Monday, October 10, 2011

Cries of the innocent

The arrest of fugitive Bella Ruby Santos, suspect in the killing of 6-year-old Ellah Joy Pique last week, couldn’t have been more timely.

Oct. 8, the day of Santos’ arrest, was the eighth month since Ellah was found dead off a cliff in Barili, and October is National Children’s Month.

This celebration was enacted through Presidential Proclamation No. 267 by Fidel Ramos in 1993. The theme for this year’s children’s month is “Local Council for the Protection of Children (LCPC) for a Bright Child: Let’s Activate, Strengthen and Help It.”

Republic Act 9344 or the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act of 2006 provides for the organization and strengthening of the LCPC in every city and town in the country.

Now more than ever, citizens should bring pressure to bear on the LCPC in their locality, if one exists at all, considering the tragedies that have befallen Cebuano children.

The kidnap and grisly murder of Ellah of Minglanilla town wasn’t the only incident that claimed the life of a little one this year.

Tabuelan town’s Lara Mae Concodes, 6, was killed last May by her own uncle, who confessed to the crime saying that he was trying to stop Lara from turning into a manananggal.

Mandaue City’s Cort Cabucos, 7, drowned last May in a muddy creek that swelled during a heavy downpour.

Mandaue City’s Kate Arianne Chu Flores, 5, died last August after allegedly suffering unrelenting physical abuse in the hands of her stepmother.

Mandaue City’s Gabriel Morales, 7, was allegedly killed by his mother’s live-in partner. Gabriel’s corpse was found buried in the suspect’s toilet.

Barili town’s Ramsel Halos, 13, was found hanging lifeless from a mango tree in Maghanoy Elementary School. He was allegedly despondent over personal matters.

For an island whose central locality has been named an Asean City of Culture, Cebu doesn’t look like a safe place for children—our future—without whom any talk of flourishing culture is cheap.

Children’s month would be an opportune time for Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia and the mayors to give the public an update about the the state of the LCPCs in Cebu’s towns and cities.

Had these child protection councils been activated—the children’s month theme seems to suggest they haven’t been—perhaps we wouldn’t have had to read about the tragic nipping of budding lives. Perhaps the state in its parens patriae role would have done more to educate parents and guardians about child rearing, school officials about intervention for depressed children, communities about watching against kidnappers and creating safe places for children to pray in.

Until the LCPCs are fully functioning to protect and promote the welfare of our children, we are a City of Culture on the wane, and as a Galilean Master would have it, we despise little ones to whom heaven belongs.
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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The most innocent in society are using their voices to spread a message of peace

The children of the Boys and Girls Club of the Suncoast are young, only five to eighteen years old. But the lyrics of a song they are performing and helped write, describe a pain no one should feel at any age.

One of the kids, Alexis Feacher said, "It captured a moment on what happened to the fallen officers."

Alexis was one of sixty kids who performed the song "Let's Get Together."

The idea for it came after three police officers were killed in the line of duty of this year. Another child, Kiara Rivera said they were haunted by it.

"When this happened, I was surprised like who would really kill an officer," Kiara said.

The group got together to talk. The resident artist, named "LX" had an idea. He went into another room that had a piano.

"I started to write a song," LX said. "I used the kids' words, the emotions they were feeling."

"Lets Get Together" came together. LX, recruited producers and writers from New York. He also involved Big Three Records, a local studio, and a video was created.

Now available on iTunes, 100 percent of the proceeds benefit the families of Officers Jeffrey Yaslowitz, Thomas Baitinger and David Crawford all killed in the line of duty.

"It is empowering because it provides a platform as well as an opportunity for them to voice their feelings and emotions about you know all of this happenings that are going on that are not so healthy for our community," LX said.

Alexis and his friends hope their voices will help heal and maybe, just maybe, send a message at the same time.

"Let's get together and keep peace and harmony so we don't have a bad city. So we don't have to have gun shots everywhere," said Alexis.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Entrapping Innocent Muslims

A recent New York University School of Law Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ) report is titled, "Targeted and Entrapped: Manufacturing the 'Homegrown Threat' in the United States."

Post-9/11, Muslims have been ruthlessly targeted. Paid informants have infested mosques and their communities to entrap them. As a result, over 200 were persecuted on bogus terrorism related charges. Despite "tout(ing) these cases as successes in the so-called war against terrorism....former (FBI) agents, local lawmakers," and many others "have begun questioning the legitimacy and efficacy" of entrapping innocent victims for political advantage.

CHRGJ discussed several high-profile cases, using well-paid informants often performing services in return for reduced charges or sentences they face, a powerful incentive to cooperate.

Nearly always, Washington invents plots foiled in the nick of time, entrapping innocent victims with no intent to commit crimes. America's media headline them. The public feels safer with no idea they've been scammed or that blameless citizens and residents are falsely charged.

In fact, calling Muslims "potential threats" or "homegrown terrorists" violates core constitutional freedom

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

IDF to open probe after every W. Bank civilian death

Some officers warn that commanders will have operational freedom restricted as part of policy change regarding innocent Palestinian deaths.

In a bid to minimize criticism of IDF actions in the West Bank, Military Advocate- General Maj.-Gen. Avichai Mandelblit announced on Wednesday that the Military Police will immediately open criminal investigations into the deaths of allegedly innocent Palestinians.

The new policy was presented to the Supreme Court on Wednesday. It changes the guidelines that had been in place since 2000, under which Military Police investigations were only launched after operational probes, conducted by field commanders, uncovered alleged wrongdoing or negligence.

Under the new policy, a criminal investigation will be opened immediately after an innocent Palestinian is killed by the IDF, except in cases involving an exchange of fire. For this reason, the new policy does not apply to the Gaza Strip.

Mandelblit began a review of the old policy under then-chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, and the new policy was approved by his successor, Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz.

The IDF will present the new policy to the Turkel Commission that was set up to investigate the IDF operation to stop the Gaza protest flotilla last year but is also conducting a review of the military legal process.

Mandelblit’s decision to change the policy is a result of the lull in terrorism in the West Bank, where there are currently no combat operations, unlike in the Gaza Strip. In the West Bank, though, such Palestinian deaths are rare.

Mandelblit has reserved the right to reverse the decision if hostilities escalate in the West Bank.

Mandelblit’s decision met with mixed reactions throughout the IDF.

Some officers said that it was sign of how the military was becoming more “legalized” and that such a move could limit commanders’ operational freedom.

On the other hand, officers said they understood the decision as being part of the military’s efforts to prove to the world that it can be trusted to investigate itself.

This was a central Israeli claim against the Goldstone Report, which was recently reinforced by the Davis Committee set up to evaluate Israeli investigations following Operation Cast Lead. The Davis Committee concluded that Israel was responsibly investigating allegations of misconduct, albeit a bit slowly, leading Judge Richard Goldstone to publish his retraction in The Washington Post last Friday.

B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, welcomed Mandelblit’s decision on Wednesday.

At the same time, the organizations said that the policy change was insufficient to uphold Israel’s obligations regarding accountability.

“The MAG’s [military advocate- general’s] announcement indicates that the policy change is dependent on the security circumstances.

This means that renewed security tension could lead to the policy’s reversal and a return to the situation in place over the past 10 years, in which the vast majority of civilian deaths were never investigated,” the organizations said in a statement.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Former HS Coach Accused Of Rape Faces Judge

A former Hennessey basketball coach accused of raping a Hennessey student pleaded not guilty to two counts of rape before a district judge Monday.

Ben Davis Forsythe, 32, is charged with second-degree rape. Forsythe is accused of having sex with one of his students.

Forsythe walked quietly into court alongside his wife, family and lawyer, and said he is not giving up the fight.

"Well, he (Forsythe) feels like he's being accused of something he didn't do," defense attorney David Slane said.

Slane said he will file a motion this month arguing the constitutionality of the case, because he believes his client is innocent; and even if he's not, the girl he's accused of having sex with was 18 years old.

"While we don't agree that it happened, she was 18 at the time. And even if we agree that it happened, it shouldn't be a crime," Slane said.

During a preliminary hearing, a student testified to having sex on several occasions with Forsythe. The student was 18 at the time and on the coach's basketball team.

Forsythe was arrested in December after police said a student claimed she had a relationship with Forsythe from November 2009 through May 2010 while attending Hennessey High School.

The girl claims that when she wanted the relationship to end, Forsythe threatened her position on the team.

"While you don't have all the information, we know this young woman has given different stories to teachers, her mother and friends, so there'll be a day when all will come out. We don't have anything to hide," Slane said.

According to Oklahoma statues, a teacher is not allowed to have sex with a student, no matter the student's age, and it doesn't matter if they consent.

Slane said that Forsythe has been hired by a different school district and is working as a teacher again.

"He's (Forsythe) still working as a school teacher and a coach, so obviously, another school district has certainly felt he is not a threat," Slane said.

Slane said a jury trial will be scheduled May 11.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Illinois governor abolishes death penalty

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn abolished the death penalty Wednesday, more than a decade after the state imposed a moratorium on executions out of concern that innocent people could be put to death by a justice system that had wrongly condemned 13 men.

Quinn also commuted the sentences of all 15 inmates remaining on Illinois' death row. They will now serve life in prison with no hope of parole.

State lawmakers voted in January to abandon capital punishment, and Quinn spent two months reflecting on the issue, speaking with prosecutors, crime victims' families, death penalty opponents and religious leaders. He called it the "most difficult decision" he has made as governor.

"We have found over and over again: Mistakes have been made. Innocent people have been freed. It's not possible to create a perfect, mistake-free death penalty system," Quinn said.

Prosecutors and some victims' families had urged Quinn to veto the legislation.

The governor offered words of consolation to those who had lost loved ones to violence, saying that the "family of Illinois" was with them. He said he understands victims will never be healed.

Illinois' moratorium goes back to 2000, when then-Republican Gov. George Ryan made international headlines by suspending executions. Ryan acted after years of growing doubts about the state's capital-punishment system, which was famously called into question in the 1990s, after courts concluded that 13 men had been wrongly condemned.

Shortly before leaving office in 2003, Ryan also cleared death row, commuting the sentences of 167 inmates to life in prison. Illinois' last execution was in 1999.

When the new law takes effect July 1, Illinois will join 15 other states that have done away with executions.

New Mexico had been the most recent state to repeal the death penalty, doing so in 2009, although new Republican Gov. Susana Martinez wants to reinstate it.

Quinn consulted with retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and met with Sister Helen Prejean, the inspiration for the movie "Dead Man Walking."

A Chicago woman whose teenage son was gunned down in 2006 said she was disappointed in Quinn's decision — a move, she said, that victims' relatives tried to talk him out of a few weeks ago.

Pam Bosley said nobody is in custody in her son's death, but whoever killed him does not deserve to live.

"I don't want them to breathe the air that I breathe," said Bosley, whose 18-year-old son, Terrell Bosley, was killed in front of a church on Chicago's South Side.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan appealed directly to Quinn to veto the bill, as did several county prosecutors and victims' families. They said safeguards, including videotaped interrogations and easier access to DNA evidence, were in place to prevent innocent people from being wrongly executed.

But death penalty opponents argued that there was still no guarantee that an innocent person couldn't be put to death. Quinn's own lieutenant governor, Sheila Simon, a former southern Illinois prosecutor, asked him to abolish capital punishment.

Twelve men have been executed in Illinois since 1977, when the death penalty was reinstated. The last was Andrew Kokoraleis on March 17, 1999. At the time, the average length of stay on death row for the dozen men was 13 years.

Kokoraleis, convicted of mutilating and murdering a 21-year-old woman, was put to death by lethal injection.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Raymond Davis case: Pakistani law holds sway over Vienna Convention

The Raymond Davis killings have forced the increasingly uneasy Pakistan-US relations into another tight corner. The ruthless killing of three Pakistanis followed by the heart wrenching suicide of the 18-year-old Shumaila, the desperate widow of one of the victims, has transformed a macabre tragedy into a test of national resolve and the right of Pakistani’s to life. If mishandled, this crisis harbours the serious potential of proving a catalyst for major unsettling developments within Pakistan. That the majority of Pakistanis love to hate Americans is a proven sombre statistic and Shumaila’s needless death is bound to further inflame passions. In her last and widely televised statement before death, the young woman said that she was frustrated by the total absence of any meaningful action against the arrested American and all she wanted was justice for the wanton killing of her husband. Her death could easily transform this matter of the State Vs Raymond Davis into that of people Vs the State. According to available details, what really stands between Raymond Davis and his deserved conviction is any lateral diplomatic immunity extended by a browbeaten Pakistani government. The critical issue which arises now is: Can Raymond walk away with murder on the crutches of the much touted Vienna Convention?

The understandable emotional outburst of the people notwithstanding, the situation warrants a dispassionate view of the rights of the Pakistani citizens enshrined in the Article 9 of the Constitution of Pakistan. The Article states that, “No person shall be deprived of life or liberty save in accordance with law”. Bringing the solemn state guarantee to protect the life and liberty of all citizen of Pakistan, in a non-discriminatory fashion. This also means that it is the duty of the state to protect the ‘innocent’.

As the case, details of the State Versus Raymond Davis unfold, they beg the question as to what are the legal implications of the case? The case is about the murder of three innocent Pakistanis at the hand of the so-called diplomat, whose diplomatic credentials are still to be established and proved. The central questions are whether one ‘diplomat’ while in a country on a visit visa, can be considered a diplomat? and whether the Vienna Convention grants a carte blanch to do anything to anyone deemed to be a diplomat? These are the questions of law for the courts to decide. It may be pointed out however that given the fact that the Pakistani diplomatic and consular privileges Act 1972 is already in place, the legal outcome will be shaped by the statutes of the domestic law, which enshrines the convention and not vice versa.

According to the domestic law, the accused now stands liable for four murders, two by the extra-judicial and terrorist activity carried out by direct fire in a public place by the accused and the other two dying as an indirect consequence of the same event. The legal basis for this are rooted in Article 41 of the Act which states that the diplomatic agent shall enjoy immunity from criminal jurisdiction of the receiving state except ‘in the case of grave crime and pursuant to the decision of competent judicial authority’.

This article clearly establishes the writ of the Pakistani judicial process and courts on the matter at hand. Furthermore, Article 43 of same Act states that immunity from jurisdiction is exempted in a case of civil action, arising out of damage caused by a third party from ‘an accident in the receiving state caused by the vehicle, vessel or aircraft.’ In addition, Article 45 sub- article 4 clearly protects judicial process in the receiving state. This when seen with the much trumpeted Article 37 of the Act states that the privileges given to the diplomatic agent, in this case the administrative and technical staff, will not be exempt from the civil and administrative jurisdiction of the receiving state specified in Paragraph-1 of Article 31 shall not extend to acts performed outside the course of their duties or consular functions.

In short, the domestic law clearly places the criminal act carried out by Mr Raymond Davis as a crime, punishable under local law, making the case of diplomatic and non-diplomatic status, as irrelevant to the current ongoing judicial process.

The issue which is of great concern and surprise, is the illegal possession of a weapon carried out by the accused, punishable under the provisions of the Arms Ordinance of 1965, taking law into his own hand to punish others, an act punishable under section 7 of anti terrorism act 1997; intentional murder of two innocent persons, punishable under section 302 of Pakistan penal code and the murder of the third innocent person by the rash and negligent driving of Mr Davis’s co-accused, who is still an absconder, punishable under Section 279 and 320 of Pakistan Penal Code. This would further complicate the role of the consulate itself, which is harbouring an absconding accused, just to save his skin from punishment, which is also punishable under Section 216 of the Pakistan Penal Code.

Last but not least, the latest crime in the sting of the innocent murders, is the death of the victim’s wife Ms Shumaila through committing suicide; considering herself as helpless and in despair on the US insistent to release the accused, clearly constitutes an offence of committing Qatal Bis Sabab punishable under Section 322 of Pakistan Penal Code.

Therefore, the matter is not that of Davis being a diplomat or not but of committing a string of heinous crimes against innocent people, and violating the basic human rights of the people of Pakistan as protected under Article 8 to 28 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The obedience to the constitution and law as under Article 5 sub article 2 of the Constitution is the inviolable obligation of every citizen where ever he may be, and of every other person for the time being within Pakistan.

The stance taken by the accused of self defence will hardly be helpful or beneficial to him having been exceeding the authority and it is yet to be proved as to whether, there was any attempt or any action by the deceased persons on the accused, requiring and justifying such extreme forceful action. The scene does not support the questioned action of the accused in any manner whatsoever nor the act of indiscriminate firing upon both the deceased persons could be defended easily. The entire burden is now upon the accused to establish his legal (diplomatic or non-diplomatic) status in the Country; the purpose and the nature of his activity and the presence at that very place; justification to keep an illegal weapon; self defence; taking photographs of deceased; escape from the venue; threatening and harassing the traffic wardens and inviting another vehicle to come rashly and cause death of another innocent person.

Of course, it is a very heavy burden upon his shoulders to answer such legal questions. It cannot be overlooked that the material recovered from his possession during the course of investigation has made him highly suspicious. It is not easy to answer why he was having such material and the information which ostensibly did not fit with his stated official duties. The public sentiments on the occurrence are natural and understandable. It is the duty of the Government to investigate the case deeply without getting pressurised or harassed from any side because now the nation is very vigilant and highly concerned.

The simple fact is that Raymond Davis is not a diplomat, period. And even if he were, under the Pakistani law which takes precedence over the Vienna Convention, he does not get to walk away without standing trial for the cold blooded murders. Any leniency towards the accused, for any reason whatsoever, shall surely sire a volatile public reaction. Foreign relations must be based upon equality and sovereignty, and not built on the deaths of innocent citizens.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Hindus also demand justice for innocent Muslim youths

It is not only Muslims and their organizations who are demanding release and compensation for the jailed innocent Muslim youths, educated Hindus are also coming up to support the demand of the community in the wake of the confession of RSS pracharak and terror accused Swami Assemanand.

Several learned Hindu netizens have reacted to the news of release of Abdul Kaleem whose story of torture in Mecca Masjid blast case move the heart of Aseemanand pushing him to confess his role in the terror blasts in the country. 

In his comment on the TOI news “Man who inspired Aseemanand gets bail” on 17th Jan. 2011, a reader named Chandu from Pune wrote in the comment box below the news report on the TOI web page:
“Yes, our governments need to pay those who were accused and were not proven. Strict and stringent action to be taken on those who have filed the case, instead of putting back defamation cases back on them. So that people will stop misutilizing the law. This has become a trend putting a case and blackmailing the accused for money.”

Shaikh Abdul Kaleem, who was in jail allegedly for smuggling cell phone to his jailed brother, was released on bail by the Ranga Reddy court on Monday. Kaleem was earlier arrested in the Mecca Masjid blast case also in 2007 but after one and half years in jail, the court acquitted him of all charges. During his interaction with Aseemanand in Hyderabad jail in December 2010 Kaleem told him his story of torture and implication in the masjid blast case. 

Another reader UK Iyer from Chennai put his comment to Kaleem’s news thus:

“Those falsely implicated and jailed need to be suitably compensated. Poor guys in the prime of their lives. However, Aseemanand's story seems to have a catch. If he was merely a tool, he wouldn't be there today. Is it just a set-up to confuse the Public at large? Several questions remain unanswered.”

