At 50 years of age and 23.5 years of incarceration, my sentence of Life Without the Possibility of Parole was commuted to 25 to Life on Christmas Eve 2018 along with nine other LWOPS here at CSP Solano Level II. I am still prayerful and hopeful for the other 5,200 LWOPS who were given this living death sentence of Life Without the Possibility of Parole. It has always haunted me and dwelt in the back of my mind, asking myself, ‘this slow death is torture, why didn’t they just give me the death penalty if they feel my conviction of murder robbery was deserving of death.’
I would like to first contribute and thank my praying Grandma for not giving up on the possibility of a merciful Governor. Her prayer in a letter to me 13 years ago was that a Governor would make an opportunity for her grandson to come home. May she rest in peace, as she passed away 10 years ago.
I have 12 write ups, 10 from 1998 to 2006. I have two from 2008 – 2014. I think the Senior Parole Agent and the Governor recognized my turn around starting in 2014 with self help groups and facilitating them. They said “I earned” a sentence commutation because I started the E.D.G.E. program, diversion for at-risk youth and continued my education (AA degree and certified in Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint).
I want to thank my wife Gloria, Geri Silva, Cris Moore, Joanne Scheer and all the advocates of justice reform, including us in blue inside California prisons writing letters to show the human side of us. I also want to thank Annabelle who is instrumental in putting our pictures, stories and accomplishments on the California LWOP website. I think it takes all of these things to bring about change.
LWOPS please keep writing, creating and showing your redeemable qualities, and for those who believe in God, pray, have faith and He will show you your purpose.
Peace and Blessings,
Joseph Bell Jr.
Please sign and share the petition by Families United to End Life Without Parole Sentences (F.U.E.L.) here: https://www.change.org/p/jerry-brown-seeking-redemption
Text of the Petition:
To the Honorable Edmund G. Brown, Jr.
Governor of the State of California:
We, the undersigned, hereby request and urge you to grant commutations of sentence to all men and women serving the sentence of Life Without the Possibility of Parole to life with the possibility of parole, provided these men and women are first-time adult offenders.
The enormity and complexity of California’s laws has inadvertently created an environment where a person who has committed a crime for the first time, even though their conduct may be attributable to youth, addiction, or any similar circumstance, could be sentenced to die in prison with no possibility of redemption or opportunity to make amends.
We realize that this action must be undertaken with serious thought and consideration and that these sentences are the product of crimes with real victims. With earnest respect for lives lost or damaged and the families and communities who have been harmed, we solemnly make this request. We are seeking this relief only because California’s laws are inequitable and excessive and there is no feasible way to bring these back to balance.
There are currently 5,086 men and women serving a sentence that is a de facto death sentence.
We are asking only for the chance for those first-time adult offenders to prove themselves capable of becoming contributing members of society again by doing the hard work that is necessary to accomplish this and be given the opportunity to come before the Parole Board.
We have watched your actions in regard to commuting the life without the possibility of parole sentences of several men and women over the past year. Your courage and commitment to the possibility of redemption and the concept of hope is nothing short of inspiring.
In your State of the State Address, you professed that the theological virtue of hope brings the incentive to reform and, without hope, despair and violence take over instead of maturity and growth of character. As a great many of these men and women are first-time offenders who were youths at the time of their offense, hope for the opportunity of parole affords them the courage and commitment to engage in rehabilitative programs and turn their lives around. This, in turn, fosters a safer environment with an atmosphere of respect and order for the correctional officers who walk the halls in fulfillment of their duties.
A life with parole sentence does not, in fact, mean that someone is getting out of prison; it means only that they have a chance at parole. No one will be released unless they have served many years in prison and have successfully participated in treatment, educational and vocational programs and then deemed by the Board of Parole, through a rigorous process, to not be a danger. They will then have to pass further scrutiny by the Governor.
Until the time comes where the de facto death sentence of life without the possibility of parole is no longer an option, our only recourse is to appeal, with great urgency and sincere hearts, on behalf of those first-offense men and women who are completely without hope of redemption or the opportunity of making amends to those they have harmed. We ask, therefore, that you exercise your constitutional authority and commute the sentences of all first-time offenders under your authority sentenced to life without the possibility of parole to a sentence of life with the possibility of parole.
Thank you for your careful consideration.
Fair Chance Project – Geri Silva
Felony Murder Elimination Project – Joanne Scheer
California Families Against Solitary Confinement – Dolores Canales
Time for Change Foundation – Kim Carter
The Place4Grace – Karen McDaniel, M.A.
Life Support Alliance – Vanessa Sloane
Dean, Berkeley School of Law – Professor Erwin Chemerinsky
Words Uncaged – Professor Bidhan Chandra Roy
The Other Death Penalty Project – Kenneth Hartman
Unlock Tomorrow – Ray Adornetto
Liberation Prison Project – Thubten Choyki
Sign and share our Petition here, thank you!
It’s funny how throughout childhood and adolescence, one can dream so bright and vividly about his/her future; a future vision that might include the highest heights in education, sports, first love and yes, even scoring social ratings. My childhood, which began as the sixth son to loving and devoted parents, was no less exciting and bright, through my heart and eyes. In fact, if asked even today, many would probably say, “… Kenny Moe (as I was known) was a happy-go- lucky, free-spirited kid that family
and friends enjoyed being around!” Now, soon-to- be sixty, my inner-child holds dear to all the goodness that I dreamt of and was exposed to growing up.
