Our Dear Friend Mike Lambrix left us on October 5, 2017
He went from the Darkness to the Light..

Friday, January 20, 2017

Cell 1 - Florida's Death Penalty in Limbo - A 6 Part Documentary

Cell 1 is the last cell Florida inmates stay in before they’re executed. It’s where they say their goodbyes, make peace with death or mount their final legal stands against death. It’s where many hope their sentence will be delayed or commuted. Some inmates get pulled out of Cell 1 to return to Death Row; others meet their end in the execution chamber a few feet away. It’s a place of uncertainty, the cell between life and death.
"That is the last cell. That is the cell in which every person who has been put to death in the state of Florida has been housed until they got moved to the execution chamber,” says Mike Lambrix, a 33-year resident of Florida’s Death Row.
On Jan. 12, 2016, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling threw Florida’s death penalty into a state of limbo -- putting the death sentence on hold. Legal challenges and court decisions--as recently as last month--have created more confusion. It is in this climate that the Legislature will start rewriting the new rules to reinstate the death penalty when it returns to session in March.


WLRN News reporter Wilson Sayre spent almost two years researching the ins and outs of the death penalty in Florida. In this special report, she looks at the momentous changes that occurred in 2016, the consequences of the Supreme Court decision in Hurst v. Florida and what being in limbo means for the 384 people on Death Row in the state, their families and the victims’ families.

Read and listen to the 6 part documentary..  http://cellone.wlrn.digital/

Monday, January 16, 2017

Deacon Jason Roy

Shortly after the Florida Supreme Court’s absurd December 22, 2016 ruling issued in Mark Asay v State of Florida, declaring that while all Florida death row prisoners illegally sentenced to death — but only those whose first round of appeals were final after 2002 would be entitled to relief, while the other approximately 174 death row prisoners sentenced prior to 2002 would still face execution, it appears that the first victim of this morally and constitutionally indefensible decision was not a death row prisoner, but a religious volunteer who ministered to the death row population.

Through the years most of us here have come to know and hold great respect for Catholic deacon Jason Roy because of both his uncompromised commitment to volunteering his time to minister to us, as well as his genuine friendship and compassion to those he came to know. It was a full-time job for which he receive no compensation, and rain or shine, he would make his rounds on every floor of the death row wings at both Florida State Prison and Union Correctional (the main death row unit.)

Many here requested that “Deacon Roy” be their own designated spiritual advisor, a status that allowed him to minister on-on-one with those inmates and administer communion. It also meant that if that inmate had a death warrant signed, Deacon Roy would be with him throughout the death watch process and be the condemned man’s designated witness to that execution, that one and only friendly face the dying man would see through the glass wall that separated the witness arena from the execution chamber.

When Governor Rick Scott signed a death warrant on Mark Asay the very day after Oscar Ray Bolin was executed (please read: “Execution Day: Involuntary Witness to State-Sanctioned Murder”), Asay was immediately transferred from Union Correctional  to the death watch unit at Florida State Prison, where he joined me as we counted down the days towards our scheduled execution dates.

While my designated spiritual advisor was (and is) Catholic lay Minister Dale Recinella (check out his website at www.iwasinprison.org), Mark’s was Deacon Roy and both became frequent visitors to the death watch unit. It was immeasurable comfort and a reflection of the true spirit of Christian compassion, to have both Dale and Deacon Roy visit us on death watch regularly — and they reached out to our families as well.

Then in January 2016 the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Hurst v Florida, recognizing unequivocally that the manner in which Florida imposed death sentences by allowing the presiding judge to actually determine the sentence was unconstitutional as under the Sixth Amendment only the jury was authorized to determine whether the sentence of death should be imposed.

Because of that decision, in early February I received a stay of execution until it was decided whether Hurst would apply retroactively. A few weeks later Mark Asay received a similar “temporary” stay, and throughout 2016 we both remained on the regular death row wing pending the outcome.

After numerous related cases issued from the Florida Supreme Court, beginning with the October, 2016 decision in Hurst v Florida, all of us were confident that all Florida death sentences, with the exception of the relatively few who waived their jury determination of sentencing or had a 12 to 0 jury vote, would be thrown out and we all anxiously awaited that decision.

