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Dear Governor Warren:
On January 1943 seventeen Mexican-American boys were convicted in a prejudiced Los Angeles courtroom, twelve for having conspired to murder one Jose Diaz, five for assault. They were given sentences ranging from life imprisonment down to a few months.
We maintain, Governor, that these boys were convicted not because they were guilty but solely because they were Mexican.
If you question the word "prejudice", permit us to refer you to the flaring, vicious, anti-Mexican headlines of the press prior to and during the period of their trial, including Sensation Magazine which published an article written by Clem Peoples of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, calling the boys "Baby Gangsters" and convicting them while they were on trial for their lives. Ten thousand copies of this magazine were sold in one week in the City of Los Angeles alone.
The words "Pachuco", "Zoot-Suiter" and Mexican were made synonymous. So far-reaching and dangerous was the situation created by the press that the Office of War Information was forced to step into the picture in an attempt to tone down their viciousness.
In the courtroom the boys were not permitted to sit with their attorneys. They were lined up on one side of the room and their appearance, according to Prosecutor Shoemaker was made more distinctive by the fact that he refused to permit them to get their hair cut or change into clean clothes. The prosecution,
― 2 ―he said, regarded as important evidence "their style of haircut, the thick, heavy heads of hair, the duck-tail comb, the pachuco pants and things of that kind."
A situation like this would be harmful at any time. Prejudice and injustice have no place in a nation based on "Liberty and Justice for all". Today, however, the issue is even more vital. We are at war and at a time like this such occurrences, in the words of our President, can only "endanger our national unity and comfort our enemies."
Hitler in his more optimistic pre-June 22, 1941 moments wrote in "Mein Kampf":
His agents here certainly gave him loyal assistance through the press and an infamous document known as "Ed Duran Ayres Report to the 1942 Los Angeles Grand Jury". In this document, Mr. Ayres follows Hitler's race theory by attempting to prove the Mexicans a vicious, blood-thirsty people with a total disregard for human life. He likens them to the untameable wildcat and recommends that ". . . . the hoodlum element as a whole must be indicted as a whole!"
This document was presented to the Grand Jury before these boys went on trial, and there, Governor Warren is why seventeen Mexican-American boys were convicted on January 3rd despite the fact that there was no evidence in the whole course of the trial or in the twelve volumes of court record which proved the boys guilty!
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Governor Warren, it is our conviction that the Sleepy Lagoon Case was just a trial balloon for the fifth column elements which proved so successful, that they were heartened not only to come back with the so-called "zoot-suit riots", but to go on to other vital industrial centers such as Beaumont, Mobile, Newark, Detroit to continue their disruption and sabotage of our national unity and thus attempt to bring into being Hitler's threat.
We now place the matter in your hands, Governor. It is within your power to pardon these boys unconditionally and in one stroke demonstrate to our minorities at home and the world in general that the Good Neighbor Policy is not a mockery and that the Four Freedoms for which we are fighting abroad can be made a reality in our own land.
We ask this in the name of Justice. We ask it in the name of unity behind the war effort, and a desire to do our bit on the home front to establish that Brotherhood of Nations toward which our Commander-in-Chief is dedicating his every thought and action. Nothing less than a complete defeat of fascism at home and abroad can accomplish this. Our sons are giving their lives toward that end. You can help them uphold their faith in these ideals by making the Sleepy Lagoon Case the symbol of the freedom, justice and democracy for which this war is being fought.
Free the 17 Mexican-American boys!