Sometimes I wonder whether this thing called "hope" is my greatest adversary, existing only to torment me, to break me...could hope be my nemesis, capable of a conscious form of malevolence not unlike the fictional sirens depicted in Homer's "Odyssey", their seductive charm luring the passing sailors to their death, and so too does this entity of hope haunt me on countless sleepless nights as I grasp desperately upon those fragile strings of hope as I look down into that darkness of the abyss beneath me.
I remember the one scene in the movie "Shawshank Redemption", where the old and experienced convict (Morgan Freeman) sat in the prison chow hall, offering his sage advice to the new arrivals...telling them to forget about hope of freedom, as it will drive you crazy - maybe he was right.
As I write this today, it is March 2, 2017, and today marks exactly 34 years since I was arrested on these capital charges that subsequently led to me being convicted and condemned to death for a crime I did not commit.
It's been a long and hard journey and sometimes I wonder how I have managed to maintain my sanity - and again, sometimes I wonder whether I really have as perhaps I'm the only one who cannot see that I actually went nuts years ago.
Last year I yet again counted down the days to my own scheduled execution, only to receive a 'temporary stay of execution' and was removed from my "death watch cell" two days before I was to die. It wasn't the first time that I faced relatively imminent execution and I know the State of Florida will continue to use all available resources at their disposal to have me executed yet.
For most of the past year I had reason to hope that the January 2016 decision by the US Supreme Court in Hurst v Florida, 136 S.Ct. 616 (2016) (which declared that the manner in which Florida imposes a sentence of death - allowing a judge rather than the jury make the ultimate decision on death, violated long standing fundamental constitutional rights that rendered such death sentences illegal) would lead to having my own death sentences thrown out. In fact, this is the issue that the Florida Supreme Court ordered a stay of execution on.
But on December 22, 201 - just before Christmas - the Florida Supreme Court crushed that hope when it issued it's ruling in Mark Asay v State of Florida recognizing that under Hurst v Florida there was no question Florida death sentences were imposed illegally and finding that all those sentenced to death after 2002 would be entitled to have their illegally imposed death sentences vacated - but that because it would be too much of a burden on the State to correct all these illegally imposed sentences, they would not throw out the death sentences imposed prior to 2002. My death sentence was imposed in 1984 and was affirmed on direct appeal in 1986, which meant that under Asay v State, I would not be entitled to relief under Hurst v Florida. Just that quickly, my hopes were crushed.
Although the Florida Supreme Court still has not actually issued any ruling in my own case yet, I had to accept that when they did, they would deny my appeal consistent with Asay v State, as they have numerous other similar pre-2002 capital cases in the past few months.
With my hope of being granted relief crushed, I began to mentally prepare myself for what I was sure would soon follow...the denial of relief in my case and having my previously stayed execution rescheduled.
Since that decision in Asay v State that seemingly sealed my fate, I spent the last two months letting my family and friends know that they should expect the court to soon deny my appeal, and that I would then be recheduled for execution again - and since the state and federal courts have consistently refused to even look at the readily available evidence substantiating my consistently plead claim of innocence, they should be prepared for that rescheduled execution carried out.
Clearly, I felt that there was no reason to yet again hope for any chance of proving my innocence, and mentally I prepared myself to die, and I was not alone as when I shared this news with others, while most of those closest to me stood by me that much more, a few apparently decided that they didn't want to stick around just to watch me die and I haven't heard from them since - and who could blame them?
Little by little I began going through my personal property, weeding out what I would throw away so that when I was put to death it wouldn't be a burden on my family...I was prepared to die, again.
Then out of the blue come the phone call from my lawyers the other day, letting me know that on February 22, 2017 the US Supreme Court issued it's decision in the Texas capital case of Duane Buck v Davis, in which the court addressed the issue of whether a prisoner can seek and be granted relief on a previously denied federal appeal based upon ineffectiveness of legal counsel in that earlier appeal, by employing a procedural motion to reopen that earlier case under Federal Rule of Procedure 60 (b), and the court agreed that equitable relief under extraordinary circumstances to prevent manifest injustice would be pursued and granted under Rule 60 (b).
Suddenly hope again sprung forth - the Supreme Courts unequivocal recognition that relief from an unjust conviction or death sentence could be granted by way of Rule 60 (b) meant that my own long pending Federal appeal arguing exactly that point would now have to be granted, opening the procedural door to finally receiving a full review of all the evidence substantiating my innocence. And if allowed to be heard, I would finally be exonerated, and win my fight for my freedom.
For the next few days I felt giddy - more than just happy, I was elated, especially when I was able to share this good news with my family, as they too hung desperately to every string of hope.
But as is the nature of hope, after that initial elation ran it's course, I found myself slowly sinking back into the depths of hopelessness and despair, reminding myself that in these past 34 years again and again I allowed myself to become convinced that truth and justice would prevail, only to have that hope crushed.
This Buck v Davis case should compel the federal courts to finally address the evidence substantiating my innocence and by every right and reason I should be elated - that previously unyielding door has been cracked open, But if I've learned nothing else these past decade after decade, it is that you cannot count on our courts to do the right thing. And for that reason I will not throw myself upon the rocks as that seductive siren call of renewed hope tries yet again to suck me in.