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August 17, 2010
A Posthumous Pardon for Joe Arridy
Joe Arridy, a young man with an intellectual disability, was executed on January 6, 1939 by the state of Colorado for a murder he did not commit. Today, we are asking Governor Ritter of Colorado to grant Joe Arridy a posthumous pardon before the Governor retires this year. I am personally asking on behalf of my late Grandfather, Gail L. Ireland, the Denver attorney who represented Joe Arridy from November 18, 1937 through the day of the execution, winning an unprecedented number of stays of execution for Joe.
Here are some links to find out more about Joe Arridy, Gail Ireland, and the current appeal to the Governor of Colorado.
The website dedicated to Joe Arridy
My account of my Grandfather’s life and his efforts to save Joe Arridy
About Joe and how to write a letter to Colorado Governor Ritter
More about how to write a letter to Colorado Governor Ritter
About the upcoming movie, “The Woodpecker Waltz”
A “keeper” article about Joe Arridy and his supporters
Here is what I wrote to Colorado Governor Ritter, urging him to pardon Joe Arridy before he retires this year:
Dear Colorado Governor Bill Ritter Jr.,
I am writing on behalf of my late grandfather, Denver Attorney Gail Ireland, who served as Colorado Attorney General from 1941 through 1945, and went on to serve as a Colorado Water Commissioner. But from November 18, 1937 through January 6, 1939, Gail Ireland won an unprecedented number of stays of execution for a young man with intellectual disabilities. This young man, Joe Arridy, was executed by the State of Colorado on January 6, 1939.
Joe Arridy’s story is better told by others. I can only tell my Grandfather’s story. I know that he was proud all through his life of the efforts he made to save Joe Arridy. And he felt that Colorado was disgraced by executing Joe Arridy.
Governor Ritter, this could be your opportunity to right the wrong that Gail Ireland was afraid Colorado would regret, by granting Joe Arridy a posthumous pardon. Even the Colorado Supreme Court Justices in 1938 predicted the future when Justice Bakke delivered his opinion for denying Joe Arridy’s appeal requested by Gail Ireland. He said, “In conclusion, acknowledgment should be made of the commendable effort on the part of defendant’s counsel and others to save Arridy from the death sentence. We are aware that such effort was prompted by the highest motives which move the hearts and minds of men, but until such time as the race, in its evolutionary process, can work out a more intelligent solution of cases such as is here presented, it remains the duty of courts only, to safeguard the rights of defendant and see that he has a fair and impartial trial under the law of the state as it now is, not under what we wish it might, or should, or may be at some time in the future.”
Eventually, the United States did evolve and find a more intelligent solution. In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Atkins v. Virginia, that executing the mentally retarded, that is people with IQs of 70 or less, violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. In Joe Arridy’s case, he had been judged to have an IQ of 46. United States Chief Justice John Paul Stevens in 2002 said that, unlike other provisions of the Constitution, the Eighth Amendment should be interpreted in light of the “evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.”
Governor Ritter, I would sincerely consider it an honor if you would read my enclosed affidavit describing my Grandfather’s actions during his fight to save Joe Arridy, which I compiled from my Grandfather’s scrapbook of the case. I know that Gail Ireland would appreciate it as well.