T he court room was packed with uniform and plain-clothes Syracuse Police officers, some of whom worked with Wallie Howard, Jr. on the day he was shot in October of 1990.
It was an intensely emotional scene as Howard's sister addressed the court. Shelley Howard deferred from her prepared remarks and directly addressed the man who shot her brother.
"You killed my brother with a gun shot wound to the back of the head," she said.
She asked Robert "Bam Bam" Lawrence, her brother's killer, to be sure to make more of his life if he ever does get out of prison.
Lawrence also stood and addressed the court, looking directly at the Howard family and apologized for his actions in October of 1990. He also directly addressed the police officers, and explained he was no longer the person who committed those acts.
Federal judge David Hurd cited the U.S. Supreme Court's decision that life in prison without parole cannot be a mandatory sentence for a criminal under the age of 18. The judge referred to Lawrence's parentless upbringing and his involvement in a drug gang that came from New York City to Syracuse as mitigating factors in the sentencing.
Lawrence's sentence was reduced to 31 years and 5 months in prison. When Lawrence is eligible for parole, the new sentence gives him the possibility released from state prison without facing additional federal time.
Deputy Chief Rebecca Thompson of the Syracuse Police Department was Wallie Howard's partner the day he was shot. She spoke in court about the remarkable person and dedicated police officer Howard was.