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

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Florida Court Denies Lambrix's Innocence Appeal

After denying review and final disposition of Michael Lambrix’s state post conviction appeal arguing newly discovered evidence that substantiates Lambrix’s consistently pled claim of innocence for many years, in a bizarre and even absurd ruling the Florida Supreme Court has categorically denied all relief, finding that the virtual wealth of evidence presented by Lambrix is not credible. See, Lambrix v. State, 2010 WL 1488028 (Fla.) (opinion released on April 15th, 2010)

As those who have followed this wholly circumstantial capital case already know, and as the state has repeatedly conceded itself, the state’s entire case was based upon the testimony of Lambrix’s estranged ex-girlfriend Frances Smith-Ottinger. Although, Lambrix’s conviction and sentence of death were exclusively based upon the credibility of Smith-Ottinger, in denying Lambrix relief the Florida Supreme Court has now declared Smith-Ottinger “not credible.” Of course, the court has made no attempt to explain how in a wholly circumstantial case (no eyewitnesses, no physical or forensic evidence, no confessions, etc.) dependent upon the credibility of a single key witness; the capital conviction and sentence of death can still be upheld when the same witness has now been declared “not credible.”

Apparently, the Florida Supreme Court’s concept of credibility is flexible and subjectively applied – as long as a witness is providing favorable testimony for the state to secure a conviction, even in a wholly circumstantial case; the witness is credible. But if and when that same witness provides testimony contrary to the interests of the state, then the witness is not credible. That is how justice is administered in Florida.

The Florida Supreme Court’s absurd conclusions actually are not about whether or not the state’s key witness Smith-Ottinger is credible. What this case is really about is the Florida Supreme Courts unethical and constitutionally reprehensible protection of the Florida Supreme Court’s Chief Justice, Peggy Quince. If putting an innocent man to death is necessary to protect Chief Justice Quince from allegations of misconduct, then so be it.

Although not mentioned in the recent denial of relief, but fully detailed in the appeal briefs submitted in this case; Chief Justice Peggy Quince was previously an Assistant Attorney General and part of the prosecution team during Lambrix’s initial post conviction proceedings prior to her political appointment to the Florida Supreme Court. (All appeal briefs in this case can be found and read under the hearing-briefs tab at SouthernInjustice.net)

In her former capacity, Chief Justice Quince was (“allegedly”) personally complicit in the prosecutorial misconduct in this capital case. Lambrix filed a motion to disqualify the Florida Supreme Court (click here to read this motion in its entirety), which the Florida Supreme Court summarily denied even though their own recent decision in other cases, required disqualification; see, Wickham v. State, 998 So. 2d 593 (Fla. 2008). Apparently the Florida Supreme Court is not bound by its own established law.

What is clear by the Florida Supreme Courts ruling is they would rather put an innocent man to death than risk having Chief Justice Quinces own alleged acts of misconduct exposed. The fact that the Florida Supreme Court refused to even address the virtual wealth of evidence presented (see, appeal briefs) and the pled allegations of prosecutorial misconduct that collectively establish that the key witness Smith-Ottinger and the states lead investigator conspired and collaborated together to deliberately fabricate this wholly circumstantial case of alleged premeditated murder shows the Florida Supreme Court simply will not allow their Chief Justice’s own complicity in this deliberate miscarriage of justice to even be discussed.

At trial, in addition to Smith-Ottinger’s testimony that Lambrix told her that he had killed the two deceased, apparently “to take their car,” (which it should be noted, this vehicle was subsequently found in the exclusive possession of Smith-Ottinger, not Lambrix), the state presented testimony from Deborah Hanzel, who testified that Lambrix has also told her that he killed the couple to take the car. However, Hanzel has since provided sworn testimony that her trial testimony was deliberately fabricated – that key witness Smith-Ottinger and the state’s investigator deliberately coerced her to provide this false testimony in a conspiracy to ensure that Lambrix would be convicted and to protect Smith-Ottinger from prosecution herself. (Deborah Hanzel’s sworn affidavit can be read in its entirety by clicking here.)

