Arthur O’Derrell Franklin of Jacksonville was sentenced to three millenniums behind bars for raping and torturing three women, and the Florida Supreme Court struggled to decide whether that violated the Eighth Amendment, which forbids cruel and unusual punishment.
The justices upheld Franklin’s prison term 4-3, ruling that it didn’t violate the U.S. Constitution because he’s still eligible for release — in the year 2352.
Franklin was convicted of a slew of offenses, including armed kidnapping, armed sexual battery, aggravated assault, but not murder. His victims survived the ordeal.
The court considered that Franklin, 51, was a teenager at the time of his crimes in the 1980s but was also struck by the brutality of the rapes — specifically the “extraordinary cruelty and a perverse enjoyment of the suffering he was inflicting.”
The majority pointed out in a per curiam opinion that, “the physician who performed the sexual assault battery exam testified that the victim suffered the worst injuries the physician had ever observed.”
Chief Justice Charles Canady and Justices Ricky Polston, R. Fred Lewis and Alan Lawson stood by the ruling, relying on 2010 U.S. Supreme Court case Graham v. Florida.
In that case, the court ruled that juveniles who had not committed murder couldn’t be sentenced to life in prison without parole, “based on a demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation.” According to the majority, Franklin’s sentence doesn’t violate Graham because it includes parole, so his sentence stands.
Justice Barbara Pariente dissented with an opinion, backed by Justices Peggy Quince and Jorge Labarga.
“This case highlights how, contrary to the majority’s suggestion, Florida’s current parole system affords juvenile offenders no meaningful opportunity for release,” Pariente wrote.
Read the full court opinion:
Pariente argued that Franklin’s sentence violates the Eighth Amendment and is no different to a life sentence without parole because, “There is no indication that Franklin has even a chance of being released before the end of his natural life expectancy.”
According to Pariente, Franklin’s case should ”at the very least” have been sent back to trial court for an evidentiary hearing with defense counsel, two things that were missing last time.
Pariente pointed to Atwell v. State, in which the Florida Supreme Court ruled that a presumptive parole release date exceeding a natural lifespan by decades was at odds with recent U.S. Supreme Court precedent.
They argued Franklin’s sentence violated the Eighth Amendment and called for his case to be retried as he was just 17 at the time of the crimes.
Attorney General Pam Bondi, Bureau Chief Trisha Meggs Pate and Assistant Attorney General Sharon S. Traxler in Tallahassee represented the state.