Another reader from Mumbai wrote that Aseemanand was just a tool. Real culprits RSS/BJP are safe:
“Yes there is a catch. And the catch is that this is how the Sangh Parivar operates. Every time they take on a new mission, the key members of the operation "leave" their organization and form their own small front group which does the dirty work. That way of they are caught, the parent organizations such as the RSS and the BJP cannot be linked to the perpetrators and their leadership is not subject to a probe. That is what Nathuram Godse did before he assasinated Gandhi: He left the RSS. You think Godse alone would have been able to contemplate such a major plan, let alone execute it? No, he had a strong hand backing him. The "hand" was never investigated because the departing british did not want trouble.”

Source: Tehelka

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Innocent Man Is Pardoned 72 Years After His Execution

Outgoing Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter has granted a posthumous pardon to Joe Arridy, a mentally disabled man who was executed for murder more than 70 years ago, despite evidence suggesting his innocence.

"The tragic conviction of Mr. Arridy and his subsequent execution ... merit such relief based on the great likelihood that Mr. Arridy was, in fact, innocent of the crime for which he was executed and his severe mental disability at the time of his trial and execution," Ritter said.

In 1936, someone entered the Pueblo home of 15-year-old Dorothy Drain and her 12-year-old sister, Barbara, while their parents were at a dance. Both girls were attacked with a hatchet. Dorothy's injuries proved to be fatal, but her sister somehow survived the attack, according to the 1995 book "Deadly Innocence?"

In the days that followed, investigators arrested 35-year-old Frank Aguilar, a Mexican native who had recently been fired by the girls' father, Riley Drain, who was a supervisor for the Works Progress Administration. Aguilar had reportedly been acting suspiciously, and when authorities searched his home, they found a hatchet with several large nicks, which was consistent with the girls' injuries.

Authorities had means, motive and opportunity, but they were lacking a confession.

During this time, investigators in Cheyenne, Wyo., were questioning Arridy. The 20-year-old, who had an IQ of 46 and behaved more like a child than a man, had been picked up by railroad detectives in East Cheyenne for wandering around a rail yard.

While Arridy was in custody, Laramie County Sheriff George J. Carroll learned that he was a recent escapee from the Colorado State Home and Training School for Mental Defectives at Grand Junction. Carroll was also aware of the recent homicide in Colorado.

"Carroll claimed Joe confessed to beating Dorothy with a club," Robert Perske, a former Colorado minister and "Deadly Innocence?" author, told AOL News. "He said Joe admitted to killing and raping the girl, so the sheriff called the news people and then called the chief of police in Pueblo."

According to Perske, authorities in Pueblo were shocked by the news. After all, they already had a suspect in custody. Nonetheless, they went back to Aguilar, who eventually offered his own confession, which included Arridy's alleged involvement.

"Carroll felt [Arridy] was not worth anything," Perske said. "He wanted a claim to fame, and this was his chance."

In this undated photo provided by the Museum of Colorado Prisons, Joe Arridy meets with Warden Roy
Ritter also said there was an overwhelming body of evidence that indicates Arridy was innocent.

"[This would include] false and coerced confessions, the likelihood that Arridy was not in Pueblo at the time of the killing, and an admission of guilt by someone else," the governor said.

Aguilar's trial began in December 1936. His confession was entered into evidence, as was the testimony of Barbara Drain. While the jury was out, Aguilar finally admitted his actual role in the case and told his attorney that he was guilty and that Arridy had nothing to do with it. The attorney asked the judge for permission to change his client's plea to not guilty by reason of insanity, but the judge said no, Perske said.

The jury later came back with a guilty verdict, and Aguilar was sentenced to death. According to Perske, who has read all the trial transcripts, Barbara was never asked by the defense or prosecution whether Aguilar had an accomplice.

Aguilar was later implicated in the August 1936 attack on Sally Crumpley, 72, and her niece, R.O. McMurtree, 58. The women had been attacked by a man with a hammer inside their Grand Junction home. McMurtree survived the attack, but Crumpley died of skull fractures. McMurtree identified Aguilar as the women's attacker, but, according to Perske, charges were never brought because he was already sentenced to death.

