04 December 2017 :

Jarvis Jay Masters is 55 years old today. Since he was 19 years old, he was detained in the Californian prison of San Quentin, first for a series of robberies, then with a death sentence for having played a role in the killing of a prison guard.

At the time of the murder, Masters was 23 years old. They were tried in 3: a man accused of being the "spear man" -- of actually stabbing the sergeant. Another, an older man, was accused of ordering the killing. Masters was accused of sharpening a piece of metal which was allegedly passed along and later used to make the spear with which sergeant Howell Burchfield, 38, white, was stabbed.

At the trial, the first two were condemned to life imprisonment without parole, Masters, despite an apparently minor role but in consideration of a heavier criminal record, was sentenced to death.

32 years have passed since the murder. Meanwhile, Masters has become a Buddhist, receives visits and maintains a close correspondence with important members of the American Buddhist community, and shares with his fellow death row detainees his meditations and reflections on non-violence.

He has written two books, one with the preface of the Nobel Peace Prize Desmon Tutu, the other with a preface by the Buddhist master Pema Chödrön. The California Supreme Court ordered that its case be reviewed.

As a result, a judge ruled that the detainees who had testified against him were untrustworthy, but in any case the trial had been sufficiently fair, and the death penalty had not been issued in an irregular manner. He continues to declare himself completely extraneous to the facts.

Whatever one thinks of the faults of Masters, and of its trials, "Hands Off Cain" knows that it will still take several years before the sentence against Masters becomes final, possibly sending to death a person at a distance of over forty years from the  facts.

It is true that American justice provides for a long and exhaustive series of appeals to guarantee that the "right" person is executed. But even if it were, even if every doubt was removed, and in the case of Jarvis Jay Masters doubts are still many, to climb the gallows will still be a different person from the one who was several decades earlier.

The UN General Assembly calls on countries that maintain the death penalty to introduce a moratorium on capital punishment. The State of California, of which you are the Governor, has not practically practiced the death penalty since 2006 and has the most populous death row in the United States.

Today, Hands Off Cain turns to you Governor Edward Gerard Brwon to ask you to legalize what has actually happened in your state for over ten years and to introduce a legal moratorium on executions. In this way the State can save lives but also gain, beyond the time of trial or the constraints of political deadlines, the time to assess who is today Jarvis Jay Masters along with those about 900 men who were sentenced to death in California in the last 40 years.


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