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.


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