FLORENCE — A former University of North Alabama football player agreed to a manslaughter plea this week, and promised to make good on the request from the victim's family that he give back to society once he is released.
The prosecutors and defense attorney alike said they are impressed by the family's act of compassion and determination to make something positive out of the tragedy.
Khadedryck Devonte Todd, 24, of Florence, was charged with murder, first-degree possession of marijuana, and harassment.
Todd was accused of assaulting Anthony Coleman, 21, also of Florence, on April 2, 2018, in a parking lot of a north Florence convenience store.
Coleman died at Huntsville Hospital just over a week later from injuries sustained in the attack.
Todd's trail was set to start Tuesday, but a plea agreement was reached.
The agreement includes a 20-year sentence, with five years to serve in prison. His attorney, Tim Case, said Todd has spent approximately 1.5 years in the Lauderdale County Detention Center, so he'll have 3.5 years remaining to serve.
Angie Hamilton, Lauderdale County's chief assistant district attorney, said the plea decision was made after the families of Todd and Coleman got together. Coleman's family members also wanted to speak with Todd and his family once the plea hearing was completed.
"It was a very emotional hearing," Hamilton said. "Then after that, the victim's family met with the defendant and defendant's family for about an hour in a room.
"The Coleman family told Mr. Todd that he took a life from them, so he owed them a life. They didn't think it was a life in prison, but wanted him to go to prison and better himself, and when he gets out, to help give back to society. They expected him to use his mind to better society, and he made a commitment to them that that's what he was going to do."
She described the comments from Coleman's family as "powerful."
"The way the conversation went was, 'We're losing too many African-American sons to violence and prison,'" Hamilton said. "They said his being sorry would never get their son back. They wanted him to prove it by his actions."
Case said he is amazed by the "compassion and the graciousness" from both sides.
"This agreement was reached because the family of Anthony Coleman and the family of Khadedryck Todd lifted their hearts and their minds out of and past the courtroom into being concerned for Khadedryck years from now," Case said. "The compassion that both families have shown to each other is unmatched and unparalleled and very respected by myself and all of the individuals involved."
The Coleman family also asked Todd's family to be supportive of him during his prison term, because it is easy for someone to fall in line with the wrong people while incarcerated, Hamilton said.
"They showed him a lot of mercy and a lot of grace," she said. "He was very undeserving of that, but very thankful for that. We hope the plea and the conversation they had with him can start bringing some peace and closure to the family."
Hamilton said Todd told the Coleman family he had wanted to talk with them since the incident.
"They got to share stuff from both sides that had been in their heads ever since April 2, 2018," she said. "My job is to seek justice for Anthony Coleman and his family. This case proves that justice can mean different things for different families."