CLEMENCY PETITION - PLEASE READ

In August 2014 Florida governor Rick Scott assigned "clemency counsel" to represent Lambrix in a final clemency petition before a death warrant is signed scheduling his execution. A clemency submission was filed on 5 December.

PlEASE SIGN HERE THE PETITION to grant a full clemency review for Michael Lambrix

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Mosquito

It's that time of year and especially here in Northern Florida we know to expect the onslaught of those micro winged demons that seemingly only exist to eagerly feed off our flesh. More often than not, they will lay in wait until we drift off to sleep, and only then descend down from the dark shadows.

Although we are now allowed a simple small plastic fan to elevate the heat and humidity of the semitropical summers, it still remains too hot to sleep under a blanket or even a sheet. With few exception, we each fall into our fit full sleep wearing nothing more then a pair of boxer shorts - some even choose to wear nothing at all. It's the humidity that makes these long summer months unbearable, and that humidity begins to climb in May then reaches its climax by July and through
August, into September.

Even after 30 years I'm not used to it. Some say that humans are like cockroaches, as we possess the ability to adapt to our environment and survive. I've even said it myself more than once, and for the most past it's true. Looking back to the young man I once was when i first came to Florida death row in the early spring of 1984, I know that I've adapted to this environment and found a way to survive even as too many others around me were broken and died. I am a survivor, although I remain uncertain as to whether that is a blessing or a curse as I know only too well that my misery and suffering will relentlessly continue as long as I still draw any breath and my reprieve will only come after I've drawn my last breath.

Lately I have found myself thinking a lot about death - my death. I suppose that's understandable given the fact that late last year I went through what we call "pre-warrant clemency" which is when the governor assigns the condemned man a lawyer and then they go through that predictable pretense of contemplating whether the condemned man is worthy of mercy and compassion by grant of clemency from the governor, sparing his life.

But in 30 years not even one Florida prisoner has had his life spared by a grant of clemency. It's all a deliberate pretense. Once this morbid charade has been played out, then your name is added to that growing list of those the governor will sign a death warrant on, scheduling your imminent execution. My pre-warrant clemency was submitted in early December, 2014 (click here to read the clemency petition) and it has been undoubtedly denied just as all are without even so much as a meaningful opportunity to present the evidence to be properly considered.

Florida has significantly increased the number of executions carried out in recent years as the current pro-death governor (Rick Scott) is determined to kill more prisoners than any governor in Florida ever has. And once the next execution is carried out, he will have accomplished that goal. There is little doubt that he will then proceed to far surpass it, as governor Scott will be in office until January 2019.

But executions in Florida are on a temporary hold pending review by the Supreme Court on whether the initial lethal injection drug (Midazolam) is sufficient to render the intended victim unconscious before the following two drugs are administered. Legally, if the condemned prisoner is not unconscious before the following two drugs are administered, intended to inflict death, then the prisoner will undoubtedly experience pain and that form of execution would constitute "cruel and
unusual punishment", which is prohibited under long standing Federal law.

A decision on that pending case will be rendered no later than the end of June. The prevailing consensus among legal experts is that the Supreme Court will reject this claim by a marginal 5 to 4 vote, finding that, absent proof that prison officials consciously intended to inflict pain, the inadvertent infliction of physical pain through the alleged failure to render the intended victim unconscious is not sufficient to establish an Eight Amendment violation.

Quite simple, a "botched" execution, no matter how horrid and no matter how much pain the condemned prisoner may have suffered, is not enough - there must be a subjective intent to inflict pain before it arises to that level of becoming a constitutionally intolerable infliction of "cruel and unusual punishment".

Once that issue is decided, it is anticipated that Florida will then again to proceed to carry out its record number of state-sanctioned executions, and as early as July the governor will again proceed to sign a record number of death warrants and I have every reason to believe that my own name is towards the top of that list and that in the foreseeable future (before the end of the year) I will once again be transferred to the Florida State Prison (where executions are carried out) and placed on death watch with no more then 4-5 weeks to go before the state of Florida will proceed to put me to death despite substantial evidence of my innocence.

These are the thought I struggle to escape as I lay on my bunk trying to sleep. But arguably May is the worst month of all, as it takes some time to adjust to the change of seasons. Just a few weeks ago it was almost freezing and I had to hide under a heavy wool blanket to sleep. But now the nights are both warm and humid and for the first time in months I find myself lying there long into the night wearing nothing but my boxer short as that small electric fan sends a gentle breeze my way and still I could not compel myself to sleep.

Then I heard it, that unmistakable buzzing of a small mosquito as it flew close to my head. In the darkness I could not see it, but the minute it would deliberately dive-bomb down around my head, perhaps deriving some sense of pleasure from inflicting that knowledge upon me that it intended to feed off my flesh and resistance would be futile.

Again and again I tried to swat this malicious winged beast from the air, but missed each time. It certainly was a crafty little devil, obviously able to avoid my best efforts and even enjoying this game it played as if biting me and drawing my blood was merely only a reward for a game well played.

Forcing me to anticipate that inevitable infliction was the true intent and instinctively this mosquito knew that tormenting its intended victim would inflict far more then that final act as it is that awareness of imminent infliction that outweighs that final, even merciful, act itself.

As I continued to do my very best to put a stop to this act of insane depravity that only something as evil as a winged beast from the very bowels of hell could inflict, I couldn't help but realize that what this mosquito was doing to me was no different than what the state of Florida planned to do - it wasn't enough to merely put me to death, as part of their ritual was to first make me aware that they intended to kill me and that before I would die, they would demand that I first suffer immense pain.

And as I thought these thoughts, I heard that buzzing once again and in that instant, I killed that beast. At least that mosquito would torment me no more.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Will U.S. Supreme Court rule Florida’s death penalty unconstitutional?



For 13 years, Florida’s death penalty process has been on thin ice at the U.S. Supreme Court. The Legislature has pretended not to notice even though the state Supreme Court sent an early warning.
Now, the ice is cracking.

