Breaking news: The Florida Supreme Court has issued an indefinite Stay of Execution for Michael Lambrix. Mike was to be executed on Thursday, February 11, 2016. The order came hours after the court heard oral arguments that focused on the impact of a U.S. Supreme Court decision earlier this month that struck down the state’s death-penalty sentencing system.

UPDATE March 9, 2017: Florida Supreme Court has lifted the stay on Mike's death warrant!


Read more: http://www.southerninjustice.net
http://www.save-innocents.com/save-michael-lambrix.html




Michael Lambrix #482053
Florida State Prison
PO Box 800
Raiford FL 32083





Monday, March 28, 2016

Death Watch Journal (part 13)

At what point does it get kind of old to keep beginning its blog with the same story. I'm still on "death watch" and technically under an active death warrant. My previously scheduled execution date of February 11th has now passed by and it's been a month since the Florida Supreme Court issued that order of  a temporary stay, as they continue to consider whether they will apply the January 12 Hurst versus Florida decision declaring Florida's death penalty process unconstitutional and retroactively to older cases such as mine.  I still wake each day mindful of the truth that at any time the court could rule and deny relief - and just that quickly I would be moved back down to the bottom floor of Q-wing and begin to once again count down the days until my appointed death by execution. 

For all the talk about how the execution process might inflict a constitutionally intolerable measure of "cruel and unusual punishment" such as the possibility of a botched execution, I find it incredible that nobody wants to talk about the undeniable psychological trauma inflicted upon the condemned through a process that only too often brings us to that very edge of death's door, only to then "stay" the execution and put you in indefinite limbo as you await word of whether you will live or die. I really just don't get it.

Why is that undeniable trauma amounting to psychological torture is not even being discussed? If someone put a gun to your head and began to pull the trigger again and again, each time having it fall on to an empty chamber would anyone deny that to be psychologically traumatic? Assuming for the moment that it was all just a malicious game of Russian Roulette and there never was any real bullet in the chamber, wouldn't most people still have nightmares many years later? Yet isn't that exactly what the state of Florida is doing when they have me (and others) brought to the brink of death only to pull up at the last moment and say "come back later and we'll try again".

At what point does it cross the line of moral principles that presumably define a civilized society? Don't get me wrong, obviously I'm glad I'm still alive but at the same time this continued anxiety and that uncertainty of whether I will live or die weighs heavily upon not only me, but my family and friends too. I know there are some out there who truly believe in their own demented mind that the more a condemned prisoner suffers the better and yet these self righteous stone throwers want to call me a monster and maybe that's what they need to do to justify the evil within their own heart.

                                                                     


This month marks 32 years now that I've been in continuous solitary confinement condemned to death and three times now I've been scheduled for execution only to be told to come back later. I've ordered my last meal and prepared my last statement which, I might note now that I haven't had the opportunity to say it, would have been borrowed from Socrates, the ancient Greek philosopher and father of democracy, and what he said when he too was condemned to death for a crime without legal justification ...."to which of us  go the worst fate, you or I?

I hope you'll take a moment to think about that ...the State of Florida continues to pursue my execution despite my innocence. And just as we live in a society that pretentiously prides itself on being that beacon of human rights for all the world to see, if I've learned nothing else in the over 3 decades that I've been convicted and condemned to death for a crime I did not commit, it's that as a society, we really don't care if innocent people are put to death.

Fortunately there are some who are morally outraged that our society would even risk putting one innocent person to death. But even as oud as they try to scream, their voices are drowned out by the larger crowd that only too quickly gathers to demand nothing less than an expedited execution - and innocence be damned.

A friend recently asked me how do I keep my hope alive - after all this time, why haven't I simply surrendered to my seemingly inevitable fate, and I found myself struggling to find an answer. Why haven't I simply given up as so many others have already? To borrow from an obviously appropriate analogy I'm already cast out upon the open sea struggling to tread water when in truth as each day passes into yet another night and when I awake again, there's still no sign of either land or light on that distant horizon, why not just stop struggling and embrace my inevitable fate, and allow myself to sink beneath the surface and surrender to death.