The Florida Supreme Court now finds that Hanzel’s testimony that she was coerced to provide false testimony is “not reliable” and of course the court conveniently refused to consider any of the evidence that supports Hanzel’s claim that the key witness Smith-Ottinger and the state worked together to deliberately fabricate the entire wholly circumstantial theory of alleged premeditated murder – evidence that if fully and fairly addressed cannot be credibly disputed.

Again the Florida Supreme Court relies upon the absurd conclusion that when Deborah Hanzel testified for the state, she was the epitome of credibility – but now that she has provided sworn testimony detailing how the key witness Smith-Ottinger and the state had coerced her to provide false testimony, and that they knew all along Lambrix was not guilty of premeditated murder, the Florida Supreme Court finds that Hanzel is not a reliable witness. This is the unwritten rule of law – as long as a witness is providing favorable testimony for the state, then they are credible. If the witness admits to being coerced to lie by the state, then they are no loner credible.

Nothing reflects the Florida Supreme Courts deliberate hypocrisy and distortion of the truth more than the manner in which the Florida Supreme Court addressed Lambrix’s own post conviction testimony. What makes Lambrix’s consistently pled claim of innocence unique is that Lambrix has admitted to being in the company of the two people who were killed and that Lambrix was compelled to hit the male victim only after the make victim attacked and was assaulting the much younger female victim.

Lambrix’s claim of a spontaneous event forcing him to act involuntary self defense when attacked by Clarence Moore/ aka Lawrence Lamberson when Lambrix attempted to stop Moore/Lamberson from violently assaulting the teenage victim Aleisha Bryant is actually supported by the State own evidence, and the state has never provided any evidence to contradict this claim. In fact, the state knew all along that Moore/Lamberson was a career criminal and known associate of “drug smugglers” with a criminal history of violently assaulting other women in the same manner. A fact that the jury was not allowed to hear.

At Lambrix’s trial, the court prohibited Lambrix from testifying so the jury was never allowed to hear Lambrix’s account of what actually happened. It should be noted that key witness Smith-Ottinger also testified that she did not actually see or hear anything that transpired outside that night that led up to and resulted in the couple’s death. Her only claim was that Lambrix subsequently told her he had killed both of them.

During the post conviction proceedings Lambrix was finally provided an opportunity to testify and did then graphically testify to what actually happened outside. As the record shows, the state could not discredit Lambrix’s claim of self defense.

In the recent order denying relief the Florida Supreme Court (at page 11) “Lambrix himself (testified) at this most recent evidentiary hearing that he struck one of he victims using a tire iron, although he denied that he intended to kill either victim.” Incredibly, the Florida Supreme Court actually twisted Lambrix’s own testimony into somehow being a confession of guilt of premeditated murder.

In doing so, the Florida Supreme Court completely ignored the overwhelming weight of the evidence that actually substantiates Lambrix’s claim. As reflected in the trial transcript, the jury was not allowed to know that Moore/Lamberson (the male deceased) had an extensive criminal history, including violently assaulting women. The jury did hear Smith-Ottinger’s own testimony that there was virtually no indication of animosity or intent to commit any crime, between any of the parties. In fact, Smith-Ottinger conceded that Lambrix, Moore/Lamberson and Bryant were “laughing, teasing, and playing around” immediately before Lambrix and Moore/Lamberson went outside during the early morning hours.

Smith-Ottinger specifically testified that Lambrix remained outside with Moore/Lamberson for approximately 20 minutes then returned to the trailer they shared alone. At that time Smith-Ottinger was absolutely certain that Lambrix did not have any blood on him, was not in possession of the alleged murder weapon (a common tire iron) and “looked normal.” According to Smith-Ottinger, Lambrix then went outside again with Aleisha Bryant as she remained inside alone cooking a spaghetti dinner.

Smith-Ottinger claims that Lambrix again returned alone, but this time was “covered with blood” and was carrying the tire iron, and told her “They’re dead” then proceeded to wash up. Smith-Ottinger has consistently claimed that she did not actually hear of see anything that transpired outside and only knows that Lambrix told her he killed them, but she also insisted that “he never said why.”

