Books by Terri Bradt
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Kinetic Sculpture by Gordon Bradt
Colorado Citizen Lawyer
Colorado Citizen Lawyer
© 2010 Terri Bradt
Second Edition 2011 Terri Bradt
All Rights Reserved
A Publication of
Busch / Eureka Springs, AR 72631
For My Mother
Collette Ireland Bradt
A Colorado Native Daughter
Ireland and Collette Bradt
Table of Contents
Gail Grows Up
Julie and Gramps
Colorado Citizen Lawyer
Postscript to 2nd Edition
Statement from Bill Ritter
A wrong may never be righted, but sometimes the actions of concerned people can help to prevent new wrongs in the future. And when people come together to act, powerful things can happen. On June 2, 2007 people like this came together to focus on a wrong done to a Colorado son 68 years ago.
They felt that it was their legacy. They could carry out a fight to save the name, if not the life, of a man that Colorado wrongly executed at the Colorado State Penitentiary on January 6, 1939. And they could try to raise awareness about people with mental disabilities, to change the way we feel and think about things and other people. So, that day in 2007, the gathering of concerned people placed a proper headstone on the grave of the executed man, and vowed to pursue a posthumous pardon for the man, Joe Arridy. They vowed to continue the legacy left to them in 1939 by Joe’s champion, Denver lawyer, Gail L. Ireland.
The people at this gathering were from all walks of life: writer and advocate, Robert Perske; advocate from the Arc of the Pikes Peak Region, Craig Severa; screenwriter and author, Daniel Leonetti; attorney, David Martinez; journalist, Doc Leonetti; entertainment lawyer and film producer, Michelene Keller; professor and expert in the death penalty, Michael Radelet; sociologist, Richard Voorhees; poet, Joseph Forbeck; cinematographer, Waco Guerreva; songwriter, Tom Garcia; and photographer, Antonio Sanchez, among others.
They felt, as did their predecessor, Gail Ireland, that Joe Arridy was a victim of the times. Today, mentally challenged people have a greater chance to survive and thrive, especially in the court system. The laws now are still vague and subject to interpretation, but they reflect the need for society to take care of its own for the good of the whole of itself. Even Justice Bakke of the Colorado Supreme Court in July, 1938 had a vision of the future, when delivering his opinion to deny Gail Ireland’s appeal to reverse the lower court’s decision to execute Joe Arridy. He wrote, “In conclusion, acknowledgment should be made of the commendable effort on the part of defendant’s counsel and others to save Arridy from the death sentence. We are aware that such effort was prompted by the highest motives which move the hearts and minds of men, but until such time as the race, in its evolutionary process, can work out a more intelligent solution of cases such as is here presented, it remains the duty of courts only, to safeguard the rights of a defendant and see that he has a fair and impartial trial under the law of the state as it now is, not under what we wish it might, or should, or may be at some time in the future.”
But to Gail Ireland, prompted by the highest motives, the principle of the law was as good as the letter of it. He felt that Joe did not have a fair and impartial trial, and that executing Joe would be the same as murdering a child. In the final two hour meeting with Colorado Governor Teller Ammons before Joe was executed, Gail told the Governor, “I do not know Joe Arridy – as a person he means nothing to me. It is a principle of law – a principle of right for which I fight.” Gail felt that the State of Colorado would never live it down. And there must have been those on the Colorado Supreme Court who agreed with him, because he managed to win Joe an unprecedented number of stays of execution before the final appeal was denied and the Governor ordered the execution to go forward. Through it all, Gail Ireland received no compensation and paid most of the court costs himself.
Chance played a part in the end of the story, as it turns out. Or maybe the people were speaking. On January 10, 1939, just four days after Governor Teller Ammons called in the final order to the Colorado State Penitentiary to promptly execute Joe, a new Governor was sworn in, Ralph Carr, having defeated Teller Ammons after just one term. Gail Ireland and Ralph Carr were peers and friends, both being water and irrigation attorneys, and then working together while Ireland was Attorney General and Carr was Governor. Gail said, “Carr was a remarkable man and we worked together so smoothly.” Ralph turned out to be a humanitarian Governor, championing the cause for bringing Japanese-Americans from concentration camps in California to Colorado settlements during World War II. The opposition to this was fierce, but he persevered. He just had that sense of justice, the sense that our own citizens of Japanese descent were being treated wrongly. During his administration, Ralph Carr was also criticized for paroling convicts. In fact, he sent 97 of them to serve in the armed forces, and of these 97, only 4 ran into problems. Had Gail Ireland managed to win one more stay of execution for Joe until Ralph Carr was sworn in, Ralph Carr may well have commuted Joe’s sentence to life in prison or in a state hospital for the insane.
The sensational murder story and subsequent execution was followed by millions of people around the country. Gail Ireland’s efforts were watched and pondered and discussed, then forgotten. Gail moved on to other things, things that shaped the history of Colorado in other ways. But, the case was not forgotten by all. In 1995, Robert Perske wrote it all down in his book, Deadly Innocence?. Then, Daniel Leonetti painted a picture of Joe Arridy and Gail Ireland in his screenplay, The Woodpecker Waltz. These works of art spurred a new movement to save Joe’s name, if not his life. But without the previous moral conviction of Gail Ireland and others at the time, there could be no conviction today among the new supporters of Joe Arridy. The world needs role models, and Gail Ireland seems to be one of them. But where did Gail come from, and where did he go? Just who was this man named Gail L. Ireland?
Well, for one thing, he was my Grandfather….
Gail L. Ireland