Saturday, October 14, 2017

Letter from a friend of Mike to Governor Scott

9th October 2017

Dear Governor Rick Scott

Since August 2011 I have had the pleasure of calling Michael Lambrix a true friend, despite being a convicted prisoner who lived on death row for 34 years and labelled a “monster” I was astonished to find that he like the rest of us, was a human being, with a heart, emotions and feelings. Mike was highly intelligent and fully capable of providing friendship to a number of people.

Being a Christian myself I am fully aware of my sin, which is what makes me not perfect, just as we ALL are not perfect. I believe as a Christian we are not given the job of judging others, Jesus himself became very angry at those who judged others for the sins they committed as how can we judge others when we have failed to look at ourselves first? Are you, Governor Rick Scott a perfect man? You call yourself a Christian and claim to have peoples best interest at heart by showing your support for others when disaster strikes, but we all know that this is purely to obtain votes for the next election, I am certain that you don’t actually care. Does it not bother you that many of those you helped recently in Puerto Rico were quite possibly unconvicted thieves, rapists or drug lords? You didn’t sit them all before a jury to decide if they deserved your help, you saw a need and fulfilled that need, isn’t that correct? That was very Christian of you, though I’m sure as it served your ultimate goal of achieving votes you were happy to look past the sins of those you were helping. Now my friend Mike, who was on death row until you so cruelly took his life, and yes it was you Rick Scott who took his life, you may hide behind people that do the dirty deed for you but ultimately you sign the death warrants, you say that it’s ok to kill someone as a punishment, you are responsible. Now tell me as a Christian, or at the very least a man who claims to care for others, would it not be right, having been responsible for the deaths or should we say cold blooded murders of so many people, to then punish you yourself with the same punishment you are administering? Why are you any different? You have killed many more people than any one of the guys who are on death row have been alleged to have killed, so why are you not rotting away in a cell with them? Why is it ok for you to premeditate murder in such a disgusting manor that you are exempt from the punishment you hand out?

At this moment I would like to point you towards the blog which I’m sure you are aware Mike kept in which he was able to tell the truth not only about his individual case but also the manner in which the system works for those on death row and in particular death watch. I am not here to argue Mikes case, we both know that many years ago he chose not to take a shorter sentence in preference for putting his trust in the courts and legal system to give him the fair opportunity to prove his innocence which he has maintained all of these years. I do believe that someone willing to put their life on the line to prove their innocence must be very certain of their innocence and ability to prove it if the alternative is execution and let’s face it, Mike would have been living in the free world years ago had he taken the relatively short prison sentence offered to him. I beg that you take time to actually read the details of his case and come to the only conclusion which you can possibly come to which is that he was innocent. Obviously there is nothing that can bring Mike back to us, you have already so cruelly punished not only Mike himself but his many family members and friends who cared for him so dearly.

http://www.southerninjustice.net/ 

https://deathrowjournals.blogspot.com/

I would like to quote a short passage from his most recent blog written shortly before he died as it was very troubling to me. You, the Governor pride yourself on supporting and upholding the death penalty and its ultimate punishment, execution, yet it seems you go to great lengths to distance yourself from both your responsibility in the cold act of execution and concealing those others who perform the act for you.

Mike writes: “And shortly after they removed all my property, the warden came down with a few people from Medical. I can only assume that it was the “doctor” responsible for carrying out the execution. They went to great lengths to conceal his identity, as although I could tell he was an upper middle aged white man, maybe just a bit shorter than I am, he was dressed from head to toe in a light baby blue hazmat suit, which included a white surgical mask. So all I could see of him was his eyes. He kept his head down — probably some part of him has to be ashamed of making a living putting people to death.

Then again, for all I know, he could be eagerly volunteering for the job, only too happy to help carry out these state sanctioned murders and probably couldn’t care less if he helped kill an innocent person or two. With total detachment, I was ordered to extend my arm through the cell-front bars and this masked man proceeded to touch my veins at the inner elbow, first the left arm and then the right, while whispering to another man standing beside him, and that was that. Now they were ready to kill me. Yep, not just a job — it’s an adventure.”

So why go to such lengths to hide the identity of the Doctor/Executioner? And even if the death penalty was a just form of punishment may I ask why it was done in such a way that clearly promoted such an evil thought process that a man concealed, barring his eyes was sent to someone who knew they were facing imminent death, striking I imagine further fear into what would have been unbearable emotional pain that Mike was suffering at the time already, like some kind of sick joke to laud your power over such people. If you are so ashamed of your actions that you have to hide people’s identity who are involved in the murder which you sanction and distance yourself from being responsibe than why on earth do you think it’s acceptable? Either have the balls to do it yourself and take responsibility for your decision and the punishment which you hand down or recognise that it is not the action of a Christian or a decent human being, someone who should be showing love and compassion and forgiveness. I’m not suggesting we don’t put people in prison and punish them for varying lengths for their crimes, but killing them makes you no better than those you incarcerate. Many of whom have committed crimes in random bursts of emotional trauma whilst under extreme stress and life’s circumstances fell at their feet in such a way that they did something they will regret for the rest of their lives. You Rick Scott sit in a comfy office, with a fat pay check and everyone running around after you like your some kind of God, yet whilst sipping your tea at your nice desk, you are able to rationally think about (premeditating) how to punish others by the use of the death penalty (murder), and you think those incarcerated are the monsters?!

I think to further prove your cold heart, less than 48 hours after killing my friend Mike you signed the warrant on another inmate, Patrick Hannon to be executed only a month later. I can only assume that you are worried about the support you currently have from your people in Florida because it seems to me like you are desperately trying to spin the wheels of your execution factory as fast as possible in order to win over those who are crazy enough to agree with you.

I accept that my letter and views will have no impact on you and that no doubt I am wasting my breath, but I can make efforts in making sure as many people as possible are aware of you and who you really are in the hope that one day the death penalty ceases to exist and that you will not be voted in as Governor. The American motto “In God we Trust” makes me laugh, you are not trusting in God, and you are taking life in to your own hands and trying to be God yourself. I hope that those who vote for you realise that should life’s circumstances ever affect them in such a way that they hope and trust in you and your legal system to treat them fairly and to allow the truth to be known and justice served justly then they will be very rudely awakened won’t they?

May I ask why it is that Florida’s death row has such a high exoneration rate? Is that because all you are bothered about is someone being held accountable for a crime, even if they are the wrong person? So if so many have been exonerated I wonder how many innocent people didn’t get the chance to prove their innocence who you have killed? Does that seriously not play on your conscience?

I would like Governor Scott for you to really think about what you are doing, when you face God at the final judgement are you honestly going to be able to say that you did everything you could to be loving and forgiving towards others? Will you have a clear conscience? The good news is that Jesus offers us forgiveness and new life to any of us who accept our sinful nature and accept his forgiveness. It isn’t too late for you Governor Scott, just because you have killed so many doesn’t mean you can’t have a change of heart, doesn’t mean you can’t be a real man and stand up in front of everyone and say you were wrong, that you apologise for what you have done and that you will not sign the warrant of anymore prisoners because you are going to be a Governor who does things right, who sets the Christ like example to other Governors in your country. Even if it means losing your position and status, surely it is more important to do what’s right, than to live this life of cruel punishment and false identity which you hold.

Mike wasn’t able to take any of his worldly goods with him when he died, what few you allowed him, but I am certain that when he stands in front of God he will be welcomed with open arms. He accepted he wasn’t perfect but even until the end, he was only concerned for others. Mike was happy in the knowledge that if his murder brought peace to the family of those he was convicted of killing (which he didn’t) then it would have served at least some purpose, though I feel very sad for them because one day they will either find out the truth or already realise in their own hearts that Mike was not responsible, then his death will have been in vein in that sense, in which case what have you achieved?

Break the cycle of senseless murder that you are putting your name to Governor, you think you are punishing a murderer but in fact you are punishing so many more people than that. Should one of your own children lose their way, which happens to even the best of people no matter how great a parent they are, would you without hesitation, hand down this same sentence to your own child for that crime if they committed it? You can’t say that they wouldn’t, hypothetically, would you murder your own child to punish them for a crime? We are all God’s children, it is not his will for you to murder anyone, and it is not acceptable. I will pray for you Rick Scott and hope that you see sense. We must treat others how we wish to be treated. We are not animals and should not be treated in such a way.

On Thursday October 5th I stayed up for most of the night waiting for you to act out your premeditated murder on my friend, your punishment of Mike will last me a life time, I have lost a dear friend. Who were you really thinking about when you signed his warrant and had the lethal drugs plunged through his veins? Was it seeking justice for the victim’s family? I wonder if it has really made them feel any better, nothing would make me feel better about losing a loved one unless they were brought back to life. Was it to punish Mike? If so you have failed, he was not punished but has been released from your hell and is free from both the physical and emotional chains with which you contained him like an animal, I imagine he’s laughing at you right now! Or was it for you and your gain? In which case when you sit drinking your tea at your lovely desk in your posh office which you have gained through stamping on those around you and murdering your way to the top, do you feel satisfied? Has it made you happy?

Mike’s experiences and life will live on through his words and through his friends, you will not be able to get rid of that, you cannot take that away. I will continue to be inspired by a man I am so proud to have called my friend, someone who despite being treated so terribly faced life with so much love, faith and bravery despite the bleak outlook his physical life laid before him. The way he cared for others and put others first despite the pain and anguish he went through and suffered on a daily basis was incredible. Even at the end you couldn’t break him and he finished how he wanted to finish, as a true man of faith giving only love to those around him, even those who wished to benefit from his death. If you feel like the opening words to one of Mike’s favourite songs don’t apply to you or to any of us then you haven’t grasped the meaning of life.

Amazing Grace! 
How sweet the sound 
That saved a wretch like me! 
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

Mike's friend, Lester Griffiths-Bartlett

Vigil for Mike Lambrix


October 5, 2017 - Vigil in front of Florida State Prison









October 4, 2017 - Gathering in Paris, France where a letter from Mike's family was read, asking the governor for an exceptional clemeny hearing.




Michael Lambrix Remembered:

            

                                                          

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Death Watch Journal — Written Friday, September 29, 2017


(This was just received and written by Mike a week before his execution on October 5, 2017
 
I now have less than a week to go until my scheduled execution. Yesterday I was put on “Phase II” of death watch. I stay in the same solitary cell, but now they take all my personal property out of the cell — even my clothes and shoes (except for what I’m actually wearing) and put a guard in front of my cell to watch every move I make and write it down. No privacy anymore!

And shortly after they removed all my property, the warden came down with a few people from Medical. I can only assume that it was the “doctor” responsible for carrying out the execution. They went to great lengths to conceal his identity, as although I could tell he was an upper middle aged white man, maybe just a bit shorter than I am, he was dressed from head to toe in a light baby blue hazmat suit, which included a white surgical mask. So all I could see of him was his eyes. He kept his head down — probably some part of him has to be ashamed of making a living putting people to death.

Then again, for all I know, he could be eagerly volunteering for the job, only too happy to help carry out these state sanctioned murders and probably couldn’t care less if he helped kill an innocent person or two. With total detachment, I was ordered to extend my arm through the cell-front bars and this masked man proceeded to touch my veins at the inner elbow, first the left arm and then the right, while whispering to another man standing beside him, and that was that. Now they were ready to kill me. Yep, not just a job — it’s an adventure.

Earlier today I had a visit with the “second chair” lawyer assigned to my case, Bryan Martinez. He’s been working on my case for a few months, but this was the first time I’ve met him. And because I was in “Phase II” this legal visit was non-contact (behind glass).

Just before Bryan entered the prison he received a phone call from the state-agency office letting him know that the Florida Supreme Court had just issued its 5 to 1 decision denying my last State appeal. That was the one arguing that the Florida Supreme Court’s earlier decision that held that although all of Florida’s death-sentenced prisoners were illegally sentenced under last year’s decision in Hurst vs Florida, only those sentenced after June 2002 could be granted relief, was unconstitutionally arbitrary and unfair.

My lawyers argued that this “partial retroactivity” rule had to be set aside, as it was constitutionally unsustainable — never before has any court recognized that a new law was retroactive, only to then limit retroactivity to some but not all.

                                                

But the majority of the court refused to address the issues, instead summarily reiterating that they already decided the issue and would not address it again. However, Justice Pariente dissented, writing a lengthy opinion as to why the rest of the court was wrong and unequivocally stating that they are constitutionally obligated to throw the illegally imposed sentences out.

By early next week — before this blog can be posted — my lawyers will file an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court arguing why Justice Pariente’s dissent correctly recognized that constitutional “due process” and the prohibition against infliction of cruel and unusual punishment dictates that my illegally imposed death sentences must be vacated.And obviously, if the death sentences are thrown out, they cannot execute me.

This is one of the things I have a hard time trying to explain to my family and friends, who ask me how it is that they can execute me when the courts do recognize that my death sentences were illegally imposed. Common sense leads most to assume that if a person has been illegally sentenced to death then they cannot legally execute that person.

But as I’ve said too many times already, when it comes to the death penalty, the insidious politics of death trump what’s fair and right. In our legal system, the Supreme Court itself (Herrera vs Collins) made it clear that there is no constitutional prohibition against executing the innocent — and if a state can “legally” execute an innocent person, then they can also proceed to execute someone who has been illegally sentenced to death… the ends justify the means.

So, in just a few days the odds are that I will be put to death for a crime that I am innocent of — and despite the irrefutable fact that I was illegally sentenced to death by non-unanimous jury votes, what they cannot do is say that they are administering justice as there’s nothing fair or just about about carrying out the execution of an innocent person who was illegally sentenced to death.

No matter, I’m almost done whining about how inherently unfair and politically corrupt our legal system is. By the time this blog is posted, I will probably be dead.

But then again, maybe not… a funny thing happened this week in that at least at the time I’m writing this offers a bit of hope. On Monday, September 25, the United States Supreme Court did their “conference” on cases considered for review and included in that conference was my case that under Martinez vs Ryan, the claims collectively establishing my actual innocence must be heard.

Normally, after such a conference the Court will release its list of the cases that were denied review — or granted review. We anticipated a decision in my case by no later than Thursday (September 28), but as of Friday evening there still has not been any released decision.

Do I dare get my hopes up that maybe, just maybe, the Court will do the right thing and order that the lower Federal courts must allow the evidence substantiating my consistently pled claim to b heard? I want to — I really do want to hope. But there’s that part of me that tells me that if I do dare hope that the failure to release a decision could mean I may have won and my execution will be call off, then on Monday we will get the news that they denied relief.

At this point, now only days away from my scheduled execution, I am afraid to get my hopes up. It is easier to accept my intended fate and spend these last few days preparing for my death. A big part of that preparation is finding the strength not to be angry at this injustice so deliberately imposed upon me.

Too often, I find myself wanting to pray that those who have judged me will be judged by the same measure. But I don’t want to allow those thoughts in… my spiritual faith instructs me to forgive others as the only condition of being forgiven myself.

And I know that if I must die in a few days, I will be in a better place and that despite my 34 years of being condemned to solitary confinement, I have been blessed by having so many who chose to come into my life and extend love and support. I could not have maintained my strength without those who have stood by me. So, as I spend what will most likely be my last few days on earth, I choose to focus on how blessed I am to have had so many others there for me.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Michael Lambrix - Rest in Peace


                                             Rest in Peace Dearest Friend
                                                                  

                                                                     

                                                Sky above Raiford, October 5, 2017     
                                                Photo by MaryLynn McDavid



I saw you standing in the middle of the thunder and lightning
I know you're feeling like you just can't win, but you're trying
It's hard to keep on keepin' on, when you're being pushed around
Don't even know which way is up, you just keep spinning down, 'round, down


Every storm runs, runs out of rain
Just like every dark night turns into day
Every heartache will fade away
Just like every storm runs, runs out of rain


So hold your head up and tell yourself that there's something more
And walk out that door
Go find a new rose, don't be afraid of the thorns
'Cause we all have thorns
Just put your feet up to the edge, put your face in the wind
And when you fall back down, keep on rememberin'


Every storm runs, runs out of rain
Just like every dark night turns into day
Every heartache will fade away
Just like every storm runs, runs out of rain


It's gonna run out of pain
It's gonna run out of sting
It's gonna leave you alone
It's gonna set you free
Set you free


Every storm runs, runs out of rain
Just like every dark night turns into day
Every heartache will fade away
Just like every storm runs, runs out of rain


It's gonna set you free,
It's gonna run out of pain,

It's gonna set you free

Every Storm - Gary Allan


Amazing Grace, How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
T'was blind but now I see


T'was Grace that taught my heart to fear
And Grace, my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed


Through many dangers, toils and snares
We have already come.
T'was grace that brought us safe thus far
And grace will lead us home,
And grace will lead us home


Amazing grace, Howe Sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost but now am found
T'was blind but now I see

Was blind, but now I see.








Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Date With Death: Contemplating My Last Words - Michael Lambrix


By Michael Lambrix - written for MinutesBeforeSix



What if someone approached you today and told you that you only had two days to live - and that you had to spend your remaining days in solitary, away from all those that mattered to you. Alone, you slowly count down each moment of every day, each tick of that clock, drawing you closer to a date with death.
You will be allowed to say a few (and only a few) “last words”. Whatever you decide to say is what you will be remembered for (or forgotten, if all you do is waste that last breathe of life).

That is where I am today. As I write this, it is Friday, September 15, 2017, and I am in Cell One, formally known as Q-2101, only feet away from Florida's execution chamber. And in the early evening of October 5, 2017, at precisely 6:00 p.m., the State of Florida intends to put me to death for a crime I did not commit.

After 34-years on Florida's Death Row, I've become familiar with how this process unfolds. I’ve seen many others where I am today (please check out “Execution Day- Involuntary Witness to State Sanctioned Murder”). I've survived three previous attempts by the state to take my life, but I know that this time is different. This time, the odds of surviving this date with death are significantly stacked against me. I don't expect to make it out alive. The Governor is running an election for a tightly contested U.S. Senate seat, and he needs to rally the votes by executing as many as he can. To him, all my life is really worth is the hope of winning a few more votes. He has already sent more people to their death then any other Governor in Florida’s history and, after he kills me, he will move on to his next victim.

The Warden came down to Death Watch the other day and asked me why I'm doing a hunger strike. I explained that I am protesting the injustice of putting me to death without allowing all readily available evidence substantiating my innocence, including DNA evidence, to be heard. He responded by sharing with me that in all the years he has worked in prisons, he has never seen a hunger strike actually accomplish anything.

Continuing our casual conversation, as if the set of steel bars that separated us didn’t exist, the morning sun now shining through the windows behind the Warden, I offered my observation that, from the prisoner’s perspective, it's not about actually winning whatever issue compelled you to take that drastic act. I don't expect a tangible result.

Rather, in prison, a person has extremely limited options available with which to protest perceived injustice. Even the slightest hit of expressing anger on the part of a prisoner escalates the situation and punitive sanctions are a standard response.

By the time most get to where I am today, they are already broken. The long journey from being condemned to death, to confronting that date with death is, itself, a deliberate process intended to slowly erode your will to do anything but passively submit to state sanctioned execution.

When that time comes, I am expected to walk into the execution chamber and those waiting within that room will gently, without even the slightest hint of malice, assist me as I climb up on to the gurney where a moment later they will then firmly pull the straps down to render me motionless and unable to physically resist, so they can proceed to expeditiously insert needles connected to long I.V. tubes in each of my arms at the inside of the elbows.

Then the white curtain that separates me from a panel of witnesses safely seated behind a single pane of polished glass will be pulled open. I will quickly scan that small group of people, not more than ten-feet in front of me, desperately looking for a friendly face, or at least a familiar face, but likely to be met with blank stares by most gathered, who have waited many years to watch me die.

Then, in a predetermined and all but imperceptible gesture, the executioner hidden behind a nearby partition will push that first plunger down, forcing a presumably cold lethal liquid into my veins.
It's a ritual, and every aspect of that ritual has been planned to precise detail, and everybody performs their part. And I will too.

But I don't want to just lay down and die, exterminated like nothing more than a glorified cockroach.
And, so, I am doing a hunger strike. I don't expect to gain anything but to protest against this deliberate injustice, and that, itself, is my only objective. It is my way of saying that I accept that I am powerless to change the outcome, as this cold machinery of death grinds its gears.

For now, though, I sit in this solitary cell. Twenty-days to my date with death doesn't seem to be that long, and yet I find it to be way too much time. I find myself trying to pull up the memories of the life I once had so long ago, as a means of escaping the thoughts of my relatively imminent death.

But try as I might, like the invisible force of a blackhole slowly consuming the universe around it, I am pulled in again and again, dragged back to envisioning what that last moment of my life will be - and what my last words will be.

Part of me wants to put all I can into a concise statement that will be something to remember. But no matter what I try to say it, I imagine it will be forgotten. Nobody's coming to witness my execution to hear what I have to say. They’re coming to watch me die.

I think a lot about the young woman's family. They lost their daughter and, through all these years, have believed that I was the one who took her life. Their need to seek justice can only be satisfied with my death. This has given them the strength to cope with their loss. But I didn't kill their daughter.

I've prayed for them, that they might find the strength to forgive - not because the person responsible for taking the life of their daughter is worthy of their forgiveness, but because carrying around that much hate towards any other person for so long is like a cancer that will eat at their own soul.
Maybe my death will bring them peace and, if it does, then I can go knowing that there was a purpose in all of this.

Years ago, I tried to reach out to them, to explain the circumstances that transpired that night, and how much I wished I could take their pain away. Their response was to contact the prison - they found it offensive that I wrote them and demanded the prison punish me.

But still, as the years have passed, I’ve kept them in my prayers, wishing that I could turn back the hands of time and change it all. I do that a lot, escaping the reality of this place by picking my memories apart and trying to identify that one point in time, so long ago, where it all went off the tracks.

Maybe I should use my last words to ask for their forgiveness, even though I didn't kill their daughter. Maybe they need that. Then again, maybe their need for vengeance has consumed so much of them that they cannot forgive under any circumstances, and anything I may attempt to say to them at that time would only make them suffer more. I don't want to bring any more pain into their lives. I wish I could take all their pain away. My death won't accomplish that. Only they can make that decision to let it go.

Then there's my family. They've committed no crime, but they've suffered just as much. They will stand by helplessly as their son, their father, their brother, and their best friend, is put to death for a crime that they know I am innocent of.

Those in my life who have been there for me through the years have been the “Wind Beneath My Wings”; nurturing my hope and sustaining my strength. I have been so incredibly blessed by these who sacrificed so much to be a part of my life. I know it has not been easy. They have suffered along with me, at every setback, and felt the pain of injustice with each appeal denied.

Most families quickly fade away, and all but forget you once you cross over to that death row life. And, as the years passed, there's been times that my family did too. But we always were drawn back together, and are now stronger than we've ever been. Having to go through this Death Watch process and endure our last visit will cause them so much pain.

Maybe my last words should be to tell them how much it has meant to me to have them in my life. 
Not only my family, including my children, but also the small group of friends, spread out across the world, that have been there for me.

What would I say? What few words could possibly convey what I feel in my heart?? When they visit, at each visit I hug them like I never would let them go. Like I knew that this day might come.

I can no longer hug them. Once my execution date was set, my contact visits were immediately terminated and restricted to non-contact. They still come, now more frequently, driving many hours, even through the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, to spend a few hours of communion with me. We talk, and I try to make them laugh, but I can see in my mother’s and my sister’s eyes how hard this is for them.

There are the moments of silence, when I see the tears forming in their eyes, and I quickly work to find something to talk about, to get their minds off what lies ahead.

They are worried about my health, fearing that this hunger strike will only cause me to suffer more. Just as with the Warden, I patiently explain why I feel I must do this. But nothing I say is enough to comfort them. They beg me to eat. They are allowed to purchase sandwiches and snacks from the prison canteen, which the guard will then bring around to me. But I  refuse, and then they refuse to eat too.
I explain that they do not have to worry. The nurses check on me each day, taking my weight and blood pressure. As of today, I've only lost 17-pounds - and, truth be told, I really needed to lose some weight anyways.
When I return to my Death Watch cell, I lay down and put my MP3 player on, and then relive every moment of the visit to prolong it, as if it never had to end. But my moment of meditation is broken, as someone on the floor above me is kicking at his solid steel door.

