Imagine being condemned to death for a crime you did not commit, and then finding yourself under an active death warrant, facing imminent execution - and having to basically defend yourself against the relatively infinate resources of the state...not even Hollywood can come up with such a bizarre plot.
But that's the reality I've found myself in these past months. It's now over 9 months (November 30, 2015) since Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a death warrant scheduling my execution for February 11, 2016 and over 6 months since, only days before my scheduled execution, the Florida Supreme Court granted a temporary stay of execution as they decide whether the January 2016 US Supreme Court decision in Hurst v Florida (which declared that Florida's practise of having the judge ultimately determine whether to impose death sentence rather than the jury renders Florida's death penalty unconstitutional) effectively makes my death sentence illegal... a decision will most likely be delayed until after the November elections as when it comes down to it, the death penalty is about politics, not justice.
During this period of time as I remained under this still-active death warrant, I've begged and pleaded with my state assigned legal counsel to work on developping new appeals, but when it comes down to it, they've refused to do anything. Maybe they are so confident that the Florida Supreme Court will throw out my death sentence that they just don't see any point in doing anymore work... but what if they are wrong and the Florida Supreme Court rules against me, as id that is the case then under Florida law the governor is mandted to to reschedule my execution within 10 days of when the court rules against me and I'd again be facing imminent execution.
If there's one thing I'm absolutely certain of after all these years, it's that if I were to sit back and let my life depend on the state assigned lawyers to fight this fight on their own, I would had undoubtedly been dead many years ago and it almost killed me in 1988 when I came within hours of being executed and so I make it a point to become personally involved with my own appeals - and if that means bumping heads with the lawyers assigned to represend me, then so be it! - I already know how hard-headed I am, so I can take it!
So, for 7 months now I've done all I could to try to get my assigned lawyers to do something, but all I get is a lot of talk. They do cover their own butt, though - almost every week they'll communicate with me and always in a manner that leaves no written record so that if I claim that they've effectively abandoned me, they can show that they did a 30 minute legal phone call or whatever each week.
My problem is that unlike my lawyer, I am not waiting on the Florida Supreme Court to rule on whether the Florida death penalty is unconstitutional. Even assuming they did rule favorably on that issue, the most it would do is reduce my death sentence to life in prison, and as Pope Francis put it so well, a "life" sentence is effectively a slow death sentence.
Rather, from the day I was arrested on that crime I have always and unequivocally maintained my innocence, adamantly insisting that the key witness and the prosecutor deliberately fabricated this wholly circumstantial ( i.e., no eyewitnesses, no physical or forensic evidense, no confessions, etc) theory of alleged premeditated murder - the key witness (Frances Smith) was desperate to do anything to get immunity and the local small-town prosecutor was as equally desperate to make a name for himself....it's not merely a coincidence that this same prosecutor has already had two others in unrelated cases subsequently exonorated and released from Florida's death row after the Florida Supreme Court recognized that this prosecutor crossed the line with overzealous prosecution (John Ballard and Bradley Scott were both set free due to prosecutional misconduct)
I am, and always have been, fighting for my freedom and so even if the florida Supreme Court did reduce my current death sentence to life, that would be a "hollow" victory. My state assigned lawyers would celebrate that "victory", but I would not...only my freedom is a real victory.
But of the state assigned lawyers controlling my case have effectively given up, then what am I to do? The vast majority of those sentenced to death simply do not have the intellectual capacity to understand the complexities of the law and are basically helpless. But I'm not your average death sentenced prisoner, and I'm not going to just lay down and give up....I didn't fight this fight for 33 years to quit now.
So, I did the only thing I could do....I wrote up my own appeal and recently filed it in the US Supreme Court, explaining to the court that both the State of Florida and lower courts have unfairly stacked the deck not only against me, but against many of Florida's death sentenced prisoners, by assigning US state agency lawyers who under Florida law are strictly prohibited from pursueing any form of "civil" action challenging our conviction and sentence of death...and I am asking the Supreme Court to exercise their jurisdiction by expeditiously ordering the appointment of new legal counsel that can represent me in what must be pursued.
Specifically, for over 25 years the prosecutor deliberately concealed forensic evidence in my case that conclusively shows that the Florida (FDLE) crime lab found several hairs on the alleged murder weapon that they determined in 1983 did not match me or either of the victims. These only recently exposed crime lab records also conclusively show that when the crime lab told the prosecutor about this unexpected discovery, the prosecutor instructed the crime lab to return all this evidence to his office - and he then hid the evidence until it was accidently revealed in 2009.
But when my state assigned lawyers filed a new appeal in 2009 argueing that this blatant act of deliberate prosecutional misconduct required the court to throw out my conviction and allow a new trial, suddenly my case was reassigned to Judge Christine Greider - a local former prosecutor who previously worked with prosecutor Randall McGruther and in fact, was appointed to the bench while McGruther himself was on the 20th Circuit Judicial nominating committee.
Not surprisingly, Judge Greider summarily denied the appeal even after the Asst Attorney General representing the state conceded that the previously undisclosed hairs most likely were the key witnesses hair and that they never did disclose this evidence.
A motion to have this previously undisclosed forensic evidence subjected to DNA testing was filed - by me, but was also summarily denied by Judge Greider. The Florida Supreme Court subsequently affirmed the summary denial, rejecting our arguements that under well established law it was per se reversible error to deny this "new evidence/actual innocence" appeal and request for DNA testing without providing any form of evidentiary process necessary to establish the materiality of this deliberately concealed evidence.
My only recourse at that point would be to file a federal civil action under Skinner v. Switzer S.Ct. 1289 (2011) as a means to challenge the denial of DNA testing necessary to establish my actual innocence as "arbitrary and unfair" but under Florida law my assigned state counsel is categorically prohibited from representing death sentenced prisoners in civil actions.
So, last year (before my death warrant was signed) I asked the Federal court to appoint Federal counsel to my case as is statutorily mandated under applicable Federal law (18 U.S.C. 3599), only to have the Federal Court refuse to do so, leaving me with only the state assigned counsel. I appealed this to the Eleventh Circuit court of appeals in January, while facing imminent execution, but Chief Judge Edward Cornes has refused to allow the case to be docketed - as he has done in other similar capital cases (Judge Cornes and his Alabama cronies are knwon for their fanatical support for the death penalty and overzealous pursuit of executions)
With few remaining options - obviously I simply don't have the ability to hire a lawyer to represent me and contrary to popular myth there are no lawyers willing to volunteer to help an innocent man avoid execution - my only remanining option was to write up the appeal myself and file it with the Supreme Court, which I did on August 17, 2016.
If you like to read this 32 page appeal asking the Supreme Court for help in getting legal representation so I can prove my innocence, you can read it in HERE . You can follow the progress of this appeal on the Supreme Court's website at https://www.supremecourtus.gov/ and pull up the case, docketed as In re: Cary Michael Lambrix, Case No. 16-5715 (https://www.supremecourt.gov/search.aspx?filename=/docketfiles/16-5715.htm )
What does it say about our legal system that a poor and uneducated man facing imminent execution for a crime he did not commit must write up and file hos won appeals? The reality of it is that in capital cases, the appointment of legal representation is most often a total pretene intended to project the appearance of fairness in an inherently unfair process. - Mike Lambrix