Black Man Serving Life Sentence for Stealing Hedge Clippers Granted Parole

Elias Hubbard
October 18, 2020

The Louisiana Supreme Court consists of five White men and one Black woman, Chief Justice Bernette Johnson. The conditions of Bryant's parole require him to be on curfew and attend AA meetings. However, the state's Supreme Court denied a review of Bryant's case.

Bryant was convicted under the state's habitual offender law at the time because he had four prior convictions, all for theft.

She added: "Now it is imperative that the Legislature repeal the habitual offender law that allows for these unfair sentences, and for district attorneys across the state to immediately stop seeking extreme penalties for minor offenses".

His initial conviction was for burglary in a carport at a home in Shreveport.

In an attempt to have his sentenced dismissed, Bryant took his case to the Louisiana Supreme Court in August of 2002. Johnson was the sole dissenter of the court's decision and the only justice to write an explanation for her decision.

"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 objective", Johnson wrote, comparing it to the post-Reconstruction era laws that mandated harsh penalties for petty theft associated with poverty.

"Pig Laws were largely created to re-enslave African Americans", Johnson wrote.

Bryant was convicted in 1979 for attempted armed robbery, in 1987 for possession of stolen things, attempted forgery of a check worth $150 in 1989 and for simple burglary of an inhabited dwelling in 1992, all before his 1997 arrest for the failed attempt at stealing the hedge clippers.

Neither the severity of Bryant's sentence nor its racial implications were addressed during Thursday's parole panel.

They also said that during his imprisonment he attended drug and anger management programs and had not had any recent disciplinary problems. Along with that, Bryant is required to complete community service.

She wrote: "Arrested at 38, Mr Bryant has already spent almost 23 years in prison and is now over 60 years old".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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