Saturday, September 23, 2017
Death Watch Journal (20 days to scheduled execution)
As I write this it’s now Friday evening, September 15, 2017. About this time less than three weeks from now I will be strapped down to a gurney and by pre-planned and practiced ritual, I will be put to death as others watch, for a crime I did not commit.
Around the world many people are doing all they can to protest my scheduled execution and I cannot even reach out to them to let them know how much I appreciate all they’re doing. I hope somehow they know.
For my own part, I’m now on Day 10 of my hunger strike, and I’m feeling its effects. Although I drink plenty of water (and only water) I’m now down to 185 pounds. I was over 200 pound just a few weeks ago. The didn’t start taking my weight each day until I formally missed 21 meals, so the prison records reflect that I began at 202 pounds. But truth be told, I needed to lose some weight anyway. And other than some light-headedness and stomach cramps, I’m doing all right.
The warden came down earlier today and asked me why I’m doing this, and offered his observation that in his decades of experience, he’s never seen a hunger strike do any good. So I politely explained that it wasn’t about changing the outcome, but rather my only means of passively protesting the state’s intent to kill me for a crime that I didn’t commit. It was not an adversarial conversation but a polite exchange between me and the warden. Of course, I imposed my own unquenchable sense of humor upon him by inviting him to join me in my hunger strike, and he laughed as he declined.
But my biggest problem now is that I’m already almost halfway into this 34-day death warrant and I still haven’t been able to meet with my lawyers because of Hurricane Irma. My lawyers are in Fort Lauderdale and were forced to evacuate due to projected landfall in their area. When Irma hit Florida and made its way up to this area, it knocked out the prison’s phone system so that no phone calls could come through. And it caused “historical flooding” in the entire Northeast Florida area, making the roads to the prison impassible. Many employees couldn’t even make it to work, forcing the prison to cancel all social visits this weekend.
My lawyers requested that the execution be postponed due to the statewide emergency, but not surprisingly, Governor Scott quickly refused to even consider it. His only objective is to kill as many of us as he can as he campaigns for the 2018 U.S. Senate race, so I’m sure that he considers my lawyers’ inability to represent me as my execution draws closer as an advantage to him.
But as I’ve written before, at least I already had four separate appeals pending in various courts before my execution was rescheduled. With any luck, the U.S. Supreme Court will take an even closer look at the two appeals arguing my actual innocence that are before it now that I have an imminent execution date.
If the courts do the right thing and review my case rather than rubber-stamp it denied, then there’s a really good chance that I could finally have the readily available evidence substantiating my innocence claim (including DNA evidence) heard and then be exonerated and released, as others have before me.
I try to focus on that positive — the truth is that if the rescheduling of my execution will compel the courts to now take a closer look at my case, and finally do the right thing, then maybe the best thing that has happened to me is that Governor Scott tried to kill me, and it could lead to my exoneration and release rather than my death.
And I wouldn’t be the first one in Florida who only won release after facing down a date with death. By far, Florida leads the country in the number of men and women wrongfully convicted and condemned to death only to be judicially exonerated and released after having a death warrant signed and coming close to execution.
I guess sometimes you got to dance with the devil to get through hell… that’s just the nature of the beast. But this time feels different, like a dark and ominous cloud hangs over me that I just can’t shake. Maybe it’s the reality of knowing that nobody has survived a death warrant under Governor Scott. Even if you do get a stay of execution, like a psychopath he continues to methodically stalk you and reschedules the execution until you’re dead, all the while categorically unwilling to even consider substantiated claims of innocence.
Or maybe it’s because for the first time I’m down here alone, nobody but the single hard who sits mostly at his desk some distance away on the other side of the locked gate, giving me an overwhelming feeling of isolation. He will make his round each 30 minutes, but for the most part I have nobody to talk to to relieve the anxiety and stress.
And nobody’s heard from my daughter yet. She lives in the part of Florida that was hit with some of the worst flooding and was forced to evacuate to an emergency shelter. But she is mentally disabled and nobody has heard from her since the hurricane passed. Hopefully, I’ll hear something soon.
And it’s the letters or cards that I haven’t received. There’s a few people that I’m hoping to hear from that haven’t yet written. Don’t get me wrong, I truly am so incredibly blessed by having a small group of friends who have stood by me through the years, and my family, too. And they are all giving so much of themselves to help me through this. But it’s those that I was hoping to hear from that apparently haven’t written that kind of brings me down as I need to know that they are all right.
I do try to focus on the positive and maintain the hope. But it’s become hard… it’s been a really hard year altogether, and I guess I was already kind of down. Years ago, I wrote an essay about the resilience of not being knocked down so hard that I can’t get back up and declared myself a “weeble.” (“When Weebles Wobble.”)
But the truth of the matter is that more and more I really don’t want to get back up. I’m tired. It’s been a long journey and I have no confidence in the courts. I do have hope, but not confidence and there is a big difference. If it wasn’t for the people in my life who encourage me even at their own sacrifice, I probably would even welcome this scheduled execution.
And that’s just the thing — although the administration of “justice” always bow down before the alter of the politics of death, love will always prevail. And I am loved. And at that thought, I am now smiling.