On Monday, the high court agreed to consider whether Florida’s law conflicts with its 2002 opinion in Ring v. Arizona that the jury, not the judge, must determine the existence of aggravating factors to support a death penalty.

Florida law leaves that to the judge, along with the power to condemn a defendant even without a unanimous jury recommendation for death. Only Alabama has a law like that.
Although juries are told they must find aggravating factors in order to recommend death, there’s no provision for specifying the factors or even how they voted. The judge is left to infer what they found.

If the U.S. Supreme Court rules Florida’s peculiarities to be unconstitutional, many if not most of Florida’s 393 death row inmates might have their sentences–though not their convictions–overturned. The case is scheduled for argument during the court’s term beginning in October 2015.
The court could decide the case on narrower grounds. Convicted murderer Timothy Hurst, who slashed and stabbed a restaurant co-worker at Pensacola, is also challenging Florida’s refusal to have the jury rather than the judge determine whether he is mentally retarded and ineligible for the death penalty.

Then, too, it takes the votes of only four justices to accept an appeal. There might not be a fifth to do anything but uphold Hurst’s conviction and sentence.
For now, however, Florida legislators who favor the death penalty have a decision to make. Do they enact legislation to require unanimous jury votes and specific findings? That would moot the Hurst case with respect to future convictions, but it might lend strength to his claim. Or do they sit on their hands, pretending that the situation in Washington isn’t serious?

The moral aspect is a separate and compelling question. Nearly every other state has addressed it either by having no death penalty, by repealing it, or by requiring the jury to be unanimous before a life is taken, which is also federal law.
In 27 of the 31 death penalty states, according to a Florida Senate staff report, “the jury’s decision to impose life imprisonment is final and may not be disturbed by the trial judge under any circumstances.

If jurors don’t have to be unanimous, do they spend enough time and moral capital on debating life versus death? A 2006 American Bar Association report cautioned Florida that they don’t.
In Tallahassee, both the House and Senate have identical bills to conform to Florida’s procedure by requiring specific jury findings and a unanimous vote. SB 664 by state Sen. Thad Altman, R-Rockledge, is on the Criminal Justice Committee agenda but was passed by Tuesday for testimony on the prison scandals. It remains on the agenda for next week. House Bill 139, by state Reps. Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, and Clovis Watson Jr., D-Gainesville, has yet to be scheduled by the first of three committees to which it is assigned. The legislators had filed the same bills last year to no effect.
“If you want the Supreme Court to invalidate the death penalty, just sit on your hands,” Rodriguez says.


Death row inmates have raised the Ring decision in scores of unsuccessful appeals to the Florida Supreme Court, which has never agreed that it applies here. Individual justices have repeatedly said that it does. When Hurst’s public defenders argued it last year, the court’s majority said in effect, “That’s our position and we’re sticking to it.”

But it was a rare split decision, 4-3, in which the minority agreed with Hurst.
“I continue to believe that, in light of Ring, Florida’s death penalty statute, as applied in circumstances like those presented in this case where there is no unanimous finding as to any of the aggravating circumstances, is unconstitutional,” wrote Justice Barbara Pariente in a dissent signed also by Justices James E. C. Perry and Jorge Labarga.

The Florida law spells out 16 aggravating circumstances, among them the defendant having a prior felony conviction or committing the murder in the course of a robbery. Some can be assumed automatically–for example, conviction of another crime is a matter of record–but most have to be supported by testimony for the judge to invoke them.
In Hurst’s sentencing order, as Pariente pointed out, there were only two aggravators: a murder that was “heinous, atrocious and cruel” and committed in the course of a robbery. But although testimony suggested that Hurst had robbed the restaurant, he wasn’t convicted on any such count, and there was no way to know whether the jurors believed the killing could also be characterized as “heinous, atrocious and cruel.”

Because the jury voted only 7-5 for death, “the slimmest margin permitted,” Pariente wrote, “it is actually possible that there was not even a majority of jurors who agreed that the same aggravator applied.”
The Florida law provides for automatic Supreme Court review of every capital conviction and death sentence. According to the clerk’s office, of 296 cases heard from 2000 through 2012, only 60–that’s a mere 20 percent–involved unanimous jury death recommendations. The court upheld 38 of them. In 32 cases, the jury votes were 7 to 5 and the court sustained only 17, barely half.
In refusing to apply Ring, the Florida Supreme Court noted in a 2005 case that the U.S. Supreme Court had upheld the state’s law against challenges of a similar nature. But those cases came before Ring, and the high court hasn’t spoken on Florida’s situation since.
In the 2005 case, Justice Raul Cantero’s majority opinion suggested that “in light of developments in other states and at the federal level, the Legislature should revisit the statute to require some unanimity in the jury’s recommendations…

“We ask the Legislature to revisit it to decide whether it wants Florida to remain the outlier state.”
That’s apparently what the Legislature did want. If Hurst wins in Washington, chaos in Florida could be their reward.


Martin Dyckman is a retired associate editor of the St. Petersburg Times. He lives in western N.C.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Chaingang Charlie: Consequences of Free Speech in America

Just as the dawn of the new year barely broke over that distant horizon that is our as yet undetermined path forward, the phrase “I am Charlie” has become a call of unity throughout the western world as those outraged over the senseless mass execution of journalists and staff of the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, fanatically stood as one in zealous protest over this malicious attack upon the exercise of free speech.

In Paris alone, over a million men and women gathered on the Place de la Republique, with millions more around the world marching in solidarity, and with the notable exception of a representative of the United States, the leaders of 40 nations stood hand-in-hand leading this march for freedom. Only later would President Obama publicly apologize for not sending an envoy to represent America, as if it was nothing more than a trivial oversight.

