Blog Post

Oklahoma Governor Grants Larry Yarbrough Clemency After 22 years in Prison

Anthony Papa

Activists have fought hard for many years to free Larry Yarbrough. Their prayers were answered when Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin granted Yarbrough executive clemency earlier this month.

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." Behind the scenes many individuals have fought hard for Larry, even meeting with Gov. Fallin and asking her to show compassion for him. Mark Faulk did a moving documentary about Larry, which showed the injustice of his case. And his lawyer Debbie Hampton fought tooth and nail for Larry, never giving up hope.

While in prison Larry Yarbrough never had a single write-up. He received commendations from the Department of Corrections and nonprofits for training guide dogs for the blind and disabled. He and his wife Norma are still married after 46 years. They have five children and 13 grandchildren, ranging in age from 9 months to 19 years. 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.

Attorney General Scott Pruitt questioned a recent recommendation by the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board to commute the sentence of  Larry, calling the decision a stab at public safety. Even though the medical cost of taking care of Larry last year was estimated to be over a million dollars, the AG refused to support Larry’s bid for freedom.

“The board’s decision to commute the sentence of a drug trafficker who pumped LSD, cocaine and marijuana into a community for more than 10 years is of grave concern,” Pruitt said. “Larry Yarbrough is not someone who made one bad choice and deserves a second chance; he is a five-time felon who was given multiple chances to do the right thing and continued to bring drugs, theft and intimidation into an Oklahoma community.”

Yarbrough was sentenced to life without parole in 1997 after being convicted of his sixth felony.  Gov. Fallin ignored Pruitt and granted Yarbough his freedom through executive clemency.  He had served 22 years in prison already.

Yarbough was in very bad health and a commutation was the only way that he would leave the prison alive. Through the kindness of Gov. Fallin, Larry can live out his days as a free man now. It is not known at this time when Larry will be released.

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.”

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