On Christmas Eve, word came down that California Governor Jerry Brown had pardoned actor Robert Downey Jr. for past drug offenses committed in the late 1990s. It remains a Christmas eve ritual of the governor who also pardoned about 90 people mostly for minor infractions for drugs, robbery and burglary. Next Christmas, if not sooner, Governor Brown ought to set his sights on a case here in Orange County where a man accused of murder 30 years ago sits on Death Row today years after DNA evidence has exonerated him for the crime.
There are more than 120,000 names on Anaheim investigator C.J. Ford’s petition to free Kenneth Clair, wrongly convicted of a brutal murder where a 5-year old child witnessed the crime committed by a white tattooed man. Clair is Black and was homeless but near the crime scene in 1984. In 2008, DNA evidence exonerated Clair of the crime yet he remains in San Quentin on death row.
From the petition page:
On November 15, 1984, 5-year-old Jerrod Hessling witnessed the beating, rape, and stabbing death of his babysitter. When asked to describe the killer, he said, without hesitation, that it was a white male. Another child present during the murder saw a white man’s tattooed arm reach inside the house to open a sliding glass door.
Yet somehow, the lawyers in the case determined that Kenneth Clair, a dark-skinned African American homeless man who had been squatting next door, was the killer. When Jerrod saw him on the witness stand and insisted they had the wrong man, the prosecution chalked it up to youth and trauma, and pursued the death penalty for Kenneth Clair. To this day, 31 years later, Mr. Clair sits on San Quentin’s death row, awaiting his execution date.
But that’s not the biggest bombshell in this case — in 2008, forensic testing revealed that DNA found on the murder victim did not match Clair’s. DNA taken from a glove found at the scene also did not match. It matches another individual, but the Orange County District Attorney insists that “confidentiality is required” concerning this evidence, and for 7 years now, the identity of the person whose DNA does match the swab has remained a secret.
In the interest of justice, we must call on the Orange County DA and California state lawmakers to demand that the DNA evidence be turned over to Kenneth Clair’s defense.
Since his conviction, Clair has struggled with ineffective counsel. He wanted his lawyers to work at investigating the crime, rather than simply trying to free him from death row, but they never did. His plea for substitute counsel even made it to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012, and he did eventually receive a switch of counsel. Finally, he is being represented by people who are dedicated to his exoneration.
But their hands are tied without this crucial DNA evidence, and more of Clair’s precious life is wasting away in prison as they fight to obtain it.
Ford wrote this on December 20:
Dec 20, 2015 — Supporters: We are topping 109,179 PLUS going into Christmas week. Kenneth Clair has spent over 30 Christmas Days serving someone else’s sentence as a death row inmate in San Quentin, not knowing if he will be alive and free to see the next Christmas Day.
Let’s give Kenneth Clair the best “Christmas Gift” that he had ever gotten by each of us finding 5 or more people to sign this petition. This should not be difficult because I have read most of the comments, and I know that each of you comes from a family and social group of caring individuals. Let’s put together these new supporters so that next year Kenneth Clair can have a Christmas in 2016, as a free man. Each of us can give Kenneth Clair this gift by each of us finding 5 or more new supporters. This gift will not cost you any money, but it will be the most valuable and generous gift that Mr. Clair has ever received.
Since this is the Christmas season, appreciations and thanks are due to you the supporters. There are other supporters who must be specially noted and thanked as well who were the “first responders” to Mr. Clair’s case.
One is Scott Sanders of the Orange County Public Defender Office. Sanders has been in the trenches fighting the war on the DA, Tony Rackauckas, by exploiting the DA’s dirty and illegal tactics in case after case here in Orange County. Sanders is a “standup” hero. Sanders has accomplished so much, that it would take up too much space to list his accomplishments, so please ‘Google’ him.
Next is Investigative Reporter for the Orange County Weekly, R. Scott Moxley. Moxley is a ‘bull dog’ in the fight for Kenneth Clair and other individuals that have suffered at the hands of Mr. Rackauckas and his office. Moxley is one of the best ‘investigative reporters in the industry, and I am attaching the link you really need to read which launched this movement for Justice of Mr. Clair. Please Read Moxley’s Investigative News Story, and send Moxley some comments after you read his article.
Now I thank Sanders and Moxley because without them, I would not have been able to launch this petition that all you, “the supporters” have responded to. I like to thank the experts that put this petition together, and the people at change.org that allowed us to use their forum as a base for this petition.
I want to thank above all, God because I truly believe that he has bought us all together, at the right time, the right place, and at the right moment in history to fight this injustice.
There will not be another update until after the holiday is over. Please give Kenneth Clair the Christmas Gift that he deserves by each one of us, getting him 5 or more new supporters. Also, remember to keep the emails and phone calls going to the authorities. I personally wish each supporter, and all the new supporters that are coming on daily, a Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season to you, your family, and your friends.
Ford’s petition is about 30,000 signatures away from 150,000. Please go to the link and sign it, but place that call to the DA’s office and the Governor’s office and ask why a man still sits on death row when DNA evidence exonerates him for a crime? And why wait until next Christmas eve? If Clair can’t get released on the DNA evidence, how about a pardon now?