Lionel Alexander Tate (born January 30, 1987) was convicted of first-degree murder for battering a 6-year-old playmate, Tiffany Eunick, to death on July 28, 1999, a crime for which he was sentenced to life imprisonment without chance of parole on March 9, 2001
The crime and conviction
Tate was left alone with Eunick, who was being babysat by Tate's mother, Kathleen Grossett-Tate, while she took a nap upstairs. Tate's defense argued that the then 12-year-old, 166 pound boy was playing with the 6-year-old, 46 pound girl, and had accidentally killed her while showing her professional wrestling moves he said he had seen on television.
Tate was convicted of killing Eunick by stomping on her so forcefully that her liver lacerated. Her other injuries included a fractured skull, fractured rib and swollen brain. These injuries were characterized by the prosecution as "similar to those she would have sustained by falling from a three-story building." In sentencing Tate to life imprisonment, Judge Joel T. Lazarus of Broward County Circuit Court said that "The acts of Lionel Tate were not the playful acts of a child The acts of Lionel Tate were cold, callous and indescribably cruel."
The sentence and the controversy
The sentence was controversial because Tate was 12 years old at the time and his victim was 6. He had been the youngest child in modern US history to be sentenced to life imprisonment, bringing broad criticism on the treatment of juvenile offenders in the justice system of the State of Florida.
Tate's mother, a Florida Highway Patrol trooper, had turned down a plea bargain arrangement which would have allowed Tate to serve a three-year term for second-degree murder and insisted on going to trial in hopes of an acquittal.
Original sentence overturned
After the conviction, the prosecution openly joined Tate's plea for leniency in sentencing, and even offered to help in his appeal. The trial judge criticized the prosecution for compromising the integrity of the adversarial system, and said that if the prosecution felt that life imprisonment were not warranted, they should not have overcharged him with murder in the first place.
In January 2004, a state appeals court overturned his conviction on the basis that his mental competency had not been evaluated before trial. This opened the way for Tate to accept the same plea deal he originally turned down, and he was released on one year's house arrest and 10 years' probation.
On September 3, 2004, Tate was detained and held in prison for violating the terms of his house arrest when he was found out of his house and carrying a four-inch knife. On October 29, the Associated Press reported that Tate was placed on zero tolerance probation, for an additional five years.
On November 30, Tate was allowed to return to the home of his mother, Kathleen Grossett-Tate. The family he had been staying with asked he be removed because frequent visits by state probation officers were too stressful.
Armed robbery arrest and subsequent plea bargain
On May 23, 2005, Tate was charged with armed burglary with battery, armed robbery and violation of probation, the Broward County, Florida, Sheriff's Office said.
Tate greeted Domino's Pizza deliveryman Walter Ernest Gallardo with a handgun outside a friend's apartment after phoning in an order. Gallardo dropped the four pizzas and fled the scene. Tate then re-entered the apartment, assaulting the occupant who did not want Tate inside.
Gallardo called 9-1-1 upon reaching the Domino's store and returned to identify Tate, the sheriff's office said in a statement. No gun was recovered.
On March 1, 2006, Tate accepted a plea bargain and was to be sentenced to 10-30 years imprisonment in a sentencing hearing in April 2006. Tate admitted that he had violated probation by possessing a gun during the May 23 robbery that netted four pizzas worth $33.60, but he has refused to answer questions about where he got and later disposed of the gun. He was allowed to withdraw his guilty plea for robbery, but was finally sentenced to 30 years in prison on May 18, 2006 on the gun possession charge.
When I first head about this case back in 1999 I couldnt believe that 14 yr old boy could actually be sentenced to life in prison. I was very upset and thought that the sentence was imposed because of the offenders race. I believe that a life sentence for a 14 yr old of any race is a bit much.
On the other hand examine this boys actions after the first incident. I honestly believe thathe would have killed again. There was no mention of counseling after the first incident. Here's my question.
Did he actions after the first crime change your opinion on the sentence? Should he have been counselled or should they have looked him up for life? I believe that he was a ticking time bomb waiting to blow.
Alos its interesting that his mom was a highway patrol officer. Its almost like an ACS worker abusing their own kids.