Steven Oken's letter to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.
STEVEN H. OKEN, #212-612
401 E. MADISON STREET
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND 21202
June 9, 2004
The Honorable Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr.
Governor, the State of Maryland
Annapolis, Maryland 21401
Over the past month, I have struggled with whether or not I was going to choose to involve you in my case by petitioning you for clemency. As you are aware, my attorneys, in accordance with the demand made by your Chief Counsel, Jervis Finney, have filed such a petition on my behalf with you requesting that you commute the sentence of death imposed upon me. I have agreed to this for one reason and one reason only: my family. They will be the new victims created when the State of Maryland kills me.
You will notice that I did not state, "When the state carries out my execution." When all is said and done, this will not be "my" execution. It will be the State of Maryland's execution. It will be your execution. My part in this elaborate ritual will be extremely limited. I have not and will not be consulted. I will play no role in its planning. I will not consent to it and I will not live with its consequences. The new State created victims, my family and friends, will live with the consequences. All of the procedures, checklists, and bizarre rituals taking place and playing out around me are intended for the public's consumption. It is the public who are expected to absorb the message and meaning of my death.
What is the message? That justice has been served? Perhaps that you are tough on crime; or that you are protecting the public and savings lives. But is this true? Let me say this. I am solely responsible for the deaths of Dawn Garvin. It was a despicable crime and I should be punished for it. Should I die for committing this crime? Of course the easy answer is yes. However, then you kill me, you learn nothing and if your learn nothing, then how can you save lives? How can you identify and stop future Steven Oken's? You cannot. There are other Steven Oken's out there and they will strike the horrific results and there will be more victims. You have a chance to make a difference. Learn from me. Learn why this happened. Learn how to identify and stop others before they commit these heinous crimes. This will require foresight, courage, and a stout heart. It will be the difficult choice.
Can you make the difficult choice? Everything I have seen and read concerning you Governor Ehrlich leads me to believe that you are a politician in every respect of the word. You care about what all politicians care about: getting the vote. It is all about public perception, a perception that politicians craft and nurture. For instance, I believe you will state that this case is about the murder of three women, when in fact it is about one. I only received the death penalty for the murder of Dawn Garvin. You will make reference to three murders to further demonize me in the public's eye. As awful as this crime was you will attempt to make it worse. You may stay that I am splitting hairs, but I am being truthful. When you make these statements are you being truthful or are you just trying to manipulate the public's perception of what actually happened to advance your belief that capital punishment is valid and nec3ssary in our society today? Can you make the difficult choice?
I do not think that you will grant my Petition for Clemency. I do not think that you have the foresight or courage of a politician to make the difficult choice. I think you will hold a press conference to announce that you have denied my clemency request. You will "appear" touch on crime. You will say how justice has been served. Will justice have been served on the future victims of crimes like mine?
Dismiss this letter as the final ranting of a condemned man.
That is the easy thing to do. Twist the meaning of my works. That is the
easy thing to do. Grandstand about how you did the right thing and
protected the people of Maryland from me. That is the easy thing to do.
The difficult choice will be what will genuinely saves lives. I do not
expect you to make this difficult choice in my case.
Per haps in the next case you will, however I doubt it, that would not politically expedient.
I stand ready to do the right thing. I do not want another family to go through what I have put Dawn Garven's family and my family through. I have participated in a study concerning the very heart what I speak about in this letter, trying to understand why this happened, so that it may never happen again. I would be more that willing to do more, willing to make a real difference, not a superficial difference.
I think that if a Court does not grant me a stay, then on June 15, 2004 my family and friends will have become victims of the State of Maryland, and these victims will gather at my funeral to lay me to rest. I will be free from confinement, I will be free from the burden of living with the despair that I created, and I will be at peace. Nothing will have been done to stop this from happening again. It will happen again and more will needlessly and senselessly die.
Steven H. Oken
Alan Feiler, The Baltimore Jewish Times
Julie Bycowicz, The Baltimore Sun
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