Thursday, October 27, 2016

Death Watch Journal (part 23 )



 As I write this, it has now been 36 weeks since the Florida Supreme Court ordered a "temporary" stay of execution only a week before I was to be put to death for a crime i did not commit (see; http://www.southerninjustice.net/ )That's not even counting the fact that prior to this stay of execution, I spent from November 30, 2015 to February 2, 2016 under an active death warrant on "death watch". So, in truth its now been going on a full year that I've been under death warrant with that (metaphorican) gun to my head, not knowing whether I will live or die - and knowing only too well that at anytime  they can come to my cell and drag me away, right back again to that "death watch" cell I previously occupied, the same cell where every man and woman executed in the state of Florida also occupied prior to being put to death  (please read : Execution Day - Involuntary Witness to State Sanctioned Murder)

I have to wonder at what point would even the most fanatical pro death penalty advocate conced that the psychological torment so deliberately inflicted upon the condemned under the pretense of administering justice become an even greater atrocity than the alleged act of murder committed by the condemned? At what point do we cross that line from administering "justice" to inflicting acts of depravity that make who we are the greater evil?

But the truth of the matter is that even as hard as it might be on me and others similarly forced to exist in this morbid and maliciously inflicted state of limbo, this uncertainty of death is actually even more difficult on my family and closest friends. Those who will so quickly justify their actions by transfering all accountability upon the individual who committed the alleged crime and with righteous indignation declare that the condemned deserves all the punishment they can inflict upon him or her cannot so quickly evade their actions when as a result, they also so intentionally torment the families of the condemned.

The inconvenient truth is that it's not about administering "justice". It's about playing politics, and especially in the Deep South, politics of death are the trump cards that inconsistently wins political elections as in these traditional southern states nothing brings out the voters better than a good, old fashioned lynching.

We like to say that as a society we have evolved, that those dark days of wearing white sheets and lynching an "undisirable" up on the lower branches of an old oak tree on the outskirts of town are long gone, but in our hearts, we know that's not true.

I recently read a most excellent article published in the magazine "The New Yorker"
on August 22, 2016 entitled "The legacy of lynching, on death row" by Jeffrew Toobin, in which renowned attrney Bryan Stevenson draws a direct and irrefutabe line between that not so distant past of southern lynchings and the death penalty today. This is an article that every person who gives any thought to the issue of the death penalty should read - especially those who continue to blindly support this form of "punishment".

But then again, if there's one thing I've learned in the over 33 years that I've been here on Florida's death row, it is that indisputable fact and logic are rarely enought to sway the minds of those already hell bent on having a good lynching...their blood lust blinds them of all else, and they don't even care if they kill a few innocent people along the way.

As I write this, we are now only a short while away from the presidential election and this is especially perhaps one of the most important elections ever for not only death penalty prisoners, but our society as a whole, as whoever wins this upcoming election will have the power to influence who we are as a society for generations to come.

                                                                 

Obviously, the choice will come down to either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Personally, I will never understand how anyone could support Donald Trump as he embodies and even personifies the worst of the worst characteristics of our society, while arrogantly proclaiming himself above all accountability for his never ending circus of transgressions. But it's not his arrogance and sense of entitlement that trouble me the most. Rather, it's his public promise of who he will appoint to the Supreme Court if he wins the election.

When justice Scalia died earlier this year, it created a vacancy on the Supreme Court that is of historic significance since Scalia was appointed to the court 40 years ago, fanatically pro death penalty justices have solidly controlled the courts, ensuring that after the landmark 1972 decision in Florida v Georgia declared the death penalty unconstitutionally "arbitrary and capricious", only a few years later Scalia and his conservative cabal quickly resurected it in the 1976 decision of Gregg v Georgia and Proffitt v Florida.

And for the 40 continuous years, we have seen one case after another be decided by marginal votes, affirming the death penalty again and again. But Scalia's death left the current court now tied with 4 pro death penalty conservatives and 4 members who presumably would vote to put an end to this politically motivated modern day lynching.

The next appointed Supreme Court justice will effectively decide the direction the Supreme Court goes in for the next generation...and whether the death penalty will once again be declared unconstitutional and abolished.

That's why it troubled me this past week when I read the front page article of the September 24, 2016 Lakeland Ledger entitled "Trump tops Canady as potential court pick " . For those who don't know, that's Charles T Canady, who is currently a justice on the Florida Supreme Court and prior to his political appointment to the bench, worked as general counsel to former Florida governor Jeb Bush - it was none other than Charles Canady who attempted to defend Jeb Bush's "Death Penalty Reform Act" of 2000 before the Florida Supreme Court, which sought to adopt Texas death penalty appeal process to florida. But in Allen v. Butterworth, 756 So. 2d 52 (Fla. 2000) the Florida Supreme Court rejected Canaby's arguements and declared the Death Penalty Reform Act 2000 unconstitutional.

                                                               

Shortly after Canaby's defeat, Governor Jeb Bush appointed him to the lower state appeals court, where Canaby stayed for a few years before Jeb Bush's republican successor Charlie Crist promoted Charles Canaby to the Florida Supreme Court.

With Canady now Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme court, the pro death penalty politicians quickly pushed through the state legislature a new proposed law they labeled the "Timely Justice Act" (please read "The List" which in some ways went beyond the previously rejected "Death penalty Reform Act".

This time the outcome was significantly different - with Charles Canaby and Rick Polston controlling the Florida Supreme Court, this 2013 "Timely Justice Act" that sought to expedite executions by statutorily mandating the signing of death warrants upon completion of the "first round" of state and federal appeals - even if new evidence of actual innocence is revealed  - sailed through the courts and became law in Abdool v. Bondi, 141 So. 3d 529 (Fla. 2014)

Since being politically appointed to the Florida Supreme Court, justice Canady has relentlessly campaigned to eliminate death row appeals and expedite executions, even openly advocating for prohibiting actual innocence claims brought upon newly discovered evidence.

And this is precisely the kind of justice Donald Trump wants to put on the Supreme Court if he's elected as president. According to the Lakeland Ledger article, the reason Donald Trump would like to put Charles Canaby on the US Supreme Court is because Trump wants his pick to the court to embrace the ideology of the late justice Scalia...or in other words, Trump wants to ensure that the only Americans who have any legal rights are the rich and special interests.

When it comes down to it, it's not about administering justice. If it was, then those appointed to the courts would embrace uncompromised laws to protect the innocent from being put to death. Rather, it's about politics, and by preventing the innocent from any meaningful opportunity to prove their innocence, these fanatical pro death penalty justices know that their push to expedite executions will win elections.

Michael Lambrix

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