In 1985 I read Susan's biography "Child of
Satan, Child of God" and decided if she could turn her life
around from the confines of a prison cell on death row then
I certainly didn't have any excuses. I wrote to Susan for a
year or more and she encouraged me as I decided to quit
partying and then drinking. She also encouraged me
to go back to school. I met Susan for the first time in
1986, and I went back to college that fall.
By the way this photograph was taken in
the mid-1990's, and this is the expression I usually
wore when I was around Susan. She was so
smart the Department of Corrections finally told
the Institutional Psychologists to stop testing her
because each time they did her IQ would jump ten
points. She had so much energy that even in
her 50's one of our 20-year-old friends said
working with her was like trying to keep up
with a teenager. She was so dymanic that
even politicians and Attorney Generals
who opposed her parole were over-
whelmed when they actually met her.
She taught her self linear argebra (which is high-level calculus) and explained to me how DMSO worked from memory eight years after she took a chemistry class "for fun." (This was particularly galling because I graduated from the University of California Suma Cum Laude and Magna Cum Laude and had been awared the Outstanding Graduate Award from the Department of Chemistry.)
During the first couple years I knew Susan I was slowly overwhelmed as I learned how much she did both in the prison and in the community. I couldn't understand why there were gratuitous descriptions of her commitment offense on the news every time she went up before the parole board but there were never any accounts of what sounded like an absolutely super-human amount of work she was doing.
Susan said the media wasn't interested in that, and it didn't seem to effect her. But it effected me. And I slowly became more amazed that she continued this almost super-human effort for year after year and with no expectation that she would ever be acknowledged for it. And I slowly came to realize she didn't care about credit or recognition - these efforts were a commitment to people. They were a commitment to people who still had a chance to change their lives and enjoy the fruits of our society in ways she could not.
Susan and I were married on December 7th, 1987.
With her support and encouragement I graduated from the University of California at Irvine, Summa Cum Laude and Magna Cum Laude, in 1993. I applied and was accepted to Harvard Law School in 1994 and graduated with honors three years later. After that I have repressented Susan before the parole board and before the California Courts as well as the Federal Courts, including arguing before the Federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Since graduating from Law School, I have worked extensively with life-term prisoners who are either innocent or who are being held illegally.
This site was constructed and produced solely by me.
James W. Whitehouse, Esq.
Attorney at Law