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Teen killer of St. Pete police officer to be resentenced


Published:   |   Updated: June 19, 2013 at 04:58 PM

CLEARWATER - Nicholas Lindsey, the teenager convicted last year of murdering a St. Petersburg police officer, may have a chance at freedom someday.

On March 23, 2012, Lindsey was given a mandatory life sentence after a jury found him guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Officer David Crawford. Then on June 25, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that giving a juvenile an automatic mandatory life sentence without any chance of parole was unconstitutional.

Although Lindsey, who was 16 when he killed Crawford, was sentenced before the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling, his life sentence was under appeal at the time the court's ruling came down, so the new sentencing requirements apply, according to a motion filed by Carol J.Y. Wilson, an assistant public defender in Bartow who works on appellate issues.

After a hearing on the matter Wednesday, Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe did not dispute that the new guidelines apply and acknowledged Lindsey, now 18, is entitled to a sentencing hearing where his attorneys can present evidence arguing for a sentence shorter than life.

Also speaking outside court Wednesday was Lindsey's father, who's also named Nicholas Lindsey. When asked what he hoped for his son, Lindsey said he would like him to be treated fairly, undergo rehabilitation and be released from prison someday.

When asked what he thought might be an appropriate term of incarceration, the elder Lindsey senior said "I couldn't even answer that."

What was at issue Wednesday was who was going to represent Lindsey at the sentencing hearing and when it would take place.

At his murder trial, Lindsey was represented by Dyril Flanagan, whom Lindsey's family paid, and by Frank McDermott, who worked pro bono. Now, Flanagan said outside court, the Lindsey family doesn't have any resources to pay a private attorney. In court, McDermott said he could no longer afford to represent Lindsey for free.

"It would be a complete financial burden for me," McDermott told Pinellas Circuit Judge Thane Covert.

The only way McDermott said he could be appointed by the court - and, thus, be paid - was if there was a conflict with the local public defender's office. That typically arises if the public defender's office is faced with representing two defendants charged in the same crime, and one of the defendants as a result has to be assigned an attorney outside the public defender's office. Lindsey, though,acted alone, and there is no conflict.

Lindsey, who was wearing a headset Wednesday because of hearing problems, told the judge he was OK with being represented by the public defender's office, so that's what Covert did.

Assistant Public Defender John Swisher told the judge his office had anticipated that happening and already has a mitigation specialist working on Lindsey's sentencing hearing. However, he asked if his office could be given three months to prepare.

McCabe balked, arguing that the hearing needs to take place within 60 days of Wilson having filed her motion saying Lindsey had been sentenced incorrectly. That was May 28, so the hearing would need to happen by July 29.

"July 29th is more than a month away," McCabe said. "The doctor can examine him, and we can have a hearing."

Covert agreed and set the hearing for July 26.

Lindsey will remain at the Pinellas County Jail until then.

Lindsey shot Crawford five times on Feb. 21, 2011, after Crawford stopped his squad car in South St. Petersburg to question Lindsey about some car break-ins in the area.

In the Supreme Court decision paving the way for Lindsey's new sentencing hearing, Miller v. Alabama, the court ruled that punishment meted out to a 14-year-old Alabama boy was unconstitutional. Evan Miller was given a mandatory life sentence after he and another boy set fire to a trailer where they had purchased drugs from a neighbor, and the neighbor was killed. The court ruled that such a sentence constituted cruel and unusual punishment.

sthompson@tampatrib.com

(727) 215-6504

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