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

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Death Watch Journal (part 31)

 As I write this, it is Saturday March 25, 2017 and it has been now 480 days since Florida governor Rick Scott decided that he would put me to death despite readily available evidence substantiating my consistently plead claim of innocence and I was to die on February 11, 2016. It has now been 397 days since that scheduled date with death.

When the death watch supervisor came to tell me that I would be moved off "death watch" and back to the regular death row housing area on February 9, 2016 I was having a visit with my family and close friend Jan, and we all knew at the time that it was supposed to have been one of my last visits. Because I was still on "death watch", the visits were restricted to non-contact, meaning I was separated from them by a glass window.

It was also my older sister Debbie's birthday..she turned 60 and we all sang her Happy Birthday - and I sang extra hard to make sure they could hear me through that way too small hole in the glass window, and when I was told that I'd be moved off death watch, Debbie quickly claimed that news as the best birthday present ever.

Flash forward to today. I just had another great visit with my sisters and this time it was in an open "visiting park" where we all sat around a steel table and could hold hands and walk around. When the visit started, I got a big hug from each - and noticed that they brought some small white frosted cakes that they purchased in the main visiting park downstairs before coming up to the death row visiting park.

No sooner did I get that big hug from each of them and we sat down at our assigned table, they began ripping open the plastic packaging on the cakes and laid them neatly on napkins in front of each of us - and then in obvious preplanned and practised unison, they began to merrily sing Happy Birthday, and I smiled - and stopped them short on that first chorus: "Whoa, what the hell are y'all doing", and for a moment they looked puzzled, then I continued "you know you can't sing in the visiting park unless you stand up and dance", and they all smiled, and one of my sisters quickly stood up (I won't say which one - she'd be embarrassed!) and started to dance as all three continued to sing, and I couldn't help but smile the biggest smile I could as I thanked them and we ate our cake.


It's moment like those that make it all bearable. I'm lucky in that even after all these years. I do still get visits from family as very few get any visits at all. This particular day there were only two others in the visiting park, both of them having visits with their girlfriends, and they both left early so at the end of the day we had the visiting park to ourselves, and it was a great visit, although I admit that it might have been a little better if only I had a girlfriend as then I could have gotten a birthday kiss too...but who would put up with an old dog like me?

This "birthday" visit was especially great as I needed it. As a few of my past posts reflect, I've been kind of "down" lately as in the past few months we went from thinking that the courts would rule favourably and this nightmare would soon end, to having both the state and federal courts deny my appeals and now I'm looking at having my execution rescheduled within the near future. Obviously, the thought of imminent death weighs heavily on me, but it's even harder on my family and so it was especially nice to see them laughing and enjoying the moment.

Still, that cloud hung above us and I did all I could to not talk about what may very well soon come. But it wasn't something that we could avoid and the conversation swung around to what I thought would happen in the coming weeks.

I explained to them that even though the Florida Supreme Court denied my long pending appeals on march 9, that decision is technically not final until my lawyers file the "motion for rehearing" on march 31, then the Court reviews that and decides whether they will allow their decision to stand "as is", or reconsider it, and either actually grant relief, or at least rewrite that March 9 decision.

I shared with them my hopes that the Florida Supreme Court will recognize that it was both factually and legally wrong and then grant me the relief I'm legally entitled. For example, what I believe was our strongest issue was the request for DNA testing of the evidence to substantiate my consistently plead claim of innocence. As they do in all cases, the state opposed DNA testing and in denying my request the court adopted as "fact" that DNA testing was previously conducted when it clearly was not. And that was a significant error, so rehearing should be granted.

More importantly, as a matter of law I was entitled to have this evidence tested for DNA if there's any reason to believe that it will support my claim of innocence - which we did establish how it will, so legally the court was wrong in denying the request for DNA testing and hopefully the court will have the integrity to correct it's own mistake.

Of course, the lawyers are far more interested in arguing the issue of why - the death sentences imposed on me are illegal, and I have no problem with that - I do think it's a really strong legal issue, but I'm not too excited about merely having my sentences reduced to life as I've spent the past 34 years trying to prove my innocence and get my freedom. The truth is that if I wanted a "life" sentence, I would have gotten that many times through the years, but I've repeatedly turned it down as here in Florida it's all but impossible to get parole and so if I'm going to die in prison. I'm at least going to go down fighting.

And it's the same with the recent denial of my federal "actual innocence" appeal - although that was a hard blow and really took the wind out of me. But after I got over that initial blow, I realized that the decision has substantial flaws in it and that I have a really good chance of having that reversed - and the readily available evidence substantiating my innocence fully heard.

