Quartavious Davis is not denying any wrongdoing, but is understandably shocked by his life sentence, for armed robbery. Davis participated in a string of robberies in 2010, and was handed down the excessive sentence for his very first offense. Florida’s justice system has found itself in the national spotlight since the shooting of Trayvon Martin, but Davis’ story reveals the propensity of the state to work against Black youth. “My first offense, and they gave me all this time,” he told Reuters. “Might just as well say I’m dead.”
Davis’ was only 19 at the time of his spree, and according to an incident report, the last robbery took place on October 1, 2010 at Mayors Jewelers. As one of three suspects involved, Davis and his cohorts are accused of using hammers to smash display cases, to steal jewelry. While there were no customers in the store at the time, a security guard was pepper-sprayed by one of the assailants. One of the men acted as the getaway driver, remaining in the car while the robbery was committed. All three were later apprehend by police.
Once arrested, Davis’ accomplices testified against him, stating that he was carrying a gun during the incident. He was sentenced to 1,941 months (162 years) in prison with no possibility of parole, a move that has been seen as “cruel and unusual punishment,” based on his criminal record—or lack thereof. “Just as the Supreme Court recently held that the Constitution bars taking away all discretion from judges in sentencing juveniles to life imprisonment for committing murder,” said lawyer Jacqueline Shapiro. “Is it cruel and extreme to allow unfettered prosecutorial discretion to force a sentencing judge to impose a life sentence on a teenage first offender convicted of lesser charges?”
The process, known as “stacking,” allows for the court to charge each count as a separate indictment, and since Davis was indicted on seven counts, his sentence was inflated. “Any law that provides for a mandatory term of imprisonment for a 19-year-old first offender that exceeds a century has got to be unconstitutional,” added Michael Zelman, Davis’ court appointed attorney who represented him during the trial.
At the time of his arrest, Davis was a high-school dropout suffering from both a learning disability and bipolar disorder. He was also living off a $674 monthly disability check.
U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Wifredo Ferrer praised the sentence for sending a message to criminals in the area. “We will not allow our community to be overrun by guns and violence,” he said.
No matter the reasoning, Davis will never accept the fact that he has been ordered to die in prison. “There ain’t no justice in the justice system,” he added. “They know what they did isn’t right.”
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