But was it really an oversight, or did America’s absence in this united message that Freedom of Speech cannot be suppressed by acts of violence actually reflect a truth few wish to confront - that like so many other fundamental principles that the western world considers “basic human rights,” America’s commitment to the concept of free speech is nothing more than a smoke and mirrors show intended to project an image that is anything but the reality that exists behind this curtain of manufactured deception.

Not everything is always as it might appear to be - and this is especially true for the perpetuation of propaganda American feeds the rest of the world, too often condemning other countries for their own history of human rights violations while arrogantly exercising their own distorted views that allow America to stand alone amongst the western nations in putting its own citizens to death through the practice of capital punishment, depriving alleged terrorists of any pretense of a fair trial while indefinitely holding them under oppressive conditions of a military base known as Guantanamo Bay. And then there’s the truth that in America today millions of citizens are prohibited from exercising free speech, and those who do dare to speak out against this government sanctioned suppression are subjected to extreme consequences that the rest of the western world would condemn as barbaric and inhumane. And nobody seems to care.

What I’m referring to is the millions of prisoners currently incarcerated in state and federal prisons across America. It is a fact that the United States imprisons more of its citizens than any other country in the world. Florida alone currently incarcerates well over 100,000 men and women under objectively oppressive conditions with thousands held in long term solitary confinement designed to brutally break both body and spirit, for years at a time. Per capita, Florida has more condemned prisoners facing execution than any other state, including Texas and California, and Florida is now aggressively pushing for a record number of executions.

But Florida is indicative of most other states and the federal prison system, as it is common practice to severely restrict prisoners’ exercise of free speech, and uniformly, there are extreme consequences imposed on those few prisoners who might dare to speak out against the system.

My own experience is comparable to that of countless others who have also found themselves targeted for retaliation after they dared exercise this pretense of free speech. After over 30 years on Florida’s death row (please check out: www.southerninjustice.net) I have often been subjected to the consequences that result from speaking out against the abuse of prisoners, on numerous occasions even physically beaten and threatened with death for no other reason but that I refused to remain silent and I continue to refuse to be coerced into silence.

In this particular piece I will focus only on the most recent experiences, which will sufficiently show how “free speech” for millions of Americans is nothing more than a myth - that the very government that claims to be the model of promoting free speech actually systemically suppresses the speech they don’t want the rest of the world to know about. And because we are prisoners, nobody really cares.

Almost a year ago today, Warden Diane Andrews showed up at my solitary cell accompanied by her hand-picked entourage and ordered me to “cuff up” (standard protocol for when any death-sentenced prisoner is removed from their cell). I immediately complied and was then escorted to the other end of the death-row unit and placed in what we call the “Hannibal Lector” cell - a fully enclosed “high security” cell completely stripped of everything except a solid concrete slab comprising a “bunk” and a sink/toilet combo, and nothing else.

I then, and only then, learned that my transgression warranting this extreme punishment was that a few weeks earlier I wrote the Miami Herald newspaper protesting their coverage of the execution of Thomas Knight, aka Askari Muhammad, who was put to death on January, 2014 for killing a guard on Florida’s death row in 1981. Apparently, Warden Andrews subjectively interpreted my letter as somehow constituting a “threat to staff,” thereby justifying this ultra-high security status. I wasn’t that surprised as Warden Andrews had a history of responding in extreme fashion to matters she found inconsistent with her totalitarian agenda, and it wasn’t the first time I personally felt her wrath. (Please read “Holidays in the Hole”)

For the next six weeks I remained in that “Hannibal Lector” cell, and was only finally removed when I was abruptly transferred to Florida State Prison, which many of us call the “Alcatraz of the South.” (Please read “Alcatraz of the South Chap. 1-6) As is only too typical for governmental bureaucrats, it took months before Warden Andrews’ superiors finally got around to reviewing her actions taken against me, and ordered all action terminated upon finding that there was nothing to support any alleged infraction... they concluded that Warden Andrews’ actions were “unfounded.”

Finally removed from this heightened security status and transferred back to the main death row unit at Union Correctional, it came as no surprise to me that numerous Florida newspapers revealed that Warden Andrews was under both state and federal criminal investigation in relationship to staff working under her using excessive force, even killing one inmate by “gassing” him to death. (specifically referred to in “Holidays in the Hole”)

With Warden Andrews under criminal investigation, staff wanted to suppress any further exposure of the systemic abuse of prisoners in Florida. That especially meant silencing those few such as myself that refused to be silenced. Once again, staff unexpectedly showed up at my solitary cell, this time delivering a copy of a “disciplinary report” written against me by Warden Andrews’ Senior Classification officer, Mary Mahoney, alleging that I violated prison rules by allowing my previously published book, “To Live and Die on Death Row” to be sold on a website. There was no dispute that I was not responsible for another party offering my book for sale, but rather they disingenuously interpreted a rule that requires prisoners to inform the mailroom if a book is to be published. My failure to inform the mailroom was itself construed as a “major violation” that resulted in my being once again placed in the “hole” for 30 days, deprived of all but the most basic “privileges” of food and clothing.



These are just a few of the examples of the consequences of exercising “free speech” if you’re a prisoner in America. And my own experiences are only too common throughout the prison system. Although some would argue that the fact I can write about this experience as I am now doing shows that I am allowed to exercise “free speech,” they conveniently ignore that by writing this I will undoubtedly again be subjected to extreme punitive action - and there are very few like myself who will bear this cross - by predictably imposing punishment upon those few who do dare speak out, prison officials deliberately silence the majority and that is government sanctioned suppression of free speech.

It’s a simple truth... free speech does not exist if and when there are consequences imposed upon those who do dare to speak out. And across America today it is the government (i.e. prison officials) that is prohibiting the millions of prisoners in America today from speaking out.

Gathering in crowds even a million strong and proclaiming “I am Charlie” amounts to nothing more than hollow rhetoric devoid of any meaningful substance if at the end of the day the crowds go home an forget about the cause. To allow deliberate suppression of free speech to continue anywhere, especially when imposed upon millions of men and women in America today, should be as aggressively condemned by just as many who marched in the streets of Paris.

