Monday, November 28, 2011

Love Wins – Even on Death Row

Recently a friend of mine sent me a very nice gift – a book by Rob Bell entitled “Love wins: a book about heaven, hell and the fate of every person who ever lived” (Thank you Jan!) Having known me for about 20 years, Jan knows that I enjoy books that are thought provoking. Especially if the subject matter is spiritual. In fact, I initially brought this particular book to his attention after reading a book review in the USA Today newspaper a few months back, but I couldn’t exactly run down to the local bookstore myself, so fortunately Jan knows that it is relatively easy to send books to death row prisoners as all he had to do was order it on Amazon.com and have it shipped directly to me.

This isn’t the first book I received from a friend as I am blessed to have several friends who sent me books recently. But I am writing about this particular book because of the message it provides, one that I have reached myself long ago – that our spiritual evolution is about embracing love, not condemning all of us to hell. Like many others I find the concept of being condemned to hell and subjected to eternal torture to be in conflict with what I believe God really is. If God truly loves even me, then why would he want to beat me over the head until I submit to what some self-righteous and self appointed representative of God tells me a true Christian is?

Many years ago I got to know one of the volunteers that regularly visit death row from churches. They come to save our soul, bless their hearts. Most of these men do so at their own expense and spend many hours each week going from cell to cell, reaching out to the condemned and showing a measure of compassion that reflects a true Christian spirit, and I enjoy the few moments I am able to share with them.

This one volunteer (“Carl”) told me something that has stayed with me since – at the time, I was facing a death warrant (formally scheduling execution) and upon learning of this, Carl came to my cell to see how I was holding up. I was alright, but we go to talk and he commented on how I was actually lucky to be facing then imminent execution, as most people do not really know when they will die and often die suddenly without any opportunity to get their heart right with God.

Anyone who really knows me knows that I’m never at a loss for words, but at that moment, I didn’t really know what to say. The implication was that those unfortunate enough to die without the opportunity to get their heart right with God would be condemned to hell for all eternity, no matter how good of a person they might have been, while at the same time a presumably “cold blooded killer” who by virtue of his condemnation and imminent execution would go straight to heaven because he had the chance to get his heart right with God.

Myself, I don’t buy that argument and it really makes no sense. But I’m not articulate enough to explain why this whole concept of condemning the righteous to eternal damnation while rewarding the worst of sinners with eternal heaven makes no sense and so I thoroughly enjoyed reading Rob Bell’s book “Love wins” as it explains beautifully what I have come to believe – that the whole concept of condemning anyone to hell for all of eternity is nothing but a fabrication by those “Christians” who want to use fear and intimidation to coerce others to believe only what they say the nature of God is.

Everybody has the fundamental right to believe what they want and for the most part, each if us find God in our own way. I prefer to believe in a God that embraces love, mercy and compassion towards all men, even the worst of sinners, as by believing God of that nature too I can hope that men will evolve to reflect that nature too. I’m certainly not perfect – but knowing that I’m not getting beaten over the head every time I do slip is comforting.

If in the end I am put to death for a crime I did not commit (please check with www.southerninjustice.com ) then it will be because of the imperfection of a judicial process corrupted by men. But for now, as I remain entombed in a man made hell few could begin to imagine, my real struggle is to rise above the anger and bitterness that tries to consume me. In reading books like “Love wins” it gives me that strength by reassuring me that in the end, it will be love – and not hate – that wins. That’s a concept I can embrace.


Mike Lambrix

Thursday, November 17, 2011

This is an article Mike liked and wanted to share with you...

I Committed Murder
Sep 25, 2011
Newsweek
By Michael Daly

For the anonymous executioners of death row, the ‘high’ of pulling the lever is often followed by a lifetime of doubt.

Only a fellow executioner like 59-year-old Jerry Givens would know how crushingly hard it will continue to be for those who put Troy Davis to death last week even as he continued to insist on his innocence.

“The executioner is the one that suffers,” Givens says on the day after Davis’s execution in Georgia. “The person that carries out the execution itself is stuck with it the rest of his life. He has to wear that burden. Who would want that on them?”

During the 17 years that Givens worked as an executioner in Virginia, he put 62 men to death. And each time, he felt what he calls “the executioner high,” an adrenalized state that always imparted a merciful unreality as he sat behind a curtain and pulled the lever, releasing a fatal cocktail of three drugs that seemed to him less humane than the electricity he previously unleashed by pulling a switch. The chemicals of lethal injection always took eternal minutes longer than the deadly jolt from the electric chair.

“I had to transform myself into a person who would take a life,” Givens says. “That transformation might linger for a while. You might be on that for three weeks.”

