Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News
Volume XXV Number 7, July 2017

JUNE, JULY, OR AUGUST. The Thursday 
planning meetings will resume after summer 
break on September 28.
  Tuesday, August 8, 7:30-9:00 PM. Letter 
writing meeting at Caltech Athenaeum, corner 
of Hill and California in Pasadena. In the 
summer we meet outdoors at the "Rath al 
Fresco," on the lawn next to the building. This 
informal gathering is a great way for 
newcomers to get acquainted with Amnesty.
  Sunday, August 20, 6:30 PM. Rights Readers 
Human Rights Book Discussion Group. This 
month we read a mystery set in the 
Philippines, "Smaller and Smaller Circles" by 
F. H. Batacan.

Hi everyone

We were saddened to hear that Chinese 
democracy activist, Liu Xiabo,who was only 61, 
passed away from liver cancer on July 13.
Who knows if he would have survived had he 
been allowed to receive medical treatment 
abroad while he was imprisoned.  He was 
awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, but 
wasn't allowed to leave China to attend the 
ceremony - an empty chair represented him.  

His wife, Liu Xia, is under house arrest in China 
(see action in newsletter regarding her). Please 
read the New York Times article in this 
newsletter to learn more about his life and 
death.  Vigils were held in Hong Kong, Los 
Angeles and other places. Group 22 member 
Stevi attended and took photos at the LA 

Con Carino, Kathy

Next Rights Readers Meeting

Sunday, August 20,  
6:30 PM

Vroman's Bookstore
695 E Colorado Blvd.

Smaller and Smaller Circles 

by F.H. Batacan

By By J. Daniel Elam, 
Aug 18, 2015, L.A. Review of Books.
Smaller and Smaller Circles
By F.H. Batacan

WHEN F.H. BATACAN'S Smaller and Smaller Circles 
was first published in the Philippines in 1999, it was 
heralded as inaugurating a new genre in Filipino 
literature - one that, sixteen years later, appears to 
be as large in Manila as it is in the United States. 
Batacan had allegedly written the first "Western-
style" crime novel in the Philippines. The belatedness 
of the country's entrˇe into the genre was diagnosed 
in the book itself. Early in the novel, the protagonist 
detective receives an admonition from police 
generals: "You've been watching too many foreign 
movies, Father Saenz; there are no serial killers in the 
Philippines." This sentence was longer in the original 
1999 Philippine version than in the 2015 US version 
and ends: "and if there were, they would be white 
males in their thirties." Serial killers, according to 
popular belief, could not exist in the Philippines. 
(There are a number of articles online, as recent as 
2013, with titles like "8 Reasons Why There are no 
Serial Killers in the Philippines," that argue these 
points in exhaustive detail.) In a culture with too 
many gossips and too much family time, how could 
anyone find the time to meticulously kill multiple 
people without being caught?

Serial killers, though, don't make themselves. Serial 
killings without a robust investigative agency - or a 
dedicated rogue detective - are just individual 
crimes. The Philippine National Bureau of 
Investigation's notorious inefficiency and the chronic 
underfunding of police forces around the country 
mean that there are no resources to link any one 
individual crime to another. Due to the mere fact of 
bookkeeping, the Philippines have murderers, but 
rarely multiple offenders. Batacan herself worked in 
the intelligence community in Manila and has 
suggested in interviews that her frustration with 
bureaucracy eventually produced the 1999 novel. 
Father Gus Saenz, the rogue detective at the center of 
the novel's investigation, is stifled by police 
corruption, intelligence bureaucracy, and a perpetual 
lack of resources.

It's difficult to disentangle these elements from the 
standard legacy of Raymond Chandler - working 
around or against the system - but Filipino critics 
have praised the novel's uniquely Filipino sensibility. 
Where Chandler's Los Angeles was an endless 
stretch of amorality, Smaller and Smaller Circles 
takes place in an urban society saturated in 
Catholicism. Saenz is a Catholic priest whose side 
project is an ongoing investigation into child abuse in 
the Catholic Church. Unsurprisingly, a Catholic 
infrastructure similar to the National Bureau of 
Investigation exists to shunt, silence, and dismiss 
Saenz's investigations. Saenz's double-duty 
intersects: by day, he investigates a serial killer of 
small teenage boys; by night, he continues to press at 
an abusive priest in power. Fighting the state and the 
church at once means Saenz and his obedient protˇgˇ 
Jerome Lucero are, for the most part, on their own.

