In 2008, Derek Harris, a military veteran was convicted under Louisiana’s habitual offender law after selling 0.
69 grams of marijuana to an undercover agent. Harris had previously been handed nonviolent convictions for theft and drug-related offenses.
During his initial sentencing in 2012, a judge suggested Harris receive a 15-year sentence rather than the maximum of 30 years. But, Vermilion Parish prosecutors cited the Habitual Offender Law, which allows judges to impose heavier sentences on an individual with prior charges.
ABC News reports that in light of the Habitual Offender Law, the judge said he had no choice but to give Harris a maximum sentence.
Just last month, Harris was granted a new hearing by the Louisiana Supreme Court, with his legal team arguing that his first attorney had failed their client by not challenging the heavy sentence.
Earlier this year, Cormac Boyle of Promise of Justice Initiative (PJI), represents Harris. The PJI attorney argued before the Louisiana Supreme Court that errors committed by Harris’s trial counsel rendered his lengthy sentence as unconstitutional.
In June this year, the Louisiana Supreme Court agreed that a review into the case would be required, and in July, the matter was referred back to the district court.
And on August 6, the District Attorney’s office agreed Harris had indeed received ineffective assistance during his sentencing and was entitled to a lesser sentence. It was agreed that the nine-year sentence, which already served by Harris would be appropriate, and he is now set to be released.
“Mr. Harris’ resentencing gives hope to many others around the state who have unjustly suffered under the habitual offender law, and will now be able to challenge their sentences post-conviction,” PJI said in a statement.
Harris plans to move to Louisville, Kentucky, where he will spend time with his brother Antoine, and his family. He is reportedly looking forward to watching his nephews play sports as well as to building a new life for himself.