Another week already gone, and as I write this today there’s less than two weeks to go before my scheduled execution. It’s been a relatively quiet week and I smiled when the thought of “the calm before the storm” comes to mind, as I know that as we move into that final stretch it will pick up.
On Thursday they will elevate me to the next phase. Since my death warrant was signed on November 30, I’ve been on “phase II” but per protocol once I reach that last seven days prior to execution; things change. Right now I’m allowed to keep all my property in my cell and it’s not much different that regular death row confinement beyond the fact that the death watch cell is significantly larger.
Once I graduate to the next phase (phase I) they will remove all my property from my cell and post an officer just outside my cell 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. He will have a forest green “death watch log” and record my every movement. This is similar to “suicide watch” and its sole purpose is to make sure that the condemned prisoner doesn’t deprive the state out of its intended execution by committing suicide. Once I graduate to the next stage even my lawyers will no longer be allowed regular visits in the death watch interview room, but will only be allowed to see me in the non-contact visitation area through glass. This ensures that even the lawyers cannot pass anything to the condemned prisoner.
It’s all about the methodical process designed to force the condemned to become a willing participant in his or her murder. I know from their perspective, this process is meticulously tuned to ensure that the intended execution goes by the book without unexpected interruption
But more so than anything else, what bothers me the most about this whole process is just how incredibly cold and calculated it is, as if those responsible have completely forgotten that they are taking a human life. It really is nothing less than the “machinery of death.” And I really do have to wonder just how much of their own humanity those responsible for carrying out this act of taking a human life must abandon as nothing about this process is “normal.”
Maybe that’s exactly the point… maybe they need this process themselves so that they can detach from the reality that they are killing a fellow human being. Maybe by becoming so fixated on each minute detail, it provides them that luxury of pushing aside the reality that they are killing another person.
I suppose if that’s true, then it helps that most of those who are assigned to assist in this execution ritual have done it many times. One officer recently told me that he’s been down here for at least the last 25 executions. At some point, it probably gets easier. At some point they probably don’t even lose any sleep over it… it’s just a job. And that’s kind of scary.
At least I accomplished one small thing this week. In January this year when they killed Oscar Bolin as I was forced to remain in my death watch cell only feet away, I found out that they would not allow communion on the day of execution. Most Americans claim to be Christian and would find it offensive that a condemned prisoner would be denied communion when having his last spiritual visit.
When I realized that this was the case, I asked several people responsible for this process why they would not allow the condemned prisoner to take communion ~ which is unquestionably one of the fundamental tenets of any Christian faith. And other than allowing communion interfered with their last day protocol, nobody could give me an answer as to why. Apparently, nobody had ever questioned this before.
Unable to get any explanation at institutional level, I then brought this to the attention of my lawyers. Just by coincidence, my top lawyer Neil Dupree ( head of CCRC) was in Tallahassee to participate in budget conferences and in the same room as the FDOC Secretary Julie Jones.
As I understand it, Mr. Dupree took a moment to talk to Julie Jones and simply asked her why it was that condemned prisoners were not allowed to receive communion on execution day and apparently Ms. jones did not even know that this was not allowed and assured Mr. Dupree that she would look into it immediately.
Early the next morning the prisons Assistant Warden came down to death watch and discussed this issue with me, in a polite and respectful manner. Just that easily, the issue was resolved ~ I would be allowed to receive communion from the Catholic priest on the day of my scheduled execution. But I wonder whether those who face execution in the future will think to inquire as apparently I was the first to simply ask.
This past week I was kept busy by the lawyers as the various appeals were submitted to the courts. Since the Hurst v Florida decision was handed down from the U.S. Supreme Court on January 12 declaring Florida’s death penalty statute unconstitutional, many of the top lawyers have joined my legal team as now my own case will decide whether that court decision applies to everyone on death row, or maybe to no one at all. Oral arguments before the Florida Supreme Court will be interesting. (If you missed these oral arguments you can pull them up at any time at http://www.wfsu.org/gavel2gavel/viewcase.php?eid=2314)
With all the attention of this Hurst v Florida issue, I’m increasingly worried that the lawyers are not pursuing my numerous other issues as aggressively. For one thing, I just don’t have any confidence that the Florida Supreme Court will rule favorably on this Hurst case. Of the seven justices on that court, most are former death penalty prosecutors themselves (they each are politically hand picked, so that’s not just a coincidence) and not even one of them opposes the death penalty. And this court has already sent at least 30 men to their execution since 2002 when the US Supreme Court first ruled this process was wrong. I just don’t see that court suddenly willing to do the right thing. What’s important to me is my long and consistently pled claim of innocence and that it continues to be argued before the Florida Supreme Court and in the Federal Courts. But with this attention on this Hurst issue, my claims that argue my innocence are being neglected and I’m not happy about that ~ and there’s not a damned thing I can do about that either.
Some time this next week the lawyers will file my appeal on the innocence claims in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. I also expect nothing from that court as my case was assigned to the three most extremely pro death penalty judges (Carnes, Hull, and Tjoulat), so the most I can hope for is that once those judges rubber stamp that federal denied (as they do all death row appeals) then we can try to get the US Supreme Court to grant review.
But the clock continues to count down and each day I’m that much closer to my death. It’s still a matter of days, but soon it will be a matter of hours.
Note: Michael Lambrix was granted an indefinite stay of execution on February 2, 2016.He has now been moved to a regular death row cell at Florida State Prison, while still being under warrant.
Anyone wanting to send a card or letter to Mike, please write to:
Michael Lambrix #482053
Florida State Prison G1204
7819 NW 228th street
Raiford Florida 32026-1100
Florida State Prison G1204
7819 NW 228th street
Raiford Florida 32026-1100