In 1991, Darrell Hall was sentenced to life in a Georgia prison for possessing a tiny amount of cocaine – equivalent to two sugar packets – and planning to distribute it. It was his second felony, and in the early 1990s, Georgia law required a life sentence for a second felony, according to CNN.
Hall became the first inmate to be freed as part of the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office Conviction Integrity Unit, which evaluates prior sentences by today’s sentencing guidelines to determine which ones stand out as unjust, according to a news release.
Upon learning of Hall’s release last month, Tyler Perry reached out to him via District Attorney Paul Howard Jr.’s Office to offer him a job.
“Hall was released from prison in December and was able to spend the holidays with his family,” Howard’s office said in a statement released to CNN. “In addition to his freedom, Tyler Perry Studios and Mr. Tyler Perry agreed to offer Hall a job so he can rebuild his life and move forward as a productive citizen of Fulton County.”
Had Hall been tried today for the same level offense that he was convicted of in 1991, he would have likely received a drug court program sentence that emphasized rehabilitation and treatment, according to Howard’s office.
Given that disparity, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Henry Newkirk vacated Hall’s sentence and resentenced him to time served, Howard’s office said.
Created last April, the Conviction Integrity Unit is the first of its kind in the southeastern US, according to Howard’s statement. Among its goals, the office will reexamine the October 1960 arrest of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as he led a sit-in inside of an Atlanta department store.
“Dr. King was unjustly incarcerated more than 29 times during his lifetime. And not once did any district attorney or any prosecutor make one step forward to assist Dr. King or to exonerate him,” Howard said, according to CNN. “Those days of prosecutorial neglect, at least here in Fulton County, those days are over.”