In 1970, Charles Edward Garrett, an African American man from Texas, was sentenced to life in prison for possession of two grams of heroin. Garrett, at the time addicted, anticipated an unjust sentence from the all-white jury, fled. Starting a new life, Garrett beat his addiction, joined the working world and started a family.
In 1998, Garrett was arrested by Texas authorities. Though current law does not provide for this harsh a sentence for the offense, prosecuting attorneys refused to go along with a defense motion that would have allowed Garrett to serve a term of community service instead of incarceration. Garrett began to serve his life sentence, leaving behind his wife and two year old daughter, Ernestine.
Texas governor and presidential candidate George W. Bush may or may not have used illegal drugs during his youth at the time Garrett was originally sentenced; he has only guaranteed his abstinence as far back as 1974, and refuses to answer regarding the years before. Bush, who has increased drug penalties during his tenure as governor, has the power to grant Garrett clemency. Garrett's lawyers have filed an appeal with the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, which could be ruled on at any time.
Please visit http://www.freecharlesgarrett.org/ to sign an electronic petition calling for his release, and/or write to:
Texas Board of Pardons and ParolesRemember, you are writing an appeal for an individual case of clemency, so please limit the content of your letter to calling for basic justice. Don't talk about the drug war, Gov. Bush's history, racism or other issues; the board members to whom you are writing couldn't do anything about those things if they wanted. There will be plenty of time to discuss those issues in the larger venue of the media once he is freed. Most of all, please make your letters polite; the board members and the governor hold Charles Garrett's fate in their hands.