For this reason, only Lambrix knows what really happened outside. But by looking at the State’s own evidence, it becomes clear that Lambrix’s claim of being compelled to spontaneously act in self defense when attempting to stop Moore/Lamberson from fatally assaulting Aleisha Bryant is, in fact, supported by this undisputed evidence.

At trial key witness Smith-Ottinger testified that Lambrix told her that he had “choked the girl” and had “hit the in the back of the head.” But the states own medical examiner Dr. Robert Shultz concluded that there was no evidence to show that Aleisha Bryant was “choked” or strangled to death. In fact, it is a medical certainty that if a victim is choked or strangled to death, there will be evidence to show this such as hemorrhaging/bruising around the neck and damage to the soft tissue and larynx as well as probable fracture of the hyoid cartilage. And if a person is strangled to death, there will always be “peticule hemorrhaging” visible in the eyes. But medical examiner Shultz found no evidence of any of these tell-tale signs, thus Smith-Ottinger’s claim that Lambrix choked or strangled Bryant cannot be true.

Although a witness might lie, this type of evidence does not. Additionally, it is inconceivable that a healthy young woman who was not restrained in any manner would simply stand by and allow herself to be assaulted and killed without struggling and fighting for her life. Smith-Ottinger has consistently conceded that Lambrix did not have any scratches or bruises on him that would have been consistent with a struggle with Bryant.

However, the state’s own medical examiner Dr. Schultz conceded that Moore/Lamberson actually did have numerous scratches and lacerations consistent with what Bryant would have undoubtedly inflicted if he had struggled with Aleisha Bryant as Lambrix claimed he did.

Further, the medical examiner Dr. Schultz concluded that Aleisha Bryant did not suffer any physical injuries that would have resulted in a substantial loss of blood. (Smith-Ottinger was certain that Lambrix did not have any blood on him when returning to the trailer after Moore/Lamberson went outside, but before Aleisha Bryant went outside). But Dr. Schultz concluded that Moore/Lamberson did have numerous injuries that would have resulted in substantial loss of blood. Thus the only way that Lambrix could have been “covered in blood” after Bryant went out but not before was if Moore/Lamberson was still alive outside when Bryant went out — supporting Lambrix’s claim that all three were together outside and it was a spontaneous event that resulted in their deaths, not “premeditated murder.”

The states own evidence substantiating Lambrix’s claim that he was compelled to act in self defense when attacked by Moore/Lamberson is even stronger. As the trial transcript reflects, the state’s own medical examiner, Dr. Schultz, testified that Moore/Lamberson died as the result of blunt force trauma – being hit in the head with an object consistent with the tire iron.

However, Dr. Schultz testified with absolute certainty that Moore/Lamberson was struck eight times, specifically, that Moore/Lamberson died as the result of “multiple crushing blows to the head… resulting in severe fractures around the eyes and the cheeks,” and that these blows consisted of “eight (blows) – four times to the left frontal forehead, and four times to the right … applied in a continuous side to side motion.” (See, trial transcript, testimony of Dr. Robert Schultz)

More importantly, Dr. Schultz found virtually no evidence of any “defensive wounds,” and all of these blows were administered with Moore/Lamberson facing his assailant, leaving the only logical conclusion that – just as Lambrix claimed, Moore/Lamberson was coming at him and Lambrix was forced to swing in spontaneous self defense.

As if this evidence itself was not enough to substantiate Lambrix’s consistently pled claims of involuntary self defense, while ignoring the overwhelming weight of this irrefutable evidence the Florida Supreme Court also refused to acknowledge the conclusive evidence that key witness Smith-Ottinger and the state did deliberately fabricate evidence to support their allegations of premeditated murder with the intent and purpose of having Lambrix wrongfully convicted and condemned to death.

Specifically, as reflected in the trial transcript, Smith-Ottinger testified that Lambrix had deliberately placed Aleisha Bryant “face down in a pond” to ensure that she would die. This testimony was used to convince the jury that there was no doubt that Lambrix did act with premeditated intent to kill Aleisha Bryant, thus convicting Lambrix of capital premeditated murder.

