SAN JOSE, Calif. — Several dozen protesters gathered at City Hall here on Martin Luther King Day Jan. 18 to demand “Free Carlos Harris!” and others who have been wrongfully convicted. The march and rally included members of his family. Harris, 50, has served 16 years of an over 28-year sentence on trumped-up attempted murder and other charges.
Harris’ cousin, Aisha Hampton, and his mother, Rachel Hampton, are calling on California Gov. Gavin Newsom to pardon or exonerate Harris and release him from the Sierra Conservation Center state prison in Jamestown, 120 miles east of here.
Family members spoke of the many injustices Harris suffered as he was railroaded to prison. He didn’t fit the description of the victim’s attacker, nor was he picked out in a police lineup. Prosecutors pressed his co-defendants to give perjured testimony to help frame him, offering deals to receive light sentences. Harris refused a plea deal, insisting he wasn’t guilty.
He was denied the lawyer of his choice and his court-appointed attorney “withheld evidence that would have proved Carlos’ innocence and kept several witnesses from testifying on Carlos’ behalf,” Aisha Hampton said.
His 14-year sentence was doubled by the judge under the notorious “three strikes” law. So his family points out he’s already served more time than the original sentence.
“As we honor Martin Luther King, we want our loved ones to be able to live the dream,” said Hampton. She showed a letter that Harris had recently sent her highlighting that 500 of his over 4,000 fellow prisoners have tested positive for COVID-19. He wrote that prisoners who have tested positive are mixed in with the rest of the population and that the virus is spreading. No masks are provided and there is no social distancing.
“Carlos like many, many other people who are incarcerated in this country are incarcerated unfairly in a system that has not brought justice for working people. Never has, never will,” Socialist Workers Party member Carole Lesnick said in an interview at the protest broadcast by KRON4-TV.
Readers can learn more and join the effort to win freedom for Harris at FreeCarlosHarris.Wixsite.com/2020.