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

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Holidays In The Hole


By Michael Lambrix for MinutesBeforeSix

Sometime shortly after Thanksgiving in late 1970, when I was ten years old, my father unexpectedly told me that I was to go with him to look for a Christmas tree.  I didn’t want to go, especially when I realized that it was only going to be him and me. I was afraid of him and for good reason, as he had already tried to kill me on more than one occasion.  But I didn’t have a choice, and I knew only too well that even so much as a hint of resistance would be quickly met with severe physical discipline, especially since he had already been drinking.

In silent obedience I climbed into the passenger side of our old 1959 Chevy station wagon and as I closed the door and my father got in on the other side, I leaned against the door as far away from him as I could get, with one hand resting on the latch just in case it became necessary to quickly eject myself.  With a turn of the key the engine was brought to life.  I always loved that old wagon, a one-year wonder of the age of automobile extravagance, with its rear wings wide and long stretching all the way to the back so that even when parked, it looked like it could fly. And as my father pulled the car from the driveway and out on to the road, as only a child could, I quickly overcame my fear by imagining that we were about to take flight, and my one hand that was on the door latch drifted up and out the open window and as the cool air blew in, my flattened hand extended outward glided in the wind like an airplane in the sky.

Dad never was one for talking and we drove in silence.  Going to look for a Christmas tree didn´t mean going to town, as he never bought our tree.  Rather, we took a back road north and then westward away from Novato, into the San Geronimo Valley, where the farms and ranches of Marin County were hidden in the rolling foothills amongst roads that twisted and turned seemingly forever, all the while looking for a small tree that would serve the purpose.  From time to time, I would point towards one I thought might be worthy, desperate to win my father´s approval and all but shout out “How about that one?” but he never slowed down or even looked, just continued to drive along in silence, steadily sipping from whatever alcoholic spirits he had in that cup nestled between his legs.

The old Chevy strained as it climbed up a small hill, and with a momentary roar of the barely muffled 348 V-8, Dad quickly downshifted and gunned the accelerator and we picked up speed.  As we reached the crest and started downhill, just as the dark beaten and broken blacktop of that two lane back-road out in the middle of nowhere took a gentle turn to the right, a group of deer leaped out from the brush along the side of the road, not more than a few car lengths in front of us, and attempted to cross to the other side.

For reasons only Mother Nature knows, one of the group, perhaps the smallest one of all, suddenly stopped in the middle of the road and stared into the fast approaching headlights and I felt my anxiety rising as I wished with all my might that it would move, but it didn’t.  Where any other person would quickly apply the brakes and take evasive action to avoid imminent collision, with a gleeful shout, my father pushed down hard on the gas, propelling the old Chevy faster and the car collided with the deer. At the last instant before impact, it desperately jumped just enough so that as the tons of cold Detroit steel crashed into its body with brutal force, the deer´s head slammed violently down on the hood of the car only a few feet from where I sat motionless and afraid, and then it was gone.

In that very instant my father slammed on the brakes and as he did, I was caught unprepared for a sudden stop and violently thrown forward, hitting my own head against the steel dash.  As I sat up dazed and momentarily confused, the car came to a stop and my father reached towards me.  I pulled back instinctively, as I knew I was about to be assaulted because it had to be my fault, somehow, that that deer jumped out in front of the car.

But to my surprise, Dad was as joyful as a small child on Christmas morning and filled with a happiness that was all but infectious. Dad grabbed me by my jacket and pulled me out of the door, half-dragging me up the hill towards where the deer had landed. There it lay, barely on the side of the road, quivering and struggling to breathe with crimson red blood flowing from its nostrils. I froze, staring down upon this helpless creature and watched in horror as my father pulled his buck knife from the sheaf he always wore on his waist and without hesitation he grabbed the deer´s head by its ear and pushed the point of the knife blade straight down deep into the side of its neck, and just as quickly, pulling it straight back out and as its head fell back to the ground, its eyes looked upward and momentarily met mine as it shook and quivered one final time before going dark and cold.

Perhaps offended by my lack of shared exuberance, I was unexpectedly rewarded with a backhand blow to the side of my head and a stern order to help him throw the now still warm, but lifeless body, in the back of the station wagon and in uncomfortable silence we drove home.  The next morning the cold carcass hung from the rafters in the garage.  With surgical deftness, my father butchered the flesh from its bones, and for weeks to come we ate the meat at our family table.

But that deer did not die that night. It lives in my memory, and I continue to see that desperate look of a wounded and trapped animal as it struggled helplessly in the eyes of those around me.

On December 17, 2012, I was into my second week of being in “the hole,” which is what we call the solitary cells on the designated disciplinary confinement floor.  I was sentenced to 30 days in the hole because I failed to sit up on my bunk during noon count.  In all the years I have been on Florida´s death row (read: “Alcatraz of the South” Part I and Part II) it was never required, but on that particular day it was demanded of me for no other reason but as a pretense to send me to lock-up because I had dared to offend the powers that be by writing a blog about the then recent reign of terror that had swept the prison under the administration of Warden Reddish, culminating in the death of inmate Frank Smith a few months earlier at the hands of the guards.

