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Lionel Tate

mug shot of Tate
Born 30 January 1987 (1987-01-30) (age 23)
Broward County, Florida, United States
Conviction(s) Second degree murder, parole violation and armed robbery
Penalty Life imprisonment
Status Incarcerated in Florida

Lionel Alexander Tate (born January 30, 1987)[1] is the youngest American citizen ever sentenced to life imprisonment without possibility of parole. In 2001, when Tate was 14, he was convicted of first-degree murder for the 1999 battering death of 6-year-old Tiffany Eunick in Broward County, Florida.


The murder 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-11-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.[2] 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."[3] 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."[4]

The sentence and the controversy

The sentence was controversial because Tate was 12 years old at the time of the death, and his victim was 6. He was the youngest person 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 charged 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.

Probation violation

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 that 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 Sheriff's Office said.

Tate threatened 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. On October 24, 2007, Florida's 4th District Court of Appeal upheld that sentence.[5]

On February 19, 2008, Tate plead no contest to the pizza robbery and was sentenced to 10 years. The sentence will run concurrently with his 30 year sentence for violating his probation.[1]

See also


  1. ^ Inmate Population Information Detail
  2. ^ Abby Goodnough, "Youngster Given Life Term For Killing Gets New Trial," The New York Times, December 11, 2003
  3. ^ Dana Canedy, "Boy Convicted of Murder in Wrestling Death," The New York Times, January 5, 2001
  4. ^ Dana Canedy, " Sentence of Life Without Parole For Boy, 13, in Murder of Girl, 6 ," The New York Times, March 10, 2001
  5. ^ Court upholds sentence for Tate

External links



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