Commutation Support Letters

Sean would like to apply for commutation of his sentence while we wait for the Magistrate’s ruling from our Evidentiary Hearing in January 2017. Governor Brown is granting more commutations than ever before and it cannot hurt to at least try. As part of Sean’s request he can include letters of support from friends and family. Below are the PDF files of the guidelines for writing letters that Sean wrote out for friends and family:

Hello Everyone

How to write your letter

How to write your letter 2

How to write your letter 3

Thank you!

(I apologize for the poor quality of these scans, my scanner was not willing to cooperate tonight)

The PDF files below are a helpful guide in writing your letter, it does not need to be long. Thank you to anyone considering writing a support letter, they will each be included in Sean’s application.

Document one

support letter 2

support letter 2 continued

Basic information to include in your letter: Introduce yourself, how you met Sean, your relationship with him before/after arrest, his character, his achievements before and since wrongful conviction, your feelings/knowledge about his case, your opinion of his Life Sentence, reasons he should have his sentenced commuted, what you hope for him when he comes home.

We are no longer publicly posting Sean’s mailing address for privacy reasons so if you would like to write please see us on Facebook or drop your email below.  A special thank you to everyone who is writing a letter as well as friends and family who continue to show us love and support.

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Family Visit 5: Creatures

Image result for brown spotted toad california

On May 12, 2018 Sean and I celebrated our 9 month anniversary at a Family Visit. Our wedding day is something we like to remember and celebrate each month because it something that brings us both great joy.

Sean’s eyes lit up when he showed me the little lizard he had caught. It was tan with dark brown markings and about 3 inches long.  Sean explained that he had caught the lizard while sitting outside in the sun, waiting the couple of hours it had taken for the officers to process to escort the visitors over. Anyone who knew Sean would not be surprised at all by this, he has always loved animals, especially reptiles.  After all the pictures and stories of Sean catching creatures before his wrongful conviction, I finally got to see it for myself. And it was beautiful. My husband finally got to show me a critter, not just talk about one. He has had lizards, toads, and other creatures as pets in prison before; but those he could only tell me about.  The real lizard nestled into my hand, soaking up my heat. Sean and I moved together outside into the sunshine. We stared at the lizard until it leapt into the grass and was gone.

There has been some talk about the fogs and toads at Family Visit. Some guys are even afraid of them and this makes us both laugh: “city people!”. One of Sean’s MAC buddies says he takes a broom out with him as he walks to count at night to defend against the toads! At Family Visit, in warmer weather we can hear them croaking once it gets dark. Sean spotted a big toad during count once but it had disappeared when we returned to find it. So we were really hoping to spot one again.

The next critter we encountered was a small-ish brown spotted toad who was very friendly. I nearly stepped on him as we were walking back to our unit from the 9 pm count. He sat by a sprinkler along the pathway, blending in with the dirt and grass, and I quickly scooped him up for a closer examination. Sean was delighted, and he’s been talking about it ever since! Seriously, he has told everyone that his wife caught a toad. We searched for moths to feed our toad with no success. But the next night we found him again along the cement wall. Sean found a cockroach and a big moth to feed him. Boss, that’s what I named the toad because he was all business about eating, opened his mouth up and quickly snapped up the insects. I lay on my belly on the cement for a close view of his dinner, I had never seen a toad do this before. Boss seemed happy to play with us and we were entertained by him. Later that night when we came outside again for midnight count we found him near the door, as if he were waiting for more food. We hope to see Boss again next time, or maybe one of his toad buddies.

Now that the DVD players are in the Family Visiting units we are allowed to check out 2 DVDs per visit, which as of now are all G-rated children’s movies. We are working to order some family friendly PG-13 DVDs in the new fiscal year. This time we watched one of our favorites, Wall-E. We sat together cuddled on couch while we watched. Wall-E is such an endearing character. His persistence to keep working even when he is completely alone is a scenario we can both relate to. We like the way he collects things from the garbage to save in categories in his home. Wall-E’s desire for a companion is observed when he watches the old movie of the couple dancing and singing.  Then when Wall-E meets the girl robot, Eve, he brings her into his home to share all his treasures with her.  His care for her is obvious in the way he protects her after she shuts off. It’s really sweet.

We enjoyed watching this movie and everything we got to do together this time around. We look forward to our next Family Visit when we will be celebrating Sean’s 32nd Birthday.

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Ning’s First Visit

On March 24, 2018 I brought my good friend, Ning, with me to visit my husband for the first time. Ning and I have been friends for over 6 years, and she has wanted to meet Sean for a long time. She has talked to him on the phone, seen his art, and heard about him for 6 long years; and Sean has also been hearing about Ning from me and seeing pictures of our adventures together. Last weekend they finally got to meet!

It was a great visit, and we all had a great time. When it was over here is what Ning said: “Sean is really sweet, he is a very sweet guy. You can tell he is genuine and nice and I can see how much he loves you. He is very easy to get along with, I really enjoyed meeting him. I don’t  see how anyone could not like Sean. He is a good guy, I felt that. He doesn’t fit in that environment at all.  I would like to go visit again soon. I will be very happy when he comes home.