He figures this same high visited the executioners in Georgia who dispatched Davis last week, in accordance with the state’s Administrative and Execution Procedures, Lethal Injection, Under Death Sentence. “I guess those people last night were on that emotional executioner high.” He says the high is all the more intense with cases that receive public attention, such as when he dispatched the Briley brothers in Virginia in the mid-1980s after their seven-month spree of rape and at least 11 murders.

But once the protective high wears off, the executioner is left with the reality that he has taken a life. And in the case of condemned prisoners like Davis, who maintain their innocence to the very end, there is always that lingering doubt. The only certainty is that the penalty is irrevocable.

“You take an innocent life—that means I committed murder,” Givens says.

If Troy Davis wasn’t in fact innocent, there is a near certainty that some prisoners presently on death row are. A recent tabulation by the Death Penalty Information Center showed that 138 prisoners were exonerated after being sentenced to death between 1973 and 2010. That included five in Georgia, the state that remained determined to put Davis to death despite the numerous reasonable doubts regarding his guilt and the momentous public outrage joined by such varied public figures as Bishop Desmond Tutu and Sean “P. Diddy” Combs.

While the prosecutors, jurors, and judge all had their say in putting a prisoner on death row, the task of actually carrying out the sentence falls to an executioner with no idea of what was said and done at trial. “You don’t know,” Givens says. “You don’t take part in the trial. You weren’t there to witness it.” And even cases of undisputed guilt can continue to haunt executioners to the end of their days. In all 62 of Givens’s cases in Virginia, the official paperwork bore a word that has stayed with him. “When you look at the death certificate it says, ‘HOMICIDE,’” he notes. “How can it leave you?”

His career as an executioner ended 11 years ago, when he was convicted on charges of perjury and money laundering unrelated to his work—going to prison himself for four years, swearing he was innocent. Givens is now a truckdriver, but the residual horror of his time as an executioner flashed back to him as he followed from afar the news reports of the Davis case. “Whenever they have an execution, I get back to when I used to do them. It’s human nature.”

Also in human nature is a cumulative revulsion to taking life even when it is legally sanctioned. Those who finally have been driven to campaign against the death penalty include not just executioners like Givens, but a number of wardens who found it unbearable even to give the order that the executioners carry out. A longtime warden of San Quentin prison in California began to choke up when asked about four executions over which she presided, particularly the execution of Manuel Babbitt, a decorated Vietnam vet who killed a 78-year-old woman in a burglary. Babbitt’s brother had turned him in after false assurances that the state would not seek the death penalty. “The brother had to come that night and watch him be executed,” Jeanne Woodford, the former warden, recalls.

The 58-year-old lifelong corrections official says that presiding over executions actually becomes more difficult over time. “You have to appear normal,” she says. “You have to appear in control ... You try to tell yourself and your staff that this is the law.”

Her career of nearly four decades culminated with her 2004 appointment as the director of all of California’s prisons, but soon afterward, she resigned.

“I knew I couldn’t carry out another execution,” she says. “I knew I just couldn’t do it.”

She says that, from the start, “it never made sense to me that we would believe killing a human being would make up for killing a human being.”

Woodford has concluded that capital punishment also makes no fiscal sense. She figures that her state spent $4 billion to execute 13 inmates between 1992 and 2006—money that would have been much better spent on fielding more cops. She notes that nearly half of California’s murders go unsolved. “If this is really about public safety, then the better option is to keep police on the streets,” she says.

Woodford further suggests that the ultimate sanction is unacceptably arbitrary in its application. She has joined other former wardens, along with at least one executioner, in a national effort to save others from the experiences that perpetually haunt them.

“The death penalty shouldn’t exist at all,” she says.

In the meantime, executioners in 36 states will continue with the ritual that begins with swabbing the condemned’s arm with alcohol, a ghoulish precaution against infection from the needle that will momentarily deliver death.

One recent addition to the protocol in Georgia is the “consciousness check,” instituted this year after two of the condemned were apparently administered insufficient doses of an anesthetic that precedes the two chemicals that do the actual killing. Because of the insufficient doses, the two are believed to have suffered the horror of being suffocated by the paralyzing pancuronium bromide, and then the agony of being burned from within by the potassium chloride. A shortage of the anesthetic sodium thiopental had forced Georgia officials to purchase a batch from an English firm called Dream Pharma that operates out of a storefront driving school in London.

Besides adopting a new anesthetic, phenobarbital, Georgia adopted the new check, which involves tapping the condemned’s eye and nudging his arm after the administration of the first drug, to ensure he is unconscious before the remaining two are delivered.

That was the procedure followed in the Davis execution, by a team contracted by the state through a company called Rainbow Medical Associates. Rainbow is headlined by Dr. Carlo Musso, who presents himself as a professional descendant of Dr. Guillotin, arguing that he is only trying to spare the condemned prisoner unnecessary suffering.

