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Fla. Teen Gets 28 Years for Killing

July 01, 2001  | 

By AMANDA RIDDLE, Associated Press Writer

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Wearing the same blank look he had on his face during his trial, 14-year-old Nathaniel Brazill was sentenced to 28 years in prison Friday for fatally shooting his favorite teacher between the eyes on the last day of school.

Brazill, who was tried as an adult, had faced at least 25 years behind bars and as much as life in prison for killing Barry Grunow at Lake Worth Middle School more than a year ago.

Wearing a bright red jumpsuit and shackles, the boy said nothing as Circuit Judge Richard Wennet handed down the sentence, which carries no possibility of parole or time off for good behavior.

The sentence, just three years more than the legal minimum, shocked some relatives of the victim, who had warned that the boy is a danger to society and should be put away for the rest of his life.

The case - along with the life sentence given earlier this year to 14-year-old Lionel Tate, who said he was imitating pro wrestlers when he beat a 6-year-old girl to death - has renewed criticism of a tough-on-crime Florida law that allows prosecutors to try juveniles as adults and subject them to mandatory prison sentences.

Brazill's lawyer said the boy will appeal and, after the process is complete, ask the governor for clemency if necessary.

``I think the sentence was fair,'' Gov. Jeb Bush said in Jacksonville. ``It really doesn't matter what I think so much as there is an appeals process. Lawyers for the boy will be able to make that appeal and the process will go forward as it normally does.''

Brazill was convicted in May of second-degree murder for killing the 35-year-old English teacher he called a ``great man and a great teacher.'' The boy was 13 when he committed the crime.

At the hearing, Brazill apologized for the crime, saying: ``Words cannot really explain how sorry I am, but they're all I have.''

Florida is one of 15 states that gives prosecutors the discretion to send juveniles to adult court, according to the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice.

James Alan Fox, a criminal justice professor at Northeastern University, called Brazill's sentence excessive but said it reflects the public's mood. ``Americans do not want to diminish criminal responsibility because the criminals are teens,'' he said.

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