I get back up, and look at the pile of old cards and letters I've stacked against the wall of my cell. As the days pass, I slowly go through them, rip them up and throw them away. Some I've had for many years, some not as long. But each was saved in the very limited room I'm allowed for storage of personal property for a reason. And now, I find myself destroying the things that I treasured the most.

I must do this before I'm placed on “Phase II”, and all my property is removed from my cell to ensure that I cannot cheat the state out of its intended act of murder by committing suicide. I still cannot destroy so many. And the stack of what means too much to throw away soon grows high. I've accomplished nothing.

The pictures are much harder. In my world, it's the photos of the smiling faces of those you love that keep you going. And photos of the past, of family and of my children, and of my grandchildren.

I go through them one-by-one, remembering each as if I just received it yesterday and, in the end, I throw very few away. A few years back, I lost all my pictures, so what few I have left are part of me and I cannot bear to toss away the memories reflected. Many are of visits I've had, and each photo allows me to think of that special day.

Try as I might to think of other things, that one thought keeps pulling me back - my last words. I find myself becoming consumed. What will I say?

I think of my spiritual advisor of many years, a man who gave up a successful career in law to become a Catholic lay minister devoted to Death Row prison ministry. Dale Recinella has visited me more times than I can begin to count, and is family too.

Before me, he has been there for many others, patiently listening to their words and offering an inspiration of spiritual comfort. When my day comes, he will be here. Contrary to movies, they will not allow him to walk with me into the execution chamber. But he will share time with me in the hours before my execution is carried out, and they will allow him to join the panel of witnesses to watch my execution.

He has witnessed many executions of those he has come to know and provided spiritual comfort to; not only us in our final hours, but to our families too. (Dale Recinella has written numerous books relating to his death row ministry that can be found at www.Iwasinprison.com)

Although long disillusioned by what contemporary Christianity has become and those who claim to be Christian, I have never doubted my spiritual faith. I find strength in it.

So, when that final moment is upon me, and the opportunity to express what will be my last words I will ever utter in this life arrives, maybe I will say the Lord's Prayer. Nothing I could come up with could possibly be more profound than that.

I sit silently at the edge of my bunk and look outside the window on the other side of the cell bars. Not more than ten-feet from where I sit, the green grass of a lawn that stretches from that window to the distant perimeter fence begins. A few days ago, a lawn mower outside that window came so close that I could smell its distinct exhaust.

I can smell the grass. Only a few feet away in another direction, the execution chamber patiently awaits me. I can close my eyes and imagine laying out on that grass - preferably at night, so that I can see the heavens above and count the stars, and, if by chance a shooting star passes, even make my wish.
Maybe I won't die. That's the thing about being down here and facing that date with death. As each day draws to a close, you find yourself thinking about how these are your final days, your final hours, and your final minutes. It becomes real. No matter how much you try to think of anything else, you cannot escape those persistent thoughts that this won't end well.

I've been down on Death Watch now for two weeks, and I have less than three weeks to go. So far, my lawyers haven't been able to do anything to stop my execution. Hurricane Irma (what they are now saying is the worst hurricane in Florida's history) shut everything down across the state, including my lawyers’ offices and the courts.

I talked with them yesterday, finally, but they can't get up to visit me until next week. By then, we will have two weeks left. That clock continues to tick. This time is lost forever.

I've already had numerous appeals pending. The two still before the United States Supreme Court could even result in my exoneration and release, if only the court would grant a review. But that's a long shot. I know, only too well, that the Supreme Court only looks at a handful of cases of the many thousands filed each year.

My lawyers continue to believe that the most favorable issue is the challenge to my illegally imposed sentences of death. The jury did not unanimously vote to sentence me to death. But, by marginal vote, the Florida Supreme Court decided that only those illegally sentenced after June 2002 would be allowed relief, and that those, such as myself (and almost 200 others), sentenced to death prior to June 2002, are still to be executed.

If the Supreme Court agrees with my lawyers, that this is unconstitutionally “arbitrary” and that my death sentences must be vacated, then I would have my sentences reduced to “life” and become, almost immediately, eligible for parole.

I struggle to keep that hope alive.
I don't have faith in the court doing the right thing.
Maybe that's just what I should tell them, as they so deliberately put me to death for a crime that I did not commit. I should tell them that they are committing an act of murder, and quote Socrates by saying “To which of us go the worst fate, you or I?” And then breathe my last breath.

Michael Lambrix 482053
Florida State Prison
P.O. Box 800
Raiford, FL 32083-0800

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

An Act Of Cold-Blooded Murder:' Florida Death Row Inmate Speaks Out Against Scheduled Execution


                                                                


Instead of opting for a few final words as he is strapped to a gurney in the death chamber, Florida Death Row inmate Mike Lambrix decided to speak his mind during an hour-long group interview Tuesday, two days before his scheduled execution. Read interview HERE


                                                                       
                                    

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Death Watch Journal — Saturday, September 23, 2017

As I write this I’m now down to less than two weeks to go before my scheduled execution. Contrary to his past practice of keeping two people at a time under a live death warrant, Governor Scott has not signed any new warrants and so I continue to have the entire death watch floor to myself.

Now that Hurricane Irma has blown through, things are finally getting back to “normal” and my lawyers are able to work on my case. Still, losing that first few weeks on a 34-day death warrant left us with less than three weeks to pull together what needs to be done.

As I previously wrote, though, fortunately we already had four appeals pending in various courts. I remain hopeful that those pending appeals will be met by the courts with favor. This Monday (Sept 25) the U.S. Supreme Court will address my one stronger appeal on the argument that contrary to what the Supreme Court instructed in numerous other cases, the lower federal courts in my case improperly denied any opportunity to address numerous claims that if addressed on their merits would support my innocence.

I’m hoping that at a minimum the Supreme Court will order a summary remand of that case (Lambrix vs Jones), as if they do, then this whole death watch thing will end and my case be sent back to the lower federal courts for full review on the merits of issues that should lead to my exoneration and release.

                                                                


But I don’t want to get my hopes up. I know only too well that the Supreme Court rarely grants review, much less relief in capital cases. They receive over 10,000 cases each year and of those less than 100 are granted review. The odds are significantly against me and in 34 years of dealing with this, nothing has ever gone my way. The only real surprise is that I wasn’t put to death many years ago.

That does not mean that I’m throwing in the towel. I will continue to fight this fight until I breathe my last breath. I can’t stop the state of Florida from killing me for a crime I didn’t commit. But that doesn’t mean that I won’t do all I can to stop them from doing that.

I wanted to do a hunger strike to protest this injustice, but after 12 days I decided to stop. I could have gone the distance, but it became clear that it was too hard on my family. They were worried, and they’re already going through enough, so when they visited this past Tuesday I let them know that I was ending my hunger strike.

The way I see it, I made my point, as I went 12 days without consuming anything but water. And according to the prison records, I lost 18 pounds. Actually, that was funny as on Thursday (Sept.21) when I hit the two-weeks-until-execution mark, they brought down the dark blue suit the state bought last year to kill me in, just to make sure it still fit. But when I tried the pants on, they fell to the floor. I lost at least two inches from the waist. And the shirt no longer fit either. I thought that was funny.

I was able to see my daughter for two days this past week, thanks to my sister bringing her. Those who know me know that my daughter Jennifer (who is now 38) is mentally disabled due to oxygen deprivation at birth. She is a “forever child” — she will  always have the mental capacity of a child (preteen), and doesn’t really understand that within just a few weeks I could be gone. In a way, I’m glad that she doesn’t really get it as I don’t want to see her hurt. But I also worry about who will be there for her once I’m gone.

But hopefully, it won’t come to that. I guess I’m just kind of down on all of this as, although this is not my first time facing execution, this time seems different and I’m not as confident that I will win another stay of execution. I actually do have numerous strong appeals, including those specifically addressing my actual innocence and arguing why they must allow DNA testing.

The problem is that the courts are openly hostile to anything we file. A few months ago the Florida Supreme Court went so far as to blatantly lie when addressing our request for DNA testing, denying it upon the false finding that DNA testing had already been done — it wasn’t.