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15 Years Lost: Sean’s poem for English class


Darkness descends too young

with uncontrolled pain ripping apart

freedom lost in the confusion untold 

why, why does the cold constrain?

words spoken, lies all around

still freedom lost in confusion untold


Order marinated in the form of kangaroos held most high

dignity lost, a cold mask remains 

covering evil in the charade

what is this power held?

trust broken in shadows

with freedom lost in confusion untold


Untruth carries the day

constraining all that is right

lies upon lies build

losing hope the sun will rise

lost to the cold I am

the kangaroos lead

with freedom lost in confusion untold


A decade passed by, lies remain

half decade more- light crests the horizon

breaking through the cold untold

kangaroos box to defend their might

what is left in the broken lost?

hope holds onto tiny threads

with freedom lost in confusion untold


Lies unravel with dawn’s light

masks cracking and what’s exposed

oathed admissions made public-

“Because Philadelphia told me to”

revealed truth of false statements made

original intent to deceive

caused innocence lost too young

in confusion unresolved what hope remains

when will end-

will it be before darkness descends?


Sean wrote this poem about his case for his college English class in February, 2018. His intent was not to use the words: judge, lawyer, court, jury, or anything too obvious for the purpose of expanding his writing. Below are the scans of his hand written poem. 

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Family Visit 4: Rain Clouds

March 3, 2018 The morning I went into Family Visit was dark and cloudy. A few hours later, we heard the sound of thunder in the distance. We went out the door into the small outdoor space and stood together  in the grass to watch the clouds roll closer, dark and heavy.

“It’s raining over there.” Sean pointed to a darkness descending downward from some clouds in the distance, an isolated area of rain. He explained how storms always pass quickly by in this area because of the flatness of the land, unlike the foothills and mountains we are originally from. With land that flat you can see what’s coming, nothing lasts too long.

His arm around my shoulders, I leaned my head onto him and stared out at the clouds, moving quickly closer. The cool winds brushed our faces, tiny sprinkles fell on us. It was real. 

Lightning flashed upwards through the clouds, super fast and bright, so quick we nearly missed seeing it; then the rumble of thunder. The whole experience was simply awesome. Not only was it all beautiful, we got to appreciate nature together; something we rarely get to do. Both of us have always loved everything having to do with nature, the natural elements. It was special to share it together. How many times in the past several years have we seen the weather and wished for the other to share it with? Countless. And now it was finally happening. 

Thunder cracked and struck out in the normally quiet area. The lightning was mesmerizing to watch, shooting out in haphazard staticky lines. I wanted to capture it somehow, remember what it was like to stand there with my husband watching the weather. When the raindrops began to hit us we waited a few minutes before retreating to the shelter of the roof overhang in front of the Family Visiting unit.

All packed up and ready to go, labeled clear bags

Toiletries packed, all clear containers

Rain on my windshield, driving down to the hotel in the evening

View from the hotel window in the morning before Family Visit, about 7 am

The drive to the prison, long stretches of fields

The prison sign on the way out

Sean and I love and appreciate all the time we get to spend together, whether it’s a Family Visit or a regular visit, but Family Visits are incredibly special. Each time we look forward to the date with excited anticipation. We count down the weeks, days, hours, till we are finally together again with as much freedom as we are allowed. And now we begin counting down to Family Visit #5. Until then we are holding onto each other, watching the storms roll through.

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Positive Programing

I thought it might be nice to talk about what Sean does in prison. When most people think of prison, they picture inmates locked in their cell all day whiling away the endless hours doing useless things like carving into the walls. Unless there is a lockdown, most days this is not the case. On a typical day Sean is out of his cell, works at his job, and goes to college classes; he is busy working on all kinds of things.

Sean wakes up around 6:45 every morning to go to his job from 7:30 am to 4 pm as Secretary on the  Men’s Advisory Council. The Men’s Advisory Council is the liaison between inmates and staff. His job involves meeting regularly with the Warden, Assistant Warden, Visiting Sergeant, Captain, and other various facility members who work at the prison. Sean takes minutes at these meetings as well as brings to the table solutions for  important issues that affect visiting and inmate welfare.  This is an important and highly regarded job, and Sean works diligently at it. He want to make Corcoran a better place not only for us but for everyone who lives, visits or works there.

MAC chrono web edit

Chrono from MAC Parliamentarian position before Secretary

Before the MAC,  Sean had a job on the institutional paint crew, worked his way up to the position of Lead Painter and became proficient in the skills and knowledge needed to paint large walls, doors, and trim as well as train and oversee other painters. As he worked on this job he would write me about learning, and the skills he was mastering; he was truly proud of his work.   Sean earned a certificate for his on-the-job work training with the Institutional Paint crew. He completed 2,116 hours work experience.

Paint Job Chrono

Sean has been taking college classes, so far he has taken Food and Nutrition, Philosophy, Writing and Rhetoric, Introduction to Law Enforcement, Political Science (twice), English Literature, American Government and Spanish. He has gotten an A grade in every class. He is proud of his good grades and sends me copies of his work, especially his writing, some of which has been posted here in the past. While he was in Calipatria Prison he tutored 12 inmates who earned their GEDs, plus countless other inmates who showed great improvement in their educational studies.

