GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A judge nixed the life sentence of a man who shot and killed a Grand Rapids cab driver when he was 16. 

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Maurice Montrell Sanders, 42, was convicted of murder in the summer of 1994 and was sentenced to mandatory life in prison. Sanders shot Yellow Company Cab driver Louis Biles III in the head from the backseat, during an attempted robbery. Sanders told police that the gun had accidentally discharged. 

Those that have witnessed Sanders' time behind bars say he has come a long way from who he was as a teenager. In his nearly 25 years in prison, Sanders received his GED, began taking college courses and mentored other inmates. In 2016, Sanders was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. He has received multiple surgeries and rounds of chemotherapy in the time since. 

Kent County Circuit Judge Paul Sullivan said Wednesday that his low sentence for Sanders came in part due to his illness and the strain it may put on the Michigan Department of Corrections. 

"I was inclined, to be honest with you...to not go to the very bottom," Sullivan said of his sentence. 

Sanders was sentenced to 25 years in prison with two additional years for his felony firearm charge. He received credit for time served, so by September, Sanders will face just two more years in prison before he becomes eligible for parole. 

"I should note that I did talk to the widow," Kent County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Blair Lachman told the judge. "She agrees that Mr. Sanders has done his time for this penalty, recognizing he was a juvenile. I did discuss with her his performance in prison, she was pleased."

Lachman said Biles' widow told the prosecutor's office that she was OK with his release, which the judge said also helped him make his decision. 

Sanders wrote a letter that he read before the judge re-sentenced him.

"My actions victimized an innocent man and his family, and regardless of the result of ignorance, stupidity, immaturity or recklessness -- they are and were my actions and I take full responsibility for them," he read. 

"I often wish I had the capability to replace my life with his." 

Sanders has had his poetry and writings published while behind bars. To read more, click here.  

► Emma Nicolas is a multimedia journalist. Have a news tip or question for Emma? Get in touch by email, Facebook or Twitter.

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