But it won’t happen, as even in the western world, while we claim to zealously guard against encroachments on these basic human rights, these same masses remain blissfully oblivious to the same deprivations of fundamental freedoms and basic human rights when they are imposed upon prisoners. This epidemic of apathy undermines that very foundation upon which this illusion of “free speech” stands, as no society can deliberately disenfranchise millions of its own citizens and still call itself a free society.

If you would like to have a free copy of my book, “To Live and Die on Death Row,” you can download it at www.southerninjustice.net
In that I am now facing probable imminent execution, I would ask that you sign a petition protesting my intended execution, as I am innocent of the crime for which I have been wrongfully convicted and condemned. To sign this petition, just click HERE

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Why We Slaughter Turkeys, and Other People Too

Most of us blissfully assume that animals don't have a soul and so there's no real debate on whether animals, such as the over 240 million turkeys that were put to
death this past month just to satisfy our appetite for that quintessential American holiday ritual known as the Thanksgiving feast, all went to Heaven or hell - I doubt anyone gave it too much thought at all as it was just a turkey, so who really cares?

But what if it was the family dog? Or how about our beloved cat? Many would then argue that there must be a special place in the afterlife for our furry friends that were so much part of our life that we considered them to be part of our family. Many will pay incredible amounts of money to even have their beloved pet cremated or buried and will argue without reservation that their Fiddo or Fluffy certainly did have a soul. It's all about our own emotional connection to that particular animal, and that's the sort of connection we just don't make with an anonymous turkey conveniently purchased at the local supermarket, already plucked and gutted and ready to throw into the oven and cooked until the moist flesh is ready to melt in our mouths.

Amidst all this holiday pageantry there's that other now traditional ritual each Thanksgiving in which both state governors and the President of the United States publically pardons a turkey, sparing it the fate of the butcher and rather than be condemned to be devoured at Thanksgiving, this one lucky bird will instead be sent to live the rest of its life on a farm. I watch this ritual every year and always wondered how it was that they picked that one particular bird from the hundreds of millions of others that faced all but certain deaths.



Did a farmer go out to the barn and just snatch up the first turkey he got his hands on and ship it to the president and that was it? What stroke of faith spared this one otherwise undistinguishable bird from the millions of others and made it somehow worthy of this act of grace? Perhaps there was more to the story....maybe unknown to us there was a top secret commission tucked away in the basement of the White House, serving at the discretion of President Obama, and it was their solemn task to search across the vast North American continent from coast to coast for verifiable stories of remarkable acts of extraordinary valor by otherwise unknown turkeys such as that unheard story about the young child that fell into the farm pond and would have surely died if not for that one turkey that raised all sorts of ruckus until the farmer realized that something was horribly wrong and followed the turkey back to that pond, arriving just in time to save his only son. Certainly that turkey would deserve a pardon.

Or perhaps, unbeknownst to all but that top secret commission deep down in the bowels of the White House, all turkeys are inherently evil and it is our moral obligation to slaughter them and feast off their flesh just as other cultures did with their enemies, such as the Mayas who conquered their neighboring tribes and then sacrificed their prisoners to their gods, eating their flesh just as we do the turkeys. Maybe these millions of turkeys were planning to overthrow the human race and this plot would have succeeded, if not for that one heroic turkey that risked life and limb to rat out the rest of the flock. By turning snitch, he earned immunity and this whole presidential pardon ritual is nothing more than yet another governmental conspiracy to perpetuate an image for the masses of sheep (i.e., average Americans) to blindly believe, allowing them to feel morally justified when they gather around that table and feed off that turkey flesh. 

Maybe Tom the turkey is actually part of the Taliban and this American thanksgiving ritual is an extension of this never-ending "war on terror" coordinated behind the scenes by Homeland Security. No, that can't be - this turkey slaughter began long before our beloved CIA created what we now call the Taliban. Oh - I know, it's got to be a communist plot, as we all know turkeys do live in what could be described as quasi-Siberian gulags and this certainly wouldn't be the first time that a former prisoner organized his other brethren to rise above their shackles and chains and overthrow society.

Now that i think about it, I do recall watching a program about poultry farms and how these seemingly innocent turkeys would gather in little groups they call "flocks" and can be heard clucking and gobbling amongst themselves in a language unknown to us. If that isn't proof enough that they must be plotting  against us, then think about this for a moment...why are all these turkeys white?
Myself, I'm a white guy and I must admit that I've been white my whole life. And so I know what happens when you get that many white guys in a group as it's our inherent nature to inevitably plot to take over the world and if we can do it then why not these hundreds of millions of nothing but white turkeys, raised on farms throughout the land by white rednecks?

Which brings us to the "people" equation in all of this. Now, I guess when it comes down to it I can't really swear under oath that I actually seen what I thought I saw when that big white turkey stood on that table as our even bigger black president proudly granted it a pardon, as his daughters looked on, but I want to say that I'm pretty sure that as the camera momentarily focused on the turkey I might have seen it ruffle its feathers and sort of wink, as if looking straight into my soul and sending me that message, telepathically laughing at me as unlike that turkey, we all knew I have no chance at being granted a pardon. And even that turkey knew that if it was a person, it wouldn't have any hope for a pardon, either.

The truth of the matter is just this simple - millions of turkeys must die to feed our appetite each Thanksgiving and this whole ritual we go through to get there is necessary as it just wouldn't be the same without the ritual ....and we got to kill a few people too as that's the American way.

No, these hundreds of millions of turkeys were not plotting to take over the world and those few turkeys that were granted pardons didn't perform any heroic acts to deserve that act of grace. But I'd like to think that these turkeys, and all living creatures, do have a soul as if they do perhaps there's still hope for humanity too.

