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Teen Killer Seeking Freedom

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Updated: 11/04/2013 9:23 am
JACKSONVILLE, Fla.- Charles Southern was 11 years old when his mom died.

"She was a hard-working mom. She was kind of a weekend mom because she worked two jobs to take care of me so she spent most of her time working, but on weekends we spent time hanging out," Southern says.

Southern calls the death the most traumatic moment of his life. "I kind of changed my whole demeanor after that. Looking back on it now I kind of bottled myself up and stayed distant. I really showed no affection and it really bothered my grandma, that's why she had me go see a counselor, it didn't do anything." 

Southern would spend the next few years moving from family member to family member, getting into trouble at school and with the law.

Today, Southern is 20 years old and serving life-without-parole for the shooting death of his friend Makia Coney. On Feb 10, 2010, he and Conner Pridgen left school with Coney, took her to a nearby park and took turns shooting her in the head.

We asked Southern about what happened that day. "Something was telling me not to do it, you know. Not to go to that place, and I didn't listen," he said.

At 17 years old, Charles Southern pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, and a judge sentenced him to life without parole.

But now, he's appealing that sentence based on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Miller vs. Alabama. Justices ruled that life-without-parole for children 17 and under is unconstitutional.

Action News has learned that decision impact 222 cases in Florida. Locally, the State Attorney's Office reveals there are potentially 33 cases that could be impacted.

Southern told me rebellion led him to the park that day and that only now does he see what his family was trying to do for him. He says "I see the bigger picture I see the road my family wanted me to go down." Southern says he's focusing on one outcome, a second chance to succeed. "By having this life sentence, I really can't pursue any school or anything so my main focus is getting that time cut, so I can go on with school."

But State Attorney Angela Corey tells Action News, she will not allow that to happen. She believes the Miller vs. Alabama case does not apply to his sentence and that this appeal is an insult to the justice Coney's family received. "Charles Southern will serve every day of his sentence," says Corey.

Dane Chase, who is representing Southern in his District Court appeal, says they are hoping for a decision in the next few months.

Action News reached out to the Coney Family, and referred us to their attorney. Chris Chestnut never returned our calls or emails.
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