A black man in Louisiana was sentenced to life in prison for stealing hedge clippers more than two decades ago – months after the state Supreme Court refused to review his sentence.
Performance on parole and the committee voted Thursday to release Fair Wayne Bryant at 63 p.m. He was released from prison that day after serving more than 20 years in a state prison in Angola, his lawyer said.
Bryant will enter a program in Baton Rouge that helps prisoners adjust to life after their release. Eventually, he will be allowed to stay with his brother in Shreveport.
Under the terms of his parole, Bryant will have a curfew, he must attend alcoholics anonymous meetings and full community service.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana called the board’s decision to grant parole a “long-term victory.”
Bryant was 38 when he was arrested in January 1997 for taking a pair of clippers from a Carport storeroom at a home in Shreveport. The homeowner was warned about the theft and Bryant was chased.
That same year, a judge convicted him of attempting a common burglary of a populated home, and Bryant, who had a previous sentence, was sentenced to life in prison because he was considered a “real” offender under state law.
In previous appeals, Bryant argued that his sentence was “unconstitutional.” But in July, the state Supreme Court refused to review his sentence. A court spokesman told NBC News in BC Gust that five of the court’s seven judges, all white men, denied his request without elaborating.
One judge, Scott Cricket, withdrew from the case when Chief Justice Burnett Jones wrote in resentment that his sentence was “excessive.”
“This man’s life sentence for a failed attempt to steal a bunch of hedge clippers is much higher than the crime rate and serves as a legal punitive purpose,” Johnson wrote, comparing it to post-reconstruction legislation that provides harsher penalties for minors. Made mandatory. Theft associated with poverty.
He said the laws were “designed to re-enslave mostly African Americans” and “undoubtedly contributed to the expansion of the black prison population beginning in the 1879s.”
“And this case demonstrates their modern manifestation: strict criminal law that allows a black man convicted of a property crime to be sentenced to life in prison.”
Bryant had many beliefs from the past, including possession of stolen items, simple burglary, and attempted forgery. His only violent conviction, the Chief Justice noted in his dissent, was for armed robbery in 1979.
The severity of Bryant’s sentence or its racial implications was not addressed during the parole panel on Thursday. Board members of two whites and one black noted that Bryant had been arrested more than 20 times and had 11 previous convictions.
He also said that during his imprisonment he attended drug and anger management programs and that he had no recent disciplinary problems.
Bryant told the panel he had a drug problem but said while in prison he was “able to stay in constant contact with God to identify that problem and help me with that problem.”
His attorney, Robert Lancaster, said he hopes his client’s case shows that criminal law needs to be changed.
“Because of his previous history of minor offenses to aggravate drug addiction, Mr. Bryant was sentenced to life in prison instead of providing the necessary assistance to recover from his drug addiction,” Lancaster said in a statement. Finally, after 24 years in prison, he has been given a second chance. “