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Black man released from prison after serving 24 years for stealing lawn tool

(Photo credit: Shutterstock.com / Joseph Sohm)

Fair Wayne Bryant is finally a free man after serving 24 years in prison. He wasg convicted of stealing a lawn tool.

The Louisiana Board of Pardons and Committee on Parole voted on Oct. 15 to release Bryant, 63, according to NBC News. 

Bryant was initially convicted in 1997 after he attempted to steal hedge clippers that are used for lawn work, according to The Lens.

Under a Louisiana law that allowed life sentences for habitual offenders, Bryant was sentenced to life in prison at the age of 38. Bryant previously served 10 years in prison for an armed robbery and was jailed for forging a check for $150 in 1989 and a burglary in 1992. He is now 63-years-old.

In an attempt to have his sentenced dismissed, Bryant took his case to the Louisiana Supreme Court in August of 2002. However, the state’s Supreme Court denied a review of Bryant’s case.

The Louisiana Supreme Court consists of five White men and one Black woman, Chief Justice Bernette Johnson. Johnson was the sole dissenter of the court’s decision and the only justice to write an explanation for her decision.

According to Johnson: “Bryant’s incarceration has cost Louisiana taxpayers approximately $518,667 and taxpayers will have paid almost one million dollars to punish Mr. Bryant for his failed effort to steal a set of hedge clippers.”

Johnson viewed Bryant’s incarceration as another form of racial discrimination that has plagued the Black community for centuries. She compared his case to Pig Laws, which was enacted following the Civil War to force Blacks into servitude for stealing minor items.

“Pig Laws were largely designed to re-enslave African Americans,” Johnson wrote. “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.”