Smaller and Smaller Circles takes place in Payatas, a 
massive landfill northeast of Quezon City, which lies 
northeast in the sprawling Metro Manila. Today, like 
in 1999, the landfill is home to a significant number 
of people whose livelihoods depend on sorting the 
city's refuse into increasingly unusable bits. In 2000, a 
landslide of trash killed up to 1,000 people. Payatas is 
part of the "Planet of Slums" geographer Mike Davis 
traced in 2007, and it is firmly within a geography of 
landfills that dot South and East Asia. These landfills 
process not only the waste of the cities they border 
on, but they also serve as the location of outsourced 
waste management from the United States and other 
countries wealthy enough to export their trash. Life 
in and around these dumpsites is Hobbesian - poor, 
nasty, brutish, and short - but actually sanctioned 
by a global social contract that has guaranteed 
protection against such conditions by pushing them 
onto a population that has been almost entirely 
ignored. The victims in Smaller and Smaller Circles 
are malnourished preteen boys from Payatas; their 
individual deaths, let alone serial deaths, would have 
likely gone unnoticed by police were it not for Saenz 
and Lucero, who apply scientific police procedure 
and theological Catholic compassion in equal 
measure in their hunt for the killer.

The Church and the police make a great pair, Michel 
Foucault reminds us, and they make a particularly 
great pair for the sake of the crime novel. The success 
of Smaller and Smaller Circles is its adept negotiation 
of Catholicism and institutional forensics, which 
intersect in the Philippines in actual ways, rather 
than the theoretical ways they do in the United 
States. But the Catholic Church and the police share 
more than crippling bureaucracy and corruption. 
They are also the shared inventors and tinkerers of a 
long-lived genre that Batacan cashes in on: the 
confession. The literary genre of confession emerges 
at the intersection of police interrogation and 
Catholic purging of guilt, and holds dear its 
investments in truth-telling and the transparency of 
the subject.

Thus in an exciting twist, Batacan opens the novel on 
the confession of the serial killer. True to the crime 
genre, the killer remains unidentified until much 
later, and yet these revelations are scattered 
throughout the otherwise procedural plot. (In a 
somewhat ham-handed decision, the Soho Crime 
edition layout features these confessions in circles 
that grow smaller as the detectives grow closer.) It is 
one thing to know at the beginning that there is a 
serial killer lurking in the pages of crime novels; it is 
another to have him confess before we know his 

The killer comes from similar dumpsite conditions as 
his victims. Saenz and Lucero, whose lives are hardly 
luxurious but relatively comfortable, express only 
sympathy with him - perhaps a theological twist on 
the Chandler-esque empathetic relationship that 
Marlowe and his criminals share. Saenz and Lucero 
save their true disgust and disdain for Manila's faux-
philanthropic elite and self-serving bureaucrats, who 
thwart their efforts to find the serial killer. In a fairly 
exhausted plot device - but one that would have 
likely aligned well with scandals in the Catholic 
Church in the late 1990s - the serial killer's motives 
are rooted in the psychological damage caused by a 
pedophilic male school teacher. This is offered as the 
explanation for why the killer carefully removes 
boys' genitals after killing them. It strikes me as a 
somewhat cheap if not vaguely homophobic 
explanation, but it causes Lucero to have a nightmare 
of his own boyhood; when Saenz finally catches the 
killer, his first response is to forgive him.

One of the most common justifications for the belief 
that there are no serial killers in the Philippines is 
that family life dominates the social world, which 
splits into two related explanations: first, that no one 
could find enough time to come up with a repeatable, 
meticulous way of killing a person; second, that no 
one in tight-knit families could develop the 
sociopathy conducive for cold-hearted murder. (The 
famous Filipino serial killer who murdered Gianni 
Versace in 1997, Andrew Cunanan, was - according 
to common argument - a result of his being born in 
California instead of Manila.)

