A Black war veteran–who was serving a life sentence over a $30 marijuana sale; is going to be released from prison soon. According to reports from ABC News; prosecutors in Louisiana announced on Thursday they agreed to reduce Derek Harris’ sentence to time served.
The Army veteran was arrested back in 2008 after he allegedly sold less than a gram of weed to an undercover officer. In 2012, a judge sentenced Harris to 15 years behind bars for the drug charges; but prosecutors subsequently invoked the state’s habitual offender law, which led to Harris being re-sentenced to life in prison without parole. According to court records, the vet had a number of nonviolent convictions under his belt; which include simple robbery and theft of property valued at less than $500.
In an attempt to get his conviction overturned, Harris argued that his first attorney failed his obligations; and that he received “ineffective assistance of counsel at sentencing on post-conviction review.” Last month, the Louisiana Supreme Court reviewed the case and granted Harris a new hearing. Ultimately, the District Attorney’s office agreed that the defendant’s first attorney was ineffective; and his marijuana charge did not warrant a life sentence.
Louisiana Supreme Court Justice John Weimer wrote in the decision that Harris was not a “not a drug kingpin”; and could not be classified “as a drug dealer, so far as I can tell.” Weimer continued, writing, “[Harris] developed a substance abuse problem after returning from his honorable military service in Desert Storm; and his prior offenses were nonviolent and related to his untreated dependency on drugs.”
Once Derek Harris is out, he intends to move to Kentucky to be near his family. His attorney, Cormac Boyle, told CNN he is working to get his client released “soon.”