TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Reuters) - The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday threw out what amounted to life sentences for four prisoners who had committed their crimes as juveniles, citing U.S. high court rulings that rejected long prison terms for youths.
The seven state justices unanimously ordered new sentencing hearings. In the separate cases, they found the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010 and 2012 had forbidden the state from sentencing juveniles to life without parole.
Florida law was revised last year to comply with the mandate, but the law applied only to laws committed recently. The Thursday ruling applied the legal precedent retroactively.
The decision stemmed from separate appeals by four defendants who had received either lifetime sentences or the equivalent:
Leighdon Henry was 17 when convicted of raping, kidnapping and robbing a woman in the late 2000s.
Anthony Duwayne Horsley Jr. was also 17 when he killed a convenience store owner during a 2006 robbery.
Rebecca Lee Falcon, then 15, assisted her boyfriend in a 1997 robbery that resulted in the death of a cab driver.
Shimeeka Daquiel Gridine was 14 when he shot and wounded a man in an attempted robbery in 2009.
It was not immediately clear whether there were additional Florida prisoners affected by the ruling.
Florida justices cited a 2012 ruling in which the nation’s high court had found that a constitutional prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment prevented states from imposing life without parole for juvenile offenders.
In 2010, the Supreme Court had issued a similar decision, applying to crimes in which victims survive.
Editing by Letitia Stein and Eric Walsh