The New Year began with a vengeance. I can’t even remember the last time I really got sick, but I spent the entire first weekend of the new year sick as a dog; to the point where I didn’t even want to get out of my bunk. I didn’t get anything done and I am so far behind on writing letters to all those who have sent me cards and letters that I doubt I will ever catch up. And so let me begin this update with my thanks to all those that sent cards and letters as they truly mean so much.
In an earlier update I asked for a few jokes ~ and I got a fair share, so many thanks for those too. But I gotta tell you all, the best laugh I got as I read through them was that I didn’t realize just how many really bad jokes there are out there! (Big Smile!). Really, thanks for all the jokes as I did get a few really good laughs. Surprisingly nobody sent me any really dirty jokes, nor did I get any blonde jokes which is probably as good thing as with my mom and sister coming for a visit next week, I won’t be tempted to get myself in trouble by sharing a blonde joke or two.
Having survived the New Year’s weekend fighting my way through a cold like i’ve never had before, we then went into the week counting down to Oscar Bolin’s execution. It wasn’t easy being housed down here on death watch only a few feet away as this act of deliberate murder unfolded and as most of you know, on January 7th they did kill Oscar Bolin. But I would like to think that he was at peace in the end and far more worried about how his wife would cope than his own fate. He showed true dignity and strength and I have to believe that he is now in a better place. But his wife, family, and friends will continue to struggle with the loss, so please keep them in your thoughts.
As an involuntary witness to the events that transpired, it wasn’t easy as they proceeded to carry out this act of deliberate murder with me housed in my own solitary cell just a few feet away. At the same time, though, I have to commend the prison staff as from the warden on down, they went out of their way to keep Oscar comfortable and the stress and anxiety to a minimum.
Much to my surprise, on Wednesday afternoon, Deputy Secretary Dixon (second highest Dept of Corrections official) personally came down to death watch, accompanied by Warden Palmer, and spoke to Oscar (and briefly to me) and then a few hours before the scheduled execution FDOC Secretary Julie Jones sat down at Oscar’s cell front and talked with him too.
But for all the efforts they put into sterilizing this execution process, I’m left wondering whether it compromises the significance of their objective. Has all of this become so routine to them, that they no longer appreciate that they are methodically taking a human life?
They had Oscar scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday (January 7th) and at precisely 4 p.m. they removed him from his death watch cell and escorted him to the east side of the wing, where they have a single cell used exclusively for housing the condemned prisoner until the courts clear the way for the execution to proceed. But when they took Oscar to that holding cell, they were still waiting for the US Supreme Court to decide whether they would allow Oscar’s claim of innocence to be heard. As a result, everything remained on hold until shortly before 10 p.m.
Once the Supreme Court finally gave the go-ahead, they moved quickly, taking Oscar from the holding cell into the adjacent execution chamber only a few feet behind the cell I remained in, and with practiced precision, they quickly strapped him into the gurney and put him to death. Just that quickly, it was over ~ and no court was willing to allow review of his innocence claim before they killed him.
For obvious reasons, I didn’t get to sleep that night, but sometime in the early morning hours I did fall asleep ~ only to be awaken a few hours later and told that I had to immediately move from cell Three (the end cell) to cell One, the cell that Oscar had only recently vacated a few hours earlier and I really didn’t want to move into that cell so quickly, but it wasn’t like I had a choice.
That Friday (January 8th) morning I has a legal visit and quickly threw my personal property into a pillow case and got ready to walk the few steps up to cel one. Before that legal visit, I was allowed a short social phone call with my long time friend Jan Ariens (in England) and I can’t begin to say how much it meant to hear a friendly voice just at that particular time.
See, here’s the thing ~ for all the perception of how well we are treated on death watch ~ and we are treated exceptionally well compared to “normal” prison life ~ the undeniable truth is that they treat us as they do to facilitate this “process.” I appreciate being treated as they do, but I’m not in denial ~ I know only too well that they have their own agenda and that is to keep those facing imminent execution calm and avoid any problems and so the bottom line is they don’t treat us this good without reason and that reason is so that when the time comes to kill us, it won’t be a confrontational process.
It is for that reason having family and friends there to support you through this becomes so important just like that Friday morning, the sound of a friend's voice brought me that measure of comfort I so desperately needed and although only allowed a few minutes, it brought an unexpected peace to my spirit.
After a long visit up front with my lawyer’s investigator Lea ~ another friendly face in the eye of the storm ~ by early afternoon I was on my way back to my death watch cell and learned that within hours of executing Oscar Bolin, Governor Scott had already signed yet another death warrant; this time on Mark Asay, who everyone that knows him calls “Catfish.”
Again, it makes me wonder whether they realize that they are methodically taking human lives. Florida’s execution process has become nothing less than that of a slaughterhouse, each step of the process intended to efficiently move the line along. No sooner than one person is killed, they move the line up and sign another warrant with the methodical efficiency of a slaughterhouse ~ and with 23 executions in a row, you wonder if those responsible for this process have forgotten they are taking human lives. When we as a society become so indifferent to that fact that we are killing people as if they are nothing more than meat delivered to market, and we do so in such an efficient process, then what does that say about the society we have become? Should taking any human life really be this easy? And shouldn’t we all be troubled by the apathy?
And now I’m next, moved up to the front of the line, with barely a month to go (as of this writing) and each day brings me one step closer to that scheduled date of February 11, 2016, when with that same measure of professional indifference, they will proceed with this machinery of death to end my own life. And like a head of livestock led to slaughter, I will be put to death.
This coming week my lawyers will file the appeal in the Florida Supreme Court seeking a stay of execution and DNA testing of evidence substantiating my claim of innocence. Additionally, we will file appeals challenging the summary denial of my innocence claim in the Federal Court. All I can do is wait and see if any court will even allow review. All these legal actions will be posted at www.southerninjustice.net for anyone who wants to read them. And in closing, I again thank all of you who have been there for me ~ you are my strength and I am truly blessed - Mike