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Alabama court frees man who served 36 years in prison for stealing $50

Alvin Kennard sits in the courtroom before his hearing in Bessemer, Ala., on Aug. 28, 2019.
Alvin Kennard sits in the courtroom before his hearing in Bessemer, Ala., on Aug. 28, 2019. Ivana Hrynkiw/The Birmingham News via AP

An Alabama man who stole $50.75 at knifepoint — and spent the last 36 years serving a life sentence in prison for it — has been released after a resentencing hearing.

Alvin Kennard, 58, was originally sentenced to life in prison in 1983 under Alabama’s Habitual Felony Offender Act for stealing from a bakery, according to court records. He was given the hefty sentence under the state’s three-strikes law because he had previously been charged with burglary and grand larceny.

Kennard’s attorney, Carla Crowder, argued in court this week that he would have received a maximum 20-year sentence under current guidelines.

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The judge resentenced him to time served on Wednesday, paving the way for his release. He added that Kennard would have been eligible for parole back in 1999 under the current guidelines. Instead, he was forced to wait an additional 20 years to make his case.

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Kennard’s family cheered and cried in the courtroom after the judge resentenced him to time served on Wednesday.

“Hallelujah!” Kennard’s niece, Patricia Jones, told local station WVTM outside the courthouse. “He had to be sentenced but with it being so severe, we were just hoping that one day God would free him and He did.”

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Kennard plans to live with his family in Bessemer, Ala., and work as a carpenter.

“He wants to support himself, and we’re going to support him in every way we can,” Jones said.

No date has been set for his release.

— With files from the Associated Press