PLEASE SEE JAY'S WONDERFUL ARTWORK AT:
Jaturun Siripongs' rights under Article 36 of the
Vienna Convention on Consular Relations were
violated after arrest by American officials !
Now He's Been Executed by American Officials !
- Contact Madeleine Albright expressing deep concern that another foreign national, Jaturun Siripongs, has been executed in the USA after his rights under Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations were violated ;
Send letters to :
US Secretary of State
The Honorable Madeleine Albright
Office of the Secretary of State
2201 C Street, N.W.
Washington DC 20520, USA
Telegrams : Secretary of State Albright,
Washington DC, USA
Faxes : 1 202 647 1533
Salutation: Dear Secretary of State.
Send more letters to :
Governor Gray Davis
Sacramento, CA 95814
Telephone : 916-445-2841
Fax : 916-445-4633
February 9, 1999 - Web posted at: 4:19 a.m. EST (0919 GMT)
QUENTIN, California (AP) -- A former Buddhist monk was executed
by injection early Tuesday for killing two people during a 1981 robbery.
Lawyers late Monday had failed to block the execution of Jaturun Siripongs, 43, who moved many from his death row cell with his remorse, humble manners and vivid art works.
Outside San Quentin early Tuesday, about 150 death penalty opponents staged a candlelight vigil despite gusty winds and driving rain.
The killings for which Siripongs was executed occurred at an Asian market where he occasionally worked. The victims were manager Packovan Wattanaporn and clerk Quach Nguyen.
He was caught trying to use Mrs. Wattanaporn's credit card and most of her stolen jewelry was traced to him.
Siripongs admitted taking part in the robbery, but claimed an accomplice -- whom he never named -- committed the murders.
Siripongs did, however, accept responsibility for his role in the crime, his lawyers said, offering daily penance "for his deeds, for the shame he has brought his family and ancestors, and for the suffering he has brought to others."
During his 16 years on death row, Siripongs won some unusual allies.
Guards described him as unfailingly polite and cooperative and former San Quentin State Prison Warden Daniel Vasquez, a strong supporter of the death penalty, and who presided over two executions, recommended clemency on the grounds that rewarding Siripongs' behavior would set a good example for other inmates.
Siripongs also drew praise for his art, with supporters putting on a one-man show in Oakland, displaying a diverse collection that included a solemn-faced child sucking a finger, a bowl of apples gleaming with a rich amber glow and a woman in Japanese dress tinted a delicate lavender.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Saturday, February 6, 1999
GOVERNOR DAVIS DENIES CLEMENCY REQUEST OF JATURUN SIRIPONGS
SACRAMENTO, CA Governor Gray
Davis today denied the clemency request of Jaturun Siripongs, who was convicted
by a jury in 1983 of robbery, burglary,
and the first-degree murders of Mrs. Pat Wattanaporn and Mr. Quach Nguyen.
"This is a plea for mercy by a man
sentenced to forfeit his life for capital
crimes," said Governor Davis in his decision. "However, it is also a plea by
innocent victims, their families, and friends to carry out a sentence imposed
by a jury. After due deliberation of the record and submitted materials, and
having reviewed this matter anew, clemency is denied. ... Remorse is not
sufficient to satisfy a capital sentence for double murder."
The following are excerpts from the ten-page
written decision of Governor Davis:
This clemency appeal involves very
serious crimes, including a violent and
brutal double murder. In addition to the life of the accused that seeks
clemency, there are many other lives impacted by the murder of two innocent
people -- the lives of their families, relatives, colleagues and acquaintances. This is a plea for mercy by a man sentenced to forfeit his life for capital crimes. However, it is also a plea by the innocent victims, their families, and friends to carry out a sentence imposed by a jury.
After due deliberation of the record and submitted materials, and having
reviewed this matter anew, clemency is denied.
There is no substantial support to Mr. Siripongs' claim that any accomplice or
other person committed the murders. Nor has his contention that a
reexamination of the forensic evidence will cast a reasonable doubt on his
conviction, been substantiated.
Mr. Siripongs' remorse for whatever action or actions for which he feels that
remorse, is not sufficient to override the due deliberate verdict and sentence
of the trial court and jury. Remorse is not sufficient to satisfy a capital
sentence for a double murder.
