By Stephen Thompson
CLEARWATER — Was Nicholas Lindsey, who shot and killed a St. Petersburg police officer in 2011, at heart, a decent kid — one who became the man of the house after his father left, who taught his little brother to read, who loved to play football?
Or was he a street thug who began smoking more than three joints a day at age 11, who repeatedly stole cars and who, even after he was sent to prison for at 16, cut up a fellow inmate?
Those were the two portraits Of Lindsey that emerged during testimony today as a resentencing hearing for Lindsey got under way. At issue is whether Lindsey is capable of being rehabilitated — and, therefore, should be given a shot at parole in 25 years — or whether, for the public's sake, he should spend the rest of his life behind bars.
More than a dozen police officers crammed into a Clearwater courtroom for the hearing, after which Circuit Judge Thane Covert has to decide whether Lindsey should still be sentenced to life without any chance of parole for the slaying of St. Petersburg police Officer David Crawford.
Crawford's daughter, Amanda Crawford, told Covert this afternoon she wants him to put Lindsey away for the rest of his life. She said she is still haunted by her father's death.
Lindsey, now 18, was originally sentenced March 23, 2012, after a jury found him guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Crawford. Lindsey was 16 when he killed the veteran officer.
Three months after the sentence, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that giving a juvenile an automatic mandatory life sentence without any chance of parole is unconstitutional. A sentencing hearing is required. The court also mandated that other factors must be considered, including mental development and background.
A Pinellas-Pasco court granted a motion for a resentencing hearing in June.
The high court's ruling became an issue in Lindesy's case because, under Florida law, the only possible sentences for someone convicted of first-degree murder is the death penalty or life in prison. The sentence is automatic in cases where prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty.
Testimony this morning began with Joe Lindsey, Lindsey's great-uncle, who said that two of Nicholas Lindsey's cousins had been shot to death in the same neighborhood where Lindsey was raised.
"I have two nephews who lost their lives in Bethel Heights," he said.
He also described Nicholas Lindsey as a shy child. "If he's in the room you'd never know he was in there."
St. Petersburg police Chief Chuck Harmon and a strong contingent of officers from several agencies attended the hearing to show support for Crawford and his family. Space was so tight that there was talk of moving the hearing to another courtroom, but instead officers were moved to some space behind prosecutors. Others were forced to watch on TV monitors in a nearby conference room.
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.
Lindsey's attorneys have not denied that he killed Crawford, claiming he fired out of panic and should have been found guilty of manslaughter instead of murder.
Bonnie Buron testified that she started a correspondence with Lindsey after he was sent to prison. She said Lindsey was sorry for what he had done.
"He said he wishes he could turn back time," she said.
Forensic psychologist Richard Carpenter examined Lindsey and found he suffers from a mixed anxiety depressive disorder and a kind of post-traumatic stress disorder. An IQ test showed Lindsey's is 77, Carpenter testified.
But Assistant State Attorney Jim Hellickson attacked Carpenter's testimony, noting that Lindsey, while in prison, scored 86 on an IQ test, a score that falls in the normal range.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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