Letters from Former Governor and Mrs. Milliken
in support of Michigan Battered Women's Clemency
In a letter, dated March 5th, 2004, to Governor Granholm's office, Governor Milliken wrote:
"I'd like to draw your attention to The Battered Women's Clemency Project based in Ann Arbor. I am working with this highly responsible and dedicated group of women in an effort to help recognize, and do something about, the plight of twenty women presently incarcerated in Michigan's prison system. At the time most of these women were convicted, society really did not recognize or understand the meaning of spouse abuse and, concomitantly, the laws did not recognize the plight of many women in such situations. A reading of the brief backgrounds and tragic circumstances of some of these 20 women strongly suggests a travesty of justice. One would have to conclude that the release of these women would represent no threat to society and would clearly be an act of mercy. I attach herewith a brief background on each of the twenty... I used the commutation procedure quite freely during my tenure: Milliken 94; Blanchard 6; Engler 14."
September 22, 1998
Governor John Engler and
Michigan Parole Board
Dear Governor Engler and Members of the Parole Board:
We are writing to offer our full support for clemency for women in Michigan prisons who have been identified by the Michigan Battered Women's Clemency Project, ACLU. These are women who did not receive fair trials based on the facts of their cases, and who were wrongly convicted of crimes when relevant issues of abuse were not considered, or even raised, at their trials.
Due to the widespread lack of public education and governmental and institutional recognition of domestic violence in the past, most of these women and their children were offered no police, court or legal protection against their batterers, even when they requested it. For many, there were no shelters available at the time. It is likely that many of these women might themselves be dead now if they had not been forced to defend themselves and their children on their own. In recent years, greater public awareness around issues of domestic violence have made us all cognizant of the terrible circumstances that women and their children have faced in these situations.
It is our understanding that, although several petitions have been filed on behalf of women in the Clemency Project, there remain a number of petitions which have not yet been presented due to the careful and thorough approach to interviewing, investigating, selecting and preparing of the petitions. It is significant to note that the cases selected and presented for clemency vary and may not all appear to fit some "classic" notion of self-defense; however, the belief of imminent danger as verified by the Clemency Project is a factor that should not be dismissed. We support the Clemency Project's selection of women who acted as any person would in similar circumstances, and who pose no threat at all to society.
Currently, there are four petitions for clemency awaiting your response. One of these is for Geraldean Gordon, a woman who has just received parole. We commend your decision on her case. The other three are equally deserving of your consideration for release.
Violet Allen is highly deserving of clemency. Ms. Allen was 18 years old in 1977 when she shot and killed her 34 year old husband. Her husband had abused her repeatedly, and she had just seen him throw their baby across the room in a fit of rage. He also sexually molested the baby. Ms. Allen endured beatings, torture, and guns held to her head, yet she only reacted violently against her abusive husband to protect her child. These facts should have come out at her trial. Ms. Allen has been a model prisoner, has earned her Bachelor's degree in prison, and deserves to be free. She has friends and family awaiting her to provide support and a job.
Delores Kapuscinski killed her husband in 1987, after a night of sexual abuse and terror. Although expert testimony about the effects of abuse was allowed at her trial, there was little public knowledge or understanding at that time of the effects of repeated degrading sexual violence and other tactics of abuse. Ms. Kapuscinski was wrongly convicted of murder. She has also been a model prisoner, tutoring other prisoners and earning her Bachelor's degree. She has attempted to further her education towards a Master's degree, but this opportunity is not available to her in prison. Ms. Kapuscinski has strong family support and a job awaiting her.
Mildred Perry called police repeatedly when she was being beaten by her violent husband, but she received no help from them. She was treated at the hospital several times for injuries received at the hands of her husband, but medical professionals provided not assistance to her either, despite her requests. The spiritual counselor to whom she turned for guidance and support was responsible for hiring the killer of Mildred Perry's husband. That person is free, while Ms. Perry was convicted in 1979 of Murder II and Conspiracy, and was sentenced to Life. Ms. Perry has a son who is eager to provide support to his mother, and she, too, will be a productive member of the community, when she is free.
As former Governor and First Lady of Michigan, we urge you to grant clemency to these and other women presented by the Michigan Battered Women's Clemency Project. These women have all the qualifications to be contributing citizens and they present no danger to anyone. They have served many years already. We hope you will give them the opportunity to begin their lives again with their children and families.
Helen W. Milliken
William G. Milliken