FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Drug War Victim: Oklahoma’s Larry Yarbrough to be Freed after 23 Years in Prison

Larry Yarbrough was sentenced in 1997 to life without parole for the sale of one ounce of cocaine. It’s hard to imagine someone being sentenced to that much time for such a small amount of drugs. But under the new guidance from Attorney General Sessions we will see more sentences like this handed out. Just last week Sessions told prosecutors to charge drug offenders with the harshest possible sentences they could give allowing mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines to kick in in federal cases.

Through the hard work of supporters who advocated for Larry’s release, last year Gov. Mary Fallin gave Larry a commutation of his sentence. This allowed him to see the parole board who then denied his release despite Larry being at deaths door from a very serious heart condition.

On May 16 2017, Yarbrough appeared again before the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole board and this time he was finally granted parole. He will be released in about a month.

Larry was a non-violent offender who was serving a life sentence for an ounce of cocaine. He has been married for 42 years to his wife Norma and has 5 children and 13 grandchildren. Before his incarceration, Larry and Norma owned and operated a popular BBQ restaurant in Kingfisher where he was known for giving back to his community. During his incarceration he has been a model inmate and has received commendations from the Department of Corrections and nonprofits for training guide dogs for the blind and disabled.

His story is featured in an upcoming documentary “Voices in a Jailhouse : The Larry Yarbrough Story” which examines and in-depth view of the Prison Industrial Complex. The documentary reveals the racism that exists in cases like Larry Yarbrough.

Several years ago I wrote about Larry in a piece titled “How Three Joints and an ounce of Coke Got an Oklahoma Grandfather Life without Parole.” Larry has had many supporters helping him regain his lost freedom. This includes his lawyer Debbie Hampton, Dennis Will, activist Gwendolyn Black and former Oklahoma Senator Connie Johnson. According to Sen. Johnson, Larry Yarbrough’s case is an excellent example of disproportionate and unfair sentencing. Compared to sentences received by others for similar amounts of the same drugs (an ounce of powder cocaine and three marijuana cigarettes), Yarbrough’s life-without-parole sentence is clearly excessive.

Larry’s case is one of many that was featured in a report by the American Civil Liberty Union (ACLU ) titled A Living Death: Life without Parole for Non Violent Offenses. The report documents thousands of cases of individuals who are sentenced to die in prison for non-violent crimes. It also points out that family members of those sentenced also suffer as prison does not end at the prison wall, it extends far beyond touching many lives.

Mark Faulk an advocate for Yarbrough for many years told me by email of the great news. He said “We are elated that Larry Yarbrough will get to live out the remainder of his life with family and friends, and we hope this victory will provide a road map for others in his situation to find a path to freedom.”

He goes on to say “you know the system is horribly broken when we are celebrating the freedom of a black man in Oklahoma who was wrongly convicted, spent 23 years in prison, and is now in a wheelchair, and the very next day a white police officer in Tulsa is acquitted after killing another unarmed black man. There is still no justice in our justice system.”

Anthony Papa is the manager of media and artists relations for the Drug Policy Alliance. He is the author of This Side of Freedom: Life After Clemency.

More articles by:

Anthony Papa is the Manager of Media and Artist Relations for the Drug Policy Alliance and the author of This Side of Freedom: Life After Lockdown.

September 24, 2018
Jonathan Cook
Hiding in Plain Sight: Why We Cannot See the System Destroying Us
Gary Leupp
All the Good News (Ignored by the Trump-Obsessed Media)
Robert Fisk
I Don’t See How a Palestinian State Can Ever Happen
Barry Brown
Pot as Political Speech
Lara Merling
Puerto Rico’s Colonial Legacy and Its Continuing Economic Troubles
Patrick Cockburn
Iraq’s Prime Ministers Come and Go, But the Stalemate Remains
William Blum
The New Iraq WMD: Russian Interference in US Elections
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Snoopers’ Charter Has Been Dealt a Serious Blow
Joseph Matten
Why Did Global Economic Performance Deteriorate in the 1970s?
Zhivko Illeieff
The Millennial Label: Distinguishing Facts from Fiction
Thomas Hon Wing Polin – Gerry Brown
Xinjiang : The New Great Game
Binoy Kampmark
Casting Kavanaugh: The Trump Supreme Court Drama
Max Wilbert
Blue Angels: the Naked Face of Empire
Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
William Boardman
The Shame of Dianne Feinstein, the Courage of Christine Blasey Ford 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail