trial, Appellant was convicted of first degree murder with a firearm, armed robbery with a firearm, and tampering with physical evidence following the death of Alex Blas. Appellant challenges the trial court's denial of his motion for judgment of acquittal as to all three counts, but applying a de novo standard of review, we find the evidence was legally sufficient. See Durousseau v. State, 55 So. 3d 543 (Fla. 2010).

Appellant, who was seventeen at the time the crimes were committed, also challenges his life sentences for the murder and robbery convictions as violating the Florida and federal constitutions' prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. See Art. I, § 17, Fla. Const.; Amend. VIII, U.S. Const. The trial court conducted an individualized sentencing and considered the factors under section 921.1401, Florida Statutes, which was added to address the prohibition set forth in Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), of a mandatory life sentence for any crime committed by a juvenile. Appellant was also provided with a review hearing to occur 25 years after the sentence pursuant to section 921.1402, Florida Statutes. Appellant's life sentence for the homicide offense is therefore constitutional and in compliance with Florida law.

As to the life sentence for robbery, it must be reversed. In Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010), the United States Supreme Court held that a life sentence for a juvenile who did not commit a homicide offense was unconstitutional as cruel and unusual punishment. For a time after Graham, there was a split of authority among the district courts of Florida as to whether the prohibition in Graham of a life sentence for a nonhomicide offense, which would be otherwise punishable by life, applied when a juvenile also committed a homicide in the same criminal episode. This court took the position that Graham prohibited a life sentence for a nonhomicide offense even when a juvenile committed a homicide in the same criminal episode. See Jackson v. State, 187 So. 3d 853 (Fla. 1st DCA 2013). The Florida Supreme Court agreed and stated, “Graham's categorical rule leaves no room for the homicide-case exception.” Lawton v. State, 181 So. 3d 452, 453 (Fla. 2015). The Court in Lawton went on to state, “the ban on sentencing juveniles to life without parole for nonhomicide offenses is, indeed, unqualified.” Id.

Based on the above, the convictions for counts I, II, and III, and the sentences for counts I and III are AFFIRMED. However, Appellant's life sentence for count II, armed robbery with a firearm, committed when he was seventeen, is REVERSED and REMANDED for resentencing.