- James P. WillettSan Joaquin County District Attorney
Demand Jail Time for Heat Death of 17-Year-Old Maria Isabel
We need your help. Quickly. I'm sure you remember the horrific story of 17-year old Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez who died of heat stroke in 2008 while laboring in the scorching grape vineyards near Stockton. Her body temperature reached 108.
Maria's death is so hard to accept, because it didn’t need to happen. The labor contractors did not even observe the most basic heat laws. This was not a onetime occurrence. In 2006, Merced Farm Labor was fined for failure to have a written heat stress prevention plan and training for workers. They never paid the fine.
Maria's family has come to us asking for our help. Won't you please help them? The family tells us, and newspaper reports confirm, that a plea deal has been made. This deal would reportedly allow the farm labor contractor and safety supervisor, who were originally charged with involuntary manslaughter, to plea to lesser charges when the case goes to a judge for sentencing on March 9th. This plea deal could let the accused go without even jail time, possibly with just community service.
Doroteo Jimenez, the uncle of Maria Isabel told us, "When I heard that they might get community service hours, I wanted to cry. After everything, this is what they get? They might as well have let them go from the beginning. Both of them are responsible for Maria's death and both should do time in jail."
Maria's family takes offense to defense attorney Randy Thomas' quote in the Sacramento Bee, "There will be some guilty pleas, but the consequences will be bearable…Enough time has elapsed and everyone needs to move along with their lives. My clients are very, very nice people and very remorseful." Doroteo points out, "If it was their family, they wouldn't want to move on. They aren't taking this seriously because they don't know what the life of a farm worker is like. They have comfortable jobs. They don't know what it's like to work in the fields."
Please send an e-mail immediately and tell the District Attorney, James Willett, not to set a precedent that farm workers' lives are unimportant. There must be serious consequences. Tell him that jail time is a must and nothing short of that will satisfy the family or the public.
- San Joaquin County District Attorney
James P. Willett
California’s 650,000 farm workers face a daily risk of death and illness from toiling in stifling summer heat. They are at the mercy of agricultural employers and farm labor contractors who many times fail to live up to their constitutional and statutory duties to protect the safety of farm workers. Farm workers are literally dying because of the state’s broken system, which is designed in a way that ensures inadequate enforcement of the law. The laws in the books are not the laws in the fields.
You have the opportunity to set a precedent that will make agricultural employers think twice of not following the laws of California and putting at risk the life of a human being. The case of Maria Isabel Vazquez Jimenez is hard to accept, because it didn't need to happen. There is no difference between a driver killing someone while breaking our traffic laws and a labor contractor breaking the law and killing this beautiful young woman.
Maria's family and the public ask that you do everything in your power to ensure that these farm labor contractors are sentenced to the fullest extent of the law. Fines and community service hours aren't enough. Anything less than jail time is a desecration of Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez' death.
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