Fair Wayne Bryant has a crack at freedom. The Black man serving life in prison in Louisiana over the theft of a pair of hedge clippers has been granted a new parole hearing after the state Supreme Court declined to review his case. Bryant, 62, was convicted of burglary after breaking into the carport of a Shreveport home in 1997. He said he was looking for gas after his car ran out and denied taking the hedge clippers, claiming they were his wife's, per the Lens. He was sentenced to life without parole in 2000 under habitual offender laws as he'd been convicted of attempted armed robbery two decades previously and had more recent convictions for possession of stolen items and writing a bad check. The sentence, playing out at the state penitentiary in Angola, was later altered to life with the possibility of parole under appeal, per the Lens.
Louisiana's Supreme Court upheld the sentence earlier this month, though the court's only Black member disagreed. Chief Justice Bernette Johnson criticized habitual offender laws, saying it was "cruel and unusual to impose a sentence of life in prison at hard labor" for petty theft, which is "frequently driven by the ravages of poverty or addiction, and often both." A parole hearing is now set for Oct. 15, per CBS News. But Bryant hasn't had much luck in that department, with parole denials issued in 2015, 2018, and 2019. Francis Abbott, executive director of the Louisiana Board of Pardons and Parole, says the denials were due to disciplinary issues in prison, a moderate risk assessment score, and opposition from law enforcement and victims, per the Lens. Bryant's last disciplinary infraction was a September 2018 write-up for contraband. (Read more Louisiana stories.)