Who’s Guilty and Who’s Innocent

Amy Bach published an article called “All Locked Up,” about a 13-year-old boy named Joe Sullivan. In May 1989, Sullivan along with Nathan McCants, 17, and Michael Gulley, 15, burglarized a home in Pensacola, Florida. They took jewelry and coins. Later that afternoon, a person came to the home that was burglarized and found a 72-year-old woman raped. She was raped so brutally she had to have corrective surgery. Gulley got a reduced sentence because he testified that Sullivan raped the women. Sullivan denied ever it, admitting only to the burglary. Sullivan was tried as an adult on two accounts of sexual battery and other relating charges. Mack Plant was Sullivan lawyer and part of his job consisted of investigating if Sullivan was guilty of just burglary or the sexually offences as well.
It’s hard to believe that the trial only took eight hours to convict a boy to 534,360 hours in prison without the possibility of parole and the jury decided he was guilty in only 35 minutes. The trail was poorly conducted. There was not enough evidence to convict him to life. Due to the trial, Plant has since been suspended from the practice of law in the state of Florida, which he rightfully disserves. There were things he failed to look into. For example, he never explored Gulley’s and McCants’ backgrounds to show they had a motive to lie. If Plant would had looked into Gulley he would had found an extensive criminal history which ironically included sexual offences. This information could have been used to cast Gulley as a suspect, instead of Sullivan.
As a lawyer it is your job to ask questions. Which he also failed to do, not even asking the obvious questions; such as asking Gulley “Did you get a deal?” The jury was never informed Gulley received a reduced sentence by saying Sullivan was responsible for the crime. Plant never asked the woman to listen to the two boys’ speech so she could identify her assailant. Another question that should have been presented to Judge Nickolas P. Geeker was whether a 13-year-old who committed this horrible crime could be rehabilitated. “Unlike an adult who commits the same offense, a young teen can change,” according to research of mental health researchers Laurence Steinberg and Thomas Grisso.
A lack of knowledge by Judge Geeker landed Sullivan in prison. If you are going to be a judge, let along sentencing someone to life, they better be familiar with the law and sentencing. If Geeker made a mistake in sentencing Sullivan he would not be the first. Another judge admits to be confused when sentencing a 14-year-old to life in prison without the possibly of parole.
Not only was it a poor performance on Geeker’s and Plant’s part, but the evidence was not there. Found on a plaque in the bathroom was Sullivan’s fingerprint which could have been there from the burglary early that day. Clothing and other evidence had been destroyed and couldn’t be tested for DNA.
Question to ask: “Does sentencing Sullivan to life in prison without the possibility of parole violate the cruel-and-unusual-punishment clause of the Constitution?” “Did Sullivan receive a far trial?” “Did the trial judge mean to sentence Sullivan to life without parole?” “Is the justice system corrupt?” And the big question, “did he commit the crime in the first?”
Plant blew it. Geeker blew it. And no evidence. Sullivan was convicted to life with no parole for a crime he may not be guilty of.





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