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"I have sought to inculcate in others the importance of weaving a tapestry of unity and awakening their consciousness about their intrinsic value. Through this process we can spawn perpetual
growth and rescue humanity from the cycle of despair that evaporates hope." (Efren Paredes, Jr.)
Efren Paredes, Jr. is a former 15-year-old Latino Lakeshore High School honor student who was wrongly convicted in 1989 for a murder and armed robbery he did not commit. The crime occurred in St. Joseph, Michigan (Berrien County), USA. To date Efren has served 24 years in prison for the crime.
Several notable scholars and activists across the country support Efren's release including Dr. Elizabeth "Betita" Martinez, Director, Institute for MultiRacial Justice, author, and activist; Dr. Carlos Munoz, Jr., Professor Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley, author and activist; Dr. Rodolfo Acuna, historian, educator and Chicano studies scholar; Dr. Jorge Chinea, Director of Chicano-Boricua Studies Department, Wayne State University, author and activist; Dr. Martha Grace Duncan, Professor of Law, Emory University, and author; Favianna Rodriguez, political printmaker, digital artist, activist; Juana Alicia, muralist, printmaker, educator, and activist; Elena Herrada, Director, Centro Obrero, Detroit Public Schools Board Member, and writer; Elisha Miranda aka E-Fierce, filmmaker, writer, and activist; Dr. Walter Garcia-Kawamoto, Journal of Adolescent Research, Manuscript Consulting Editor; and others.
Efren also enjoys the support of world renowned wrongful convictions expert Paul Ciolino, a veteran private investigator. Ciolino is the author of numerous articles in professional publications and the book, "In the Company of Giants: The Ultimate Investigation Guide for Legal Professionals, Activists, Journalists and the Wrongfully Convicted." In addition, he co-wrote the best-selling and critically acclaimed textbooks "Advanced Forensic Criminal Defense Investigations" and "Advanced Forensic Civil Investigations."
Ciolino is the former chief investigative advisor to Northwestern University Law School's Center on Wrongful Convictions, the Medill School of Journalism, and DePaul University Center for Justice in Capital Cases. In 2003, when former Illinois Governor George Ryan granted clemency and pardons to 167 death row inmates, he cited Ciolino's investigative work, which helped free five innocent men, as one of the reasons for the en masse commutations.
According to Ciolino, "There is not one shred of credible evidence to suggest that Efren was involved in the murder. No weapon, no eyewitnesses, no pysical evidence, no motive, no prior conduct to suggest that a 15-year-old student athlete, and honor role student with zero criminal background, would have planned, participated in or committed this murder. The community and jury were sold a bill of goods based on the words of drug dealers and thieves."
Learn more about the campaign to free Efren, details about his case, and how you can support our efforts by clicking on the Case Info tab which contains important information and documents related to Efren's case.
Juvenile Life Without Parole
The "JLWOP Info" tab contains information related to the issue of juvenile life without parole (JLWOP) sentences which includes court opinions, peer-reviewed studies, reports, international treaties, articles, and activity pertaining to this issue in Michigan.
There was no physical evidence linking Efren to the crime, no eyewitnesses to the crime, and Efren was home with his parents and two brothers when the crime was committed.
Efren had no juvenile or adult criminal record previous to his arrest on March 15, 1989. In a rush to judgment, and efforts to allay community concerns of criminals committing further acts of violence, he was tried and convicted only three months after his arrest by a jury comprised of 11 White jurors and one Black juror.
Efren received illegal two life without parole (LWOP) sentences for one homicide and a parolable life sentence for the armed robbery. The prosecutor charged Efren under two alternate theories of murder -- premeditated murder and felony murder -- and his trial judge, Zoe Burkholz, sentenced him for both counts of murder.
The Berrien County Court is located St. Joseph, MI, the same city where the crime occurred. St. Joseph had a racial composition of being 95% White at the time. The judge, prosecutor, all the investigating police, and the victim in the case were all White. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Berrien County ranks among the top 25 most segregated metropolitan areas in the country.
All but one of the youths in Berrien County who have received life without parole (LWOP) sentences have been children of color. Efren is the only Latino youth in the county's history to receive the sentence.
The case against Efren was entirely circumstantial and based primarily on the statements of other youth who received reduced charges and sentences from the prosecutor in exchange for their incentivized testimony.
Asst. Prosecuting Attorney Michael Sepic knowingly committed professional misconduct when he allowed a man, who would later become the jury foreman, to be seated on the jury who worked with the aunt of the victim's widow in Efren's case.
The information about the juror's connection to the aunt was brought to Asst. Prosecutor's attention on two occasions, once before the trial began and once after it began by the victim's widow. The Asst. Prosecutor acknowledged that he knew this information on December 4, 2008 at Efren's public hearing. Appellate courts held these acts of unprofessionalism raised in Efren's legal appeals were "harmless error."