And then I pull out the pictures of my children, and now my grandchildren, and my parents and my family and friends who have so faithfully stood by my side through all of this and I'm reminded why I continue to fight even when I've grown weak and I want so much to simply surrender and to bring an end to this never-ending nightmare, my strength is renewed when I look upon their pictures and I know that even when I can no longer fight this fight for myself, I can still fight for them.

The truth is that I haven't been dealing so well with this perpetual state of lethal limbo and trap I'm trapped in and that uncertainty of whether I will live or die has taken its toll. I don't like to admit it, but there's a part of me that wishes that I died as scheduled on February 11th and I'm tired of this, so very tired of this never-ending fight. And when I find myself awake in the middle of the night struggling to choke back tears and  angry at myself for allowing such emotions to overcome me, I find that I'm not crying for myself but for the pain that all of this is putting my family and friends through as they've done nothing to deserve any of this, and yet my death would be an even greater loss to them.

However recently someone who is special to me shared a personal story from her own life, how in the not-so-distant past her life spiraled into a seemingly impossible self-destructive cycle that brought her to the point where she overdosed on drugs and at least for a moment died, only to be revived in the back of an ambulance on the way to the hospital.  And in that moment of clarity between mortality and dead, her first thought was not of herself, or the misery that had become her own life, but of her children and how much it would hurt them to lose their mother and she found the strength to recover and never again surrender to hopelessness and despair through the use of drugs. Her words touched me and how I wish I could have given her a big hug for that. It made me realize that I'm not ready to die, and this fight I fight isn't about me, as what I'm really fighting for is for those who have stood by me so long, those who have so faithfully stood by my side and believed in me even when I no longer held the strength to believe in myself.

At the end of the day what sustains our strength does not come from us alone as although it's only too easy to feel that alone the true substance of our existence is defined by something so much greater than ourselves - our will to survive is nurtured by the love of those who sustain us.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Death row inmate Michael Lambrix awaits fate from court: 'It's my last hope' - Tampa Bay Times



Michael Lambrix has spent a lifetime on death row, successfully dodging his execution over a period of three decades and six governors, with the help of timely intervention by the courts.
In his latest case of good timing, he might even outlast the system that produced his death sentence.
Lambrix, 56, a Plant City High dropout and U.S. Army veteran convicted of two killings, is at the center of an epic legal challenge to Florida's death penalty sentencing system.
He's the first inmate to have his execution halted after the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hurst vs. Florida which struck down the state's death penalty sentencing system as a violation of the right to trial by jury, which forced the Legislature to rewrite the law.

Read the article in the Tampa Bay Times HERE
                                                                     

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Open Letter to the Editor of "The Independent Florida Alligator"


Never before have I been compelled to respond to a newspaper article in this manner - but then, any newspaper that was committed to the basic values of journalistici integrity would never has published the kind of article that The Independent Florida Alligator published in the February 29th 2016 edition.

Lawyers always tell their clients not to talk to the media and generally this is good advice. In the 32 years since I've been on Florida's death row for a crime I am innocent of (see, www.southerninjustice.net ) I have almost without exception followed that advice. But when Florida Governor Rick Scott signed my death warrant on November 30th 2015, within hours after the US Supreme Court declined review of my actual innocence claim, and scheduled my execution for February 11th 2016, I decided that against council's advice I would cooperate with the media. One of the so-called journalists that reached out to me was Martin Vassolo, who introduced himself as a staff writer for the University of Florida campus newspaper "The Independent Alligator".  He did not conduct a formal interview but instead mailed me hand written questions.

I have a lot of respect for journalism schools and the commitment that many students have shown in the almost extinct science of true investigative journalism. As a death sentence prisoners I am reminded that it was a journalism class at Northeastern University that took it upon himself to thoroughly investigate every death row case in Illinois, discovering widespread evidence of prosecutional misconduct and exposed the innocence of at least 9 death row prisoners. As a direct result of that commitment to the true spirit of investigative journalism not only were those 9 wrongfully convicted and condemned prisoners of Illinois death row exonorated and released but the governor (Ryan) then ordered a commission to study the entire Illinois death penalty.  After that study, because of widespread flaws in how capital cases were handled, Illinois vacated every death sentence and executions stopped.

