TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – A state appeals court has ordered a new sentencing hearing for a man, who at the age of 16, killed his parents in their St. Lucie County home.
The 4th District Court of Appeal upheld two first-degree murder convictions for Jacob Brighton, now 22, who shot his parents in 2007.
But the court ordered a new sentencing hearing for Brighton because his life sentence violated a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court opinion which bars mandatory life sentences without the chance of parole for juveniles convicted of murder.
Juvenile offenders, such as Brighton, can still face life sentences, but judges must weigh criteria such as the offenders’ maturity and the nature of the crimes before imposing that sentence.
“The United States Supreme Court concluded that a trial court is not foreclosed from imposing a life sentence without possibility of parole for a juvenile offender, as long as the trial court takes into account the various factors which demonstrate how juveniles are different, and how these differences counsel against irrevocably sentencing juveniles to a lifetime in prison,” said Wednesday’s appeals-court ruling, written by Judge Spencer Levine and joined by judges Melanie May and Cory Ciklin.
At the trial for shooting his parents, Richard and Penny Brighton, Jacob claimed he had been sexually abused by his father.
The ruling comes as state lawmakers try to pass legislation this spring that would revamp sentencing for juveniles convicted of murders and other serious felonies. The Senate likely will approve a bill Wednesday.
The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.