Urge Governor Brown to Free Fred Roehler Now
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There is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience... - Gandhi
This petition is to urge California Governor Jerry Brown to free Fred Roehler now. Fred Roehler has applied for clemency and the Office of Legal Affairs has received his application. Fred Roehler (Frederick George Roehler II) was unjustly sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder of his wife and stepson; they died in a tragic boating accident off the Channel Islands in January of 1981. The case was brought against him by the State of California, and involved circumstantial evidence and junk science. He has spent the past 37 years in prison. No one in his family or large circle of friends believes he is guilty. His wife’s family stands by him and his innocence to this day. Fred Roehler has maintained and supported his relationships with his three daughters, extended family and friends through prison walls. His daughters have been visiting him in a maximum-security prison, with heavy and strict supervision, since they were 6, 10 and 11 years old.
Why are we asking for this now? Because Fred has exhausted all of his legal options. And more importantly, Governor Jerry Brown has been court mandated to reduce the prison population. He has implemented a plan that will consider releasing inmates who are over the age of 60, and have served more than 25 years. However this plan does not include inmates with a life without the possibility of parole (LWOP) sentence. If it did, Fred Roehler would be the perfect candidate. He is 76 years old, and has served 37 years as an exemplary inmate. He has never received a single write up for any type of infraction. Fred has been a model prisoner: he’s taught classes, worked in the library, and advocated for prison reform – think Andy Dufrain from the movie Shawshank Redemption.
A bit of legal background: Fred Roehler was tried and convicted in Santa Barbara County where the Sheriff was also the coroner (in most counties they are separate entities). In the initial autopsy, performed by a coroner in Ventura County, the deaths were recorded due to saltwater drowning. The Santa Barbara coroner performed a second, secret autopsy, and allowed the family to cremate the bodies, then he ruled the deaths a homicide. There was no physical evidence to convict Fred Roehler. The DA hired medical “experts” to reenact the accident, which involved beating a dummy in the middle of the courtroom with a boat oar and carbon paper to replicate “wounds.” They also rolled a dummy’s head (detached from the dummy body) along the outside of the boat, to replicate injuries. The “pattern” of injuries could not be replicated if the head was attached to the body. These and other forms of junk science were deemed inadmissible by the California Court of Appeals, Second Appellate District, however they claimed that having the jury hear and see these testimonies was “harmless error” and would not have impacted the jury’s decision. In Fred’s one and only appeal, two judges upheld his sentence and one judge disagreed. Judge Vincent Daslimer’s dissent was six pages long. He concluded by stating, “This was an extremely close case in which the properly admitted evidence was just barely sufficient to support the verdicts. Under these circumstances reversal is required because it is extremely likely that the erroneous instruction [junk science] tipped the delicate balance of evidence against the defendant. I would reverse and remand."
Fred’s subsequent appeals:
- California State Supreme Court - denied to be heard - 3 votes in his favor, needed 4
- United States Supreme Court - denied to heard
- 9th Circuit Federal Court - denied to be heard - 1 vote in his favor, needed 3
Fred Roehler is not a threat to society. He is a caring, sensitive, intelligent, gentle man. He is a brother, father, grandfather, uncle, and friend to many. If released from prison, he will have the full support – emotional and financial – of his family and friends. He hopes to spend the rest of his life with his daughters, grandchildren, and extended family. As well as missing out on the childhoods of his children, and now his grandchildren, Fred lost his brother, parents, and parents-in-law while in prison, and can’t spend a second more behind prison walls.
Please urge Governor Brown to Free Fred Now by signing and sharing this petition!
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