Miami-Dade County

Judge halves 30-year sentence of Goulds teen’s killer

Relatives of a Goulds teen shot to death six years ago while riding a dirt bike are livid after a judge halved his killer’s sentence to 15 years in prison.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Nushin Sayfie, saying he deserved a second chance because of his youth, reduced Joshua Ladson’s sentence for manslaughter with a deadly weapon from 30 years in prison to 15.

“She was so focused on him and giving him a second chance and not my son, like he’s trash, like he’s nothing,” said Madelyn Mayoral, the mother of slain teen Giovanny Mayoral. “My son never got a second chance.”

Said Miami-Dade Detective Juan Segovia, the case’s lead investigator: “I’m saddened and disgusted to see this injustice.”

Ladson, then 16 years old, shot 14-year-old Giovanny in the back and killed him in August 2006 as the teen rode his green dirt bike through the South Miami-Dade neighborhood.

After hearing from relatives on both sides, the judge made her ruling Wednesday.

“After conducting a full hearing and in consideration of all the facts and circumstances in the case, Judge Sayfie fairly and justly reduced Joshua’s sentence,” said Miami-Dade Assistant Public Defender Gary Pont, Ladson’s attorney.

The issue of sentencing for juveniles has become a hot topic in legal circles recently. Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated state laws, including one in Florida, that set mandatory life terms for juveniles convicted of murders.

In 2010, the high court also ruled that sentencing minors to life without the possibility of parole in non-homicide cases constituted “cruel and unusual punishment.”

In both cases, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed that a defendant’s young age is important because minors’ brains are not fully formed, they are easily swayed by others and they cannot appreciate the consequences of their actions.

Here’s what happened on that fateful day, according to records:

Giovanny, who had just fixed up a small green dirt bike with his brother, Daniel, was out in the south Miami-Dade neighborhood riding.

Prosecutors believed Ladson grew angry when Giovanny buzzed past him. Ladson’s brother, who was with him at the time, testified that Ladson pulled out a gun, aimed it at Giovanny and cursed as he squeezed off a round.

Giovanny died almost instantly, the single shot severing his spinal cord and puncturing both lungs.

When Miami-Dade detectives brought Ladson in for questioning, he gave three different stories before admitting he fired the gun.

Ladson was originally charged with second-degree murder, but Miami-Dade jurors convicted him of manslaughter with a deadly weapon.

His defense attorneys argued that the shooting was not intentional — Ladson and his brother had been goofing around, and the gun went off, accidentally hitting Giovanny.

Back in 2009, at an emotional and packed sentencing hearing, then-Circuit Judge Israel Reyes sentenced Ladson to 30 years in prison, the maximum allowed under Florida law.

“The day you fired, you took one life, but you destroyed many others,” Reyes said at the time.

In May 2011, the Third District Court of Appeal upheld the conviction and the Florida Supreme Court later declined to review the case. In March, Ladson’s attorney asked Judge Sayfie to reduce the “excessive” sentence, saying the young man had completed his GED while behind bars.

But Miami-Dade prosecutors said Ladson, now 22, has been disciplined for fighting, attacking a corrections officer and asking to masturbate in front of a guard.

The decision to reduce Ladson’s sentence was hard to swallow for Daniel Mayoral, 19, Giovanny’s brother who had worked with him to repair the bike’s engine.

Last week, Daniel Mayoral four times visited the Kendall cemetery where his brother is buried — to show off his first car, a gray 1999 Chevrolet Malibu.

“Just to feel like he’s with me. He would have wanted to see my car,” Daniel Mayoral said. “My brother was a mini-mechanic at 14. He liked every car. He could fix almost anything.”