Free Richard Salem!
Richard Salem is in prison, serving a 10.5-year sentence. He doesn't deserve this by any stretch of the imagination, let alone by any judicial standards.
Why should you care? Please take three minutes to read on.
On the night of March 4, 2006, Richard visited his ex-girlfriend's home to "say goodbye to his love." They had a loving relationship and an amicable breakup. Richard simply wanted some closure. Although they just had a conversation a few hours before at a local restaurant, when he rang his ex-girlfriend's doorbell she decided she'd rather call 911 than talk to Richard. She explained to the dispatcher that Richard was a really nice guy, and was just having a little trouble with the breakup. Three police officers arrived and approached Richard. He asked them to please tell him what was going on. When they moved closer, he froze in fear. When they grabbed him he resisted, and a struggle ensued. Richard was "Drive Stunned" with a Taser (this means the Taser's electrical contacts were applied directly to his body), and he was bashed in the head with an ammo magazine, shackled, and thrown into the back of a patrol car.
You might be thinking it's not wise to "resist" or "struggle with" police officers, and you'd be right. However, this "fight or flight" reaction was the result of a clinically diagnosed anxiety disorder Richard suffers, and was being treated for at the time of the incident and for several years prior. It's not an excuse, but it is a legitimate mitigating factor that should have been considered in his trial. It wasn't. Therefore, due to Arizona's mandatory sentencing laws Richard was sentenced to 10.5 YEARS in state prison, where he now resides alongside murderers, rapists, and other dangerous repeat offenders.
Richard was not armed that night. He does not even own a weapon. He has NO criminal record. And no, he never abused his ex-girlfriend, or any other girlfriend. Richard has never harmed anyone. He is a kind, gentle soul who composed and performed music in the artistic community of Sedona, Arizona, and is well known and admired by its residents. Most people would agree that what happened to Richard is outrageous. Those who know him agree it is a travesty.
Richard was denied due process in several respects on his journey through the criminal justice system. His trial was the stuff of Hollywood courtroom dramas, complete with jury bias, ineffective counsel, and other injustices that are always redeemed at the end of the movie. Of course, the real world doesn't work that way. Richard is now spending his seventh year in prison, with approximately three and a half years to go. His behavioral record is stellar. Still, he has no chance of parole because of Arizona's sentencing laws.
Richard was appointed an excellent appellate attorney, but unfortunately the appeals were denied. He filed a writ of Habeas Corpus, which was also denied at the U.S. District Court level. As a non-judicial alternative, Richard filed a petition in 2010 with Arizona's Board of Executive Clemency to get his sentence commuted. Documents were submitted and testimony was heard at two hearings in 2012 and the Board UNANIMOUSLY APPROVED his petition - only to have it denied by Governor Jan Brewer in March 2013. Richard will be eligible to apply for clemency again in the fall of 2014, when Arizona will have a new Governor. This is where you come in.
The more support Richard has from people like you, the more effective the clemency petition will be. If you sign this petition (and hopefully write some thoughtful comments) you will be making a valuable contribution, and giving hope to a man who truly deserves it. This petition was started prior to Richard's first clemency hearing, and the signatures and comments were included with his application packet. They helped the Board reach a unanimous vote in favor of granting him clemency. Despite Governor Brewer's ultimate overruling of the Board's recommendation, a unanimous favorable vote is a rare victory! The same showing of support can only help with his second attempt. Let's keep up the momentum!
One thing that is well documented in our society is that this type of injustice happens far too easily, and far too often. Please sign this petition, and help us do the right thing.
Thank you for your time.
We, the community of Sedona, AZ, and the family and friends of Richard Salem:
1. Disagree with Sedona Police Department protocol in the arrest of, use of force against, use of the Taser weapon against, and arrest of Richard Salem on March 4, 2006.
2. Disagree with all charges brought against Richard Salem following the arrest on March 4, 2006.
3. Disagree with the jury verdict handed down in Richard Salem's trial in the Yavapai County Superior Court on March 2, 2007.
4. Disagree with, and consider extreme, the sentence of 10.5 years imposed upon Richard Salem in the Yavapai County Superior Court on April 17, 2007.
5. Disagree with the Sedona Police Department's Use of Force policy and the Use of Taser policy, as it existed on March 4, 2006.
6. Disagree with the wording of the press releases issued by the Yavapai County Attorney's Office on March 5, 2007 and April 18, 2007. These press releases contain erroneous information that did not even appear in Sedona Police Department reports recounting the event of March 4, 2006, nor did it appear in testimony in Richard Salem's trial in 2007.
7. Disagree that Richard Salem used any questionable or inappropriate resistance or response against the three arresting officers on March 4, 2006, considering the condition and circumstances Richard was experiencing (i.e., his medical condition, and electrocution with the Taser weapon).
8. Disagree with the Sedona Police Department's taping over the booking room video that contained information regarding Richard Salem on March 4, 2006. The booking room video would have served as material evidence and should have been preserved for further review.
9. Disagree with the lack of medical care for Richard Salem on March 4, 2006. Richard Salem should have been transported to a medical center for care and not left on the floor of the Sedona Police Department holding cell, handcuffed and bound, with injuries.
10. Disagree with the denial of access to prescribed medication (for panic and anxiety disorder) for Richard Salem while he was in the custody of the Sedona Police Department, and later the Camp Verde Jail, on March 4, 2006 and for several days thereafter.
11. Disagree with Sedona Police Department policy that does not require fingerprinting of a police officer's weapon when an individual is accused of touching it, considering this offense carries a mandatory sentence in Arizona.
12. Disagree with the Sedona police officers' failure to record video of their interaction with, and subsequent arrest of, Richard Salem on March 4, 2006.
13. Respectfully request a significant change in the Sedona Police Department's Use of Force Policy regarding the Taser weapon, such that it be used only as an alternative to a firearm, and any other use would be considered "inhumane" and the device "a weapon of torture," as stated by Amnesty International.
14. Respectfully request the Sedona Police Department include additional training for all officers in communication, negotiation, and the recognition of special medical conditions (i.e., panic and anxiety disorders).
15. Respectfully request clemency for Richard Salem. Specifically, the prison sentence imposed upon him on April 17, 2007 should be commuted, and he should be released immediately with credit for time served.