The State of California has a right to expect that all prisoners, including
Mr. Siripongs, should behave well. The fact that Mr. Siripongs may have been
a model prisoner for 16 years while his duly imposed capital sentence has not
been carried out is beside the central point -- model behavior cannot bring
back the lives of the two innocent murder victims. These capital crimes can
only be satisfied by the duly-imposed sentence.
Mr. Siripongs' life experiences, whether negative, positive or neutral, do not
mitigate the brutal murders of which he has been duly convicted and
sentenced. All people living in America, whether citizens or not, are held to
the same standards under the law. An abused and difficult childhood, while
regrettable, does not justify illegal behavior -- much less double murder.
The views of the decedents' families are a key concern, since they are the
ones who continue to suffer most as a result of these murders. Several family
members have expressed their positions on clemency in this case.
Mr. Vitoon Harusadangkul's January 26, 1999 letter goes beyond the issue of
remorse, to the very heart of the matter when he emotionally pleads: "For
God's sake, this case has been through so many appeals and every single jury
has convicted, and every judge has sentenced him to death. Isn't that
enough? How patient must family members of the victims be? We, especially,
seek closure, sir." Mr. Harusadangkul goes to the central point - the duly
imposed and upheld sentence in this case is not overridden by remorse.
In the Conclusion of his decision, Governor Davis wrote:
At least four
different state and federal courts (most recently the
California Supreme Court on February 4, 1999), as well as the California Board
of Prison Terms, have all examined, re-examined, and considered and re-
considered every possible and conceivable factual, evidentiary and legal
argument that Mr. Siripongs and his able and capable attorneys have raised.
Each and every
one of these bodies has rejected the nearly identical
arguments included in this plea for clemency. Nothing in this clemency
petition can bring back the lives of two innocent, decent and hard-working
people, Mrs. Pat Wattanaporn and Mr. Quach Nguyen, nor remove the anguish and pain of their family and loved ones.
On December 15,
1981, when Mrs. Wattanaporn was mercilessly and wantonly
murdered, she had a family - a husband, a former husband, children and many
other relatives. One of them, her daughter Vipa Mary Harisdangkul, a Thai
national and practicing Buddhist, was a nine-year-old innocent little girl
whose mother was needlessly murdered. I am moved by her honest, direct and
eloquent plea in her letter of January 19, 1999, the concluding portion of
"... My intention
is not to seek revenge, but to see that justice is done
and that this serves as an example for anybody who thinks that they can get
away with committing such a serious crime in a country outside their own.
After all, this has nothing to do with culture or nationality because we are
all human and should be treated equally no matter what. ... Governor Davis,
I am pleading with you on behalf of my family members as well as myself to
please do what is right so that my mother can finally rest in peace."
Just wanted to mention that I happened
to walk past Jay Siripongs at San
Quentin yesterday. He seemed in good spirits & answered my "thumbs up" signwith a big smile.
I think if Gray Davis were to meet Jay in person, he could not fail to
recognize him as a fellow human being, and he would have a difficult time
denying him clemency. It's too bad death row inmates don't get to plead
their case in person.
A BUDDHIST MONK: THE ANOINTED ONE :
The powers-that-be have anointed Jaturun
"Jay” Siripongs with the
rhetorical snake oil Of the self-righteous, so that he can be strapped down
and ritualistically murdered on the sacrificial altar of California's
infamous execution chamber February 9, 1999.
Born and raised in Thailand, Jaturun's
family and home are far away. With
his tiny, erect frame standing at about five feet tall, Jaturun is known
fondly by his friends as a thoughtful soul with a big heart.
I've lived, worked, played, cried, laughed
and learned with him on San
Quentin's Death row for more than fifteen years now, yet I still find it
difficult to understand his delightfully accented English when he gets
excited and speaks too fast.
Although Jaturun is a Buddhist monk, a
masterful artist, and has a
reputation for being a "model inmate", he is much more than that. He is a
"model human being" whose open and honest demeanor instantly reveals to
your heart that you are in the presence of an extremely gentle,
intelligent, and loving spirit. Jaturun possesses a rare artistic approach
to life, in that he truly lives in the moment and sees all life as sacred.