As these turkeys were led away to their mass slaughter and this machinery of death brought about their demise, delivering their frozen flesh to the local supermarket so that the average American family could feast from their flesh, then discard their picked bones into the trash  without so much as another thought, I'd like to think that the soul of each of those turkeys rose above the horror inflicted upon their bodies and they now look down upon us without malice or the need for vengeance, but rather they bow their beaks in a silent moment of unified prayer that one day humanity will evolve beyond its need to kill. And maybe if enough turkeys pray for humanity, maybe one day we too will evolve into a species that is no longer driven by that need to kill and this ritual of death we so desire will be a page of past history.

But I doubt I'll be around to see it, as like all those turkeys, my days are now numbered and the state of Florida is already in the process of carrying out its own ritual of death. With what might be my last appeals exhausted, I'm now going through the "clemency" process, knowing only too well that at least here in Florida nobody has been granted clemency in over 30 years. Once they go through the pretense of clemency review, then my death warrant will be signed and my execution scheduled, and I proceed forward knowing that nobody has survived a death warrant in Florida in many year.

And most likely before the next turkey is again granted a pardon, I will be led into Florida's own slaughter house and laid out before those that gather to watch this ritual, metaphorically gathered to feed off my flesh. While convincing themselves that my death is morally justified, and some will even celebrate the successful execution, others will be hurt deeply by my passing. But in the end, society will not pass any longer at that moment of my death as they did at any other state-sanctioned killing. It is a necessary ritual and at the end of the day for the same reason we slaughter hundreds of millions of turkeys to feed off their flesh and appease our appetite, so too do we kill people by only too similar rituals and yet no matter how many might die, our appetite is never satisfied.

Michael Lambrix  #482053
Union Correctional Institution
7819 NW 228th street
Raiford, Florida 32026

Please sign Michael's Petition HERE
https://www.change.org/p/governor-rick-scott-please-spare-michael-lambrix-s-life

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Holidays In The Hole

 

By Michael Lambrix for MinutesBeforeSix


Sometime shortly after Thanksgiving in late 1970, when I was ten years old, my father unexpectedly told me that I was to go with him to look for a Christmas tree.  I didn’t want to go, especially when I realized that it was only going to be him and me. I was afraid of him and for good reason, as he had already tried to kill me on more than one occasion.  But I didn’t have a choice, and I knew only too well that even so much as a hint of resistance would be quickly met with severe physical discipline, especially since he had already been drinking.

In silent obedience I climbed into the passenger side of our old 1959 Chevy station wagon and as I closed the door and my father got in on the other side, I leaned against the door as far away from him as I could get, with one hand resting on the latch just in case it became necessary to quickly eject myself.  With a turn of the key the engine was brought to life.  I always loved that old wagon, a one-year wonder of the age of automobile extravagance, with its rear wings wide and long stretching all the way to the back so that even when parked, it looked like it could fly. And as my father pulled the car from the driveway and out on to the road, as only a child could, I quickly overcame my fear by imagining that we were about to take flight, and my one hand that was on the door latch drifted up and out the open window and as the cool air blew in, my flattened hand extended outward glided in the wind like an airplane in the sky.

Dad never was one for talking and we drove in silence.  Going to look for a Christmas tree didn´t mean going to town, as he never bought our tree.  Rather, we took a back road north and then westward away from Novato, into the San Geronimo Valley, where the farms and ranches of Marin County were hidden in the rolling foothills amongst roads that twisted and turned seemingly forever, all the while looking for a small tree that would serve the purpose.  From time to time, I would point towards one I thought might be worthy, desperate to win my father´s approval and all but shout out “How about that one?” but he never slowed down or even looked, just continued to drive along in silence, steadily sipping from whatever alcoholic spirits he had in that cup nestled between his legs.

The old Chevy strained as it climbed up a small hill, and with a momentary roar of the barely muffled 348 V-8, Dad quickly downshifted and gunned the accelerator and we picked up speed.  As we reached the crest and started downhill, just as the dark beaten and broken blacktop of that two lane back-road out in the middle of nowhere took a gentle turn to the right, a group of deer leaped out from the brush along the side of the road, not more than a few car lengths in front of us, and attempted to cross to the other side.

For reasons only Mother Nature knows, one of the group, perhaps the smallest one of all, suddenly stopped in the middle of the road and stared into the fast approaching headlights and I felt my anxiety rising as I wished with all my might that it would move, but it didn’t.  Where any other person would quickly apply the brakes and take evasive action to avoid imminent collision, with a gleeful shout, my father pushed down hard on the gas, propelling the old Chevy faster and the car collided with the deer. At the last instant before impact, it desperately jumped just enough so that as the tons of cold Detroit steel crashed into its body with brutal force, the deer´s head slammed violently down on the hood of the car only a few feet from where I sat motionless and afraid, and then it was gone.

In that very instant my father slammed on the brakes and as he did, I was caught unprepared for a sudden stop and violently thrown forward, hitting my own head against the steel dash.  As I sat up dazed and momentarily confused, the car came to a stop and my father reached towards me.  I pulled back instinctively, as I knew I was about to be assaulted because it had to be my fault, somehow, that that deer jumped out in front of the car.

But to my surprise, Dad was as joyful as a small child on Christmas morning and filled with a happiness that was all but infectious. Dad grabbed me by my jacket and pulled me out of the door, half-dragging me up the hill towards where the deer had landed. There it lay, barely on the side of the road, quivering and struggling to breathe with crimson red blood flowing from its nostrils. I froze, staring down upon this helpless creature and watched in horror as my father pulled his buck knife from the sheaf he always wore on his waist and without hesitation he grabbed the deer´s head by its ear and pushed the point of the knife blade straight down deep into the side of its neck, and just as quickly, pulling it straight back out and as its head fell back to the ground, its eyes looked upward and momentarily met mine as it shook and quivered one final time before going dark and cold.

