News 04.19.16

National Letter Writing Month: Children in California Connect to Exoneree Joseph Sledge

By Carlita Salazar

Joseph Sledge, photographed at Pamlico Correctional Institution Thursday, February 28, 2013. Photo by Ethan Hyman/The News & Observer

As part of National Letter Writing Month, the Innocence Project wanted to take the special opportunity to share letters from a group of supporters whose voices often go unheard: children.

Earlier this year, the Innocence Project received a large envelope from Francisco Middle School in San Francisco, California. Enclosed were 60 letters, all of them handwritten to North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence client Joseph Sledge. On January 23, 2015, Sledge was freed after spending more than 36 years in prison for two murders he did not commit. When language arts teacher Michael Gϋenza learned of Sledge’s case, he gave his students at Francisco Middle School a special assignment: to write personal letters to Sledge, congratulating him on his exoneration and expressing to him their hopes for a happy future.

Sadly, for a year after the letters were written, they were misplaced. But earlier this year, the letters were rediscovered and sent to the Innocence Project in March. While Sledge is not our client, Christine Mumma, executive director of the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence, graciously agreed to let the Innocence Project feature the letters on the Innocence Blog as part of our participation in National Letter Writing Month. The next stop for the letters is Mr. Sledge himself.

Thank you, Christine Mumma for letting us share these letters. And thank you Michael for teaching your students about wrongful conviction and Mr. Sledge’s stirring case.

Please take a few minutes and read some of the thoughts of these young but powerful minds.

Joseph Sledge Letter 2_cms Joseph Sledge Letter 3_cms Joseph Sledge Letter 4_cms Joseph Sledge Letter 5_cms

Related: A Letter from Dennis Fritz 

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  1. Catherine Haire says:

    Amazing, compassionate, and insightful children. How wonderful our world would be if these kids get the chance to run it one day! Touching and spot on,” tight shoes…” I loved reading these letters, it reminds me to have hope and keep the faith. This was just what I needed to see, kudos to their teacher also. It’s true that one person , such as he can make a difference, teachers really do shape a mind. #freehectorarriaga. So many more wrongfully convicted to get home and hopefully get wonderful encouraging and contrite letters.

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