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Friday, August 7, 2020

Supreme Court Won’t Review Life Sentence for Black Man Accused of Stealing Clippers

Chief Justice Bernette Johnson

Caddo Parish, LA — Chief Justice Bernette Johnson, the first and only African American judge on the Louisiana Supreme Court, tried her best to have the Court review the case of Fair Wayne Bryant, a Black man who was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of stealing a set of hedge clippers. However, the other justices, who are all white men, declined to review the case and did not issue any written rulings that explained their decision.

In 1997, Bryant was caught trespassing in a storeroom of a carport. He tried to flee but the police stopped him. He admitted that he entered the storeroom, but said that he was just looking for a can of gas because his car broke down.

However, the police found a set of hedge clippers in his van that the homeowner said belonged to him. Bryant claimed the clippers belonged to his wife.

Prior to that, he had four felony convictions. Only one of those was for violent crime of attempted robbery and the three others were non-violent petty thefts. Still, Bryant was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

His sentence was found inappropriate at that time, but Chief Justice Bernette Johnson said that the laws used in Byrant’s case were the “modern manifestation” of the so-called “pig laws” that were “largely designed to re-enslave African Americans.”

Sadly, Johnson was the only one to issue a dissent. She wrote in her dissent that Bryant’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 added that keeping Bryant behind bars would cost more than $1 million, while he was convicted of stealing only a set of hedge clippers.

Over the years, a lot of non-profit legal aid organizations have already appealed the case on his behalf. But the latest ruling showed he had very little to no chances of having his case reviewed.

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