JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – The Mississippi Supreme Court ruled that a man imprisoned for a 1999 murder was improperly sentenced. His case was remanded to trial court for proper sentencing.

According to court documents, Billy Ray Harris and Ronnie Travis got into a fist fight at Windy City Club in Madison County on November 7, 1999. The fight led outside the building, and Harris’ two brothers joined in. Witnesses heard gunshots, then Travis was found in a ditch across the street. He died almost a day later from cerebral trauma.

In 2001, Billy Ray Harris was convicted of depraved-heart murder under section 97-3-19(1)(b). At the time, the statute only defined “murder” and “capital murder.” Depraved-heart murder was simply “murder.” Harris was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

A motion that was filed argued that Harris was improperly sentenced to life in prison without parole when the maximum sentence allowed by Mississippi Code Annotated section 97-3-21 is “imprisonment for life.”

Today, depraved-heart murder is second-degree murder. In 2001, a murder conviction carried a life in prison sentence. Now, the penalty for depraved-heart murder is still life imprisonment “if so fixed by the jury in its verdict,” but if the jury fails to agree on life imprisonment, the trial court “shall fix the penalty at not less than 20 nor more than 40 years in prison. Only a person convicted of capital murder is eligible for a sentence of life without the possibility of parole under either version of the statute.

On November 1, the Mississippi Supreme Court issued an order vacating Harris’ sentence of life without parole and remanded the case to Madison County Circuit Court for resentencing.