Reagan Stirringly Defends His Decision Not to Stop a Cop-Killer's Execution

May 3, 1967

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Reagan Stirringly Defends His Decision Not to Stop a Cop-Killer's Execution
Autograph Letter Signed
1 page | SMC 1475

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      Background

      How the extraordinarily busy Reagan came to write upwards of 10,000 letters is, by virtue of this letter, easily understood: he answered every question – or accusation - put to him, however abusive or almost, mad. It seems a Mr. Adams in Ohio took exception to the death sentence imposed on one Aaron C. Mitchell who, in the course of a gun battle during a café hold-up, killed a Sacramento policeman and then, blaming racism for his life of crime, claimed the shooting of Officer Arnold Gamble with a sawed-off shotgun was just “one of those unfortunate accidents.” Adams wrote Reagan that, by not commuting Mitchell’s sentence, the Governor was a murderer as well, and he, Adams, would for the rest of his life remind him of this, on each and every anniversary of the cop killer’s execution – although he doubted Reagan would ever see his letter(s). To this, Reagan (actually) replied:

      Rest assured I did receive your letter. Can I assume you wrote similar letters to the two juries who sentenced & reaffirmed the sentence of death, the two trial judges (because he had two trials) the Calif. Supreme Ct. which twice upheld the verdict and the nine U.S. Sup. Ct. justices who three times refused to intervene? If so then you might consider carrying your opposition to the death formally to our legislature which has upheld Capital punishment as necessary 22 times with the approval of the people of this state. It will probably be difficult for you to believe this but I'll need no reminder from you with regard to that lonely moment and others yet to come. But I intend also to remember the policeman who was gunned down and his widow & two children.

      Reagan, it would seem, was willing to engage, in good faith, any citizen, on any important subject of the day; and that he would do so places him in the great tradition of those earliest and most egalitarian of presidents, who opened the White House to all callers and comers.


      Autograph Letter Signed (“R.R”), as Governor, 1 page, quarto, no place, no date [May 3, 1967].To Jon L. Adams in Lakewood, Ohio. Being a draft to be typewritten.
       
      With the letter to which Reagan was responding: a 2pp., 4to ALS in the hand of one Jon L. Adams of Lakewood, Ohio.
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