Perhaps offended by my lack of shared exuberance, I was unexpectedly rewarded with a backhand blow to the side of my head and a stern order to help him throw the now still warm, but lifeless body, in the back of the station wagon and in uncomfortable silence we drove home.  The next morning the cold carcass hung from the rafters in the garage.  With surgical deftness, my father butchered the flesh from its bones, and for weeks to come we ate the meat at our family table.

But that deer did not die that night. It lives in my memory, and I continue to see that desperate look of a wounded and trapped animal as it struggled helplessly in the eyes of those around me.

On December 17, 2012, I was into my second week of being in “the hole,” which is what we call the solitary cells on the designated disciplinary confinement floor.  I was sentenced to 30 days in the hole because I failed to sit up on my bunk during noon count.  In all the years I have been on Florida´s death row (read: “Alcatraz of the South” Part I and Part II) it was never required, but on that particular day it was demanded of me for no other reason but as a pretense to send me to lock-up because I had dared to offend the powers that be by writing a blog about the then recent reign of terror that had swept the prison under the administration of Warden Reddish, culminating in the death of inmate Frank Smith a few months earlier at the hands of the guards.

While in the hole, we have no privileges. Our T.V.’s, radios, MP3 players, all reading material except bibles, and all non-state issued food become contraband and are stored in the property room until our disciplinary confinement term is complete.  We are allowed minimal writing materials and essential legal materials, and nothing else.

Although I don’t have an extensive disciplinary record, I was not stranger to doing time in lockup.  Sooner or later, we all go, some more than others. It is simply part of doing time.  For most of us, you do whatever amount of time they give you, and on Death Row, regardless of how petty or insignificant the alleged infraction might be, you will always be sentenced to the maximum amount of disciplinary confinement allowed.

On one side of me was an elderly black man by the name of Sebert Conners, who, in all the years I’ve known him, has been a regular fixture in lockup, repeatedly written specious disciplinary reports for what I (and others) believe to be retaliation against him for daring to speak out when the guards were brutally assaulting prisoners almost daily, leading up to the murder of death row inmate Frank Valdes in July 1999. Nine guards, including a high-ranking captain, were arrested and formally indicted for first-degree murder, and the other guards never forgot Conners played a significant role in that. (See: Frank Valdes v James Crosby, et.al., 450 F.3d.1241 (11th Cir. 2006) graphically detailing the violent assaults leading up to the death of Valdes and how Conners played a role in bringing it to light). 

An then there are always the “bugs” in the hole – mentally ill inmates who suffer from various forms of paranoia and psychosis, typically ignored by most prisoners and guards, but still kept for extended periods of time in the hole when a guard who is not so tolerant or understanding decides it’s time to break them.

One of those at this particular time was Michael Oyola, who, since coming to Death Row, has made frequent trips to the psychiatric unit out on the main compound and is regularly kept on psychotropic medication in an attempt to manage his psychosis (butmore often than not it doesn´t help).

I was housed in a cell immediately adjacent to Oyola when we heard the front of the cellblock door open and about the same time, the ventilation fan was turned off.  When you´ve been around a while, you know it’s a bad sign when the ventilation fan goes off.  If they were working on it, we would have heard the maintenance crew in the pipe alley behind the cells where all the plumbing and electrical fixtures are.  We didn’t.

An unnatural silence fell over the cellblock.  Even the bugs knew something was up.  It didn´t take too long before we first heard the murmured voices near the front door, then none other than the Warden herself led an entourage of guards and staff down the walkway, and as I sat watching them come, my own heart skipped a beat or two as I noticed most of them were carrying the blue fabric face masks they wear when gassing someone. One guard had a large red can similar to a fire extinguisher that we all knew held the chemical agent they used to gas inmates. Another held a small video camera.

They passed my cell but then only a few feet further the warden stopped directly in front of the cell housing death row inmate Michael Oyola, and the others fell in around her. Just as I could only watch helplessly as that small deer struck by a force it had no power to defend against, I sat silently on the edge of my bunk and listened as the Warden verbally laid into Oyola, accusing him of writing her a letter demanding to see her, saying no inmate makes demands of her.

At first I could hear Oyola politely protest, insisting that he meant no offense, but needed to see her as he felt he was being treated unfairly.  But with skill that comes from years of climbing the ranks, the Warden methodically verbally assaulted him, until finally Oyola realized that his fate was already sealed and nothing he could say would matter, and he told them to do what they came to do.

The warden then stepped aside, and instructed the officer holding the video camera to turn it on. The officer holding the large canister of gas stepped forward and they blasted Oyola with it.

I had already moved to the back of my adjoining cell, but still remained not more than a few feet away, and there was no escaping that ominous orange cloud as it rolled in like the San Francisco fog, quickly filling not only Oyola’s cell, but my own, and the other surrounding cells, too.

In all the years I’ve been locked up I’ve never been personally targeted for a gassing, but I was no stranger to it either, as in recent years the use of industrial strength chemical weapons on prisoners has substantially increased.  Inmates in confinement units would inevitably experience the full effects of this form of torture, either as the primary target, or simply because it’s your poor luck to be housed near someone else who has been targeted.

As that orange cloud filled the air around me, I staggered to my sink to reach for my washcloth with the intent to use the wet rag as a filter, only to find that they had also turned the water off.  Without hesitation I dipped my wash cloth into my toilet - fortunately I had flushed earlier and there was nothing floating in the stainless steel bowl – and then covered my mouth and most of my face with that wet rag, all the while mentally admonishing myself to breathe through my mouth, not through my nose.  If you were stupid enough to take even one breath through your nose, the gas would fill your sinus cavity and you’d suffer for days.

Coughing and hacking and barely able to breathe I dropped to my knees in front of my toilet, feeling as if I had to puke my guts up but only suffering through a series of physically painful dry heaves as my body protested against this unwelcome invasion. I was faintly aware of similar sounds coming from the cells on either side of me housing Oyola and Conners.