While in the hole, we have no privileges. Our T.V.’s, radios, MP3 players, all reading material except bibles, and all non-state issued food become contraband and are stored in the property room until our disciplinary confinement term is complete.  We are allowed minimal writing materials and essential legal materials, and nothing else.

Although I don’t have an extensive disciplinary record, I was not stranger to doing time in lockup.  Sooner or later, we all go, some more than others. It is simply part of doing time.  For most of us, you do whatever amount of time they give you, and on Death Row, regardless of how petty or insignificant the alleged infraction might be, you will always be sentenced to the maximum amount of disciplinary confinement allowed.

On one side of me was an elderly black man by the name of Sebert Conners, who, in all the years I’ve known him, has been a regular fixture in lockup, repeatedly written specious disciplinary reports for what I (and others) believe to be retaliation against him for daring to speak out when the guards were brutally assaulting prisoners almost daily, leading up to the murder of death row inmate Frank Valdes in July 1999. Nine guards, including a high-ranking captain, were arrested and formally indicted for first-degree murder, and the other guards never forgot Conners played a significant role in that. (See: Frank Valdes v James Crosby, et.al., 450 F.3d.1241 (11th Cir. 2006) graphically detailing the violent assaults leading up to the death of Valdes and how Conners played a role in bringing it to light). 

An then there are always the “bugs” in the hole – mentally ill inmates who suffer from various forms of paranoia and psychosis, typically ignored by most prisoners and guards, but still kept for extended periods of time in the hole when a guard who is not so tolerant or understanding decides it’s time to break them.

One of those at this particular time was Michael Oyola, who, since coming to Death Row, has made frequent trips to the psychiatric unit out on the main compound and is regularly kept on psychotropic medication in an attempt to manage his psychosis (butmore often than not it doesn´t help).

I was housed in a cell immediately adjacent to Oyola when we heard the front of the cellblock door open and about the same time, the ventilation fan was turned off.  When you´ve been around a while, you know it’s a bad sign when the ventilation fan goes off.  If they were working on it, we would have heard the maintenance crew in the pipe alley behind the cells where all the plumbing and electrical fixtures are.  We didn’t.

An unnatural silence fell over the cellblock.  Even the bugs knew something was up.  It didn´t take too long before we first heard the murmured voices near the front door, then none other than the Warden herself led an entourage of guards and staff down the walkway, and as I sat watching them come, my own heart skipped a beat or two as I noticed most of them were carrying the blue fabric face masks they wear when gassing someone. One guard had a large red can similar to a fire extinguisher that we all knew held the chemical agent they used to gas inmates. Another held a small video camera.

They passed my cell but then only a few feet further the warden stopped directly in front of the cell housing death row inmate Michael Oyola, and the others fell in around her. Just as I could only watch helplessly as that small deer struck by a force it had no power to defend against, I sat silently on the edge of my bunk and listened as the Warden verbally laid into Oyola, accusing him of writing her a letter demanding to see her, saying no inmate makes demands of her.

At first I could hear Oyola politely protest, insisting that he meant no offense, but needed to see her as he felt he was being treated unfairly.  But with skill that comes from years of climbing the ranks, the Warden methodically verbally assaulted him, until finally Oyola realized that his fate was already sealed and nothing he could say would matter, and he told them to do what they came to do.

The warden then stepped aside, and instructed the officer holding the video camera to turn it on. The officer holding the large canister of gas stepped forward and they blasted Oyola with it.

I had already moved to the back of my adjoining cell, but still remained not more than a few feet away, and there was no escaping that ominous orange cloud as it rolled in like the San Francisco fog, quickly filling not only Oyola’s cell, but my own, and the other surrounding cells, too.

In all the years I’ve been locked up I’ve never been personally targeted for a gassing, but I was no stranger to it either, as in recent years the use of industrial strength chemical weapons on prisoners has substantially increased.  Inmates in confinement units would inevitably experience the full effects of this form of torture, either as the primary target, or simply because it’s your poor luck to be housed near someone else who has been targeted.

As that orange cloud filled the air around me, I staggered to my sink to reach for my washcloth with the intent to use the wet rag as a filter, only to find that they had also turned the water off.  Without hesitation I dipped my wash cloth into my toilet - fortunately I had flushed earlier and there was nothing floating in the stainless steel bowl – and then covered my mouth and most of my face with that wet rag, all the while mentally admonishing myself to breathe through my mouth, not through my nose.  If you were stupid enough to take even one breath through your nose, the gas would fill your sinus cavity and you’d suffer for days.

Coughing and hacking and barely able to breathe I dropped to my knees in front of my toilet, feeling as if I had to puke my guts up but only suffering through a series of physically painful dry heaves as my body protested against this unwelcome invasion. I was faintly aware of similar sounds coming from the cells on either side of me housing Oyola and Conners.