                                                                  
    Fl Supreme Court

And the federal courts are even worse. The federal judges who control my case are outspoken proponents of the death penalty and have a long history of refusing to grant relief to capital petitioners under any circumstances. They’ve repeatedly lied about the case and there’s no pretense of objectivity or fairness. For that reason, I already know that anything we file in the lower federal courts will be summarily denied.

So all of this ultimately will come down to the U.S. Supreme Court and that won’t be until the very day of my scheduled execution. By that time next week we will have at least five separate appeals before the Supreme Court and they could just throw them all aside and not even look at them.

But my lawyers remain especially hopeful that the Supreme Court will take notice of the one issue addressing the illegally imposed death sentences. There’s no question that I was illegally sentenced to death as the jury votes in my case were not unanimous as they are now required to be.

The Florida Supreme Court recognized that I and all others who had a less than unanimous jury vote for death were illegally sentenced. But the FSC decided that they would only grant relief to those illegally sentenced after June 2002 — and that, because it would be too burdensome to grant relief to everyone, those sentenced prior to 2002 would not be granted relief.

This unprecedented “partial retroactivity” has created a big issue that most legal experts feel the U.S. Supreme Court will find unconstitutionally “arbitrary” and fundamentally unfair. The problem, however, is that it could take years before the Supreme Court decides they are ready to address the issue, and by then, I and many others will be long dead.

                                                                   

                                                                  
All we can do is wait and see. All of this is actually so much harder on my family and friends — they too must deal with the uncertainty of my fate, and I worry about those closest to me.

But at the same time, I know how blessed I am. There’s so many out there doing all they can to try to stop this machinery of death. Already, Governor Scott has received more signatures protesting my intended execution than any other, but even if God himself tried to plead with Governor Scott, it would fall on deaf ears as the only thing Governor Scott cares about is his campaign for a seat in the U.S. Senate in 2018, and executions win elections.

I am disappointed that the media has not shown any interest in the evidence substantiating my innocence. The death penalty is no longer a story to the media… apathy proves deadly.

But I’m doing alright and I thank those who sent me cards of prayer and support. All we can do is stay strong and keep the faith.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Date With Death: Weeks One and Two

By Michael Lambrix - written for MintesBeforeSix

Date with Death – Week One: Execution Scheduled for October 5, 2017


Shortly after 7:00 a.m. on the morning of Saturday, September 2, 2017, I watched my first sunrise in well over a quarter of a century. I had forgotten just how beautiful an early morning sunrise could be, and how it had its way of drawing you in and mesmerizing you. At first it barely peaked over that distant horizon and then, ever so very slowly, it grew from that first orangish glow into a sudden explosion of even brighter, almost crimson, radiance spreading to each side. A few clouds accented its majestic appearance and I stood silently in awe of this event that I never thought I would see again. It´s been a long time since I last saw a sunrise.

In that moment, I forgot where I was, despite the fact that to see the unexpected sunrise I had to look through a single set of steel bars and then the seven-pane security window about ten-feet away. For nearly 34-years, I´ve been on Florida´s Death Row and, late yesterday afternoon, I was taken from my regular death row confinement cell to the bottom floor of Q-Wing.  Once again, I was placed in Cell One (please check out the PBS documentary “Cell One”, featuring me, at www.cellone.wlrn.digital/). The Florida Governor has rescheduled my previously stayed execution and now I am counting down my last days. If the State of Florida has their way, at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 5, 2017, I will be securely tied down on a gurney with numerous I.V. tubes attached to my body and, with a barely perceptible nod of Warden Reddish´s head, an unseen figure behind a partition will then push the first of three plungers down. This will force the sedative “Etomidate” into my body, with the intent to render me unconscious, before they then flow with the second drug, “rocuronium bromide”, which is a paralytic that will ensure that, even if they screw the execution up (as they have too many times before), I will not be able to physically react. I will lie there experiencing incomprehensible physical pain until the paid executioner pushes that last plunger down, sending that lethal dose of “potassium acetate” into my body to cause a cardiac arrest, terminating my life.
I know exactly what will come as my final days count down and there´s not a damned thing I can do about it. This is the fourth time I´ve been placed in Cell One and watched as the clock counts down what are to be my final days. In late 1988, I had my first death warrant signed, scheduling my execution for November 30, 1988. I came within mere hours of being executed. Back then, Florida´s method of execution was the electric chair, and as I sat in this very same cell so long ago, I could feel that distinctive hum, accompanied by a low vibration on the concrete floor, as not more than 30-feet away they put “Old Sparky” through tests to make sure that it would work properly when they planned to kill me early the next morning.

By late afternoon of November 29, 1988, the Florida Supreme Court rendered a decision on my first post-conviction appeal, denying our demand for a new trial by a marginal 4 to 3 decision – refusing to address the numerous claims supporting my consistently pled claim of actual innocence because my legal counsel (who was only assigned to my case after the Governor decided to kill me) failed to “properly” present the innocence claims to the court (see, Lambrix v State, 534 So.2d.1151 (Fla. 1988)). The Florida Court subsequently found that the Supreme Court´s refusal to address these claims was unprecedented and in clear error (Order of May 12, 1992 by U.S. District Judge William Zloch in Lambrix v Singletary, case no. 4;88-cv-12107-WJ2).

But the Florida Supreme Court did grant a 48-hour stay of execution, to allow my lawyers to pursue an appeal to the Federal Courts. As I anxiously waited in “Cell One” for word, the hours ticked down, and with each tick of the clock my hour of death grew nearer. For days, I remained in that excruciating state of limbo, not knowing whether I would live or die, and overwhelming exhaustion set in, as I desperately tried to maintain under those circumstances. Out of exhaustion I tried to lay down and rest, only to be awoken by an intense spiritual experience that, to this day, I cannot hope to adequately describe (please read, “The Day God Died” and, “Scratching at the Scars of a Shattered Soul”).

Shortly after that, I received word that the Federal District Court had ordered a full stay of execution, and I was moved back to the regular death row housing area. Many years of appeals followed. Evidence was discovered substantiating my consistently pled claim of actual innocence. The prosecution had tried to coerce me into pleading “guilty” before my 1984 trial, to the reduced charge of second degree murder, which would have led me to my release after 17-22 years, if I would waive any appeals. I refused, as I naively believed our legal system would work, and I would be exonerated and released. Once again, in July 2006, the prosecutor came to me with an offer to reduce my death sentence to “life” (with the chance of eventual release) – if I would drop my appeal arguing my innocence.

But I wouldn´t do it. Instead, I was sent back to Florida´s death row, and as the years dragged by, both the State and Federal Courts invented procedural rules as to why the readily available evidence substantiating my consistently pled claim of innocence could not be heard. My fatal fault became only too clear – trusting the courts to do the right thing would cost me my life.

On the morning of Monday, November 30, 2015, the United States Supreme Court summarily denied review of my actual innocence claim (see, In re: Cary Michael Lambrix vssc case no. 15-6163) and, within hours, Governor Rick Scott signed a death warrant to formally schedule me for execution on Thursday, February 11, 2016. I was immediately moved to the bottom floor of Q-wing at Florida State Prison and placed on Death Watch (please read, “Slippery Slope to State Sanctioned Murder”). I was housed in Cell Three, where I would spend what was to be my last Christmas, only a few feet away from the execution chamber.

I wasn´t alone. About ten-feet away, Cell One held Oscar Bolin, who was scheduled to die on January 7, 2016. I took a back seat in Cell Three, and Oscar moved forward. I remained in that cell immediately adjacent to the heavy steel door that separated us from the execution chamber. Late in the evening on January 7, 2016, they put Oscar Bolin to death (please read, “Execution Day: Involuntary Witness to State Sanctioned Murder”).

Early that next morning of January 8, 2016, I was ordered to pack up my property and moved from Cell Three to Cell One. Oscar´s body was still warm, but they were already moving me into his now empty cell (see, “Cell One” PBS Documentary www.cellone.wirn.digital//). A few hours later, they brought Mark Asay, with an execution scheduled for Thursday, March 17, 2016, to join me. They moved him into Cell Three.
On Monday, January 11, 2016 – less than a week after Oscar Bolin’s execution – the Supreme Court issued its 8-to-1 opinion in Hurst v Florida (136 Sct.61b (2016)), declaring that the way Florida sentences people to death by allowing the judge to decide whether to impose a death sentence was unconstitutional; as, under the Sixth Amendment, only the jury could determine whether sufficient cause existed to enhance the punishment to death.

