TALLAHASSEE, Fla., June 6 — Gov.
Jeb Bush refused today to allow an early request for clemency of a
14-year-old boy sentenced to life in prison for beating a 6-year-old
girl to death when he was twelve years old.
Florida law requires convicts to wait two years after sentencing
before appealing to the state clemency board. Mr. Bush refused to waive
the waiting period for the boy, Lionel Tate, who was sentenced on March
9 to a mandatory life sentence after being convicted as an adult of
first- degree murder in the fatal beating of a playmate, Tiffany Eunick.
He is serving his sentence in a juvenile prison.
His lawyers had argued that Lionel, who was 12 when Tiffany died,
accidentally killed her in imitating professional wrestling moves he had
seen on television. But the judge who sentenced him said that her
injuries had been far too severe to be accidental and that Lionel's
actions had been "cold, callous and indescribably cruel."
Governor Bush said today that he was concerned that state law offered
no sentencing alternative for one so young. "But," he said,
"I do not believe that this concern should lead to a hasty judgment
concerning the reduction of Lionel Tate's sentence."
And of reports that the boy had been disciplined for kicking a guard
and for other misbehavior, the governor said, "Lionel Tate's
conduct in custody has not met the standard that should be expected of
successful applicants for clemency."