Sentencing Guidelines Tested In Yarbrough Case

Wednesday, August 17th 2011, 7:56 pm
By: News 9

Adrianna Iwasinski, News 9

The Governor will have to decide if a convicted drug felon will be allowed to serve only part of a life sentence. And one state senator is using the case as a springboard for change state wide.

It was not a unanimous decision, but the Board Pardon and Parole did recommend Larry Yarborough's sentence be commuted to 42 years instead of life.

Larry Yarbrough spoke via video conference to the board with his daughter and her boyfriend by his side.

Yarbrough is currently serving the 17th year of a life term for trafficking drugs after former felony convictions.

If Gov. Mary Fallin approves the recommendation, Yarbrough would be eligible for parole in a year.

"My initial reaction was disappointment, but now that I've got to think about it, it is a victory just being here," said Yarbrough's attorney, Debra Hampton.

This is not the first time the board has recommended Yarbrough's sentence be commuted. The last time the board recommended it, Governor Frank Keating denied it.

"One of his statements is he didn't do enough time. So, it's nine years late, so if that was the issue, we're hoping that nine more years is enough," Hampton said.

Oklahoma Senator Constance Johnson says Yarbrough's case is the poster child case for legislation she has presented to lawmakers in the past. She wants drug cases to be reviewed individually.

"There is a disparity that's pretty glaring when it comes to life without parole for drug crimes," she said.

"We know that it costs about $5,000 a year to treat someone, versus the average of $23,000 a year that it takes to incarcerate someone," she said.

Yarborough's brother says he's glad the Senator is stepping in.

"I'm glad we had somebody with a voice. If you don't have a voice, they can lock you up and throw away the key and ain't no way you going to get out," John Yarbrough said.

Yarbrough told the board that if he is released, he would leave the state and try to focus on his grandchildren, some of whom, he says, are going down the wrong path.

Yarborough's son is doing time for murder.