62-year-old Fair Wayne Bryant was convicted in 1997 for attempting to steal hedge clippers from a carport storage room in Caddo Parish, LA – one count of attempted simple burglary. “Prosecutors pursued and won a life sentence in the case, a penalty permissible under the state’s habitual offender law.”, NPR reports.
Bryant’s 2018 appeal to the Second Circuit Court of Louisiana was denied, almost unanimously by the court. Supreme Court Chief Justice Bernette Johnson was the only justice who agreed that “the sentence imposed is excessive and disproportionate to the offense the defendant committed.” Johnson was also the only black person and only female on the court.
The rest of the justices were white men who supported keeping Bryant in prison for the rest of his life as punishment for stealing hedge clippers.
“The decision from the state supreme court gives Bryant few, if any, options for recourse to leave Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, the country’s largest maximum-security prison, which is also the site of a former slave plantation. In her dissent, Johnson — the court’s first Black chief justice — drew a straight line from slavery to the laws that she said enabled Louisiana prosecutors to send Bryant to Angola for the rest of his life. In the years following Reconstruction, she wrote, Southern states introduced extreme sentences for petty theft, such as stealing cattle and swine, that criminalized recently freed African Americans who were still struggling to come out of poverty. Much like Black Codes before them, they allowed states to sentence people to forced labor. Under these laws, the Black prison population in the Deep South exploded starting in the 1870s. ““He Got Life for Stealing Hedge Clippers. The Louisiana Supreme Court Says It’s a Fair Sentence.” – readersupportednews.org
According to CNN, “A Black Louisiana man will spend the rest of his life in prison for stealing hedge clippers, after the Louisiana Supreme Court denied his request to have his sentence overturned last week. Fair Wayne Bryant, 62, was convicted in 1997 on one count of attempted simple burglary.
In his appeal to the Second Circuit Court of Louisiana in 2018, his attorney, Peggy Sullivan, wrote that Bryant “contends that his life sentence is unconstitutionally harsh and excessive. “Last week, though, the state Supreme Court disagreed — with five justices choosing to uphold the life sentence.
The lone dissenter in the decision was Supreme Court Chief Justice Bernette Johnson, who wrote that “the sentence imposed is excessive and disproportionate to the offense the defendant committed.” Johnson is the only female and Black person on the court. The rest of the justices are White men.”
“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.”Supreme Court Chief Justice Bernette Johnson