- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 1, 2014

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A man who learned how to cook crack cocaine and load a gun by the time he was 10 has had his life sentence reduced by a judge who believes the defendant has changed since he was convicted in a deadly street robbery.

Earl Hawkins III, 22, was resentenced to 34 years to life in prison, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (https://bit.ly/1ozsQ4v ) reported Wednesday.

Hawkins was resentenced under a 2011 U.S. Supreme Court decision that makes it illegal to impose mandatory life sentences on criminals younger than 18. At the time Hawkins was convicted, that was the only penalty for second-degree murder - a killing that occurs during the commission of another felony.

Hawkins was just 17 when he and two friends tried to rob another teen on March 1, 2009. Hawkins’ best friend, 16-year-old James Owens, was fatally shot as the victim struggled for possession of a gun, then Hawkins tried, but failed to shoot the robbery target in the head, merely grazing him.

“I feel as though the man I am today is nothing like the monster I was yesterday,” Hawkins told Allegheny County Judge Anthony Mariani at Tuesday’s resentencing.

“I did wrong and I can’t change the past. I betrayed them and I understand that,” Hawkins said of his victims. “But that’s what I knew. The blood’s on me.”

Defense attorney Scott Coffey noted Hawkins was raised by junkies and was lured by easy money, earning enough to buy his own home at age 16. But he argued the young man has changed since he’s been in state prison.

Hawkins has since earned his GED, participated in anti-violence programs and is studying to be a paralegal. He works in the prison laundry, tries to mentor younger inmates and takes part in a prison program that allows him to send videos to his two 6-year-old children in which he reads and sings to them.

“I do think you’re a different person than the person I sentenced the first time,” Mariani said, explaining that the new sentence “still gives you a chance at some life. Mr. Owens has no chance.”


Information from: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, https://www.post-gazette.com

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