Ethan Hawke has asked New Jersey's acting governor to grant clemency to a 65-year-old woman who has been in prison for more than 16 years for murdering her police officer-boyfriend.

The 35-year-old actor said in an e-mail Tuesday that his mother knows Melvina McClain, who is serving a 30-year-old sentence for shooting Detective Louis Glenn in a bar in 1986, and that she "believes in her entirely."

Hawke's e-mail described McClain as "a woman important to my family."

McClain, who worked as a city parking violations officer, has claimed that Glenn assaulted and threatened her during their relationship.

Hawke, who grew up in West Windsor, released a letter he sent Monday to acting Gov. Richard J. Codey. A spokesman for the acting governor said Codey couldn't comment until the letter had been received.

In the letter, Hawke asked that McClain's sentence be commuted "so she can live the last years of her life helping her children, her grandchildren and many others learn from her example of redemption."

The Oscar-nominated actor also cites a long history of abuse in McClain's life.

Hawke's mother, Leslie Hawke, befriended McClain when she took a year off from her job as a publishing executive to teach at a Trenton parochial school.

An entry in a student journal had "all this stuff in there about her mother murdering her boyfriend and I thought, `This kid has an imagination,'" Leslie Hawke said in an interview Tuesday. "But it turned out to be true."

She got to know McClain and attended her trial. The two women have exchanged letters over the years.

Last week, Hawke visited McClain at a Clinton correctional facility. The visit prompted her son to write to Codey.

The request for clemency has the backing of the state Office of the Public Defender, which filed a clemency petition in June with the State Parole Board.

The petition claims McClain suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, stemming from a lifetime of psychological and physical abuse, including more than 400 beatings before she was 18.