- Associated Press - Monday, January 16, 2017

HARRISON, Ark. (AP) - An Arkansas inmate who was sentenced to life in prison without parole for a crime he committed as a juvenile could soon be released from custody.

Circuit Court Judge John Putman on Friday resentenced 37-year-old Benjamin Scott MacFarland to 40 years in prison. MacFarland was convicted of capital murder and kidnapping for the 1996 killing of 15-year-old John Melbourne Jr.

According to authorities, MacFarland told police at the time that Melbourne was beaten, sprayed with disinfectant, burned with a candle and forced to swallow lit cigarette butts. Melbourne was later found strangled in a wooded area in Boone County, and authorities say he was killed because MacFarland and others believed he had “snitched” on someone in a hot-check case.

Another man in the case, Jason McGehee, was convicted of capital murder and is on death row.

The Harrison Daily Times reported (https://bit.ly/2jX9y1h) that MacFarland will be eligible for parole because he’s already served 70 percent of his sentence, but he may not receive parole immediately. Attorneys say MacFarland was 17 at the time of the crime.

MacFarland’s case is one of about 60 in Arkansas that is being revisited after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that mandatory life-without-parole sentences are unconstitutional. The victim’s father, John Melbourne Sr., told the newspaper after Friday’s hearing that he disagreed with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on juvenile life sentences and said he hoped it could be revisited when a new justice is confirmed.

“This is a fight I’m going to fight to the end,” he said.

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Information from: Harrison Daily Times, https://www.harrisondaily.com

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