The so-called First Step Act, which was heavily lobbied by President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner (whose farther did time in prison), gives judges more sentencing discretion, relaxes some mandatory minimum sentencing requirements, improves some rudimentary incarceration conditions and gives exemplary inmates the opportunity to earn “credits” that they can use toward being given early releases.
My name is Alexis Rodriguez, and I have been in prison for 30
years; being found guilty as an accomplice in the death of Sean Daily, a fight
turned horribly wrong. This incident was heightened by gross publicity and
accusations of racial motivations.
It was an urban love story of the Hollywood kind, where a young
man is in love with a young girl, but he’s from the “wrong side of the
tracks”, and no one wants to see them together–including the authorities.
My case (Sean Daily Case, May 1989) has been compared to other
highly publicized cases: Yusef Hawkins in Brooklyn NY (August 1989); Stephen
Crespo North Philadelphia, killed by a man admitting to the crime, and the
Eddie Pollock “911 murder case”. Yet in none of these cases were the
men sentenced to life and the comparisons were unjust. I was sentenced to
Life-Without-Parole along with 5 others (not counting four juveniles). The fact that I was 18 yrs. of age during
alleged crime means that the courts considered me an adult and not entitled to
equal treatment (as my juvenile counterparts) though we were tried together and
sentenced together. On average I will serve more years and greater percentage
of my life imprisoned than an adult offender, even though I was only 18 years
old at that time! Sentencing guidelines
and maximums very greatly by state (equal justice for all?) Unlike most other states, a life sentence in
PA is equal to “death by incarceration” so there is a high probability of my
death in prison. “Historically, the imposition of life without parole
sentences is rooted in racial stereotyping.
For much of the 20th century,
courts held that children were less culpable than adults and therefore not
subject to the most severe penalties. But
in the 80’s and 90’s the media, academics, and politicians in America
characterized teen crime in “racially coded terms”. A 2000 study of the news
broadcast in six major U.S. cities that found that 62% of the stories involving
Latino youth were about murder or attempted murder, EVEN THOUGH the data from
1998 indicated that minority youth accounted for only 25% of all juvenile crime
arrests. (Latino Justice PRLDEF study 2000).
President Trump’s “First step” initiative is very important for those who were sentenced under the draconian “Rockefeller” laws, especially many minorities sentenced under the new, “three strikes”; as well as first time drug offenders who sold crack (as opposed to powdered cocaine) receiving grossly disproportionate mandatory minimums.
Unfortunately, if the “First Step “initiative
ends there it leaves intact the machinery that drives mass incarceration. The primary goal must be rehabilitation, not
punishment. If you decide to see for yourself, you will find that in my case
prospective jurors were removed solely based on their race. No Hispanic jurors
were even considered due to the methods for jury duty consideration.
Although a proper evaluation of culpability is
fundamental and necessary in my case under the 8th and 14th Amendments, history
shows that racial stereotypes propelled the implementation of the laws that
lead to my life-without-parole sentence. DUE TO THE COURTS ERRONEOUS JURY
INSTRUCTION I WAS FOUND GUILTY BY ASSOCIATION.
The Court used coded wording referring to us
as “different” than the deceased, the defendants mostly Puerto Rican
and the deceased White. “In the late 80’s to early mid 90’s the public
discourse become consumed by a looming threat posed by America’s youth”
and predicted increase in violent juvenile crime. (Perry L. Moriearty). In my
case coded terms were used to “evoke modern racist sentiments without
seeming racist or discriminatory and allows politicians to appeal to cultural
archetypes in the collective unconscious about the ‘alien other’ who poses a
fearful and menacing threat to society”.
