My name is Adam Reich, and I am a clinical supervisor with the Post-Conviction Justice Project at USC Law School. I am writing this on behalf of one of my clients, Connie Diane Keel. I believe her story correlates to your organization's interests.
Connie Keel, a non-violent grandmother, has been incarcerated since 1981 because she sat in a car, terrified for her life, while her armed, abusive husband and his cousin made a spur-of-the-moment decision to rob a liquor store and shoot the clerk. Even though Ms. Keel did not enter the store, fire the gun, or actually commit the robbery or murder, she is still behind bars, nearly 30 years later.
Connie has a long history of domestic abuse. As a child, adolescent, and young adult, she was neglected and physically abused by her mother, sexually abused by uncles, neighbors, and friends, and then regularly beaten (and even raped) by her husband. A California Board of Parole Hearings investigation substantiated Connie's stories of abuse through interviews with her family and friends and those of her ex-husband. The same investigation found that Connie's extensive abuse led her to develop a condition, Battered Women's Syndrome, which prevented her from disobeying her husband when ordered her at gunpoint to stay in the car the night of the crime.
Connie Keel is now 50 years old and a fully rehabilitated woman. She has never been disciplined for violence—either prior to or during her incarceration. While in prison, Connie has advanced herself educationally, held leadership roles in several programs, and generated favorable reviews in multiple vocational areas. Also, Ms. Keel has been involved in more than 27 self-help groups while in prison.
The California Board of Parole Hearings (BPH) found on Oct. 29, 2008, in a case argued by the Post-Conviction Justice Project, that Ms. Keel "is suitable for parole and would not pose an unreasonable risk of danger to society or a threat to public safety if released from prison." While this decision was momentous, her fate now rests in the hands of Gov. Schwarzenegger, who has not affirmed many parole suitability determinations, but has the opportunity to show compassion for a woman who has turned her life around.
Three weeks ago I launched a public awareness campaign and created a corresponding website, www.freeconnie.com, which tells Connie's story and enables visitors to email a letter of support to the Governor. If we can generate enough support letters, Governor Schwarzenegger will have to give Connie's case more than a mere cursory glance, and in doing so, will understand that it would be inhumane and unjust to overrule the Parole Board and deny her freedom.
I hope that you will visit the website, send a letter of support, and help spread the word of Connie's story, www.freeconnie.com, and her need for assistance.