Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout
Free Kelly! Domestic violence survivor serving her 19th year in prison for a crime committed by her abusive husband.
Kelly is a domestic violence survivor serving her 19th year in prison for a crime she did not commit. In 1995, Kelly’s abusive husband killed her son Justin after she put her children to sleep and left the house to run errands in preparation to leave him with her children the next day. Her ex-husband has since confessed his responsibility for Justin’s death, telling Kelly in a letter he wrote from prison last year that “I should of let you all get away from me.”
Kelly’s trial and conviction rested on the prosecution exploiting myths and misconceptions of survivors of abuse. Even Kelly’s own defense attorney told the jury that she was negligent for not leaving her abusive husband, a damaging and inaccurate argument that hurt her case. Kelly’s history of abuse began when she was less than four years old. She sustained a lifetime of rapes, beatings and other abuse by a succession of family members, acquaintances and two husbands, including the husband who killed Justin.
Kelly was not present for her son’s killing, but the DA blamed her for not escaping and saving her children sooner, ignoring the very real and documented dangers associated with attempting to leave an abusive partner. The DA also exploited Kelly’s history of abuse to suggest that she didn’t run because she enjoyed the beatings, and sacrificed her son to “please” her abusive husband. Kelly was convicted of first-degree murder for “aiding and abetting” her abusive husband, and sentenced to Life Without Possibility of Parole.
California’s Intimate Partner Battering legislation allows Kelly to petition for a review of her conviction by introducing expert testimony about her abuse that was not allowed in her trial. Kelly’s defense was severely harmed by the absence of expert testimony to explain how prolonged intimate partner battering was relevant to her case. Kelly’s lawyer and trial judge fought her request for an expert in domestic violence who could have testified on her behalf.
In prison, Kelly has the respect of prisoners and prison staff alike. She keeps her heart and spirit strong by focusing on helping other prisoners. Since learning more about domestic violence and the cycle of abuse, Kelly leads support groups for others. Kelly also works hard to raise money within the prison. She helps raise more than $9000 a year to send to a low-income school in Madera, paying for basic school supplies and computers for local kids. Kelly is also one of few approved caregivers in a Comfort Care program, where she gives needed support to dying and incapacitated prisoners.
Through the California Habeas Project and Free Battered Women, now the California Coalition for Women Prisoners (CCWP), Kelly secured legal help from pro-bono attorneys at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP. Kelly’s petition is currently held up in the appeals court process and the Attorney General is opposing her chance at a fair hearing.
Join us in asking our Attorney General, Kamala Harris, to withdraw her opposition to Kelly’s habeas petition and tell the court to grant her a fair hearing. Domestic violence survivors need care and support, not prison!
For more info: firstname.lastname@example.org
Facebook: please join the group “FreeKelly!”
Twitter: @womenprisoners (#FreeKelly)
Read Victoria Law’s article about Kelly on Truth-out: