Is the Age of a Defendant a Relevant Factor That Determines the Mitigation of Punishment ?

In State v. Dixon, 283 So. 2d 1 (Fla. 1973), the court stated that the age mitigator "allows the judge and jury to consider the effect that the inexperience of the defendant on the one hand or, in conjunction with subsection (a) [no significant criminal history], the length of time that the defendant has obeyed the laws in determining whether or not one explosion of criminality warrants the extinction of life." 283 So. 2d at 10. In light of this interpretation, we approved the finding of the age mitigator in Burns v. State, 699 So. 2d 646 (Fla. 1997), in relation to a forty-two year old defendant. The trial court there had found that both the defendant's age and the fact that he had no significant history of prior criminal activity supported separate statutory mitigating factors. With regard to the age mitigator, we stated that "age at the time of the offense is a [statutory] mitigating factor in this case to the extent that it demonstrates, in conjunction with Burns' lack of a history of prior criminal activity, the length of time Burns obeyed the law prior to committing this crime." Id. at 648 n.4 (citing Dixon, 283 So. 2d at 10). Thus, the age of the defendant, "whether youthful, middle-aged, or aged," is a relevant factor to consider in determining whether to mitigate the defendant's punishment. Dixon, 283 So. 2d at 10.