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ELKO, Nev. (AP) — A Nevada man sentenced to die for a 1998 murder has been issued a new sentence that gives him credit for 16 years of time served and makes him eligible for parole immediately.
Elko County District Judge Norman Robison on Thursday resentenced 55-year-old Kelly Rhyne to life in prison with the possibility of parole after the Carlin man pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in a deal with prosecutors.
"Mr. Rhyne, you've spent a lot of time in maximum security, and I hope you've learned from it," Robison said.
The state Supreme Court twice upheld Rhyne's first-degree conviction in the beating death of Donald "Lobo" Brown in an Elko alley.
But Robison overturned it in 2010, ruling Rhyne was mentally incompetent at his first trial and his lawyers were unqualified to handle a death penalty case.
Rhyne did not address the court on Thursday, except to thank the judge, the Elko Daily Free Press reported (http://tinyurl.com/kk29m8l).
Prosecutors agreed to a plea bargain rather than retrying the case. In granting Rhyne credit for 5,891 days served, Robison said he thought the lesser charge and punishment were appropriate.
"I also feel the penalty imposed by the jury was excessive," the judge said.
An accomplice in the beating, James Mendenhall, accepted a plea deal for second-degree murder and never went to trial. Earlier this year, Mendenhall was granted partial parole for his murder charge, though he will continue to serve up to eight years on a consecutive conspiracy charge.
Information from: Elko Daily Free Press, http://www.elkodaily.com