But there never was any such “pond,” and no question that this extremely prejudicial testimony used to prove actual premeditation was deliberately fabricated to inflame the jury and convince the jury to convict and condemn Lambrix to death.

In the post conviction appeal now before the Florida Supreme Court, Lambrix’s legal counsel pro offered into evidence the sworn affidavit of the owner of the property, who attested under oath that there was no pond in the area where Bryant was killed. Additionally, two expert witnesses provided sworn statements as hydro-engineers and property surveyors that they went to the property and concluded that Smith-Ottinger’s claim that Bryant was placed face down in a pond to ensure she would die simply could not be true.

Not surprisingly, the Florida Supreme Court refused to even address Lambrix’s specifically pled claim of “fundamental miscarriage of justice” based party upon the pro-offered “expert report” of one of the country’s top homicide detectives, William Gaut, who was retained by Lambrix’s legal counsel to independently examine the case against Lambrix.

Mr. Gaut has over 40 years of experience in homicide investigations, and personally taught homicide investigation techniques in college classes. It was Mr. Gaut’s opinion after independently reviewing the case brought against Lambrix that the entire investigation and development of evidence used to convict and condemn Lambrix is “highly suspect” and not consistent with long established protocols. Quite simply, Mr. Gaut concluded that his own independent examination does support that the state’s key witness Smith-Ottinger and the state attorney’s head investigator Miles “Bob” Daniels, did conspire and collaborate together to wrongly convict and condemn Lambrix.

Why would the Florida Supreme Court deliberately ignore the overwhelming weight of this evidence? All of the records in the capital case are posted online, including the trial transcripts, appeal briefs, and other relevant actions so that anyone can read the record and decide for themselves.

The only logical conclusion is that the Florida Supreme Court is willing to deliberately put an innocent man to death for no reason but to protect the Florida Supreme Court Justice Peggy Quince, formally herself part of the prosecution team in this capital case, from being exposed for her own complicity in the prosecutorial misconduct that resulted in Michael Lambrix being – by deliberate intent – wrongfully convicted and condemned to death.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Crazy people don’t ask

After more than a quarter of a century now in continuous solitary confinement on Florida’s death row, condemned to death row, condemned to death for a crime I did not commit (please check my website www.southerninjustice.net ) I’ve spent my share of time contemplating that inevitable question of whether I might have gone insane – and if I had not already crossed over that bridge of no return, when would I? When it comes down to it, it’s just not natural to spend one’s entire adult life in a six foot concrete crypt never for even one moment able to forget that I am simply being warehoused until the State of Florida can finally pull me from me from my cage and put me to death.

Certainly it would not be so unusual for any person to slowly slip beneath that metaphorical surface that separates what we commonly call reality and become lost in some form of psychosis and in truth under these circumstances perhaps insanity would be even a blessing. It is not hard for me to imagine that insanity could even offer the hope of freedom from this never-ending nightmare that I am trapped within. If only but for a moment I could awake and through some form of involuntarily induced psychosis I would just detach from this reality and if only within my own mind, find that “freedom”

In some ways I do pursue that elusive freedom by escaping into my daydreams of a life I once had, cherishing broken fragments of a now long ago part when I was a younger man and a husband and father. Sometimes I even must struggle to recall details that don’t really matter, but still I push myself to recall the details, knowing only too well that as the details slowly fade from memory, the that even the memory itself slowly fades away. Memories of a life I once had and the hopes and dreams of a future that would never be are all I have left.

But it becomes harder to pull up the thoughts and memories that kept me going. When I look out the dusty window on the outer wall of this cellblock I can see a patch of green grass between the wings and I try to remember what it felt like to stand barefoot on the grass, to feel the blades of grass beneath my feet and how it would give way as I took each step. But it has been too many years now since I felt the touch of grass and although I can still describe how it might have felt like, I cannot really remember or imagine how it actually felt to touch.

