An Alabama man who was serving a life sentence for stealing $ 50 will be released in the next few days after 36 years in prison.
Alvin Kennard was 22 years old in 1983 when a judge sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Now, thanks to the curiosity of another judge, the 58-year-old man is going to see freedom.
The crime that led Kennard to prison? Steal $ 50.75 from a bakery. In spite of the relatively minor theft, it is a legal technicality that put Kennard behind bars for so long.
His sentence arose out of Alabama's usual offender law, known as the "Three Strikes Act", which was passed in the 1970s to punish repeat offenders. Under the law, Kennard's theft – his fourth conviction – meant that the judge had no choice but to sentence him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The law was amended in the early 2000s, but it did not apply retroactively to Kennard's case. That's Judge David Carpenter, a judge at Jefferson County Circuit Court, who put Kennard's freedom in motion.
"[Judge Carpenter] Carla Crowder, Kennard's lawyer, told ABC News that it was strange that it would appear that someone was serving a life sentence with no possibility of parole. "He was a judge who went out of his way."
Carpenter criticized Kennard's case on Wednesday, saying his time on duty was satisfactory. It is unclear when exactly the 58-year-old will be released.
"I just raised my hands in the air and said:" My goodness, thank you, thank you, "said Kennard's niece Patricia Jones. to WBRC after the judge's decision.
Kennard, who has been described as "a rather exemplary inmate," said he was ready to enter normal life and be with his family. He plans to work as a carpenter once released.
"I just want to say I'm sorry for what I did," Kennard told the court. "I take responsibility for what I've done in the past. I want to have the opportunity to do things right."
"What's extraordinary about Mr. Kennard is that even when he thought he was going to be in jail for the rest of his life, he had really changed his life," Crowder said. to his client. "He is overwhelmed by this opportunity, but has remained close to his family, so he enjoys incredible support."
Crowder also noticed Kennard's compassion in prison, saying that he was already making arrangements to donate his property.
"We talked about his property and who he wanted to give it to, because there are such deprivations," she said. "He wanted to make sure someone else had his thermals to stay warm this winter."
Several friends and family members were in court to support Kennard on Wednesday. When the decision was made, they stood up and raised their arms in celebration, the Guardian reported.
"All of us [were] cry, "said Jones to the WBRC. We've been talking about it since, I do not know, for more than 20 years, about freedom. "