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.