So, when I received a letter from Martin Vassolo asking me to respond to his questions, including about my consistently pled claim of innocence, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Although still a student, I assumed that he at least was familiar with principles of journalistic integrity -  or would have a responsible editor overseeing his work prior to publication. Imagine my surprise when I read the February 29th, 2016 article "From death row: the hope for freedom as a local inmate reaches out",  published in The Independent Alligator, although it certainly would have been more at home in the back pages of the National Enquirer.

                                                                 


Had I known that The Independent Alligator condones cheap tabloid sensationalism under the pretense of journalism, I certainly would never have responded to Martin Vassolo. Keep in mind that at the time I did respond I was waiting down the days to my scheduled execution (you can read my weekly death watch journals at http://deathrowjournals.blogspot.com/ and I was - and still am - quite literally fighting for my life.

While some of the largest newspapers in Florida fairly weighed the evidence substantiating my innocence, the "Alligator" instead took it upon themselves to exploit my desperation to prevent my execution for a crime I did not commit. Rather then objectively investigating the actual facts relevant to my case, as reflected in readily available court records, Martin Vassolo instead choose to write, and I quote "What do Ted Bundy and Michael Lambrix have in common? They both have pleasant faces, eloquent vocabularies and plausible stories...however, neither is innocent!

To reach this conclusion, rather then contact any of the prosecutors who actually were involved in my case, Martin Vassolo only reached out to none other than George Dekle, a prosecutor who's only claim to fame is that long ago he "helped put Ted Bundy to jail"

Let me emphasize, this particular prosecutor had absolutely nothing to do with my case - Mr Dekle has no knowledge of the evidence in my case, or the substantial and readily available evidence supporting my innocence. There was absolutely no reason to reach out to Mr Dekle but to shamelessly sensationalize the story by erecting a completely fictious connection between my case and that of Ted Bundy's.

But why would someone who aspires to be a credible journalist - or an editor who actually embraces basic concepts of of journalistic integrity - resort to such pathetic tabloid sensationalism? Does this form of journalism really reflect the values taught by the journalism school at the University of Florida?

I suppose only Martin Vassolo and his editor can answer that question, and for the record, that question was asked of Mr Vassolo, to which his reply was, and I quote: " In my article I aimed for balance. I told both sides of the story...all need to be considered fairly and in an unbiased manner".

Well, that certainly is a mouthful - you just got to love it when wannabe journalists already learned the art of speaking with a forked tongue. Mr Vassolo's article was anything but "fair and unbiased" and he certainly made no meaningful attempts to tell the whole story.

For example, Mr Vassolo made no mention of the indisputed fact that that the entire wholly circumstantial (i.e, no eyewitnesses, no physical or forensic evidence, no confessions etc) theory of alleged premeditated murder was based on the self serving testimony of a single key witness, Frances Smith, who only went to law enforcement after she was arrested on unrelated charges, while in the exclusive possession of the victim's vehicle. Even then Smith gave law enforcement numerous conflicting stories and failed a polygraph test. But based on legal technicalities the jury was not allowed to hear about Smith's other stories, or that she failed a polygraph test. The first trial ended in a "hung" jury.

The only witness that coroborated Frances Smith's story was Deborah Hanzel, but years after that trial Hanzel unequivocally recanted, testifying under oath that Frances Smith and the prosecutor's lead investigator Miles Daniels had coerced her to provide that false testimony...it was then revealed that Smith and Daniels were having an illicit sexual relationship when the case was prosecuted. As if that wasn't enough, it was subsequently discovered that the prosecutor deliberately concealed numerous hairs found on the alleged murder weapon that the state has conceded belong to none other than Frances Smith.

But let's get back to what Mr Vassolo actually did write about - how he solicited comments from former prosecutor George Dekle, that "Lambrix could not have acted in self defence..because one hit from the tire iron would have left Moore unconcious rather than dead". What is especially troubling about this presumably "qualified" comment is that it's clear that  Mr Dekle made no attempt to actually look into the official autopsy report, and nor did Martin Vassolo.