In spite of the barbaric nature of San
vengeance-oriented mission, the self~disciplined contemplative life of a
Buddhist monk has taught Jaturun to treat all prison guards and prison
inmates as compassionate human beings - equally deserving of understanding
and charity. Contrary to the code of prison culture, Jaturun is just as
apt to extend a kind, reassuring hand to a prison guard suffering from
personal problems as he is to give comfort and aid to a fellow Death row
inmate. His tireless compassion and understanding has earned Jaturun the
respect and affection of guards and prisoners alike.
There are two tragic murder victims in
Jaturun's case; in both instances
the parents have provided the Governor's office with written declarations
that they are adamantly against his execution.
Although there is strong evidence showing
that he was only an unwitting
accomplice who risked his own life by trying to save the victims, the
imperial powers of California's judicial system are determined to take
Jaturun's life. As difficult as it may be for our Roman-based,
Judaeo-Christian culture to comprehend, Jaturun's Buddhist beliefs prevent
him from acting as a witness against the actual perpetrator of the murders.
That is -- from a Buddhist perceptive -- if Jaturun cooperated as a
witness for the state he would be morally responsible for the perpetrator's
suffering and death, should (s)he be imprisoned and/executed.
Moreover, to illustrate the depth of Buddhism's
tradition of compassion
toward oppressors, the Dalai Lama stated that since China's invasion of
Tibet in 1949-50, more than 1.2 million Tibetans, one-fifth of the
country's population, has lost their lives due to massacre, execution,
starvation, and suicide. Yet for more than four decades we have struggled
to keep our cause alive and preserve our Buddhist culture of nonviolence
It would be easy to become angry at these
tragic events and atrocities.
Labeling the Chinese as our enemies, we could self-righteously condemn them
for their brutality and dismiss them as unworthy of further thought or
consideration. But that is not the Buddhist way. Rather than violate his
most fundamental religious beliefs on the sacredness of all life, Jaturun
is willing to lose his freedom -- even his life -- to prevent the suffering
and death of the person who actually committed the killings.
In other words, Jaturun is not condemned
for being a "killer"; instead, the
state is murdering him for refusing to cooperate with their
vengeance-oriented judicial system.
For example, just as Jaturun was the accomplice
in his case, so there was
an accomplice in my case. However, court records show that my accomplice
was much more culpable for the tragic deaths than Jaturun was in his case.
But unlike Jaturun, he never spent a single moment behind bars for his
culpability because he was not inhibited by any moral code and told the
prosecution what they wanted to hear -- after he was 'coached' and granted
immunity to perjury.
Indeed, after intimately observing Jaturun's
behavior for more than fifteen
years, I am absolutely convinced that his courageous religious convictions
are totally consistent with his impeccable moral character. Unfortunately,
our psyche has been brutalized and desensitized by the consumer-oriented,
Romanesque values of our capitalist culture, which nurtures bottom line
profits and corporate greed at the expense of human need. More
specifically, corporate-sponsored spin doctors have conditioned us to
parrot the politically correct toxic myth that vengeance is an admirable
emotion with magical powers that can heal and comfort the afflicted.
In contrast, Buddhism recognizes that
the seductive promise of vengeance is
an emotionally induced illusion totally devoid of love or joy. Buddhists
know that vengeance is a false god and has no power to heal or comfort with
a mystical sense of "closure."
I am appalled to realize that I was raised
in a country whose Justice
system is capable of deliberately killing someone of Jaturun's rare
caliber. How many more human beings must the ruling elite be allowed to
sacrifice to appease the bloodthirsty god of vengeance? Will 'we, the
people' realize we've been sold a vial of snake oil by the Religious Right,
who routinely promote human sacrifices in the ritualistic worship of a god
How much blood must be spilt before the
working classes of our society wake
up and logically conclude that no one can be comforted or healed by an
emotion that inflicts pain and suffering upon others?
At San Quentin, a onetime Buddhist monk
who touched many with his humble remorse and vivid art produced on death
row was executed by injection today for killing 2 people during a 1981 robbery.
Jaturun Siripongs, 43, made no last statement.
He was convicted of killing manager Packovan Wattanaporn and clerk Quach
Nguyen at a market where he occasionally worked. He was caught trying to
use Mrs. Wattanaporn's credit card and most of her stolen jewelry was
traced to him.