The other day I was talking to a guy who just came to the row and is now in a cell next to me. He is about the same age as I was when I first came here and yet when I talk to him, it’s as if he came from a totally different world as the world that I once knew didn’t have cell phones, or DVD’s or personal computers, and even so much of the language itself has changed as a new generation adopted it’s own way of saying things.

In the new guy I see some of myself. But now I’m 50 years old and my kids are grown and my grandchildren growing up fast. Where has my entire adult life gone as it doesn’t seem that I’ve been locked up this many years. And yet I know these years are now gone as I need only look into the mirror to see that the progression of age is slowly overcoming me.
Sometimes I have to wonder if maybe it’s all just a bad dream. Or maybe even a bad acid trip. What if I awoke tomorrow only to find that it was once again 1982 and none of this ever really happened? I actually do play around with that thought from time to time. And yet when I do awake, I must confront the reality that it is not just a bad dream.

So, it’s inevitable brings me back to the question I have asked myself only too many times – what if I go crazy? Maybe I already have and all of this is nothing more than a twisted psychosis that has become my reality, like the way the “crazy people” get lost in their own little worlds, and nothing anyone tells them can convince them that they are just imagining what they believe to exist as their “reality” has become their only reality.

When I look around me it’s not hard to see the signs in others, especially some of the guys that I’ve known for years who have slowly succumbed to their own relative form of insanity. It is not all that uncommon for guys who have been here as long as I have to develop paranoia and psychosis – giving in to the illusion that others around them are plotting against them, or – hearing voices that don’t exist, or convincing themselves that they are going home “tomorrow” and yet their tomorrow never comes.

If I can see these signs in others, then I have to wonder if maybe others see these signs in me. As far as I know, I’ not giving in to paranoia or psychosis – but I do still desperately hope for the day that I might yet go “home” and I can only hope that that is not an illusion.

These are thought that I do struggle with. In some ways I have to wonder just when will it be my turn to sink below that surface of insanity, will it happen suddenly as if I awake one day and find that I have gone insane? Or will it happen ever so very slowly and I’ll be the last to know? How will I actually know? Maybe I will be the last to know, continuing merrily along the path oblivious to my own insanity while others around me struggle to find ways to drag me back to the reality they think they’re still in touch with.

This riddle I struggle with was playing its usual mind game when I watched a movie on my TV the other day. It was a movie called Proof”, starring Anthony Hopkins and Gwyneth Pal throw and it was about an elderly mathematician (Hopkins) slowly going crazy as his equally brilliant daughter (Pal throw) struggled to cope with his progressive insanity, all the while wondering if maybe she was going crazy too. At one point early in the movie the father and daughter had a talk about her own fears that maybe the disease that eroded his own sanity also would afflict her – how would she know if she too was going crazy? That is when I finally heard the best answer to my own question. When Anthony Hopkins told Gwyneth Pal throw that the way she can be sure she’s not going nuts is because crazy people don’t ask it they are going crazy. That made me laugh and after some more thought on the matter I began to appreciate the logic of that simple truth – Crazy people don’t ask. You see, if I were really going nuts, then I would not know that I’m going nuts. Others might see it in me, but I’d never see it in myself. Simply because I still possess the capacity to ask that question is itself proof that I’m not (yet) nuts.

For some strange reason the logic of that truth brought me comfort. I can’t really explain it, but for the first time I have a way to “self-diagnose” my own fear of insanity as long as I can continue to ask whether maybe I’m finally going crazy, I know I’m not quite there yet. That’s got to count for something. I slept well that night, almost as if a weight had been lifted from me. The next morning I still through about that simple answer to the question I’ve asked so many times. And I smiled as I did. The next morning I awoke again and got into a prolonged conversation with my cell neighbor and then reading a few magazines and watched some TV. Before I knew it, the whole day had passed and as I prepared my bunk to go to sleep it occurred to me that I had gone the whole day without asking myself if I was going crazy yet. A whole day without asking that simple question – then it suddenly hit me…now I know I must be finally going crazy as I’m no longer asking, and only crazy people don’t ask!

Michael Lambrix
Death row Florida