Our Dear Friend Mike Lambrix left us on October 5, 2017
He went from the Darkness to the Light..

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Bill is dead

After 25 years of continuous solitary confinement on Florida’s death row the rigorously structured monotony of my Monday mornings is only too predictable. As long as I can remember Mondays have always meant awakening to a meager breakfast of two palm-sized pancakes with a side serving of bland oatmeal. Considering that on the other days breakfast mostly consists of cold “grits” or powdered eggs, the pancakes with the small packet of artificially flavored corn syrup has become my favorite meal, or at least at breakfast anyways.

Every meal is served in our cells on plastic trays and we are each given only a plastic spoon to eat with as even a plastic fork is too “sharp” an instrument to entrust a condemned man with. There is no kitchen and no dining hall on death row as we are in an isolated confinement unit deliberately set apart from the other areas of the large prison complex. All our meals are cooked somewhere out there, then placed on large carts and transported to this unit. The carts are then brought to each floor of the unit, where the individual food trays are off-loaded on to a smaller cart, and inmate runners will push that cart down each tier to feed us, a ritual repeated at each meal. A guard will open the lock on each cell’s “bean flap” as the non-death row inmate “runner’ will hand each tray to the individual prisoner within the cage. Monday mornings are predictable – but this Monday morning was not…

As I reached to accept my food tray from the runner; he quickly whispered “your buddy Bill just died’. Bill was William Coday, and it was no secret he was a close friend. But it was too early for my mental facilities to absorb this unexpected information and I responded only with a puzzled and almost incoherent “what!?” Again the runner spoke, nervously watching the guard, “Bill cut himself up last night and died” No way man, Bill’s right above me, physically not more then a few feet away and separated only by a few inches of concrete. I would have known. But then, that’s the nature of our interminable solitary confinement – although virtually warehoused in close physical proximity to each other, even though physically only a few inches away, each of our solitary cells remain isolated and a world of its own.

I laid my breakfast tray down. My appetite now gone and sat at the edge of my bunk silently digesting this shocking news I just received. After the guard left the floor, I stepped to the rear vent (ventilation duct) and hollered upstairs to another guy I knew and got confirmation, it was true – Bill was dead... As the morning hours ever so slowly passed I could hear the cell door above me clanging open and shut, and I realized that they were now cleaning up the blood and packing up what meagre personal property Bill had. In no time another condemned man would be placed in that cage, like stock awaiting their slaughter.

Bill was dead – that reality repeatedly reverberated in the numbness of my mind. Slowly it sank in and emptiness filled me. Each time a runner or a guard passed my cell I desperately picked them for more information – trying to understand the how and why of it all and somehow make sense of it. Bill was dead and now I knew how.

Sometimes in the early morning hours as the whole wing slept, Bill had silently taken some form of sharpened instrument and slashed both his wrists and his own throat. He never cried out and nobody heard anything as he then lay back on his bunk and went to sleep for the last time…

Bill was dead. Understanding the “how” was the easy part – it’s the “why” of it that ate at my gut. In my world, death is no stranger; death is the condemned man’s unrelenting protagonist and like Ahab and his great white whale, only too often it is difficult to tell the hunter from the hunted, even when death ultimately prevails. Death is a palpable presence always amongst us as we are condemned to perpetually waste away in solitary confinement, isolated and abandoned by the world beyond as we grow old and die. In recent weeks, 3 others have died too (Charles Globe, Burley Gillium and William Elledge)

I caught my case when I was only 22 years old. At the time the father of 3 young children who have now grown up without me. I’m now 48 years old and a grandpa. Many around me have been here much longer, some almost 35 years now. All of us condemned and continuously caged and warehoused until we die. More often then not death comes from old age or suicide, not the state sanctioned execution we were sentenced to.

That’s the dirty, dark secret of America’s death rows that society and the mainstream media do not want to confront and will not talk about. With thousands of men and women now virtually warehoused on death rows across America, even the most fanatical proponent of capital punishment knows that the vast majority of us will never actually face execution. Rather we are condemned to a fate even worse than death as in reality we are condemned to slowly waste away in solitary confinement, in a man made virtual hell meticulously designed to break our will to live and reduce each of us to something even less than human. While each of us inevitably drifting further and further away from the world we once knew, drowning in the infernal sea of inhumanity where no man is intended to come out alive.

As time sluggishly passes, each of us struggles that much harder to find the strength to sustain our ever-eroding will to live. Too often, something slowly dies and life itself becomes a formidable prison we desperately seek to escape from. Now Bill is dead, and I am left to struggle to understand the incomprehensive “why” of it, even though a part of me knows only too well what had compelled Bill to take the easy way out.