It never ceases to boggle my mind how the world united in outrage and condemnation when the media exposed the barbaric treatment of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Graihd prison, and stood just as united when calling for a prohibition of water-boarding and torturing of alleged “terrorists” at Guantanamo Bay, and yet every day, comparable forms of torture are inflicted upon American prisoners in American prisons and nobody seems to care. In fact, many openly advocate for the abuse and torture of American prisoners under the pretense of administering justice.

If ever a person is exposed to this form of deliberate gassing, they would know that perhaps water-boarding really is not all that bad after all.  The physical effects are the same – struggling to breathe as the chemical agents fill your lungs, your body involuntarily convulses uncontrollably as your eyes water and burn – and you dare not rub them because it magnifies the effect.  You are rendered unable to move, and when they finally stop spraying the gas, the effects remain for hours and the burning and the taste last for days.  And it´s a normal part of being thrown into any confinement housing unit in any prison in America.

At times like that, I smile to myself as I repeat the words of the philosopher Freidrich Neischze: “That which does not kill me can only make me stronger,” and I find a momentary source of strength in those words. They impose a profound truth.  I am on a long journey through the many levels of a man-made hell that few could even begin to imagine.

In the worst of times, I look back at what I’ve already survived and recall the many times I found myself housed on Q-wing (briefly re-labeled X-wing), at Florida State Prison.  Even the most hardened of convicts were broken by the brutal conditions of FSP, known to many as the “Alcatraz of the South.” Back then, nobody came straight to FSP except those sentenced to death.  The rest came only after they were deemed an extreme security risk and could not be housed in any other prison.

On the lower floor of Q-wing is Florida’s death house, where those scheduled for imminent execution are held until they either get a stay, or are put to death. I’ve spent my time on death watch, coming within hours of execution, (read: The Day God Died) and know that floor too well.

Above that death house are two other floors, with six cells on each side of each floor. Each of these 24 super-max cells is itself an individually sealed concrete crypt, holding prisoners who have assaulted or killed guards, or just had the bad luck of stepping on the wrong toes, often for many years at a time.

This prison within a prison has only one purpose: to break convicts. (See: “Locked Alone on X-wing” by Meg Laughlin, the Miami Herald, Sunday May 30, 1999.) I did my share of time on each of those floors. The confinement cells here at UCI, even with all the physical deprivation that comes from months of solitary confinement, seem like a Four Seasons resort compared to Q-wing.  Despite the periodical call to close that wing down (see: “End The Barbarism at Florida State Prison,” editorial, The Miami Herald, May 30, 1999), those cells remain in use.

But there are moments in time when I find myself helplessly gasping for breath as the toxic cloud of chemical agent overcomes me when I find myself actually missing the extreme solitude and deprivation of Q-wing.  In the hours that pass after they’ve left the wing, when that ominous cloud finally settles down to a thin layer of powdery dust that blankets everything, and the ventilation fan and water are turned back on, and each of us in our individual solitary cell begins to thoroughly wash down every nook and crack of our cells, all the while still coughing and hacking up distinctively orange colored phlegm from our lungs, even after the days that follow, with that persistent burning in our eyes and throat slowly subsides, and even after we no longer jump up when it appears the ventilation fan has yet again been turned off, I can still see that look of fear and terror of that helpless deer in the eyes of that last man targeted for gassing.

In recent months the media has reported the widespread use of chemical agents and physical assaults to subdue Florida prisoners. A formal investigation by both the State Police (Florida Department of Law Enforcement) and Federal Justice Department (FBI) has been recently launched, looking into the deaths of at least 85 Florida prisoners and willing to expose the seemingly widespread criminal conduct by guards (See: "The Prison Enforcer" by Julie K. Brown, The Miami Herald, September 21, 2014 and “Case Ties Guards, Gangs, Attempted Hit” by Dara Kim Tallahassee Democrat, Sunday September 28, 2014).  They focused largely on the death of inmate Randall Jorden-Aparo, who was repeatedly gassed by guards acting under the same warden who personally ordered the gassing of Oyola and the rest of us that just happened to be in confinement that particular day.

The week following the gassing was Christmas and for the first time in all these years, I spent my Christmas in lockup.  Although isolated away from the general Death Row wings, our friends would recruit whoever they could to smuggle small bags of candy and treats to those of us in lockup, letting us know that we were not forgotten.  And although the memories of that deer continued to haunt me on that Christmas day in the hole, the small group of us joined together to find comfort in each other´s company and a few of the bugs even joined in as we unabashedly sang Christmas carols, if for no other reason but to let them know that our spirit was not broken.


To sign Mike's clemency petition, click here

For more information on Mike's case, click here and here

Michael Lambrix 482053

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Please Spare Michael Lambrix's Life - sign the petition!

 
SIGN THE PETITION HERE

Michael Lambrix has been on death row for nearly 31 years.
He has always maintained that he acted in self-defence and there are grave doubts about the safeness of both the conviction and the death sentence. His family and pen friends around the world would be deeply affected by the loss of a friend they have learned to know, admire and respect.
A clemency submission was filed on 5 December. This calls for a full clemency review, at which witnesses could be called, rather than the limited review on paper that has so far been allowed.


Letter to
Office of Executive Clemency Governor Rick Scott
Commission on Offender Review Florida
 
Joined by a strong commitment to justice, the undersigned respectfully request that the clemency authorities of Florida allow a full Clemency Review for Michael Lambrix DC#482053, born March 29, 1960, who faces execution for a double murder for which he was convicted in 1984. Among our reasons for requesting this are as follows:


1. The initial trial in 1983 resulted in a hung jury. A second trial was held in 1984. The jury’s recommendation of the death sentence was not unanimous. Michael Lambrix has consistently stated that he acted in self-defense and has protested his innocence of capital murder.

