The former death row inmate who pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the killing of an Albany pizza boy two decades ago must serve at least 1½ more years in prison before he is eligible for parole — and more than 5 additional years if parole is denied — using calculations based on his initial incarceration date and when he might qualify for early release.

Michael Wearry was sentenced Wednesday to serve 25 years in prison, avoiding a first-degree murder retrial for the 1998 killing of Eric Walber, a 16-year-old honors student and football player.

Since Wearry has a prior crime of violence on his record, he is required to serve the full term unless he is released on parole, said Ken Pastorick, a spokesman for the state Department of Corrections.

Pastorick said Wearry will be eligible for parole after serving 85 percent of the term. 

Wearry would have to appear before a parole board, where he would likely face opposition from prosecutors and the victim's family.

Defense attorneys representing two of Wearry's co-defendants had previously said Wearry would be eligible for release in 2019. Wearry's attorney Rachel Conner did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Wearry pleaded guilty to manslaughter Wednesday as part of an agreement that saw prosecutors drop a first-degree murder charge in exchange for a 25-year prison sentence and an admission of guilt.

Judge Robert Morrison III, of the 21st Judicial District, gave Wearry credit for time served since March 4, 1999, when he was incarcerated for a robbery conviction, the prior crime of violence on his record. He won't complete 85 percent of his sentence until June 2020.

For 20 years, Wearry had maintained that he was innocent of killing Walber. He was convicted and sentenced to death by a Livingston Parish jury in 2002, but the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016 ordered a retrial, saying prosecutors withheld key evidence that could have aided his defense.

He had been set for a retrial Jan. 22.


This story has been updated to add when Wearry will have completed 85 percent of his 25-year prison sentence, based on his initial incarceration date.

Follow Caroline Grueskin on Twitter, @cgrueskin.