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LWOP (Life in Prison Without Parole): Dreams derailed or deferred

March 7, 2018

by Kenneth Moore

Kenneth Moore

It’s funny how throughout childhood and adolescence, we can dream so vividly about a bright future, a future vision that might include the highest heights in education, sports, first love and yes, even scoring social ratings. My childhood, which began as the sixth son to loving and devoted parents, was no less exciting and bright, through my heart and eyes.

In fact, if asked even today, many would probably say, “Kenny Moe (as I was known) was a happy-go-lucky, free-spirited kid that family and friends enjoyed being around!” Now, soon to be 60, my inner child holds dear to all the goodness that I dreamt of and was exposed to growing up.

However, during the summer of 1978, at the ripe old age of 19, my life and outlook – that once appeared so broad and attainable – suddenly took a horrible turn towards complete darkness. I discovered, early one Saturday morning, a warrant for my arrest had been issued for auto theft and home invasion robbery.

Somehow, as young and naïve as I was, I believed in “the system” enough to surrender to the police so that this matter could be sorted out and I’d return to my life and family shortly thereafter – or so I thought. At age 19, I was certainly no saint and, having had one prior conviction for auto theft, I immediately confessed to the theft of the pick-up truck in question, not realizing at that point that it had been abandoned at a home invasion robbery. This was only the beginning of chaos and the end of my daydreaming.

I was ultimately charged with robbery, auto-theft, sexual assault and a host of related crimes. Maintaining my innocence the entire time, I was later convicted and sentenced on all counts minus the murder charge, receiving life without the possibility of parole. Today, I am now in my 39th year of incarceration.

I have fought long and hard to prove my innocence all these years with petitions in federal court. DNA testing with the help of the Innocence Project in 2007, retesting by Cybergenetics in 2017 with the latest technical advances in DNA testing both have excluded me from the evidence held by Santa Clara County.

The Alameda County DA refuses to allow testing of whatever evidence they hold, denying all petitions so far to free up the evidence so that it can be tested. Moreover, with absolute confidence, I know it would exclude me as well.

Fast forward, the aim and purpose of joining the California LWOP Group initially had little to do with my own freedom or me. Instead, it was far more important, or so I thought at the time, to use the facts and circumstances of “who I am and what happened to me” in hopes to educate younger men and women of today, their parents, legislators and community leaders that your sons and daughters, too, are just as much at risk of becoming the next crop of CDCR prisoners serving LWOP as a result of simply being in the wrong place with the wrong person(s) at the wrong time due to the current status of the California Felony Murder Rule (FMR).

“Life in Prison Without Parole: The Other Death Penalty” – Art: Joe Dole, K-84446, Stateville Correctional Center, P.O. Box 112, Joliet IL 60434

A person does not even need to be “personally present” when a murder takes place – yes, knowledge, planning or assisting in flight from the scene of such offenses is enough, under the law, to convict you of aiding or abetting felony murder, making all parties eligible for the death penalty or life without possibility of parole.

Imagine for a moment the faces, emotions and mind-set of teenagers and/or young adults from all walks of life who suddenly find, as I had, that because you are closely associated with someone or provided something to someone who committed murder, you too, under the law, are now just as responsible for capital murder without ever having such intent or a clue that anyone would be seriously injured or killed.

I implore all who visit the Lifers With Optimistic Progress (LWOP) website to learn from the lives destroyed as a direct result of the over-zealous and disproportionate use of the Felony Murder Rule.

Until 2017, the California Legislator refused to repeal or abolish FMR as other states and countries have. Thus, we need the public’s help to assure that the Felony Murder Rule no longer incarcerates those – like me – who HAVE NOT COMMITTED MURDER, so that no one can any longer be held criminally liable for murder committed by the hands of others.

Today, in the midst of my deferred childhood dreaming, I’ve found HOPE, LIGHT and PROSPERITY in – among other things – teaching fellow inmates how to read and write, introducing them to an entirely new world. I’ve spent years helping others understand the fundamentals of state and federal law, how it attaches to their criminal cases, assisted in and created programs to help LWOPs, or Lifers, cope with the stresses and pressures of prolonged incarceration with our Insight Circle, tackling issues such as the deaths of family and friends.

Through all this, I’ve cultivated and cured many of my own dysfunctions and learned to overcome inner darkness and depression through 35-plus years of meditation practices coupled with my faith in God.

So, although my childhood dreams have drastically changed shape and direction, I still see the world and my place in it, the opportunities and blessings that come my way in vivid technicolor. And with the help and kindness of others, I’m laying “new tracks” that will better secure the cargo of my dreams for tomorrow, especially the dream wished into reality – called freedom!

Send our brother some love and light: Kenneth Moore, C-16557, CHCF, P.O. Box 31960, Stockton CA 95213. This story was originally published by Lifers With Optimistic Progress.

2 thoughts on “LWOP (Life in Prison Without Parole): Dreams derailed or deferred

  1. Brad Wright

    My heart is saddened by the injustice placed upon Mr. Kenneth Moore, worse yet it can happen to me and any of my black family. Do away with this nonsense known as Felony Murder Rule.

    Reply
  2. Frank Facts

    I do not believe in LWOP. I believe in life with the possibility of parole and in rare and exceptionally heinous cases the death penalty. LWOP cases are a raw deal for both prison staff and inmates. It's sheer torture for those who have to live under the sentence and it's often a safety concern for staff who have to discipline "maxed out" inmates who have no incentive to behave or follow rooms. In spite of this, I must say that it's ironically, out outside of Level IV-only institutions and EOP units, it's usually the lifer inmates who are the most well behaved and usually the short-termers doing beefs for transporting drugs and pimping that are the hardest to handle. California, and this nation in general, needs to develop more compassion in its heart for offenders. It's fine to give someone serious time for a serious time, but don't leave out the room for hope. We must provide people an incentive to rehabilitate, and it can't all be limited to just the possibility of appeal. It is remarkable that there are some men who live out their lives humbly with regret for one mistake in their youth and are never given a second chance, meanwhile, the law is far too lenient on other crimes (like child cruelty and sexual abuse) and many gang bangers and serial wife beaters continue on terrorize their families and communities to no end. People like Mr. Moore are who Prop. 57 should have benefitted, not the MS-13 and Gangster Disciples who have yet to be caught for all of the sin they got away with. But, I have faith that God is just and in the ones responsible will have to own up and face him on that final day.

    Reply

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