Governor Jindal and the Louisiana Board of Pardons and Parole: Please commute Chris Sepulvado's death sentence to life without parole.
Chris Sepulvado's execution on February 13, 2013 would mark the first involuntary execution in Louisiana in over a decade. Mr. Sepulvado has brain damage and is in poor health, and at the age of 69 would be the oldest man ever executed by the State of Louisiana. He is a model prisoner and has consistently expressed remorse for his crime. He has a deep faith in God and was chosen by the prison to be a spiritual guide to other inmates. Please help us prevent his execution.
I urgently appeal to you to spare Chris’s life and allow him to be re-sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
Chris is deserving of clemency and a commutation of his sentence for five reasons, each of which is compelling in its own right:
First, Chris is currently 69 years of age and in very poor health. At 69, Chris would be the oldest person ever executed by the State of Louisiana. Only one-half of one percent of the persons executed in the United States since 1776 have been Chris’s age or older. In addition to his advanced age, Chris is in poor health. He suffers from several chronic medical conditions, including obstructive pulmonary disease; arterial blockages; abnormalities of his lungs and chest; spinal degeneration; and congestive heart failure.
Second, Chris is brain damaged and has a history of mental illness, including episodes of psychosis, depression and paranoia. He has been diagnosed with moderate brain damage, indicating that he functions at a level below 98% of the population. His brain damage is likely the product of numerous head injuries, the first of which occurred when he was only an infant, and is substantial enough to affect his ability to control his behavior and emotions, his decision-making, planning and problem solving.
Third, Chris is changed man. During 20 years of imprisonment, Chris has been a model prisoner. He has ministered and tutored other inmates and was chosen by the prison itself to spiritually guide fellow inmates. Chris has a deep faith in God and has consistently expressed remorse for his crime. He wishes to have his death sentence commuted to life without opportunity of parole so that he might attend the Louisiana Theological Center at Angola.
Fourth, Chris’s punishment is excessive compared to that of his co-defendant. Chris was sentenced to death for the 1992 murder of his six-year-old stepson, Wesley Allen Mercer. For her role in her son’s murder, Wesley’s biological mother, Yvonne Mercer Sepulvado, was convicted of manslaughter and served only six years in prison. She has been free for 12 years.
And finally, the federal courts have concluded that Chris’s conviction and death sentence are tainted by constitutional error. Chris was indicted by a grand jury system contaminated by a longstanding pattern of racial discrimination. Chris was unable to obtain relief in the court system because his trial lawyer failed to file the pre-trial paperwork necessary to challenge the results of such discriminatory practices. In fact, Chris’s lawyer chose not to file the required legal documents because doing so would have exposed the fact that he himself had similarly discriminated against other unlucky defendants during his time as a state court judge years earlier.
For each of these reasons, I ask you to spare Chris Sepulvado’s life.