Oklahoma Inmate Appears Before Parole Board For Final Time

Monday, May 16th 2016, 10:13 pm
By: News 9

An Oklahoma family's fight to release their father from prison is once again in the hands of the parole board.

Larry Yarbrough has already served 20 years for cocaine possession, but this time, he has the governor's support.

Tuesday’s hearing will be the third time Yarbrough has appeared in front of the review board asking to commute his sentence. This time, Gov. Mary Fallin has signed off on the recommendation.

"I am never going to give up having hope. And that's the way Larry, he feels too. If you don't have hope, you don't have nothing," said Norma Yarbrough, Larry’s wife in the documentary “Voices in a Jailhouse”.  

For more than two decades, Larry Yarbrough has been behind bars for a possession conviction. One ounce of cocaine was found on him in the late 90s

This conviction marked Yarbrough's third strike with two prior drug convictions. His punishment was 20 years in prison without parole. To Yarbrough, it was a death sentence.

“We have people who get life with the possibility of parole in murder cases. That happens. We have people who get far lesser sentences with massive amounts of drugs,” said Mark Faulk, filmmaker and activist.

Faulk has followed the Yarbrough family over the past five years while filming "Voices in a Jailhouse," a documentary highlighting what he calls a broken prison system.  

Yarbrough's story was meant to only be one part of the documentary, but now, it's captivated the attention of the filmmaker since it is Yarbrough's last parole board review. 

In 2002 and 2011, the parole board voted to commute Yarbrough's sentence, but former Gov. Frank Keating and Fallin denied the requests. Then, this year, Fallin signed off on the recommendation.

“Everybody has hope but they are afraid to get their hopes up. And he actually said I’ll believe it when I see Larry walk out the door of the prison,” said Faulk.

Monday, Fallin's office issued a statement:

This inmate was sentenced at a time when Oklahoma’s drug laws were overly harsh, when jurors had no choice but to sentence him to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He has completed behavior modification, anger management and other life skills programs during his 20 years in prison without drawing a single misconduct citation from prison officials. He has earned the opportunity to be considered for parole.

That hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.