Free Efren Paredes Jr Now Part I
Efren Paredes Jr. was robbed of his freedom at fifteen years of age. Especially for those not involved in social justice issues, I will begin with the words of Efren’s mother from the 4efren.com website:
I know it is difficult for people who have not experienced a wrongful conviction in their family to understand how easily an innocent 15-year-old boy can be convicted of a crime he did not commit.
Many of us have been conditioned to think that all criminals must be guilty, even though since 1992, The Innocence Project has shed light on wrongful convictions and shares these statistics:
There have been 242 post-conviction DNA exonerations in United States history. These stories are becoming more familiar as more innocent people gain their freedom through postconviction testing. They are not proof, however, that our system is righting itself.
The common themes that run through these cases — from global problems like poverty and racial issues to criminal justice issues like eyewitness misidentification, invalid or improper forensic science, overzealous police and prosecutors and inept defense counsel — cannot be ignored and continue to plague our criminal justice system.
-Seventeen people had been sentenced to death before DNA proved their innocence and led to their release.
-The average sentence served by DNA exonerees has been 12 years.
-About 70 percent of those exonerated by DNA testing are members of minority groups.
-In almost 40 percent of the cases profiled here, the actual perpetrator has been identified by DNA testing.
-Exonerations have been won in 33 states and Washington, D.C.
Those of us in Harris county might more easily conceive the possibility of wrongful convictions since the City of Houston admits that no less than 8,000 pieces of evidence have been mishandled. Furthermore, an article by Attorney John Floyd and Paralegal Billy Sinclair indicates that six people have been liberated after having been convicted due to faulty work of the Houston Crime Lab, a lab considered by some to be the worst in the country.
Many articles have been written about the details of Efren’s case. I’ll keep the details brief, since there are many other sources that can provide much better details on the case. Even though this case happened in Michigan, it came down to a Southern-style, convict-anyone-at-all-costs prosecution. Says one document on the 4Efren site:
The individuals who lied about Efren’s involvement in the Rick Tetzlaff murder/Vineland Foods robbery
admitted to participating in the crime themselves. One of those individuals was never charged with a single crime, and one received six months in jail…
The prosecutor gave “deals” to all the truly guilty people who admitted their part in the crime. Two key
prosecution witnesses received their “deals” in exchange for testifying…
Countless heavyweight scholars, including Drs. Betita Martinez, Carlos Munoz and Rodolfo Acuna back Efren and his fight for freedom.
What bothers me most is that Efren was robbed of his teens, deprived of his twenties and time is threatening to steal his thirties, as he is now approaching forty years of age. The thing that attracted me specifically to Efren’s case is his tireless work in the area of social justice. From behind bars, he has given more workshops and presentations than many of us in the so-called free world. In 2009 alone, Efren has spoken via telephone to crowds at: a workshop at a national MEChA conference; a Toronto youth rally; Ebling and You radio show in Lansing, Michigan; a conversation with Walter Swift, an exonnerated convict at Freedom March for Wrongful Convictions and the Thousand Kites National radio broadcast. He currently maintains a blog as well. On top of everything, he has recently joined in promoting the BastaDobbs.com campaign.
It is a little embarrassing to admit, but Efren has been so active that I had to ask him if he was the same Efren Paredes Jr. that is incarcerated, after seeing his many activities posted on facebook. He has been so active that I thought he just happened to have the same name as the Efren that is locked up. “How could someone who is incarcerated be so active in our community,” I thought to myself ignorantly. When I found out that Efren Paredes Jr., my friend on facebook and prolific activist, was the same Efren Paredes Jr. who was wrongfully convicted, I couldn’t help posting something about him and his contributions.
So que hacemos? If nothing else, sign Efren Paredes Jr’s online petition. His online petition also sends an e-mail to the governor’s office. You can also circulate information, write letters and donate.
Further, anyone who is incarcerated needs support, especially when they do so much for our community. Contact him on his facebook page. We became friends through my facebook page because of his tireless community work. Be sure to connect to the Free Efren facebook page, which is a separate page dedicated to his release.
Check back for some personal words and photos from Efren. I am hoping to receive them soon.