Fulton County Superior Court Judge Kimberly Esmond Adams sentenced Jonathan Redding for the 2009 shooting death of John Henderson, a 27-year-old bartender in Atlanta's Grant Park neighborhood.
Police recovered a pistol after Henderson died that was left in the botched armed robbery of a drug dealer whose partner fired back at the robbers after they entered their apartment. Police recovered the pistol with Redding's blood on it and ballistics tests linked the gun to the shooting at the bar.
"John's death was a body blow so strong and intense that I don't think we will ever recover," Don Henderson, father of slain bartender John Henderson, told the judge before sentencing. "It has left a chasm so deep and dark within us that nothing can fill the emptiness in our lives."
He said his son wanted to own his own bar and grow old in Atlanta.
Redding's attorney argued that there was insufficient evidence to convict him because the prosecution could prove that Redding was part of the gang that robbed Henderson's bar but could not prove that he was the one who fired the fatal shot.
Redding's mother pleaded with the judge to show leniency.
"I know in my heart that is not the doing of my child," said Dorothy Redding, contending her son had been lured into the gang life. "My child and my family is truly a praying, church-going family."
After the sentencing, District Attorney Paul Howard told the Henderson family that authorities are pursuing other suspects in the case. Defense lawyers and prosecutors contend that gang member Johnquavious Hood is the man who fired the fatal shot and later bragged about it.
Hood has not been charged in the murder, and Redding has refused to cooperate with police.