…really comes down to five or ten minutes of your time. And a stamp. And an envelope and a piece of paper. And a decision to spend those minutes in a way that could take a step toward righting a wrong.
Ed Chapman is a friend of mine. I’ve written about him before on my web site, when I played a benefit concert for him in Asheville, which I’ve done two or three times. Here’s some of what I wrote then:
Edward was exonerated three years ago for a double murder. He spent nearly fifteen years in prison, including thirteen on death row. He was the victim of suppression on exculpatory evidence, bungled investigations and incompetent legal representation. It was the perfect storm.
Through the work of some noble lawyers, though, he was exonerated. Now there is a petition before the governor to declare him innocent. Sadly, Edward’s story is not terribly unusual, and it’s important that we hear and share these stories, which inform policy.
The difference is this:
Exoneration meant that Edward was released. A pardon would mean that he is declared innocent. With that comes some compensation from the state. While Ed was in prison, his two sons grew up and he missed it. His mother died and he was unable to attend the funeral. And he was innocent.
In the years since he got out, Ed has often worked three jobs at once just to make ends meet. Missing a good chunk of his adult life meant that he didn’t have any opportunity to develop professional skills and a career track, and, as you might guess, formerly incarcerated people have an extremely hard time finding decent work. If Ed is pardoned, the state will pay him some restitution for the 15 years of his freedom that are missing. If not, they won’t make any amends whatsoever. In return for all of that time in prison they will give him… nothing.
Our mutual friend Monika in Asheville got together a simple petition for Ed’s pardon. She wasn’t working with any organization, just circulating it to people who she thought might care. There are over 600 names on it, and I will take them to the Governor in the next few days. That’s not the end of it, though, or at least it shouldn’t be.
I also wrote this in my earlier blog about Ed:
Edward is an incredibly inspirational man. He volunteers his time speaking to youth and working in the community, and doesn’t spend his energy being bitter. He says that he’s lost fifteen years, and if he spends his time being bitter, he will have lost these years too. Edward was worth saving, and I’m honored to call him my friend.
It wouldn’t be too hard to find many more stories of injustice if you want to flip around the internet looking for them. There is plenty of injustice in the world. The reason I’m writing to ask you to take action on this one is twofold: One, Ed is my friend and I care about him and I want to see this wrong righted, or at least a step taken in that direction. Two, I understand enough about state governance to understand that a paper letter coming in the mail counts for quite a lot to the Governor. The next administration is extremely unlikely to address this. This is our best hope for Ed. Please take the time to write a short note, in your own words, to:
Governor Bev Perdue
Office of the Governor
20301 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-0301
How were you planning to kill ten minutes today? And yes, I choose the words intentionally there. I wrote these words in a song many years ago, and I continue to believe them:
There’s no time like the present/ There’s no present like time.
Thank you for considering the gift of a few minutes to put a letter in the mail. Use your own words, if you can, or use the letter below. It matters at least as much if you are from out of state, given that the governor is not running. It would be good for her to see that this has the attention of some people outside of North Carolina.
If you can’t get a letter in the mail, please call. Here’s the number: (919) 733-5811. But if you can, please write a letter, that has the most impact.
This letter was written by Pam Laughon, one of the principal investigators on Ed’s exoneration case, and a good friend to him. It can also be found at www.glenedwardchapman.com
Dear Governor Perdue:
Glen Edward Chapman was released from Death Row on April 2, 2008 after being incarcerated for over 14 years for crimes he did not commit. This case is about a man who was very nearly sent to his death because police detectives lied at his trial, covered up the existence of a confession by the real killer, buried the results of a photo lineup in which someone else was positively identified, hid witness statements that pointed to the innocence of Mr. Chapman and the guilt of another man, and altered other witness statements to make them better fit with the law enforcement’s theory of guilt. Those fabricated statements were knowingly disclosed to the defense lawyers to prevent an adequate defense of Mr. Chapman at the time of his trial.
Glen Edward Chapman’s case is a case of official corruption that exposes striking frailties in our system of justice. The police misconduct was compounded by the complete ineptitude of the lawyers assigned to defend Mr. Chapman at his trial, both of whom conducted virtually no independent investigation of the evidence and failed to even utilize the investigators they had appointed to his case. Forensic medical evidence demonstrated that one of Mr. Chapman’s victims was probably not a victim of homicide at all, a finding that went largely unchallenged by the state during the post-conviction hearings.
The Court overturned the convictions on three separate grounds: police officers lied and concealed evidence, Mr. Chapman’s attorneys provided ineffective assistance of counsel, and one of the alleged victims was probably not murdered at all. Consequently the Court vacated the convictions and ordered a new trial. Both convictions were then dismissed by the District Attorney of Catawba County, and Mr. Chapman was finally released after 14 years on Death Row.
I urge you to grant Mr. Chapman a Pardon of Innocence on the grounds that Mr. Chapman did not commit the crimes for which he was convicted, so that he may receive compensation from the State of North Carolina for his unjust and unlawful incarceration per N.C.G.S.A. 148-82-84.
Since his release Mr. Chapman has been a productive citizen in North Carolina, consistently employed, paying his taxes, and giving back to his community. Please make right the wrong that was done to this man by the state. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Thank you kindly for your attention to this matter.