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.

6 comments:

Hollie said...

There's a reason you didn't die on February 11th...and even if you still quite haven't figured out that reason yet...there is one, trust me. Your work here is far from done and I am hoping and praying that you see and feel the impact your shared words and thoughts with the world is making.....they have taken your physical body hostage for far too long but don't ever forget that your spirit and soul is something they can never take away...you are so loved by so many and I am really hoping you get to walk away from this whole thing realizing that there was a purpose for you to stay here. Remember...even when you wish you weren't here and you want to stop this nightmare by closing your eyes one last time...there will always....always..be someone wishing you would stay. Don't ever forget that either. I'm so sorry you have to go through this pain and ridiculously traumatic experience, over and over...how is this not cruel and unusual punishment to the most severe degree?! Every person who has played a part in trying to take your life away will one day pay if not now. But please don't ever forget that even from that cell you are sitting in, that you have so much purpose and so much of a reason to stay here..keep looking at those pictures of the people you love and remembering who it is that needs you. Don't ever forget. And hey...it's officially after midnight here in Indiana..so happy birthday!!!!!!!! Keep fighting over there.

err gag said...

Mike...this is so too touching. Maybe this is all happening because you are the voice for them suffering in the wilderness. I can only hope that the "right" people are listening. God bless my friend.

Joe Wallace said...
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Joe Wallace said...
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Surj Gill said...

Mike I truely feel for the limbo the state of Florida has kept you in,however regarding your statement in this blog self ritous stonethrowers with evil in there hearts, I recently watched a BBC documentary called life and deathrow it showed the family, sons daughters wives mothers of the victims who have been murdered. Not all of them want the accused to be executed but two girls who lost there father want the sentence carried out,I find it hard to call those girls self ritous stonethrowers with evil in there hearts. God bless mike

Surj Gill said...
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