Connor Pridgen and Charles Southern Murder Classmate

Connor Pridgen and Charles Southern were two teen killers from Florida who would murder classmate Makia Coney

According to court documents Connor Pridgen, 16, and Charles Southern, 17, decided they wanted to know what it would feel like to murder someone so they focused their attention on classmate Makia Coney. The two teen killers would lure Makia Coney into a wooded area where she would be fatally shot

Connor Pridgen and Charles Southern would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to life in prison with a review after twenty five years

Connor Pridgen Now

connor pridgen today
DC Number:J42333
Birth Date:08/27/1993
Initial Receipt Date:10/05/2010
Current Facility:GRACEVILLE C.F.
Current Custody:CLOSE
Current Release Date:SENTENCED TO LIFE

Charles Southern Now

charles southern today
DC Number:J42332
Birth Date:12/01/1992
Initial Receipt Date:10/07/2010
Current Facility:EVERGLADES C.I.
Current Custody:CLOSE
Current Release Date:SENTENCED TO LIFE

Connor Pridgen and Charles Southern Videos

Connor Pridgen And Charles Southern Case

Two teens who killed their University Christian classmate in 2010 as practice for robberies they planned to commit have each had their life sentences recently upheld.

Charles Roy Southern and Connor Julian Pridgen, 17 and 16 respectively at the time of the murder, each pleaded guilty to second-degree murder of 17-year-old Makia Coney and each received a life sentence from Circuit Court Judge Elizabeth Senterfitt in fall 2010.

But because of recent U.S. Supreme Court and Florida Supreme Court rulings, juveniles who were once sentenced to life in prison for homicides are being given the chance to get new, potentially shorter, sentences from the courts.

However, Southern and Pridgen each decided to forgo the chance to make their cases for lighter sentences and did not present evidence to Senterfitt. Pridgen was re-sentenced to life on Oct. 27, and Southern’s re-sentencing followed on Wednesday.

Florida law now requires that juveniles sentenced for first- or second-degree murders have a review in front of a judge after 25 years behind bars. Attorneys for Southern and Pridgen said Friday that their clients intend to make their cases for release at that time, when they can show a greater track record of maturation and rehabilitation.

Michael Bossen, Southern’s attorney, said because the case was so recent, “there really wasn’t anything to present that could sway the judge. It’s just too soon.” But, there’s a chance in about 18 years, Bossen said, that his client could make a case that he’s developed and therefore deserves the opportunity for release

In a July letter to a local judge, Southern wrote about why he wasn’t interested in coming back to court.

“Honestly, I truthfully [am] interested in resolving my case instead of actually having the sentencing hearing,” he wrote. “Reasoning is because it takes time to heal. If I carry through with this hearing, that means the victim’s family, as well as mine, would have to endure, once again, painful flashbacks of what happened in 2010. I do not wish for nobody to have to relive that.”

He went on to ask for 25 or 30 years time.

“It would still give me time to build myself even more and to further my education,” he wrote. “That would be a true second chance in reality.”

Teresa Sopp, a public defender representing many of the local juvenile life without parole cases and Connor Pridgen’s attorney, said deciding when to defer resentencing will be done on a case-by-case basis. In Pridgen’s case, “we wanted a longer track record on rehabilitation and mitigation.”

It’s a unique strategy so far in Florida, but perhaps not a bad one.

Stephen K. Harper, executive director of the Florida Center for Capital Representation at Florida International University, said he had not yet heard of any cases take this approach. But, he said, “it would make sense in some circumstances” when more time to show the defendant has changed is needed. The Florida Juvenile Resentencing and Review Project, which tracks juvenile life without parole cases in Florida, is housed at FIU.

Juveniles who have been resentenced in Jacksonville so far have largely had their life sentences upheld, even after lengthy and intensive resentencing hearings.

Last month, Judge Waddell Wallace decided that Joshua Phillips, now 33, should remain behind bars for the rest of his life for killing 8-year-old Maddie Clifton when he was just 14. Similarly, Judge Linda McCallum took only seconds to announce that Kimothy Simmons will also die in prison for his 2008 slaying of nursing student Sarah Whitlock when he was 17.

Heather Renwick, legal director for the national Campaign for the Fair Sentencing ofYouth, said defendants who have served decades in prison can make a case for maturation more easily than those who have served five or 10 years.

More recent cases — like those of Charles Southern and Connor Pridgen — highlight just how difficult it is to implement the mandates handed down in Miller v. Alabama, the Supreme Court case that struck down mandatory life without parole for juveniles as unconstitutional.

“We think appropriate occasions for sentencing juveniles to this harshest possible penalty will be uncommon,” the Supreme Court said in the 2012 case. The court recognized that kids, by nature, are immature, impetuous and fail to appreciate risks and consequences in a way that is different than adults.

“No one, no expert … can look at a teenager or someone in their early 20s and see how they will mature,” Renwick said of the challenge young offenders with life sentences face. “It’s requiring a lot of speculation on an individual’s capacity for positive change.”

Charles Southern is now 25, and Connor Pridgen is 24.

Nationally, Renwick said, there is momentum toward older offenders receiving parole-eligible sentences rather than the re-imposition of life without parole. But that varies dramatically state to state and even within states.

“It cannot be whether you have an opportunity for relief [depends] on where you are sentenced,” she said. Now, 20 states ban juvenile life without parole and another five don’t use the punishment though it is available.

In a statement, a spokesman for the Fourth Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office said, “no matter the passage of time, the State Attorney’s Office will continue to seek justice for Makia and her family.”

The statement went on to call Southern and Pridgen’s actions, “cold, calculated and premeditated … which tragically ended her young life.”

According to court documents, Connor Pridgen and Charles Southern “wanted to be prepared to kill someone should it become necessary during the course of the robberies” they had planned, and so they chose Coney for practice.

“On the day of the murder, Makia asked (Connor Pridgen), a close friend, if she could spend time with him after school,” according to documents. “Unbeknownst to Makia, both (Connor Pridgen) and (Southern) previously agreed that this was the day they would murder someone, and they chose their close friend Makia to be theirtarget.”

Coney left school on Feb. 10, 2010, with Charles Southern and Connor Pridgen, believing they were going to smoke cigars in the woods. Southern shot the 4-foot-11 girl in the head first, and Pridgen followed. Her body was found a few hours later, and police were able to connect a gun found at Pridgen’s home and a truck owned by Southern to the crime.

Then-State Attorney Angela Corey called it “one of the coldest crimes we’ve seen from anyone of any age.” In sentencing the teens, Senterfitt called it “this evil plan.”

“There was no provocation,” she said.

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