The rules have changed since Nicholas Lindsey was convicted of murdering a St. Petersburg police officer and imprisoned for life.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that mandatory life sentences are not appropriate for juveniles: A judge must consider mitigating factors such as age, developmental disabilities and the possibility of rehabilitation.
That ruling brought Lindsey back to Pinellas County on Wednesday for the start of a re-sentencing process. The past year he has been in a state prison in the Florida Panhandle.
Lindsey was 16 years old when he shot and killed St. Petersburg police officer David Crawford. He was 17 when he was convicted and sentenced. Now he is 18, but still a child, in his mother's opinion.
"He's 18 but a lot of this is not really recollecting with him, it's not, you know, he's not understanding a lot of what's going on," Denise Sweat told FOX 13 News.
She clings to the hope a second sentencing offers.
"That he gets a chance to rehabilitate and still have a chance at life," she said, "because this is his life...he has to be punished for what he did. But I don't think spending the rest of his life in prison is going to change anything."
Now-retired St. Petersburg police officer Stu Crisco is optimistic Lindsey will receive the same sentence the second time around.
"This was a murder of a police officer in the line of duty," Crisco told FOX 13 News. "It wasn't an accident, it was an absolute murder, and therefore I think he deserves life. If anybody deserves life, it's this kid."
Lindsey wore a hearing device for Wednesday's proceeding. His mother said he has had hearing deficiencies in both ears since childhood. He told the judge he could hear everything with the device, and agreed to let the Public Defender's Office handle his re-sentencing.
That hearing was tentatively set for July 26, and Lindsey will remain in the Pinellas County Jail until then. That will spare his parents the two-and-a-half hour drive to where he is imprisoned. They have already booked jailhouse visitations Thursday and Friday.
There is no similar consolation for Crisco, who was Officer Crawford's best friend. In court, he wore a lapel pin and a dog tag, both bearing the name and image of the slain officer.
Asked whether Crawford had also planned to retire, Crisco replied, "If Dave were still alive, I'd still be at work. So we'd still be working together. His death really changed a lot of lives -- just changed everybody."
WTTG FOX 5 & myfoxdc
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