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The Value of One

Promoting dignity and respect for people with developmental disabilities.

What kind of person wants the world to know about an obscure execution of a person with an intellectual disability 70 years ago?

What can you say about someone who travels across the country to place a gravestone on a tiny plot outside the prison where this unfortunate person is buried?

On the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, it would be impossible to illustrate the spirit of this act and The Value of One in any more meaningful way than to tell you (and link you to) the story of the actions of Bob Perske on behalf of Joe Arridy.

He sent this e-mail to some of us who follow his advocacy efforts.  This is what it said:

Dear Colleague:

Denver Attorney David A. Martinez is filing a petition asking Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, Jr. to issue a posthumous pardon to Joe Arridy who was wrongfully executed on January 6, 1939.  This cause will be helped if a number of “independent persons” chose to write letters that will support the efforts of Attorney Martinez.  Here is the plan:

  • I have volunteered to receive your letters. (PLEASE SEND YOUR HARD COPY VIA U.S. MAIL TO PERSKE, 159 HOLLOW TREE RIDGE ROAD, DARIEN, CT 06820).
  • I will assemble the letters and write a cover index that will list all names alphabetically.
  • The packet will be submitted with the Attorneys petition and documentation.
  • THE DEADLINE FOR RECEIVING THE LETTERS WILL BE LABOR DAY.

Rob Warden, Executive Director, The Center on Wrongful Convictions, Northwestern University School of Law has written an excellent overview in www.friendsofjoearridy.com.

Bob Perske

Anyone wishing to read more about this and respond to his request is welcome to visit the website above.

Here is the letter we wrote:

The Honorable Bill Ritter, Jr.

Governor, State of Colorado

Dear Governor Ritter:

More than a decade ago I read the story of Joe Arridy in the book Deadly Innocence by Bob Perske.   I knew the ending and that made it an important but difficult read.  It’s still on my shelf and I pulled it down when I received an email from Bob today.  He requested a letter from “colleagues.”  I felt privileged to be called one, and honored that he asked me to support Joe Arridy.

I didn’t need to re-read Joe’s story.  The emotional parts are a permanent imprint.   Things slip my mind these days but the image of Joe Arridy happily playing with his toy train on the floor of his death row cell never left.   When you touch this area of advocacy — fighting for dignity, respect and justice for the most vulnerable among a highly vulnerable population — too often, you find no tears left.   I still had a few.

It turns out I didn’t know the ending of Joe’s story because it hadn’t yet been written. Thanks to Bob and other “Friends of Joe,” there is an opportunity for a posthumous pardon for Joe Arridy.   I am in obvious support of this and though some wrongs are virtually impossible to right, this is one that will reverberate throughout the field of intellectual disabilities and help demonstrate that all people, regardless of the circumstances that nurture and nature have dealt them in life, have value.

Governor Ritter, you have the power to help write the final chapter in Joe Arridy’s life by granting this pardon.  We hope this highly symbolic and compassionate act is forthcoming in the near future.

It’s never too late to right a wrong.

My thoughts and prayers are with you as you contemplate this decision.

Most Sincerely,

Jim Stream, Executive Director

The Arc of Riverside County

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