                                                           

Suddenly, the legality of the Florida death penalty was called into question, and my lawyers expeditiously filed new appeals arguing that, since my imposed death sentences were based on a non-unanimous jury vote which the presiding judge used to impose sentence of death, under the Supreme Court´s decision in Hurst v Florida, my death sentences were illegal.

The Florida Supreme Court heard my case the week before my scheduled execution and, much to my disappointment, the whole case suddenly focused on how the Supreme Court's Hurst decision would impact Florida's death row population, since the vast majority of Florida´s death sentences were by a non-unanimous jury vote (it should be noted that Florida is only one of three states that even allowed a death sentence to be imposed by a non-unanimous jury vote).

Later that same day, following oral arguments, the Florida Supreme Court ordered a stay of execution in my case until they could figure out how Hurst v Florida would affect these death sentences. But, because the death warrant remained in effect even though a stay of execution was granted, I remained on Death Watch until February 9. As coincidence would have it, that was my older sister´s birthday. She was visiting me with my parents and other sister, Mary, along with long-time close friend, Jan Arriens (founder of Lifelines, an international organization based in London, England) when the Warden came to the visiting area and told me that I would be removed from Death Watch, effective that day… Debbie immediately declared that was the best birthday present she´d ever received.

And so, on February 9, 2016 – only two-days before they had scheduled me for execution – I was removed from Death Watch and placed back on G-wing, the regular death row housing unit at Florida State Prison. Not long after that, Mark Asay received a stay of execution too.

All executions in Florida would remain on-hold until this legal issue could be resolved. As those months passed, and then a year, and then more, we had reason to believe that the courts would rule favorably and throw out all death sentences based on less than a unanimous jury vote; especially after the Florida Supreme Court issued its own opinion in Hurst v State (202 So.3d.40 (Fla. 2016)).

But then, only two-days before Christmas, the Florida Supreme Court released its decisions in Mark Asay v State of Florida (210 So.3d.1 (Fla. 2016)) and John Mosley v State of Florida (210 So.3d. (Fla. 2016)), in which a sharply divided court decided that while all death sentences imposed by less than a unanimous jury vote were now clearly illegal, the court would only retroactively apply this new rule to capital cases that were finalized (determined by the date which the first “direct appeal” was decided) after June 24, 2002. In Asay v State, the court declared that allowing retroactive application of this new rule to capital cases prior to June 2002 would be too burdensome on the state.

Bottom line, the Florida Supreme Court (by marginal majority) declared that it would throw out the illegally imposed sentences of death only as far back as June 2002, but those sentenced prior to that “arbitrary line in the sand” would not be granted relief – and they ordered Mark Asay´s previously granted stay of execution lifted. This meant that approximately half of the almost 400 death sentenced prisoners in Florida would have their illegally imposed death sentences thrown out, but the other half would not.

My own case would drag on for a few months longer. Despite the ruling in Mark Asay´s case, which made it clear that I would not receive relief from the illegally imposed sentences of death, I remained hopeful that the Florida Supreme Court would rule favorably on my innocence-related issues, especially our request for DNA testing of evidence that could substantiate my claim of innocence.

But on March 8, 2017, the Florida Supreme Court issued its opinion in my pending case, denying all relief, Lambrix v State (217 So.3d.977 (Fla. 2017)), and ordered that my previously granted stay of execution be lifted. My lawyers filed a motion for a rehearing, arguing that the court´s denial of DNA testing was clearly wrong; as the court ruled that DNA testing had already been conducted – and it clearly had not. Further, the court violated its own state procedures by refusing to address our claim of entitlement to a new trial based on F.B.I. records conclusively showing that my trial lawyer (an appointed public defender) was secretly acting as a witness against me in an unrelated F.B.I. investigation while representing me. Because that act established an irreconcilable conflict of interest, under applicable law, that violation should have entitled me to a new trial.

                                                                 

Refusing to address its clear mistakes of both fact and law, the Florida Supreme Court summarily denied the request for a rehearing, and as of May 10, 2017, the previously entered stay of execution was formally lifted. I knew that they would come get me and take me back to Death Watch again, even though I had my other appeals still pending before the courts.

On Monday, July 3, 2017, they came and took Mark Asay back to Death Watch, with a new execution date of August 24. Although he was previously scheduled 5-weeks after me when our death warrants we signed prior to the Supreme Court´s Hurst v Florida decision, since his case was ruled on, this time months before mine was, he was now at the front of the line.

And Mark was tired. He said he was ready to go, even though new evidence came to light supporting his long-standing claim that he did not kill one of the two victims in his case, but he had enough and was ready to die. Like too many others, he had lost the will to fight.

That is an element of the death penalty few give any thought to – after years of fighting the system (and sometimes our appointed lawyers), many become broken and just want the nightmare to end. By the time the condemned prisoner is led into the execution chamber, he (or she) has accepted their fate and their inability to do anything about it. They then surrender themselves to this ritual of death. That’s just the way it is.
At precisely 6:22 p.m., Mark Asay was pronounced dead by lethal injection. It appears that the execution went off as intended, and the unprecedented use of this new drug protocol (Etomidate, rocuronium bromide, and potassium acetate) worked; although some witnesses did report that in his final moments, Asay involuntarily “twitched”, whatever that may mean.

However, the primary question of whether the Florida Supreme Court´s arbitrary and unprecedented “partial retroactivity” rule, which has already held that those illegally sentenced to death after June 2002 would have their sentences thrown out, while simultaneously denying all pre-2002 cases under identical circumstances relief, can withstand constitutional challenge remains to be addressed and resolved – and now my own case will be the lead case in that fight, which will most likely be resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court… sooner or later.

This should have been addressed in Mark Asay´s case, especially since it was his case that established this partial retroactivity rule. But Mark didn´t want his lawyers to pursue that issue again. He considered a reduction of his death sentence to life to amount to a fate even worse than death, and refused to allow his lawyers to pursue the issue.

I´m not too happy about my case being the one that will now try to decide this issue, as, if the courts get focused on that issue, they will likely ignore my other pending “actual innocence” issues. And I know, very well, that the Supreme Court could simply refuse to accept review of that partial retroactivity issue, just as they did after the Supreme Court first established the foundation of requiring a jury sentencing in Ring v Arizona (2002), and for 14-years (and 47 executions) the Supreme Court refused to accept review – until they finally did in 2015, which resulted in the early-2016 decision in Hurst v Florida.

No matter what life throws at you, you got to play the cards you´re dealt, and the reality is that when Governor Rick Scott signed that order on September 1, 2017, rescheduling my execution for Thursday, October 5, 2017, from that day I was given only 35-days left to live. Maybe I won´t be executed, but since Florida adopted a law that makes a death warrant “indefinite” (that is, it never expires), nobody has survived a death warrant under Governor Scott. A few have received temporary stays, only to then be rescheduled, and they´re all dead now.

Was today´s sunrise an omen, or a curse? Or, was it simply a sunrise that held no meaning other than its beauty? Before I was brought down to Death Watch (yet again), I had previously spent about 141-days in late-1988, and then the winter of 2015-16 here. It´s an environment I´ve become familiar with.
As I was escorted into this Death Watch cell, the first thing I noticed was the smell of a fresh coat of paint. The substantially larger size of the cell no longer surprised me. I stepped into it, then obediently held my hands to the cell-front bars, so the guards could remove the handcuffs and chains, while engaging them in casual conversation.

The Death Watch Lieutenant knew that I already knew the Death Watch routine, so he didn't explain to me again that things work different down here, and that they would try to make my last days as easy as they could, short of compromising security.

Directly outside this Cell One, there is a generic and rather plain state-issued desk, and nobody had to tell me it was built by inmates in the woodshop. It very well could have been the same prisoners who, when ordered to do so, also constructed the electric chair many years ago. There are two multi-colored blue chairs, with obviously aged paisley patterned cushions accented by a heavy wood frame. They looked comfortable, and I asked the Death Watch Sargent if he´d mind moving one of those chars into my cell and we both laughed, a moment of intentional levity to break the ice.

