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Convicted Athens armed robber sentenced to life without parole wins release after 25 years in prison

Updated: Jun 18, 2021

Spratt Howard in a Department of Corrections photo

By Joe Johnson

Athens resident Spratt Howard was 27 when he entered prison in 1995 to begin serving a life-without-parole sentence for an armed robbery conviction.

Now 52, Howard recently walked out of Baldwin State Prison as a free man.

Western Judicial Circuit Judge Lawton Stephens, who presided over Howard’s trial, imposed the life sentence due to Howard having been convicted of three prior felonies.

Clarke County Superior Court records show that while in prison Howard spent a lot of time writing letters and filing motions and appeals requesting a new trial, even going to the Georgia Court of Appeals, which declined to review his case.

Spratt Howard's 1995 county jail booking photo

It wasn’t until the Southern Center for Human Rights learned of Howard’s case that the Athens man saw that his future might be drastically changed.

On June 9, an attorney for the human rights group filed in Superior Court a motion to modify sentence that pointed out that Howard’s three prior felonies were non-violent offenses, and requested the sentence be changed from life without parole to time served.

“As of June 10, 2021, Mr. Howard, who is now 52 years old, will have served 25 years, and 21 days of his LWOP sentence,” attorney Patrick Mulvaney stated in the motion.

“He has a good institutional record and is a member of the Faith and Character Based Program at Baldwin State prison,” the attorney wrote. “In the event that he is resentenced and released, he would have strong support from his family members, who are stable, law-abiding members of the Athens community.”

The motion noted that Westen Judicial Circuit District Attorney Deborah Gonzalez agreed to a consent order that would modify the original sentence, withdraw the recidivist notice and impose a new sentence of time served.

Judge Stephens, who sentenced Howard a quarter-century earlier, subsequently ordered Howard to be immediately released from custody.

“As this was a resentencing, Judge Stephens made the determination that termination of the initial sentence of life without parole was the appropriate outcome in this case,” Gonzalez said. “When Mr. Howard’s lawyers at the Southern Center for Human Rights brought this case to my attention as one that would be appropriate for resentencing, I reviewed the file and was persuaded that the facts and law supported their argument. Judge Stephens agreed.”

Howard could not be located for comment, and his attorney did not respnd to a request seeking help in contacting his client.

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