I do understand the “why” and perhaps that is the hardest part: Some would say that Bill killed himself, but I know that he did not. Rather, Bill freed himself from a fate that he knew he could not defeat – not the negligible threat of facing a state-sanctioned execution, but the inescapable reality of the inhumane prolonged solitary confinement under unrelenting oppressive physical and mental conditions insidiously intended to feed off our flesh while systematically stripping us of our will to live. (Please check out http://www.doinglifeondeathrow.blogspot.com)

In America, we claim to be a Christian nation, but compassion and mercy elude us. As Supreme Court Justice Stevens recently recognized in Baze v Rees (us.s.ct, April 16, 2008), the contemporary practice of capital punishment is not about justice, but about retribution and revenge. Today’s death penalty is a modern-day manifestation of a state-sanctioned lynch mob, and the inhumanity of our solitary confinement an intended part of the often unjustified vengeance society seeks.

In the desperate act of yet another suicide, Bill freed himself from a fate few of the condemned can escape. At that thought, the heaviness in my heart at the loss of a friend begins to lift just a little as I got to believe that Bill is in a better place now. Here’s to you Bill….I will miss you.

(Note: Please read more of Mike’s writings at http://www.doinglifeondeathrow.blogspot.com and to read about how Mike was wrongly convicted and condemned to death for a crime he did not commit, please check out http://www.southerninjustice.net/

Friday, May 9, 2008

The recent US Supreme Court ruling..

Impatiently the vultures are again circling above as the smell of death is upon us. In recent weeks that ever present reminder that we are here to die; to be virtually warehoused in the very bowels of a hell few would dare to imagine, continuously kept in solitary confinement under physically oppressive and mentally degrading conditions for not just months or years, but decade after decade until finally one at the time death claims its intended prey.

In the past few weeks the reality of my close proximity with death has especially been felt. As I’ve increasingly pointed out in many of my previously published articles (http://www.doinglifeondeathrow.com/ ) this cold shadow of death that can be only too often felt here in my world is no longer so much the fear of execution at the hands of the state, but a fate far worse than that meticulously sterilized termination of life they call an execution - the horrific fate of slowly growing old and wasting away for decade after decade in solitary confinement until you inevitably contract any of the many ailments that that become terminal and then wait the weeks or months, or even years until death claims you.

Last month it was Charles Globe who finally passed on after a long battle with AIDS and hepatitis C that evolved into the cancer that killed him. Last week it was Burley Gilliam, who had spent about 25 years on death row somehow staying strong enough to keep his hope alive – only to be taken down by “natural causes”. And as I write this last night it was William (“Billy Loco”) Elledge who had been on death row almost 33 years. His fight was with chronic asthma and in recent years he was repeatedly sent to the prison hospital for treatment, then returns a few days or weeks later. But not this time as his fight is now over. I can only hope they are all now in a better place.

This past week the United States Supreme Court also issued its long anticipated ruling on whether the use of lethal injection constituted “cruel and unusual punishment’ Not at all surprisingly the majority of the “conservative” justices had no problem concluding that it really doesn’t matter that states routinely screw up executions resulting in the inmate being tortured to death. In their opinion the United States Constitution simply doesn’t prohibit pain being part of an execution. In the past there were many other means of executing someone and all things considered lethal injection, despite its inherent problems is “humane” Its no secret that the cartel of five conservative Justices on the present Supreme Court (Chief Justice Roberts, Justices Scalia, Thomas, Kennedy and Alito) are rabidly pro death penalty. Each was specifically selected and placed on the Court to perpetuate a “conservative” agenda. So what if these demonic judicial activists are hypocrites? See these Justices will foam at the mouth when debating their agenda to promote the conservative “pro-life” platform. Abortions are evil as they allow the murder of innocent children and the must protect the sanctity of life – except when it comes to the death penalty.

Am I the only one who sees the hypocrisy of this? How can someone claim to be “pro-life” and campaign on a “sanctity of Life” platform, but then say that the death penalty is necessary. Yes I know some may argue that unborn fetuses are “innocent” but what about the US Supreme Court’s decision that said that it is unconstitutional permissible to even execute the innocent? (Herrera v Collins, 506 US 390 1993)

The fact is that as long as the death penalty continues to be practices we as a society will have innocent blood on our hands: Supreme Court justices would argue that there is no proof any innocent men and women have been executed “in recent history” but these same Justices are creating judicially manufactured law that actually prohibits legitimate evidence of innocence to even be heard under the pretense of promoting a finality to appellate review.

With well over 125 men and women already exonerated and released from death rows across America after proving their innocence, can anyone really say that there are no more innocent men and women on death row? And if the courts continue to refuse to allow the wrongfully convicted and condemned to even have lawyers and investigators necessary to develop the evidence that will prove their innocence and then, even if developed, the court will refuse to allow the evidence to be heard. Doesn’t that bring us to the conclusion that innocent men and women most likely already have been and most certainly will continue to be executed.

The Supreme Court Justices recently said that vengeance (retribution) is a legitimate objective accomplished by America’s death penalty. But the problem with advocating a lynch-mob mentality is that the same passions that feed this need for vengeance too often blinds us to truth. As the one fundamental truth that ultimately remains is that when we as a society put to death even one innocent person then that is an act of murder - and we all become murderers.

That is for this week, but I once again ask each of you to please check out the website about my case http://www.southerninjustice.com/