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 wasgoing 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 yourChief Counsel, Jervis Finney, have filed such a petition on my behalf withyou requesting that you commute the sentence of death imposed upon me. Ihave agreed to this for one reason and one reason only: my family. Theywill be the new victims created when the State of Maryland kills me.
You will notice that I did not state, "When the state carries outmy 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 andwill not be consulted. I will play no role in its planning. I will notconsent to it and I will not live with its consequences. The new Statecreated victims, my family and friends, will live with the consequences.All of the procedures, checklists, and bizarre rituals taking place andplaying out around me are intended for the public's consumption. It is thepublic who are expected to absorb the message and meaning of my death.
What is the message? That justice has been served? Perhaps thatyou are tough on crime; or that you are protecting the public and savingslives. But is this true? Let me say this. I am solely responsible forthe deaths of Dawn Garvin. It was a despicable crime and I should bepunished for it. Should I die for committing this crime? Of course theeasy answer is yes. However, then you kill me, you learn nothing and ifyour learn nothing, then how can you save lives? How can you identify andstop future Steven Oken's? You cannot. There are other Steven Oken's outthere and they will strike the horrific results and there will be morevictims. You have a chance to make a difference. Learn from me. Learnwhy this happened. Learn how to identify and stop others before theycommit these heinous crimes. This will require foresight, courage, and astout heart. It will be the difficult choice.
Can you make the difficult choice? Everything I have seen and readconcerning you Governor Ehrlich leads me to believe that you are apolitician in every respect of the word. You care about what allpoliticians care about: getting the vote. It is all about publicperception, 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 themurder of Dawn Garvin. You will make reference to three murders to furtherdemonize me in the public's eye. As awful as this crime was you willattempt to make it worse. You may stay that I am splitting hairs, but I ambeing truthful. When you make these statements are you being truthful orare you just trying to manipulate the public's perception of what actuallyhappened to advance your belief that capital punishment is valid andnec3ssary in our society today? Can you make the difficult choice?
I do not think that you will grant my Petition for Clemency. I do notthink that you have the foresight or courage of a politician to make thedifficult choice. I think you will hold a press conference to announcethat you have denied my clemency request. You will "appear" touch oncrime. You will say how justice has been served. Will justice have beenserved 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 theeasy thing to do. Grandstand about how you did the right thing andprotected 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 notexpect you to make this difficult choice in my case.
Per haps in the nextcase you will, however I doubt it, that would not politically expedient.
I stand ready to do the right thing. I do not want anotherfamily to go through what I have put Dawn Garven's family and my familythrough. I have participated in a study concerning the very heart what Ispeak about in this letter, trying to understand why this happened, so thatit 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 June15, 2004 my family and friends will have become victims of the State ofMaryland, and these victims will gather at my funeral to lay me to rest. Iwill be free from confinement, I will be free from the burden of livingwith the despair that I created, and I will be at peace. Nothing will havebeen done to stop this from happening again. It will happen again and morewill needlessly and senselessly die.
Steven H. Oken
Alan Feiler, The Baltimore Jewish Times
Julie Bycowicz, The Baltimore Sun Copyright © 2017, The Baltimore Sun