Then it came on December 22 — only days before Christmas! And while the ruling in the simultaneously released decision in Mobley v State did declare that the Hurst decision would apply retroactively to all those sentenced after June, 2002. In an 80-page decision in Mark Asay v State of Florida, a narrow majority of the court declared that while all those sentenced were illegally sentenced, because granting new sentencing for all would be too much of a burden on the judicial system. That effectively meant that of the 396 men and women on death row, approximately 212 would be entitled to have their sentences vacated, while the other 184 would not. Once again, the politics of death prevailed.

Shortly after receiving this news and learning that Mark Asay’s stay of execution had been lifted, Deacon Roy emailed the prison to arrange a visit with Mark… and then laid down to rest, obviously overcome with grief and despair, and passed away in his sleep. The first victim of the FSC’s absurd ruling went to be with the Lord.

 Too often both the courts and the media focus exclusively on the condemned prisoner and don’t even recognize that all of us have family and friends who are deeply affected by the outcome of our cases. These are silent victims, as they’ve certainly committed no crimes. While family is born into this, there are those like Deacon Roy who volunteer their time and reach out to the condemned because that’s just what Jesus would have done.

And too often, their personal sacrifice goes unnoticed. Here in Florida there is a small number of regular Christian volunteers who generously give their own time to reach out and provide spiritual fellowship. For many of the condemned, this is the only visits they ever get — the only friendly face that they will know as they too face death.

So, today I just want to take a moment to ask all of you who read my blog to have a moment of silence in remembrance for Deacon Jason Roy and his family. If you go to church, maybe you can light a candle for him — and for the others who devote so much of their time to minister to the condemned — to Dale Recinella and his wife Susan, who for many years now have devoted their time to minister to the condemned and our families. Dale Recinella has written three excellent books on his experiences ministering to death row, available on his website: iwasinprison.org, and to the other Catholic volunteers, and to Bill and Ben of the Episcopalian Church, and Al Paquette of Al Paquette Ministries, and many more.

And beyond that small group, who give so much of themselves to come to minister to those on death row, there’s also the nonreligious group that are as equally committed to reaching out to the condemned with genuine compassion and in that  true spirit of humanity give us each the strength to maintain that humanity within ourselves.

Finally, there are our own families and friends who carry this cross with us and suffer the consequences of our (alleged) crimes, and it’s not an easy cross to bear, as with each day they suffer with us even though they’ve committed no crime. And they too deserve a moment of silence in tribute for all they so generously sacrifice to be there for us.

In this world we (the condemned) live and die in, mercy and compassion are seldom seen as the individual acts are too often drowned out by the thunder of those in society who only cast stones and call for our death under the pretense of administering justice.

Deacon Roy will be greatly missed by many, including his family and so many more whose lives he touched. And as a testament to the life he chose to live, we — the least of the least — are something better because his life touched our own.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Death Watch Journal (part 25)

Well, I was wrong. In my earlier posts over the past few months, I had all but said with resolute certainty that based upon the Florida Supreme Court’s October, 2016 decision in Hurst v Florida, and its subsequent decisions in which FSC repeatedly recognized the importance of the U.S. Supreme Court’s January 2016 decision declaring the way Florida has been imposing death sentences was unconstitutional, that the FSC would soon effectively throw out almost all Florida death sentences — the only exception being the relatively few who had waived a jury determination of sentence or had a clearly articulated 12 to 0 jury vote for death.

My mistake was a belief that at the end of the day the court would do the right thing — that based upon the tone of oral arguments held earlier this year a majority of the FSC would find that all illegally imposed death sentences had to be thrown out. It seemed like a classic no-brainer… if a person has been illegally sentenced to death then any subsequent execution would itself be illegal.

You’d think after all these years of repeatedly seeing our courts only too readily  speaking with a forked tongue, I would know better — that at the end of the day, when pursuing executions it’s not about the administration of justice which is inherently dependent upon principle of fundamental fairness — it’s really all about the insidious “politics of death” and in this twisted and perverse reality of administering “justice” politics will always trump justice.

On December 22, 2016 the Florida Supreme Court finally released the long awaited decisions that established the parameters in which the court will apply the Hurst v Florida decision to Florida cases.

