September 30, 2014

Latest News About Jarvis's Case

  1. Jan 2014: Case is fully briefed in response to Evidentiary Hearing Fact Finding Report. Lawyers are currently waiting to hear from CA Supreme Court for a date for oral arguments.
  2. 2/24/11:Read the summary of Jarvis's evidentiary hearing. For more information about the evidentiary hearing, please contact us.
  3. 4/11/08: San Francisco Chronicle Article: New Probe of ’85 Murder of San Quentin Guard
  4. 4/10/08: California Supreme Court orders an evidentiary hearing about the issues Jarvis has raised in the habeas corpus proceedings.
  5. 2/11/08: Jarvis's lawyers file response to the State's position in the habeas corpus proceedings.
  6. 8/16/07: Jarvis is reclassified to Grade A status.
  7. 7/16/07: State Attorney General responds to Order to Show Cause in habeas corpus proceeding.
  8. 3/11/07: Jarvis's story appears on David Seth's popular blogspot, http://dreamantilles.blogspot.com.
  9. 3/10/07: San Francisco Chronicle Article: State told to respond to prisoner's claims, Court takes unusual step before appeal in death penalty case
  10. 3/10/07: Marion Foot's Article - Jarvis Jay Masters: An Innocent Man - Now Available
  11. 3/8/07: Jarvis Masters Leaves San Quentin's Adjustment Center After 21 Years; Is Relocated to Death Row's East Block.
  12. 2/14/07: California Supreme Court issues Order for State to respond to Jarvis's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus.


Jarvis Jay Masters is a widely-published African American Buddhist writer living on San Quentin's Death Row. Thousands of people have read his stories and essays. A growing international community of concerned citizens is calling for his wrongful conviction to be overturned. This website was created by the Committee to Free Jarvis Jay Masters. It does not originate in San Quentin.

Jarvis Masters was convicted of participating in the killing of a prison guard, Sergeant Howell Burchfield, despite the fact that he was in another part of the prison when the guard was killed. Another prisoner was convicted of actually stabbing Sergeant Burchfield, and a third man of ordering the killing. We have deep sympathy for the Burchfield family’s loss, and while we respect their desire for justice, we believe that Jarvis is not guilty of the crime for which he alone was given the death sentence.

This website provides an introduction to Jarvis Masters' life and work. You can find out about Jarvis's background. We have provided a summary of how and why Jarvis was sentenced to death, and an update on his appeal. We also set out why we believe Jarvis is innocent.

While living on death row, Jarvis has become an eloquent writer. Read about his highly-praised books That Bird Has My Wings: An Autobiography of an Innocent Man on Death Row (how to order it) as well as Finding Freedom -- Writings From Death Row (how to order it). Both books have been praised by such important figures as Desmond Tutu, Sister Helen Prejean, and Angela Davis.

An important aspect of Jarvis's life on Death Row has been his Buddhist practice. Read about how Jarvis became a Buddhist, and how meditation has changed his life and affected the lives of his fellow prisoners.

We in the Committee join the Catholic Church, numerous Protestant denominations, Amnesty International, and people of conscience around the world in seeking an end to capital punishment. We have included pages discussing abolition of the death penalty, and offer suggestions on how you can join in this work and assist in the effort to free Jarvis.

Many people have responded to Jarvis's situation. We will post some of the feedback our Committee has received from supporters. We also provide a way for you to respond to this website and to support the campaign to free Jarvis Jay Masters.

Pema Chödrön is one of America's best-known Buddhist teachers, and is a personal teacher of Jarvis Masters. This is what she writes about Jarvis:

"Jarvis is an easy man to respect and an easy man to love. What I learn from him all the time is what it really means to keep one's vows of not harming and of helping other people in whatever ways one can. I always think, 'If Jarvis can do it in those most challenging and difficult situations, I can do it too.' It is a continual aspiration from my heart that Jarvis Masters not be killed and that I have the pleasure of knowing him as a free man; a free man who I know will benefit all the people he encounters."

— Pema Chödrön

"That Bird Has My Wings" - by Jarvis Jay Masters

Foreword by Pema Chödrön
"One cannot be neutral in situations of injustice, and in his memoir, That Bird Has My Wings, Jarvis Jay Masters exposes the complex problems of a system that has resulted in a disproportionate number of blacks in the U.S. prison system. In the history of South Africa, we are not unfamiliar with this phenomenon. Forthright about his own failings as well, Masters’ truth has brought him reconciliation with the divine and with his best self. His memoir is a plea for reform, for a common humanity, and I share his hope that this moving story will redouble our efforts to make sure that every child matters."
— Desmond Tutu





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