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Gunman gets two life sentences for robberies

Jordan Harris

Jordan Harris

ALBANY, Ga. -- Jordan Harris was sentenced Tuesday by Dougherty Superior Court Chief Judge Willie Lockette to two life terms on armed robbery charges. The terms are to run concurrently.

Although he was sentenced by Lockette to two life sentences, Harris must still face a trial and possible death penalty for the murder of former Lee County Commissioner Walter Phelps.

"I hope the young people will hear the message and know there is a harsh penalty for a life of crime," said Heather Lanier, Dougherty County Judicial Circuit chief assistant district attorney. "The judge gave him the maximum sentence for his crime."

Dressed in a white Department of Corrections jumpsuit, Harris was taken to the Dougherty County Jail after sentencing. He is scheduled to be taken back to prison today to continue a 20-year sentence from Lee County. He'll return as the murder trial progresses.

Harris pleaded guilty to robbing a convenience store in Lee County and was found guilty of robbing two in Dougherty County. He is also accused of gunning down Albany hardware store owner Phelps at his store in July 2010.

Asking for the life sentences, Lanier said Harris took part in a robbery spree that terrorized clerks in the convenience stores he robbed.

"The defendant put a gun in their faces for no reason at all but to buy some more drugs," Lanier said.

During the hearing, defense attorney Nikki Bonner argued that a life sentence was too harsh for a man with no criminal record. He also said the three men who were with Harris received much shorter sentences.

"No one was injured," Bonner said. "No one was shot or killed. He has already received twice the sentence as the mandatory minimum in Lee County."

Bonner called two character witnesses for Harris: Michael White, the pastor of Litman Cathedral, and Sabrina Owens-Hayes. Both testified that Harris had always been upstanding in their presence.

"Prisons are like warehouses where they are put to sit and rot," Owens-Hayes said. "I don't know that anyone deserves that."

In the hallway outside the courtroom, Owens-Hayes harangued the actions of Lanier, the district attorney's office and the police, calling the sentencing "corruption instead of justice."