2. There has been a failure of the judicial process, allowing the case to fall through the cracks. A range of new evidence has come to light since Mr. Lambrix’s last clemency review in 1987, which itself was perfunctory. This includes exculpatory evidence which was never presented to the jury, such as the fact that a key witness has retracted her trial testimony and the State’s main witness admitted under oath in an evidentiary hearing that she had been sexually involved with the Chief Investigator for the prosecutor during the pre-trial investigation. Another key witness later (post-trial) withdrew her testimony, leaving no witnesses who still contend that the homicides were committed in the way that they were presented to the jury. A full and fair review of all the evidence has never been conducted.

3. Executing Michael Lambrix after he has already spent 30 years under sentence of death for a crime which is surrounded by such serious doubts would be inappropriate and inhumane, if not immoral. Where the ultimate punishment is handed down, there must also be the ultimate certainty. By any measure, this certainty is not present in this case.

4. Michael Lambrix has repeatedly made it clear how the events continue to haunt him and how not a day goes by that he doesn’t feel remorse.

5. The life of Michael Lambrix has demonstrable value. He has, against the odds, attempted to make the most of his time on death row. Having come from a deeply troubled background and having been regarded at school as developmentally disabled, he has managed to educate himself in the most difficult of circumstances and is clearly a man of considerable intellect and inner resources. Among other things he spends his time helping other prisoners with their legal work.

6. His writings and his correspondence with people in the US and in other countries around the world have earned him high respect and have been an inspiration to many people.

Given the doubts surrounding the conviction and the sentence handed down, we respectfully ask the Florida Commission on Offender Review to ensure that a full clemency review be granted for Cary Michael Lambrix and failing that to grant commutation to life imprisonment.
 
SIGN THE PETITION HERE
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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Confronting The Moral Question.

It's probably been about 15 years since I read the book "The Giver" by Louis Lawry, which has only recently been made into a major movie (2014) and as these things often do, when I was reminded of the premise of the story a gawd zillion neurons on my admittedly burnt out brain started to fire off like fourth of July fireworks, connecting that fictional story with events in my only too real life - and it got me to thinking.
 

 
This past week I then read the editorial in the USA Today (newspaper) entitled "Eerie Ethical Questions of "The Giver" by Arina D. Grossu" (director of the Center for Human Dignity) in which Dr Grossu posed a thought provoking question of whether we as a society today, are really "that far off from the atrocities in the movie "The Giver". Dr Grossu focuses on the morality of aborting unwanted children and quotes from Atheist writer Richard Dawkins, who apparently once tweeted in regard to an as yet unborn child diagnosed with Down Syndrome, "Abort it and try again, it would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have a choice", a position Dr Grossu finds unequivocally unconscionable, as "we must value life, even the unwanted", as (and I again quote) "The voice of the human life does not derive from being perfect or even useful, but simply from being human".
Again, drawing from the words of dr Grossu's thought-provoking editorial, it goes on to say "in the most disturbing scene in the movie (The Giver), Jonas' father, whose job is "releasing" babies" (i.e post birth "abortion"), takes a needle and inserts it into the head of a sickly baby to kill him. The Washington Post reported the line from the book that was "too dark" to add to the scene, was the father Cheerfully saying "Bye, bye little guy", while placing the dead baby in a box. As Jonas puts it "they hadn't eliminated murder, they just called it by a different name"
Imagine that - a society that advocates the commission of a deliberate act of murder, but to appease the moral conscience of its apathetic citizens conveniently calls it by a different name, and once so easily relabeled and clothed in that dark veil of moral obligation, it is miraculously transformed into an act that should be cheered by all.
Doesn't that sound an awful lot like the continued use of capital punishment today? When it comes down to it, by imposing the "death penalty" under the pretense of administering "justice", aren't we really simply relabeling the intentional act of murder by inflicting a "post-birth abortion" on the unwanted? If the value of human life is truly derived from that miracle od simply being human, then by what moral measure can we justify the death penalty?
Like everyone else, my opinion is tinted by my own agenda as I am a condemned man, and my days are numbered. With pre-death warrant clemency counsel being recently assigned to my case, I expect that sometime towards the end of this year the Governor of Florida will sign his name to that black-bordered document entitled "Death Warrant", instructing the warden of Florida State Prison to put me to death within that following month.
I will then be transferred to the bottom floor of "Q-wing" into the very cell that I have previously occupied and confronted my own mortality as I counted down those last few hours until my appointed "post-birth abortion" (please read: "The Day God Died"and "Facing my own Execution"), only this time there won't be any last minute stay of execution.
With a measure of indifference comparable to Jonas' father, the faithful agents of the state of Florida will gather around me, strapping my still breathing body to a gurney as just a few feet away behind a wall of glass a panel of witnesses will watch as those agents of death insert a needle into my arm and a few short minutes later an unseen executioner will deliberately push down a series of plungers that will then force a lethal cocktail of chemicals into my body and if all goes according to plan, it will at least appear that I have peacefully drifted off into a deep sleep and they will call it "humane", as the emotional and psychological torment so deliberately inflicted not only upon me but upon all those who love and care for me will not matter.
And just as that unwanted child in the movie "The giver", my life will be extinguished and there will be those who will adamantly insist that by inflicting my death they did society a great service - and then, there will also be those who will celebrate my death as that value of all life does not apply to those we want to rid society of.
But how many will dare to confront that greater moral question? How many will have the courage and moral integrity to stand up and question the taking of yet another human life? Funny how our moral compass really works - how we can so easily (and so willingly too!) find those convenient justifications to circumvent that perception of a deliberate act of murder by simply convincing ourselves that ending that life we choose not to value because it has been irrevocably tarnished by that transgression is now the right thing to do.
* Please read "Petition for Clemency", encouraging the Governor of Florida to grant clemency in the case of Cary Michael Lambrix. Your support can now make the difference between life and death
Petition will be soon available - Please check back!
 
Michael Lambrix #482053
Union Correctional Institution
7819 NW 228th Street
Raiford, Florida 32026-4400


 

Innocent and Executed - please read