Man Will Spend Life In Prison For Stealing Hedge Clippers

Fair Wayne Bryant, a 62-year-old Black man in Louisiana, will spend the rest of his life in prison for stealing a set of hedge clippers, CNN reports. 

Bryant was incarcerated in 1997 for the petty crime. The decision to uphold his sentence was made by the Louisiana Supreme Court last week, when the court denied Bryant’s request to have his sentence overturned.

Bryant was convicted of stealing the clippers in 1997, and was charged with one count of attempted simple burglary.

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Part of the reason for Bryant’s inexplicably harsh sentence was Louisiana’s “habitual offender law” — during Bryant’s sentencing, prosecutors brought up his prior criminal record, which included a 1979 conviction for attempted armed robbery, a 1987 conviction for possession of stolen items, attempted forgery of a check worth $150 in 1989 and simple burglary of an inhabited dwelling in 1992.

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.” Her pleas were ignored with the state Supreme Court, which voted 5-1 to uphold the conviction.

The only person to vote to overturn Bryant’s sentence 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 woman 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 3 hedge clippers is grossly out of proportion to the crime and serves no legitimate penal purpose,” Johnson wrote in her dissent.

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