Bernina's only chance for freedom is to receive clemency from Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker.
Justice For Bernina
Bernina should not be sentenced to die in prison because of a repugnant, homophobic prosecution that asserted her lesbian identity caused her to kill. Further, as the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation stated in support of Bernina’s clemency petition, “It is unjust to continue to incarcerate Ms. Mata for an act taken in self-defense and preventing what she believed to be imminent sexual assault, given her extensive past trauma of sexual harm.” State representatives of Illinois today have a duty and moral obligation to right these egregious wrongs and correct this manifest injustice by commuting Bernina’s life sentence.
Had the death penalty not been sought, Bernina would have been eligible for a sentence of between 20 and 60 years. If Bernina’s claim of self defense was accepted, or the mitigating factors identified and credited, she would likely have been found guilty of lesser charges, including second degree murder warranting a sentence between 4 and 20 years. If that had been the case she would have already been released.
Even apart from any self-defense claims, after 23 ½ years in prison, Bernina has now served nearly a decade longer than the average person serves for a murder conviction in the United States. She has earned the respect of her peers and always held a job, gaining numerous skills that would make her a contributing and employable member of society if she is released.
Clemency is Bernina’s only available recourse to seek relief from her profoundly unjust and disproportionate life sentence. Her request for clemency was submitted to the Governor on January 25, 2021 and included 21 letters of support from community organizations, friends, and supporters who committed to provide housing as well as financial, social, and emotional support to her following her release.
At a hearing in June 2022, Bernina’s team made the case for her freedom, accompanied by dozens of supporters.
Now, Gov. Pritzker has the power to commute her sentence to time served and bring her home for the holidays. Please Join us in calling on Gov. Pritzker to bring Bernina home for the holidays!
The #FreeBernina team and supporters at clemency hearing in July 2022.