Siripongs admitted taking part in the robbery, but claimed an accomplice
he never named committed the murders.
Siripongs did accept responsibility for his role in the crime, his lawyers said, offering daily penance "for his deeds, for the shame he has brought his family and ancestors, and for the suffering he has brought to others."
Guards described him as unfailingly polite and cooperative and former
prison Warden Daniel Vasquez, a strong supporter of the death penalty,
recommended clemency on the grounds that rewarding Siripongs' behavior
would set a good example for other inmates.
Pope John Paul II, whose U.S. visit prompted the governor of Missouri to
spare a prisoner last month, joined the pleas for clemency hours before
Siripongs also had drawn praise for his art, with supporters recently
displaying a varied collection in Oakland. An autobiographical sketch
done in pencil and called "Transformation," showed a young boy in big
square glasses, a religious figure among lotus blossoms, a muscular man
and, finally, a skull.
Thailand had made appeals for clemency to Secretary of State Madeleine
Albright, President Clinton and California Gov. Gray Davis, but called the case "an internal affair" of the United States. Thailand has the death penalty and carries out executions by machine gun.
Prosecutors said it was time Siripongs was punished.
"Siripongs has been privileged to live over 16 years since his conviction and sentence," Orange County prosecutor Jim Tanizaki wrote in a response to the clemency petition. "These are 16 years that Quach Nguyen and Pat Wattanaporn, and their respective families, have been denied."
Siripongs, who was born in Thailand, had survived a rough childhood, his
lawyers said, living for a while without running water and electricity in
a rat-infested compound.
His 1st brush with trouble came in 1975, when he was shot in the head
while robbing a department store. He was imprisoned but was released
early for good behavior, going on to train briefly as a Buddhist monk.
He soon left the monastery, getting a job as a cook on a cargo ship where
he met an acquaintance who proposed a drug-smuggling scheme. Instead,
Siripongs went to U.S. authorities, participating in a sting operation
that netted him enough money to buy passage to the United States.
A prison spokesman said Siripongs had hoped for a reprieve, but failing
that, believed he would be reincarnated.
Siripongs becomes the 1st condemned inmate to be put to death this year
in California, and the 6th overall since the state resumed executions
Siripongs also becomes the 14th condemned prisoner to be executed this
year in the USA, and the 514th overall since America resumed capital
punishment on Jan. 17, 1977.
(sources: New York Times and Rick Halperin)
After his arrest, Jaturun Siripongs should
have been informed of his
right to contact and seek assistance from the Thai Consulate, as provided
by Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, ratified by
the USA in 1969. However, like most of the more than 60 other foreign
nationals currently on death row in the USA, he was not informed of this
right. Amnesty International believes that, in a capital justice system
prone to race and class-based bias, in which sentencing can depend more
on a defendant's lawyer than on their crime, access to consular resources
and legal expertise can make the difference between life and death.
Jaturun Siripongs' lawyer called no witnesses
during the trial, choosing
to exclude evidence that an accomplice might have been involved in the
killings. At the sentencing phase of the trial he called no character
witnesses to provide mitigating evidence, including the facts of Jaturun
Siripongs's childhood, which was marked by extreme poverty and physical,
emotional and sexual abuse.
Since he has been in prison, Jaturun Siripongs
is reported to have been a
model prisoner, studying Buddhism and becoming an accomplished artist.
Surachai Wattanaporn, the widower of one
of the two people killed in the
1981 crime, is reported to have written to Governor Wilson appealing for
clemency: "As a Buddhist, I do not seek revenge for my wife's death, and
ask you to consider exercising mercy in this case." The widow of the
second murder victim is also said to be opposed to the execution.
The Royal Thai government is reported
to have requested that Governor
Wilson commute Jaturun Siripongs' death sentence.
The violation of the rights of foreign
nationals arrested on capital
charges in the USA came to international attention in April 1998, when
Angel Francisco Breard, a Paraguayan national denied his rights under
Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, was executed
in Virginia despite a ruling by the International Court of Justice that
the execution be suspended. This ruling was binding under international
Earlier in the year, Amnesty International
had called upon the US federal
authorities to impose a moratorium on the execution of foreign nationals
to allow the US State Department to assess the impact of Vienna
Convention violations in such cases.
