Eighteen years ago, two teenage boys abducted 16-year-old Philip Chandler of Ocoee, locked him in the trunk of his car and left him there for more than three hours on a broiling July afternoon.
He was found comatose on a hot slab of pavement hours later with severe brain damage. The suspects, 16-year-old Michael Daymon and 17-year-old Terrence Jenkins, were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
But the U.S. Supreme Court, in an unrelated case last year, ruled that no juvenile convicted of a crime other than murder should face the prospect of never again going free.
So Wednesday afternoon, attorneys for both inmates go to court for the first time since the high court's ruling to discuss how to fix the now-unconstitutional sentences.
Chandler will not be there, although he could appear later, if Circuit Judge Renee Roche rules the state or defense needs to put on evidence to justify the new sentences they're seeking.
Theresa Mills-Uvalle, the assistant state attorney who prosecuted the teenagers in 1994 and is back on the case, wants "the maximum allowable by law", she wrote in court pleadings.
"What in the world is that?" asked Matthews Fenderson, Daymon's attorney. "They got the greatest sentence, and the U.S. Supreme Court says that's not constitutional."
Daymon, now 34, is at a state prison near Lake City. Jenkins, now 35, is at one near Clermont. Neither will be in court today.
In Florida, 115 inmates were affected by the high court ruling. About 25 have been resentenced, said Gerard Glynn, who oversees a resource center at Barry University college of law in Orlando that tracks the cases.
Their new sentences have ranged from 25 to 170 years, he said.
"As a society, we have to struggle with what to do with kids who did horrible things," he said.
Both Daymon and Jenkins are remorseful, their attorneys say.
Today's session is a status conference at which lawyers and Roche will discuss what should happen next. Orlando attorney Daniel Tumarkin is representing Jenkins for free and said his client would agree to a 40-year sentence.
"Having met Terrence, having talked with him, having spent some time with him," Tumarkin said, "I believe he is an individual who is totally worthy of a second chance in society, despite the horrific nature of the offense."
'Cruel, wicked, tortuous, merciless'
The actions of Daymon and Jenkins July 17, 1993, were "cruel, wicked, tortuous, merciless," wrote then-Circuit Judge Dorothy Russell, who sentenced them.
Chandler had borrowed his dad's red Mustang and gone to a shopping plaza in Pine Hills for a haircut.
Two teenagers walked up and asked for a ride, Chandler told jurors. He had gone to fifth grade with one of them – Jenkins. He drove the pair a short distance then one drew something he thought was a gun and ordered him into the trunk.
He decided not to run, he told jurors, because he was afraid he'd be shot, so he climbed in.
The temperature outdoors topped 90 degrees.
Daymon and Jenkins drove around for hours, picked up a girl, joked and waved at passersby, Russell wrote in her sentencing order. Twice they stopped and opened the trunk, once to steal Chandler's wallet and a second time to make him stop banging and waving.
Chandler had managed to poke his arm through the shelf between the backseat and rear window. When he did, Daymon, sitting in the backseat, would burn his arm with a cigarette.
By the time the teens left him in a DeBary parking lot about 5:30 p.m., he had lost consciousness and was frothing at the mouth. Doctors told his parents he would die and took him off life support, but after two weeks, he emerged from his coma with severe damage to his brain and other key organs.
He had to relearn how to talk, and at his trial in 1994, he spoke haltingly and in monotone. He also needed help walking to the witness stand.
After a spate of publicity about his amazing survival in the months that followed, Chandler's parents have kept him away from reporters and now will not discuss his condition.
"His injuries are extreme," the judge wrote in 1994, explaining why she imposed such a harsh sentence. He needed medicine to prevent seizures, had a heart condition and was unable to finish high school and hold a job.
"Short of dying," she wrote, "it's hard to imagine how he could have been injured more."
One of the issues a court is to consider in these cases is whether the juvenile has reformed. The Florida Department of Corrections reports that Daymon has been disciplined 19 times in 17 years, once for possession of narcotics and another time for the unauthorized use of drugs.
Jenkins has been disciplined 10 times, including for possession of contraband.
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