Bloomingdale, FL - A 2016 Supreme Court decision could allow violent rapist Kendrick Morris to be released early from his 65-year prison sentence while his victim remains blind and paralyzed for life.
According to Fox13News, Morris, 25, appeared in court on Thursday, February 9, 2017, to ask that his sentence be reduced. In 2008, at age 16, Morris attacked a high school student, Queena Vuong, as she was dropping off books at the Bloomingdale Regional Public Library in Valrico. He dragged her behind the building and raped and beat her so violently that he "robbed her of the ability to see, talk, or walk on her own."
Wuong was an 18-year-old high school senior. Rita Peters, Assistant State Attorney, said that Queena's rape "was not an impetuous decision or an opportunistic crime," but one that "was thoughtful, that was reasoned, and that was planned."
In 2007, at age 15, Morris went into a Clair-Mel day care center, held an elderly woman at knifepoint, and raped her. That woman's name was not released. The attack on Queena happened just 10 months later.
Morris was convicted, and sentenced to 65 years in prison for both rapes. An appeals court overturned his sentence using the 2016 Supreme Court ruling that said "lengthy sentences for juvenile offenders are unconstitutional," and that "they should have the opportunity for parole."
In court on Thursday, Queena's mother Vanna Nguyen, made an emotional plea to Judge Chet Tharpe to keep Morris behind bars. She said “I have come to accept our situation, but I will never accept letting this person go free - ever. If my daughter cannot get a resentencing, he shouldn't." Queena's mother, family members, and friends call Morris "a violent monster" and with good reason.
Queena's sister, Anna Donato, asked Morris "how many steps he has taken since 2008, how many meals he has consumed, how many books he has read." She also said "For my sister, the answer would be none." She also remembered seeing her sister in the hospital with her face swollen and her bones broken, and the last words she ever spoke were if they had caught her attacker.
Queena has 20 doctors, requires 24-hour-a-day care, permanent physical therapy and $80,000 a year out of pocket medical expense. The family relies largely on donations but said that they have slowed through the years.
Morris' doctors said that he is on his way to full rehabilitation, that he is not a threat to the community, and can be a productive member of society. They also said that he is a survivor of childhood abuse especially from his stepfather, former Tampa Bay Buccaneer football player Steve White, and he regrets his teen crimes, according to Tampa Bay.
The next re-sentencing hearing is set for March 9, 2017, when Judge Tharpe will decide on Morris' fate. He is also the Judge who initially sentenced Morris in 2011, when the law prevented him from giving Morris a life sentence. At that time, Judge Tharpe said "if ever there was a case that cried out for a life sentence, this is the case." Judge Tharpe will have to balance his court's previous opinion with the Supreme Court ruling.
Morris should remain in prison, where society is protect from him. His excuse of childhood abuse is just that, an excuse. Many have survived such abuse and have not made the decisions that he has made. The danger to society is too great and he should have consequences for his actions. Justice demands this for Queena and for his elderly victim.
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