However, during the summer of 1978, at the ripe-old age of nineteen, my life and outlook – that once appeared so broad and attainable – suddenly took a horrible turn towards complete darkness. I discovered, early one Saturday morning, a warrant for my arrest had been issued for auto-theft and home invasion robbery. Somehow, as young and naïve as I was, I believed in “The System” enough to surrender to the police so that this matter could be sorted out and I’d return to my life and family shortly thereafter.. or so I thought. At age nineteen, I was certainly no saint and, having had one prior conviction for auto-theft, I immediately confessed to the theft of the pick-up truck in-question, not realizing at that point that it had been abandoned at a home invasion robbery, for which, without even realizing, was only the beginning of this chaos and the end of my daydreaming.
I was ultimately charged with robbery, auto-theft, sexual assault, and a host of related crimes.
Maintaining my innocence the entire time, I was later convicted and sentenced on all counts minus the murder charge, receiving life without the possibility of parole, and present day, am now in my thirty-
ninth year of incarceration. I have fought long and hard to prove my innocence all these years with petitions in federal court. DNA testing with the help of the Innocence Project in 2007, retesting by Cybergenetics (2017) with the latest technical advances in DNA testing both have excluded me from the evidence held by Santa Clara County.
The Alameda County DA refuses to allow testing of whatever evidence they hold, denying all petitions so far to free up the evidence so that it can be tested. Moreover, with absolute confidence, I know it would exclude me as well.
Fast forward, the aim and purpose of joining the C.A. LWOP Group initially had little to do with my own freedom or me. Instead, it was far more important, or so I thought at the time, to use the facts and circumstance of “who I am, and what happened to me,” in hopes to educate younger men and women of today, their parents, legislators and community leaders that your sons and daughters, too, are just as
much at risk of becoming the next crop of CDCR prisoners serving LWOP as a result of simply being in the wrong place, with the wrong person(s), at the wrong time due to the current status of the C.A. Felony Murder Rule (FMR). A person does not even need to be “personally present” when a murder takes place — yes, knowledge, planning, or assisting in flight from the scene of such offenses is enough, under the law, to convict you of aiding/abetting felony murder, making all parties eligible for the death penalty or life without possibility of parole.
Imagine, for a moment, the faces, emotions, and mind-set of teenagers and/or young adults from all walks of life who suddenly find (as I had) that because you are closely associated with someone or provided something to someone who committed murder, you too, under the law, are now just as responsible for capital murder without ever having such intent or a clue that anyone would be seriously injured, or killed.
I implore all who visit the Lifers With Optimistic Progress (LWOP) website to learn from the lives destroyed as a direct result of the over-zealous and disproportionate use of the Felony Murder Rule.
Until recently (2017), the California Legislator refused to repeal or abolish FMR as other States and Countries have. Thus, we need the public’s help to assure that the “Felony Murder Rule” no longer incarcerates those (like me) who HAVE NOT COMMITTED MURDER , no longer be held criminally liable for the murder committed at/by the hands of others.
Today, in the midst of my deferred childhood dreaming, I’ve found HOPE, LIGHT and PROSPERITY in – among other things – teaching fellow inmates how to read and write, introducing them to an entirely new world. I’ve spent years helping others understand the fundamentals of State and Federal law, how it attaches to their criminal cases, assisted in and created programs to help LWOPs/Lifers cope with the stresses and pressures of prolonged incarceration (Insight Circle), tackling issues such as loss (deaths) of family and friends. Through all this, I’ve cultivated and cured many of my own dysfunctions, and learned to overcome inner darkness/depression through thirty-five+ years of meditation practices coupled with my Faith in God.
So, although my childhood dreams have drastically changed shape and direction, I still see the world and my place in it, the opportunities and blessings that come my way in vivid technicolor, and with the help and kindness of others. I’m laying “new tracks” that will better secure the cargo of my dreams for tomorrow, especially the dream wished into reality—called Freedom!
Kenneth Moore C-16557
CHCF Stockton, California
Under “Changed Lives” we have stories about people whose life sentence was commuted. Eric’s is one of them:
Hello, my name is Eric Clark and there has not been a day from July 7, 1992 to July 7, 2017 that I haven’t faced a Death Sentence or Life Without the Possibility of Parole, or have had to serve an LWOP sentence. Being an LWOP was not a sentence to serve, but became my description and a form of identification.
September 15, 2017, I was resentenced to 25 years to life, and after already surpassing my 25-year base term, I was already overdue for my initial Board of Parole hearing date. I even was 20 years old and became immediately eligible for parole as a Youthful Offender under SB 261.
So, in the last 4 plus months my life has been a whirlwind. Being a Lifer is much different than being an LWOP. There is a sense of now as a lifer, whereas an LWOP there was always time. That’s all LWOP’s have had for decades, is time. But now things are moving in the direction for those serving LWOP sentences, towards an opportunity for consideration to be treated like a lifer. What does that look like? What does that mean?
The conversations I’ve had with those LWOP’s on Level II tells me they don’t see it. So, my advice with those who truly seek consideration and a chance for freedom, Remember Your Victims. Do not approach this as if it’s all about you. Do not come across as if you are owed something or entitled. And convey that you realize that no hardship from an excessively harsh sentence can be worse than being a murder victim or their family.
Good luck to all those serving LWOP sentences. Do not become what you have been sentenced to serve.
Eric Clark J-36404
CSP Solano C13-7-3
P.O. Box 4000
Vacaville, California 95696
January 25, 2018
This is a case about Eric’s brother, but Eric was also in the court case. They wanted to have this link posted here: