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The BBC's Rob Watson
"The judge said he understood concerns about Lionel's youth"
 real 56k

Defence lawyer Geoffrey Weener
"The case should never have been bought to an adult court"
 real 28k

Friday, 9 March, 2001, 19:29 GMT
Boy, 14, gets life for murder
tate
Tears rolled down Tate's cheeks as he was led out
A 14-year-old boy who murdered a six-year-old girl has become the youngest person ever to be jailed for life in America.

Lionel Tate claimed he and Tiffany Eunick had been playing at imitating professional TV wrestlers.


Cold, callous and indescribably cruel

Judge Joel Lazarus on the murder
But prosecutors said Tiffany's injuries were too severe for that to be true.

The case, in which Tate was tried as an adult and convicted of first-degree murder, has stirred debate in the United States about how the courts should deal with children.

Judge Joel Lazarus said there should be no parole for Tate, and called the murder "cold, callous and indescribably cruel".

Unusual twist

Tears rolled down Tate's cheeks as he was placed in handcuffs and leg shackles and led out of the courtroom at Broward County, Florida to be taken to jail.

His mother, Kathleen Grossett-Tate, who earlier described Tiffany's death to the judge as a "tragic accident," called the judge "wicked".

Before the trial, she and her son's attorney rejected a plea agreement that offered three years in prison, one year of house arrest and 10 years of probation.

In an unusual twist, Prosecutor Ken Padowitz said after the trial that he would be willing to ask Florida Governor Jeb Bush to consider reducing the sentence "taking into consideration Tate's age at the time he committed the crime".

Beaten to death

Tate was 12 when he beat Tiffany to death on 28 July 1999 in the home he shared with his mother at Pembroke Park, near Miami.

Ms Grossett-Tate - a Florida Highway Patrol trooper - was baby-sitting the girl and went upstairs to sleep after serving the children dinner.

Later that evening, her son ran upstairs and told his mother Tiffany was not breathing.

She called an emergency number and administered first aid but the girl was pronounced dead after arriving at hospital.

'Accident' claim

Tiffany suffered a fractured skull, lacerated liver, broken rib, internal haemorrhaging and numerous cuts and bruises.

A few days after her death, Tate told police he picked Tiffany up while playing at wrestling and accidentally hit her head against a table.

In a videotaped interview with a court-appointed psychologist, he claimed to have accidentally thrown Tiffany into a stairwell's handrail and a wall while trying to throw her onto a sofa.

But even the defence's own experts conceded that his story would not have accounted for all of Tiffany's injuries, which one prosecution expert said were comparable to falling from a three-story building.

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