This is our 600th show, and in typical fashion, it came together quite miraculously.  My dear friend Stephanie Royal called me up and said, “You have to meet the man standing in my office.”  She then put Ian Manuel on the phone, and in about two minutes I knew he had to be on What Matters Most.

When I started the show a little over four years ago, I had this vague idea of finding extraordinary people and lifting them up for the world to see.  Yes, we have had a lot of very well known and famous guests, but we have also found so many spiritual diamonds that were not as recognized.

Ian has one of the most amazing stories of transformation I have had the privilege to bear witness to.  Yet it was the magnificent beauty of his heart that really brought me to the edge of my seat and ultimately to my knees in gratitude.  What a beautiful soul.

I am so honored to sit in this seat and learn.  To put out these shows for all of you amazing people around the world as we build our soul tribe and make the world a little warmer.  A very special thank you to the people/patrons who support the show so generously with their love.

When Ian Manuel was 13 years old, he was directed by older juveniles to commit a robbery. During the botched robbery attempt, a woman suffered a nonfatal gunshot wound. Ian turned himself in to the police and was charged as an adult with armed robbery and attempted murder.

Ian’s attorney instructed him to plead guilty and told him he would receive a 15-year sentence. Ian accepted responsibility for his actions and pleaded guilty but was sentenced to life imprisonment without possibility of parole.

The Equal Justice Initiative took on Ian’s case and argued that it is cruel and unusual punishment to sentence a 13-year-old child to die in prison. While Ian’s case was pending on appeal, the United States Supreme Court decided in Graham v. Florida that, for most offenses, children cannot be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.

The State of Florida argued that Graham applies only to non-homicide cases, and not to cases like Ian’s, because attempted murder is not a non-homicide offense even though no one is killed.

On October 29, 2010, the EJI won a unanimous ruling from a Florida Court of Appeal, which concluded that juveniles convicted of attempted murder cannot be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. The Florida appeals court rejected the State’s argument, holding that “simple logic dictates that attempted murder is a non-homicide offense because death, by definition, has not occurred.”

The court concluded that “Graham‘s holding forbidding a sentence of life without parole for a juvenile non-homicide offender applies to Mr. Manuel and requires us to vacate his life-without-parole sentences.” Ian’s death-in-prison sentence was vacated and he was re-sentenced. The victim has forgiven Ian, and petitioned for his release.

Ian was released from prison on November 11, 2016.

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