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The sentence of an Arkansas man convicted of murder who was sentenced to life in prison without parole as a minor has been reduced to 40 years.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen signed an agreement between the prosecuting attorney and defendant Brandon Hardman and his public defender Monday.

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that mandatory sentences of life without parole are unconstitutional for youth offenders, and the state has since been resentencing those who were sentenced to life without parole as youths.

Hardman, now 34, was sentenced in 2002 for what prosecutors described as a "gang hit" in 2000 in Little Rock when he was 16. The charge was capital murder.

He was one of 58 inmates in the Arkansas Department of Correction affected when the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the sentences were unconstitutional.

On Monday, Hardman's sentence was reduced to 40 years with credit for time served. He's been in jail since his 2002 sentencing, plus 2½ years prior to that while awaiting conviction. He was given credit for 18½ years served.

An entry on the online court docket for Hardman's case notes that all parties agreed to the reduced sentence and that the family of his victim was notified. It said state representatives would accompany the family to any future parole hearing.

At his October 2002 trial, Hardman claimed he had acted in self-defense when he shot another teen, a member of a rival gang, through the back of the neck in March 2000.

His lawyer at the time argued he should be convicted of a lesser, nonhomicide offense: unlawfully discharging a firearm.

He had never met the boy he killed, 17-year-old Antwan Jones, before the day of the shooting, which occurred at the Sunset Terrace housing project on South Battery Street.

Hardman was nicknamed Lil' G and was a member of the Folks gang, also called the Gangster Disciples. Jones was in the Vice Lords gang, which claimed control of the housing project. The groups were longtime rivals.

Hardman and friends had been driving through the area flashing gang signs at Jones and others.

They returned about 20 minutes after the first altercation and when Jones approached the driver's side window where Hardman was, Hardman pointed a gun at Jones, who then turned and ran.

Hardman used a .22-caliber rifle to shoot Jones in the back of the neck. Jones was taken to an area hospital and died the next day. Witnesses identified Hardman in a photo lineup.

Hardman later told police that Jones disrespected him in front of his girlfriend.

Information for this article was contributed by John Lynch of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

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Metro on 06/21/2018

Print Headline: Life sentence is cut to 40 years for slayer at 16

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