On Monday, August 2, 2021, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette published a story entitled, “Toy-gun bandit nearer to release,” by Stephen Simpson. The story talked about the national attention to a cause that many of my supporters are passionate about How pardons and clemencies are used across the country to help right injustices, and specifically how such are granted in Arkansas. Mr. Rolf Kaestel, the inmate that the story is about is , who is now 70, tells of his efforts for clemency supported by advocates and the victim as well. Kelly Duda, an American Filmmaker and activist from Arkansas, talked about the other death sentence, one by incarceration.
As with my own case, multiple officials directly involved supported my bid for clemency, along with the victims. Yet the clemency and parole board refused to allow a hearing, refusing to even address the powerful arguments offered. The prosecutor provided a letter to the board that went directly against the will of the victims, and it included false information about my inmate records which no one knows where it came from. Some may say that the difference is that Mr. Kaestel’s crimes did not end in the death of the victims, but our belief is that anytime information is suppressed that could change the outcome the outcome is then unjust.
Jason Flom, an American music industry executive and advocate for the wrongly convicted said, “I hate injustice and I hate bullying and this, to me, was a gross example of both by the system.” Thank you, Mr. Flom, because male sexual abuse victims like myself are routinely bullied by the criminal justice system that seeks to deny abuse matters.
In a letter to the clemency board, Judge Parker, implied that I was a homosexual protecting my lover, not a victim of grooming and manipulation for over a decade. The system bullies victims of abuse that are arrested because to know and understand what happened to the person changes the narrative that police, prosecutors, and judges prefer to justify sentences of death by incarceration.
I would like to commend Arkansas State Representatives Vivian Flowers, Jamie Scott, and Fredrick Love for drafting a letter of support to the Governor supporting Mr. Kaestel’s clemency. Thank you, to all three, for being willing to advocate for change one deserving case at a time.
As most of you know, we’ve spent the last 24 years seeking to share what enabled Charles “Jack” Walls, III to molest and manipulate victims in Lonoke County and those that willingly turned a blind eye for favors. I am especially thankful to Executive Director for the Sentencing Project, Amy Fettig, and Director of Advocacy for the Sentencing Project, Nicole Porter, for their work to sponsor and support change in Arkansas. In so many other states, there are groups that advocate and work for the changes they are seeking to encourage, but we need Arkansans and those that have loved ones in prison to get involved. This is a group effort, every voice matters, and if not for those being vocal for Mr. Kaestel’s fight his story might still be unknown.
Giving out life and life without parole sentences has not made the nation or Arkansas any safer, and the violence that we are seeing today shows that life sentences as a deterrent is not working. Science today can help a jury and the public understand how addictions change the way one’s brain operates, and when drugs have altered the normal way a brain functions what comes as a result is abnormal. Across the nation over the last few years, we have seen a shift to awareness when it comes to child abuse and rape. Studies have been done to show the impact of child sexual abuse and rape on the brain of victims, and what a traumatized victim acts and thinks like. Pain distorts just as much as drugs do, and in the same ways that cause the circuitry of the brain to alter.
If we are a nation of second chances, from our founders that fled Europe for freedom to those in prison seeking to escape the past and its pain, then we need elected officials that seek fairness and justice. Ignoring the truth doesn’t make the truth go away. I agree with Mr. Duda that second chance legislation and an unbiased committee for clemencies would remove pressure and ensure injustices are addressed not further denied. Those that have supported my case and fight have seen those originally tied to the Walls case and my own seek to hide the truth over and over. Can a parole and clemency board dominated by former police and prosecutors offer objective review of cases that in some situations would make them or those that they trained look badly?
Please join us in reaching out and promoting the kind of support that leads to reforms that make a difference. There are many within the system that have done all that has been asked of them, taken every class, grown despite their being no adequate counseling or therapy, only to see the clemency board deny their petitions. Those like myself with life without parole are told to wait for 8 years to re-apply, but if those on the board are biased and prejudiced against certain cases why would they change? Police and prosecutors that protest these reviews, denying even the victims support of relief or a second chance, reveal the kinds of subjective biases that should lead to their removal from those committees. Please encourage the Governor to appoint members to the Parole and Clemency board that offer a broad view of those that come before it, not just one side.