wrongful conviction

He'll Try Anything To Free These 12 Prisoners

Imagine you’re a lawyer with 12 clients in prison you believe to be innocent. How do you get a busy governor to pay attention to your pleas for clemency?

If you’re Justin Brooks, Director of the California Innocence Project in San Diego, you battle in court, you tweet Gov. Jerry Brown daily, and when that fails, you walk. Really, really far.

Brooks will mark the governor’s last 100 days in office by walking 100 miles from Berkeley to the state Capitol in Sacramento to call attention to the “California 12.”

His team has already won freedom for five of them in the courts. A bid to overturn a sixth’s murder conviction awaits a Los Angeles judge’s decision: the case of Jo Ann Parks, chronicled in my upcoming book, Burned. New evidence in the arson-murder case against Parks could set her free, although prosecutors are fighting hard to prove she deserves her life-without-parole sentence. So Brooks is simultaneously needling the governor to grant parole or commutation to her, along with the other members of the California 12 still behind bars.

This is not the first time Brooks has let his feet do the talking: Five years ago, he led his staff on a 712-mile trek from San Diego to Sacramento to introduce the California 12 to the world.

“To get the governor to grant clemency,” Brooks says, “you have to get his attention.”