If Musso is untroubled by his work, he is undoubtedly an exception. The others may still be finding protection in that “executioner high” that Givens describes, and they will likely experience it again on Oct. 5, when Georgia is scheduled to execute Marcus Ray Johnson for killing a woman in 1994.

When that high wears off and reality sets in, the consciousness check will be followed by a conscience check. And, if Givens is right, the executioners will then be the ones who suffer.

Givens finds refuge from his ghosts in religion, coping more successfully than some executioners of earlier days. Two of New York’s executioners committed suicide: Dow Hover by carbon monoxide in 1990 and John Hulbert with a gun in 1929 after saying, “I got tired of killing people.”

Thursday, October 13, 2011

It’s been a while since I last posted but I’m not dead – yet. Then again, Maybe I am at as I can’t imagine hell being any worse then where I’ve been entombed (here on death row) the past 27 years. No matter as here I am throwing a few more words out into that great beyond you all call the real world. Like one of my favorite songs (“Dust in the wind”, by Kansas) says, that’s what my words are, just dust in the wind.

I’ve been silent for many months. Sometimes things just become so overwhelming that crawling up inside my shell is the only way to survive when the whole world around you is coming down. I don’t think anyone could fault me for needing to step back away from all that’s going on and at least for a while retreat within that sanctuary of ‘self’.

Besides, it’s not like a lot has been going on in my world. I’m still in this cage and the uncertainty of whether I might live or die remains like a wet blanket trying to suffocate what little hope might still exist. But I’m not interested in the whole “woe is me” self pity party as when it comes down to it, I’m certainly not the only person in the world who’s life pretty much sucks. There’s a lot of people suffering out there and no matter and no matter how hard it might get here in my cage, at the end of the day I still get three meals a day and a roof over my head. Many out there don’t even have that.

As I write this, last night the state of Georgia murdered Troy Davis despite worldwide protests calling for clemency. Once again a legitimate claim of innocence has been silenced by killing the victim of incomprehensible injustice. But you know what the real tragedy is? Of the millions of people around the world who signed petitions and were willing to lend their voice in the futile attempt to stop the execution of Troy Davis, the vast majority will now only too quickly move on with their lives and forget about it.

But what if instead of fading back into their lives, even a fraction of those people who stood up for Troy Davis would now be motivated to keep fighting the fight? What if each one of those people now felt motivated by the cause of this incomprehensible injustice and each of them talked to one other person, and got them to see the light, and then that other people talks to and motivates yet another, then another and then that fading voice grows stronger and stronger. Imagine instead of a million people around the world motivated by the single injustice inflicted upon Troy Davis, there were millions willing to commit to a continuous campaign protesting against the injustice that continues to be perpetuated against so many more. As each of these singular voices grow stronger with support of more and more, can they so easily be ignored?

Troy Davis is dead, the victim of a corrupt legal system that is only too willing to murder innocent people under the malicious pretense of administering “justice”. But his death does not have to be in vain and the true injustice would be to forget about him and what his execution meant. His death should be the rally cry for all of us to now stand together and force the world to recognize that Troy
Davis was only one of the too many innocent victims of a corrupt legal system.

If his death is to mean anything, it should be that we now know that the death penalty itself is what makes it possible to put innocent people to death. We all know that there are many who will argue that troy Davis was not innocent – as far as they care, nobody is ever innocent as our legal system is perfect. But no legal system is that perfect and innocent people will continue to be put to death. The only way to truly stop this madness is to stop the death penalty itself.
But we know that won’t happen. The vast majority of those stood up to support Troy Davis have already faded back into the shadows and moved on with their lives. The voice will become silent again, until perhaps another innocent person is facing execution. But riving up at that last moment won’t stop the machinery of death from methodically stalking its next innocent victim. If there’s any chance of winning the fight, we all must be willing to stand our ground and fight the fight. Troy Davis will quickly be forgotten if we all don’t stand our ground and let out voices be heard today, tomorrow and everyday until this intolerable injustice has been defeated.

I hope that some will be motivated to keep the fight going. Otherwise, many more innocent people will continue to be put to death. If the Troy Davis case proved anything, is that it’s not enough to rise up at the last moment and sign a petition as petitions are worthless. We must fight the fight.

Before I go, I also wanted to share a few recent articles written about the death penalty here in Florida. The first one was written by one of Florida’s most respected pro-death penalty judges, Judge O.H. Eaton, Jr (of Orange County Circuit Court, Orlando, Florida). Judge Eaton has sentenced numerous people to death since taking the bench – but is now calling out for the end of the death penalty in his article “Capital Punishment – A Failed Experiment”. What he says makes sense – but will anyone listen?

