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The Lionel Tate Story

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by

Caroline Cortes

on 2 March 2016

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Transcript of The Lionel Tate Story

Our biggest problem was convicting a child of an adult crime. - Juror, Elise Schifano
Tate's Investigation
Tate's Sentencing
Kathleen Grossett-Tate, Tate's mother, agreed to watch a friend's daughter, Tiffany Eunick. Lionel and Tiffany had known each other for only a few weeks but never had an incident occur. At approximately 10:00 PM, Tate's mother told investigators she allowed the children to watch T.V. downstairs while she went upstairs to her bedroom. The children's play became too loud and then she hollered for them to quiet down. It was not until 40 minutes later, Tate came up to her room and told her Tiffany was not breathing.


Following the guidelines of state law, which require that an individual convicted of first-degree murder must serve life in prison without parole, the judge imposed this sentence on Lionel Tate. In 2001, Tate would become the youngest individual in the United States sentenced to life in prison without possible parole. His conviction was overturned in 2003 by an appeals court because he was not given a competency hearing prior to his trial.
On January 26, 2004, Tate is released from prison but with ten years probation, a year of house arrest, and mandated to wear a monitoring device.
58¢
Vol XCIII, No. 311
July 28, 1999
Murder or Wrestling Match?
Tate's Trouble Contiues
On July 28, 1999, six year old Tiffany Eunick suffered significant wounds that led to her death caused by twelve year old Lionel Tate. Reports indicated that Eunick had more than 35 injuries. A number of these injuries included a fractured skull, brain contusions, a raptured spleen, a partially detached liver, numerous bruises and lacerations, and a damaged rib cage. Prosecutors argued Tate's actions were due to violence on T.V. and as a result attempted to wrestle with Eunick, which caused her death.
September 2004, Tate was arrested by police officers near his home around 2:00 A.M. for possession of a knife. The trail judge extended Tate's probation to 15 years and warned him if he violated the terms of probation again, he would be put behind bars. On May 23, 2005, Tate was charged with armed robbery, armed burglary, battery, and violation of probation. Tate confronted a pizza delivery man with a handgun. The pizza delivery man dropped the pizzas, ran away from the scene, and made a 9-1-1 call to report robbery. On May 18, 2006, Lionel Tate, now 19 years of age, was sentenced to 30 years in prison on gun-possession charges and probation violation.
The Lionel Tate Story
Tate's Troubled History
Tate's story begins when his parents divorced and had to constantly move back and forth between Mississippi and Florida. With his parents alternating custody, Tate attended a number of different schools during his childhood which made him unable to make friendships. His elementary teachers said he was a lonely child who often exhibited behavioral problems to get the attention he craved.
Tate initially claimed that he and Tiffany were just playing and did not mention it being a wrestling match when he was investigated by the police. Tate also admitted to watching Tiffany urinate in her pants and roll around on the floor in pain. Experts also demonstrated that the duration of the beating would have occurred over a period of one to five minutes.
Prosecutors say that this is not a valid defense and the judge did not accept the defendants argument that professional wrestling on T.V. made Tate think it would be okay to body slam a six year old girl.
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