Bill Babbitt is an activist in the abolition movement. He regularly speaks out against the capital punishment system after promising his younger brother Manny he would campaign to end the death penalty. On May 4, 1999 Bill Babbitt witnessed fifty-year-old Manny Babbitt's execution by the State of California at San Quentin prison.
The sons of an émigré from the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of western Africa, Manny and Bill Babbitt grew up in a family of eight children in Wareham, Massachusetts. Enlisting in the Marines as a teenager, Manny Babbitt served two tours of duty in Vietnam, including fighting at the siege at Khe Sanh in 1968. He later received a Purple Heart for wounds sustained during his military service in 1998, while a prisoner on Death Row.
In the years following his discharge Manny Babbitt lived in Massachusetts and Rhode Island where he suffered from schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder. According to Carbone, he spent time in psychiatric institutions, failed at relationships, lived periodically on the streets, drank and engaged in drug use, and went to prison for committing increasingly violent crimes. He moved in September 1980 to Sacramento, California to be with his brother Bill and sister-in-law Linda. There Manny Babbitt was ultimately tried and convicted of the murder of an elderly woman, Leah Schendel, who died of cardiac arrest after being severely beaten during a robbery in her home in December 1980.
After discovering his brother might be involved in this crime, Bill Babbitt approached the police and assisted them with the arrest of Manny Babbitt. Bill Babbitt states the authorities promised his brother would receive psychological help and placement in a mental health facility rather than on Death Row. In 1982, however, after being found sane and guilty of murder, Manny Babbitt was sentenced to death. According to Doyle, his family strongly believes that his initial lawyers were not competent nor did they offer post-traumatic stress disorder as part of the defense. While Manny Babbitt never denied committing the crime, he stated he could not remember anything about that night.
During the 1990s Manny Babbitt had a new legal defense team dedicated to trying to appeal his conviction, secure a new trial, and spare his life through legal channels. It was led by public defender and lead counsel Jessica McGuire and a fellow Vietnam veteran and trial attorney Chuck Patterson. In addition to Manny and Bill Babbitt's family and supporters, other Vietnam veterans also petitioned California Governor Gray Davis for clemency in this case. Both legal activity and media coverage of the case intensified in the early months of 1999, leading up to Governor Davis denying clemency, several high courts rejecting last minute appeals and intervention, and Manny Babbitt's subsequent execution.
Bill Babbitt continues to campaign against the death penalty and is frequently interviewed on network television news programs, radio stations, major daily newspapers, and magazines. He attends anti-death penalty rallies, testifies before state legislative committees, and often speaks alongside David Kaczynski, the executive director of New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty, before student and legal groups. David Kaczynski assisted federal authorities with the apprehension of his brother Ted Kaczynski, known as the "Unabomber." The documentaries And Then One Night: The Making of Dead Man Walking with Sister Helen Prejean and Mike Farrell and A Question of Justice, also with David Kaczynski, share the story of Bill and Manny Babbitt.
Bill Babbitt is active in several national organizations that oppose capital punishment. He was a board member of Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation from 2000-2004 and is a founding board member of Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights, where he still serves today.
The Bill Babbitt Collection documents nearly ten years of legal efforts to spare Manny Babbitt's life from execution, and two decades of advocacy activities to try to abolish the death penalty. The bulk of materials are court records from the 1990s related to Manny Babbitt's case. In addition, the collection includes the contents of Manny Babbitt's cell at San Quentin at the time of his execution, correspondence from both Manny and Bill Babbitt, speeches, prison records, materials from death penalty abolitionist organizations and conferences, and news articles about the case and Bill Babbitt's ongoing advocacy work.
The collection is organized into the following series:
This series includes documents related to Bill Babbitt's campaign to end the death penalty. Correspondence, speeches, documents from the organizations Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation and Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights, pamphlets from various conferences, background information and data on capital punishment, and a printed tribute to Manny Babbitt comprise this series. There also are numerous news articles about Manny and Bill Babbitt spanning the years 1998 through 2008.
All items in this collection were transferred to the M.E. Grenander Department Special Collections and Archives by Bill Babbitt in 2008.
Processed by: Tiffany O'Leary
Collection record created by: This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on
Published: 2017-09-25 23:00:13 -0400
Encoded in EAD by Terese Cavaggioni, 2013
Archival materials can be view in-person during business hours in our reading room, located on the top floor of the Science Library on the Uptown Campus.
We can also deliver digital scans for remote research for a fee.
Access to this record group is unrestricted.
The researcher assumes full responsibility for conforming with the laws of copyright. Whenever possible, the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives will provide information about copyright owners and other restrictions, but the legal determination ultimately rests with the researcher. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the Head of Special Collections and Archives.