In my case the word “gang” was used
where there was no proof, that I belonged to any gang. The prosecutor, Michael
McGovern, also swayed the jury by plugging into their “collective
consciousness” the word, “different”, “different
land”, “different race” (all public record). As
overt racism has become unacceptable, terms and phrases like ” tough on
crime”, urban, inner-city, gangs and welfare now widely serve as
“coded” words that enable politicians to exploit racial sensitivities
“without explicitly playing the ‘race card'”. I believe that the legal standard was
diminished, and “accomplice liability” was used unfairly and
inaccurately to group me together with others and their actions. The prosecution did not prove that: I
“intended to commit or aid in the commission of the criminal act,” that I
entered into an agreement with another to engage in the crime, nor did I commit
an overt act in furtherance of “the agreed upon crime”. All three
elements of proof should have been required—but they were not even attempted by
the prosecution—a gross injustice!
There is one more thing that the public should
know…I HAVE NEVER TESTIFIED AND NON-TESTIFYING CODEFENDANTS HAVE NOT BEEN
CONFRONTED. I need an opportunity to be heard by the Court who has time-barred
me, as to “governmental interference”, and new evidence (affidavit). Prior
to this article, I have not shared my story with many people. My hope is in
Christ Jesus, and it’s that very hope/faith that pushes me forward and has
borne me aloft. So, I not only need your prayers I need you to be motivated
against injustice, for “an injustice to one man is an injustice to all
If after evaluation you feel moved to help in
any way, then by please help! Remember,
I could be YOUR son or daughter, YOUR father or mother, cousin, etc. You don’t
have to love me, love justice. Agree
with the Truth. Is 30 years enough? As
you decide for yourself, let your heart join with your mind…that’s the only
recipe that can combat injustices based on racial, ethnic, or sexual biases
that have perverted the intention of “equal justice for all”.
We need reform to the Pennsylvania State
prison system, not just Federal. There are no “credits” for a lifer
in PA, there is no such thing as “good time”, no incentives at all to
do good…and most good goes unnoticed. Presently in the PA system, if you
complete your yearly prescriptive (rehabilitation)programs you do not receive
any credit. No, most men do good because they are good and simply committed a
mistake in the past that landed them in prison.
Although this information it is rarely exposed
to the outside world, most lifers are exemplary and have been write-up free for
years. Most lifers volunteer and facilitate programs and if there were credits
for “good time” in PA, like most other states, many would have earned
their way out. There are even “programs” that lifers are excluded from
simply because their sentences include no minimum parole date.
This may surprise most but as far as I know
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS PAROLE FOR LIFERS IN PA. (Please correct me if I’m
wrong). Now, of course some “Juvenile Lifers” have been released in
the last couple of years… but that is due to the Supreme Court’s ruling as to
cases like “Simmons vs. Florida, Miller vs. Alabama”, and others based on
the undisputed medical finding that age 25 is the time of full cognitive
development (and therefore lesser penalties should apply for those below that
age). Please remember that I was only 18 at that time—but PA is only reviewing
sentences for those below the age of 18 at the time of the crime. It is widely believed that when all of those
cases have been resentenced, which could easily take another decade or more, PA
will finally get to those juvenile lifers who were 18 to 25 years old at the
I want to encourage you to be more informed. Educate yourself and your children to prevent
anyone you love from coming to prison.
Learn how to deal with it if one of your loved ones is in prison. Help stop the vicious cycle of recidivism.
Please do not blame anyone for falling into a trap or failing to make the
correct decisions–just help them. It’s important to forgive and be forgiven,
and for all to know that most men and women in prison do possess redeemable
qualities which are endowed by their Creator.
In closing, please support State Rep. Jason Dawkins ” Parole For Lifers “, House Bill 135 phone # (717) 787-1354; (215) 744-7901 direct email to Jdawkins@PAHOUSE.NET. Also, Sen. Sharif Street and Reps Jordan Harris & Donna Bullock. Thank you. Please pass all this info. along. ALEXIS RODRIGUEZ BH6734
EDITOR’S NOTE: Please send any encouraging comments or information to my very good friend, “Lex” at this address:
- Smart Communications / PADOC,
- Alexis Rodriguez / BH6734
- SCI Dallas,
- PO Box 33028,
- ST Petersburg FL 33733