Sentenced to life while a teenager, Tim Kane has been released after 24 years of imprisonment, and Apalachicola attorney Donna Duncan helped free him.
This week, Duncan received the following letter from Prof. Paul Annino, who mentored her during her studies at Florida State University.
“Tim Kane was released this week from prison. Tim was 14 years old when he was convicted of felony murder. He is now 39 years old. FSU law students have been advocating for Tim for over a decade. Thank you stupendous FSU law students! Please know your tenacious work not only resulted in this important day but it is also a vibrant model for current and future clinic students.”
Annino went on to thank FSU law graduate Cindy McNeely for introducing FSU's Public Interest Law Center to Kane, and to Judge John Blue, part of a three-judge panel with the 2nd District Court of Appeal that denied Kane's appeal in the mid 1990s, for his unwavering support.
Annino also thanked the Florida Bar Foundation, the Catholic Conference, the Campaign for Fair Sentencing of Youth, and the American College of Trial Lawyers “for giving us the help we needed to advocate for Tim.”
In November, the Times reported how Duncan, of Apalachicola's Sanders and Duncan law firm, gained statewide notice for her work on the Second Chance for Children in Prison Act and specifically for her work on Kane’s case.
Duncan became involved with the case while working as an intern for Annino at FSU's Public Interest Law Center.
Kane received no disciplinary reports in his 24 years of incarceration for murder. He completed his GED, worked for the prison chaplain and spoke to teens who visit the prison as part of a "scared straight" program.
Duncan said that although the Second Chance act, which she helped draft, never passed the Florida legislature, the law changed through case law as courts began to view things differently.
New research on brain science demonstrated the part of the brain that helps people make decisions based on logic, not emotion, isn't fully developed until their early or even mid 20s. Teenagers, in contrast to adults, researchers say, are more susceptible to peer pressure and less able to consider consequences.
In 2005, based in part on this science, the Supreme Court decided juveniles can't be sentenced to death. They're less than fully developed, so they're also less than fully culpable, the court reasoned.
Over the years, judges and prosecutors involved in the Kane case came forward to recommend he be released. Duncan, who met with Kane several times, described him as "a well-spoken, intelligent respectful man.”
Kane, an honor student, before the divorce of his parents, left home on Sunday, Jan. 26, 1992, telling his mother he was going to spend the night with 17-year old Bobby Garner.
Garner and Kane followed 19-year old Alvin Morton on their bicycles to an undisclosed location, where Kane was told they were going to burglarize an empty house. When the trio arrived at a house located down a deserted road, Morton kicked in the door. The house was occupied by 75-year old Madeline Weisser and her 55-year-old son, John Bowers.
Kane begged to leave, but Morton pointed a shotgun at him and ordered him to stay. Morton killed Bowers with the sawed-off shotgun while Garner stabbed Weisser to death. Kane cowered behind a table and stared out the window.
The three were arrested the next morning at Morton's home. Kane was sentenced May 27, 1994 to life imprisonment for two counts of first-degree murder.