In California, the Governor has sole power
to grant clemency. There are
currently 517 people under sentence of death in the state, the largest
death row in the USA. Five prisoners have been executed in California
since 1977, most recently Thomas Thompson on 14 July 1998. In the same
period, 486 inmates have been put to death nationwide. The most recent
execution, that of Ronald Lee Fitzgerald in Virginia, was carried out on
Ex-warden, guard join bid to save killer
CRIME: Jaturun "Jay" Siripongs is due to die by lethal injection.
November 9, 1998 : By STUART PFEIFER - The Orange County Register
The unlikely group of supporters seeking to spare the life of condemned killer Jaturun "Jay" Siripongs continues to grow.
A death row guard and Siripongs' former warden at San Quentin state prison have urged Gov. Pete Wilson to commute the Thailand citizen's death sentence to life without parole.
They join the husband of one of the two people Siripongs was convicted of murdering in Garden Grove in 1981, two jurors whose votes helped send him to death row and the Thai government.
A clemency hearing is scheduled today before the state Board of Prison Terms in San Diego. Wilson will decide whether to commute the sentence after reviewing the board's report.
Siripongs, 43, is scheduled
to die by lethal injection shortly after midnight Nov. 17 for the Dec. 15,
1981, slayings of Quach Nguyen and Pakavan "Pat" Wattanaporn during a robbery
of Panthai Market, where he once worked.
Wattanaporn was strangled with a nylon rope; Nguyen's throat was slashed.
Daniel B. Vasquez, warden at San Quentin from 1983 to 1993, contends in a letter to Wilson that Siripong should be sparedbecause of his 15 years of exemplary behavior in prison. It is the first time Vasquez, who oversaw two San Quentin executions, has attempted to stop one.
Rewarding a prisoner for exceptional behavior will encourage other prisoners to behave, Vasquez wrote.
San Quentin correctional officer Susan Beeman Krueger, who checks Siripongs each hour as part of the death-watch team, said, "I support the death penalty but do not believe it is appropriate for Jaturun Siripongs." She called him a model inmate.
Orange County Deputy District Attorney Jim Tanizaki, who has urged Wilson to permit the execution, said he was not moved by the prison officials' pleas.
"He may have been a nice guy in prison, but it doesn't come anywhere near the horrendous nature of the crimes," Tanizaki said Sunday.
FROM San Francisco Chronicle
Wilson Denies Reprieve
for Humble Inmate
Execution of Thai man set for early Tuesday
Peter Fimrite, Chronicle
Saturday, November 14, 1998
©1998 San Francisco Chronicle
Every day, Jaturun Siripongs sits or kneels alone in his San Quentin cell, tunes out the echoing clamor of the prison's death row and quietly prays.
This has been his ritual since he arrived nearly 16 years ago for the 1981 robbery and murders of a store manager and clerk in Orange County.
The polite, 43-year-old native of Thailand will perform this ceremonial Boon Khun, a Thai Buddhist term for gratitude or obligation, as usual this Monday, but it will likely be for the last time.
Barring a last-minute court action, a deadly mixture of drugs will be pumped into Siripongs' veins at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, making him the sixth-condemned inmate, and the first minority, to be executed in California since the death penalty was reinstated in 1977.
Governor Pete Wilson refused yesterday to spare his life, rejecting a plea for clemency on the grounds that the crime was ``too brutal.'' It was, for all intents and purposes, Siripongs' last hope.
The U.S. Court of Appeals
in San Francisco upheld Siripongs' death sentance last January. On October
5, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a judge's denial of a new trial, rejecting
an argument that Siripongs' trial lawyer, James
Spellman, incompetently failed to investigate possible accomplices or present testimony from family members.
Siripongs' appellate lawyer, Linda Schilling, could not be reached for comment yesterday afternoon, but she has vowed to fight for his life until the moment of the execution.
Siripongs, known to friends and family as Jay, was convicted in 1983 of murdering Garden Grove market owner Packawan ``Pat'' Wattanaporn, who was strangled, and store clerk Quach Nguyen, who was stabbed. Between $25,000 and $50,000 in jewelry and several credit cards were stolen.