February 10, 2009 the Berkeley City Council (California) voted to condemn the LWOP sentences imposed on Efren as human rights violations in contravention with several international treaties. They join the 192 nations in the world who have ratified the convention on the Rights of the Child and universally condemned the imposition of LWOP sentences for children.
Efren appeared in the 2004 study released by the ACLU of Michigan about LWOP sentences for youth in Michigan titled, "Second Chances," and appeared on the cover of the 2005 national LWOP sentences for youth study released by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International titled, "The Rest of Their Lives." His case was also presented to the United Nations Human Rights Commission twice. Once by the University of San Francisco School of Law Human Rights Advocates and once by the ACLU of Michigan.
December 4, 2008 a public hearing to consider a commutation request for Efren was convened by the Michigan Parole Board at the G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility in Jackson, MI. The Parole Board heard testimony from those who support Efren's release, as well as those opposing it. Nearly 200 people attended the unprecedented nine-and-a-half hour hearing. The vast majority of those in attendance were Efren's family members and supporters.
The Berrien County Prosecutor, police and media colluded to present false and misleading evidence against Efren through the media prior to and during the course of his trial. The media widely reported that police found a bloody T-shirt in Efren's bedroom at the time of his arrest, and that the shoes he wore the evening of the crime had blood on them.
This information was categorically false and never corrected in the media. Click here to view the actual forensic lab results about these items when they were tested. Neither the T-shirt or shoes contained blood nor any other trace evidence linking Efren to any crime. The alleged "bloody T-shirt" falsely reported about was a shoe polish rag.
Sadly, the public has believed this and many other lies falsely manufactured by the Berrien County Prosecutor, local police, and the media against Efren. This is only two of the many things we can prove that were maliciously used to wrongly convict Efren.
If you would like to contact the TIME Committee to leave a comment, make a suggestion, request additional information about Efren's case, or learn how you can assist the campaign to free Efren, you can send and email message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to speak to a member of Efren's family, or a member of the TIME Committee, please state what you would like to discuss and leave your name, phone number, e-mail and the best time to return your phone call. This will help us determine the best person to respond to your request.
Members of the media and the general public can contact Efren directly via U.S. Mail at:
Efren Paredes, Jr. #203116
Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility
1728 Bluewater Highway
Ionia MI 48846
You can also contact Efren directly electronically via JPay.com. You can locate Efren on the JPay.com inmate locator by selecting Michigan as the state you would like to locate a prisoner in and use Efren's prisoner number to locate him which is "203116".
Make a Secure Online Donation to the Efren Paredes, Jr. Defense Fund
Click here to make a secure online PayPal donation to the Efren Paredes, Jr. Defense Fund. These funds will be used to defray the cost of attorney fees, as well as private investigation, public relations, expert witness evaluations, and other services necessary to assist our efforts to free Efren.
The Injustice Must End (TIME) Blog and Social Media Presence
To stay abreast of the latest information related to the injustice surrounding Efren's case or read messages written by Efren and others opposed to social injustice, you are encouraged to visit our blog at http://4Efren.blogspot.com. Additional social media presence is:
"I have sought to inculcate in others the importance of weaving a tapestry of unity and awakening their consciousness about their intrinsic value. Through this process we can spawn perpetual growth and rescue humanity from the cycle of despair that evaporates hope." (Efren Paredes, Jr.)
Presentations About Efren's Case
To date members of the TIME Committee have made presentations about Efren's case at churches, colleges, community centers, organization meetings, schools, public libraries and homes. Anyone interested in having a member of the TIME Committee do a presentation about Efren's case can contact us using any of the avenues listed above or send and email to email@example.com. Your request will be forwarded to a TIME Committee member closest to your area for follow-up.
Please include the following information to better help us determine which TIME Committee member can be scheduled to do the presentation:
* Date and time you would like the presentation to be made;
* Location where presentation will be made (include street address, city, zip code);
* Size of location where presentation will be made (e.g., classroom, university auditorium, church, library, home, etc.);
* If you have a digital projector to show a computer generated presentation;
* If you have a microphone and sound system (e.g., amplifier) or access to these items for the presentation; and
* How many people you expect to attend the presentation.
The importance of these presentations can not be underscored enough. Through discussing Efren's case, and casting light on the facts surrounding his wrongful conviction, we are not only creating much needed dialogue about Efren's case, we are also:
* Discussing systemic problems that exist in the criminal justice system;
* Bringing attention to needed changes in the way juveniles are treated in adult courts and prisons;
* Educating people about the facts in Efren's case, and correcting the lies and inaccurate information that have been circulated about Efren's case;
* Helping other families who are also going through similar experiences;
* Helping prevent this horrible experience from occurring to other families;
* Teaching others how to build a strong grassroots campaign to generate attention and support for a cause; and
* Helping the community heal by creating unity and developing real solutions to problems that plague the community.
Address: P.O. Box 5
Paw Paw MI 49079
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