Actually Innocent

Dear Governor Patrick,

When I arrived at Walpole in September of 1973, I was in a state of absolute shock and disbelief. It was the first time I had ever entered prison doors.

I told the intake officer that this was all a big mistake because I was an innocent man. This officer laughed and replied, "Do you know how many times I've heard that story before? Everyone in Walpole is innocent." Then there were others who merely listened and rolled their eyes to the sky. I write today hoping you, Sir, will give me just a moment without dismissing me out of hand based on false claims of innocence by others before me.

Before considering any claims I now make of innocence, please first read the enclosed page of transcript where my trial judge during his final instructions to the jury tells them: "There is no direct evidence of ANY KIND."

I became a victim of a torpid period in American history in 1973, when as a Vietnam veteran who served honorably in that controversial conflict, I found myself in a court of law having my war record used against me to obtain a conviction in lieu of ANY direct evidence. A screaming tirade about my being "used to killing people" or "you killed lots of people in Vietnam," was stricken from the record, but one can see where in the transcript this happened and can see where the Assistant DA is apologizing to the court for his behavior.

The Innocence Project has clearly and dramatically shown that there are innocent people in our prisons. They cannot help me because there was no DNA evidence for them to dispute. Again, there was no direct evidence of ANY KIND.

36 plus years have passed since my sentencing. I find myself in the final stage of my life. I am plagued with heart and lung disease, and am crippled by wounds received in combat so very long ago.

I am not bitter nor am I angry about my station in life. I have tried to make the best out of this situation by reaching out to help others or to help those inside who were troubled and did not have the tools to cope. My prison disciplinary record clearly shows I rebelled, but I paid a high price for that rebellion by spending years in the hole. I am not proud of that disciplinary record, but at that time I felt justified because I was innocent, and I could not accept life in a man-cage. I did what I believe you, Sir, or any other innocent person might have done in my place. I never once assaulted anyone — not guard nor fellow prisoner in all my years of prison.

There is so much to my story, and I know a cover letter is not the place to put it. I pray only that you will give me consideration for pardon and a chance to live out my final days in a free country that in my youth I was prepared to die for.


Joe Labriola