Without completely collapsing into cultural 
essentialism, there's something compelling about this 
line of thought. There are surely serial killers in the 
Philippines. But the social connections in Filipino life 
make detectives' work look a lot different. Naomi 
Hirahara, the Los Angeles-based crime novelist, has 
made a similar argument as a critique of Raymond 
Chandler. How does Chandler's Philip Marlowe, she 
wonders, not bear "the weight of family or 
community"? In ways similar to Hirahara's 
protagonists, Batacan's Saenz and Lucero are 
simultaneously rebels against the system and also 
fully enmeshed in their family and community. Even 
the serial killer has a family whom he calls semi-
regularly. Batacan offers us the hard-boiled detective 
and the loner murderer, but without the cynical 
isolation of Chandler.

Despite early critics' celebration of the book as the 
"first Filipino crime novel," there is something 
inextricably American about the type of crime novel 
Smaller and Smaller Circles is, too. "Hybridity" is an 
easy term to apply here: it is both LA-noir-but-not-
quite and Filipino-but-not-quite. Although 
Americans have been slow to fully account for the 
implications of the charge, the Philippines is certainly 
a postcolonial nation from the still very extant 
American Empire, and it remains the center of 
American imperial desires in the Pacific Ocean. 
Smaller and Smaller Circles emerges from the 
particularly American genre of crime and noir 
because the Philippines emerged from the 
particularly American style of imperial control.

One of the reasons that the "first Filipino crime 
novel" emerged as late as 1999 - making it seem like 
a fairly belated response to its American counterpart 
- is that the American dominance of the Filipino 
literary market meant that most Filipino publishing 
houses focused on textbooks and instructional 
manuals. This left very little room for either Filipino 
prestige or pulp genres to flourish and likely quashed 
literary output on the islands for most of the 20th 
century. This was one of the issues Jessica Hagedorn 
challenged in the early 1990s with Charlie Chan is 
Dead, a book that remains one of the most important 
collections in Asian American and American Pacific 
Empire writing. If Smaller and Smaller Circles is 
"Filipino" in some essential way, it is because it 
marks the Philippines on the traditionally 
exclusionary map of the world republic of letters, 
even if it does so by way of an American pulp genre.

The first edition, published by the University of the 
Philippines Press, won the Philippine National Book 
Award, the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards, and 
the Madrigal-Gonzalez Best First Book Award. These 
are surprising awards for a novel in a genre not 
generally affiliated with prestige - indeed, one that 
more often than not shirks the confines of literary 
prestige. There was clearly popular and critical 
demand for an American-style Filipino crime novel. 
For her American debut, with Soho Press, Batacan 
expanded the novel from 155 pages to 355, an 
extension that helps draw out the tension of the hunt 
and slow down the increasingly smaller circles that 
Saenz and Lucero trace around their suspect. The 
2015 edition retains the taut pacing of the 1999 
edition, but expands the social world of the novel to 
give the reader a sense of the wide range of Manila 
denizens, from aggressive investigative journalists to 
cocktail party elites, from dedicated secretaries to 
well-meaning health workers in Payatas.

One of the more curious justifications given to prove 
the Philippines has no serial killers is that there is too 
much sunlight: not only is everything transparent, 
but everyone is too busy enjoying the weather. In 
contrast, everything in Smaller and Smaller Circles 
feels claustrophobic, opaque, and dark. Saenz and 
Lucero, in response, attempt to shine light on 
corruption and crime. Batacan, similarly, has turned 
our attention to the shady underbelly of Metro 
Manila, where the sun only helps increase the stench 
of trash.

Maria Felisa H. Batacan is a Filipino journalist and a 
writer of crime and mystery fiction. Her work has 
been published in the Philippines and abroad under 
the name F.H. Batacan.

She was a fellow at the 1996 Dumaguete National 
Writers' Workshop.
Batacan worked in the Philippine intelligence 
community and then became a broadcast journalist. 
She attended the University of the Philippines, where 
she pursued a master's degree in Arts Studies. In 
1999 her manuscript, Smaller and Smaller Circles, 
won the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for 
Literature Grand Prize for the English Novel. This 
novel was published in 2002 by the University of the 
Philippines Press. Although most Filipino English-
language fiction works garner a single print run of 
only 1,000 copies,Smaller and Smaller Circles had 
been reprinted four times by the year 2006, for a total 
of 6,000 copies. The novel was one of the first Filipino 
works of crime fiction.

By Stevi Carroll

William Morva

Despite numerous requests from individuals, the 
European Union, and even Rachel Sutphin, the 
daughter of one of the victims, Eric Sutphin, 
Governor Terry McAuliffe declined to halt William 
Morva's execution.

