Review Francisco's Life Without Parole Sentence!

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Francisco Mojica is currently sentenced to die in prison, while his brother, the gunman who committed the murder, walks free. 

In 1991, Francisco's brother, Tomas Vasquez Jr., was standing in a North Philly apartment building when he was startled by gunfire coming at him through a closed door. He was holding a loaded gun and, in a panic, he fired back at the man shooting at him, Efrain Gonzales. Ultimately, Vasquez took Gonzalez's life. 

Francisco was also in the apartment building. After hearing gunfire, he rushed out to find his brother injured. Francisco drove his brother to a hospital, assisted by a police officer who he flagged down.  

Francisco and his brother were tried separately. Even though Vasquez was the gunman, he was convicted of third-degree murder (homicide without intent to kill) 12 to 24 years in prison while Francisco was convicted of second-degree murder (reckless endangerment) and given the mandatory sentence for that conviction: life with no chance of parole. 

When Vasquez discovered this injustice, he was outraged and confused. 

“How did they give you life? Who did you kill? I am the killer,” Vasquez told his brother. He also wrote a letter to his brother’s judge: “If you feel you did justice with a life sentence, give him my sentence and let me have his.”

Today, Vasquez, the gunman, is a gaunt 63-year-old man living on Social Security disability in Juniata, while his brother remains incarcerated. 

Throughout his incarceration, Francisco has spent his time volunteering and giving back. 

Francisco has helped start two programs for fellow inmates -- a faith-based reentry program and a program known as "Fathers and Children Together" that connects incarcerated fathers to their children. His own sons are addicted to heroin just as he was; since his wife doesn’t drive, there was no one to take them to see him when they were younger.

He also volunteers at the prison Hospice program, spending his nights sitting up with dying inmates. He knows that he may need these services himself one day. 

When I last saw Francisco, he had another enthusiastic plan to give back, but this time to people outside of prison. As a proud Puerto Rican, he would like to start a mentoring program for Puerto Rican children living in Philadelphia who evacuated the island after Hurricane Maria. He reflected on how difficult it was for him to adjust when he moved to the Mainland from Puerto Rico as a child, and he believes that this rough adjustment is partially responsible for his position today. He knew little English and struggled to keep up in the public school classes taught in English. He didn't graduate and began to get involved with drugs. Francisco was addicted to heroin at the time of his arrest. He wants to make sure that Puerto Rican evacuee children do not fall victim to the same issues. 

Francisco has also organized tirelessly with elected officials and fellow lifers to introduce legislation to reform the Pennsylvania statutes that sentence men and women in similar situations to him to "death by incarceration". State Senator Daylin Leach has introduced legislation to amend the statute, but it has died in committee in multiple sessions. 

Newly elected, progressive District Attorney Larry Krasner and the newly appointed Director of the Conviction Review Unit, Patricia Cummings, have the opportunity to correct this injustice. 

The Conviction Review Unit, housed within the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, investigates and reviews the cases of convicted felons. Historically, this Unit has only reviewed claims of factual innocence. The new team, however, has indicated their interest in expanding the Unit's role in reviewing unfair sentences. The discrepancy between Francisco's sentence and his brother's sentence are a prime opportunity for the Conviction Review Unit to expand and strengthen the role of the Unit to position Philadelphia as a leader in progress and justice. 

We ask that Krasner and Cummings seriously consider reviewing Francisco's case. District Attorney Krasner ran and won on a progressive platform, and we ask that he stay true to those campaign principles and promises. 

The details of this story were heavily paraphrased/summarized from the Philadelphia Inquirer article by Samantha Melamad, found here: Last year, I had the opportunity to get to know Francisco personally through a college program.