In the summer of 1987, Kenneth Clair was found guilty of the Nov. 15, 1984 murder of Linda Rogers in nearby Santa Ana. The jury sentenced Clair to death and, since then, he has been incarcerated at the San Quentin State Prison.
California’s death row currently houses 635 men and women. Capital punishment in California is usually assigned to cases of first-degree murder with special circumstances.
The state must provide evidence against a defendant to prove guilt beyond all reasonable doubt. Yet the ultimate decision of guilt rests on 12 jurors. The death penalty is only an option for first-degree cases involving no mitigating circumstances and beyond any question of doubt.
There are many who question the validity of the court’s decision in Clair’s case. While there are many processes by which individuals can appeal a decision, Clair has yet to be exonerated. Clair maintains his innocence.
‘I am innocent and sit in a cell thinking about a conviction after a trial where no defense argued on my behalf,’ Clair says on his Web site. ‘But I am fighting the state every step of the way and am hoping that someone will realize that the wrong man is locked up.’
For years Clair has participated in e-mail and pen-pal programs to meet friends outside San Quentin. Through these efforts, Clair met a woman by the name of K. Bandell with whom he corresponded for a number of years.
Bandell herself is no stranger to the world of death row, being an ardent anti-death penalty activist for years. But something about Clair’s case struck her as unusual. As she said in a phone interview with the New University, ‘[Kenneth claimed], ‘I didn’t do anything.”
Bandell continued, ‘I knew him well enough that it struck me as authentic.