Montana man again sentenced to 80 years for stabbing death over which military branch was better

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BILLINGS, Mont. — A Montana man who was twice convicted of killing another man during a drunken argument over which branch of the military was better, the Army or the Marine Corps, was sentenced Friday to 80 years in prison.

William Earl Cunningham, 69, of Laurel was first convicted of deliberate homicide in March 2015 in the 2014 death of Nathan Horn, 40.

The Montana Supreme Court overturned Cunningham’s conviction and 80-year sentence in 2018, saying he was denied the chance to question the professional history and credibility of a state witness and not allowed to fully testify about why he was afraid of Horn. He testified he killed Horn in self-defense.

Cunningham didn’t testify at his retrial last summer, The Billings Gazette reported.

Horn’s throat was slit and he had been stabbed multiple times, a medical examiner testified at trial.

Cunningham told a pre-sentence investigator that Horn’s death was an accident and that he believed he had served enough prison time, District Judge Gregory Todd noted during Friday’s hearing.

Cunningham’s attorney asked for a 40-year sentence with 20 years suspended, which would have made Cunningham immediately eligible for parole. Prosecutors again sought the 80-year sentence.

Cunningham has a criminal record of drunkenly assaulting others with a knife, Todd said.

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“I don’t believe it was accidental. And I don’t believe Mr. Cunningham has done enough time,” the judge said.

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