Siripongs had worked part- time at the store, knew both victims and apparently observed Wattanaporn selling expensive jewelry on the side. He admitted the robbery, but claimed he struggled with the killer in an attempt to prevent the murders. He has steadfastly refused to name the alleged accomplice.
Despite a mountain of evidence
pointing to Siripongs as the killer -- including cuts on his hands, stolen
credit cards in his wallet and jewelry hidden in his home -- the diminutive
inmate, who once studied to be a Buddhist
monk, has gained some unlikely allies.
Wattanaporn's husband, Surachai, found his wife dead inside their store on Dec. 15, 1981. But he seeks no revenge, he told The Chronicle.
``If it was in my power,'' he said the other day, ``I would grant clemency. As a Buddhist, I don't believe in revenge. I would rather see him live in prison without the possibility of parole.''
A letter from Surachai Wattanaporn was included in the plea for clemency. The document also included a letter from San Quentin's former warden, Daniel Vasquez, attesting to Siripongs' exemplary prison record and desire to improve himself.
Thailand's ambassador to the United States and its minister of foreign affairs also asked Wilson to commute the sentence to life in prison on ``humanitarian grounds.''
A former juror, Sylvia Twomey, claims she was, and is, ``deeply troubled'' by the verdict, but didn't have the courage at the time of the trial to hold out for life in prison. She said, ``It became clear to me from witness testimony that someone else participated in the murders.''
The bodies of Wattanaporn, 36, and Quach, 52, were found at 2:30 p.m. that Tuesday in a storage room in the back of the market. Wattanaporn had been strangled with a cord. Quach, an immigrant from Vietnam who was supporting a wife and four children, had been stabbed at least 10 times in the head and neck with a serrated knife. A piece of cord had been tied around his left arm and defensive slash wounds were found on his hands and forearms.
Investigators believe the two were brought into the room separately and killed.
``They were awful, brutal murders,'' said Orange County Deputy District Attorney Jim Tanizaki. ``I don't know which one he got first, but it seems to me he got them one at a time. And it was all because he wanted jewelry, credit cards and money.
A letter to Netnapa ``Noon'' Vecharungsri was found near Quach's body. Investigators later learned that Vecharungsri was the sister of Siripongs' girlfriend.
Siripongs was arrested two days after the grisly discoveries when he tried to purchase a television set from a department store in Westminster using a credit card belonging to Wattanaporn's husband. Five other credit cards and a gold necklace belonging to Wattanaporn were found in his wallet.
A search warrant of Siripongs' Hawthorne home yielded a camera case, a Buddha statue and a sugar jar stuffed with jewelry. Eight credit card receipts were also found with forged signatures on them.
Police found a bloody jacket, shirt, pants and shoes, a bloodstained serrated kitchen knife, a cord and paperwork from the Pantai Market in a Dumpster near Siripongs' girlfriend's house.
Vecharungsri, who was 17 at the time, testified that she had put the letter found at the scene of the crime in the pocket of a jacket that she left at Siripongs' house. It was the same jacket found in the Dumpster.
When Siripongs was arrested, he had cuts on his hands. There was blood on the driver, passenger and backseats of Siripongs' car. The blood types found in the car and market were consistent with Siripongs' and the victims' blood (DNA testing was not done at the time).
Schilling, the defense attorney, says that despite the damaging evidence there are many reasons her client should not be put to death. She has argued that Spellman, the trial lawyer, didn't call any witnesses during the trial and was busy running for Congress at the time.
She claims investigators did not follow up on fingerprints or numerous strands of hair found in the store that did not belong to Siripongs.
``Who is the other person and why didn't they pursue that
other person?'' Schilling asked. ``It's inconceivable to me that California
is going to execute a man after pulling 30 fingerprints from a crime scene
that none of them are his.''
Tanizaki, who took over the case after the trial, said only one of the 31 fingerprints found in the store appeared to have any connection with the crime, and it was too smeared with blood to be of any use.
``There was a strong suspicion that Siripongs had a female companion nicknamed Noon and that she may have been present,'' Tanizaki said. ``The investigator believes that she was more of a wheel person, but they could never prove that. And anyway if there was an accomplice why doesn't Mr. Siripongs tell us who it was? The ball has been in his court for the past 16 years.''
