A Black war veteran who was serving a life sentence over a $30 marijuana sale will soon be released from prison.
According to ABC News, Louisiana prosecutors announced Thursday they had agreed to reduce Derek Harris' sentence to time served. The Army vet was arrested 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; However, prosecutors subsequently invoked the state's habitual offender law, and Harris was re-sentenced to life in prison without parole. Court records show Harris had a number of nonviolent convictions under his belt, including simple robbery and theft of property valued at less than $500.
Harris argued his first attorney failed his obligations and that he received "ineffective assistance of counsel at sentencing on post-conviction review." The Louisiana Supreme Court reviewed the case and granted Harris a new hearing last month. The District Attorney's office ultimately 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."
"[Harris] developed a substance abuse problem after returning from his honorable military service in Desert Storm," Weimer wrote, "and his prior offenses were nonviolent and related to his untreated dependency on drugs."
Harris' attorney Cormac Boyle told CNN he is working to get his client released "soon." Once he is out, Harris intends to move to Kentucky to be near his family.