It never ceases to boggle my mind how the world united in outrage and condemnation when the media exposed the barbaric treatment of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Graihd prison, and stood just as united when calling for a prohibition of water-boarding and torturing of alleged “terrorists” at Guantanamo Bay, and yet every day, comparable forms of torture are inflicted upon American prisoners in American prisons and nobody seems to care. In fact, many openly advocate for the abuse and torture of American prisoners under the pretense of administering justice.

If ever a person is exposed to this form of deliberate gassing, they would know that perhaps water-boarding really is not all that bad after all.  The physical effects are the same – struggling to breathe as the chemical agents fill your lungs, your body involuntarily convulses uncontrollably as your eyes water and burn – and you dare not rub them because it magnifies the effect.  You are rendered unable to move, and when they finally stop spraying the gas, the effects remain for hours and the burning and the taste last for days.  And it´s a normal part of being thrown into any confinement housing unit in any prison in America.

At times like that, I smile to myself as I repeat the words of the philosopher Freidrich Neischze: “That which does not kill me can only make me stronger,” and I find a momentary source of strength in those words. They impose a profound truth.  I am on a long journey through the many levels of a man-made hell that few could even begin to imagine.

In the worst of times, I look back at what I’ve already survived and recall the many times I found myself housed on Q-wing (briefly re-labeled X-wing), at Florida State Prison.  Even the most hardened of convicts were broken by the brutal conditions of FSP, known to many as the “Alcatraz of the South.” Back then, nobody came straight to FSP except those sentenced to death.  The rest came only after they were deemed an extreme security risk and could not be housed in any other prison.

On the lower floor of Q-wing is Florida’s death house, where those scheduled for imminent execution are held until they either get a stay, or are put to death. I’ve spent my time on death watch, coming within hours of execution, (read: The Day God Died) and know that floor too well.

Above that death house are two other floors, with six cells on each side of each floor. Each of these 24 super-max cells is itself an individually sealed concrete crypt, holding prisoners who have assaulted or killed guards, or just had the bad luck of stepping on the wrong toes, often for many years at a time.

This prison within a prison has only one purpose: to break convicts. (See: “Locked Alone on X-wing” by Meg Laughlin, the Miami Herald, Sunday May 30, 1999.) I did my share of time on each of those floors. The confinement cells here at UCI, even with all the physical deprivation that comes from months of solitary confinement, seem like a Four Seasons resort compared to Q-wing.  Despite the periodical call to close that wing down (see: “End The Barbarism at Florida State Prison,” editorial, The Miami Herald, May 30, 1999), those cells remain in use.

But there are moments in time when I find myself helplessly gasping for breath as the toxic cloud of chemical agent overcomes me when I find myself actually missing the extreme solitude and deprivation of Q-wing.  In the hours that pass after they’ve left the wing, when that ominous cloud finally settles down to a thin layer of powdery dust that blankets everything, and the ventilation fan and water are turned back on, and each of us in our individual solitary cell begins to thoroughly wash down every nook and crack of our cells, all the while still coughing and hacking up distinctively orange colored phlegm from our lungs, even after the days that follow, with that persistent burning in our eyes and throat slowly subsides, and even after we no longer jump up when it appears the ventilation fan has yet again been turned off, I can still see that look of fear and terror of that helpless deer in the eyes of that last man targeted for gassing.

In recent months the media has reported the widespread use of chemical agents and physical assaults to subdue Florida prisoners. A formal investigation by both the State Police (Florida Department of Law Enforcement) and Federal Justice Department (FBI) has been recently launched, looking into the deaths of at least 85 Florida prisoners and willing to expose the seemingly widespread criminal conduct by guards (See: "The Prison Enforcer" by Julie K. Brown, The Miami Herald, September 21, 2014 and “Case Ties Guards, Gangs, Attempted Hit” by Dara Kim Tallahassee Democrat, Sunday September 28, 2014).  They focused largely on the death of inmate Randall Jorden-Aparo, who was repeatedly gassed by guards acting under the same warden who personally ordered the gassing of Oyola and the rest of us that just happened to be in confinement that particular day.

The week following the gassing was Christmas and for the first time in all these years, I spent my Christmas in lockup.  Although isolated away from the general Death Row wings, our friends would recruit whoever they could to smuggle small bags of candy and treats to those of us in lockup, letting us know that we were not forgotten.  And although the memories of that deer continued to haunt me on that Christmas day in the hole, the small group of us joined together to find comfort in each other´s company and a few of the bugs even joined in as we unabashedly sang Christmas carols, if for no other reason but to let them know that our spirit was not broken.

To sign Mike's clemency petition, click here

For more information on Mike's case, click here and here

Michael Lambrix 482053

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Please Spare Michael Lambrix's Life - sign the petition!


Michael Lambrix has been on death row for nearly 31 years.
He has always maintained that he acted in self-defence and there are grave doubts about the safeness of both the conviction and the death sentence. His family and pen friends around the world would be deeply affected by the loss of a friend they have learned to know, admire and respect.
A clemency submission was filed on 5 December. This calls for a full clemency review, at which witnesses could be called, rather than the limited review on paper that has so far been allowed.

Letter to
Office of Executive Clemency Governor Rick Scott
Commission on Offender Review Florida
Joined by a strong commitment to justice, the undersigned respectfully request that the clemency authorities of Florida allow a full Clemency Review for Michael Lambrix DC#482053, born March 29, 1960, who faces execution for a double murder for which he was convicted in 1984. Among our reasons for requesting this are as follows:

1. The initial trial in 1983 resulted in a hung jury. A second trial was held in 1984. The jury’s recommendation of the death sentence was not unanimous. Michael Lambrix has consistently stated that he acted in self-defense and has protested his innocence of capital murder.

2. There has been a failure of the judicial process, allowing the case to fall through the cracks. A range of new evidence has come to light since Mr. Lambrix’s last clemency review in 1987, which itself was perfunctory. This includes exculpatory evidence which was never presented to the jury, such as the fact that a key witness has retracted her trial testimony and the State’s main witness admitted under oath in an evidentiary hearing that she had been sexually involved with the Chief Investigator for the prosecutor during the pre-trial investigation. Another key witness later (post-trial) withdrew her testimony, leaving no witnesses who still contend that the homicides were committed in the way that they were presented to the jury. A full and fair review of all the evidence has never been conducted.

3. Executing Michael Lambrix after he has already spent 30 years under sentence of death for a crime which is surrounded by such serious doubts would be inappropriate and inhumane, if not immoral. Where the ultimate punishment is handed down, there must also be the ultimate certainty. By any measure, this certainty is not present in this case.

4. Michael Lambrix has repeatedly made it clear how the events continue to haunt him and how not a day goes by that he doesn’t feel remorse.

5. The life of Michael Lambrix has demonstrable value. He has, against the odds, attempted to make the most of his time on death row. Having come from a deeply troubled background and having been regarded at school as developmentally disabled, he has managed to educate himself in the most difficult of circumstances and is clearly a man of considerable intellect and inner resources. Among other things he spends his time helping other prisoners with their legal work.

6. His writings and his correspondence with people in the US and in other countries around the world have earned him high respect and have been an inspiration to many people.

Given the doubts surrounding the conviction and the sentence handed down, we respectfully ask the Florida Commission on Offender Review to ensure that a full clemency review be granted for Cary Michael Lambrix and failing that to grant commutation to life imprisonment.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Confronting The Moral Question.

It's probably been about 15 years since I read the book "The Giver" by Louis Lawry, which has only recently been made into a major movie (2014) and as these things often do, when I was reminded of the premise of the story a gawd zillion neurons on my admittedly burnt out brain started to fire off like fourth of July fireworks, connecting that fictional story with events in my only too real life - and it got me to thinking.

This past week I then read the editorial in the USA Today (newspaper) entitled "Eerie Ethical Questions of "The Giver" by Arina D. Grossu" (director of the Center for Human Dignity) in which Dr Grossu posed a thought provoking question of whether we as a society today, are really "that far off from the atrocities in the movie "The Giver". Dr Grossu focuses on the morality of aborting unwanted children and quotes from Atheist writer Richard Dawkins, who apparently once tweeted in regard to an as yet unborn child diagnosed with Down Syndrome, "Abort it and try again, it would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have a choice", a position Dr Grossu finds unequivocally unconscionable, as "we must value life, even the unwanted", as (and I again quote) "The voice of the human life does not derive from being perfect or even useful, but simply from being human".
Again, drawing from the words of dr Grossu's thought-provoking editorial, it goes on to say "in the most disturbing scene in the movie (The Giver), Jonas' father, whose job is "releasing" babies" (i.e post birth "abortion"), takes a needle and inserts it into the head of a sickly baby to kill him. The Washington Post reported the line from the book that was "too dark" to add to the scene, was the father Cheerfully saying "Bye, bye little guy", while placing the dead baby in a box. As Jonas puts it "they hadn't eliminated murder, they just called it by a different name"
Imagine that - a society that advocates the commission of a deliberate act of murder, but to appease the moral conscience of its apathetic citizens conveniently calls it by a different name, and once so easily relabeled and clothed in that dark veil of moral obligation, it is miraculously transformed into an act that should be cheered by all.
Doesn't that sound an awful lot like the continued use of capital punishment today? When it comes down to it, by imposing the "death penalty" under the pretense of administering "justice", aren't we really simply relabeling the intentional act of murder by inflicting a "post-birth abortion" on the unwanted? If the value of human life is truly derived from that miracle od simply being human, then by what moral measure can we justify the death penalty?
Like everyone else, my opinion is tinted by my own agenda as I am a condemned man, and my days are numbered. With pre-death warrant clemency counsel being recently assigned to my case, I expect that sometime towards the end of this year the Governor of Florida will sign his name to that black-bordered document entitled "Death Warrant", instructing the warden of Florida State Prison to put me to death within that following month.
I will then be transferred to the bottom floor of "Q-wing" into the very cell that I have previously occupied and confronted my own mortality as I counted down those last few hours until my appointed "post-birth abortion" (please read: "The Day God Died"and "Facing my own Execution"), only this time there won't be any last minute stay of execution.
With a measure of indifference comparable to Jonas' father, the faithful agents of the state of Florida will gather around me, strapping my still breathing body to a gurney as just a few feet away behind a wall of glass a panel of witnesses will watch as those agents of death insert a needle into my arm and a few short minutes later an unseen executioner will deliberately push down a series of plungers that will then force a lethal cocktail of chemicals into my body and if all goes according to plan, it will at least appear that I have peacefully drifted off into a deep sleep and they will call it "humane", as the emotional and psychological torment so deliberately inflicted not only upon me but upon all those who love and care for me will not matter.
And just as that unwanted child in the movie "The giver", my life will be extinguished and there will be those who will adamantly insist that by inflicting my death they did society a great service - and then, there will also be those who will celebrate my death as that value of all life does not apply to those we want to rid society of.
But how many will dare to confront that greater moral question? How many will have the courage and moral integrity to stand up and question the taking of yet another human life? Funny how our moral compass really works - how we can so easily (and so willingly too!) find those convenient justifications to circumvent that perception of a deliberate act of murder by simply convincing ourselves that ending that life we choose not to value because it has been irrevocably tarnished by that transgression is now the right thing to do.
* Please read "Petition for Clemency", encouraging the Governor of Florida to grant clemency in the case of Cary Michael Lambrix. Your support can now make the difference between life and death
Petition will be soon available - Please check back!
Michael Lambrix #482053
Union Correctional Institution
7819 NW 228th Street
Raiford, Florida 32026-4400


Monday, September 1, 2014

Window to the World

For as long as anyone could remember we were only allowed a small black and white TV in our death row cells. When i first joined the ranks of the condemned back in the early spring of '84 I waited the better part of a month before one of the donated TVs became available and can still remember the frustration I felt as I struggled to get it to work. I wasn't alone as my efforts soon enough became a community project with first my immediate neighbours offered their insight and then just that quickly one after another jumped in until pretty much everyone within speaking distance became part of that effort to get that ancient idiot back to work.

Of course, they were all blind to that elusive image I so desperately tried to capture as each of us were in our solitary cells unable to see into the rejoining concrete crypts in which the condemned would remain as we awaited the uncertainty of our fate. Looking back now, most of those who were part of that particular community are now long dead, although a few of them are free as such as the arbitrary nature of this hell that we live in - many will die, and some will be exonerated and walk free, while the rest of us simply rot away in our cells until that journey we stumble along comes to its own end, whatever that end might be.

But I digress, then I was more naive than ignorant, knowing only too well that ignorance is just a short step away from stupidity and especially in my little world stupidity is contagious and from time to time, I'll catch it myself. And on that day way back then i felt that weight of oncoming stupidity dragging down upon me as my frustration grew and grew and all i really wanted to do was pick that small plastic box up off its makeshift shelf and slam it against that unyielding concrete wall that contains me. I was still quite young back then and patience was hardly a virtue I had yet developed.

It took a few hours before I was finally able to accumulate enough small pieces of thread - thin wire salvaged from old headphones to use as an antenna, running them like spider webs across the ceiling at my cell and finally there it was, a fuzzy image that could barely be made out as reception wasn't that good and back then both TV and radio stations barely came in, most often with continuous static. But when you're confined to a solitary cell being able to reach out into that real world even if only by watching what you can through that raggedy old TV makes all the difference.

For over 20 years, those of us on death row, continued to be allowed nothing more than that black and white TV.  Each TV was donated by a church group as the state wasn't about to spend money to provide electronic entertainment to those it intended to kill. At the same time, prison staff struggled to find those willing to donate as they knew that providing a TV was important in maintaining discipline and order on the death row wings.

As the world out there progressed to a digital existence those simple black and white TVs became harder and harder to find. At the same time the never-ending politically motivated budget cuts eliminated the educational programs in the prison that operated various vocational classes including a TV repair shop. Once the TV shop at Florida State Prison was shut down they tried to send the broken TVs to other institutions, but like dominoes falling, each of these had their own budget cuts until none remained.

Only then, almost 10 years ago now, did the prison system finally allow us to purchase our own TVs from the prison commissary vendor. At first we were only allowed to purchase a simple black and white TV even though a comparably sized color TV would be bought for less. That's the thing all convicts quickly learn about any prison - malice towards us will always prevail over common sense, and the only real reason we were prohibited from having a color TV is because the powers that be reluctantly conceded that it was in their own interests for us to have a TV, but that didn't mean we had to have a color TV.

But there really wasn't much of a market out there for black and white TVs and few companies continued to manufacture them. Despite their efforts it became harder and harder for them (the powers that be) to find such a TV that could sold, especially since there were only a few hundred who could purchase them even if they were available, as other than death row I doubt many wanted to buy a black and white TV.

By 2006 the Tally-To's (short for the politicians in Tallahassee, which many of us came to call the Tallahassee Totalitarians) begrudgedly conceded that if those condemned to death go nuts while awaiting their intended fate, then the State would not be allowed to kill them. Suddenly the prison system had its own interest in keeping all of us mentally sound which meant that allowing us to have that electronic babysitter (a TV) became necessary as keeping a person in prolonged solitary confinement without intellectual stimulation would undoubtedly result in a good number going mad and that inevitably (and politically inconvenient) insanity would stand in the way of killing those bastards.

Once again it was almost humorous in a diabolically twisted sort of way to see how those powers that be struggled to give us the absolute least they could, selling only a very small flat screen TV that was of such poor quality that no company dared to imprint its own name on it. But it was a color TVand everyone who could afford it quickly bought one. About the same time by federal mandate all TV stations were required to switch over from analog to broadcast to digital only and for the first time we could see what outside world in full color. Although the programs featuring bikini-clad women were popular, a close second amongst the ranks of the condemned were the nature programs shown almost daily on the local PBS station (Public broadcasting System) as we would all collectively watch these programs.

In the last few years the politics of prison evolved as it always does and more open-minded people decided that there wasn't any good reason to go out of their way to play games with what TVs would be provided, and they began selling a 13" flat screen TV of far better quality and then about a year ago we were able to start purchasing a cheap remote control to use with the TV, as the biggest problem with these TVs is that they were not designed to be used manually so the buttons used to change the channels quickly wore out.

That brings us to where we are today. As I sit here in my solitary cell, I now have a 13" flat screen that receives a remarkably clear digital picture thanks to those individuals who so generously donated the money to have a quality antenna installed on the roof of the death row wing.

Even as much as I like to watch the programs, there's one thing that means even so much more. unlike any other TV I have ever had, this flat screen TV has a feature  called "freeze" and by pressing that one button on my remote I can instantly freeze that picture on the screen, and it will stay frozen until I again press that button to release that frozen image. As I write this today, only a few feet away I have my TV frozen in place on a picture of a view of the San Francisco bay. As I often do in the morning, i watch the PBS programs and today I was watching a program called "Constitution USA" with Peter Sagal, and suddenly they were showing images of the San Francisco bay area, where I was born and raised.

As they crossed the Golden Gate bridge heading into Marin County (where I lived) I grabbed the TV remote and prepared to push that freeze button and my trigger finger stood at the ready as the camera then took that left hand turn just on the North side of the bridge that I knew only too well would wind around the Marin headlands there at the mouth of the San Francisco Bay where it opened out into the pacific ocean. And suddenly, there it was, that postcard-perfect picture looking out across the bay with the rusty reddish orange pillars of the Golden Gate bridge in the foreground and off into the distance the gentle hills of San Francisco, and I instantly pushed that "freeze" button to lock in that image....and then i sat back on my bunk and put my MP3 player on a few songs that reminded me of home ("Save me, San Francisco" by Train) and in that moment in time, although locked away in this solitary cell on death row surrounded by nothing more than steel and stone, and the smell of humanity slowly rotting away around me, I had that window to the world, able to transcend my consciousness far beyond this reality that imprisoned my body. In that momentary state of mind, as I looked out from that window to the world, I could imagine myself standing there upon that bluff overlooking the San Francisco bay from a spot that I stood myself so many times when growing up and in that moment, I am free.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Florida's Southern Slave Mentality

Around the world Florida is known as a tourist attraction, with Disney World and the seemingly endless white sandy beaches and picture perfect sunsets. Each year the state of Florida spends millions of dollars to commercially produce and distribute this wholesome image of only what they want the obviously gullible tourists to see.

But for those willing to look beyond that deliberately deceptive image of that Florida they proudly show the world, those willing to scratch beneath the surface and look beyond will see the state of Florida for what it truly is...one of the last remaining bastions of the traditional "Old South", a place where the insidious traits of good-ole-boy Southern traditions remains stead-fasted maintained and arguably funded by the ignorance of the tourists that blindly flock to this glorified sandbar.

The problem with the progressive evolution of any society is that only too often it will forget it's own dark history, and even worse, it will rewrite that history and future generations will be lulled into a false sense of ignorance and as they say, when we don't learn from history we are condemned to repeat it. And when that dark history again plays itself out, either then that chorus of voices rising up to oppose it's resurrection, too many pretend that it doesn't exist, just as that proverbial elephant in the room.

I would challenge you to take a moment to reflect on those characteristics we commonly relate to as the dark days of slavery. Let there be no mistake, Florida was unquestionably a willing participant of slavery and basked in that mentality that so completely pervaded these confederate states. Although most tourists would never see the remains of this undeniable history, it does continue to exist. Even to this day all one would have to do is get off the main highways and head into the "backwoods" and it would be like stepping back in time. That "redneck" attitude continues to prevail throughout most of Florida, only now they've twisted it around to conveniently label it "southern charm", and the tourists eat it up!

But beyond the more tangible images of slavery and the South's long history of oppression of minorities, what is it that truly defines that "slave mentality"? It's not the Southern plantations, or the sugar cane fields where masses of minorities suffered as slaves while making their rich white masters that much richer. These physical images of the human deprivation and misery were the products of that slave mentality, not the cause.

Only when we tale a moment to contemplate on that mentality that allowed these atrocities to be committed do we then realize that although federal law has forced the Southern states to presumably abolish slavery and end segregation do we've really done was push this evil beneath the surface and in an out-of-sight-out-if-mind slight of hand, it really continue to exist today.

to illustrate this truth I must first confront the myth that slavery has been abolished in the United States. Although that is what America would want the rest of the world to believe, it actually is not true at all. Those actually familiar with the constitution know that although in the late nineteenth century, after years of bloody civil war in which the Northern states (union) fought the Southern states (confederate)and the North won and the United States constitutionally abolished slavery in it's most obvious and "traditional" form.

But before you believe this myth, you should take a moment to reread just what the constitution actually says. Specifically, although slavery in its most obvious form was abolished, the constitution continues to this day to allow the "forced servitude" (i.e. "slavery") of those convicted of 'high crimes and misdemeanors'. Seriously, don't believe me - just look it up!

What this means, and our courts have consistently recognized, is that anyone who has been convicted of a criminal act can be forced into slavery. For many generations after the civil war ended and slavery was supposedly abolished, when a prisoner was convicted and committed to the Florida prison system, Florida would actually sell that inmate to private parties to be used as slave labor. It was only in 1932 under Florida governor Hardee that this practice of selling prisoners as slaves was brought to an end.

But although Florida does not openly sell prisoners anymore, they do continue this practice to this day. Although Florida ranks third in he number of prisoners incarcerated in a state prison system, numerically trailing behind only California and Texas, what must be taken into account that both California and Texas have significantly larger populations than Florida.

When you apply a common sense analysis, what you quickly discover is that Florida with slightly over 18 million citizens and a prison population now exceeding 111.000 inmates, Florida now incarcerates more of its own citizens than any other state, and if Florida was its own country, Florida's rate of incarceration would easily exceed that of china, North Korea and Iran! (do the math!)

Florida's prison system is a multi-billion dollar industry in which private companies make many millions of dollars each year of the exploitation of prisoners and anyone willing to simply conduct even superficial investigations into public records documenting political campaign contributions will find that these private companies donate millions of dollars into
the election committees and individual campaigns of these bought-and-paid-for politicians...it is all documented in public records!

But scratch just a bit more beneath that image they promote and one will discover within the Florida Department of Corrections exists its very own quasi-commercial subsidiary they laughingly call PRIDE (Prison Rehabilitative Industries and Diversified Enterprises). Anyone who exercises the incentive to go online and look it up will find that under the pretense of providing "jobs" to prisoners the state of Florida itself "employs" tens of thousands of Florida prisoners across the state in factories owned and operated by "Pride". Those inmates are paid no more than a few pennies an hour - nothing more than a token wage intended to allow the state to claim they are not technically slaves.

The many products manufactured or otherwise produced by PRIDE are then sold to other state agencies and only too often then sold to companies for profit. If an inmate is assigned to work in a state owned PRIDE factory, and refuses, he or she is subjected to harsh disciplinary action and often thrown into long term solitary confinement known as "closed management" for many years. At any time the Florida prison system continuously keeps approximately ten thousand inmates in this long term solitary confinement status, until they're mentally broken and willing to work.

The slave mentality is pervasive throughout not only the prison system, but throughout the entire state of Florida. It has often been argued that the death penalty itself is an extension of that traditional slave mentality, and it is not just a coincidence that capital punishment is overwhelmingly popular in these Southern states. Virtually every former 'confederate" state continues to fanatically embrace the death penalty and executions are only too often carried out with that same rabid hysteria one would associate with the historical image of a lynch mob.

While the rest of the country has increasingly expressed its growing opposition to the death penalty, Florida's response was and is to push even harder for both newly imposed sentences of death and a record number of executions. How many people realize that the state of Florida now sentences more people to death than even the state of Texas?

Already this year alone (from January 2014 thru April 2014) Florida has executed four inmates - two were black, one was Hispanic and one was white. When a recent "botched execution" in Oklahoma (May 2014) called for a nationwide moratorium on executions until a full review of the process could be completed. Florida's response was to sign yet another death warrant on a black man, John Henry, of course it's just a coincidence that yet another black man was lynched.

The Florida death penalty process is the most visible proof of the continuation of that "slave mentality" that the Old South was known for. Irrefutable statistical evidence is readily available to prove that racism is the deciding factor in the majority of the death sentences imposed. Quite simply, if you're convicted of killing a white person in Florida, your chance your chances of being condemned to death by an all-white jury is significantly greater than if the victim was black.

But how many people are aware of the indisputable fact that Florida is the only state that allows a sentence of death to be imposed upon nothing more than a simple majority vote by the jury? Every other state that continues to practice capital punishment requires that a sentence of death can only be imposed if all 12 jurors agree that death is the appropriate punishment. Incredibly, the courts have consistently refused to address this issue despite numerous opportunities to do so.

The indisputable fact that Florida has also wrongfully convicted and condemned more innocent men and women to death than any other state, again exhibiting that indifference to basic concepts of human dignity that define that Old South slave mentality.

Considering how inherently dependent Florida is on the multi billion tourism industry it continues to amaze me that international groups committed to opposing violations of basic human rights have not organized a campaign to boycott Florida tourism. But then again, maybe I shouldn't be so surprised as Florida has succeeded in concealing these irrefutable practices and when it comes down to it, very few care enough to look beneath this image ...just ask yourself this - do you care?

Michael Lambrix #482053
Union Correctional Institution
7819 NW 228th street
Raiford, Florida 32026

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

And They Call Us Monsters

On Wednesday July, 23 2014, the state of Arizona attempted to carry out the execution of condemned killer Joseph Rudolph Wood. For at least the fouth time in recent months, this intended execution went horribly wrong and the witnesses reported watching Woods as he gasped for breath and grunted in pain. Subsequently medical reports documented that during the prolongued two-hour ordeal Arizona actually injected Woods 15 times, and only then finally accomplished their intent to kill.

But even as horrible as this spectacle of diabolically inhumane infliction of death may have been, it was the response to this event that was by far even more disturbing. After the newspaper ran articles about this "botched execution" almost without exception one after the other God-fearing American responded with comments of unequivocal support for inflicting painful death upon another human being. (please read: Death Penalty now Cruel and Usual" USA Today, July 29, 2014 by James Alan Fox)

Having been on Florida's death row now myself for over 30 years for a crime I am innocent of (please check out www.southerninjustice.net ) I'm certainly no stranger to "botched executions" as Florida has a long history of it's own failure to competently carry out executions.

But what separates this spectacle of gruesome death from all others that I've heard about in the past was this seemingly organized show of support for making the condemned man suffer a most horrific death. What is clearly reflected in the responses of so many is not merely an indifference to the unintentional infliction of pain, but the all but fanatical if not rabid advocacy for the infliction of suffering. For these people it's not enough that we condemn a man (or woman) for a particular crime and then carry out that sentence of death - they actually want the condemned man to physically suffer as much as possible and (as one said) "the more pain the criminal feels, the better!"

All of this got me thinking about the countless conversations I've had with the hundreds of condemned men I must live amongst, some of whom are considered by society as being the epitome of 'cold-blooded killers" and labeled as nothing less than mortal "monsters". Through the many years I've personally lived among and came to know such infamous kilelrs as Ted Bundy and others. And in the tens of thousands of conversations I've had with these "cold-blooded killers" I have never, not even once, heard a single one say that he wisehd his victims had suffered more. I have never heard even one say that he wished that he had inflicted more pain upon the victim - not even once.

Some may want to doubt my words, but I challange you to look at the recorded "last words" of the now over a thousand condemned men and women who have been put to death in this country since capital punishment was reinstated in 1974 and you will not find a single one who showed this same measure of intent to inflict pain and suffering upon their victims that those in our society today so zealously advocate inflicting upon the condemned.

Almost without exception when the condemned man is given that final opportunity to say what will be his last words, their words reflect remorse and the Christian values of pleading for forgiveness. Not even one person in the past 40 years went to his or her intended fate with that measure of hate in their hearts that these members of our so-called "civilised" society so clearly do possess.

Perhaps the real problem here is that carrying out these state sanctioned executions are too far removed from sociaty as a whole. Thet've become too sterilized and society has become too detached from the reality that under the pretense of administering justice we are taking a human life.

Through the years I've known many who actually witnessed executions and each was profoundly moved by this experience. Sitting not more than a few feet away from the condemned man (or woman) separated only by a thin sheet of glass and being able to actually look into the eyes of the condemned man as he confronted his fate, and then watch as that life slowly drains out of his body before their eyes and then the voice announcing that the sentence of death has been carried out, not one of these witnesses will ever forget that event.

Still even more traumatic (at least to those who have a conscience) would be to witness the execution of another person as it goes horribly wrong. Those who sign up to witness what they expect to be a "routine" execution are undoubtedly scarred for the rest of their lives. For that reason I think all executions should be publically broadcast on network TV, even pre-emptying regularly scheduled programming and only carried out during "prime-time" hours. Every man, owman and child in America should watch as the state takes that life, which the state is only empowered to do in the name of the people. Perhaps then there wouldn't be such widespread indifference to the fact that we are taking a human life.

Myself, many many years ago I was compelled to involuntarily to take the life of another man and to this day, even over 30 years later, not a day goes by that I am not haunted by that momory. I din't rob anyone or rape anyone. I only found myself in a situation where I was forced to respond (please check out: www.southerninjustice.net ) and even though i might justify my actions within that letter of law, it does not relieve me from the nightmares that follow when I can still see the face of that man whose life I was forced to take. And I'm sure that those who witness the execution of a condemned man, to sit and watch another human being put to death, they too will be haunted by that for the rest of their lives.

As a matter of moral conscience, the taking of any life should never be trivialized, much less reduced to a spectacle. But the truth of the matter is that there will always be that part of our society that will openly advocate and even delight in the infliction of pain and suffering of another---and then they call us "monsters"

Michael Lambrix #482053
Union Correctional Institution
7819 NW 228th street
Raiford, Florida 32026