Black man serving life sentence for stealing hedge clippers granted parole
A Black man in Louisiana serving life in prison for stealing hedge clippers more than two decades ago was granted parole — months after the state’s Supreme Court declined to review his sentence.
The Board of Pardons and Committee on Parole voted Thursday to release Fair Wayne Bryant, 63, records show. He walked out of prison later that day after serving more than 20 years at the state penitentiary in Angola, his attorney said.
Bryant will enter into a program in Baton Rouge that helps prisoners adjust to life after they are released. Eventually, he will be allowed to live with his brother in Shreveport.
Under the conditions of his parole, Bryant will have a curfew, must attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and complete community service.
The Louisiana American Civil Liberties Union called the board’s decision to grant parole a “long-overdue 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 alerted to the theft and chased Bryant off.
That same year, a jury convicted him of attempted simple burglary of an inhabited dwelling, and Bryant, who had previous convictions, was sentenced to life in prison because he was considered a “habitual” offender under state law.
Bryant in previous appeals argued that his sentence was “unconstitutionally harsh.” But in July, the state’s Supreme Court declined to review his sentence. A court spokesperson told NBC News in August that five of the court’s seven justices, all white men, denied his request without giving an explanation.
One justice, Scott Crichton, recused himself from the case while Chief Justice Bernette Johnson wrote in a dissent that his sentence was “excessive.”
“This man’s life sentence for a failed attempt to steal a set of hedge clippers is grossly out of proportion to the crime and serves no legitimate penal purpose,” Johnson wrote, comparing it to the post-Reconstruction era laws that mandated harsh penalties for petty theft associated with poverty.
Source: NBC news