Friday, March 19, 2010

After 23 years in prison Rosie Sanchez deported to Mexico

LA woman paroled in deadly fire deported to Mexico


The Associated Press
Thursday, March 18, 2010

LOS ANGELES -- A clothing store owner who spent 23 years behind bars
for a deadly arson fire after proclaiming her innocence was paroled
from state prison and deported to Mexico on Thursday.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said Maria Rosa "Rosie"
Sanchez was released from the state California Institution for Women
in Chino and deported by immigration authorities at the San Ysidro
border crossing.

ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said Sanchez is a convicted felon with
no lawful status in the U.S.

"She was made aware of her rights and the process was explained to
her," Kice said. She declined to describe Sanchez's response.

Sanchez, who owned a small clothing store, said she was at home when
another store in the same building went up in flames in December
1985. A man died in the fire, and Sanchez was convicted of
first-degree murder and arson. In 1987, she was sentenced to 25 years to life.

She always maintained her innocence. With the help of a law clinic
for women at the University of Southern California Law School, she
got the state parole board to recommend her release.

Sanchez met with Mexican consular officials after she was processed
by immigration officials, Kice said.

The USC law students who helped Sanchez win parole are preparing to
ask Gov.
Schwarzenegger to pardon Sanchez so she can visit with her adult
children, who waited for years to bring their mother home.

Last week, prison officials told Sanchez she would be released to her
daughter, also named Rosie Sanchez, who lives in Anaheim, said her
son, Gustavo Sanchez.

His sister bought furniture, fixed up a room for their mother to live
in and prepared her young children to welcome their grandmother, he said.

"She's pretty upset because she keeps looking at that empty room.
She's been sleeping in there since we found out," that their mother
would be deported instead of released, Gustavo said, as he prepared
to leave for Tijuana to meet his mother.

Sanchez was picked up by her sister at the border, and she will live
with her in Mexicali, her son said.

Jennifer Farrell, a second year law student at USC who represented
Sanchez at her parole hearing, said the whole family got their hopes
up when the prison said she could stay in the U.S. and live with her
daughter, but Sanchez had told the parole board she would go to Mexicali.

"It was the best strategy before the parole board, but partly I think
that after 23 years of wrongful incarceration, she was just fed up
with the American dream," Farrell said.

Sanchez said she had been approved for a green card and would have
received it if she hadn't been arrested, said USC Law professor
Michael Brennan said. She was deported primarily because as a
convicted felon without U.S. citizenship she's not allowed to travel
or live in the U.S.

Farrell said that Sanchez's public defender was ineffective during
the 1987 trial and the sole witness who placed her at the scene was
unreliable. Farrell also said Sanchez didn't have a financial motive
as prosecutors had claimed.

The prosecution relied on an 18-year-old witness, Adan Ramos, who
said he saw Sanchez and another woman while he was trapped in the
burning building, she said. Ramos' father, Epiphanio, was sleeping in
the store and died in the blaze.

Attempts by The Associated Press to find telephone numbers to reach
the Ramos family were not successful Thursday. The Los Angeles County
district attorney's office had no family contact information for the
25-year-old case and Sanchez's public defender during the trial has died.

"I'm glad I'll get to see her but it's temporary," he said. "I guess
like everyone else we have to travel to see our mom and for her to
see her grandkids."

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