Commutation for Ruby Padgett
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Ruby Padgett is a 53-year-old incarcerated survivor of childhood abuse and neglect. Ruby was sentenced to Life Without Parole (LWOP) at the age of 20 for her participation in the robbery and murder of her victim. She has been incarcerated for a total of 33 years.
Ruby experienced persistent abuse and neglect as a child. Domestic violence was normal in her family. At the age of 6, Ruby witnessed her father shoot and seriously wound her mother. This was just the first of many times that Ruby’s mother was hospitalized as a result of her father’s abuse. Ruby’s parents were unable to provide her with safety and stability due to their cycles of abuse and addiction. This severe violence and dysfunction was compounded by conditions of extreme poverty. Ruby grew up poor and her family lacked access to resources to interrupt the cycles of violence. In the context of this abusive and neglectful environment, Ruby suffered ongoing effects of early childhood trauma. She felt hopeless, unworthy of love, and fearful.
At the age of 16, Ruby left home and turned to drugs, alcohol, and relationships as a means of coping with her trauma. She sought love, care, and stability in relationships with older men. As she says, “I was so incapable of choosing my own path because I was desperate to fit in and be loved. My only example of love associated it with pain, fear, and compliance.” At the age of 19, Ruby became involved with her co-defendant; an older man, who abused alcohol and was emotionally and psychologically abusive and occasionally physically violent towards Ruby. Traumatized and desperate for approval, Ruby followed her co-defendant/abuser to California and complied with the plan to rob a restaurant. During the robbery, Ruby’s co-defendant/abuser drowned and killed their victim. While Ruby agreed to participate in the robbery, she was unable to stop the murder from occurring because she was too weak to stand up to her co-defendant/abuser. She describes herself as “indifferent to harm” at this time, and thus contributing to the loss of an innocent life.
Trial and Mitigating Factors
Ruby’s experience of abuse was ignored during her trial. Before trial, Ruby was interviewed by Domestic Violence expert, Dr. Nancy Kaser-Boyd, who determined that Ruby suffered from Battered Women’s Syndrome and ‘learned helplessness’ from her childhood of abuse. Despite this mitigating information, Ruby’s attorney did not include Kaser-Boyd’s report in trial and therefore, the jury never heard about Ruby’s history of abuse and neglect, nor about the violence she experienced from her co-defendant/abuser at the time of the crime.
In addition to her abuse, Ruby’s participation should be considered within the framework of mitigating factors for youth offenders. Recent legislation provides parole opportunities to juveniles (18 and younger) sentenced to LWOP, recognizing that youth are different from adults and giving them a chance to demonstrate remorse and rehabilitation. Because Ruby was 20-years-old at the time of the crime, she doesn’t qualify, yet the hallmark features of youth still apply to her case - specifically, a lack of understanding of consequences, peer pressure, recklessness, poor decision making, and an inability to extricate oneself from dysfunctional family environments.
Rehabilitation and Accountability
Ruby is no longer the traumatized teenager who escaped a severely violent home through substance use or abusive relationships. She is now a 53-year-old woman who takes full responsibility for her actions that contributed to the death of her victim. “Agreeing to participate in the robbery was my worst decision. This crime left a promising young man dead, [and others] traumatized. It took me a few years to see that my terrible choices had destroyed a family’s life. I have come to see that [my] choices altered so many people’s lives due to my own recklessness and indifference. While I can say that I’m sorry, to truly make amends for it I try my best to give of myself, not just monetarily but by listening, bettering myself, and those around me with my experiences.”
Ruby has dedicated herself to her full rehabilitation. She has been disciplinary free for 22 years and has maintained her sobriety for 26 years. She participates in many self-help workshops and support groups to further understand the choices she made that led to her involvement in the crime. Through these groups, Ruby learned to set healthy boundaries, recognize her emotional needs, and be accountable to her actions. She is humble, accountable, and values structure, hard-work, and healthy relationships. As Ruby says, “When I look in the mirror today, I don’t say, how did I get here? I say, you will do everything in your power to be a positive, productive member of society from this point forward.”
Please join us in asking Governor Jerry Brown to commute Ruby’s sentence of LWOP to a Life sentence so that she has an opportunity to demonstrate her transformation to the Board of Parole Hearings.
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