Leroy Grippen thought he was going to prison for 10 years and six months. That’s what his lawyer told him, and that’s how it went. When you were sentenced to life in Louisiana, it didn’t really mean life in prison. With good behavior, life sentences were almost always commuted after 10 years and six months.
Besides, it’s not as if Grippen had much of a choice. It was 1970, and as a young Black man facing charges of armed robbery and aggravated rape in the South, he would have almost certainly faced an all-white jury that could convict him and sentence him to death by electrocution.
So Grippen, who had just turned 23, did what his lawyer told him to do. He took the plea deal and went to the Louisiana State Penitentiary, better known as Angola. There, he started counting down the days until he expected to walk free — sometime in the summer of 1981.
That day didn’t come until Oct. 5, 2021. By then he was 73 and had spent nearly 70% of his life in prison. Continue Reading