Had either Vassolo or Dekle actually looked at the autopsy report, or read the testimony of the State's own medical examiner, they would have known that the State's own evidence shows that the deceased Moore was struck in the temporal forehead, at an angle consistent with Moore being the aggressor, a fact further supported by the virtual absence of any "defence wounds" - which is why the prosecutors familiar with this case reluctantly concede that the State's own evidence is consistent with my claim of being compelled to act in self defence.

But neither Martin Vassolo or the Independent Alligator had any intentions of actually looking at the readily available facts, or do an objective article - rather they only too readily embraced the lowest form of journalism - tabloid sensationalism, irreparably undermining the the integrity of the newspapers as a whole. This paper represents the student body of the University of Florida, and every student, especially those that aspire to be credible journalists - should be outraged by the article that Martin Vassolo wrote.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Note from Mike


Thank you for all your comments, both on my blog and my website, and the cards and letters I received, and I am both touched and grateful for all the thoughts and prayers. Some of you remained confused as to why I continue to write "death watch" blogs when the court gave me a stay of execution on February 2, 2016. The reason I contiue to write is because I am still on death watch - I only received a temporary stay of execution pending review by the Florida Supreme Court. At anytime the court could rule against me and a new execution date will be scheduled.  But to be clear, I am still under an active death warrant and the threat of execution hangs over me. Hopefully the court will rule favorably as if I win this legal issue then all prisoners on Florida's death row will win too. But in coming days, or weeks, if the court rules against me then a new execution date will be scheduled.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Letter from Q-wing - Part XII of Death Watch Series

As of this week it's been a month since I was moved back to the regular death row wing leaving that cell down next to the execution chamber and I don't miss it! The other day, shortly after his oral arguments before the Florida Supreme Court, they granted Mark Asay an indefinite stay of execution and moved him back to the regular death row wing, only a few cells from my own. That means that at least until the Florida Supreme Court resolves the issue of whether the US Supreme Court decision in Hurst v Florida applies retroactively to all capital cases (such as mine) nobody is under an active death warrant in Florida.

In the meantime only a few days ago the Florida legislature voted to adopt a new death penalty statute. Although almost every legal expert has said that what is required is an unanimous jury vote in order to impose the death penalty, the Florida legislature adopted a new statute that requires only a 10-2 vote to impose death - and continues to characterize that vote as a "recommendation", leaving the judge to be the person to determine the final sentence.

Undoubtedly, Florida Governor Rick Scott will sign it into law, even though they all know that once again the Supreme Court will strike it down as unconstitutional. When it comes down to it, these things are all about politics, not justice - and why should the politicians care if they waste hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers money by passing new death penalty laws that they know will be overturned as they have nothing to lose - by playing politics with the death penalty, they win votes in the upcoming November elections and so what if this new law is then thrown out, as all that money lost by illegally sentencing people to death certainly will not come out of their pockets. I've said it before and I'll say it again ...people out there just don't understand how completely corrupt  this whole process is.... worse yet, most don't even care.

It's not only about how such games will surely result in Florida death sentences being thrown out again but it's also incredibly unfair to the victims families - each time these death sentences are vacated, the case must be remanded back to the trial court and the entire penalty phase of the trial must be done over - and the victim's family must go through that entire traumatic process again and that's just not right, haven't already been through enough? But mark my words... the politicians that voted for this new Florida death penalty law and Governor Rick Scott all know with certainty that these new law also will be thrown out, with means that every person sentenced to death under these newly written law will have their death sentences thrown out again. When does this insanity stop? I guess it's not really my problem - if the court does rule in my favor within the next few weeks or months then I will either receive an automatic life sentence (and technically be almost immediately eligible for parole) or they will remand my case back down to the original trial court for "resentencing" and there's no doubt in my mind that I would receive a life sentence and start focusing on trying to win parole.

In the meantime my other appeals continue to remain pending that focus on my consistently pled claim of innocence (see: www.southerninjustice.net ) Although this issue pertaining to the constitutionality of the death penalty continues to get most of the attention, those following my case should remember that I do still have numerous legal claims pending both before the state and federal court specifically arguing my legal and factual innocence. I continue to remain hopeful that the courts will do the right thing and grand relief on any of the substantive constitutional claims that will result in my freedom. And it could very well happen.

