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

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Death Penalty opponents declared Terrorists

With the majority of American’s supporting capital punishment and the politically motivated “war on terror” making it only too easy to label anyone who engages in any form of anti-American activity as un-American, it was really just a matter of time before some of these conservative boneheads running government started to label anyone who didn’t agree with their pro-police state mentality a “terrorist”

This week the USA Today released a story about how the Maryland State police had spent 14 months in 2005 and 2006 illegally conducting secret investigations against anti-death penalty groups and had labeled 53 people involved in anti-death penalty and anti-war protests as “terrorists”

These investigations were conducted under the direction of then Maryland state police superintendent Tim Hutchins, and only came to light because the former Maryland Attorney General found that the state police had violated federal regulations and “illegally intruded upon law-abiding residents” rights to express themselves. Now Hutchins says they “made a mistake” and apologized, and that they would attempt to contact these individuals improperly labeled as” terrorists” and expunge their records. (See Washington Post October 8, 2008)

This didn’t happen in China or Russia – this happened in America. Incredibly, very few even comprehend the significance of this police state mentality. As a constitutional democracy founded upon the doctrine of “free speech” it boggles the mind to even imagine any police agency conducting secret investigations against law-abiding citizen then declaring these individuals as “terrorists” for no other reason but that they expressed an opposition to the death penalty.

Is this what America has become? We are only now beginning to understand just how destructive a generation of “conservative” right-wing politics has been. Under their “God and Country” mantra, these elitists such as the Bush dynasty have sold America out, and transferred what was once the model of human rights into what it is today.

As the rich got richer, the middle class became increasingly burdened with both private and public debts. When Ronald Reagan took office in January 1981 the total debt our Federal government owed was about 500 Billion dollars – now only a generation later the entire economic system is on the verge of total collapse and America now owes more than 10 Trillion dollars, with almost 6 Trillion dollars attributed to just the present Bush administration. And before he is run out of office it will undoubtedly go even higher.

And what do we have to show for all that debt? Our public schools and transportation infrastructure is in a shambles. Many states now spend just as much, if not more, money on maintaining the ever-growing prison systems as they do education. In recent years states such as California, Texas and Florida have actually cut funding for public education to pay for expanding their prison systems.

Even with everything that America stands for - the very foundation of our fundamental belief in a constitutional democracy built upon the beliefs that “we, the people” control government – now falling down around us like a house of cards, too many Americans still refuse to see it.

Our sons and our brothers are now fighting a war that we cannot win, giving their lives in vain because the arrogance of an elected President deliberately lied to the American people and invaded Iraq on the pretence that Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction and harboring terrorists. Now we know this was not true, but there is no easy way out.

Under the Bush administration we have used our military to invade two sovereign countries (Iraq and Afghanistan) with the specific intent to overthrow their governments and install a government we wanted in place – yet nobody seems to be bothered by the significance of that action. But when Russia sent its troops into neighboring Georgia, after being deliberately provoked, the Bush administration labeled Russia an evil empire and threatened to resurrect the “cold war”

Under the Imperial Dynasty of the Bush administration we declared the Geneva Convention inapplicable to us as we began to systematically torture and imprison those labeled as “enemy combatants”, denying them even the most basic rights – and then declaring that they will be provided a “military trial” before hand-picked officers who will then adjudicate them guilty and sentence these “terrorists” to death.

And now we learn that a state police agency within a stones throw of our capital in Washington has declared private citizen to be “terrorists” for no other reason but that they dared to express their moral opposition against the death penalty. This is the America we have become and nobody cares.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Execution of Richard Henyard

Last night they executed Richard Henyard. Although I didn’t personally know him, his death still bothered me. For almost a quarter of a century I have been on Florida’s death row myself and through these years there have been many men whom I personally knew led to their own death. But since we are all kept in “solitary confinement”, effectively segregated from the many others who are also condemned, it is not so unusual that although Henyard had been here for over ten years, I never got to know him.

That is only a small part of what bothers me. I know only too well just how completely isolated each of us here can feel when we are cut off from all our family and what friends we had before we came to prison. I know that for one reason or another, this place has a way of alienating the condemned. That outside world just slowly drifts further and further away as the years slowly pass by, each day bringing us closer to that last day.

But it bothers me that in the small world we call “death row” one of us can live among us and yet not be known by most of us. If those of us who are also condemned do not know those who are put to death from among our own ranks, then it stands to reason that it would be so much easier for someone among us to also be forgotten by society.

Henyard was deliberately chosen to be executed. What does that say about the mental process at work that decides who should live and who should die? This was the second execution ordered by Governor “Chain Gang” Charlie Crist since he took office last year. Both Richard Henyard and Mark Schwab before him were deliberately selected from among many who had already exhausted their appeals. Not because a jury decided that Henyard and Schwab were somehow more worthy of being executed than the dozens others also considered “death warrant eligible”, but because the Governor himself has proclaimed that those convicted and condemned to death for commiting a crime against a child are his first priority.

