s
s
Sections
Sections
Subscribe
You've read 3 of 10 free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month!
Already a subscriber?
You've read 6 of 10 free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month!
Already a subscriber?
We hope you've enjoyed reading your 10 free articles this month.
Continue reading with unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month!
Already a subscriber?
We've got a special deal for readers like you!
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month, and support community journalism!
Already a subscriber?
Thanks for your interest in award-winning community journalism! To get more of it, why not subscribe?
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month, and support community journalism!
Already a subscriber?
Want to keep reading? Take the next step by subscribing today!
Starting at just 99 cents per month, you can keep reading Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app, and support local journalism!
Already a subscriber?

West Side Stories: Bravery behind bars

X

The "Follow This Story" feature will notify you when any articles related to this story are posted.

When you follow a story, the next time a related article is published — it could be days, weeks or months — you'll receive an email informing you of the update.

If you no longer want to follow a story, click the "Unfollow" link on that story. There's also an "Unfollow" link in every email notification we send you.

This tool is available only to subscribers; please make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

Login

X

Please note: This feature is available only to subscribers; make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

LoginSubscribe

WEST SIDE STORIES

This true story by Rick Roberts was recorded live on Aug. 1 at Sonoma Portworks, as part of West Side Stories, Petaluma’s monthly showcase of spoken word performances. Each month, storytellers are randomly selected to tell a tale based on a theme – this month’s theme: “Brave” – and the audience selects its favorite. The next West Side Stories show will be held on Sept. 5, with the theme “Kicked Out.” For tickets and information, visit WestSideStoriesPetaluma.com.

This is a tale of three women. Liz, Veronica and Adrienne.

And it has a lot of bravery in it, but it starts out with tragedy.

Liz, who is 44 today, would be typified by her friends as very kind, which is maybe unusual given the horrific start to her life.

Growing up in Bakersfield, she was in a house with domestic violence and child abuse. Like many people from that background, she gravitated to that type of relationship.

At the age of 19, she was involved in a robbery where a murder was committed. And her boyfriend pulled the trigger. The night before the robbery, her boyfriend held the gun to her head, told her what she was going to be doing the next day, and then put the gun to her head and raped her.

She was charged with first-degree murder, and in those days you could not introduce “spousal violence” in your defense. She was convicted, and she was sent to prison with no possibility of parole.

The second woman in the story is Veronica.

Veronica is 27 years old today. And much like Liz, she grew up in an abusive household, in San Francisco, and much like Liz, she gravitated to a violent relationship herself, with a gang member in San Francisco. When Veronica was 16, her boyfriend jumped a rival gang member with a knife, and Veronica had lured that victim to the scene. Now, fortunately, these wounds were not fatal, not bad at all in the long run, but the D.A. chose to try Veronica as an adult, for attempted murder and aggravated mayhem, and asked for a sentence of 25 years to life.

Now, Veronica was successful at forestalling that trial, as an adult. The Catch 22 was that when she turned 18, should couldn’t be tried as a juvenile anymore. So she was transferred from city jail to the prison system, where she languished in limbo, without a trial, for years.

My story gets a little more uplifting after this.

The third woman in the story is Adrienne, and she is our daughter.

We have a picture of Adrienne at the age of three, with my wife Renee and I. But you can’t see much of Adrienne because she’s hiding behind Renee’s leg. You can see her face, and she’s holding onto Renee’s pant leg. Well, Adrienne came out from behind that leg, and fortunately she had better influences in her life than Liz and Veronica.

Like, my mother, who was a first wave feminist. And us as parents.

We tried to be good role models. I don’t know that our Wiccan faiths gave Adrienne much, except embarrassment. I’m not going to tell you about the Spiral Dance episode. But she took what she thought was valuable from the people in her life, and she became her own person.

She grew up, became an artist, and then an activist, and in 2010 she started working on her own volunteer time for CCWP, California Coalition for Women Prisoners. And this is where she began to touch Liz’s life, and Veronica’s life.

That same year, she started visiting Veronica in prison, and before long she was working with Veronica’s lawyer and a private investigator. They sent briefs to the court to illustrate the influences on Veronica’s life at the age of 16, when the crime was committed, and before that when she was even younger. And they crafted a plea bargain.

WEST SIDE STORIES

This true story by Rick Roberts was recorded live on Aug. 1 at Sonoma Portworks, as part of West Side Stories, Petaluma’s monthly showcase of spoken word performances. Each month, storytellers are randomly selected to tell a tale based on a theme – this month’s theme: “Brave” – and the audience selects its favorite. The next West Side Stories show will be held on Sept. 5, with the theme “Kicked Out.” For tickets and information, visit WestSideStoriesPetaluma.com.

A few years later, she started visiting Liz as well, and she started working with Liz. Now with Liz, having been sentenced to life in prison, her only chance was a pardon. So Adrienne put together an online petition, and over 10,000 people signed it, and hundreds of postcards were sent to the Governor’s office asking for Liz’s pardon.

During these years, about eight years when Adrienne went from her mid-twenties to her early thirties, Renee and I tried to support her as much as possible, mainly by trying not to complain too much about wanting to see her more. Because this work took time, and effort, and commitment.

And through these years we learned a lot from Adrienne.

In fact, I think she became our role model.

And even though I grew up in a progressive household, I learned how the deck of cards was stacked against people of color, poor people, and women. But I realized I couldn’t really understand that, because I never walked in those shoes.

This last May, Liz put on her shoes, in Chowchilla Prison, and was escorted to the gate, and walked out free after 24 years. And Adrienne was there to meet her. The governor cited Adrianne’s letter, and the petition, in his pardon. And six weeks ago, on June 21, Veronica walked out of Santa Fe Springs Prison, in Los Angeles, and Adrienne was there to meet her as well. Her plea bargain had been accepted.

I don’t know if Adrienne knows the Joan Baez song, “There But for Fortune Go You or I,” but I know she would agree with those words. And she’d say, “Yeah, it’s always been this way, but it doesn’t always have to be this way. So let’s start working on this.”