Imagine that - this month I will "celebrate" the 33rd anniversary of my arrest and continuous incarceration on these charges, and on March 24 I will mark 32 years on Florida's death row. Although I  technically remain on "death watch" and still have that dark blue suit (bought by the prison just to kill and bury me in) waiting downstairs, and most of my closest friends worry that my pending appeal will be denied and my execution rescheduled, the fact is that I prefer to focus on the possibility that within the coming weeks, or months, the courts could still do the right thing and order my exonoration and release from prison.

 I like to dream of the day when I might still be free.  The other day I had another visit from my sisters and we talked about my dream of being able to lay on the grass outside far away from city lights so that at night I can look up and see the stars once again. It's funny howit's human nature to take the things that matter the most for granted until they are long gone and even lost forever. For me, part of that is my love for the outdoors. When growing up in Northern California the family had a ranch on Point Reyes (it is now part of the Point Reyes National Seashore) It was right on the Pacific Ocean and as a child we would spend almost every weekend camping at the ranch and I can remember the many nights when we would all gather around the campfire and sing folk songs, as our father played the guitar.  And as the campfire slowly died down and it was almost time to go to sleep, I would look up and see the infinate numbers of star suspended above and even the memory today almost takes my breath away. And that's what I hope to see again.. that night sky that I still remember so well, but haven't seen in so long.

                                                             
                                          Night sky at Point Reyes

That's why, instead of worrying about whether my pending appeals might be denied,  and in a few weeks I may yet again be down on the bottom floor of Q-wing counting down the days until my scheduled execution, I rather choose to spend these hours and days of what I know only two well is nothing more than a temporary reprieve, thinking not about the negativity of a possible execution in the foreseeable future, but instead dreaming about winning my freedom and walking back out in the real world and then laying down in the field of grass looking up to the night sky and allow my soul to be healed beneath the beauty of the universe that each of us are all part of.

Recently, someone so very special to me sent me something she wrote entitled "for when you think your existence doesn't matter" in which reminds the reader that each of us are made up of the very same particles that make up the universe as a whole ...in all of God's creation we each are part of the greater whole... and her words make my soul smile.

Perhaps each of us should take a  moment to look up at the night sky and remember that for all it's infinate beauty, we each are part of that whole.




Tuesday, March 15, 2016

On Q-wing - part XI of Death Watch Series

Although it's now been a few weeks since I was removed from the Q-wing death watch and back to the regular wing, I technically remain under that threat of execution and am reminded of that continued uncertainty of my status.  This past Monday I was able to get outside to the rec yard for a few hours for the first time in awhile and although it was a bit on the chilly side, it felt good to feel the sun on my way too pale skin and the breeze blowing and the smell of being outside ~ even when the work crew pushed the large trash wagon down the access road towards the back gate, I smiled at the offensive odors as they too were part of being outside.

For a long while I simply stood at the chain link fence that encloses our concrete yard, deliberately ignoring the multiple strands of razor wire inside the two fences to discourage anyone from trying to jump the yard fence and instead I focused only on the large parcel of green grass and tried to just imagine myself laying out on the lawn. It’s been well over 32 years since I actually felt the touch of green grass under my bare feet and just a few weeks ago I thought I never would again.

I find myself thinking a lot about the most irrelevant things, putting each in context of the continued uncertainty of my own fate. While watching TV the other night they showed a preview of a show I want to watch and for a moment I caught myself thinking that, that sucks as I won’t be around by that time. Then I remembered that I already got a stay of execution.

What it comes down to is that in a lot of ways I’m still stuck in that imminent execution state of mind and I have to remind myself that at least for now I am not scheduled for execution...and just as quickly I then remind myself that at anytime now the Florida Supreme Court can deny the retroactive application of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Hurst v Florida and immediately lift the stay of execution. I would be quickly moved right back to the bottom floor of Q-wing and back into that cell I only recently vacated and again the counting down to my next scheduled date with death.

                                                       

Quite simply, I remain in a state of limbo ~ not only physically but even more so, mentally. Even when I struggle to go to sleep at night I often lay awake thinking about all the “what if’s.” For that reason I am glad to be back on a regular death row wing where there’s many others around me often talking into the night. The absence of silence reminds me that I’m not down there on the bottom of Q-wing. That makes me smile, as I never thought that I’d wants to be around others that make so much noise it’s hard to get to sleep ~ now it’s not such a bad thing.

