The Supreme Court Has Given Rapist Dewayne Pinacle a Second Chance
Last November, we wrote about Dewayne Pinacle, one of the 77 juveniles in Florida serving a life term in prison for a crime other than murder. His crimes, we wrote, "make the case that some young defendants deserve a life behind bars."
So what happens to Pinacle now that the Supreme Court ruled last week that giving a juvenile a life term without parole for a non-homicide is "cruel and unusual" punishment?
We called Albert Morris, whose family was torn apart by Pinacle's crimes, and Sheila Hopkins, a advocate against life terms for young prisoners at Florida Catholic Conference, to get their takes on the Court's decision.
For years, Morris thought he'd moved past that Sunday morning in 1990 when Pinacle, then 15 years old, kidnapped his daughter, raped her at gunpoint, and then burst into his home, robbed him and threatened his life.
"I can understand the principle involved in the court's decision, but considering the facts in my case, it's really hard to accept," says Morris, who asked that his real name not be used for this story.
Here are the facts:
On April 20, 1990, Pinacle and an 18-year-old named Wayne Seth Grant kidnapped Morris' daughter Amy (also not her real name), then a 21-year-old University of Miami student. They raped her in their car, and Pinacle beat her when he couldn't keep an erection. Later, they forced her to take money from an ATM, and then barged into Morris' house on SW 107th Court and stole a VCR.
The next year, after their arrest and trial, Pinacle and Grant each earned eight life sentences.
Pinacle wasn't alone in Florida in getting that stiff term as a juvenile. Of the 129 young offenders in the country serving life with no parole for non-homicides, 77 are in Florida.
The Supreme Court last week considered another case from the Sunshine State, involving a 17-year-old from Jacksonville named Terrance Jamar Graham who earned a life term for a home invasion. In a 6-3 decision, the Court ruled his term was "cruel and unusual."
So what does the decision mean for Pinacle?
He'll be granted a hearing for a new sentence, says Hopkins, an associate director of Florida Catholic Conference. "They'll have to consider whether he's been rehabilitated or not," Hopkins says.
The court didn't forbid life terms in cases like Pinacle's, she says, but his new sentence will have to include at least a chance at parole.
Morris just hopes the court remembers to call him and his daughter to hear their story before deciding whether to cut Pinacle a shorter term in jail.
"Sometimes the circumstances of the crime are so bad they don't deserve a second chance," he says.