Monday, October 1, 2012

Abu Ghraib – American Style

In April 2003 the world media reacted responded with outrage when photographic evidence of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib was exposed. In the aftermath several of the military prison guards involved were sent to federal prison themselves – but not even one of the supervisory officers responsible for overseeing the human treatment of the Iraqi prisoners were held accountable, and the media forgot all about the story.

In the Florida prison system today abuse and mistreatment of prisoners has become so common that the guards openly joke about how the quickest way to get a promotion is to assault a prisoner, In just the last few months at Florida State Prison and nearby Union Correctional Institution over 120 prisoners have been assaulted by prison guards severe enough to require medical treatment. At least one prisoner has been brutally beaten to death while another prisoner who was housed at Florida State Prison’s Q wing (formally known as X Wing) is now at the prison hospital in Lake Butler (North Florida Reception Center) with his arms and legs broken as well as numerous other injuries.

How many remember how prison guards at Florida State Prison brutally beat death row inmate Frank Valdez to death on July 17, 1999? It was front page news in many Florida newspapers. The nine guards involved were all charged with first degree murder and brought to trial in Bradford County – and not surprisingly, all nine were acquitted by the local jury in this prison town. Most got their jobs back with the prison system.
In May 2006, only a month after the media went wild over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib, a federal appeals court in Atlanta, Georgia issued a judicial ruling that recognized that in 1998-99 there were at least 150 assaulted prisoners in the months leading up to the beating death of Frank Valdez . See Valdez v Crosby, 450 F.sd. 1231 (11th Cir. 2006), and that the warden, James Crosby, not only ignored the assaults on prisoners, but actually promoted the prison guards involved!
After warden Crosby nurtured the environment of brutality against prisoners at Florida State Prison, as graphically detailed in numerous Federal cases, the Florida Governor Jeb Bush (younger brother of President George W Bush) actually promoted Warden Crosby to the top job of Secretary of the Department of Corrections! Not long after that Federal authorities arrested Secretary Crosby on corruption charges and Crosby agreed to plead guilty to these Federal charges in exchange for a sentence of 8 years in Federal prison. In 2007 the State of Florida agreed to pay the family of Frank Valdez well over a million dollars to drop their civil action. All told, Florida taxpayers paid millions of dollars to Florida prisoners and their families in civil settlements resulting from this reign of terror at the hands of Florida prison guards.

Only after Crosby and numerous other top Florida Department of Corrections officials were sent to Federal prison, did then Florida governor Jeb Bush bring in an “outsider” to clean up the widespread corruption. James McDonough was named as the new FDOC Secretary and discovered a “culture of corruption” so pervasive that “the prison system was run like the mafia” and ‘corruption had gone to the extreme”. See “Ex Florida prison boss: Drunken orgies tainted system” , CNN news, February 11, 2008 (print article available at http://edition.cnn.com/2008/CRIME/02/11/prison.boss/index.html
Under Secretary McDonough, 90 top prison officials (wardens, colonels, majors, etc) were abruptly fired and another 280 were demoted from supervisory positions. For a short period of time there was actually hope that the Florida prison system would be transformed into a culture where the officers actually respected that badge of law enforcement that they wear.
But it was not meant to be. After receiving numerous threats upon his life and the life of his family, James McDonough abruptly resigned and the Florida Department of Corrections was handed back to on of the department insiders and that culture of corruption that Secretary McDonough tried so hard to clean up has now been fully restored. Many of those that McDonough fired, as well as the majority of those that were demoted because “they could not be trusted” are now back in power and all but have complete control of the Florida prison system.

Less than 4 years after Secretary McDonough announced that he had cleared up this “good ole boy” system, the entire Florida prison system has once again regressed back to what it was under James Crosby, where the “culture of corruption” once again prevails and Florida prison guards are once again brutally beating and assaulting inmates with complete immunity. See, eg “Nightmare of Prison Rape” by David Person, USA Today, June 27, 2012; “The Caging of America”, by Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, January 16, 2012.

Once again, as graphically described by the Federal Court in Valdez v Crosby, 450 F.3d. 1231 (11th Cir. 2006) it has become daily practice for prison guards at Florida State Prison and Union Correctional Institution to brutally assault prisoners under the disingenuous pretense of a “justified use of force” almost always claiming that the inmate initiated the action, of course conveniently out of sight of the security cameras. In the over 120 “use of force” reports at the Florida State Prison and neighboring Union Correctional Institution, the vast majority involve the same small group of rogue guards and almost without exception were “approved” by the same small handful of supervisors.

More telling, this systematic abuse and even murder is being knowingly condoned, if not actively encouraged, by Florida State Prison Warden Dean Ellis and Union Correctional Institution Warden Barry Reddish. In virtually every one of these alleged assaults upon prisoners Warden Ellis and Warden Dean have rubber stamped the inter-institutional investigation in favor of the guards and consistently this relatively small group of prison guards responsible for the vast majority of these violent assaults are actually promoted, or otherwise rewarded with better days off and benefits such as free state housing.



But not a single media agency is willing to look into what is now going on at Florida State Prison and Union Correctional institution, especially since current FDOC Secretary Kenneth Tucker took over the department and made it very clear that his hand-picked Wardens are free to do as they wish without any meaningful supervision by Tallahassee.
For those who may actually be interested in looking into the systematic violent assaults and even murder of Florida prisoners under FSP Warden Ellis and UCI Warden Reddish, under Florida statutes, Chapter 119 “Public Records Act|” upon request the Florida Department of Corrections must expeditiously provide the relevant records. You must specifically request copies of all “use of force” reports, as well as all “incident reports” involving or leading up to the use of force. Additionally you should request copies of all purchase orders for any forms of “chemical agents” which will conclusively show that under FSP Warden Dean Ellis and UCI Warden Barry Reddish, the use of chemical agents (pepper spray etc) has substantially increased at least tenfold in just the past 6 months compared to prior fiscal purchases, and that under both Warden Ellis and Warden Reddish, they have deliberately stopped using the brand/strength of chemical agents previously used, replacing those with substantially stronger chemical agents.

We call to be a civilized society and yet we turn a blind eye to the systematic abuse and even murder of prisoners in our own backyard. Is this really what America has now become? Aren’t we supposed to be better than that? (end)
This above has been written by Michael Lambrix, a Florida death sentenced prisoner currently incarcerated at Union Correctional Institution (Inmate #482053) Mr. Lambrix is the author of the book “To live and Die on Death Row” available at Barnes and Noble (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/to-live-and-die-on-death-row-c-michael-lambrix/1105793584). Mr. Lambrix will provide media interviews to discuss prison conditions.

Check my website www.southerninjustice.net

Thursday, September 13, 2012

That Ever-Elusive Glimmer of Hope


Nelson Mandela, when he was imprisoned on Robben Island, was undoubtedly subjected to substantial hostility from the guards working around him, seeing him as a threat to their way of life. However, even in the worst of times, Mandela saw that glimmer of humanity that sustained his hope and gave him the strength to endure and he often spoke about that. But few would be able to truly appreciate just what he meant by his words, as very few will ever find themselves cast down into the bowels of a maximum-security prison that is intended to methodically break not only your body, but also your spirit, until you abandon all hope and submit to the masters of your fate.

I dare say that, although the circumstances may be different, I can find that common ground with Nelson Mandela. I can relate to his words as I too have spent not merely a few years but a few decades in solitary confinement under what is intended to be not merely physically, but psychologically oppressive conditions that take their inevitable toll in ways one cannot always see.

In all the years that I have spent ion Florida’s death row I have never seen the level of malice directed towards us by our captors as I do now. It’s a tangible presence that now hangs over us like an evil entity out to torment our very souls. I can not say how it took hold or why it has become what it is, but I can not deny this presence where once there was a level of mutual civility between the guards and convicts, now the guards almost always harbor a level of malice and even hate towards us that manifests itself in every way. Any guards who do dare show basic civility to death row prisoners are quickly transferred to another part of the prison. There’s no doubt that this level of malice comes from the very top.

As a result the environment we must live in has evolved into what could be described as a “cold war” zone. A few weeks ago I saw a sergeant who I’ve known for years and once respected because he treated us fairly. As he walked by my cell, I smiled and said “How you have been doing?” I only wanted to be civil. But his response spontaneously came back at me as if I had been physically assaulted “None of you f-----g business, inmate”! That was all he had to say, but more then I cared to hear. In that instant a man I once held in respect immediately lost all respect and in my eyes became the lowest form of scum that ever walked the earth. I quickly learned that this attitude was only too common among the guards working this unit now. What they simply cannot see is that by treating us with such malice, they only reduce themselves to something lower in the subhuman species. And I’m afraid that when one guard after other exhibits this same attitude for no apparent reason, then it doesn’t take long before the lines are clearly drawn and we come to see all the guards as the enemy.

But then in the most unexpected way my own attitude is put in check. A few weeks ago my elderly parents came up for their monthly visit. It was an extremely hot Florida summer day and as mom helped my father out of the car and into his wheelchair, she accidentally closed the car door, locking the car keys and their identification inside. They had no way to open the car door. Now standing there in the prison parking lot, it wouldn’t take long before the Florida sun took its inevitable toll. Both my parents are now quite elderly and not at all in their best health. It was at least 7 miles back to Starke, where the closest mechanic was who could be called to open the car door.

But then a sergeant saw them stranded there in the parking lot and went over to offer his assistance. He had to know they were visiting a prisoner as that would be the only reason for civilians to be at a prison parking lot on a Saturday morning. Despite the relentless heat bearing down upon him, that sergeant became as equally determined to help my parents and struggled for the better part of an hour to get their car door open. Another guard came over and offered my parents some water. Finally they succeeded in manipulating the door lock open and my parents retrieved their identification and were able to come in to visit me, and told me the story.

I was surprised and grateful to the unknown sergeant and officers who kindly helped my parents. But it also caused me to think about what Nelson Mandela said after his many years of imprisonment. In our world it is only too easy to allow ourselves to become filled with malice towards those on the other side of those steel bars, especially when the interaction between us and them is almost always an unpleasant experience. Like a dog in a cage, once you’ve been kicked so often by every guard that walks by, it’s only too easy to come to expect that from all of them.

But then there’s that one brief moment in time, when by a simple act at genuine humanity you are reminded that every person is an individual, and even if 100 guards show nothing but malice towards me for no apparent reason there are still that one or two that have found the strength to rise above this wall that exists between us. A simple act of kindness has restored that glimmer of hope in humanity, as at the end of the day it is our humanity and how that is manifested towards others that defines us as species and as along as there is still a few among us willing to follow that golden rule of doing onto others as we would want them to do onto us, then there is hope for all of us.

Michael Lambrix

Florida death row

Please check out my website

http://www.southerninjustice.net










Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Yep, I’m a Junkie

I’ll bet that when you first read that word “junkie” tour thoughts immediately went to the stereotypical street junkie desperately looking for that next drug fix, as that’s how most of us see junkies. But there are many other forms of additions far beyond those hooked on illicit drugs. When you think about it, most of us have something in life that we crave and at least to a limited extent we will push ourselves and those around us to have this particular craving fulfilled. For some of us it could be something as simple as that all important cup of coffee we crave the first thing in the morning. For others it may be that insatiable need to go shopping and others might find their strength and refuge in a bottle of wine, or perhaps something stronger. But each in our own way, we all have something that lights up those electrical pulses deep inside our brain and compel us to get that fix. It’s all part of the human experience and there are countless books written by the brightest minds out there who tell us that our brain is designed to crave things and when that craving is satisfied the parts of our brain that release those good feelings we experience after indulging in our addiction lights up like a Christmas tree. It doesn’t matter if its cocaine, coffee, chocolate, or sex – or even a good hug from someone we love as to that portion of the brain; it’s really all the same.

If I were into drugs then there would be the usual drug dealers willing to exploit my need, but I gave up on drugs long, long ago. I do still have my coffee at least 5 times a day but I no longer see that as a habit as I’ve read a lot of recent articles telling me coffee is actually good for me – so coffee is no longer a designated drug as it’s really a health food and I should drink even more.

Then there are the treats I buy from canteen here and I do love my treats and I’m not ashamed to admit I often eat at least one or two of the really sweet “iced honey buns” each week. And they are good and I love them, just as I chocolate chip cookies and other snacks I buy each week. But before you start stoning me for the sin of gluttony, you may want to know that I actually eat only half a honey bun or half a pack of chocolate chip cookies at a time. Yep even when indulging in my favorite junk food, I do show remarkable self restraint by carefully cutting that honey bun in half and then setting the one half aside as I slowly savor that first half and then, and only then, after I’ve consumed that first half will I reach out and eat the other half! That way if anyone asks I can look them in the eye and say I only eat half at a time!

But there’s a new need in town and many of us are being pulled into the cortex without the strength to resist. Unlike that honey bun, this addiction comes complete with a well organized team of pushers that shamelessly come around at regular intervals to tempt us with the latest goods…yep, I’m talking about the FDOC recent implementation of the sale of MP3 players and of course the songs.

I actually do not have my very own MP3 player as the cost is somewhat prohibitive. But already my mouth is watering and I kind of get the shakes as I write and rewrite my intended play list with all the songs that when I hear them transport me back to a time when I still had a life. That’s what it’s actually all about. Through that personal selection of our favorite songs we temporarily escape the reality and this place, and the never ending nightmare that our lives have become. There’s that song from way back when I went to my first junior high dance and for reasons I’ll never know the prettiest girl in school danced with me. Then there’s that “classis rock” that allows me to think about the old friends I used to hang out with in high school and that makes me smile. Then there are the songs that remind me for one particular reason or another of the people who have come and gone through my life and now all that remains is a song and that’s alright.

Some of the songs are corny and nobody is going to understand why I like it but me and that’s ok too as I think we all have songs that hold a personal significance to only us and you got to admit that we all have them on our play list.

Since they started selling these MP3 players it’s become the new “must have” toy here on the row. And it really is an addiction. Just ask the guys who already broke down and bought one, swearing that they would only buy a limited number of songs as each song costs $1.70 (you must buy 5 at a time, minimum for $8.50) and that quickly adds up. Guys who swore they would only buy a hundred of their favorites are now way beyond that and all but competing with each other to have the latest and greatest songs first.

Yeah, my days of having a half honey bun may soon end as I’m already cutting back, saving up to get one of those Mp3 players and once I do I’m sure I will join the others around here and find myself craving even more songs and feeding that insatiable hunger as I am, as we all are, a junky and these MP3 players are the new drug. Wish me luck!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Mutually Insured Destruction


Last week I was transferred from Florida State Prison to the main death row unit at Union Correctional Institution. I am only too familiar with what is known as the North East unit at UCI as I have spent many years there before I was moved back to FSP in December 2009. But for all that was familiar, it was still as if I had stepped off into a strange and unfamiliar world as although structurally the unit remained the same, this place has substantially changed.

What surprised me the most was the pervasive thick fog of malice that now exists within this unit. I have been on death row now almost 30 years and never before had I seen this tangible presence of malice towards death row that now exists. But this is not merely a coincidence – as I quickly came to realize, those that run the prison deliberately created this environment, systematically transferring officers who had worked death row for years out and replacing them with handpicked guards consumed by their hatred towards prisoners, especially those on death row.

Even as difficult as it is to explain this destructive presence that now hangs over this unit, it’s that much harder to understand the why of it all. Don’t get me wrong – I do understand the concept of uncompromised hate as I’ve been on both sides of that fence only too many times. But I’ve been on death row too long to know that it makes no sense at all to hate us simply because we are condemned to death. Anyone even vaguely familiar with how our judicial system really works knows that the only real difference between those on death row and those now serving “life” in the prison general population (“gen–pop”) is not the native of their alleged crime, but the quality of legal representation that we were provided. Death row does not hold the “worst of the worst” as those convicted of far more heinous crimes routinely get “life” instead of death. So it doesn’t make any rational sense to hate us simply because we happen to be on death row instead of the gen-pop.

But projecting our hate upon others very rarely (if ever) is governed by such a novel concept as rationale. Those that project their hate and malice towards others are almost always so completely blinded by their own sense of self righteousness that they cannot objectively step back and see what it does to themselves.

Although some might argue that it probably took me longer then it should have, over the years I have grown up – or at least, I’d like to think that I have. It wasn’t so long ago that if confronted with the same circumstances, I lacked the self discipline to control that spontaneous burst of anger. If anything, I even embraced it.

When I left Florida State Prison, not including boxes of legal materials that seem to grow larger as the years pass, I had about 5 boxes of personal property, mostly just all sorts off stuff that accumulated through the years that meant nothing to anyone – but to me. Most of it was important to me, as it’s all I had that accounted for the life I’ve had the past 28 years – and the life that I didn’t have. There were photographs of my kids growing up through the years that I couldn’t be a part of their life, pictures of the few friends whose smiling faces gave strength and support and reminded me that no matter how alone I might feel at times I’m never really completely alone.

But now they are all gone. By the time my property was returned to me, all that remained, including my clothes, barely filled one box. A single sheet of pink paper told the story. This is known as an “inmate impounded personal property list” (FDOC form DC6-220) and the first item listed was “16 pounds misc. papers” that were marked with a “c” (contraband) No reason, no nothing. It was all just thrown into the trash as since I am a death row inmate, that’s all anything I might have had is – nothing but trash.

It is way beyond their comprehension to understand why what they did was wrong, why that they did inflict such pain upon me. In their eyes I am something far less than human. They threw away all that matters to me; they are so completely blinded by their malice towards those of us on the row that they lack the capacity to see what this does to us.

This is one of those truths that give me the strength and dignity to rise above the environment I’m forced to exist in. All that matters to me is now gone and getting angry won’t bring it back. Hate and anger only perpetuates the never ending cycle of more hate and anger. The only hope of breaking this vicious cycle is to find the strength to rise above it and make that conscious decision not to respond in anger as anything else can only result in our mutually insured destruction. For all that I lost; I can still gain by growing as the person I have chosen to become. By choosing to find the strength within myself to accept what I cannot change and hope that by choosing not to respond in anger, those responsible for the unnecessary pain they inflicted upon me, perhaps they will find that moment in time when their own suppressed sense of moral conscience will remind them that I am not the enemy and perhaps even find the strength to show empathy and compassion towards the next prisoner.

This is the simple truth that I have been stressed to learn – hate and malice may cause great pain upon those we inflict it upon, but ultimately they destroy only those consumed by their destructive power. Only by finding the strength to choose not to respond destructively will there be hope of breaking that never ending cycle. I find comfort and strength in the choice I made as I know it has made me a better man.

Michael Lambrix
Union Correctional Institution
Florida










Tuesday, June 5, 2012

New Sheriff in Town

As if being thrown into solitary confinement under a sentence of death was not enough to psychologically break even the strongest of men, there are those who want to make us as miserable as possible. Like schoolyard bullies that thrive off of preying upon those they see as weak and defenseless, some warden’s do the same thing.

Last month Warden Dean Ellis and his assistant warden Brad Whitehead took over Florida State Prison – apparently FDOC secretary Kenneth Tucker decided that former FSP Warden Steven Singer was too weak. Both Ellis and Whitehead had previously risen up the ranks at FSP and are “old school”, believing that physical violence against prisoners is the only way to effectively manage prison. Both worked under former FDOC secretary James Crosby (who is still in Federal prison after being convicted of corruption) back when under Crosby prisoners at FSP were systematically assaulted and even brutally beaten to death, as is graphically documented by the Federal Courts in Frank Valdez v. James Crosby, 450 F.3d 1231 (11th Cir. 2000, as well as in my own book “To Live and Die on Death Row” by Michael Lambrix)

The first thing Warden Ellis did when taking over FSP last month was order boxes of extremely concentrated chemical agents (“pepper spray” or “gas”) intended to be used on prisoners – and he wasted no time using them. Under the pretense of compelling prisoners to have their cells “in compliance” Warden Ellis hand-picked groups of guards to go from cell to cell and upon any resistance they were instructed to use physical force. This is one of the oldest tricks in the books - by creating the pretense of the prisoner being “disorderly” they can justify the use of physical force.

Assistant Warden Whitehead holds special malice towards death row, and it was no surprise that Whitehead spent several days after coming to FSP tp go cell to cell, knit-picking the most frivolous details so that virtually every death row prisoner was found to be in “non-compliance”. Whitehead has an agenda – it’s not enough to throw a condemned man in a solitary cell for years, he wants those on death row to suffer and be miserable to inflict as much misery as possible .

It came as no surprise then when the following day Whitehead issued a document entitled “Florida State Prison Death Row Housing Unit Instructions” to every death row prisoner in FSP. (see content of this document below) In this document Whitehead has created 24 “rules” that must be meticulously complied with – any violations will result in “disciplinary action”.

Collectively these rules are intended to accomplish only one thing: to serve as a pretense of finding any death row prisoner in “non-compliance” so that Whitehead can justify taking away the very few privileges death sentenced prisoners have, like visitation and canteen privileges and use physical force against those sentenced to death.

You can email the Secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections and ask about these new rules and request copies of all incident reports and/or use of force reports, as in Florida every state agency is subject to disclosing public records.

Email: tucker.kenneth@mail.dc.state.fl.us

Florida State Prison Death Row Housing Unit Instructions

In addition to Florida Administrative Code (FAC) Chapter 33 and FDC Procedures you will be expected to comply with these instructions. Failure to comply may result in the loss/suspension of privileges and/or disciplinary action. Your acknowledgement and compliance with these instructions will be an indication of positive adjustment and a benefit to you. Should you have any questions: contact a staff member within your unit for clarification. FAC Chapter 33 and FDC Procedures are available for checkout in each unit. Items checked out must be returned on the same shift as issued. Inmates will be responsible for lost or damaged items they have checked out.

1) Inmates will follow all orders given by an employee at any given time.

2) Inmates are to conduct themselves in a quiet and orderly manner at all times. There will be no yelling or loud talking from cell to cell, out of windows to inmates or staff. Additionally there will be no talking during counts of after lights out. Inmates are not permitted to yell to staff members to gain their attention unless there is true emergency.

3) Inmates are not permitted to talk or in any way attempt to communicate with other inmates while being escorted outside of their cells. This includes, but not limited to – showers/haircut, recreation, hearings, callouts/appointments and work/education assignments.

4) Inmates are not permitted to communicate or attempt to communicate to anyone outside of the housing unit to include those times when inmates are escorted outside the unit to participate in outdoor recreation, work details or call-outs/appointments. Any form of unauthorized communication to others (staff, visitors, or inmates) outside the unit in any manner is strictly prohibited.

5) You are required to wear a Class B uniform from 8:00am – 5:00pm Monday to Friday. The class B uniform consists of a tee shirt, blue pants or personal shorts (if you currently possess them). Anytime an inmate departs their cell they are to be dressed in Class A uniform, including approved footwear, unless directed otherwise by staff.

6) Bunks will be made each morning at 8:00am, excluding weekends and holidays, with a 6 (six) inch white collar and will remain in this fashion until 5:00pm. Anytime an inmate departs his/her cell on weekends or holidays the bunk will be made before departing the cell.

7) Inmates are to remain quiet when ant staff member enters the wing. When a staff member passes by your cell, you may address staff at that time.

8) Inmates are not permitted to stand on toilets, bunks or sinks.

9) Mattresses, sheets, blankets, pillows/pillow cases and towels will not be placed on the floor at any time.

10) Inmates will perform scheduled cleaning of their cells as directed by staff and will be responsible for keeping cells clean and orderly at all times. Inmates will not write on, or in any manner deface cell walls, windows, floors, ceilings, doors/bars or any fixtures. No items are to be attached or affixed to any area within the cells. Towels and washcloths may be hung to dry on the wall hooks, provided for that purpose in each cell.

11) Inmates are not permitted to throw any trash out of their cells. Trash will be collected during scheduled cell cleaning and after the completion of each meal.

12) All state property will be returned in the same condition as when issued.

13) Inmates are not to pass any item from cell to cell or to any other inmate to include personal/or state property. The manufacture, possession or use of a rope or “fishing line” is prohibited.

14) All property will be stored in your locker or other approved storage location.
All personal property in excess of what can be kept in the locker must be disposed of according to proper regulations.

15) All inmates are to come to the cell door and receive their food tray at meal times. The trays are to remain inside the cell until collected at the completion of each meal. Food items or trays will not be passed between cells. No food items, food trays, utensils, containers or condiments (except those items purchased from the canteen) will be stored in the cells at any time. Any issue with the meal being served will be addressed to the officer supervising the feeding of the meal and not inmate orderlies.

16) Death Row inmates will be allowed to possess and use “smokeless tobacco” products. They will not be allowed to possess any other type of tobacco.

17) All inmates are required to comply with Chapter 33-602-101, FAC to include maintaining hair and fingernails as outlined. Inmates will also shower and shave three times a week (unless exempt by medical pass) Showers are limited to ten (10) minutes maximum. Clippers will be used for shaving.

18) Inmates will proceed directly to the showers from their cells and return directly to their cell upon completion unless directed otherwise. You are permitted to take the following items to the shower: clean clothing, shower slides, towel, washcloth, and hygiene products.

19) Issuance and exchange of health and comfort items will be on a predetermined schedule within each unit.

20) You are not permitted to take anything (i.e. towels, books, papers, canteen items, etc) to the outdoor recreation yards. Inmates are permitted to talk to other inmates in the outdoor recreation areas if conversation can be conducted without loud talking or yelling. Inmates participating in outdoor recreation are not permitted to talk to inmates inside the housing unit or areas outside of the recreation area. Inmates will be permitted to remove outer shirt once inside the recreation yard, but t-shirts must be worn. Shorts may be worn while on the recreation yards.

21) Inmates are required to respond to health care staff during daily rounds, sick call, and weekly mental health rounds. Prior to health care staff entering the individual housing unit an officer will announce “Health care staff is now conducting rounds” If these rounds are after 5:00pm inmates will dress in at least Class “B” uniform until health care staff departs the housing unit.

22) Inmates with medical, mental health or dental non-emergencies will notify medical staff while making daily rounds; mental health staff during weekly rounds or submit an “inmate request” DC6-236. Over the counter medication may be requested from Close Management staff as needed.

23) Cells will be inspected for damage prior to your placement. Any noted deficiency will be listed on the “Cell Inspection” DC6-221 form and you will sign the form acknowledging your agreement with the inspection. Inmates will be held accountable for any deficiencies not previously noted on the DC6-221 during routine inspections or upon release.

24) In the event it becomes necessary to evacuate the housing unit inmates will follow all directions issued by staff and move from their assigned cells to the pre-designated assembly area in a quiet and orderly manner. Inmates will not attempt to retrieve any personal property prior to departure unless directed by staff.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Did Florida execute yet another innocent man?

Once again, the state of Florida deliberately put a man to death by execution despite an unresolved claim of innocence. As has only become too common, the Florida courts simply refused to address the evidence supporting the claim that Robert Waterhouse was innocent before they too his life for a crime that Waterhouse may very well have been innocent off.

In January 1980 the nude body of Deborah Kammerer was found on the shore of Tampa Bay. It was obvious she died a violent death. But there was no eyewitness to the crime and nothing more than circumstantial evidence that perhaps she was in a bar the night before at the same time that Robert Waterhouse was there. The bartender claimed that Waterhouse talked to the victim and that they left the bar together. The policed immediately focused their investigation then on Waterhouse. He was taken into custody but never confessed to killing Deborah Kemmerer, only that he casually knew her from the bar. Police claimed that Waterhouse volunteered that he had experienced problems involving sexual activity, especially when drinking, and that he responded to his arrest by exclaiming that his life was over.

The police impounded Waterhouse’s car and claimed that a Liminol test revealed the presence of blood. The state got their expert to testify at trial that although they could not actually say that this blood was from the victim, it was generally consistent with the victim’s blood – and countless others. Several hairs were also found in Waterhouse’s vehicle and again the state produced an expert who told the jury although they could not prove it was the victims hair, it was consistent with her hair – and again, equally consistent with millions of other unknown people.

When Waterhouse was arrested in 1980 forensic DNA testing of blood and hair was not yet available. Such testing would have conclusively proven whether or not that blood and hair came from the victim. Years later when DNA became available and Florida adopted laws for allowing for DNA testing on earlier cases, Waterhouse was among the first who all but beat the courthouse doors down, demanding that this blood and hair be tested. Of course, the state of Florida fought tooth and nail to prevent this testing. Undoubtedly afraid that these DNA tests would prove that Waterhouse actually was innocent, the state lawyers advised the court that virtually all of that forensic evidence was “accidentally destroyed” due to a clerical error, even though applicable Florida law forbids the destruction of evidence in any capital case until the case becomes final and no further appeals can be pursued.

In May 2004 sixth Judicial Circuit Court judge R. Timothy Peters ordered a hearing on the state’s dubious claim that by coincidence virtually all of the forensic evidence that could have proven Waterhouse's innocent was destroyed. In this order Judge Peters specifically recognized that Waterhouse’s motion to compel DNA testing, which legally required a showing of innocence, was legally sufficient. But shortly following Judge Peter’s order for a hearing, the state prosecutor attempted to have Judge Peters removed and the hearing presided over by Judge Beach – the judge who had originally convicted and condemned Robert Waterhouse.

When judge Peters refused to step aside, the prosecutor filed an appeal to the Florida Supreme Court, asking that they stop Judge Peters from allowing any hearing on how and why all the evidence was destroyed, but the Florida Supreme court refused to stop the hearing. Although judge Peters was allowed to preside over the hearing, it was actually judge Beach who ultimately denied Waterhouse Waterhouse's appeal that that the destruction of the evidence violated his constitutional rights to a fair and meaningful opportunity to prove his innocence. In an unpublished order in October 2006 the Florida Supreme Court upheld the order rendered by Judge Beach. Why the Florida Supreme Court specifically ordered that its opinion denying his innocence claim not to be published, as all other decisions in capital cases are, remains a mystery – and the court will not explain its reasoning.

On January 4, 2012 Florida governor Rick Scott signed a death warrant against Waterhouse, scheduling his execution for February 16, 2012. Pursuant to Florida Rules of Criminal Procedures, only after a death warrant was signed were Waterhouse’s lawyers allowed to gain access to police and state agency files on the case. An ambiguity in one of the police reports compelled the lawyers to locate and talk to Leglio Sotolongo, who in the night of the crime worked as a doorman at the bar. To their surprise, Mr. Sotolongo remembered Robert Waterhouse and the events that took place that night of January 2, 1980, and he told them that he had told the police detective Cary Hitchcock that Waterhouse did not leave the bar that night with the victim Deborah Kammerer but rather had left with two men. Further, Mr. Sotolongo remembered that he also told detective Cary Hitchcock that the bartender Kyoe Ginn, who said she saw Waterhouse leave the bar with Deborah Kammerer was lying, as it would have been impossible for the bartender to actually see the door from where she was.

Under sworn oath, Mr. Sotolongo testified that rather than being interested in the truth, detective Hitchcock became angry and accused him and another bouncer (Leon Vasquez) of trying to help a murderer, even to the point of physical altercation in an attempt to coerce Mr. Sotolongo and Mr. Vasquez from telling that they had seen Waterhouse leave with two men and not the victim.

For over 30 years the police deliberately concealed this evidence and lied in police reports. When finally discovered that detective Hitchcock – who’s testimony was used to convict and condemn Waterhouse – had concealed Mr. Sotolongo’s statement and falsified police reports , the original trial concluded that since Mr. Sotolongo was not compelled to actively testify until over 30 years later, he was not a credible witness.

In a final appeal, Waterhouse’s lawyers attempted to stop the execution by arguing that execution of an inmate should be prohibited when the prisoner has maintained his innocence and it is shown that the state has destroyed evidence that may have proven his innocence. But once again, in a unanimous decision by the Florida Supreme Court, dated February 8, 2012, the court denied Waterhouse claims, denied relief and cleared the way for his execution.

Once again I am reminded of the public speech given by former Florida Supreme Court chief Justice Gerald Kogan shortly after his retirement in which he said” There is no question in my mind, and I can tell you this from having seen the dynamics of our criminal justice system over the years that I have been associated with it, as a prosecutor, defense attorney, trial judge, and Supreme Court Justice, that convinces me that we certainly have executed people who were, in fact, not guilty of the crime for which they have been executed”

America today remains the only western nation in the world that continues to use capital punishment, joining company with countries that America itself has long recognized as refusing to recognize basic human rights (Iran, North Korea, and China etc). With an average of well over 20,000 homicides occurring in America each year, and the vast majority of these convicted of murder having solid evidence of their guilt (such as eyewitnesses, forensic evidence, confessions etc) I ask you this – why is it that we see again and again those being put to death were convicted upon, what can fairly be described as, specious evidence, at best? Why is it that so many of those actually have substantial questions of actual innocence and evidence supporting their innocence, which the courts simply refuse to address and resolve? Shouldn’t there be a strict and inflexible rule of law that no person should be put to death if there is any question of whether they may be innocent? But contemporary, politically manipulated judicial systems have proven again and again that it lacks the moral character and ethical integrity required to protect the innocent from being executed.

Maybe everyone who claims to be innocent is not innocent, but without adequate safeguards to protect against the execution of the innocent by prohibiting the state from putting any person to death unless and until all questions of innocence are fully and fairly resolved, how can anyone say with any measure of moral certainty that we are not putting innocent people to death?

Michael Lambrix
#482053
Florida State Prison

Please check out my website http://www.southerninjustice.net

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Another New Year

Another year has now passed and despite the relentless efforts of morally and ethically corrupt state employed parasites, I am still alive. To be honest, at this time last year things were not looking too good and I had good reason to think I might not even live to see this new year.

But such is the roller coaster ride we are on. Just when you think you are going over the cliff to your certain death, a sudden twist and turn, and you’re shooting for the moon again. This time last year both the state and federal courts had denied my long pending “actual innocence” appeals, refusing to even look at the virtual wealth of evidence that supported my claim of innocence. I really should not had been surprised as I already knew that even the United States Supreme Court has plainly declared that innocence is not an issue. (Herrera v. Collins, 1992). So, it was not a surprise when the Florida Supreme Court rejected review of my innocence claim in a one sentence footnote, saying that a freestanding claim of innocence cannot be considered.

In several subsequent appeals to the federal courts, they too summarily denied review. Incredibly, the arguments (written brief) before the US Supreme Court, the state of Florida even specifically argued that Florida is not obligated to recognize a “fundamental miscarriage of justice” (actual innocence) claim, as if it is cognizable at all, then it is exclusively a federal claim. That was a disturbing insight into the moral corruption of our state courts, when they arrogantly tell the US Supreme Court that Florida can put innocent people to death if they want to – and in evidently they will.

Confronted with that truth, it wasn’t looking good and once again I had to confront my seemingly inevitable fate of being deliberately put to death for a crime I did not commit. That even evidence substantiating my innocence would not be enough to save me from those who would only too gladly take my life.

Perhaps some higher power was as offended by the state’s arrogance as just when it seemed that my fate was surely sealed yet another unexpected twist gave me renewed hope of winning my freedom within the foreseeable future.

Specifically, under applicable law the prosecutor must fully disclose any and all evidence that might be favorable to the accused. The failure to do so violates an important federal constitutional right, and if it is found that the undisclosed evidence is sufficient enough to undermine confidence in the jury’s verdict, then the conviction must be thrown out and a new trial granted.

In my now pending new appeal before the Florida Supreme Court, we are arguing that the State deliberately violated the law. Much to my surprise the State’s own lawyer actually conceded that the prosecutor did deliberately conceal numerous file folders containing state crime lab records that show that they had actually found hair belonging to the state’s only “key witness” on the alleged murder weapon.

Given that the State’s lawyers never concede an issue, and aggressively fight tooth and nail to win by any means necessary, I was utterly speechless when I read the States concession – and not surprised that when the state lawyer was quickly removed from case shortly after. God forbid that a lawyer for the state should actually be honest!

So now the only real question for the Florida Supreme Court to decide is whether the failure to fully disclose these state crime lab records and DNA evidence might had affected the outcome. In my case the State has consistently conceded that the whole case rested upon the jury believing their one key witness, Frances Smith. So, the question now comes down to if the jury had known that the prosecutor deliberately concealed evidence showing that the only forensic evidence found on the alleged “murder weapon” was hair belonging to Smith, would this have caused the jury to question Smith’s credibility and possibly reject her testimony?

If the Florida Supreme Court finds that this undisclosed evidence would have assisted in discrediting this key witness, then they must throw out my conviction and grant a new trial – which would almost certainly prove impossible and result in my release – freedom.

A ruling should come within the next month or two. So, I begin the New Year with renewed hope that in the not too distant future, after close to 30 years, I will finally win and be free. All things considered that’s not a bad way to start the New Year. At least for the moment I have hope and in here hope is what keeps you going.