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A wrongfully convicted prisoner’s Christmas wish
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I recognize how unorthodox this may seem, writing to you from a prison cell in southern New Mexico, especially after 17 years of silence on my part. One might conclude that the simple fact that I’m in a prison cell automatically relegates me to the Naughty List without recourse or right to appeal. But this would overlook the fact that you, Santa, are all knowing in matters of naughty and nice. Which is another way of saying, you know what I have and haven't done and that's why I feel completely at ease and confident in bringing 17 years of Christmas wishes to your attention.
Under normal circumstances I understand that Christmas wishes aren't transferable, but I'm hopeful that if you understand the reasons behind my request that you'll grant me an exception.
Here's the deal, I'm dealing with some really bad and sour apples. I have no doubt that they're already on your Naughty List by default, but in part I'm writing to advocate for you to please put them back on your Nice List.
Why would I want someone naughty to be put on your Nice List? Well, it's really quite simple. The fact that they haven't been on your list for quite some time seems to have left a big, fat, gaping, black, abyss-like hole in their chests right where their hearts used to be. They seem to figure that since they're already on your Naughty List that there's no point or need behind going through the pretenses of being good. And why that matters to me is because I'm being held prisoner by their malice.
As I've already said, you don't need to be told that I'm innocent because you know who's been naughty and nice. Actually that's another thing I wanted to talk with you about, don't you think there should be more than just two categories? Just a thought.
But since I've come this far with this letter I'll go ahead and tell you what I want. No, not the red fire engine, the jump rope, or the bicycle. What I want is for the whole world to know how important this case is. Maybe whisper something nice in the judge’s ear, something inspirational so that she's brave enough to do the right thing. Actually, on second thought, stay away from the judge, let's focus instead on all the houses you'll visit this year. I've heard rumors that despite the pandemic you're vaccinated and plan on making a full come back this year.
Maybe on top of the kitchen counters if you could just leave a notice of Christmas cheer that has my website and some reasons why people should care about my plight, fight and ongoing path towards exoneration. Yes, I realize that this may seem all very unorthodox, but I assure you that this is no joke.
Here's what's happening, Santa. I know from the way you operate your Naughty and Nice Lists that something called due process is probably foreign to you. But outside of the North Pole, where magical beings such as yourself are not all knowing, we've invented laws as a means to effectively evaluate whether someone deserves to be on the Naughty or Nice List. And as I'm sure you've noticed from your exclusive vantage point at the North Pole, our justice system is color-coded and skewed towards favoring some at the disgrace and expense of others. Meaning, the color of your skin, your ethnicity, the languages you speak, along with a slew of other factors like sexual orientation or socioeconomic position tend to determine the kind of justice or rights you’re afforded.
Take you, for example. You're a white, jolly man in a red suit and you've committed breaking and entering on residences how many times?
Latino Santa Claus with handcuffs Source: Incow.com
I can guarantee you that if you were Native American, Latino or Black, at least in this nation, you would likely be serving life under California's three-strike law. Or maybe find yourself on death row in somewhere like Kansas, Oklahoma, or Texas. That is, of course, if the arresting officer didn't turn off his body-cam before shooting or placing you in a chokehold until you expired.
Hispanic Santa being booked Source: Safetyrisk.net
What I'm trying to say, Santa, is that justice in this nation is a comfortable concept for some and somewhat of a pipedream for others. And unfortunately I happen to be part of that “other” category. Which brings me to why I so desperately need your help.
I'm sure there are some who ask you for things like world peace and maybe a few equations on how to arrive at free energy to address global warming. But from the looks of things, these types of requests haven't merited any of your attention. Which makes me wonder if maybe your magical powers only extend to toys and other useless items that we’re sure to forget before spring time. But ever the optimist here I am pushing the issue.
Here's what I want: Justice.
I need awareness. People see my writings and podcast and though my followers continue to grow, said growth hasn’t transformed into action. And I'm worried, Santa, what this will mean for the standing and health of our justice system, since the implications are far reaching.
Attorney General Hector Balderas is insisting that the federal court ignore the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution and the subsequent jurisprudence that has followed on this issue of Confrontation. I'm sure you don't have this problem in the North Pole (again, you being all knowing), but let's say for the sake of argument that there was a serious crime in your neck of the woods. How would you address it? I'm sure you can appreciate the value of calling witnesses to give testimony under oath against the accused.
How confident would you feel about a conviction where the only direct evidence of an elf's guilt was another elf who was also at the scene of the crime? Will call this elf-one. “One” because he was the first suspect taken into custody by your police-elves. You do have police-elves, right?
What happens is this, under interrogation elf-one extricates himself from all suspicion by implicating elf-two as the culpable party to the crime. Police-elves then arrest, accuse, and formally charge elf-two. In response to this elf-two decides to hire an elf- lawyer to defend him in these criminal proceedings.
Elf on a shelf with handcuffs Source: Pinterest.com
Elf-two maintains that he is innocent. Police-elves declare to the media that elf-two is definately guilty of not only this crime but also include that he has been implicated in a series of other white-collar crimes against countless other victims (none of which is substantiated by the facts). In North Pole lingo, he's broken a lot of toys.
This should be a slam dunk case for the elected prosecutor-elf who handles these types of cases, but there's a problem. As the police-elves begin to investigate they discover that elf-one lied on numerous issues. His version of events don't coincide with other facts, and the fear that the prosecutor-elf faces is the humiliation of putting elf-one on the stand to testify against elf-two, under oath. He has already proven himself unworthy of his exalted elf status for having lied on numerous occasions to your police-elves. He may crack under cross-examination, or even tell a different version of the truth that could further implicate the systemic incompetence of police and prosecutor-elves alike.