Preferred citation for this material is as follows:
Identification of specific item, series, box, folder, Bill Babbitt Collection, 1970, 1982, 1991-2008. M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University at Albany, State University of New York (hereafter referred to as [shortened name]).
|1||1||District Court for the Eastern District of California||1991|
|1||3||California Supreme Court, Petition for writ of Habeas Corpus||1992|
|1||4||District Court for the Eastern District of California||1992-1993|
|1||5||Supreme Court- Reply to Informal Response||1993|
|1||6-9||District Court for the Eastern District of California||1995-1996|
|2||1||District Court for the Eastern District of California||1996|
|2||2-3||District Court for the Eastern District of California request to expand. Exhibits: Vol. I||1996|
|2||4-6||District Court for the Eastern District of California Exhibits: Vol. II||1996|
|2||7||District Court for the Eastern District of California Exhibits: Vol. III||1996|
|3||1||District Court for the Eastern District of California Exhibits: Vol. III||1996|
|3||2-4||District Court for the Eastern District of California||1996|
|3||6-8||District Court: Vol. I of Appendix to motion to Amend findings||1997|
|4||1-2||District Court: Vol. II of Appendix to motion to Amend findings||1997|
|4||3||District Court: Vol. III of Appendix to motion to Amend findings||1997|
|4||4||District Court for the Eastern District of California||1997|
|4||5||Court of appeals for the 9th Circuit||1997-1998|
|4||6-7||Court of appeals for the 9th Circuit- Source Material||1997|
|4||8||District Court for the Eastern District of California||1998|
|4||9||U.S. Court of appeals for the 9th Circuit||1998-1999|
|4||10||U.S. Supreme Court- Petition for Writ of Certiorari||1998|
|5||1||U.S. Supreme Court||1999|
|5||2||Superior Court of California||1999|
|5||3||Choice of Execution method form||1999|
|5||4||Incomplete Petition for Clemency||1999|
|5||5-7||Supreme Court: Exhibits to Petition for Clemency. Vol. I||1999|
|5||8-10||Supreme Count: Exhibits to Petition for Clemency. Vol. II||1999|
|6||1||Reply to Response to Clemency Petition||1999|
|6||2||Last Will and Testament||1999|
|6||3||California Supreme Court, Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus and Emergency Application for stay of Execution||1999|
|6||4-5||California Supreme Court, Exhibits to Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus and Emergency Application for stay of Execution||1999|
|1||3||The Battle of Khe Sanh||1991|
|1||6||Khe Sanh Veterans Reunion||1993|
|1||7||Correspondence from State of California or San Quentin||1996-1999, Undated|
|1||8||Copy of Purple Heart Award Certificate||1998|
|1||9||Book excerpts, Poems and Drawings||1998, Undated|
|1||10||Inmate Work Supervisors Time Log||1998-1999|
|1||11||Petition for Clemency||1999|
|1||12-13||Exhibits to Petition for Clemency Vol. II||1999|
|2||1||Exhibits to Petition for Clemency Vol. II||1999|
|2||2||Reply to Response to Clemency Petition||1999|
|2||6||The Heart of Understanding||Undated|
|3||1||Valley of Decision||1991|
|4||1||Empty cardboard box which housed Manny Babbitt's personal items in his cell at San Quentin||Undated|
|1||1||Death Penalty Facts||1995, 2000, 2005|
|1||2||Bill and Linda Babbitt Correspondence||1995, 1999-2006|
|1||3||Speeches and Articles||1996, 2001, 2006, Undated|
|1||4||Letters Written by Manuel Babbitt to Bill and Linda Babbitt||1997, Undated|
|1||5||Manny Babbitt Articles||1998|
|1||6||Declaration of William Babbitt May||1999|
|1||7||Tribute to Manny Babbitt (unbound copy)||1999|
|1||8||Tribute to Manny Babbitt (bound copy)||1999|
|1||9-10||Manny Babbitt Articles||1999|
|1||11||Letters to Governor Davis and Mayor Brown||1999, Undated|
|1||12||Religious Views||1999, Undated|
|1||13||News Articles about Death Penalty||1999-2001, 2005-2007|
|2||2||Conferences and Events||1999-2005|
|2||3||Manny Babbitt Loaves and Fishes Donations||2000|
|2||4||Manuel Babbitt Information Sheets||2000, Undated|
|2||5||Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation||2000-2003, Undated|
|2||6||Bill and Manny Babbitt Media Coverage||2000-2008|
|2||7||California Death Row Inmates||2002|
|2||8||Campaign for the Nobel Peace Prize for Governor Ryan of Illinois||2003|
|2||9||Understanding Capital Punishment||2003|
|2||10||Capital Defense Handbook||2005|
|2||11||Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights (MVFHR)||2005-2007, Undated|
|2||12||Conferences and Events||2006-2008, Undated|
|3||2||Bill and Linda Babbitt Correspondence||2007-2008, Undated|
|3||4||Buttons, Stickers and Bumper Stickers||Undated|
|3||5||Campaign to End the Death Penalty||Undated|
|3||7||Advocacy Pamphlets and Backgrounders||Undated|
|3||8||Bill Babbitt Remarks||Undated|