                                                              
It was hot, and I quickly began sweating. Late summer in Florida is like this, hot and humid. It didn´t help that I was wearing the heavy denim prison uniform we are required to wear anytime outside our cells (as well as when official visitors come around on one of their “tours” of death row). Without further thought, I began to strip down to nothing but my boxers – and the guards thought nothing of it, as that is the standard uniform we wear in our cells during the hot summers.

Directly in front of Cell One, securely fastened to the wall between the two windows, hangs a 40-inch flat screen T.V., a luxury only afforded to those condemned prisoners scheduled to die. Perhaps it was for that reason I asked the Sargent if he´d mind if I used my own small 13-inch color T.V. in the cell, but I already knew they´d allow me to do so, if I wanted to. My personal property had not yet been brought over from the adjacent regular death row housing wing (G-wing), however, it would arrive soon. I knew the Property Room Sargent and his crew were already collecting it and, as they did, they were going through what I had to make sure I wasn´t given anything that could be a threat to the heightened state of security on Death Watch.

Normally, the staff use inmate labor to do the work, but once a person is placed on Death Watch, no contact with other inmates is allowed. The guards serve me my meals, each plastic-wrapped by the Kitchen Supervisor and marked “Death Watch.” The Laundry Room Sargent will personally pick up my laundry and then wash and neatly fold it before bringing it back. And the guards assigned to work Death Watch will also do the janitorial work that inmate trustees typically do. Even when I have legal or (non-contact) social visits while under active death warrant, I will be escorted up the long main hall (check out “Alcatraz of the South” Part I and II), only after the entire prison is fully locked-down.

As I finally move around a bit in this Death Watch cell that I´m already far too familiar with, I make up the bunk, using the small stack of freshly washed and folded linen piled at the foot of the plastic covered foam mattress, and check the sink to make sure that the water works. Everything appears to be in order.

I´m allowed one legal phone call and one call to family when a death warrant is signed and, once I´m situated in the cell, the Sargent puts the call through to my lawyers. They already knew that the Governor had rescheduled my execution and assured me that they were already putting together what needed to be done. We filed numerous appeals in both the State and Federal courts in recent months, and these remain pending but there´s more to be done. They would talk again next week.

My personal property arrived and, with the help of the Sargent, it was passed through the open feed slot (what we call a “bean flap”) a handful at a time and I stacked it up against the walls. I would put it up in the large steel footlocker bolted firmly to the floor the next day.

A few hours later, the Sargent puts the phone call through to my sister. She already knew about where I was, as my lawyer had contacted my family. My parents were at her house and she put the call on speaker phone, and I did my best to be positive and tell them not to worry, reminding them we have the appeals pending and the question of illegally imposed death sentence should stop all of this. But we all know that the courts don´t do what they should, and there´s a reason that of the last 25 men who occupied this Cell One here on Death Watch, I am the sole survivor. Nobody has survived a rescheduled execution on a fourth date with death.
But, for now, I will enjoy watching that unexpected sunrise through that window, and I will watch the next thirty-four to come; enjoying each as if it will be my last. And that last one will most likely come on the morning of October 5, 2017. By that evening, I will be dead.


                                                                 


Date With Death - Week Two: Countdown to Execution 

When I was brought down to Death Watch on Friday, September 1, 2017, they gave me 34-days to live and, at precisely 6:00p.m. on that thirty-fourth day, they plan to pump lethal drugs into my immobolized veins and kill me. As I sit at this small steel table in Cell One waiting, I'm now down to only 25-days. Just that quickly, nine days have already passed. That's almost a full one-third of the rest of my life.
I've been here before, and this Death Watch cell is familiar. But the last few times I've counted down what were to be my last days, I was not alone.  This time I am, and I'm still trying to figure out whether that's a good thing or a bad thing. On the plus side, it's often very quiet for long periods of time.  No one else is around other than the guard sitting at the desk on the other side of the steel bar gate. He makes his rounds about every 30-minutes to check on me before returning to his desk. More often than not, we will momentarily engage in idle conversation, as, like me, he too is alone. It’s just the two of us down here.

On the negative side, it's very quiet down here when there's nobody around. I feel isolated and this enhances my feelings of loneliness. I have a t.v. outside my cell to keep me entertained, and I have my MP3 player to get my head out of this place. But it just doesn't feel the same this time, being down here all by myself.  Not that I'd wish this on anyone – I wouldn’t do that. I'd rather be down here alone than put anyone else through this.

As luck would have it, shortly after Governor Scott signed the order on September 1, rescheduling my execution for October 5, a major hurricane, “Irma”, developed and grew into what was soon being called one of the worst ever. The projected path had it heading straight for South Florida and, as I write this, it's still coming this way.

Just a week earlier, Hurricane Harvey slammed into Texas, with record rain and within days at least 60 people died. I read that Texas had an execution scheduled that week that was postponed.

Now I'm going through the same thing. Shortly after my execution was rescheduled, the Florida Supreme Court issued an order instructing that all appeals had to be completed before the lower state courts no later then Monday September 11, so that any review before the Florida Supreme Court could be expedited. But with Hurricane Irma heading straight for South Florida, by early Thursday (September 7), the Governor ordered a statewide emergency and all state offices (including the courts) were shutdown.

It’s kind of hard to file an appeal if the courthouse is closed. My lawyers quickly filed a motion asking the Florida Supreme Court to rescind its order, due to their inability to work the case, and it didn't take long before the court issued an order granting another full week to file whatever had to be filed in the lower courts - but they refused to postpone the execution date. So, even though neither my lawyers or the lower courts could do anything for that week, and probably wouldn't be able to do much after Hurricane Irma blows through, the Florida Supreme Court wasn't going to postpone my execution.

The prison system has been locked-down for days as this hurricane draws closer and, other than a quick phone call with my lawyers, I haven't had any contact with them. One of my lawyers had a visit scheduled for this past Thursday, but couldn’t get any flights out of the Fort Lauderdale airport, as that part of Florida was being evacuated, and the investigator assigned to my case is a Coast Guard reservist, and was called up for duty.

I don't blame them.  Call it an act of God. But I'm quickly running out of time and I haven't had any meaningful communication with my lawyers. We’ve already lost valuable time, and that clock keeps ticking away, and there's nothing I can do about it.

Funny how not even what appears to be the worst hurricane in Florida's history can slow down the machinery of death.  This unexpected natural disaster serves to stack an already loaded deck against me, as this inability to get the work done favors the state.

But is isn’t all bad. On Monday (September 06), my younger sister came up for a visit. My other sister planned to come up with her, but couldn’t make it due to the hurricane. Still, it was a great visit, even though restricted to non-contact through glass.

Here in Florida (unlike Texas and a few other states), death-sentenced prisoners are allowed regular contact visits each weekend from 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m., in a large open visiting park. Although relatively few get regular visits, it means a lot to be able to give someone you love a big hug, and to be able to sit at a table and talk and eat a meal bought from the prison store.

But, once the Governor sets an execution date, then they immediately terminate those contact visits and all social visits become non-contact. That means that they are conducted though a glass wall with a small hole covered by a steel plate with holes in it so you can talk through it.

Even as much as these visits mean, they are also one of the hardest parts about facing an execution date. Regardless if what any of us in here may have done, our families remain innocent victims of this circumstance. While the victims families, and the justice system are driven by vengeance to push for our deaths, those that care about us are driven by love and want us to live, and nothing brings them more pain then to know that, in a matter of weeks, or even days, or hours, we may be put to death.

That's the reality that hangs over these Death Watch visits and I do what I can to keep the positive, to find a way to joke and laugh and talk about long ago memories of the good times that we shared together. But how I wished I could just reach through that thick plate of security glass and give her a big hug and tell her that it will all be alright.

Those few hours passed quickly and we said our goodbyes. My sister tried to hide the tears as she turned to walk out the door, but I could see that she was crying.  All I could do was smile and wave as she disappeared through that steel door. At least I had that time with her.