Arridy's trial began in April 1937. Prosecutors used his alleged confession against him and relied heavily on testimony from Sheriff Carroll, who recounted his conversations with him. Barbara Drain was not called as a witness by either side.

The jury ultimately found Arridy guilty and sentenced him to death.

"[Arridy] took no notice of the pronouncement of the death verdict as delivered by the jury foreman," The Chieftain newspaper reported.

On Aug. 13, 1937, Frank Aguilar was executed. Arridy was to follow him two months later, but Colorado State Prison Warden Roy Best took a liking to him, Perske said.

"The warden came to love him very much," he said. "He let him have magazines and scissors in his cell. On Christmas Eve he was invited up to the warden's house, and he and his wife gave Joe a toy train. He would play with that train in the cell and send it out between the bars scooting down the halls. He also got a little wind-up car. Often, at night, he'd scoot the little car out, and they'd hear him yell 'Car wreck! Car wreck!' And they'd all laugh. All of the inmates came to like him."

Whenever reporters would interview Arridy behind bars, he would always tell them he was happy and never wanted to leave, Perske said.

Arridy got nine stays of execution before he was sent to the gas chamber.

On Jan. 5, 1939, the day before he was put to death, the 23-year-old asked for and received ice cream for his final three meals. Best also brought him a box of homemade candy, which he shared with the other inmates. He was reportedly happy that night, and his mood changed little the following morning.

"The chaplain had to give him the last rights of a child," Perske said. "They recited the Lord's prayer two words at a time, all the way through. Afterward, as they were walking up Woodpecker Hill, where the chamber was, Joe was talking to the warden about how he was going to be playing a harp now. He was smiling all the way up. It was kind of like he was going on a hike or something.

The tombstone of Joe Arridy is seen at the Colorado State Prison in 2007.
Antonio Sanchez / Courtesy
None of Arridy's living relatives has been located, and he remains buried in the prison cemetery.
"When they put him in the chair, he was still smiling," Perske said. "When they started to put the black hood over Joe's face, he stopped smiling, so the warden patted him on the arm a couple times. The priest stayed with him for a bit and then walked out with the warden. Both had tears in their eyes. Then the door was closed, and he was executed."

It was not until 1961 that Perske, an advocate for people with intellectual disabilities, learned of Arridy's life and eventual fate. He spent more than 30 years looking into the story, and a couple years ago he approached Colorado attorney David A. Martinez and asked for help.

"He said, 'I think Joe is innocent, and I really think he deserves a pardon,'" Martinez told AOL News. "As I found out more about it, Joe became more compelling to me, and I felt Joe was innocent. I found out that he had been classified an imbecile and that his mental capacity was that of a 4-year-old. It was a case of frontier justice. The passion and prejudices of the community made them want to hang up the varmints, if you will."

Martinez assembled a 500-page petition regarding the case and put together a synopsis of it that Perske has since described as the "most convincing rendition" he has ever read. Gov. Ritter agreed and on Friday granted Joe Arridy's posthumous pardon.

"Pardoning Mr. Arridy cannot undo this tragic event in Colorado history," Ritter said. "It is in the interests of justice and simple decency, however, to restore his good name."

Neither Martinez nor Perske has been able to locate any of Arridy's living relatives. He remains buried in the prison cemetery. Perske said he would like to have made for him a tombstone that says, "Here lies an innocent man."

"I'm still not sure what to say about the pardon," Perske said. "I've been trying to answer questions as best as I can, but it kind of comes back to an old saying I hang on to. That is, 'If you face a tough situation and give up too quickly, you may miss out on a fantastic conclusion.' That is how I feel."

Martinez said he is "absolutely surprised" by the pardon.

"There had never been a posthumous pardon issued by a governor of Colorado before, so that is a precedent in some ways. I think it is also monumental in that it brings hope to the future, particularly for the intellectually disabled community. It shows there is progress being made in society, and they are entitled to as much respect as any individual."

Martinez added, "It was an honor and a privilege to do what I could do, and I was really fueled by the passion of Bob Perske."

For more information on Joe Arridy, visit and