Clemency letter for Hung Le
Mr. Patrick Morgan, Chairman
Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board
P.O. Box 361
Arcadia, OK 73007
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November 26, 2003
Dear Chairman Morgan:
I am writing on behalf of Hung Le to request that you commute his death sentence and spare his life. Hung Le is an exceptional person, who survived extraordinary circumstances before making his way to the United States. Hung Le killed Hai Nguyen, a friend, in the heat of passion after his friend betrayed him and withheld $10,000 from him. Hung Le suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome caused by the violence he suffered while in Vietnam and during his harrowing escape to the United States. This is certainly a tragedy, but killing a friend in the heat of passion is not the kind of murder for which a person should be executed. By no means does Hung Le's crime qualify as ""the worst of the worst."" We urge the Board of Pardon and Parole to spare his life.
Hung Le is a Vietnamese National born December 17, 1966. In the early 1980's, at age 16, he and his father escaped Vietnam, leaving behind the rest of their large family to send for later once they became established in a safe country.
Their journey to a refugee camp in Cambodia was marked by hunger, violence and terror. It took them 17 days to escape through the Cambodian jungle to the Thailand border. During the trip through the jungle they saw dead bodies and skeletons strewn along the trail, terrifying reminders of those who never made it to safety. They lived on berries and water and whatever else they could hunt or scavenge. Hung Le, who could not speak Cambodian, pretended to be deaf and dumb, but along the way was badly beaten by guerillas and Khmer Rouge paratroopers. Once at the camp, they remained for over four years, again witnessing violence and deprivation. They finally made it to the U.S. in 1986, where they ended up in Cleveland, Ohio.
While at the refugee camp in Cambodia, Hung Le met and became friends with Hai Nguyen. Hung Le, a devout Catholic, helped covert his friend and when Hai Nguyen was baptized, Hung's father became Hai's Godfather.
Hung Le, his father, and Hai Nguyen ended up in Ohio, and then Hai moved to
Oklahoma City. Hung Le and Hai planned to go into business together and each committed to contributing $10,000 for the venture. Hung Le brought $10,000 as his share, but Hai Nguyen took no further action. When Hung Le's family finally arrived in the United States, Hung needed to go into business or get his $10,000 back because he was responsible for taking care of his entire family. Hung called Hai but got no response. He went to Oklahoma and the two argued over the money. Hai accused
Hung of having an affair with his common-law wife, at which point Hung struck Hai with a metal bar. Hung claims that Hai grabbed the bar and
was about to strike him when Hung ran and picked up two knives from the kitchen and stabbed Hai to death.
Hung Le's trial attorney failed to obtain a proper psychological evaluation for his client. Had he done so, he would have learned that Hung suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, which contributed to his reaction in the face of danger. The attorney's secretary swore out an affidavit on behalf of Hung testifying that her employer did not adequately represent Hung. She claimed that the lawyer took no interest in the case, rarely visited his client, performed little investigation and even laughed about the case with Hung's former lawyer, a lawyer so unskilled that he allowed his client to enter into a guilty plea on all the charges without any benefit in return.
Additionally, Hung Le was never advised of his rights under Article 36 of the Vienna Convention, so was never given the opportunity to seek legal advise from officials from his country.
The story of a distraught man killing his closest friend over money is a tragedy, especially after what the two had survived together. However, this case does not warrant the death penalty. Had Hung been adequately represented, he would not be on death row.
Hung is a model prisoner and well liked by prison guards. He is a humble, religious man who is very artistically talented. He will not pose a danger to anyone in prison and deserves to have his life spared.
Very truly yours,
Rachel King, Esq.
State Campaign Coordinator
Joann Bell, Executive Director
ACLU of Oklahoma
Cc: Members of Pardon and Parole Board
Governor Brad Henry