When Matthew Hodgson was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the death of a New York City taxi driver in 2007, the judge noted the man’s death had been “the greatest tragedy of our time.”
But as Hodgson’s sentence neared, he started to question whether the judge was doing enough to make sure that justice would be done.
Hodgson, who was serving a life sentence for the murder of a Queens police officer, had pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter.
In his sentencing memorandum, Hodgson wrote, “If I could have a conscience, I would kill myself.”
He asked the judge, “Why did you sentence me to life without parole?”
Hodgson had faced a sentence of life without the possibility of parole in the case.
He was one of several men to write letters to the judge during Hodgson s incarceration, asking for his clemency and calling on him to set a precedent for how the public should be treated in future cases.
Hodgman also penned a letter to the court asking for the sentence to be reduced.
Hodgsons letter, published in the New York Post, was among more than 100 that were sent to the city’s Supreme Court during the course of the coronaviolis pandemic.
Hodgon s letter to Judge Thomas Hodgson read in part, “I ask you to do the right thing, because I have never been a violent person, nor am I going to be in a situation like this.
I ask that you consider me a criminal.
And I ask that I have the freedom to do what I want.”
In February, after a public outcry, the Supreme Court reversed the sentence and Hodgson served a new sentence of 30 years.
“If you are guilty, please think about what you did to me,” Hodgson said.
“I can only hope that this will be a wake-up call for all of us.”
The judge, who is black, was nominated by President Barack Obama in 2016.
Hodgssons sentencing in 2007 led to the death in jail of the taxi driver’s partner, a white man.
The man was shot to death by a white police officer after he refused to drop his weapon.
Hodg s death spurred an international debate about the treatment of minorities in America and the impact of the pandemic on criminal justice.
The New York Times ran a lengthy profile of Hodgson and his letter, and he later received a national Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series.
In 2020, he was nominated for his performance in the HBO series “Westworld.”
Hodgson has been a vocal critic of the death penalty in recent years, and last year, he told CNN that “a lot of these folks have been locked up for 30 years, are out of the community, are not represented by lawyers, and there’s not much they can do, except to hang on for their life sentences.”
“They’re out there on death row,” Hodgons comments.
“They just need to understand that there’s a whole other life that they could have had.”
As a result, Hodgsson and other inmates began organizing and forming an advocacy group called the New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty, or N.A.A., which advocates for the death penalties and other justice reforms.
The group’s website describes the group as “a non-profit organization of ex-convicts and incarcerated people who believe that justice should be served in the criminal justice process and that the state should treat all citizens equally.”
The group is part of the Sentencing Project, which aims to improve the justice system and improve the lives of people incarcerated by focusing on criminal reform and public safety.
The organization also seeks to increase awareness of the consequences of mandatory minimum sentencing, which has been used to deter nonviolent offenders from committing new crimes.
Hodg ss letter to Hodgson is part in a series of letters that were published in The New Yorker in January 2020.
Hodg tson was nominated to the Supreme Courtship by President Donald Trump in 2016, and has argued in court cases that he has been unfairly targeted by the Trump administration for his political activism.
In his letter to him, Hodg s says that he is “deeply saddened and deeply angry” by Trump’s decision to terminate his nomination, and urges the president to reconsider.
He writes, “There are some things that have changed since I was first nominated, and it seems to me that you have been one of them.
You’ve been given a lifetime sentence, and you’re now stuck in a life that is going to end when you’re no longer able to serve on the United States Supreme Court.”