by 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).
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.