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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Reaching out from death row

SAN FRANCISCO -- -- From the forbidding, steely confines of San Quentin Prison's death row, scores of California's most notorious convicts have been reaching out to the free world via the Internet.

Scott Peterson's Web page features smiling photos of himself with his wife Laci, whom he was found guilty of murdering and dumping into San Francisco Bay while she was pregnant with their unborn son. It also links viewers to his family's support site, where Peterson has a recent blog posting on his "wrongful conviction."

Mustachioed Randy Kraft, condemned Orange County slayer of 16 young men, is looking for pen pals. So is convicted Northern California serial killer Charles Ng, who describes himself as shy and offers to sell his wildlife drawings.

Tattooed and muscled Richard Allen Davis, whose abduction and murder of 12-year-old Polly Klaas helped trigger California's "three strikes" law, is not selling his hobby crafts but wants correspondents.

"I dug my grave -- now I must lay in it," he says of his life.

Prisoners are barred from direct computer access that officials say could allow them to threaten witnesses or orchestrate crimes. Thanks to supporters and commercial services, however, many of the state's 673 condemned inmates now have pen-pal postings and personalized Web pages with their writings, artwork and photos of themselves -- often accompanied by declarations of innocence and pleas for friendship and funds.

Although some inmates utilize sites in the U.S., the nonprofit Canadian Coalition Against the Death Penalty has created Web pages or pen-pal ads for more than 100 California death row inmates. The site, unlike some others, is free. [Mark Godsey]

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