Monday, September 28, 2020

White Judges Keep Black Man In Prison For Life For Petty Theft

Back in 1997, 42-year-old Fair Wayne Bryant was convicted of stealing a pai of hedge clippers and was sentenced to … life in prison. For stealing garden equipment. Of note, of course, is that Bryant is a Black man, and this is Louisiana. Last week the Louisiana state Supreme Court denied a request to review Bryant’s case and he will continue to serve out his sentence … for stealing clippers.

In 2000, Fair Wayne Bryant had appealed his life sentence to be unconstitutionally excessive and over the past twenty years his case made its way through the Louisiana court system, finally landing at the state’s highest court. Bryant’s hopes for an appeal ended after a Louisiana Supreme Court panel—consisting of five White men and one Black woman—upheld his life sentence 5-1 last week.

The lone sane person on the panel was the Black judge, Supreme Court Justice Bernette Johnson, who called the original sentence "excessive and disproportionate to the offense" and made special mention of the cost to Louisiana taxpayers:

"Arrested at 38, Mr. Bryant has already spent nearly 23 years in prison and is now over 60 years old. If he lives another 20 years, Louisiana taxpayers will have paid almost one million dollars to punish Mr. Bryant for his failed effort to steal a set of hedge clippers."

The state taxpayers have already paid $518,667 to keep Bryant in prison for the petty crime. Bryant had four previous four convictions—the first was for attempted armed robbery of a taxi driver in 1979, while the others were for theft, attempted forgery, and burglary—which the panel used as an excuse to keep him in prison for life.

Justice Johnson, in her dissent:

"Each of these crimes was an effort to steal something. Such petty theft is frequently driven by the ravages of poverty or addiction, and often both. It is cruel and unusual to impose a sentence of life in prison at hard labor for the criminal behavior which is most often caused by poverty or addiction."

After Bryant’s first appeal in 2000, Louisiana’s 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal, stated that a life sentence was an appropriate punishment for Bryant because he had already spent enough time in prison as an adult.

He had been to prison before, so why not sentence him to life … for stealing garden equipment.

Judge Johnson called Bryant’s life sentence a "modern manifestation of pig laws," which were formulated to particularly punish African-Americans for petty theft:

"Pig Laws were largely designed to re-enslave African Americans, and this case demonstrates their modern manifestation: harsh habitual offender laws that permit a life sentence for a Black man convicted of property crimes. This man’s life sentence for a failed attempt to steal a set of 3 hedge clippers is grossly out of proportion to the crime and serves no legitimate penal purpose."

Imagine a white man, even one with a basically non-violent criminal record, being sentenced to life for petty theft.

Can’t, because that doesn’t happen to white people.

MEAAW

10 comments:

Sixpence Notthewiser said...

I am not shocked at all. Nope.
The prison pipeline is big business in America and it disenfranchises Black and Brown men. What's not to likkke?
Today I also learned that Cheeto and his minions tried to keep black people off the voting polls in 2016. Ugh

XOXO

anne marie in philly said...

a white man would pay a fine, return the clippers, and that would be the end of it.

the dogs' mother said...

Very bestest wishes to him.
Hope the publicity helps him.

Dave R said...

I guess the judges in Louisiana don't know their white days are going to be ending.

Frank said...

This democracy with liberty and justice for all has a long way to go to reach that ideal. And all we really have is an occasional vote and a physical body to march for justice.

Rozzie said...

This is beyond appalling! Once again, an American is found guilty of being Black. I'd like to say that such things don't happen here in Australia but of course they do. Maybe not in such a reprehensible fashion, but we are nowhere near perfect.

Mistress Maddie said...

Those southern hicks white states are despicable. This country is getting very embarrassing.

Helen Lashbrook said...

This is an obscene obstruction of justice, more I cannot say as an ex-court clerk.

uptonking said...

Bernette Johnson for the SUPREME COURT! "excessive and disproportionate to the offense" how does this not register? Because all those white judges see is the color of his skin. Outrageous.

Gene Perry said...

Its Louisiana ... why is anyone shocked by this?