For those of you who wish to express your feelings to Jennifer Granholm, Governor of Michigan, about the conviction of Peter Watts for a felony in that state, I offer the following letter. I hope you find it useful as either a template or a direct communication. I’ve turned off comments on this post because I know that there are trolls out there, and I really don’t want them under my bridge. I’ve written this letter because I know that there are some people out there already who wanted one composed, and I hope they find it of value. For me, that value is twofold. One, it might sway the governor’s opinion. Two, even if it doesn’t, I needed to write it. Peter a foot and a half taller than I am, which makes looking him in the eye difficult enough. I don’t need to make it any harder than it already is.
- Highlight and copy the letter below.
- Open the governor’s contact form
- Fill in your personal details, paste the letter text, and make changes to the language to put it in your own voice.
- In the “issue” field, type “Please pardon Peter Watts,” then click “For.”
To the Honorable Jennifer Granholm
P.O. Box 30013
Lansing, Michigan 48909
Dear Governor Granholm,
On March 19, 2010, a jury of Port Huron residents convicted Canadian marine biologist and writer Peter Watts, Ph. D. for felony non-compliance when dealing with border guards at the Port Huron crossing. While leaving the United States on December 8, 2009, he was subject to an exit search. As a Canadian, he was unfamiliar with this process, and exited his vehicle to inquire about it. When he failed to re-enter the vehicle quickly enough, he was beaten, maced and arrested. Members of his jury have since spoken out on his behalf, claiming that they only convicted him because non-compliance is covered under a controversial statute regarding obstruction of border security.
As the former Attorney General for the state of Michigan, a member of President Obama’s transition team, and a lawyer experienced enough to be considered as a Supreme Court nominee, I know that you understand what happens when the letter of the law trumps the spirit of the law. I know that as governor, you have sworn to uphold the values that make Michigan and the United States great, while still respecting the need for vigilant border security and the demands of a border state. I know that during the current economic crisis you have been given the enormous responsibility of guiding Michigan through one of its darkest hours. I know that your job is not easy.
I ask that you pardon Peter Watts not because he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, or because as an academic he worked tirelessly to benefit the marine wildlife of your native British Columbia, or because of his ongoing work both with local animal shelters and continuing education programs, or even because of his own jurors’ post-trial ambivalence. I ask that you pardon him because the safety of the American people comes not from a badge but from our people’s trust in that badge. A truly just nation arises not from a citizenry’s fear of authority but from their faith in each other. Overturning this man’s conviction is an affirmation of our own convictions — that no authority is absolute, that asking questions is not a crime and that security and dignity are not mutually exclusive.
What happened to this man could happen to anyone. American citizens are just as subject to exit searches as Canadians. With policies like this one and courts that uphold them, are the American people truly safe? Are residents of Michigan really secure? Please ask yourself these questions. Your fellow Americans already are.
Special thanks to Cory and to Richard Esguerra, online activist with the EFF, who helped me clarify the instructions for this post.