A couple of cells away from me there’s a guy fighting to be executed ~ he says he’s ready to die. But in addition to wanting to waive his appeals and force the state to put him to death as soon as possible, he;s also demanding that the state use the electric chair instead of lethal injection. And he’s not too happy that the local court has put his proceedings on hold until they figure out whether all of Florida’s death sentences are now illegal in light of the Hurst ruling.

I knew this guy before he came to death row a few years ago. His case shows that the death penalty proponents argument, that capital punishment as a deterrent is without merit, and in fact, it actually encourages some to kill. 

In his case he was already doing a life sentence for another crime and while at another prison he did something that had him transferred to “closed management” here at Florida State Prison. As is only too common, those who are placed in “C/M” must work their way back out to general population, and are assigned jobs within the prison to prove they will conduct themselves in a manner consistent with what’s expected of them.

Many of these “C/M” prisoners are assigned to work as “runners” on the death row wing. It’s their job to pass out meals ~ the food trays are prepared at the prison kitchen at the other end of the building then loaded onto a large cart and delivered to the wing. Under supervision of the wing officers, theses “runners” unload the cart onto smaller carts and pass out the food trays to the individual cells, as death row prisoners must eat their meals in their cells.

THis particular guy (whose name I’m deliberately not saying) decided that life on death row was a step up from doing a natural life sentence in the general inmate population and he knew just how to get a sentence of death ~ just kill another prisoner. And that’s just what he did. Then he pled guilty to the crime and demanded that the court sentence him to death. And now he’s demanding that they allow him to waive his appeals and carry out that sentence.

He’s not the only one to come to death row from the general prison population. Over the years I’ve seen quite a few… they come to prison with a life sentence  and decide they cannot deal with what goes on in general population, where everyday you must fight off the wolves that prey upon the weaker ones whether it be for sex or simply pleasure. That’s prison. They’re pushed to the point where even death row looks like a nice place to be, but once they actually get here they find it’s not so nice after all and then they push to waive their appeals and demand that they be executed.

What it amounts to is suicide by execution. In every case someone else has to die for them to get here. While politicians and prosecutors love to argue that the death penalty is a deterrent, they never mention these many cases and in the 32 years I’ve been here I have not even once seen a single case where someone who was already committing a crime decided not to kill  because of fear that they would get the death penalty. And too many who otherwise would not have killed at all, were compelled to do so to eliminate a witness that would send them to prison.

                                                           

For all I know within the next few weeks I could be back down on Q-wing counting down the days to my next scheduled execution, and I will continue to fight that fight every step of the way.
But while I continue to be haunted by those thoughts of only recently facing my own imminent execution and that I continue to remain alive today only because of this temporary reprieve  that itself could be stripped away any day, I struggle to understand why others here on death row are willing to fight just as hard to force the state to kill them.

If the death penalty is itself too often used as a convenient form of state sanctioned suicide by those willing to take their own lives ~ yet demanding that the state take it for them ~ doesn’t that show this myth of deterrence to be without merit and itself give reason to put an end to the death penalty so others won’t want to kill just to get here? What do you think?

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Moved off Death Watch - Still Under Warrant (part 10 of Death Watch series)

I’ve now been moved back to a regular death row wing as we await a ruling from the Florida Supreme Court on whether the January decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Hurst v Florida is retroactive to all Florida cases.

I remain in regular communication with my lawyers and am told that the Florida Supreme Court is still ordering legal counsel in other capital cases to submit arguments on this Hurst issue. That implies that the Florida Supreme Court has not decided what they will do. And considering the importance of this issue it's a good thing that they are taking their time and hopefully will do the right thing when they do rule.

To be clear, what this issue comes down to is whether the Supreme Court’s ruling in Hurst declaring Florida’s process for deciding whether someone should be sentenced to death is unconstitutional will apply only to a limited number of cases (those most recently sentenced to death who are still pursuing their first round of appeal), or must it apply to everyone?

