EJI Wins New Sentence for Florida Child Condemned to Die in Prison


On January 30, 2013, the First District Court of Appeal of Florida vacated Kyle Walling’s life imprisonment without parole sentence and remanded for a new sentence.

On March 4, 2010, a group of boys in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, discussed the possibility of robbing an older teen who sold marijuana. Later that day, the older teen was shot and killed in his car by 17-year-old Timothy Chavers. The evidence at trial tended to show that Kyle Walling, the youngest boy in the group at just three weeks past his sixteenth birthday, went along with the planning of the robbery to some degree; Chavers was to carry a gun for intimidation but was not supposed to use it; and the actual robbery was committed by Chavers and Tyree Washington while the other boys, including Kyle, waited several blocks away.

Kyle was tried as an adult. The State was not required to prove, and did not undertake to prove, that Kyle actually committed a homicide or intended that one be committed. He was convicted by a six-person jury of felony murder and attempted robbery and received a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without parole.

EJI argued on appeal that Kyle was denied a fair trial and that it is unconstitutional to impose a mandatory life-without-parole sentence on a child.

On June 25, 2012, the United States Supreme Court in Miller v. Alabama held that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for children are unconstitutional, and that, in light of “children’s diminished culpability, and heightened capacity for change, we think appropriate occasions for sentencing juveniles to [life without parole] will be uncommon.” In light of Miller, the Florida appeals court found that Kyle’s sentence is illegal and remanded his case for resentencing.

On resentencing, wrote Judge William Wright in his concurrence, the trial judge should conduct a separate hearing, allow presentations by the State and the defense as to factors including Kyle’s immaturity, background, and role in the offense, “and then decide if a life without parole sentence is indicated . . . If a life without parole sentence is not justified, then the judge may sentence the offender to any period of years up to forty years.”