Newsbrief: Oklahoma Governor Overrules Parole Board, Orders Man Held for Life for Cocaine Possession 8/30/02

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Ignoring the recommendations of his own Pardon and Parole Board, Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating on August 22 rejected a plea from a man convicted of possessing an ounce of powder cocaine to reduce his sentence from life without parole to 20 years. Larry Yarbrough was convicted in 1997, and because he had a group of previous felonies for distribution of LSD and marijuana in 1982, he was sentenced under the state's draconian drug trafficking laws. Under those laws, life without parole is an automatic sentence for anyone with two previous drug felonies.

In what the Daily Oklahoman, the state's most influential newspaper called "a historic vote," the parole board voted 3-2 on August 6 to recommend that Yarbrough's sentence be reduced to 20 years, meaning he could be paroled as early as next year. The other two members voted to commute his sentence to time served.

But Keating, a law and order Republican, was having none of it. "This is a habitual offender with a 20-year history who was convicted and sentenced by a jury under existing state law," Keating said in a press statement, neglecting to note that the jury had no role in setting the mandatory life sentence. He also found the prospect of Yarbrough being paroled soon unsettling. "That is unacceptable," he said. "The Pardon and Parole Board should not act as a 'super court' that changes sentences it may disagree with."

"I don't think we tried to act like a court, a jury, or an appellate court," parole board member Marc Dryer told the Oklahoman. "We saw it one way and the governor saw it another, and the ultimate decision rests with the governor."

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Issue #252, 8/30/02 Editorial: War Crimes Against Patients | Incarceration Nation: US Population Under Correctional Control Hits New Record | Not All Students Will Start School This Week -- Tens of Thousands Lose Aid Due to Drug Convictions | Initiative Foes Play Hardball in Michigan -- Effort Threatened by Certification Board, Conyers Calls for Investigation of Federal Lobbying | RAVE Act Opponents Gear Up | More Black Men in Prison Than College, Study Finds | Dr. Hurwitz Calls It Quits: Leading National Pain Management Physician to Close Practice, Cites Fear of Feds | The (F)Utility of DAWN: Experts Look at the Drug Abuse Warning Network | Criminal Justice Policy Foundation Publishes Comprehensive, Nationwide Guide to Clemency | Medical Marijuana Through the Ages: New Info on MarijuanaInfo.org | Offer: Tapes of Stossel Legalization Special Now Available | Newsbrief: Texas Opens Belated Investigation into Tulia Bust | Newsbrief: New Hampshire Cop Wants to Seize College Dorm After Drug Raid | Newsbrief: Western Washington US Attorney Solicits Marijuana Cases, No Bust Too Small | Newsbrief: Canadian Cops Call for National Drug Strategy, Oppose Legalization | Newsbrief: Canada Medical Marijuana Battles Continue -- Protests in Toronto, Minister Changes Tune | Newsbrief: Drug Raid Leads to Mini-Riot in Minneapolis | Newsbrief: Oklahoma Governor Overrules Parole Board, Orders Man Held for Life for Cocaine Possession | Newsbrief: Vietnam Beefs Up Customs Drug Budget | Newsbrief: Asian Speed Shows Up, Feds Feed USA Today "New Drug" Story | Demos Fellowships in Criminal Justice and Democracy Reform | Legislative Alerts: Rave Bill, Medical Marijuana, Higher Education Act Drug Provision | The Reformer's Calendar
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