Of course, this deliberate selection process has more to do with politics then it does “justice”, but am I the only one bothered by how politics can only too easily decide who will live and who will die? Like so many others, I don’t care much for anyone who would prey upon an innocent child. Even here on death row those convicted of killing a child are often looked down upon.

But when politicians deliberately select individuals for execution because of the specific nature of their crime, then at what point do we, as a society, cross the line from carrying out “justice”, to advocating lynch mob vengeance? Shouldn’t our highest elected officials, such as Governor Crist , be above shamelessly using his power to play vigilante?

As yesterday passed I had a hard time finding out if Henyard was still scheduled. I know that they had his execution scheduled for 6:00 pm last night, but none of the local news stations mentioned it. Only later did I finally hear a report that said Henyard’s execution had been delayed for two hours as the US Supreme Court considered his last appeal. But at 8:00 pm last night they carried out the state-sanctioned execution of Richard henyard.

This means that in the final hours of his life Richard Henyard was forced to anxiously await the uncertainty of his fate. Imagine if someone put a gun to your head and cocked the trigger, then at the last minute said ‘oh, let’s think about this just a bit more”. All the while the gun remains cocked and loaded, pointed at your head. And then finally, they decide to go ahead and kill you after all.

How could this not be the very epitome of any definition of ‘cruel and unusual punishment”. The prolonged anxiety of imminent death, the long minutes ticking away as your faith remains undetermined. Can any of us even begin to imagine the torment this man must have endured?

So here I am contemplating these thoughts. How can we call this “justice” when at so many levels the whole process to put even the most “worthy of death” (so they say) to death is carried out in an undeniable cruel and unusual manner.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Playing Politics with Death.

It’s an election year in America and that means that it’s time to prove you’re willing to kill if you want to win an election – or help others in your political party win an election. It doesn’t matter what office you’re running for as the only way to win is to prove you’re willing to kill those that society says should be killed. Nothing gets the political juices flowing more then whipping the public up into a blood-thirsty frenzy them promising that if they will vote for you, you will kill the monster they’ve conveniently created.

As someone who has now spent over 25 years on Florida’s death row (please check www.doinglifeondeathrow.com) I know only too well just how political the death penalty is. Through the years I’ve seen only too many politicians run for public office by promoting to kill more condemned prisoners. And those politicians who express their moral reservations in taking a life to win an election quickly find themselves voted out of public office. That’s politics in America, where our concept of “democracy” has come to be defined by our willingness to kill.

But it is not just about the death penalty. For the first time that I can recall, those running for political office this year are not even mentioning the death penalty. At least, not as major campaign issue as it has been in the past. The issue did come up a few months back when a majority of the Supreme Court decided that putting someone to death for raping a child (but not committing murder) would violate the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

Only too quickly all there running for public office rushed to condemn the members of the Supreme Court for being “soft” on those who prey upon innocent children. But just as quickly this uprising of outrage and rabid cry for killing others died down and
not even a whimper could be hears since.

That got me to wondering ….could America be evolving and moving away from the long history if overwhelming support for the death penalty? Could it be possible that today’s generation is finally willing to recognize that capital punishment is an abomination to the morality of any civilized society?

The fact is that studies have shown a substantial decline in the public support for capital punishment. In recent years as more and more men and women have been exonerated and released from prison (including death row) after being found to have been wrongfully convicted and condemned to death, many have been compelled to question whether capital punishment might result in innocent people being executed.

Most recently state legislatures have begun to question the cost of capital punishment. In a recent study by a state sanctioned commission in California, it was concluded that California alone would save approximately 110 million dollars per year if they simply did away with the death penalty.

Another legislative commission in Illinois reached a similar conclusion. Comprehensive studies of many states death penalty systems by the American Bar Association have concluded that the systems, including Florida’s are “fundamentally flawed” and rendered unfair and arbitrary. Even in a recent Supreme Court ruling (Baze v. Rees, 2008) Justice Stevens recognized that the death penalty was about vengeance, not justice, and consistently discriminates against the underprivileged and too often victimizes the innocent.

So, there was reason to hope that maybe – just maybe- America was finally beginning to see the light and recognize that the death penalty has no place in our presumably evolved society.

Or so I had hoped. But this week I got a reality check when I learned that Florida’s Governor “Chain gang Charlie” Crist has appointed his first Justice to the Florida Supreme Court. Although Florida has a large number of highly qualified jurists, Charlie Crist decide to play politics and chose a Republican party insider, a “conservative” pro-death penalty jurist (Judge Conady) whose prior experience was “general counsel” for former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and was part of the political campaign that spearheaded the “Death Penalty Reforms Act of 2000” which was intended to transform Florida into another Texas by significantly restricting death row appeals and eliminating any exceptions for claims of innocence.

The only reason these draconian laws did not pass was because the Florida Supreme Court declared that the politicians could not pass rules governing the court – only the Florida Supreme Court can. So, now it appears that Governor Crist has decided to simply stack the Florida Supreme Court with conservative, pro death penalty zealots so that once he has control of the court, these “streamlined” rules governing death penalty appeals can be implemented. Again, in the end, it all comes down to politics.