Petition Closed

Releasing innocents from prison is simply the act of undoing a legal wrong; compensating the wrongly convicted for false imprisonment is the actual delivery of justice. 

Letter to
State of California Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General Supervising Deputy Attorney General Susan Lee
State of California Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General Deputry Attorney General Marc Nolan
State of California Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris
and 1 other
President of the United States
Subject: Penal Code section 4900 claim of Mario Rocha

Attorney General’s Office
California Department of Justice
Attn: Public Inquiry Unit
P.O. Box 944255
Sacramento, CA 94244-2550

To the California Attorney General, Kamala D. Harris, and Supervising Deputy Attorney General Susan Lee:

As an engaged citizen and voter like you, I strongly believe that the fair and equitable administration of justice is indispensable to our society. The state plays a critical role by ensuring that the rights of all people are protected, irrespective of guilt or innocence. No human enterprise is without error, not even in our state and federal criminal justice systems with all of their checks. Yet, it is in these most unfortunate of situations when our justice system does err by wrongly convicting a fellow citizen, that we have not just an opportunity, but an obligation to right the wrong. It is in this spirit that I write to you today.

I respectfully request that you reconsider your decision to oppose Mr. Mario Rocha’s claim for compensation to the State of California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board (VCGCB) resulting from his wrongful conviction for murder and attempted murder. For eight years and 266 days Mr. Rocha resided in state prisons stemming from the cumulative effects of a severely flawed investigation, ineffective defense counsel, and systemic apathy to people rightly or wrongly pinned to cases labeled “gang related.”

Despite spending much of his time behind bars fighting for his freedom and actively pursuing the path of education and peace, he could do very little to escape the horrors of race-based segregation and prison violence. During his time in prison, in addition to enduring the mental anguish and hardships associated with serving time for another person's crime, Mr. Rocha was also the victim of violent physical attacks by other inmates. One year before the California Court of Appeals reversed Mr. Rocha’s wrongful conviction, on two separate occasions he was stabbed numerous times by multiple inmates. Both times he was rushed to the hospital, and both times he nearly died.

But somehow Mario persevered and survived.

Today, even after spending ten and half years as an innocent imprisoned young man, he continues to dedicate himself to causes that benefit others. Mr. Rocha has successfully re-entered society as a meaningful and constructive contributor. He continues to support the work of Inside OUT Writers – a nonprofit organization that provides weekly writing classes within the Los Angeles County Juvenile Hall system – of which he is an alumnus having spent 24 months there before being transferred to state prison in April 1998.

Mr. Rocha regularly gives talks on youth justice at universities, law schools, and symposiums for a variety of audiences. After one recent visit to Swarthmore College, an undergraduate student wrote:

"When the conversation touched on Rocha’s interpretation of the word ‘freedom’, his voice shook. He said freedom is not determined by being in prison but by having a mind of one’s own. 'When you stand on the righteousness of your principles there is a certain power that the system of authority fears and understands,' said Rocha."
(Haque, Maroof. "From Life Sentence to Liberation: Mario Rocha Shares His Experience of Injustice." Swarthmore College Daily Gazette. November 29, 2011.)

Additionally, he continues to be an advocate for positive social change through The Sixth Sun, an independent multimedia, youth literacy and community-leadership-building project that he started in 2003 while still in prison. Amongst many other poems, pieces or productions available online, one Sixth Sun video was featured in an article published by Huffington Post and written by Ian Moss. Moss is a graduate of the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps as a Spanish and Albanian cryptologic linguist. Moss had met Mr. Rocha when he heard Mr. Rocha speak at the George Washington University Law School in Washington DC, where Moss earned his JD in May of 2011. (Moss, Ian. "La Guerra Sucia Estadounidense: America's Dirty War." Huff Post. July 21, 2010.)

In 2007, Mr. Rocha was awarded an Emerging Voices Fellowship for PEN USA based on a collection of his writings that he is compiling to publish under the title, Young Lifer: Growing Up Locked Up. He is currently a junior at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., pursuing a Bachelor's Degree in Organizational Sciences. Mr. Rocha is also interested in pursuing a career in law due in large part to the injustice that he experienced.

I wanted to share with you just a snapshot of Mario Rocha’s story, his adversities, and the manners in which he has and continues to excel in the face of profound challenges. Mr. Rocha deserves compensation for his wrongful imprisonment. As a community leader, writer and advocate for justice, he exemplifies the resilience and perseverance that can inspire humanity to never lose hope.

By supporting, or at least not opposing, Mr. Rocha’s claim for compensation to the VCGCB for his wrongful imprisonment, your office can demonstrate its commitment to justice. Your office can help to right this wrong.

Honorably Yours for Justice,