Santa, I know that none of this would ever take place in the North Pole, but in almost all lands to the south of you this is a regular occurrence. Unlike you, our leaders aren't omniscient and have to rely on old fashioned investigation skills, interrogations and the like to get to the bottom of assigning culpability for crimes. Furthermore when the only direct evidence to sustain a criminal charge comes from an accusation (especially in the instance where elf-one is likewise implicated) – that accusation has to be given under oath, before a jury of peers, and the accused is afforded the right to confront his accuser, and through his attorney cross-examine said accuser. I'm sure you can appreciate how valuable this is to the legitimacy of said proceedings.
How could you trust in the legitimacy of said proceedings if they presented anything less legitimate than this? In our world we call this confrontation. And for us it's not only a nice idea it's a constitutional right.
Which brings us back to my Christmas wish: Justice. You don't need to worry about the gift wrapping or the bow, all I'm asking for are my rights to be validated. Seventeen years ago I was pulled from my family, my aspirations and career on the untested accusation of elf-one. The pain and loss that this has caused is
Incalculable and it can't be undone or recouped. I'm not asking that you place the culpable parties on the Naughty List, nor am I asking for you to cancel Christmas over the tragedy of my loss. All I'm asking is that you please lend me some of your influence.
Without a doubt you are quite possibly the number one influencer in the world and I don't even think you have a Twitter account. What I believe to be true is that everyone on this planet probably owes old St. Nick a favor or two, and I'd very much like to trade some of my Christmas wishes for some of those favors.
Despite the obvious nature of the constitutional violation (denial of confrontation with my only accuser, which equated to the only direct evidence of my supposed guilt) the state Attorney General Hector Balderas is petitioning the federal court to ignore said violation as “harmless error,” even though there is no legal precedent to support his position. And as absurd as this request may seem, the evidence before us is that the courts typically give district attorneys and attorney generals what they asked for regardless of the legitimacy of their claims. Unless – and here's the qualifier – the public is watching in eager anticipation of a decision that coincides with the Constitution and law. You would be surprised what a difference public awareness makes when it comes to judicial decisions.
But even if public awareness persuades the Court to come forth with a ruling that coincides with the Constitution (the Sixth Amendment), and all the relevant SCOTUS decisions that have interpreted this bedrock-premise that helps ensure a fair trial, the state and its hubris will never admit fault so as to avoid the liability of having systematically dismantled an innocent man's life. Which means I will most likely face prosecution again for the same crime, this time without any resources to defend myself from the state’s almost unlimited resources and prosecutorial might.
Elected officials like district attorneys and attorney generals typically don't operate within the same moral spectrum as everyone else. They see themselves as above such concepts as morality and ethics, instead rating their lives as good and successful (i.e., worthy of the Nice List) by the wins they accumulate on their prosecution records. Because the police arrest bad guys and the prosecutors put them behind bars. A convenient narrative that doesn't correspond to the reality in which we live. The truth is there are approximately 46,000 wrongful convictions every year in this country, and at this very moment there is at least that amount languishing away in prisons who are entirely innocent of their convicted crimes.
This is a real problem, Santa, and I know that my Christmas wish extends beyond the normal request of consumer products and the occasional puppy, but since you are a symbol of love, hope, and joy I’m emboldened to ask for your help.
Like I said, you could threaten to place my persecutors on the Naughty List, but if they're not already there I'm afraid they would arrest you on some trumped up charges (yes, I've seen Miracle on 34th Street).
Instead, what I'm asking is for your help in spreading the word as to why this fight is so important to win. Because if Attorney General Hector Balderas prevails, the legal precedent that would come from this is that a state can legally choose – based on any qualifier it chooses – who gets fair and constitutional trials. If it's convenient to the state’s prosecutorial agenda and the DA’s political ambitions your Sixth Amendment right to confront your accuser will be upheld. And if not, well, there is plenty of bed space in prisons across this nation, some of which are on death row.
If the state receives the federal judicial nod to discriminate when it comes to constitutional protections, what's to stop the state from only attacking rights that apply to criminal prosecutions? What about free speech or the right to bear arms or our democratic right to vote? Once the tyranny starts, where does it stop?
Santa, as you know, there is nothing that can be done – not even with the extraordinary powers that you possess – that can return to me what I’ve lost these last 17 years.
I've missed 17 Christmases. My marriage has evaporated, my daughter doesn't know me, my only remaining grandparent is almost 90, and my mother is likewise elderly and now without the safeguard of retirement savings because she has selflessly given it all to this fight. The sacrifices that these two women have made on my behalf are incalculable.
To sustain this fight they have given up every sort of luxury and comfort without the slightest of hesitations. As a family we've long ago crossed the Rubicon, and the only option before us is not to lose
Mario with Mom and Grandma Sept 2013 in Grants NM
I have to come home so as to send my grandmother off to the next life with a few final memories of us together. I have to re-introduce myself into my daughter’s life, as the father I was unable to be and the man that I am today. Obviously, I can't force myself into her life, but at the very least I need her to hear from me, personally, why I failed to keep my promise to her and, why I deserve after all these years to be in her life once more. As for my mother, it's on me to secure what's left of her retirement. And as for my wife, that's another story in itself.
Santa, I truly hope that my 17 years of Christmas wishes are transferable to this year. Help us to raise funds and awareness to give my lawyer Jason Bowles and his team the resources they need to uphold the Constitution of this great nation as it was written and interpreted by the highest court of this land.
P.S.- and if you have some time, Santa, maybe see if you can give me some of my hair back, as I'm not particularly fond of the baldness looking back at me in the mirror.
Mario and his dog Conello