Petition Gov. Bill Ritter of Colorado to Pardon “Little Joe” Arridy

I am forwarding this call for the Governor of Colorado to pardon *Joe Arridy, 23. It was drafted by **Robert Perske, writer, journalist and humanitarian. The petition respectfully requests the governor to  pardon “Little Joe” Arridy posthumously for the crimes of rape and murder of a 15 year old girl, Dorothy Drain, on August 15, 1936. Sadly, Little Joe has long since been convicted and ultimately executed at Colorado Territorial Prison, Canyon City. The arrest, trial and execution of Joe were media events likened to a carnival in darkly festive flare. Socialites flocked to make an appearance at this depression era kangaroo court.

Little Joe was locked into a pre-pubescence world since he had the mentality of a 6 year old boy, innocent even in thought. Joe was the ideal suspect and detectives took full advantage of his naivete coercing a confession almost immediately. Being of Syrian decent added fuel to the community’s frenzied scorn as well. The media poisoned public opinion against Joe across the state with fabricated sensational tales that horrified and disgusted readers. They painted Little Joe as a vial and perverted killer of little girls. Joe was a dead man walking even before he was arrested. Guilt was already assumed. He was convicted and sentence to death. Then he was executed in the gas chamber on January 6, 1939 to the joy of cheering mobs, justice was served. They say Joe was smiling when he entered the death chamber for he truly was a child and could not comprehend the concept of his own death. In the evening after Joes execution even the hardest of convicts wept because of the injustice that shrouded the day. The bittersweet irony of Joe’s dark journey was the fact three months after his execution the true killer of Dorothy Drain was arrested then confessed to the grizzly assault.

The pardon represents dignity and justice for a mentally challenged man/child who was wrongfully convicted of a crime he did not commit. Though Little Joe has died his memory lives in the hearts of those who discover his story. This pardon would also exhonorate a mother who loved and stood beside her son in the darkest of times. She knew in her heart Joe was innocent all along. There is much more to the Joe Arridy Story than I can give justice to at this juncture. The whole story would stagger the sensibilities since Joe’s life was a journey through hell and horrific abuse disguised as the mental health care system of the early 20th Century. Robert Perske wrote a book, “DEADLY INNOCENCE?” (The Tragic Story of Joe Arridy), that chronicled Joe Arridy’s life. It is very compelling and well worth a read.

It does not matter what part of the planet you reside in. Drop Governor Ritter a short note in support of pardoning Joe Arridy posthumously. Write a personal note to the governor or simply use the template Mr. Perske provided. It will only take a moment of your time. Then send it to Robert Perske with the address provided. Let Bob know you are supporting the noble efforts of  attorney David A. Martinez  who is spearheading the petition drive in Denver Colorado. He will submit the petitions to the governor in a timely fashion.




Mailing Address:



DARIN, CT 06820

REF: Joe Arridy


Dear Colleague:

Denver Attorney David A. Martinez is filing a petition asking Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, Jr. to issue a posthumous pardon to Joe Arridy who was wrongfully executed on January 6, 1939.  This cause will be helped if a number of “independent persons” chose to write letters that will support the efforts of Attorney Martinez.  Here is the plan:

  • I have volunteered to receive your letters. (PLEASE SEND YOUR HARD COPY VIA U.S. MAIL TO PERSKE, 159 HOLLOW TREE RIDGE ROAD, DARIEN, CT 06820).
  • I will assemble the letters and write a cover index that will list all names alphabetically.
  • The packet will be submitted with the Attorneys petition and documentation.

Rob Warden, Executive Director, The Center on Wrongful Convictions, Northwestern University School of Law has written an excellent overview in

Put your letter in your own words, or feel free to use the following script or parts of it.. 



Dear Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, Jr.:

I know of the situation regarding Joe Arridy, the youth with an intellectual disability who had been labeled  “an imbecile with the mental capacity of a six-year-old child.”  He was executed at the Colorado State Penitentiary in 1939.  I recently learned of the efforts seeking a posthumous pardon of Joe Arridy’s death sentence.

I am in support of a pardon for Joe.  I believe such a pardon, although symbolic today, will right a wrong that was committed years ago under different times and circumstances that would not be allowed today.  Such a pardon would be a monumental act on behalf of all persons with disabilities.

I urge you to issue this pardon to demonstrate that individuals with intellectual disabilities are entitled to the basic human rights and dignity, independent of the unfortunate circumstances under which they often live.

Thank you for every consideration you give my request on behalf of Joe Arridy.



Phone No.




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