For his part, Siripongs appears remorseful for his role in the crime. His humble manner and spiritualism have apparently touched some prison officials and guards, who have rallied to his defense.
After his execution date was set last month, a prison officer sent him a heartfelt note, ``At this time, not knowing what to say, I want you to know that knowing you and having worked for you has enriched my life.''
©1998 San Francisco Chronicle Page A1
By BOB EGELKO
Associated Press Writer
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Gov. Pete Wilson refused Friday
to spare the life of Jaturun Siripongs, scheduled to be executed next Tuesday
for killing two people during a 1981 robbery in Orange County.
The governor rejected a defense request for clemency that was joined by the husband of one of the murder victims, two jurors, the former warden of San Quentin, and the government of Thailand, where Siripongs was born.
"Granting clemency for two brutal murders, where neither the responsibility for the crimes nor the due process for the defendant is seriously contested, would set a precedent that would require that clemency be granted for every death sentence," Wilson said.
"Mr. Siripongs' remorse is infrequent, his callous crimes unmitigated, his justifications nonexistent. His principal grounds for clemency -- an unfortunate childhood, his good behavior while in confinement -- are inadequate and could be invoked for nearly every death sentence."
Wilson said the plea from Thailand's ambassador was "eloquent and dignified," but added, "The fact that in this case a foreign national committed the crime should not make a difference under our system of law, which treats everyone as an individual."
He also noted that one of the two murder victims was a Thai national, and that Thailand has the death penalty.
During his two terms as governor, Wilson rejected all
five requests he received for clemency in capital cases.
Siripongs, 43, who was trained as a Buddhist monk in Thailand, was convicted of strangling the manager of a Garden Grove food store, where he had once worked, and fatally stabbing a clerk.
Police said the manager, Packovan "Pat" Wattanaporn, 36, was robbed of jewelry worth $25,000, most of which was traced to Siripongs.
Siripongs has contended he was only a bystander but
has refused to name the alleged killer.
He would be the first non-white executed in California since the state resumed executions in 1992, after a 25-year moratorium caused by court rulings.
Siripongs' appeal was turned down by the Supreme Court last month. His lawyer, Linda Schilling, has given no indication that she plans any further appeals.
She told the San Francisco Examiner that Siripongs' remorse was so intense that he wrote to the judge, before his trial, and asked to be sentenced immediately.
"He said, 'I do not want to burden the court. I do not want to contribute to anybody else's suffering,"' she said.
Wilson's decision was denounced by Lance Lindsey, executive director of Death Penalty Focus, a group that works against capital punishment.
"Nobody is clamoring for his death except Wilson," Lindsey said, noting the breadth of support for the clemency petition. He said his group was organizing demonstrations and vigils across the state Monday night and expected 500 to 600 protesters at San Quentin.
In a letter attached to the plea for clemency, the store manager's husband, Surachai Wattanaporn, said, "As a Buddhist I do not seek revenge for my wife's death, and ask you to please consider exercising mercy."
Former San Quentin Warden Daniel Vasquez, an avowed supporter of capital punishment, said in a letter to Wilson that Siripongs' sentence should be commuted to life without parole "due to his exemplary behavior in prison."
One former juror, Sylvia Twomey, said in a letter supporting clemency that she believed someone else took part in the murders, and that she had been pressured by other jurors to support a death sentence. Another juror, Sandra
Ferguson, said she questioned whether Siripongs got proper legal representation.
Wilson said Ms. Twomey's statement was "ridden with errors that raise questions about the juror's memory." He also noted that a federal appeals court had found Siripongs' trial lawyer adequate.
The governor said Siripongs' good conduct in prison "cannot serve as the basis to alter his sentence for what he did outside prison."
Wilson also said details of Siripongs' poverty-stricken and chaotic life in Thailand, which were not presented to the jury by his lawyer, failed to justify clemency.
"Generations have endured calamities of all sorts -- from war to persecution to famine -- without later resorting to murderous conduct for financial gain," Wilson said. He said Siripongs had a job and a place to live in 1981, but
"murdered the owner of a store that had agreed to employ him."
PLEASE SEE JAY'S WONDERFUL ARTWORK AT: