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

Friday, December 23, 2016

Death Watch Journal (part 24)

It's been a full year now since my death warrant was signed, scheduling my execution for February 11, 2016. Against the odds, I'm still alive although my longterm fate remains uncertain. I was the 23rd death warrant signed by Governor Scott and the 22 before me were all executed...I am the first one to survive a death warrant under Governor Scott.

Being that I loosely subscribe to Christian values, although I make no secret for my contempt of the hypocrisy of contemporary organized religion and the way it has corrupted the fundamental values of true Christianity by promoting hate and intolerance in the name of God.

At times I wonder how deeply I might scar my own spiritual consciousness when I find myself praying that those who so quickly judge me be then judged by that same measure...could I be wrong when I do that? Or is that what true justice is all about?

It's been a difficult year and I've been incredibly blessed by my small group of loyal friends who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to keep my hope and strenght up. When I find myself wondering what true grace is, I find my answer in them and I certainly don't deserve to be blessed with that depth of genuine compassion they o generously extend. And I know only too well that they are my strength, that without that selfless support they've given, i would not have had the strenght to make it through the past year.

When I look back over the past year, what i realize is that this prolonged uncertainty of my fate has not only touched me deeply, but it has inflicted immeasurable pain upon those that care so deeply about me. I can see it in the faces of my family when they visit as they anxiously ask me for the latest updates and I can read it inthe letters of my closest friends as they try so hard to avoid that proverbial "elephant in the room", putting so much of themselves into trying to keep me positive and keep that hope alive, and yet I can feel pain, and that uncertainty that we all try to ignore.

But then there's the hope - and good reason for hope too. While in the larger context the death penalty in general seems to become less popular, here in Florida there's good reason to believe that it is on it's last leg and that any day now the Florida Supreme Court will effectively vacate the majority of the death sentences. (Note: After Mike wrote this blog post the Florida Supreme Court ruled, read it here: the Florida Supreme Court decision of December 22, 2016
and more info here )
As I write this blog, I feel confident that within the coming weeks my own death sentence will be thrown out. But at the same time, I cannot shake the reality that I am still under an active death warrant, and I am still next in line for execution. I'm caught between those two extremes and the prolonged uncertainty is itself a heavy weight that makes hope difficult.

I can't help but wonder whether many over there in society even give a moments thought to this punishment they've inflicted. I'd like to think that as a whole, we are a "civilized" society - that most people are "good" in nature even if all of us are still imperfect creatures.

But I'm troubled by the complete absence of debate specifically on how long any indvidual should remain under an active death warrant and be forced to endure that ever present threat of being put to death, I know only too well that there will be those relatively few who will not hesitate to say I alone am responsible - and if I have a problem with remaining under an active death warrant so long that all I need to do is waive my appeals and they'll gladly kill me tomorrow...and these are the same people who want to call the condemned "evil".

But what about the majority of others? Do they even give it a moments thought at all? Here in America we are a constitutional democracy and as such government power is limited to that which the majority allows. Maybe this is what they meant when someone once said "ignorance is bliss" as I don't think the majority even give it any thought - out of sight, out of mind". I'd like to think that I do try to keep up with the greater public debate on the death penalty but I cannot recall ever hearing any debate on just how long any person should remain under an active death warrant facing that imminent fear of death before it crosses that moral line and amounts to torture.

And then there is - that one word...torture. Funny thing about the way we too often define what is, or is not, "torture" is that it comes down to our own perspective. And if we as an individual or collective society are the ones imposing a particular punishment upon someone we feel is worthy of nothing less, then we conveniently insulate ourselves with that whole "the end justifies the means" mentality. My punishment is death and if keeping me under an active death warrant facing that imminent threat of death for a year, or even longer, is what it takes to inflict that punishment on me or any other, then it cannot possibly amount up to "torture" as its obviously necessary to accomplish that objective of inflicting death.

Not long ago I read a book called "Imagine Heaven" by John Burke and it has got me thinking a lot about these things. In this book it provided the accounts of many people who had "near death experiences" and found themselves peeking into the other side - a glimmer into Heaven, or for some, a reality check in hell. But what impressed me the most was that without exception, each person came away with the same truth...that what effects our spiritual conciousness the most is not so much the sins we've committed, but how our actions have impacted others.


The pain we inflict upon others inevidibly becomes our own eternal pain. There are many who, without even knowing anything about the facts of my case (that evidence is readily available to substantiate my consistently pled claim of innocence, but the courts refuse to allow it to be fully heard on procedural grounds - please see. http://www.southerninjustice.net/ ) are only too ready to advocate any measure of pain they can inflict upon me. That is who they are. But there will always be those few who have only hate in their hearts.

I'd like to think that most would not condone a system that would keep any person under an active death warrant for over a year. Id like to think that the absence of opposition is the product of unawareness. I'd like to think that as a society, individually and collectively, we are better than that. But are we? I am still under an active death warrant.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Florida Supreme Court Decision

In a case that may very well decide my own fate as well as that of many others, on Friday, October 14, 2016, the Florida Supreme Court issued its long anticipated decision in Timothy Hurst v State of Florida, which questioned whether the manner in which death sentences have been imposed for the past 40 years was illegal in light of an earlier decision this year by the United States Supreme Court in Hurst v Florida, 136 S.Ct 616 (2016) that itself held that “Florida’s capital sentencing scheme is unconstitutional to the extend it failed to require the jury, rather than the judge, to find the facts necessary to impose the death sentence — Florida’s process that allowed merely for a jury’s advisory recommendation for death was not enough.” Hurst v Florida, 136S S.Ct., 619

In Friday’s decision, the Florida Supreme Court unequivocally held that consistent with both the U.S. Supreme Court’s earlier decision as well as long recognized constitutional principles under Florida law, a sentence of death can only be constitutionally imposed if the jury unanimously agrees on every element relevant to authorizing a death sentence. Bottom line, the Florida Supreme Court stated that:

“Before the trial judge may consider imposing a sentence of death, the jury in a capital case must unanimously and expressly find all the aggravating factors that were proven beyond a reasonable doubt, unanimously find that the aggravating factors are sufficient to impose death, unanimously find that the aggravating factors outweigh the mitigating circumstances, and unanimously recommend a sentence of death. We equally emphasize that by so holding, we do not intend to diminish or impair the jury’s right to recommend a sentence of life even if it finds aggravating factors were proven, were sufficient to impose death, and that they outweigh the mitigating circumstances… Nor do we intend by our decision to eliminate the right of the trial court, even upon receiving a unanimous recommendation for death, to impose a sentence of life.”

What this decision effectively means is that every person who has been sentenced to death in Florida — and every person who has already been executed in the state of Florida — since 1974 was illegally sentenced to death.

But as I’ve often said and those familiar with the legal system will agree, it’s not about administering justice or any other novel ideas of fairness… it’s really about the “politics of death” and perpetuating society’s seemingly unquenchable thirst for vengeance.

For that reason, even with the now unequivocal recognition that all prior death sentences — including my own — are illegal, already the State of Florida is aggressively pushing for the courts to now hold that this landmark decision cannot be retroactively applied to the older cases and even if retroactively applied, any error in illegally imposing these sentences of death was and is “harmless” as based upon the court’s subsequent analysis, a death sentence would have been imposed anyway… they call this “harmless error.”


In the coming weeks, the Florida Supreme Court will rule in my own case whether this Hurst decision will apply “retroactively” to older cases that have already been denied on initial appeal. If the court does find that last week’s decision in Hurst must be retroactively applied to not only my own case, but the majority of Florida’s other 390 cases currently under a sentence of death, then under this Hurst decision the court will look at the individual circumstances of each case to determine whether in that particular case the illegally imposed sentence of death was “harmless” and the State of Florida can proceed to kill us anyway.

As I said, it’s not about justice - it’s about the politics of death. But it begs the question… if, as in my own case and the majority of others, even without the requirement of jury unanimity, the juries that decided my fate in 1984 only recommended imposing death by non-unanimous votes of 8 to 4 and 10 to 2, with neither recommendation meeting the now constitutional mandated requirement of a unanimous vote.

Under this recently announced rule of law, from this day forward the only way anyone can be condemned to death is if all 12 jurors agree. If even one juror refuses to recommend death for any reason at all —- and they are not required to provide any reason — then “death” cannot be imposed and that person must be sentenced to “life.”

So, how can they now say that they recognize that I and many others have been illegally sentenced to death — that the fact that our death sentences were not unanimous renders them illegal — but just as long as they can weasel out of it by subjectively deciding that any error in illegally sentencing us to death was harmless, they can kill us anyway?

At this point I cannot assume what the Florida Supreme Court will actually do in my case. Maybe in coming weeks they will do the right thing and rule that this new rule of constitutional law must be retroactively applied to all Florida cases — but will they then circumvent this finding by deciding that even though my sentences of death were by less than unanimous jury recommendation, it was “harmless” and reschedule my execution?

All I can really do is wait and see, as, if I’ve learned nothing else over the past 34 years, it is that the courts are unpredictable, and we cannot blindly assume that they will do the right thing simply because it’s the right thing to do.

But with that said, this Hurst v Florida decision is a good thing. For far too long Florida has been stacking the deck against those charged with capital crimes just to get sentences of death.

From this day forward, Florida’s infamous “machinery of death” will now substantially subside. It will be difficult to get any jury to unanimously recommend future sentences of death. They will still get new death sentences imposed, but they will become the exception rather than the rule. And of those still under these illegally imposed sentences of death, many will now have their current death sentences thrown out and the ranks of the condemned will be greatly reduced.

But executions will continue for some time to come and if the Florida Supreme Court declines to retroactively apply Hurst to older cases like mine, or does so but finds any error “harmless,” then my own execution will be rescheduled within the foreseeable future.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Death Watch Journal (part 23 )

 As I write this, it has now been 36 weeks since the Florida Supreme Court ordered a "temporary" stay of execution only a week before I was to be put to death for a crime i did not commit (see; http://www.southerninjustice.net/ )That's not even counting the fact that prior to this stay of execution, I spent from November 30, 2015 to February 2, 2016 under an active death warrant on "death watch". So, in truth its now been going on a full year that I've been under death warrant with that (metaphorican) gun to my head, not knowing whether I will live or die - and knowing only too well that at anytime  they can come to my cell and drag me away, right back again to that "death watch" cell I previously occupied, the same cell where every man and woman executed in the state of Florida also occupied prior to being put to death  (please read : Execution Day - Involuntary Witness to State Sanctioned Murder)

I have to wonder at what point would even the most fanatical pro death penalty advocate conced that the psychological torment so deliberately inflicted upon the condemned under the pretense of administering justice become an even greater atrocity than the alleged act of murder committed by the condemned? At what point do we cross that line from administering "justice" to inflicting acts of depravity that make who we are the greater evil?

But the truth of the matter is that even as hard as it might be on me and others similarly forced to exist in this morbid and maliciously inflicted state of limbo, this uncertainty of death is actually even more difficult on my family and closest friends. Those who will so quickly justify their actions by transfering all accountability upon the individual who committed the alleged crime and with righteous indignation declare that the condemned deserves all the punishment they can inflict upon him or her cannot so quickly evade their actions when as a result, they also so intentionally torment the families of the condemned.

The inconvenient truth is that it's not about administering "justice". It's about playing politics, and especially in the Deep South, politics of death are the trump cards that inconsistently wins political elections as in these traditional southern states nothing brings out the voters better than a good, old fashioned lynching.

We like to say that as a society we have evolved, that those dark days of wearing white sheets and lynching an "undisirable" up on the lower branches of an old oak tree on the outskirts of town are long gone, but in our hearts, we know that's not true.

I recently read a most excellent article published in the magazine "The New Yorker"
on August 22, 2016 entitled "The legacy of lynching, on death row" by Jeffrew Toobin, in which renowned attrney Bryan Stevenson draws a direct and irrefutabe line between that not so distant past of southern lynchings and the death penalty today. This is an article that every person who gives any thought to the issue of the death penalty should read - especially those who continue to blindly support this form of "punishment".

But then again, if there's one thing I've learned in the over 33 years that I've been here on Florida's death row, it is that indisputable fact and logic are rarely enought to sway the minds of those already hell bent on having a good lynching...their blood lust blinds them of all else, and they don't even care if they kill a few innocent people along the way.

As I write this, we are now only a short while away from the presidential election and this is especially perhaps one of the most important elections ever for not only death penalty prisoners, but our society as a whole, as whoever wins this upcoming election will have the power to influence who we are as a society for generations to come.


Obviously, the choice will come down to either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Personally, I will never understand how anyone could support Donald Trump as he embodies and even personifies the worst of the worst characteristics of our society, while arrogantly proclaiming himself above all accountability for his never ending circus of transgressions. But it's not his arrogance and sense of entitlement that trouble me the most. Rather, it's his public promise of who he will appoint to the Supreme Court if he wins the election.

When justice Scalia died earlier this year, it created a vacancy on the Supreme Court that is of historic significance since Scalia was appointed to the court 40 years ago, fanatically pro death penalty justices have solidly controlled the courts, ensuring that after the landmark 1972 decision in Florida v Georgia declared the death penalty unconstitutionally "arbitrary and capricious", only a few years later Scalia and his conservative cabal quickly resurected it in the 1976 decision of Gregg v Georgia and Proffitt v Florida.

And for the 40 continuous years, we have seen one case after another be decided by marginal votes, affirming the death penalty again and again. But Scalia's death left the current court now tied with 4 pro death penalty conservatives and 4 members who presumably would vote to put an end to this politically motivated modern day lynching.

The next appointed Supreme Court justice will effectively decide the direction the Supreme Court goes in for the next generation...and whether the death penalty will once again be declared unconstitutional and abolished.

That's why it troubled me this past week when I read the front page article of the September 24, 2016 Lakeland Ledger entitled "Trump tops Canady as potential court pick " . For those who don't know, that's Charles T Canady, who is currently a justice on the Florida Supreme Court and prior to his political appointment to the bench, worked as general counsel to former Florida governor Jeb Bush - it was none other than Charles Canady who attempted to defend Jeb Bush's "Death Penalty Reform Act" of 2000 before the Florida Supreme Court, which sought to adopt Texas death penalty appeal process to florida. But in Allen v. Butterworth, 756 So. 2d 52 (Fla. 2000) the Florida Supreme Court rejected Canaby's arguements and declared the Death Penalty Reform Act 2000 unconstitutional.


Shortly after Canaby's defeat, Governor Jeb Bush appointed him to the lower state appeals court, where Canaby stayed for a few years before Jeb Bush's republican successor Charlie Crist promoted Charles Canaby to the Florida Supreme Court.

With Canady now Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme court, the pro death penalty politicians quickly pushed through the state legislature a new proposed law they labeled the "Timely Justice Act" (please read "The List" which in some ways went beyond the previously rejected "Death penalty Reform Act".

This time the outcome was significantly different - with Charles Canaby and Rick Polston controlling the Florida Supreme Court, this 2013 "Timely Justice Act" that sought to expedite executions by statutorily mandating the signing of death warrants upon completion of the "first round" of state and federal appeals - even if new evidence of actual innocence is revealed  - sailed through the courts and became law in Abdool v. Bondi, 141 So. 3d 529 (Fla. 2014)

Since being politically appointed to the Florida Supreme Court, justice Canady has relentlessly campaigned to eliminate death row appeals and expedite executions, even openly advocating for prohibiting actual innocence claims brought upon newly discovered evidence.

And this is precisely the kind of justice Donald Trump wants to put on the Supreme Court if he's elected as president. According to the Lakeland Ledger article, the reason Donald Trump would like to put Charles Canaby on the US Supreme Court is because Trump wants his pick to the court to embrace the ideology of the late justice Scalia...or in other words, Trump wants to ensure that the only Americans who have any legal rights are the rich and special interests.

When it comes down to it, it's not about administering justice. If it was, then those appointed to the courts would embrace uncompromised laws to protect the innocent from being put to death. Rather, it's about politics, and by preventing the innocent from any meaningful opportunity to prove their innocence, these fanatical pro death penalty justices know that their push to expedite executions will win elections.

Michael Lambrix

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Death Watch Journal (part 22)

Imagine being condemned to death for a crime you did not commit, and then finding yourself under an active death warrant, facing imminent execution - and having to basically defend yourself against the relatively infinate resources of the state...not even Hollywood can come up with such a bizarre plot.

But that's the reality I've found myself in these past months. It's now over 9 months (November 30, 2015) since Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a death warrant scheduling my execution for February 11, 2016 and over 6 months since, only days before my scheduled execution, the Florida Supreme Court granted a temporary stay of execution as they decide whether the January 2016 US Supreme Court decision in Hurst v Florida (which declared that Florida's practise of having the judge ultimately determine whether to impose death sentence rather than the jury renders Florida's death penalty unconstitutional) effectively makes my death sentence illegal... a decision will most likely be delayed until after the November elections as when it comes down to it, the death penalty is about politics, not justice.

During this period of time as I remained under this still-active death warrant, I've begged and pleaded with my state assigned legal counsel to work on developping new appeals, but when it comes down to it, they've refused to do anything. Maybe they are so confident that the Florida Supreme Court will throw out my death sentence that they just don't see any point in doing anymore work... but what if they are wrong and the Florida Supreme Court rules against me, as id that is the case then under Florida law the governor is mandted to to reschedule my execution within 10 days of when the court rules against me and I'd again be facing imminent execution.

If there's one thing I'm absolutely certain of after all these years, it's that if I were to sit back and let my life depend on the state assigned lawyers to fight this fight on their own, I would had undoubtedly been dead many years ago and it almost killed me in 1988 when I came within hours of being executed and so I make it a point to become personally involved with my own appeals - and if that means bumping heads with the lawyers assigned to represend me, then so be it! - I already know how hard-headed I am, so I can take it!

So, for 7 months now I've done all I could to try to get my assigned lawyers to do something, but all I get is a lot of talk. They do cover their own butt, though - almost every week they'll communicate with me and always in a manner that leaves no written record so that if I claim that they've effectively abandoned me, they can show that they did a 30 minute legal phone call or whatever each week.

My problem is that unlike my lawyer, I am not waiting on the Florida Supreme Court to rule on whether the Florida death penalty is unconstitutional. Even assuming they did rule favorably on that issue, the most it would do is reduce my death sentence to life in prison, and as Pope Francis put it so well, a "life" sentence is effectively a slow death sentence.

Rather, from the day I was arrested on that crime I have always and unequivocally maintained my innocence, adamantly insisting that the key witness and the prosecutor deliberately fabricated this wholly circumstantial ( i.e., no eyewitnesses, no physical or forensic evidense, no confessions, etc) theory of alleged premeditated murder - the key witness (Frances Smith) was desperate to do anything to get immunity and the local small-town prosecutor was as equally desperate to make a name for himself....it's not merely a coincidence that this same prosecutor has already had two others in unrelated cases subsequently exonorated and released from Florida's death row after the Florida Supreme Court recognized that this prosecutor crossed the line with overzealous prosecution (John Ballard and Bradley Scott were both set free due to prosecutional misconduct)

I am, and always have been, fighting for my freedom and so even if the florida Supreme Court did reduce my current death sentence to life, that would be a "hollow" victory. My state assigned lawyers would celebrate that "victory", but I would not...only my freedom is a real victory.

But of the state assigned lawyers controlling my case have effectively given up, then what am I to do? The vast majority of those sentenced to death simply do not have the intellectual capacity to understand the complexities of the law and are basically helpless. But I'm not your average death sentenced prisoner, and I'm not going to just lay down and give up....I didn't fight this fight for 33 years to quit now.


So, I did the only thing I could do....I wrote up my own appeal and recently filed it in the US Supreme Court, explaining to the court that both the State of Florida and lower courts have unfairly stacked the deck not only against me, but against many of Florida's death sentenced prisoners, by assigning US state agency lawyers who under Florida law are strictly prohibited from pursueing any form of "civil" action challenging our conviction and sentence of death...and I am asking the Supreme Court to exercise their jurisdiction by expeditiously ordering the appointment of new legal counsel that can represent me in what must be pursued.

Specifically, for over 25 years the prosecutor deliberately concealed forensic evidence in my case that conclusively shows that the Florida (FDLE) crime lab found several hairs on the alleged murder weapon that they determined in 1983 did not match me or either of the victims. These only recently exposed crime lab records also conclusively show that when the crime lab told the prosecutor about this unexpected discovery, the prosecutor instructed the crime lab to return all this evidence to his office - and he then hid the evidence until it was accidently revealed in 2009.

But when my state assigned lawyers filed a new appeal in 2009 argueing that this blatant act of deliberate prosecutional misconduct required the court to throw out my conviction and allow a new trial, suddenly my case was reassigned to Judge Christine Greider - a local former prosecutor who previously  worked with prosecutor Randall McGruther and in fact, was appointed to the bench while McGruther himself was on the 20th Circuit Judicial nominating committee.

Not surprisingly, Judge Greider summarily denied the appeal even after the Asst Attorney General representing the state conceded that the previously undisclosed hairs most likely were the key witnesses hair and that they never did disclose this evidence.

A motion to have this previously undisclosed forensic evidence subjected to DNA testing was filed - by me, but was also summarily denied by Judge Greider. The Florida Supreme Court subsequently affirmed the summary denial, rejecting our arguements that under well established law it was per se reversible error to deny this "new evidence/actual innocence" appeal and request for DNA testing without providing any form of evidentiary process necessary to establish the materiality of this deliberately concealed evidence.

My only recourse at that point would be to file a federal civil action under Skinner v. Switzer S.Ct. 1289 (2011) as a means to challenge the denial of DNA testing necessary to establish my actual innocence as "arbitrary and unfair" but under Florida law my assigned state counsel is categorically prohibited from representing death sentenced prisoners in civil actions.

So, last year (before my death warrant was signed) I asked the Federal court to appoint Federal counsel to my case as is statutorily mandated under applicable Federal law (18 U.S.C. 3599), only to have the Federal Court refuse to do so, leaving me with only the state assigned counsel. I appealed this to the Eleventh Circuit court of appeals in January, while facing imminent execution, but Chief Judge Edward Cornes has refused to allow the case to be docketed - as he has done in other similar capital cases (Judge Cornes and his Alabama cronies are knwon for their fanatical support for the death penalty and overzealous pursuit of executions)

With few remaining options - obviously I simply don't have the ability to hire a lawyer to represent me and contrary to popular myth there are no lawyers willing to volunteer to help an innocent man avoid execution - my only remanining option was to write up the appeal myself and file it with the Supreme Court, which I did on August 17, 2016.

If you like to read this 32 page appeal asking the Supreme Court for help in getting legal representation so I can prove my innocence, you can read it in HERE . You can follow the progress of this appeal on the Supreme Court's website at https://www.supremecourtus.gov/  and pull up the case, docketed as In re: Cary Michael Lambrix, Case No. 16-5715 (https://www.supremecourt.gov/search.aspx?filename=/docketfiles/16-5715.htm )

What does it say about our legal system that a poor and uneducated man facing imminent execution for a crime he did not commit must write up and file hos won appeals? The reality of it is that in capital cases, the appointment of legal representation is most often a total pretene intended to project the appearance of fairness in an inherently unfair process. - Mike Lambrix

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Democratic Party Adopts Resolution to Abolish Death Penalty

I have to admit that if anyone had asked me even if you years ago whether I thought I'd ever see the day when a major political party in the United States would openly advocate for the abolishment of the death penalty, I would have laughed and asked: "Are you nuts?".

Let's face it...America loves the death penalty. By conveniently subjective interpretation of circumstances, it morally justifies that basic primitive need for vengeance. In fact, most who demand nothing less than death will only too eagerly quote the Bible "An eye for an eye" arguing that therefore this measure of justice is sanctioned by none other than God himself. So what if the inconvenient truth is that this same chapter of the Bible also dictates that those who disrespect their parents "shall be put to death" (Exodus 20:17) and those who commit adultery must be put to death, and other crimes too. But our society wouldn't advocate that, so this part is ignored.

Then there's what the Bible says in Deuteronomy 19:15-20, clearly stating that if an innocent man is condemned to death by false testimony, those responsible for this injustice must be put to death so that others will know that condemning an innocent person will not be tolerated. In recent years hundreds of innocent people have been conclusively exonorated through DNA evidence, yet neither the witnesses that gave false testimony or the prosecutors who only too often do know the person was innocent and prosecuted him or her anyway have never - not even once - been held accountable.

When it comes to capital punishment, truth and justice mean nothing as often deciding whether the state will deliberately take the life of a person under the pretense of administering justice has very little to do with the crime the defendant has been accused of. Rather, it is about the politics of death and a particular prosecutor's own political ambitions. Nobody can credibly argue that only the "worst of the worst" get the death penalty. Rather, the overwhelming weight of the objective evidence shows that the primary elements applicable in deciding who will live and who will die is socio-economic...only the poorest of the poor will face the death penalty - and even then, they will only face actual execution if the victim was white as our legal process eagerly facilities racial discrimination - black lives do not matter when the victim was black, and they know this.

After over a generation of fanatical support for the death penalty and repeatedly seeing all honorable and morally ethical politicians all but publically burned at the stake when they voiced their opposition to the death penalty, I was flabbergasted recently to learn that the Democratic Party (Hillary Clinton) has now publically declared its intent to campaign for the abolishment of the death penalty.

But they're still many in the Democratic party who are not happy - some will even abandon the party in protest. Still, I just never thought I'd see the day when any political candidate, much less a major political party, would call to have the death penalty abolished.


How did this come about? Perhaps the Democratic party is merely exploring society's own views towards the death penalty as it becomes increasingly unpopular among voters who have seen a legal system corrupted by deliberate imperfection and a growing consensus that our legal system is only too willing to execute innocent people.

Myself, I certainly do not credit Hillary Clinton with the adoption of this resolution to abolish the death penalty. Although I do respect Hillary for many things, I cannot ignore the fact that Bill Clinton single-handedly is responsible for more innocent men and women facing execution than any other person.

I'm glad you asked how I could say, that will explain. It was in 1996 that then President Bill Clinton signed into effect what is known as the "Anti-Terrorist and Effective Death Penalty Act" (AEDPA) which was primarily intended to expedite executions by eliminating any meaningful Federal court review of State imposed convictions and death sentences. By signing the AEDPA into law, Bill Clinton made it only too easy for the states to carry out executions - in fact, under the 1996 AEDPA it even made it impossible to prove your innocence with new evidence. Although technically the AEDPA did allow for "successive" federal court review if new evidence of innocence could be presented, in the past 20 years since Bill Clinton signed the law into effect, not a single death sentenced prisoner has been allowed to prove their innocence under this law.

To be honest, having Hillary Clinton as president scares the crap out of me -  but not quite as much as Trump. Those of us who have been around awhile know that when Bill Clinton was questioned about his position on the death penalty while running for president in 1992, his response was to rush back to Arkansas, where he was still the state Governor, and ordered the execution of a mentally incompetent prisoner - to prove he was more than willing to kill.

What if Hillary Clinton proves to be cut of the same cloth? Although the Democratic party has now formally adopted a resolution to campaign against the death penalty, this resolution would have no binding effect on Hillary Clinton's exercise of executive power once she's in office.  When the time comes to nominate federal judges to the bench, will she choose judges who oppose or support the death penalty? When the time comes to preside over the execution of a federal prisoner, will she give the go-ahead while shrugging her shoulders and claiming that she's just doing her job?

But they say that "Hope Springs Eternal" - and what I would like to think is that at the end of the day it's not 1996 anymore. And we are not the same society we were then. When Bill Clinton was President America's support for the death penalty was at an all-time high, and for better or worse, Bill Clinton was a quintessential politician and if he had to send a thousand innocent people to their death to win office he would. And in 1996 nobody really cared.

If Hillary Clinton wins the election, she will come into office at a time when both society's support for the death penalty is at the almost historic low and the United States Supreme Court is receptive to throwing the dath penalty out once and for all.  This is why the Democratic party has now decided to oppose the death penalty - it's all about the politics. Maybe there really is hope that the end of the death penalty is within sight. The fact that a major political party campaigning for the presidency is willing to adopt a resolution to abolish the death penalty does suggest the politics of death may have finally shifted.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Death Watch Journal (part 21)

Is Florida about to crank up it's killing machine again? While executions have been on hold since the Florida Supreme Court granted me a stay of execution days beforeI was to be put to death in early February following a decision in Hurst v Florida (which declared the way Florida decides who is condemned to death unconstitutional) it would appear that this week's decision by the Florida Supreme Court in Mullens v State has now effectively cleared the path for some executions to proceed - but not mine, at least not yet.

There has been an assumption that since I was the next in line for execution, my case would decide whether any executions would proceed. But nothing is ever that predictable in the administration of death penalty law. To be honest, I wasn't too excited about having my case decidethis issue, but I didn't exactly have much of a choice.

If not for the January 2016 decision by the United States Supreme Court in Hurst v Florida it's almost certain that I would have been executed on February 11, 2016. In that Hurst case the USSC declared that Florida law that allowed a judge to determine whether a person was eligible for the death penalty was unconstitutional as under the sixth amendment only a jury can make the factual determinations necessary to impose death.

Using my own case as an example, as with most Florida cases, the jury heard evidence of both why death should be imposed (aggravating circumstances) and why it should not be imposed (mitigating circumstances) then merely made a "recommendation" that death should be imposed, which the judge then reviewed, and writing up his own "findings in support of sentence of death". On march 22, 1984 I was formally condemned to die.

Over 80 men and women have been executed in the state of Florida between 1979 and 2016 under this illegal process, the latest execution being Oscar Bolin on January 7, 2016 (please read: "Execution Day: Involuntary Witness to State Sanctioned Murder"). I was to follow Oscar Bolin into the death chamber on February 11, 2016, but just as I was preparing to go into "phase II" of the death watch process, I was granted a "temporary stay" as the Florida Supreme Court weighted whether this Hurst v Florida decision was retroactively applied to older case such as mine.

As I write this, it has been 145 days since I received that temporary stay of execution. Each and every day I would watch the news anxiously awaiting that decision as to whether I would live or die. I would follow every case that addressed the issue as a growing body of lawyers and judges called upon the Florida Supreme Court to do the right thing and reduce all death sentences to life.

Myself and many others around me speculated on just what the court will rule and debated whether having a death sentence is reduced to life would be doing us a favor or condemning us to have faith even worse than death.... to slowly rot away in the prison system until we inevitable die of old age.


Finally just this week the Florida Supreme Court gave us a glimpse into how the Hurst versus Florida decision might apply, or more accurately, how it would not apply. In the case of Khaddafi Mullens v State of Florida, the Florida Supreme Court declared that Hurst vs. Florida does not apply to Mullens because he waived his right to sentencing by jury. This is the first case to address application of Hurst and it's not a good sign.

The significance of this ruling is that it can now be used to exclude a larger number of Florida'd death sentenced prisoners from any relief under Hurst vs. Florida. Keep in mind that in Hurst, the US Supreme Court simply stated that only a jury can decide whether the elements necessary to justify a death sentence can be found. But under this same sixth amendment, it has long been recognised that the defendant can waive his right to have a jury decide his fate.

Although Mullens was on direct appeal, and his case would still have many more levels of appellate review before both the state and federal courts, there is actually a surprisingly large number of death sentenced prisoners who, like Mullens, waived their Sixth Amendment right to a jury at sentencing who have already exhausted their state and federal appeals and could now be targeted by Florida Governor Rick Scott for execution.

One might wonder why anyone facing the possibility of death would waive their fundamental constitutional right to have a jury decide their fate. But the truth is that many do. Some waive their right to jury determination because they feel having their case heard by only a judge would be preferable, while the majority of others waive their right to jury determination because they actually wanted to be sentenced to death and opposed presentation of any "mitigating" evidence.

This is something you rarely hear the courts or media talk about. There are many who actually wanted to be condemned to die, each for their own reasons. Some genuinely felt remorse for the victim and believed that justice could only be served if they were executed.  Others opposed any mitigation as they did not want to be sentenced to "life". They knew that they were only two choices ..life in prison with no chance of ever being free, or death. And they choose death.

Some find that decision difficult to comprehend. For most, if asked whether they would like to live or die, the answer is no brainer as it is our natural instinct to want to live. But in all fairness, I think the question is more comparable to asking someone with a terminal disease whethey would prefer to be put to death, or die slowly, as either way they know they're not coming out of this alive.

Those familiar with the prison system know only too well what awaits them if they are sentenced to life. See, that's something you'll never get the pro death penalty proponents to understand - that if they really wanted to make "murderers" suffer, instead of putting them to death they should sentence them to "life" in prison, as it truly is a fate worse than death. And those who know it will often ask the court to sentence them to death.

When someone is sentenced to death, they are placed in continuous solitary confinement, leaving that six foot concrete crypt only for at most a few hours each week for recreation on an enclosed concrete "yard". Condemned prisoners are not allowed to work a prison job, or go to the dining hall for meals or even participate in church services. They are simply warehoused in that solitary crypt until the state gets around to killing them decades later. And it's not much of a life, and most go crazy in their own way. But at least there's that morbid hope that the nightmare will come to an end when they are executed.

In contrast, if sentenced to life they are cast down into what most amounts to a  jungle and forced to survive among both man and beast, only too often preyed upon, if they don't evolve into the predator themselves.

Doing life without any hope of being released truly is a long death sentence, as Pope Francis recognized when he visited the United States last year and called for not only the abolishment of the death penalty, but also of mandatory life sentences, which he referred to as a "slow death penalty".

Recently this was addressed by the Florida Supreme Court in the case of Atwell vs State (decision dated May, 2016). In that case, Angelo Atwell was 16 years old in 1990 when he committed a robbery and murder, and was subsequently sentenced to life on both counts. However, in 2010 the United States Supreme Court held in Graham vs Florida that sentencing juveniles to life with no possibility of release amounted to cruel and unusual punishment because juveniles are not as capable as adults.

Florida then tried to weasel out of it by saying that Atwell would be assigned an "objective" parole date of 2130, meaning that Atwell did have reason to believe he would be freed; all he had to do was live to be 156 years old. Florida claimed that since it did provide him a release date (at 156 years old) his life sentences were not in violation of Graham vs Florida.

However, a majority of the Florida Supreme Court disagreed, finding that it was unreasonable to assume that Atwell would live to be 156 years old and a parole date in 2130 effectively amounted to a mandatory life sentence in violation of Graham v Florida.

In reaching this conclusion the Florida Supreme Court recognized that there are currently 4626 inmates in the prison system technically eligible for parole, but that in the fiscal year of 2013-14 only twenty-three of those 4626 inmates were actually granted parole. The conclusion is that for all practical purposes, parole doesn't exist in Florida and those serving a life sentence will die in prison.

This is why so many current death sentenced prisoners would rather not have their  death sentences reduced to life. It's not only those who waived a jury determination of sentence at trial, which are now precluded from relief under  Hurst v Florida, but also many more who now are demanding that their lawyers not raise claims of entitlement to relief under Hurst v Florida.

Myself, I have no intention of waiving anything. I do understand that like everything else in the Florida Criminal Justice system, the parole board haslong been politically corrupted and until they are forced to change there is no reasonable expectation of parole.  Assuming the parole system doesn't change, if those currently sentenced to death have their sentences reduced to life, they will still die in prison, only it will take longer and they'll have to survive in the jungle.

But the way I see it, this recent Atwell vs State case illustrates that not only is change  possible, but it's inevitable. There is a growing force of politicians andjudges who  want to see these mandatory life sentences abolished and the parole system modified to allow for reasonable release on parole.

For that reason I'm willing to fight to have my unconstitutionally imposed sentences of death reduced to life - if I am put to death, I obviously will not have any chance of proving my innocence and winning my freedom. But at least if I had my death sentence reduced to life, then there is still the hope that I can convince the courts to address my claim of innocence, and if not, then at least maybe in coming years what the Florida Supreme Court said in Atwell vs State about juveniles must be given a reasonable release date will extend to adults. If I know nothing else about the criminal justice system, it is that it evolves with society's ever-changing values. And change will come.

One of the guys who is insisting that he be executed rather than slowly die of old age in prison told me that I'm just afraid of dying and I immediately responded: "No, I'm not afraid to die - you're just afraid to live". And as long as I'm alive, I have hope of freedom. But nobody wins freedom from the grave.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Death Watch Journal (part 20)

That gun to my head to remain fully cocked and ready to fire, but at least for now the safety is still on as the Florida Supreme Court continues to debate whether all Florida death sentences must be thrown out, or just some. as I watched the oral arguements in the most recent case before the Florida Supreme Court on June 7, 2016 I noticed that the justices went to great lengths not to reveal their position on whether Hurst v. Florida will be applied retroactively to all cases, or limited to only the most recent cases.

As I continue to struggle with the uncertainty of whether I will live or die, I thought some about where I was 16 years ago today - at that time convinced that within weeks I would walk out a free man. But it didn't happen. Instead, once again I learned a lesson we all learn about what the death penalty is really about... politics. I smile when I think about the epidemic of blissful ignorance - those who truly believe that our system is committed to that noble cause of administering justice and protecting the innocent. I suppose that's what they need to believe, as if they were to be forced to confront the truth that those responsible for convicted and condemning people to death under the pretense of administering justice only too often couldn't care less about whether the accused actually committed the crimes...all that really counts is winning the conviction, and too many prosecutors will do whatever is necessary to win as they don't get promoted by losing cases.


Too often I hear people speak of the "moral certainty of guilt" as the benchmark for ensuring that innocent men and women are not put to death.  But it's merely rhetoric - it makes a good sound bite on the evening news and provides an assumption that there truly is solid evidence supporting every capital case and no reasonable person would question the guilt of those put to death. This is the smoke and mirrors show prosecutors and politicians put on to distract away from the real truth - that only too often the alleged evidence used to convict and condemn us, at best, tainted and not at all what it seems.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm hardly objective when it comes to my own case. But then again, as I've always said to anyone who would listen, I'm not asking anyone to simply believe me - and they shouldn't believe the prosecutors either. Rather, all I have ever asked is that those who do feel that there must be a moral certainty of guilt, before the state takes a life under the pretense of administering justice, look at the evidence in my case themselves and then ask whether they can say that the collective evidence establishes my guilt - or does it show that the State of Florida is only too willing to execute the innocent?

The basic facts of my case are that in February 1983 while I was living with Frances Smith in a small rural farming community, she and I went to a local bar where by chance we met another couple, a 35 year old man who called himself Chip, who would later be identified as Clarence Moore, also known as Lawrence Lamberson, and a nineteen-year-old local waitress by the name of Alicia Bryant. The state's own investigation (unknown to the jury) revealed that Moore was a "career criminal" and known associate of south Florida drug smugglers, with the history of violently assaulting women when intoxicated.                                                         
It is not disputed that me and Frances Smith joined Moore and Bryant and the four of us then spent the evening of Sunday February 5th 1983, drinking at several local bars before the four of us then decided to go back to the trailer me and Smith shared, located on a ranch well outside of town. After arriving at the trailer, me, Moore and Bryant sat in the living room drinking whiskey while Smith was in the adjacent kitchen cooking a late night dinner. Smith would later testify that we were all "laughing teasing and playing around" just before me and Moore would go outside, leaving Smith and Bryant inside the trailer.

Fast forward to the following week. Frances Smith was arrested while in the exclusive possession of the car belonging to Moore. She was then intensely questioned by the police as to how she got the car, and gave the police one story after another, each proving false, before she was bonded out of jail. The following week Smith walked into the state attorney's office in Tampa, Florida and announced that she knew where the bodies are buried in rural Glades county and will lead the police to them - but she wanted full immunity from prosecution.

                           Frances Smith

Smith then tells the prosecutor that after arriving at the trailer that night, I first went outside with Moore and then returned alone about 20 minutes later, at which time I "looked normal". I had no blood on me. Then I went outside with Alicia Bryant, but this time I was outside much longer and when I returned I was "covered in blood" and told her "they're death".

Smith has consistently said that although she repeatedly asked what happened, I wouldn't talk about it, and never said why. She claimed she was then "forced" to assist in superfacially concealing the bodies of Moore and Bryant, then left Glades county with me, and subsequently we parted ways with Smith keeping Moore's car until she was arrested on unrelated charges.

The following month I was arrested and charged with capital murder of both Moore and Bryant. Based solely on Smith's statements, I was indicted on premeditated murder and the state announced it would seek the death penalty. At arraignment, I pled not guilty.

The prosecutor knew that is wholly circumstantial case was weak, and that unless additional evidence could be developed there was a really good chance that the jury would reject Smith's testimony and acquit me. But then another witness came forward. The girlfriend of Smith's own cousin (Deborah Hanzel) conveniently corroborated Smith's otherwise unsupported testimony by claiming that she too had talked to me and that I admitted to killing the man, apparently motivated by an intent to steal his car.

Suddenly this wholly circumstantial case had substance and with the threat of the death penalty hanging over my head the local prosecutor tried to coerce me into pleading guilty for a more lenient sentence, but I refused. In December 1983 the case went to trial, but that first jury refused to convict me of any charges - they could not reach an unanimous verdict ("hung jury")

The case was rescheduled for trial and the local prosecutor vowed to convict, but shortly before trial again attempted to coerce me into pleading guilty to lesser charges of (second-degree murder) in exchange for what would had been a sentence of 17 to 22 years - I would have been out within 10 to 15 years. But again, I refused, insisting that I would not plead guilty for something I didn't do.

On the very day that the re-trial began, for reasons never explained, the original presiding judge (Richard Adams) was abrubtly removed and replaced by another judge, (Richard Stanley) - a local career prosecutor who  was later quoted by various newspapers as saying that he always carried a"sawed off machine gun" while on the bench and that if he had it his way, he would have shot capital defendants "between the eyes" in his courtroom rather than going through the expense of convicting and condemning them.                                                                  
I knew I was in trouble just as soon as they started to pick the jury and the court stacked the deck with at least 4 jurors related to members of the small town local sheriff's department - and it only got worse from there. Judge Stanley then prohibited the jury from knowing that key witness Smith actually gave numerous conflicting stories prior to coming up with the one she testified to - and that even then, Smith failed a state administered polygraph test.

Then the court prohibited me from testifying, even though I was the only person who could have disputed Smith's claims and allowed the jury to know what really happened outside. I was not allowed to testify for no other reason but my appointed lawyer - who never previously represented a capital defendant - felt that my testimony was not necessary as he felt the state could not prove the case.

Not surprisingly it took less than an hour for the jury to convict me on both counts of capital premeditated murder, and I was subsequently sentenced to death, joining the ranks of the condemned in March 1984.


It would take another 20 years before I was finally given the opportunity to testify in court as to what really happened that night. Most people are blissfully ignorant of how our legal system really works - they think that the Courts review every case and address innocence on every appeal - and that's just not true.

As the US Supreme Court plainly stated, innocent is not an issue. Rather, the courts are limited to reviewing only specifically pled claims of substantial error, and such claims must be presented within the very narrow parameter of procedural rules - if not properly presented, even the strongest claims of error are "procedurally defaulted".

In 1997 my primary appeals before both the state and federal courts were concluded when in Lambrix v. Singletary, 520 US, 51B (1997) by a marginal 5 to 4 decision the United States Supreme Court ruled that although I was illegally sentenced to death, because my lawyers failed to timely present the claim, I was procedurally barred from relief.

Florida Governor Lawton Chiles appointed clemency counsel and I entered into the pre-death warrant stage - no Florida death row prisoner has been granted clemency since 1986, nor would any.

But then unexpectedly the only witness that corroborated Francis Smith's trial testimony came forward and admitted that her trial testimony was not true. Deborah Hanzel then testified under oath that key witness Smith and the prosecutor's lead investigator Miles "Bob" Daniels had coerced her to provide the false testimony, telling her if she didn't, then her children would be harmed.

Deborah Hanzel also testified in 2003 that Frances Smith told her that her own testimony was not true, and that - just as I had consistently claimed for the past thirty three years, Moore had physically assaulted Bryant and when I tried to stop the fatal assault, Moore turned on me, forcing me to act in self-defense (link to video). As Hanzel testified about how Smith and the prosecutor's lead investigator worked together to coerce her false testimony, Smith's own recently divorced husband contacted my lawyers and advised them that Smith had often "bragged" about how she was having an affair with the prosecutor's lead investigator "Bob", and that he had protected her from prosecution.

The court ordered Frances Smith to respond to these allegations under oath, and although at first she swore she didn't know the investigator "Bob" Daniels, she then reluctantly admitted that it was true - that he did have a sexual relationship with the prosecutor's lead investigator during the case. Both Smith and investigator Daniels were then compelled ro reluctantly admit that just before testifying they were seen talking in the hall. But Daniels insisted he never had sex with Smith - but then conceded that even if it was true, he wouldn't admit it as it would jeopardize his state pension and cause problems in his marriage.

As all this was pending, it came out that the prosecutor, Randall McGrunther, had deliberately concealed evidence prior to trial. From the very beginning of the case the prosecutors claimed that no physical and forensic evidence was recovered in the case. But in 2009 it was revealed for the first time that in 1983 the State Crime Lab actually did find numerous hairs on the alleged "murder weapon" that they found did not match either victim, or me - and that when the crime lab brought this unexpected discovery to the attention of Randall McGrunther, he ordered all the evidence to be returned to his office - then he concealed this evidence until it was accidentally recovered at the state records respository.

Confronted with the probability that based upon this collective "new evidence" that the jury never heard my convictions would be thrown out, suddenly I was offered yet another opportunity to negogiate a plea for a reduced sentence. This time I was willing to plea "no contest" to reduced sentence of 30 years on a plea of second-degree murder. At the time I already had 22 years in and was entitled to another seven years of time off for "good behavior". Agreeing to this "plea bargain" (as it is commonly called) meant that I would be released within months.

Judge R. Thomas Corbin postponed any other hearings to allow both parties to reach an agreement, but then all of a sudden the prosecutor decided that they would not allow a reduced conviction - but if I would formally abandon any further claim of innocence, that would reduce my death sentence to life. It seemed simple enough -  all I had to do was waive any further review of my consistently claim of innocence and the State of Florida that would let me live - I didn't have to die.

But I couldn't do it. As was published in the Ft MyersNews Press in July 2006, I would not enter a plea to a crime I knew I didn't commit.

Judge Corbin then denied all relief, finding that every witness that testified for me was not credible while every witness to testify for the state was telling nothing but the truth.

Not long after Judge Corbin made the absurd and  self-contradictory ruling, it was revealed that the local state attorney had established a powerful "political action committee" (AAC) with the assistance of a convicted money launderer associated with Colombian drug cartels and through this  AAC all but controlled local elections and circuit courts judges and judge Corbin was up for reelection.  Motions to disqualify Judge Corbin and reopen the case were summarily denied.

The case proceeded to appellate review before the Florida Supreme Court and it was argued at length that Judge Corbin's denial of relief was contrary to the evidence and "dubious at best". Further, legal counsel argued that judge Corbin improperly refused to allow of wealth of readily available evidence that would substantiate the pled allegations that the key witness Frances Smith and the prosecutor's office deliberately fabricated the case of alleged premeditated murder and that they knew that it was a case of legally justified self-defense.

But as luck would have it, by the time I finish made it back up to the Florida Supreme Court, none other then Peggy Quince was the politically appointed Chief Justice. Notably, prior to being appointed to the state's highest court, Peggy Quince was part of the prosecution team in my case during the post-conviction proceedings when the evidence at issue was deliberately concealed. To grand me relief, the Florida Supreme Court would now have to recognize that Chief Justice Peggy Quince engaged in prosecutional misconduct that resulted in sending an innocent man to death row.

Motions to disqualify the court and allowed the case to be heard by a panel of Judges not associated with Chief Justice Peggy Quince were denied. A formal civil rights action was then filed seeking to expose this denial of fair and impartial review, but that was dismissed for no other reason but a technical error, see http://lambrixvmcneil.blogspot.com

In unprecidented hastily presumablyattributable to the Florida Supreme Court's desire to protect their chief justice Peggy Quince from allegations of prosecutional misconduct, the court affirmed denial of relief - categorically refusing to even address the readily available evidence substantiating my consistently maintained claim of innocence.

Under the 1996 "Anti-terrorist and Effective Death Penalty Act" (AEDPA) my federal court review was limited and effectively unavailable.  My legal counsel filed a "petition for writ of habeas corpus" with the United States Supreme Court argueing that absent extraordinary intervention the State of Florida would proceed to put an innocent man to death, specifically arguing that neither the state or federal courts have allowed any opportunity for the readily available evidence substantiating my innocence to be heard and asking the Supreme Court to order a full hearing on the evidence.

On the morning of November 30, 2015 the Supreme Court denied review. Not more than 2 hours later Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a death warrant formally scheduling my execution for February 11, 2016. (check out: "Execution day: Involuntary witness to murder" )

Within days of that scheduled execution I received a stay of execution pending a review of application of Hurst vs. Florida. I continue to remain under an active death warrant and my execution could be rescheduled soon.

As I know quite literally stand in the shadow of death, do I regret not accepting the states offer to reduce my sentence to life if I will abandon my claim of innocence? No, I do not. I thought this fight to prove my innocence for 33 years now, and never once wavered. I'd rather die with my integrity intact than weasel out of it a coward. If the State of Florida is willing to execute an innocent man, then so be it. But as Socrates said to the tribunal that wrongly condemned him to death so long ago, "to which of us go the worst fate, you or I?"