As that first week of February began, the days to my scheduled execution were down to less than ten. I focused on separating all my property, which in truth wasn’t much and most was pretty much trash to anyone but me, but it had to be done as I knew that on Thursday February 4th I would move to the next phase of the death watch protocol.
What that meant is that I only had until February 4th to go through my personal property and decide who would get what, My Bible, watch, and other personal things would go to my son, and my mp3 player to my sister Mary. While my small television ad fan would would go to my older sister Debbie. The boxes of personal papers and legal work would be picked up by my friend who would sort all that out. And I would throw away a lot of trash that piled up over the years.
I spent the better part of Monday sorting through that and with each decision I made it brought the reality that I would soon die that much closer. But it had to be done and trying to ignore the obvious wouldn’t make it go away.
On Tuesday morning February 2nd the Florida Supreme Court would hold oral arguments on my case, but I wouldn’t be able to see them. Instead, at that same time I had a visit with my sisters Debbie, Mary, and Janet. Although Debbie and Mary have visited many times through the years, that was the first time my sister Janet had visited in the past 32 years. The last time I had seen her was in the courtroom where I was convicted and sentenced to death.
It was a great visit and all those years that passed, quickly faded away and it was as if we had just talked last week. That’s family. Years can pass without having any communication and just that quick we are talking as if no time had passed at all. Before we knew it, the few hours allowed for that visit passed and we had to say our goodbyes. At the time of that visit, they all expected that within a few days I would be put to death. That made saying goodbye that much harder.
Immediately after that visit with my sisters, my lawyer and the investigator assigned to my case stopped by for a visit as they wanted to tell me how the “oral arguments” on my case went earlier that morning and they told me that they went well, but that nobody could predict what the Florida Supreme Court might do when they ruled, nor even how long it would take for the Court to rule. With my execution scheduled for that following week, we expected a decision within days.
Just after 4 pm my lawyer left and after locking down the entire prison as is protocol for “death watch movement,” I was escorted back up that long main hall slowly shuffling along in the leg shackles and handcuffs and chains until we reached the very last door leading into Q wing, and then down the stairs and back to my death watch cell.
Within moments the phone on the desk in of the cell rang and the sergeant answered it… it was Warden Palmer and he wanted to talk to me. Not knowing what to expect ~ not too often any inmate gets a phone call from the warden ~ I reluctantly said, “hello?” and after that brief exchange of irrelevant formalities, Warden Palmer then informed me that the Florida Supreme Court just ordered my scheduled execution postponed to some as yet undetermined time in the future, allowing the Court time to reach its decision on the applicability of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in that Hurst v Florida case.
But I would remain on death watch as a temporary stay meant that at any given time the Florida Supreme Court could lift the stay of execution and proceed to carry out the execution.
Although it is unlikely that they would lift the stay before the originally scheduled date, it remains a possibility. If the court ordered stay remains in effect beyond Friday February 12th, then an execution would not be authorized until the Governor signs a new order of execution. Under Florida Statute 922.06(2) once the Florida Supreme Court lifts this stay of execution then Florida’s Attorney General must certify that the stay of execution has been lifted and only then is the Governor statutorily required to set another execution date.
Bottom line, it’s almost certain that the Florida Supreme Court will not lift this stay of execution before February 12th, and so although I technically remain on death watch, I would not have any date set for execution.
That uncertainty of imminent death will continue to hang over me as there is no way to know how the Florida Supreme Court will ultimately rule. Within weeks I could go from being steps away from that execution chamber that now patiently continues to wait for me ~ or they could rule in my favor and just that quickly my sentence would be reduced to “life.” Under Florida law since my capital conviction was before 1995, that life sentence would mean that I would not be eligible for parole for at least 25 years (as of March, 1983) so technically I would be eligible for parole in March 2008 ~ 8 years ago. But parole is totally discretionary and Florida rarely ever grants parole to any prisoner previously sentenced to death. I have no realistic expectation of parole. Still, it would be theoretically possible.
If the Florida Supreme Court rules against me, then my execution will be rescheduled. Most likely within a matter of weeks. My other appeals continue to be pursued and they too provide that hope that relief will be granted. Perhaps the courts will yet allow me the opportunity to be heard on the readily available evidence substantiating my innocence and this will be the year that I am finally exonerated and win my freedom ~ finally pursue my long held dream of to travel from coast to coast, visiting the National Parks, watching the sun set over the Pacific Ocean and falling asleep beneath the stars at night.
For those that don’t already know, on January 30 the Sarasota Herald newspaper did a long article about me and my case titled “His Plea for Life at Florida’s Highest Court” and on February 9th a media interview was done with Politico that should also be televised and available online in coming weeks.
I would again thank all those for the cards and letters of support. The truth is that my primary source of strength through this have been those cards and letters, as well as the family visits I’ve received. I know that in many ways all of this is so much harder on those that care about me than it is even on me, myself. I remain truly blessed by all those who so selflessly reach out to me during these past weeks.
And then there’s friends that do so much to help and the phone calls, visits, and photos of my children and the smiling faces of my grandchildren, too.. Even as I feel all but crushed beneath the overwhelming weight of this process that virtually stalks my death, I find comfort in knowing that so many care and continue to hold me in their thoughts and prayers.
Last, a special word of thanks to whoever sent me that book “From the Depths of a Slaughter” by Angela Pomeranz. I personally knew both Timebomb and Bo, and their memories made me smile. Thank you.