In Mosley v Florida the FSC effectively ruled that 212 of the current 286 death-sentenced prisoners on Florida’s death row are entitled to retroactive application of Hurst  — but that another 174 are not. In Mosley the court explained at length that those sentenced to death (based on the date their direct appeal became final) after June 26, 2002 would be entitled to have their illegally imposed death sentences thrown out.

But in Mark Asay v Florida, issued at the same time, a sharply divided court explained why they will not apply Hurst to cases that were already denied on direct appeal prior to June, 2002.

What must be emphasized is that there’s no dispute that all of those sentenced to death in Florida since 1974 were illegally sentenced. That truth is no longer denied. But to justify this marginal decision to grant relief to 212 death-sentenced prisoners by fabricating this arbitrary line in the sand, while saying that they’ll just go ahead and kill the other 174 who were also illegally sentenced to death, the FSC basically said that it’s just too much trouble to grant relief to everyone, so they will limit relief to only those who were more recently sentenced to death.

In this published decision, the FSC also lifted the stay of execution on Mark Asay. He was previously scheduled for execution on March 17 — five weeks after I was scheduled (please read “Execution Day: Involuntary Witness to State-sanctioned Murder”) for February 11, 2016 — but we both received stays of execution until the court determined how they would apply Hurst.

Where does this now leave me? This is where it gets a little more complicated. In the court’s decision decision to deny relief to Mark Asay — and the other 173 — we had Chief Justice LaBarga, Justice Peggy Quince, Ricky Polston and Charles Canady vote to just go ahead and kill all those illegally sentence to death prior to 2002, while Justices Pariente and Perry strongly protested, arguing that to carry out the executions of those who were unquestionably sentenced to death in violation both the Florida and Federal constitutions would be fundamentally unfair and violate the constitutional prohibition against the infliction of cruel and unusual punishment. But Justice Lewis wrote a separate opinion in which he said that Mark Asay would not be entitled to retroactive relief under the limited circumstances of his case, but that in other cases in which the death-sentenced prisoner did previously raise the substance of this legal argument prior to 2002, they should be entitled to retroactive relief.

Although there were  four justices (a majority) ruling against pre-2002 retroactive application in the Asay case (LaBarga, Canady, Polston and Quince), in my own case Justice Peggy Quince is disqualified as she worked as part of the prosecution team. That means she cannot rule on my case — that also means that my case is split 3 to 3 vote, with half the court saying they want to kill me with the other half saying that because I was illegally sentenced to death I’m entitled to relief.

Problem is, the Florida constitution requires all legally binding decisions to be decided by a minimum of four votes — what they call a “quorum,” and so unless they grant relief on my other pending DNA/actual innocence claims, making the illegal death sentence issue moot, the most likely scenario is that after Justice Perry retires this week (December 31, 2016) the newly appointed Just Charles Lawson is sworn in within the next few weeks. That means my case will then be decided by the newly appointed justice — who has already vowed to vote consistent with the ultra conservative, pro death penalty justices Canady and Polston. See, “Scott picks Lawson for Florida High Court” by Brendan Farrington, the Lakeland Ledger, Saturday, December 17, 2016.

What this means is that when my case is finally decided after newly appointed Justice Lawson is formally sworn in, they will undoubtedly vote against me by a 4 to 2 vote, with LaBarga, Canady, Polston and Lawson voting to kill me while Justices Pariente and Lewis will vote that my death sentence was illegal so my sentence must be thrown out.

How long this will take, nobody really knows. It appears that before Justice Lawson can actually join the court in deciding my case, the entire case should be reheard — new arguments filed and then decided. But then again, they may not, and allow the case to be quickly decided based on the existing record.

When they do, it’s all but certain the Florida Supreme Court will then lift my stay of execution and Governor Scott will reschedule my execution soon after. For the fourth time I will face imminent execution. I do still have a substantial “actual innocence” appeal pending in the Federal courts, so I’m reasonably confident that even if rescheduled for execution and being moved back down to death watch, I would get another stay of execution. And the Florida Supreme Court’s decision to kill the 174 of us illegally sentenced to death would also be subject to U.S. Supreme Court review. If the USSC will accept review.