It was a long walk back to my Death Watch cell. The area where the non-contact visits are conducted is at the front of the prison, just inside the main door. But the Death Watch area is at the opposite end of this long building, over a quarter of a mile walk and, with each slow step in my shackled and chained feet, I felt that I was walking further away from all that means so much to me; leaving what gave me the strength to keep going (my family, friends, etc.) and returning to that cold loneliness of a Death Watch cell only a few feet away from the steel door that leads into the execution chamber.

If not for those visits, I wouldn't have had the strength to maintain my sanity through the years. If I've learned nothing else in the too many decades I've spent in this manmade hell, it is that all of us have our breaking point, and no matter how strong you may want to be, this place can break you. It will break you.

I remind myself of what Victor Frankl wrote about in the book Man's Search for Meaning; how, as long as a man has a reason to live, he can find the will to live, even under the worst of circumstances. To love and to be loved gives reason.

For a long time I thought it was hope that gave me the strength to keep going. But, in recent years, I've come to accept that hope is a fragile thing, which fades away with each new setback. Hope builds its foundation on circumstances beyond our control, and crushes our souls when what we hoped for is taken away.
  
Love is what keeps us going. The love of family, the love of friends, and if the stars even momentarily align themselves in just the right way, even the love of a new romance before it to quickly fades away. It's the love that others so generously extend to me that gives me strength.

Even before the Governor signed the order rescheduling my execution, I was expecting it. Earlier this year, the Florida Supreme Court denied my appeal that argued that I'm entitled to DNA testing of evidence. Evidence, that if tested, could substantiate my innocence, and that under the 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hurst v Florida, I was illegally sentenced to death.

Knowing that this was coming, and that there wasn't anything I could do to stop the State of Florida from killing me for something I didn't do, I decided awhile back that once the Governor did reschedule my execution, I would begin a hunger strike while on Death Watch. This would be a means of protesting against the intent to kill me without allowing the readily available evidence that will substantiate my innocence from being heard.

But my family and friends didn't like that idea. They worry about me, and were afraid it would cause me harm. My lawyers expressed their opposition because they remain confident that I will get another stay of execution, as I have four appeals pending and a number of strong issues (including my innocence) that still are not resolved.

I don't want to argue with them (and didn't), as these are people who have stood by me for many years. And I didn't want to add any more stress to what they were already going through as it is.
For that reason, I reached a compromise - I would delay initiating this intended hunger strike until after I had the visit with my sister. I’d then talk to her and explain why it is important to me that I do something, as I don't want to just lay down and die... Maybe a hunger strike wouldn't accomplish anything, maybe some would even laugh at me, but this is something I had to do.

So, I agreed to wait until after her visit that Wednesday (September 06) to begin, and it was a great visit.
Once I returned to my Death Watch cell, it was almost 4:00 p.m., and I knew that at 4:00 p.m. I would receive a phone call from my dear friend Geesje, who lives in Athens, Greece. For so many years, Geesje has stood by me, giving so much of herself to help fight the injustice of my wrongful convictions, as well as advocate on behalf of others. In my world, it's only too easy to forget that there are good people in this world. For reasons I will never understand, I have been blessed with a number of family and friends who are genuinely nothing less than angels... and Geesje is, unquestionably, one.

The call came through and I smiled when I heard her voice, her Dutch accent always frosted with a healthy dose of humor, and soon we were laughing despite the reality of my date with death. We only had a few moments, but just hearing her voice, especially after spending the earlier hours with my sister, just brought a happiness to my heart that had me smiling long after I had to hang up the phone.

Then I turned my attention to what could very well be my last meal as, beginning that following morning (Thursday September 7), I would start the Death Watch hunger strike and continue it until I either receive a stay of execution, or I'm put to death.

For months I had saved a “Roast Beef with Gravy” that I got from the food packages we are allowed to receive from the outside twice-a-year. It was a ready-to-eat meal that only needed heating up. I also saved a small bag of instant mashed potatoes, just for this occasion.

On Death Watch, we have access to a microwave oven and need only ask the Sergeant to put whatever we need heated in it, so I knew that I could prepare my meal as it should be.

I planned every detail for months. I began by first taking the small bag of instant mashed potatoes and pouring that into my bowl. Then I pulled out ten individual servings of liquid coffee creamer, that I bought from the canteen, and added that to the instant potatoes, stirring it into a paste.

I then took a two-ounce pack of Philadelphia Cream Cheese (with jaleapeno's) and added that to the instant potatoes, and then a small bag of sour cream and onion potato chips, which I crunched up into a fine powder before mixing that into the potatoes as well. Finally, I imposed upon the Sergeant to boil a cup of water, which I then slowly mixed into the potatoes until they were just the right thickness. I tried not to eat too much under the guise of tasting them - that was not easy!

Using my other bowl, I poured the generous portion of roast beef with thick brown gravy into that bowl and, again, imposed upon the Sergeant to heat it. Once that was steaming hot, I had him throw my potatoes into the microwave for a few minutes and then, using a couple of paper plates, I laid out a small mountain of my flavored potatoes in the middle of a plate, carefully creating a small bowl in the very middle. I then slowly poured the roast beef with gravy into that hollowed out cavity, until the thick gravy generously poured over the sides, with the chunks of roast beef spread to the side of that mountain.

I then sat down at my small table - the same table that so many others who previously occupied this Death Watch cell before me had eaten their own last meal before being put to death - and I took a moment to say grace and remember those who went before me. Then I slowly ate that meal, savoring every bite, and knowing that it very well could be my last meal.

That plate of potatoes and roast beef with gravy filled me up, but I wasn't quite done yet. I reached into my footlocker and took out the last two small bags of Keebler Fudge Stripe Mini's cookies that I’d also saved from my food package. I had bought two small Kraft chocolate pudding cups from the canteen, and had them placed in the Death Watch refrigerator. I poured that thick, and almost frozen, chocolate pudding into the bowl, then poured the mini cookies on top, and began to eat my dessert. With each bite, I made sure that I had just the right mixture of pudding and mini fudge cookies. I deliberately took my time with each slow bite until, finally, it was gone. Then, like a child in his mother's kitchen, I licked the bowl clean, putting extra effort into making sure that I got every bit of that chocolate.

Once I had finished, I began to wash my bowls in the small sink, then dry them out. It was now early evening and I laid back on my bunk. I put my headphones on and watched t.v. for the next few hours, before I finally fell asleep. For a day on Death Watch, and only a few feet away from that steel door that leads into the execution chamber that patiently awaits me (please read, “Execution Day: Involuntary Witness to State Sanctioned Murder"), it wasn't a bad one.

But, it was also a long day, and I was tired and ready for sleep. However, sleep didn't come easy, as I struggled to focus on the time spent earlier that day with my sister and the way we laughed and shared memories of better days, and on the sound of my dearest friend Geesje's voice.

I fell asleep, then woke again, and pushed myself to sleep again. Before long it was almost 5:00 a.m., and the Death Watch Sergeant was standing at my cell door holding a white styrofoam food tray. I already knew it contained two biscuits with what they claim to be meat gravy, and potatoes and grits... that was our Thursday morning breakfast for, at least, the past ten-years.

Politely, I refused that breakfast tray, just as I would every meal they brought after that. Making his routine rounds, the Warden came by and I explained to him why I was doing this hunger strike, and that it had nothing to do with prison staff.

A few hours later, the Assistant Warden came by with a small folder of paperwork and, just as I had done when my death warrant was signed in November 2015, he advised me that they needed to go over a few things. He asked whether there were any changes to my previously stated next of kin, and how I wanted my body to be disposed of if the execution took place.

I answered each question as if I had that conversation every day, and within minutes we were finished. Just that quickly, the decision on how my body, as well as my personal property, would be disposed of was decided, and it brought me another step closer to death.

By Friday (September 8), the prison was already shutting everything down as they prepared for Hurricane Irma to blow through by early-Monday. Because of the hurricane, my previously scheduled visit with my elderly parents and other sister was cancelled, as was any communication with my lawyers. It would be a long weekend, until Tuesday.

As I write this, I have 25-days to go until they will come to take me to the other side of this floor and countdown those last minutes until, as I lay strapped to that gurney, they pump a cocktail of lethal drugs into my body and kill me. And there's not a damned thing I can do to stop them.