The next article was recently published in a Florida newspaper as an editorial addressing the indisputable disparity between who faces death and who does not. Again, in this article (Orlando Sentinel, September 7, 2011 by Mike Thomas) it points out why the death penalty is fundamentally unfair and calls for an end to Florida’s death penalty. Mike Thomas - When will state stop arbitrary death-penalty decisions?


For those who may have read this, I thank you for your time. Keep the faith,

Mike Lambrix

Friday, July 1, 2011

When Evil Tyrants Reign Supreme Court

Recently a friend sent me an article entitled “What’s killing inmates on Florida’s Death Row?” Apparently the political group PolitiFact Florida wanted to do a “fact” check on comments that Florida’s House of Representative Speaker Dean Cannon made to a group of reporters last month, in which he stated that “Florida judicial system has the authority to take away not only a person’s liberty, but also a person’s life. Understanding the severity and irreversibility of that penalty, we have a responsibility to ensure that justice is administered not only fairly, but also efficiently”

Speaker Cannon went on to complain “ The number of inmates since 2000 on death row dying of natural causes has now surpassed the number of inmates executed. Significant and unreasonable delays plague the current process of conducting state post conviction review in these cases and it appears that there is little that the Supreme Court can do to improve or streamline the process”

For those unfamiliar with Speaker Cannon, he is an uber-conservative pro-death penalty career politician who worked with the current Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady back when Florida elected Jeb Bush as governor. Together they wrote up what became known as the “Death Penalty Reform Act of 2000”, which the Florida legislature passed into law attempting to adopt the Texas death penalty appeal process limiting capital appeals as a means of expediting more executions.

What was especially troubling about this legislative action was that it took the deliberate position that Florida would accept the inevitable execution of the innocent as a necessary consequence of expediting the executions of the presumably guilty. This “Death Penalty Reform Act” would have prohibited any post conviction appeals based upon newly developed evidence of innocence, even when it is found that the state deliberately concealed this evidence, as has happened too many times.

In one of the very rare exhibitions of moral courage by the Florida Supreme Court, they declared the adoption of this “Death Penalty Reform Act” as unconstitutional. They explained that only the Florida Supreme Court is authorized to adopt rules governing the
Capital post conviction review process responsible for the appellate review of death row cases. But the Florida Supreme Court itself simultaneously adopted new rules that actually did substantially limit capital post conviction appeals.

But the insidious politics of death are never that simple. The ultra conservative pro-death politicians like speaker Dean Connor were not happy when the Florida Supreme Court dared to tell them they must abide by the constitution, so they abused their political power to change the Florida Supreme Court by putting their own hand picked justices on the court that would do what they told them to do.

It took a few years, but bruised political egos don’t heal quickly. They took their time to stock the deck. Now the stage is set as in the recent 2010 elections the conservative Republicans succeeded in winning a “super-majority” in both the Florida house of representative and the Florida Senate. Additionally, they put “Tea Party” Republican conservative Rick Scott in as Florida Governor. But that’s not all, in the past few years they stocked the deck in their favor on the Florida Supreme Court. Those of us who remember the “Death Penalty Reform Act” remember that it was Charles Canady who acted as then Governor Jeb Bush’s General Counsel in defending this draconian action before the FSC, its defeat was a personal defeat for Charles Canady, but in politics nothing ends that easily.

Where is Charles Canady now? As of June 2010, he is now the Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court, after being politically appointed to the Florida Supreme Court by Republican governor Charlie Crist. This is yet another example of how the politics of death deliberately corrupt the entire judicial process. But you won’t see Florida’s mainstream media talking about this. They sold their souls long ago and no longer have the balls to take on government corruption. Besides, more executions mean more controversy and controversy sells newspapers. Killing the possibly innocent is really good business for America’s mainstream media.

A few generations ago politicians like Dean Cannon would have stood in the town square wearing a white sheet, while advocating the lynching of blacks. But that’s no longer politically correct so the white sheet becomes a 3-piece suit – but the mentality is the same. This is the Deep South and some things never change.

Funny thing is that while they scream about the need to expedite executions, they never once recognize that Florida leads the nation in the number of wrongful convictions in capital cases – and that the leading cause of innocent people being condemned to death is prosecutional misconduct. But do we ever hear politicians talking about going after prosecutors who deliberately conceal or fabricate evidence, knowing they are sending an innocent man to death row? No, of course not.

Americans today have become consumed by hate and vengeance, even to the point where a large number of Americans believe that executing a few innocent people is perfectly acceptable as long as it means executing more guilty ones. That’s an easy position to tale when you’re on the outside looking in and not the one who is about to be executed for a crime you didn’t commit. I’m sure they’d feel completely different if it was them.

In the upcoming months we will again see Speaker Dean Cannon rally his pro death politicians to pass new laws attempting to adopt the draconian rules limiting death row appeals in Florida. They will attempt to do this with as little attention as possible and only once adopted will they jump up on their political soap boxes and tell the public what a wonderful job they have done.

This time it will almost certainly pass as now Speaker Cannon knows that they’ve stocked the Florida Supreme Court with their own politically appointed “brethren”. And chief Justice Charles Canady is already slobbering at the mouth in anticipation for finally winning the political fight he lost in 2000 – now he controls the court and they will do what he demands of them.

As these political manipulations unfold the one thing they will not talk about is how the evidence is growing that in Texas’ own rush to execute as many people as possible, numerous innocent people have been put to death for crimes they did not commit. Nobody – especially the mainstream media – will talk about how expediting executions by eliminating death row appeals will substantially increase the inevitable certainty that innocent people will be executed.

How many people must die before America grows a conscience and says enough is enough? Funny thing about evil tyrants is we don’t see them for who they really are until its too late. History will have to judge Speaker Dean Cannon

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Monkey Trap

Many moons ago I read a story about how to catch a monkey. That story stuck with me, not because I ever wanted to catch a monkey, but because of its metaphor and application to many other aspects of life in general.

Here's basically how it went..generally monkeys are not too bright. But they can be pretty clever. If you're out in the jungle you can't just walk up to a monkey and grab it as their instinctive nature is to run away especially if they see you as a threat. People who live in parts of the world where monkeys are common often see monkeys as a source of food or income. So how do you catch a monkey?

The beauty is in its simplicity. No you don't build a monkey trap or try to chase them through the jungle as the monkey will pretty much win every time. Rather, all it takes is a common jar and a piece of fruit. You take the jar and attach it to a rope or chain, then fasten it to a tree or whatever. Then you take an apple or other round fruit that barely fits through the opening of the jar and place the fruit in the jar and walk away. Simple enough.

The monkey is going to want that piece of fruit. In fact, they'll often fight each other for the opportunity to be the one that gets that delicious piece of juicy fruit. Then the one that wins will put his hand into the jar to retrieve that fruit, only to discover that he 9or she) cannot extract the fruit as once the monkey wraps his hand around the fruit to pull it out, his hand is too big to fit through the opening of the jar.

The monkey now has a choice...let go of the fruit to allow his hand to get out, which would mean that another monkey will quickly move in to take the fruit, or hold fast and never let go. Most monkeys will become so fixated on the objective of getting the fruit - and not letting another monkey get it - that this simple jar becomes a monkey trap. This poor monkey simply doesn't have the basic, common sense to just let go even when the starving natives walk up and bash his head in with a stick or club.

This is a really good metaphor about how the death penalty in America is now administered. The death penalty politicians and our society as a whole have become so blinded by their narrow minded objective of killing the condemned that they cannot let go even though the fundamental failure of this death penalty experiment now threatens to take down the whole system.

Putting society's apparent need for vengeance aside, objectively speaking can anyone truly say that the death penalty works? In Florida, those of us on death row are now more likely to die of old age and natural causes while spending decades in continuous solitary confinement awaiting the uncertainty of our fate than face actual execution. I have personally been on Florida's death row since early 1984 - going on 28 years - despite the fact that I have consistently pushed for speedy review, even filing legal actions against the state arguing my right to a timely review. Politicians and the courts want to blame the condemned for dragging out appeals when they know that is not true - its just a lot easier to blame the condemned as we have no voice and are pawns of the system.
The actual truth is that it’s the pro death penalty politicians and judges who cause the delays by repeatedly frustrating the process itself. Blinded by their own zeal to kill, they constantly tinker with the appellate process trying to figure out ways to kill more of us a lot quicker. But each time they play these political games it actually slows the process down as new rules means a whole new round of constitutional challenges to these draconian rules.
Worse yet, each time they play with the rules governing appellate review of death penalty cases, it recruits in eliminating a level of appellate review and substantially increases the inevitable likelihood that innocent people will be put to death. But these politicians can not see that. They are so fixated on the fruit in the jar that they can not see how their actions will have irreparable consequences upon the integrity of our judicial process itself – and actually lead to having the death penalty declared unconstitutional, as it should be anyway.
Although the majority of Americans continue to favor capital punishment, support has substantially decreased in recent years as more people learn that the rate of wrongful convictions is substantially higher than anyone previously thought possible. DNA exonerations have proven that fact. But these DNA exonerations actually account for a very small number of the wrongful convictions in the country. In Florida, at least 26 inmates have been exonerated since the death penalty was reinstated after being previously declared unconstitutional. That means that for every two people Florida has executed since 1979, one person was wrongfully convicted and condemned to death. But of that alarming number only 2 have been exonerated through DNA evidence. The inconvenient truth that nobody wants to talk about is that very few of those at death row who are innocent have DNA evidence to prove their innocence. Most of those – including myself – who were wrongfully convicted and condemned to death in spite of innocence were convicted upon specious circumstantial evidence; without any eyewitnesses, no physical or forensic evidence, and no confessions. (Read my entire capital case, including trial transcripts, appeal briefs, etc at www.southerninjustice.com
Then there’s the political corruption of the courts themselves. Most of the judges on American courts are either publicly elected or politically appointed. Either way, these judges must publicly declare their support for the death penalty or they will stand no chance of being elected or appointed. Most judges are political cowards and lack the moral courage or integrity to do what’s right and would rather send an innocent man to his execution rather than risk political retribution for being too ‘liberal’.
Truth and justice have become irrelevant in the face of this insidious cancer of the “politics of death” No matter how convincing and even irrefutable the evidence is that the fundamental flaws of today’s death penalty is eroding public confidence in the judicial system as a whole, they will justify their actions and blindly continue on their journey of self destruction as their need to kill blinds them to all logic or reason.
So how do you get the monkey to let go of the fruit? The answer is really very simple – just don’t put the fruit in the jar in the first place. Take the death penalty off the table and join the rest of the civilized world by declaring the death penalty unconstitutional. This is not about letting the guilty go, but protecting the innocent from being executed. The simple truth is that if we as a society put even one innocent person to death, then we as a society become guilty of an act of deliberate cold blooded murder of an innocent man. Monkey traps only work if we refuse to let go of the fruit, so just let go!

Michael Lambrix
Death Row
Florida State Prison

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Hello From Death Row

Hello to my faithful friends and those who follow my blog. From time to time I just want all of you to know that it really means a lot to me to know that all of you keep me in your thoughts and send positive support my way. No matter how hard my seemingly never ending struggle for justice and freedom may seem at times, knowing that I'm not alone gives me strenght and support. I need to make it through another day - and then one day at a time after that.

Recently I've had to struggle with the question "why?" as things have been especially difficult the past few months. Some of you sent me cards after reading my previously posted blog "The paradox of Hope" and each one touched me in a very special way. Its times like that I do realize just how truly blessed i am as there is no greater treasure in Heaven or earth then that of the compassion and love of a faithful friend.

Being condemned for a crime I did not commit is itself a virtual hell few could even begin to imagine. Each day I awake to a never-ending nightmare, the reality of my circumstances so tangible that its the first thing that I'm aware of each morning. Sometimes it is all I can do to just lay there on my steel bunk and stare at the ceiling until I find the strength to rise up and begin my day. Sometimes I really don't want to get up at all.

In my recent blog I spoke of how elusive hope can become when one thing after another comes along to pound me down into the ground. When it comes down to it, I'm only human and it is only human that i will have moments, even hours and days, when I am overwhelmed and find myself asking why I bother to fight anymore when I cannot see a light at the end of the tunnel anymore. The truth is that the struggle does become more difficult each time the judicial rug gets pulled out from beneath me by a politically corrupt judicial system.

But often it is at these darkest moments that a "light" shines down upon me, renewing my strength in the most unexpected ways. Maybe the truth is that we need to reach rock bottom to keep things in context and realize that there is still something worth fighting for. Maybe this is an inherent gift we all share as I'm certainly not the only one who struggles with hopelessness and despair when our lives seem to become a prison of its own making. Spend too much time basking in the light and the light itself becomes irrelevant. It's only too easy to take everything we have for granted without even realizing that we are doing so. When it comes down to it, from the moment we are born we are all condemned to die. I've clung so desperately to this thing we call "life", yet in the end, nobody comes out alive.

So, if its not about the beginning and in the end our fate is inevitably sealed, then it has to be about the journey between that matters. I used to say that "life itself is the mortal condemnation of an eternal soul" and I still believe that. Although i struggle with the contemporary definition of "God", I remain convinced that God must exist - just not the Supreme being many use to exploit and coerce fear into others for fullfillment of their own self serving agenda. The truth is that I've grown to hold in contempt this contemporary "Christianity" that only too quickly embraces God to justify their own hate and intolerance. I cannot believe in a God that could be so malicious and petty.

All of this is relevant to the restoration of the strength necessary to sustain my hope and through that the strength to fight the fight. Its like I have been thrown down into a dark abyss and I must struggle to climb up the slippery slopes of my prison if there is any hope of surviving. At times I will slip and fall backwards, descending into the darkness of the abyss that imprisons me. But it is at these times that I realize that I'm not alone - that there are those faithful friends willing to catch me when I fall.

For that, I'm grateful beyond any words can say. In my recent struggle, I was reminded just how fortunate I am - and how much my own struggles effect those who truly do care about me. So thank you to those of you who send me cards and letters with words of encouragement and for caring enough to catch me when I fall.

Now I am climbing the walls upwards again. I do not have much faith left in our corrupt judicial system - but I do have faith in my true friends and its because of their genuine concern that I find that strenght and will to renew my never-ending battle for justice.

The truth is that with both the State and Federal courts now denying reviews of the virtual wealth of evidence substantiating my innocence, there is not much left to go on. I am already pursuing a new state appeal that is based upon the discovery of deliberately concealed state crime lab records that show that the alleged "murder weapon" introduced as evidence at my trial was deliberately fabricated by the key witness and the state attorneys office.

Unable to find any lawyer willing to assist me, I recently filed my own legal action to the United States Supreme Court, asking that they exercise jurisdiction under "exceptional circumstances" to review the evidence substantiating my innocence.

But in what is only too common in the American courts, after I sent this 46 pages habeas petition to the US Supreme Court on January 24, 2011 about a week later the clerk of the court sent it back to me, refusing to formally file this innocence appeal because of a technical imperfection. Once again the incidious true nature of the American judicial system exposes itself - its not about truth and justice, but the politics of death, and irrelevant technical imperfections are exploited as a means of denying review altogether.

The clerk of court instructed me to correct the error and submit a "corrected petition". But that's not so easily done as when the court sent the box of copies back to me, someone here at the prison went out of their way to open the "legal mail" (which is prohibited) and maliciously destroyed the entire contents. Prison warden Steven Singer says that they are now conducting a formal investigation into the illegal destruction of this legal property, but I've been around here long enough to know how these so-called "investigators" always go... No matter that the officer delivering the legal mail even wrote a formal "incident report' to cover his own butt once he saw the over 2800 pages had been deliberately destroyed, and two lieutenants also verified this - it will still come out with the typical "the allegations of destruction of your legal property by FSP staff connot be substantiated"

This is just what we must deal with. The prison only too often goes out of its way to obstruct our ability to file appeals, even deliberately destroying our legal property and if we are lucky enough to get it to the court, then the courts go out of their way to deny review upon any irrelevant imperfection. Then if we do finally get a "corrected" petition filed so that the court will review the claims of innocence, the pro death penalty politically appointed judicial activists on the court will invent reason to deny relief anyways.

And yet I will keep banging my head against that proverbial brick wall, still wondering why. But at least I know I'm blessed with true friends.

Mike Lambrix 482053
Florida State Prison

Please check out my site
www.southerninjustice.net

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Paradox of Hope.

Have you ever thought about the concept of hope? Recently, I have. Funny thing about hope is that it can sustain you through the most difficult of trials and tribulations, but at the same time its absence can cast you down into the depths of despair, even to the point of making death seem favorable.

Here on death row I’ve often said that I will hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. That sort of became my mantra of choice and for many years I found some strength in it. For those of us condemned to death our existence is like being trapped on a runaway rollercoaster on a perverted path through the bowels of hell. With each twist and turn our guts are ripped apart as with each appeal our hope is escalated - then free falls to the lowest of the depths when the courts deny relief. Yet again and again we go through it, each time desperately grasping the imaginary rails that hold us in for fear that the sudden drop at the end of the ride will irreparably crush our mental state of mind.

My own case is but a single sample of what we all go through. After over 27 years convicted and condemned to death for a crime I did not commit (see www.southerninjustice.net ) I had good reason to believe that I would finally be exonerated and released – that I would be “home” for Christmas, and my nightmare finally be brought to an end.

My hope had a seemingly strong foundation as a virtual wealth of evidence supporting my claim of innocence had been developed in recent years and I couldn’t imagine any scenario under which the courts could deny relief. But I really should have known better. After all these years, if I’ve learned nothing else, it is that the courts are far more interested in “the politics of death” than they are in the novel concept of truth and justice, and few people today can argue in good faith that our courts are only too willing to ignore evidence of innocence and execute the innocent (see previously posted blog “Screw the truth”)

So, why was I so surprised when first the Florida Supreme Court, and then, a few months later, the Federal appeals court, denied my appeal? Why is it that this time my tried and true mantra of ‘hope for the best but prepare for the worst” failed me?

Now, once again I am forced to confront the probability that I will be executed and that nobody really cares whether I’m innocent or not. I’m sure that my dear friends will be upset – but nobody in the “justice” system cares. Only too often the courts deliberately turn a blind eye to evidence of innocence as they side with the State sanctioned serial killers to trust twist the truth around to meet their own agenda of carrying out an execution by any means necessary. And regardless of the fact that we see this again, our society chooses to ignore the inconvenient truth of how immoral, unethical and corrupt the American justice system has become.

I am angry at all of this. It is fundamentally unfair and as traumatic as being the victim of a violent rape – they raped me of justice. My dictionary tells me that “hope” is “a feeling that what is wanted will happen”, desire accompanied by expectation, and that “hopeless” is defined as “having no expectations of, or showing a sign of, a favorable outcome”. In a word I recognize that I have become ‘despondent”, which my dictionary defines as “utter loss of hope…implies such despair as makes one resort to extreme measure” (i.e. suicide) Hmm..That’s a familiar word – “suicide”, and not at all uncommon in my world where our hopes are often so deliberately crushed and the condemned do resort to that “extreme measure” of suicide.

I have actually contemplated suicide before. Once when my marriage was over and again when I was first convicted of this fabricated crime of alleged “premeditated” murder. Both times I could not follow trough and now I know that suicide is not something I could do so that simply is not an available option for me.

But at the same time I now struggle with the reality that I cannot win – that no matter how compelling the evidence of my innocence may be, truth and justice can never prevail before a judicial system that itself is completely corrupt to its own core. The cowards on the courts have neither the moral character nor the political courage to do the right thing and throw out a conviction that is now over a quarter century old.

Lately I find myself thinking about philosophical arguments I read years ago, such as Plato’s account of the Athenian philosopher Socrates being condemned to death by a politically corrupt tribunal. Plato tells of how Socrates faithful friend Crito stood by Socrates side, imploring Socrates to allow them to delay his execution in the hopes that after the emotional circumstances that led to his condemnation died down, they could appeal for a pardon. But Socrates accepted his fate and told Crito that although his heart was in the right place and he understood that his friends meant well in wanting to delay his execution, but, Socrates said “I am right in not doing this, for I do not think that I should gain anything by drinking the poison a little later; I should be sparing and saving a life which is already gone; I would only laugh at myself for this”

The words Socrates spoke so long ago still ring true today. I know that many of those who oppose the death penalty - and many of us here on death row - find it offensive and even a betrayal when someone “voluntarily” waives his appeals and seeks to expedite his won execution, which for all purposes amounts to a state sanctioned form of suicide.

But what of those of us who have already been through the appeals process again and again? And have been denied relief to the point where there is no hope left of getting relief? If we were to decide that enough is enough, and accept the inevitability of our own fate and simply choose not to pursue any further appellate review, then is it really fair to judge us as cowards and traitors to the cause, such as those are labeled when they decide to forego appeals altogether and “volunteer” to be executed?

Would I really be so wrong to accept the inevitability of my own fate and invite an expedited end to this nightmare by simply refusing to forego any further appeals, knowing that with the recent denial of my innocence appeal, my fate has now been sealed and all that really remains is delaying the inevitable at the expense of prolonging my own suffering?

I do not have a “death wish”. But neither do I have any desire to prolong my misery and suffering when I now know that my execution has become inevitable. As Socrates told his friend Crito: “What do I have to gain by delaying the inevitable but to make a fool of myself?” Like Socrates, I am blessed with a small group of dear friends who would be deeply hurt by my death, and their heartfelt desire to prolong my fate is genuine – but they are not the ones who must sit in this cage while the blanket of hopelessness and despair slowly suffocates the essence of life from me.

Such is the paradox of hope. For many years hope has sustained me as I had faith in our legal system to ultimately do the right thing. My hope and fate were my strength, generously sustained by my small circle of dear friends. But now I simply cannot find even a thread of hope left to cling on to and I find myself overwhelmed by the vacuum left behind – hopelessness.

But I find myself now struggling with the thought that increasingly haunt me. Even assuming that my fate is now inevitable, if I were to accept and embrace that finality would I be betraying the friends who stood by me and suffered through all of this? My death would bring an end to my nightmare but it would also bring pain to those who care about me. Would I be betraying their own loyalty and perseverance if I were to decide to forego any further appeals and allow the state to put me to death?

There are no easy answers. Perhaps I could believe in a merciful God, I would be blessed to simply die in my sleep and never again have to wake up to tomorrow and all these problems would be so easily solved as who could blame me of I died of natural causes tonight? But the God I believe in is not a merciful God – if he was, then he would not allow those who stand in judgment in our courts to pervert justice as they do.

So, I now struggle with this and pray that my nightmare will soon end. I no longer have the strength to hope for the best, but can only accept the worst. Soon I will have to make a tough decision and even now I don’t know what it will be. But I know that I have fought a good fight against the evil tyrant that is our legal system, and I know that I am now exhausted and even broken. Hopeless is now all that remains, with the only hope now left being the hope that my nightmare will soon come to an end.