In a case that an Oklahoma legislator calls a “poster child” for excessive drug sentences, the state Pardon and Parole Board recommended yesterday by a 3-to-2 vote that a convicted drug dealer who is serving life without parole should have his sentence commuted to 42 years, The Oklahoman reports. The case of Larry Yarbrough, 61, who has been in prison since 1997, goes to Gov. Mary Fallin.
Yarbrough, a former restaurant owner, was sentenced on a cocaine trafficking charge. State law requires life-without-parole for drug-trafficking charges after prior convictions for two or more felonies. Yarbrough said he’s been a model prisoner who counseled young men entering prison. “I have turned my life around and bettered myself,” he said. “I have taken every drug program they have.” Prosecutor Mike Fields defended the sentence, saying, “In our criminal justice system, there’s only one sentence that means exactly what it says, and that’s life without parole.” State Sen. Connie Johnson, calling Yarbrough a “poster child” for extreme sentencing guidelines for drug charges, said, it costs $23,000 a year to house an inmate and “taxpayer dollars are being squandered on sentences for nonviolent crimes.”