For many the case of Lionel Tate is an unfamiliar tale.
In Fort Lauderdale, Florida Lionel Tate was sentenced to life in prison. Tate was charged with the murder of his playmate, but blamed violent wresting videos, and television programming for accidental death.
Tate’s case made headlines because at 12, he was the youngest person in the United States to be sentenced to life in prison without parole for the killing of 6-year-old playmate Tiffany Eunick . Tate pleaded that the murder was accidental but the victim suffered a fractured skull, lacerated liver and at least 35 other injuries. Although Tate was sentenced to life in Prison, the court system continues allowing the troubled youth a number of second chances.
In January Tate went free, after winning a new appeal trial, and was given the compromise that he would have to be under court supervision for 11 years. By September Tate had already violated his supervised probation. In October, Tate once again violated his probation and the judge added five more years to his probationary sentence.
His mother Kathleen Grossett- Tate testified on Tate’s behalf, swearing that she wouldn’t allow Tate to violate parol, and the courts believed her. Tate now lives at home with his mother in Fort Lauderdale as he serves supervised probation, with no more jail time.
Corinne Rideau a sophomore radio, television film major believes that Lionel Tate is getting off too easy. " The evidence shows that, he beat the child to death. Because he violated his parole he should have to go to jail. It just isn’t fair. I don’t understand why the system is letting this one slip through the cracks, if it had been any other black male, they would’ve kept him locked up," said Rideau.
The idea that they let Tate go because he didn’t fully understand what had happened is one theory, but some argue that his continued probation violation does not justify the fact that an innocent life was taken and blamed on the media.
Mikal Ankrah, a junior mechanical engineering major, believes the court’s conscience is playing a role. "They’ve locked up so many good men for dumb stuff, they finally see that maybe they shouldn’t lock them all up. They should let the ones go that still have a chance to make a difference. They’re just cutting the brother a little slack."
Many are blaming the problem on Florida’s law system. Tate’s plea follows several years of debate over a Florida law that requires children convicted of first-degree murder to get life in prison without parole. Yet in Tate’s case the law wasn’t fully upheld. A Florida lawmaker has filed legislation that would allow children under 16 the eligibility of parole if they had not been previously convicted of violent crimes.