As summer begins there are a lot of commercials on the TV promoting the biggest and scariest roller coasters at the tourist traps spread out across Florida. Each one claims to bring the willing rider that much closer to a death defying trip - but if someone really wants to take a trip on Florida's ultimate roller coaster, they should spend some time on death row.
For over 18 months now I've remained under an active death warrant, not knowing if I will live or die, and as that constant uncertainty weighs heavy I find myself (especially lately) wishing they'd just come on and get it over with as that weight of uncertainty itself is almost a a fate worse than death, especially when other forms of drama drag me down even further.
As I wrote recently, I had expected that I'd already be rescheduled for execution after the Florida Supreme Court denied my appeal recently, and formally lifted my stay of execution. There didn't appear to be any reason for the governor not to reschedule both me and Mark Asay now that the Supreme Court rejected review of the state's challenge to Florida's new death penalty laws on May 22, 2017. I spent that week going through my personal property, throwing out the mountain of paperwork that always seems to accumulate - old letters, articles I collected and legal material that has no real value anymore.
I prepared my family and friends for what I thought was sure to come - that each visit might be the last visit, and that anytime I could be back down on "death watch", counting down the the last days. But this week I received news that in all probability the governor will not reschedule my execution anytime soon as the state courts are still struggling with whether the Florida Supreme Court's unprecedented declaration in Mark Asay v State of Florida - that those illegally sentenced to death prior to June 2002 will not be granted relief - is a legal decision.
This is what is now commonly being referred to as the "partial retroactive" rule. In context of my own case, there's no question that I was illegally sentenced to death as the jury vote was not unanimous, but my death sentences became final prior to 2002 and so by narrow majority the Florida Supreme Court ruled that I was not entitled to relief and the state could go ahead and kill me.
But it "aint over 'till it's over" and now that ruling itself is being challenged in at least 20 cases, including my own.Now it appears that the governor will not reschedule executions until this issue has been resolved by the courts. The front case now addressing this issue is not my case, but that of James Hitchcock, who has been on Florida's death row for about 40 years, but has had his illegally imposed death sentence thrown out 3 times over the past 4 decades, the last time was prior to 2002, so he too was denied relief under Hurst.
With Hitchcock's case now leading the growing pack of other cases, this issue should now keep all executions on hold for a while. Ultimately, there's a good chance that the earlier decision, refusing to grant relief in pre-2002 cases will be reversed, resulting in many more death sentences (including my own) thrown out as being illegally imposed.
Bottom line, it now appears that I will not face yet another execution date anytime soon. I'm not excited about the prospect of having my death sentence reduced to life in prison as I've already spent 34 years in prison for a crime I did not commit and at 57 years old, doing time is becoming harder and harder. Pope Francis said it right last years when he said that a life sentence is in fact a slow death sentence.
What keeps me going are my other appeals that continue to try to compel the courts to allow full review of my substantiated claim of innocence. But if the courts deny my claims then I guess it will come down to the question of whether my will be thrown out and I end up with life in prison..