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.