So, although we began the visit with that cloud of uncertainty hanging over us, there's still good reason for hope and if the courts do the right thing and allow the evidence to be reviewed, I could still be celebrating my next birthday out there in the real world, a free man.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Death Watch Journal (part 30)

(Written March 20, 2017)

Here's the question that I'm struggling with as I try to decide just what to write about  - not that I necessarily must write about anything. I'm pretty sure that if I were to suggest that I not write anything anymore, that I simply shut up already, some would agree and even applaud my long awaited silence. But I try to write what I can as it probably won't be long now before I'm silenced as it's fairly certain that now that the Florida Supreme Court has ordered my previously granted "stay of execution" lifted, my execution will probably be rescheduled in the relatively near future - and once I'm dead, I promise I won't write anything anymore.

But the question is, just what should I write about as I know only too well that each blog I write now could be my last. I understand that some who read what I write would prefer that I stick to talking about what goes on in here, that whole "life on death row" thing. And I'd gladly do that if only there was something to write about. The reality is that every day here pretty much is the same and I could easily write a generic entry detailing my so called "life" today, and simply re post it every day after without any feat that it would be substantially altered.

Lately I've written a lot about the recent legal developments that effect the Florida death row population in general, and me specifically. But I see this as a necessity as when I write about whatever the courts have decided in recent weeks, it does affect all of us here very much - and as in my last blog post, the recent ruling in my own case obviously affects me.

But it is more than that. There's a saying that "no man is an island" and that's true. These recent court decisions don't just affect me and others here on death row - the affect our families and friends, as well as the victim's families and friends. What goes on in the legal spectrum is not merely about some narcissistic need to scream from the mountaintops all about me. Rather, I'm that stone being thrown down into a pond, and the ripples spreading outward touch many others.                                                             

Shortly after I received the recent news that the Florida Supreme Court denied my appeal, the first thing I asked my lawyers was if they could contact my family - I didn't want them to find out on the news, as I know only too well that the court's denial would be harder on them than on me as I have no confidence in our legal system, but they still believe that the courts will ultimately do the right thing.

As I wrote in January when the Florida Supreme Court issued it's decision in Mark Asay v State, just before Christmas, establishing the rule that while all of Florida death row prisoners were now unquestionably illegally sentenced to death, the court would only throw out the death sentences of those sentenced after June 24, 2002, meaning that Asay and many others would not get relief.

It's easy to think that when I write about the legal developments, it's merely trivial news, but in truth these legal developments are a big part of this whole death row "experience". Those familiar with my posts over the past year know that after the Florida Supreme Court's ruling in Hurst v State, 147 So.3d.435 (Fla.2014) in October, 2016, all of us here on death row allowed ourselves to believe that our death sentences would be vacated and our family and friends shared that hope too - only to have the court pull the rug out from under us a few months later in that Asay v State case by declaring that only half of us would get relief, and the deciding factor had nothing to do with the circumstances of out alleged crime, but rather that the court decided that it simply would be too bothersome to grant all death row inmates a new sentencing so the court decided that they would cut relief off at June, 2002...those on the high side would be spared, those on the low side would die.


When that ruling came I had a girlfriend and got my head out of this hell by writing her regularly. We exchanged long letters and each day I found my escape by writing her and every evening I anxiously awaited her next letter. But not long after the news came that the court would not grand relief in older cases like mine, she abruptly disappeared. I only say this because it's a big part of the death row experience...I'm not upset about that abrupt and unexpected departure. I cannot hold it against her. The truth is that I know it happens often and it wasn't the first time it happened to me.

If you're reading what I'm writing then there's a good chance that you know someone on death row and so you know that the condemned prisoner doesn't go through all this alone. Those who care about us are affected even more than we are by this morbid roller coaster we're all on together. But all too often those we so desperately cling to for support reach that point where they just can't deal with it anymore and they don't know what to say and so they just disappear. And the truth is, each time it happens it cuts deep and hurts like nothing else. At first you want to believe that something came up that is preventing them from writing, so you keep writing, desperate to hear back from them. But each time they pass out the mail and no mail comes, it cuts just a bit deeper and eventually you must accept they're gone, and you blame yourself even when they didn't bother to say goodbye or give you any reason why - and I don't need to ask, as I already know why.

So, when I write about the court's most recent rulings and the possibility of facing another execution date in the near future, I'm not writing only about myself, but about all those affected by that reality.

Here's something about me few people know...when I fist came to death row in 1984, for all practical purposes I was functionally illiterate. Despite the many obstacles that stood in the way, I taught myself how to write and, out of necessity, learned the law and not merely read books, but consumed knowledge like it was manna from heaven. I'm not who I once was and I'd like to think that I've grown and become someone better. But for all my pursuits and self accomplishments, the one thing I never yet learned, but would give anything to know, is how to spare those I love so dearly the pain of sharing this journey with me.