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Jeb Bush won't hear clemency plea
Leaving a 14-year-old to rot in prison

by MIKKI SMITH | June 22, 2001 | Page 2

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.--Like his big brother George, Gov. Jeb Bush doesn't seem to mind hinting that he'll do one thing, and then doing the exact opposite.

On June 6, Bush refused to grant an early clemency hearing for 14-year-old Lionel Tate, despite indicating to Lionel's lawyers that he would.

Lionel is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for accidentally beating a 6-year-old playmate to death.

He was only 12 years old at the time.

But that didn't stop zealous prosecutors from putting him behind bars for life.

When it became clear following the sentencing in March that millions of people were appalled by Lionel's fate, Bush said that he would consider commuting the sentence.

The fact that Lionel's trial took place in Broward County--ground zero for allegations of the disenfranchisement of thousands of African American voters in Election 2000--probably fueled Bush's quick expression of sympathy.

But within a few days of receiving the request for a hearing from Lionel's lawyers, Bush said that Lionel would have to wait until March 2003--in accordance with "normal" clemency procedure.

In typical blame-the-victim fashion, Bush pointed to several alleged incidents involving Lionel at the juvenile detention center where he's been held since his sentencing.

And to add insult to injury, Bush has also appointed a special prosecutor to investigate unspecified "criminal acts" that Lionel's mother may have committed in connection with the case.

In the hopes of shifting the spotlight from his cold-hearted decision, Bush signed a bill June 13 that would keep juveniles segregated from the adult prison population in Florida.

But this bill does nothing to address the outrageous sentences that children are receiving--or the lack of rehabilitation programs in adult facilities.

Lionel Tate deserves clemency now!

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