The main reason many people believed Mr. Morva 
should not have been executed was because his 
delusional mental state was not fully disclosed to the 
jury during his trial. Examples of his delusional 
behavior included odd eating habits, showing up at 
his father's funeral barefoot, and being found half 
naked on the floor of a campus bathroom. The latter 
caused him to be banned from the school. The 
changes in his behavior started in late adolescence, 
which is often when the signs of schizophrenia begin 
to appear. He was diagnosed with a delusional 
disorder that is a more severe mental illness than 

The question, of course. is was justice served with the 
execution of William Morva?

Decline of the Death Penalty

Often times when I think of the death penalty and 
especially death sentences that are carried out, I think 
of the southeastern part of the United States. What's 
happening in South Carolina contradicts my notion.

William Henry Bell was convicted and sentenced to 
die for the 1989 murder of an elementary school 
principal. After 30 years, his death sentence has been 
reversed because of his intellectual disability. 
Because the state's attorney general lacks the grounds 
to appeal the court's decision, Mr. Bell faces 
resentencing with life without parole as his 
maximum penalty.

South Carolina's last execution was in 2011 and only 
one person has been sentenced to death since then. 
One of Mr. Bell's lawyers said, "It is increasingly hard 
to justify retaining the death penalty in South Carolina. 
Prosecutors rarely seek it, juries more rarely impose it, and 
even when the rare individual is sentenced to death, the 
odds are that the defendant will not be executed. We can 
no longer afford the financial and social costs of such a 
broken system."

Perhaps this is a wisdom the people and governments of all 
50 states could come to understand.


After not executing anyone for more than three years, 
Governor John Kasich is ready to begin again. What 
caused the delay was the drug protocol used in the 
executions. The executioners in Ohio will again use 
midazolam. The US Supreme Court ruled that "midazolam 
was constitutional because it likely did not induce pain that 
rose to the level of "cruel and unusual punishment.'"

Ohio's first execution is set for July 26, 2017, when 
Ronald Phillips is scheduled to die.  

To see a list of the upcoming executions in Ohio through 
the Spring of 2018, go to http://kasich-updates-execution-

Kevin Cooper

I'd never heard of Kevin Cooper until I read Nicholas 
Kristof's June 17, 2017, column, "On Death Row, but 
Is He Innocent?"

Kevin Cooper sits on death row in San Quentin. He is 
convicted of murdering most of a family and a family 
friend in 1983. 

The DNA proof used to convict him came from a 
shirt that was found to have his blood on it. One 
problem with this blood sample is that it also 
contained test tube preservative. The blood probably 
came from the blood that was drawn from Mr. 
Cooper and kept after he was arrested. Additionally, 
when the test tube was examined, blood from two 
other people was also found. The police perhaps 
topped off the test tube to hide what they had done.

And there is more. One of the victims, 10-year-old 
Jessica Ryen, died with a clump of light hair in her 
hands. Her brother, Joshua, who survived told 
investigators the attackers were three or four white 
men. Kevin Cooper is black.

But there is more. At the time of the murders, a 
woman told police her housemate, a convicted 
murderer, came home wearing bloody overalls, 
overalls the woman gave to the police who threw 
them away. The man had a tool chest that was 
missing a hatchet like the one used in the murders

Mr. Cooper walked away from a minimum-security 
prison where he was serving time for a burglary. A 
court thought that Mr. Cooper killed these people to 
steal their station wagon that had been parked 
outside their home with the keys in it. When the car 
was found, there was evidence that three people in 
bloody clothing had been riding in the vehicle.

When the case was brought to then Governor Arnold 
Schwarzenegger, he refused to act. Unfortunately, 
state Attorney General Kamala Harris was also 
unhelpful. Presently, Governor Jerry Brown is 
reviewing the case - with little interest.

Mr. Cooper's lawyers are not, at this time, asking for 
him to be pardoned, but rather to find out if he's 
innocent. There is new DNA testing that has never 
been done that the pro bono lawyers are willing to 
pay for, but the government will not allow the 

If you are so moved, please contact Governor Jerry 
Governor Jerry Brown 
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173 
Sacramento, CA 95814
(a reply may take up to 90 days)
Phone: (916) 445-2841  
Fax: (916) 558-3160

Recent Exonerations

Shaurn Thomas - State: PA - Date of Exoneration: 
In 1995, Shaurn Thomas was sentenced to life in 
prison for participating in a murder and robbery in 
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that occurred five years 
earlier when he was 16. He was exonerated in 2017 
after a co-defendant admitted that he falsely 
implicated him, and the prosecution concluded that 
Thomas was elsewhere at the time of the crime.

