Kennard was convicted of robbing a bakery Jan. 24, 1983, in a felony that netted him $50.75, the Birmingham News reported, citing court records.
That bakery crime came after Kennard had previously broken into a vacant service station, leading him to plead guilty to three felony counts of burglary and larceny in 1979. Due to that previous conviction, he was sentenced to life behind bars under the three-strikes provision of Alabama's Habitual Felony Offender Act.
But in 2013, the Alabama Sentencing Commission adopted new guidelines which, if they had been in place when Kennard robbed the bakery, would have made his previous crime not serious enough to trigger a life sentence without parole, defense lawyers said.
Had these new standards been in place then, Kennard couldn't have been imprisoned for any more than 20 years, his attorney Carla Crowder said. He could have been eligible for parole after 10 years.
Kennard told the judge Wednesday that he is still remorseful for his crimes.
“I’m sorry for what I did," Kennard, dressed in orange-and-white jail garb, said. "I was wrong."
The district attorney's office did not oppose the change in his sentence. Prosecutor Lane Tolbert said, however, that his office did not err in applying the law.
“But let me be clear, this is not about $50," Tolbert said.
Kennard has said that after his release, he plans to live with family in Bessemer and work in carpentry.
David K. Li
David K. Li is a breaking news reporter for NBC News.