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Instead, he got life times three

Eli Lawrence had earned a life sentence for a robbery homicide, in 1946, in the backcountry of eastern North Carolina. Had the dead man been white, he’d have hung. Instead, he got life times three, and Adrian knew that Eli’d never breathe free air again.

What does "Instead, he got life times three" mean?

May 21, 2018 6:55 AM
Comments · 2
He was sentenced to spend three lifetimes in prison. Obviously, once you’re dead, they just bury you. The point is that if one sentence gets reversed, he’s still not getting out. Also, it’s common to get out early on good behavior, or maybe if the prison is too crowded (depending on the jurisdiction), so having to serve three life sentences rather than one helps ensure the murderer won’t be getting out.

May 21, 2018
American courts sometimes sentence the same person to multiple life sentences (in this case, to three of them). I guess it's for emphasis; obviously, you'll die in prison whether you get one life sentence or a hundred of them. 
May 21, 2018