Ledura Watkins - State: MI - Date of Exoneration: 
In 1976, Ledura Watkins was sentenced to life in 
prison for murder. He was exonerated in 2017--40 
years and nine months after his conviction--because 
the hair analysis in the case was flawed and the only 
witness against him recanted.

DeMarlo Berry - State: NV - Date of Exoneration: 
In 1995, DeMarlo Berry was sentenced to life in 
prison for murdering the manager of a Las Vegas 
fast-food restaurant during a robbery. He was 
exonerated in 2017, after the real killer confessed to 
the crime and a jailhouse informant admitted he 
falsely testified that Berry confessed to the crime.

Stays of Execution

19	Mark Pickens		OH
  	Stay granted by Ohio Supreme Court until 
exhaustion of all state post-conviction proceedings.

19	Kosoul Chanthakoummane	TX
	Stay granted by Texas Court of Criminal 
Appeals on June 7, 2017, to review claims of 
discredited forensic science. 

26	Robert Van Hook		OH
	Rescheduled for November 15, 2017 by Gov. 
John Kasich on February 10, 2017.*

26	Raymond Tibbetts		OH
	Rescheduled for October 18, 2017 by Gov. 
John Kasich on May 1, 2017.**


6	William Morva		VA
	Lethal Injection 3-drug (midazolam)

*On February 10, 2017 Governor John R. Kasichre 
issued a statement revising the schedule for eight 
upcoming executions. This revised schedule is in 
response to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth 
Circuit's denial of a motion to stay enforcement, 
pending appeal, of a federal magistrate judge's order 
declaring Ohio's execution procedures 

** On May 1, 2017 Governor Kasich issued another 
statement revising the schedule for nine upcoming 
executions. This revised schedule was in response to 
the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit's order 
setting a briefing schedule for the Court's en 
banc rehearing of the state's appeal of a federal 
magistrate judge's order issuing a preliminary 
injunction barring Ohio from carrying out 3-drug 
executions using midazolam or any execution using a 
paralytic agent or potassium chloride.

Liu Xiaobo
Submitted by Joyce Wolf

Amnesty International Press Release, 13 July 2017.

Responding to the news that Nobel Peace Prize 
Winner Liu Xiaobo has passed away, Salil Shetty, 
Secretary General of Amnesty International 

"Today we grieve the loss of a giant of human rights. 
Liu Xiaobo was a man of fierce intellect, principle, 
wit and above all humanity. 

"For decades, he fought tirelessly to advance human 
rights and fundamental freedoms in China. He did so 
in the face of the most relentless and often brutal 
opposition from the Chinese government. Time and 
again they tried to silence him, and time and again 
they failed. Despite enduring years of persecution, 
suppression and imprisonment, Liu Xiaobo 
continued to fight for his convictions. 

"Although he has passed, everything he stood for 
still endures. The greatest tribute we can now pay 
him is to continue the struggle for human rights in 
China and recognize the powerful legacy he leaves 
behind. Thanks to Liu Xiaobo, millions of people in 
China and across the world have been inspired to 
stand up for freedom and justice in the face of 

"We stand in solidarity with his wife Liu Xia and 
other members of his family, who have suffered an 
immeasurable loss. We must do all we can to end Liu 
Xia's illegal house arrest and surveillance and ensure 
that she is no longer persecuted by the authorities."

Amnesty petition to free Liu Xia

Memorial at LA City Hall
Group 22 member Stevi attended the memorial for 
Liu Xiaobo at Los Angeles City Hall on July 13. See 
more photos here:
Photo by Stevi Carroll.

Urgent Actions          28
POC                      7
Total                   35

Amnesty International Group 22
The Caltech Y
Mail Code C1-128
Pasadena, CA 91125

Amnesty International's mission is to undertake research and action focused on 
preventing and ending grave abuses of the rights to physical and mental integrity, 
freedom of conscience and expression, and freedom from discrimination, within the 
context of its work to promote all human rights.