Letter From Death Row

Our condemned cover artist makes his case

James V. Allridge III #000870
Allan B. Polunsky Unit
3872 FM 350 South
Livingston, Texas 77351

August 11, 2004

Jordan Smith
Investigative Reporter
Austin Chronicle
Austin, Texas 77002

Dear Jordan:
I spoke with Jim Marcus, Monday and he informed me that you would be writing an article about my bid for clemency. I wanted to provide for you, in my own words, some additional information that you may find useful in the formulation of your piece.

First and foremost, let me say that I have never tried to escape punishment and have always, always felt deep sorrow for my actions. The only words I uttered during my entire trial were to the victim's mother when I said I was sorry. I have spent the last 17 years of my incarceration to make sure two lives were not wasted out of this tragedy.

That is one reason we are focusing on the rehabilitative aspects of my case. Not everyone has an actual claim of innocence, DNA evidence to offer, mental retardation issues to consider or were a juvenile at the time of the crime. Unquestionably, some people here are actually guilty of the crime they were convicted of.

However, our criminal justice system, just as our government, is set up with a system of checks and balances. Death row prisoners go through a lengthy appeals process because our system of jurisprudence recognizes that men are fallible. It recognizes that sometimes the rule of law can and will be misinterpreted. We want the Parole Board members to be receptive to a message about positive change.

For too long, the Board has used the clemency process as a stopgap for the legal system. The Parole Board and Governor have only wanted to grant clemency if the person didn't have full access to the court system or if there are actual claims of innocence. I would submit that that's not what the clemency process was designed for.

The clemency process was designed because our legislature recognized that in some instances, our government would have to make exceptions for those who were punished too severely at the trial level. The legislators also had the foresight to anticipate that some, such as myself, would experience mature growth in spite of my surroundings. Rather than being influenced by hardened criminals in any way, I have actually influenced some in a positive manner.

I believe that clemency is about mercy when all legal avenues have been exhausted. Our campaign is about redemption, rehabilitation, reconciliation and forgiveness. We hope to restore faith and humanity to our Texas clemency process.

There are only two sentencing options in a capital case – life or death. Clemency isn't about escaping punishment but about reducing punishment and removing the threat of immediate death. A life sentence would continue punishment.

Another fallacy with the clemency process is there is no criteria or standard to meet in order to receive clemency. In the legal process, there are standards or bars that must be met before one can obtain relief on a legal issue. It should be the same for clemency. If we are to have a death penalty, and we do, then each and every aspect of the system should be operable. If we are to have a clemency process, and we do, it should be attainable.

What I am suggesting is this. If everything that I have achieved during the past 17 years (I invite you to visit my website at www.fund-for-life.org), through my self-rehabilitative process doesn't meet the standard or criteria for clemency, then how likely is it that others who now have less time because of the shortened appeal process will ever be able to meet this invisible bar?

Clemency is about mercy. I am not demanding anything. I am asking that I be given the opportunity to continue contributing to society, even if it means from a prison cell.

I hope you find this additional information useful. Thank you for your time and consideration to this matter.

James V. Allridge III

  • More of the Story

  • No Mercy

    The case of James Allridge raises familiar questions about the Texas justice system
  • Last Rites

    What's left in the clemency process for James Allridge

    Mitigating Circumstances

    James Allridge was sentenced under death penalty laws with no gray areas

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