A Florida man convicted of participating in a series of armed robberies has been sentenced to 161 years in prison without the possibility of parole, an effective life sentence. According to his attorney, it is cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
Quartavious Davis was 18 years old when he and his accomplices held up a number of Miami-area businesses. Davis’ five accomplices accepted plea bargain deals and received sentences of from nine to 22 years in prison. They also testified against Davis, saying that he carried a gun and discharged it twice, though no one was hurt. Davis told Reuters he was never offered a plea bargain agreement.
Davis was sentenced to 1,941 months – more than 161 years – in prison, with no possibility of parole. On June 25, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that life in prison without the possibility of parole constitutes cruel and unusual punishment – even for the crime of murder – if the person was under the age of 18 at the time the crime was committed. Davis, however, was 18 years old at the time his crimes were committed.
Davis’ attorney nevertheless intends to argue that his sentence constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, as Davis is a teenage first offender and has been given an effective life sentence.
Davis’ long sentence results from the practice of “stacking,” whereby each count in an indictment is treated as a separate crime, changing a first-time offender into a habitual criminal, and triggering multiple sentences and mandatory minimum sentences.
Davis’ lawyer, Jacqueline Shapiro, said she intends to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary. The first stop is the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.
At the time of his arrest, Davis was unemployed, having dropped out of high school. He lived with his aunt in a neighborhood south of Miami, and got by on Social Security disability payments. According to expert witnesses at his trial, Davis has a learning disability and suffers from bipolar disorder.
Davis was convicted on February 9 of participating in seven armed robberies of local businesses over the course of three months in 2010. Davis maintains he is innocent, and he is the only one of his accomplices who went to trial, where his conviction depended largely on the testimony of those accomplices.
Florida has a history of zealous prosecutions, having led the nation in sentencing juveniles to life without the possibility of parole for committing lesser crimes than murder, until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that practice unconstitutional in 2010.