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Last Updated: Monday, 26 January, 2004, 23:45 GMT
US boy killer's life term lifted
A Florida boy who was 12 when he killed a six-year-old playmate and became the youngest defendant to get life in jail in the US has been freed.

A judge in Fort Lauderdale on Monday ordered that Lionel Tate, who is nearly 17, be released immediately.

This follows an appeal court ruling that Tate's rights were violated at his original trial where he was convicted as an adult of first-degree murder.

His case provoked debate in the US about how children should be tried.

Wrestling moves

Six-year-old Tiffany Eunick died during a visit to Tate's home in Pembroke Park in July, 1999.

She suffered a fractured skull, crushed internal organs, and numerous other injuries - equivalent doctors said at the time to a fall from a three-storey building.

Tate's lawyers argued that her death was accidental and happened as the boy imitated moves he had seen in televised professional wresting.

He weighed three times as much as the girl.

The case provoked national debate about the law in Florida which states that a child may be tried as an adult if the crime is punishable by death or life imprisonment.

Supporters in the US and internationally campaigned for his release.

Probation

Amnesty International said his case violated international agreements on the treatment of minors convicted of adult crimes.

Tate was 14 when he was sentenced with the judge calling his crime "cold, callous and indescribably cruel".

But last month an appeal court threw out his conviction because his mental competency was not evaluated before the trial.

He has since struck a plea bargain which means that he will serve no more time in jail.

He will serve one year of house arrest and 10 years' probation.




SEE ALSO:
Boy, 14, gets life for murder
09 Mar 01  |  Americas



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