Time flies quickly when you’re counting down what is expected to be the last days of your life. When Florida governor Rick Scott signed my death warrant on November 30th, scheduling my execution for February 11, 2016 I had 73 days of life guaranteed ~ but as I awoke this morning, I realized I’m now down to only 25 days. I smiled as I remembered song on my mp3 player by country music legend Johnny Cash called “25 Minutes to Go” ~ it starts with the words, “They’re building a gallows outside my cell and I’ve got 25 minutes to go,” then in his southern accent continues, “and the whole town’s waiting just to hear me yell ~ I’ve got 25 minutes to go.”
There’s a lot of truth to those words. Although I’m blessed by the support of many from almost every corner of the world, I’m constantly reminded that the reason I’m counting down these final days until my appointed moment of death is because there are just as many pushing just as hard to see me dead. Few even think about the amount of resources that the state of Florida, on behalf of the taxpayers, are investing in this process with one singular objective… to see me dead. And at times it does feel like the “whole town is waiting to hear me yell.”
I find myself thinking about the bigger picture a lot lately ~ although I am comfortable in my own sense of spirituality and I am convinced that my eternal soul (consciousness) will continue far beyond this so-called life, I guess when it comes down to it, nobody really knows.
It bothers me that so many people are all but consumed with the need to inflict death upon me under the pretense of administering justice as by their own choices, they inflict scars upon their own souls. It seems to create a spiritual paradox that I struggle to reconcile with ~ by methodically seeking my death at a specific appointed time and by a specifically appointed manner, I’m given that rare luxury of that opportunity to seek forgiveness and make spiritual peace, while those most affected by the crime are not.
It’s only too easy to get fixated on our own perspective and not even consider another’s. But I do wonder about those who are so deliberately pursuing my death. Each of us, without exception, are inherently imperfect creatures and in our own way we each struggle through this journey we call life. Most of us try to do the right thing ~ just as I tried to do the right thing the night when all this happened. But our perspective of what is right and what is wrong, is too often clouded by more primitive responses, such as the need to seek vengeance, only under the pretense of administering justice. But if the sanctity of life is to mean anything at all, then what could be a more deliberate act of murder then putting an innocent man to death through a state sanctioned execution.
Maybe it’s just me, but I worry about those responsible for pursuing my death. As they gather around the gallows just to hear me scream, do they even for a moment think about their own spiritual accountability? I recall the words Jesus spoke from the cross as they executed the Son of God ~ “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.”
This past week was a pretty good week, all things considered. Beginning on Monday and through Wednesday I was able to receive visits with my youngest son Cary Michael. On Tuesday my parents joined him for the visit, and on Wednesday my sisters Debbie and Mary came. For three days I was able to escape the reality of my pending execution and bask in the warmth of their love. We talked and we laughed ~ and we cried. It pained me greatly to see what all of this is putting them through. And I wonder whether those so determined to pursue my death spend even a moment thinking about the pain they are inflicting on so many others. As a society we have a very constrained definition of “victims,” as my own family and friends suffer just as equally and by any objective definition of the word “victim,” they are victims too.
On Tuesday January 12th the United States Supreme Court issued its long anticipated ruling in Hurst v. Florida. By an 8 to 1 majority they declared that Florida’s death penalty is unconstitutional, as under the Sixth Amendment a jury must make the findings necessary to impose death, not a judge. What this means is that every person sentenced to death in Florida ~ including the 80 men and women already executed since 1974 ~ were illegally sentenced.
But it’s not that simple. Through the years the “politics of death” have compelled the courts to judicially create procedural rules that strongly discourage retroactive application of new rulings. Under the pretense of promoting “finality,” new court decisions generally will not be applied to older cases that were already upheld on the first round of appeals.
Suddenly my own case has been catapulted to the front lines in the fight over the death penalty itself. Because I am the next person scheduled for execution following the Supreme Court decision, the disposition of my own case will now decide the fate of all those sentenced to death in Florida ~ and very well may decide whether the death penalty in America survives.
Quite simply, if I win and my February 11th execution is called off, then all 390 other death sentenced prisoners in Florida will rely on that victory to vacate their own death sentences. If I lose, then Governor Scott and the State of Florida will continue to aggressively pursue executions.
Those interested in following this issue can easily read all the appeal briefs filed, which will be available at my website www.southerninjustice.net. Already the top death penalty lawyers have joined forces to fight this issue. Anyone can also watch the “oral arguments” before the Florida Supreme Court at 9:00 a.m. on February 2, 2016 both live and taped at www.gavel2gavel.org. Additionally, all legal filings are available on the Florida Supreme Court website by pulling up Cary Michael Lambrix v, State of Florida, case no. SC16-08.
In truth, I’m not happy about my case becoming the test case on this Hurst v. Florida issue. For 32 years I’ve fought to prove that I am innocent of this wholly circumstantial (i.e., no eyewitnesses, no physical or forensic evidence, no confessions) theory of alleged premeditated murder. But now my consistently pled claim of innocence will be effectively reduced to nothing more than a footnote as all the attention focuses solely on this Hurst case. And the reality is that the odds are against me convincing either State or Federal Courts that Hurst must apply retroactively. As I’ve said before, it's a runaway train and I’m just along for the ride.
My imminent execution will generate widespread media attention in light of the Hurst decision ~ I can only hope that the media that follows this story will take a moment to actually read the history of my case and how the state's own evidence actually substantiates my innocence.