It seems that only too often I write about yet another person here on Florida's death row that has passed on. In my more recent blogs I talked about the recent executions of Wayne Tompkins and John Marek (please read "The perfect murder") But in the past years executions have become only a secondary cause of death for Florida's condemned as now we have many more succumbing to death by "natural causes" than by state sanctioned execution.
Today Bryan Bryant passed on after a prolonged and painful fight with cancer. A few weeks ago it was Alphonso Green, who endured many months of painful suffering before
pancreatic cancer took his life. Two more of Florida's condemned are now gone. To be honest, when I hear that they died of "natural causes" I'm conflicted on how I feel. On one hand I am disgusted by the characterization of "natural causes" when I know that they spent decades in a concrete cage condemned to death and I am convinced that this oppressive and solitary environment contributed to their fate. But on the other hand they've escaped the even crueler fate that the state intended them to suffer.
Having been on Florida's death row now for over a quarter of a century myself I know that death is only too common around here. When I fist came to Florida's death row in early 1984 those that died mostly were put to death by execution, although one that I know of back then (Mad Dog Nelson) did abruptly drop dead of a heart attack on the rec yard.
Ironically, as more men and women come to death row, executions actually slowed down and the population of the condemned grew to almost 400. Increasingly, as many of us aged, death death by natural causes has now become the leading cause of death among the condemned. Many of us have been locked away in these cages for twenty or more years and are simply growing old.
On my floor we have 14 men and just out of curiosity I added up the number of years that 14 of us have now been on death row - collectively, that's over 300 years, with an average of over 20 years each.. This is about the same on all the floors - a total of 24 floors just here on the death row unit of Union Correctional Institution, with another bunch held at Florida State Prison.
What really gets me is that the pro-death penalty politicians and parasite judges who fanatically push for the death penalty, they got to know that they will never actually execute all these men and women. Florida has pretty much never executed even 10 men and women a year, and in recent years that rate has significantly dropped. But even if they did start executing 10 a year beginning tomorrow, it would still take 30 years just to clear out the current death row population and by the time you did that you'd still have hundreds more that have come to death row since.
But that's just never going to happen - and I certainly would not want to see it happen either. My point is this - we all know that in truth, when we sentence people to death we (as a society) don't really mean that they will actually be executed. Instead, what the courts really mean is that they will be sent up to the state prison and virtually warehoused until they slowly rot away and die of "natural causes"
It really bothers me that the lawyers and anti-death penalty groups will quickly rally together in unified opposition when the state screws up an execution and the condemned prisoner suffers for a few minutes, and yet there's virtually no organized advocacy speaking out against the fact that the average death sentenced prisoner now spends at least 20 years or more in solitary confinement with minimal contact or interaction with others. I don't understand how these people can get so motivated to fight against the relatively momentary infliction of unnecessary suffering resulting from a botched execution, yet these same people say nothing about the suffering the condemned endure as they slowly rot away in solitary cages until they finally die of "natural causes"
Incredibly, every time this issue is actually raised, these rabid pro-death penalty parasites that feed off the misery of others will quickly jump up on their soapbox and scream about how the solution is to simply kill them all quicker. When I see this, it only confirms what the facts show - the dumber a person is, the more likely it is that they will support the death penalty.
For over 30 years now these rabid lynch mobs have done all they could to speed up executions, only to corrupt our entire judicial process and substantially increase the inevitable execution of the innocent by playing politics with the appeal process. And yet they are so blinded by their blood-lust that they can't - or want - see that the more they push for quicker executions and corrupt the judicial process, the less execution are actually carried out.
In recent years more and more judges and politicians are finally speaking out against the corruption of the judicial process and admitting that based upon their personal experience within the judicial system they are convinced that innocent men and women have been executed. But those who advocate limiting appeals and expediting executions simply will not even talk about the inevitable risk of executing the innocent. They are so pathetically intoxicated by their thirst for vengeance that they cannot see the dark side; the consequences of their corruption of the process. But when it comes down to it, the execution of even one innocent person is nothing less than an act of deliberate murder.
Which brings me back to the issue I want to address. We call ourselves a "humane" society that respects the concept of basic human rights and the preservation of human dignity. But we tolerate this type of inhumane treatment of thousands of condemned prisoners - many of whom are subsequently proven innocent.
I personally both knew Alphonso Green and Byron Bryant - as I have most of those who have died here in the past 25 years. I understand that both had been convicted of brutal murders and neither had a convinced argument of innocence. I also know that many will say that they "deserved" to suffer, and that we should think about the victims, not the cold-blooded killers.
But it amazes me that we just refuse to see that when we, as a presumably civilized society, throw those we condemn into a concrete tomb and then let them just slowly rot away until many decades later they finally succumb from "natural causes": we ourselves, as a society become the very monsters that we claim to be fighting. When our grand-kids look back at us, how will they judge us?
I know that my words will not change anyone's mind. As the Bible says "their hearts are hardened' and those that advocate this treatment of the condemned will only applaud the death of Green and Bryant. And there will also be those who, like me, are troubled by the tragedy of their deaths and even angry that it is our so-called "civilized" society that allows this to be.
I've heard it said that the true measure of a man's character is defined by possessing the moral courage to stand up against the crowd and admit when one is wrong. Throwing men and women into solitary cages, knowing that their true fate is to slowly rot away until they inevitably succumb to death by "natural causes" is immoral and inhumane by any definition, it is wrong. If this is what we have become as a society, then we have forfeited any right to claims of being a civilized society - and we have become the very 'monsters" that we claim to be fighting against.
Florida Death Row