A man convicted of 25 drug-related crimes could be released from prison in three months, where he is currently serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
“This is a complete bypass of jury sentence by this commutation process,” District Attorney for Logan and Payne counties Laura Thomas said. “I’m very angry about it.”
In his most recent 2012 conviction, Larry Lawton was sentenced to life without parole.
“We didn’t ask the jury for a specific sentence,” Thomas said. “This is a jury who heard all of the evidence, witnessed the behavior of the defendant and decided he needed to be removed from society.“
After the verdict was announced, Thomas said Lawton attacked his defense attorney and threw something at prosecutors.
“It took five deputies and a taser to get him under control,” Thomas said. “That guy is a danger to society, he’s a danger to the people in that courtroom.”
The district attorney attended Lawton’s commutation hearing this week, asking the state pardon and parole board not to reduce his sentence and grant back the possibility of parole.
“And what happens? A political appointee board, an unelected board upends the entire will of the people in a verdict and affirmations of appeals and says ‘20 years, let him out in April,’” Thomas said. “It’s wrong, it’s dangerous. And it shows contempt for our system and the people that work in it.”
Despite the objections, the board advanced a reduced sentence to the governor’s desk, making Lawton eligible for parole in April 2020.
“He’s done literally nothing to warrant consideration of a commutation, nothing,” Thomas said. “What I call this is positive reinforcement of a negative behavior. It does not stop criminal behavior. It encourages it.”
Thomas has accrued 199 years of sentences over his lifetime. During his most recent arrest, Thomas said he had enough crack cocaine for 198 uses.
“They have got to fix this, because this is not what the people from my district want, nor any other district I can find,” Thomas said. “It is like a slap in the face.”
News 9 reached out to the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board but did not hear back.
Thomas has filled a formal protest with the governor’s office.
“The governor’s office has yet to receive the most recent packet from the Pardon and Parole Board,” governor's office spokeswoman Baylee Lakey said. “As soon as our office receives this, the legal team will begin reviewing recommendations with the governor.”