A young teen who stomped and kicked a playmate to death is expected to walk out of jail this week, nearly three years after getting a life prison term.
Supporters say Lionel Tate recognizes the reversal of his first-degree murder conviction will be his only second chance. Tate will be on probation for ten years, and another mistake would bring anything but leniency.
Tate is nearly 18 and will go before Palm Beach Circuit Judge Joel Lazarus twice this week to make the final arrangements for his release. Lazarus oversaw Tate's criminal trial two years ago and repeatedly rejected requests to throw out or reduce the tough sentence for a crime Tate committed when he was only 12.
At the sentencing, Lazarus called the murder of six-year-old Tiffany Eunick "cold, callous and indescribably cruel." Tate's attorneys insisted he meant the girl no harm and said he was imitating pro wrestling moves he saw on television.
His conviction set off a worldwide uproar about Florida's harsh treatment of juveniles. An appeals court threw out the sentence last month, when judges ruled he should have been evaluated to make sure he understood what was at stake at his trial.