Virginia Man Sentenced To 1,823 Years In Prison Will be Released After Pardon From Gov. Ralph Northam

Virginia Man Sentenced To 1,823 Years In Prison Will be Released After Pardon From Gov. Ralph Northam

A Black Virginia resident who was sentenced to 1,823 years in prison for a home invasion is getting a pardon from Gov. Ralph Northam.

Lawrence Stephens was sentenced to more than one thousand years in prison for a 2001 home invasion and robbery. Rebecca Winn, the Hampton, Virginia, NAACP Legal Redress and Criminal Justice chairperson told Yahoo News Stephens was homeless, working two jobs with a child on the way at the time and was talked into breaking into a home along with another co-worker.

Stephens, who has spent 19 years in prison, will now be released in 30 to 60 days.

According to Yahoo News, the mastermind of the robbery was an older White co-worker who never entered the home.

In yet another case of the justice system being racist instead of blind, of the five co-defendants, the White participants in the robbery received standard sentences of ten to 13 years in prison. However, Derrick Nolan, a Black participant received 35 years while Stephens essentially received a life sentence.

According to Wynn, sentencing guidelines were put in place to reduce bias but Judge Prentis Smiley Jr. has a long history of handing out harsh sentences to Black men. Additionally, the Chicago Defender reported the attorney appointed to defend Stephens was later found guilty by the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board of failing to properly represent his client.

Wynn and Hampton NAACP President Gaylene Kanoyton filed a petition for a conditional pardon for Stephens, but wasn’t sure if the Virginia Gov. would see it. On Dec. 17, Northam granted Stephens a conditional pardon, but the exact conditions of the pardon are still unclear at this time.

Winn and Kanoyton believe Stephens’ case is just one of many injustices impacting Black men and women across the country. While many have seen the stories of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Daunte Wright being killed by police on the streets, much of the same mistreatment and racism is also happening inside the criminal justice system.