The legal argument comes down to what would be fair? The state argues that “retroactive” application of Hurst to all cases would not be fair to the state, who has spent years pursuing the finality of that sentence by execution or the victim's family who are entitled to closure.

On the other hand, our argument is that it would violate fundamental principles of law prohibiting arbitrary and unfair application of laws if the court says that those most recently sentenced to death are entitled to have their sentences vacated under Hurst while those under death sentences imposed longer are not entitled to that same relief under indistinguishable circumstances.

The state's primary argument is that in a similar case in 2002 (Ring v Arizona) the Supreme Court already said that this type of ruling cannot be applied retroactively (See, Summerlin v Schivo, (2003)). But the problem with the state’s argument is that it ignores the undisputed fact that the Summerlin case was based exclusively upon application of the Federal standard of retroactive application ~ and that the state court is not obligated to follow that Federal standard of retroactive application.

What all this really comes down to is that the states are constitutionally empowered to adopt more liberal applications of retroactive law. In Florida, this state standard was established long ago in Witt v State, in which under state law the primary element in deciding retroactive application simply comes down to doing what is fair and right ~ and not the Federal standard of relying heavily upon rules of procedure and finality.
For this reason the lawyers remain confident that the Florida Supreme Court will rule in my favor and hold that Hurst v Florida will apply to all Florida death row cases.

And if I win this argument in my case then pretty much everyone else on Florida’s death row will also have their death sentence vacated.

Assuming for the moment that we do win this, then what? Technically. the court will most likely order a new sentencing process for all 390 Florida death row prisoners before a new jury. But it is extremely unlikely that the state of Florida would actually pursue new death sentences as the average capital sentencing costs about $250,000 each as in each case the defendant is legally entitled to obtain a mitigation specialist and necessary mental health experts as well as call witnesses to establish the “mitigating” circumstances applicable to each case. Likewise, the state is entitled to call it’s own expert witnesses and present the evidence necessary to establish the aggravating factors supporting a sentence of death.

What this means is that attempting to resentence all those currently on Florida’s death row would cost about one hundred million dollars and quite simply, the state just doesn’t have that money available. For that reason alone the majority of those currently on death row would simply have their sentences reduced to to life in prison. For those convicted prior to 1995, that “life” sentence means that they must serve at least 25 years before becoming eligible for parole ~ those convicted after 1995 would never become eligible for parole under the current “life without parole” law.

                                                                 


Myself, I was convicted in early 1984 and if the court rules in my favor then I would go from being on death watch facing imminent execution today to being technically eligible for parole tomorrow. Because by law each of us are legally entitled to credit for all time served on death row, technically I would have become eligible for parole in March 2008.

But the reason I repeatedly say “technically” is because the grant of parole is completely within the discretion of the parole board and history has shown that Florida’s parole board very rarely grants parole to anyone convicted of violent crimes.

The real irony in that is that virtually every credible study on which prisoners are most likely to commit another crime if released shows that those convicted of murder are the least likely to reoffend. But it doesn’t have anything to do with truth or justice… the decision to grant parole is based exclusively upon politics and little else.

However, politics do change and there are many today ~ including many conservatives ~ that think it’s time to reform the current system and bring an end to locking people away and throwing away the key. Quite simply, there’s a growing chorus of change and it’s now entirely conceivable that within the foreseeable future, parole will once again be available.

As all this remains yet undetermined the reality that I’m dealing with is that only a couple of weeks ago I was facing the probability of being put to death by execution. The court ordered a stay of execution as they consider how Hurst will apply. Then I was removed from the death watch holding area and placed back on a regular death row wing.

And today I can sit here and contemplate the increased likelihood that I will one day yet walk out that front gate of the prison and back into the real world. I can dream of what I would do if only I was allowed to go home. For many of those incarcerated as long as I have been, there’s little waiting for them outside the prison, but for me, I’m blessed in that I have family ~ parents, siblings, children, and grandchildren ~ and I have friends anxiously awaiting that day when I might yet walk to freedom. It’s not just my dream ~ it’s their dream too.

So, that’s the big change… although still technically on death watch. We all have renewed hope and where just a few weeks ago we were talking about my funeral preparations, today we talk about that possibility of freedom. That’s the power of hope and hope springs eternal.

Innocent and Executed - please read