Sean also participates in whatever positive programs the prison offers on his yard. He participated in the REACH program; REACH stands for Rehabilitation Education and Creating Hope. The program was designed to bring at-risk young men to prison for a day for some real, unfiltered prison talk to help them realize they need to change their ways, value their life, and take school seriously or they may end up in prison. It’s a new take on the “scared straight” program and one that Sean was very involved in until the program was dissolved when they switched yards. 

REACH group photo November 2016

Sean also recently graduated from the Building Resilience course which was a cognitive therapy group exploring  past trauma and how to address the affects going forward. The program, created by Dr. S. Covington PhD and Roberto A. Rodriguez MA, addresses thinking, feeling, and acting, feelings of guilt, shame or anger,  and healthy relationships.

Right now he is Chairman of the Life and Beyond program, a two hour weekly class for inmates with  Life Sentences to work in a group setting on rehabilitation, preparing for parole, self help, and just about everything that might help one who has spent decades in prison get ready for life beyond the bars; hence the name Life and Beyond. Sean is enjoying facilitating class and often shares thing with me that they are working on.

Life and Beyond Chrono

In the little spare time Sean has between homework, his job, and the programs; Sean creates beautiful drawings. He has become an amazing artist over the years and draws using creative techniques that really stand out to anyone who sees them. Sean is proud of his artwork and enjoys finding new references to draw. Two of his art  pieces have won awards at the California State Fair.

All of Sean’s chronos (like a letter of recommendation) state that he has a positive attitude, he’s a positive role model, respectful to others, very intelligent, displays an effort to complete tasks and assignments. This does not come as a surprise to either of us. Sean is not your typical prison inmate, in fact he is far from it. He is proud of his hard work but he is naturally inclined to want to learn, grow, and do good things; that’s just who he is. In the 15 years Sean has been wrongfully incarcerated he has never had a 115 (disciplinary issue) he has never broken the rules (including not having any tattoos), or gotten in a fight, and has never been sent to the SHU (segregated housing unit). But this isn’t something he brags about or thinks of as out of the ordinary, it’s just who he is. Sean does not want to live in prison, it is a terrible place to have to be, but he wants to make the most of the time he must remain there.  I am proud of my husband for making the most of his time inside and continuing to do things that are worthwhile.

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One Year Since Evidentiary Hearing

One year ago, January 17 2017, the long awaited Evidentiary Hearing in my case was finally held. I say long awaited because it had been granted on October 28, 2015. This March will mark my 15th year in prison. I have spent nearly half my life wrongfully incarcerated for a crime I did not commit.

The October 28, 2015 ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals granting my Evidentiary Hearing stated in part, “O’Brien’s state habeas petition alleged facts that, if accepted as true, showed that trial counsel failed to introduce available evidence that would have significantly strengthened O’Brien’s defense. Indeed, if believed, the additional evidence would have rendered it virtually impossible for O’Brien to have committed the murder for which he was charged.” and “Competent counsel would not have failed to put such evidence before the jury.”

After years of pain, suffering, sacrifice, and waiting, always waiting; at the Evidentiary Hearing my lawyers proved  all the evidence the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals relied on in their ruling. Most people would think once you’ve proven your case the process moving forward would be simple. Justice, in my case freedom, would surely be right around the corner. The United States of America does have the greatest justice system in the world after all, right?

Wrong. the year long wait that still continues began before the Evidentiary Hearing was even over. It began when the magistrate judge scheduled additional brief filing to take place over five months- which was ultimately extended to over seven months. We had just proven everything, and now we were being told our endless wait would continue. I felt the weight of this pushing me back down. When will this nightmare end?

Trying to hold it together in the courtroom, I stood up to speak to my family and friends. As I turned to thank them for their love and support, the chain attached to my ankles and secured to a large cement block stopped me short. I was jerked to a halt. The emotion from 14 years of fighting for my rightful freedom broke through. We had just proven everything but I was being sent back to prison. I am innocent, why is this happening?  I felt broken and shattered knowing the nightmare of my wrongful conviction would continue. And here we are one year later still waiting. Still suffering. Still being denied my rightful freedom.

Don’t get me wrong, the past year has also brought some incredible blessings. Emelia and I got married. We felt it was the right decision for us, having no control over when I will come home. Then just days after we filled out the marriage application, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation announced that Lifer and Life Without Parole inmates would once again receive Family Visits. And the last barrier to us receiving our Family Visits, my custody designation, was reduced 5 months earlier than we had thought. This gave us an amazing blessing: Family Visits.

We are living our lives now. We are not allowing the unknown to control us. We know my freedom will come but until then we are alive now.

Written by Sean, January 2017

“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing.” 1 Peter 3:9


**Editor’s note: Anyone who wishes to accuse me of making more than minor edits to Sean’s blog posts, thatI have his permission for, may view his originals here.

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