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Steven Oken's last letter to Maryland's governor:
"Will justice be served?"

July 2, 2004 | Page 4

Steven Oken was executed by the state of Maryland on June 17. For years, cynical state politicians--most prominently Gov. Bob Ehrlich--had clamored for Oken's execution. The fact that Steven was white, from a "middle-class" background and admittedly guilty made him a "poster-child" for pro-death penalty conservatives. Here, Socialist Worker reprints excerpts of Steven Oken's final letter to Ehrlich, printed in the Baltimore Sun on June 18.

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Governor Ehrlich,
Over the past month, I have struggled with whether or not I was going to choose to involve you in my case by petitioning you for clemency. I have agreed to this for one reason and one reason only: my family. They will be the new victims created when the State of Maryland kills me.

You will notice that I did not state, "When the state carries out my execution." When all is said and done, this will not be "my" execution. It will be the State of Maryland's execution. It will be your execution. My part in this elaborate ritual will be extremely limited. I have not and will not been consulted. I will play no role in its planning. I will not consent to it and I will not live with its consequences.

What is the message? That justice has been served? Perhaps that you are tough on crime; or that you are protecting the public and savings lives. But is this true? Let me say this. I am solely responsible for the death of Dawn Garvin. It was a despicable crime and I should be punished for it.

Should I die for committing this crime? Of course the easy answer is yes. However, then you kill me, you learn nothing and if you learn nothing, then how can you save lives? How can you identify and stop future Steven Okens? You cannot.

Can you make the difficult choice? Everything I have seen and read concerning you Governor Ehrlich leads me to believe that you are a politician in every respect of the word. You care about what all politicians care about: getting the vote. It is all about public perception, a perception that politicians craft and nurture.

I think you will hold a press conference to announce that you have denied my clemency request. You will "appear" tough on crime. You will say how justice has been served. Will justice have been served on the future victims of crimes like mine?

Dismiss this letter as the final ranting of a condemned man. That is the easy thing to do. Twist the meaning of my words. That is the easy thing to do. Grandstand about how you did the right thing and protected the people of Maryland from me. That is the easy thing to do.

The difficult choice will be what will genuinely saves lives. I do not expect you to make this difficult choice in my case. Perhaps in the next case you will, however I doubt it, that would not politically expedient. I stand ready to do the right thing. I do not want another family to go through what I have put Dawn Garvin's family and my family through.

I think that if a Court does not grant me a stay, then on June 15, 2004, my family and friends will have become victims of the State of Maryland, and these victims will gather at my funeral to lay me to rest. I will be free from confinement, I will be free from the burden of living with the despair that I created, and I will be at peace. Nothing will have been done to stop this from happening again. It will happen again and more will needlessly and senselessly die.
Steven H. Oken

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