Virginia man is set to be free after being sentenced to 1,823 years

Lawrence Stephens was an 18-year-old homeless restaurant waiter when he and three others committed a home invasion robbery in the Seaford region of York County in 2001

No guns were fired, and no one was hurt, according to his lawyer.

The Hampton man and several others were apprehended and brought to trial, but the sentence Stephens received from York County Judge Prentis Smiley Jr. violated sentencing guidelines by hundreds of years.

Smiley withdrew from the bench and died in 2008, according to a Daily Press report. 

He presided over Daryl Atkins’ capital murder trial in 1998.As a result of the outcome, a U.S.

In 2002, the Supreme Court issued a judgement prohibiting the execution of people with intellectual disability.

Gaylene Kanoyton, the president of the Hampton NAACP, enlisted the help of attorney Rebecca Winn, the legal redress chair, to investigate and file a petition for a conditional pardon this year. 

The Stephens case is only one of the civil rights organization’s ongoing investigations.

Winn stated in his appeal that both the prosecution and the defense had provided insufficient representation. 

She expressed herself as follows: “I was especially alarmed to read that the prosecutor was not even sure of the full scope of the role that Mr. Stephens played during the acts in question apart from the role played by his co-defendants.”

Furthermore, Winn stated that Stephens’ court-appointed attorney was later found guilty of failing to adequately represent his client.

“He actually eventually [was] convicted by the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board for his unethical conduct in his representation of Mr. Stephens,” Winn said.

According to Winn, the white architect of the crime, Paul Melendres, received ten years in prison, while Darnell Nolen, a Black 17-year-old, received 35 years, and Stephens received an astronomical sentence of 1,823 years in prison. 

According to Winn, Stephens should have been sentenced to 13 years in jail under the sentencing standards.

The petition for a pardon was filed in September, and Stephens learned last Friday that he had been granted a conditional pardon by Governor Ralph Northam after serving 19 years in prison.

In 30 to 60 days, he will be free.

Kanoyton and Winn said they’ll keep fighting the system that incarcerates brown and black males in large numbers.

“As long as we have judges that are going to sit on the bench and wrongly sentence people depending on their race, to sentence them to unjustly years to be in prison, we have to keep on fighting,” Kanoyton said.

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