Written April 30, 2017
Although all death sentenced prisoners are kept in continuous solitary confinement as a means of segregating us from others under the pretense that it is for our own good - prison officials seem to think that if those under a sentence of death are allowed to physically be around others, they would be targeted for assault and even murder by other prisoners - this prolonged solitary existence does not necessarily completely isolate us from all others.
Granted, many choose to retreat into their very own world and not interact with others. Some deal with the isolation better than others. I've been here now for well over 3 decades and I've seen only too many who while once willing to interact with others, they gradually retreated into their own world and no longer want to talk to others around them.
But for most of us, some more than others, we do need that limited ability to interact and while physically segregated from those around us, we hold long conversations with others within our immediate proximity, talking about whatever might come up around these concrete walls that separate us. Some of those conversations would undoubtedly surprise many out there in the real world, as they are anything but what one might expect to hear given societies propensity to stereotype all condemned prisoners as something less than human and certainly not capable of moral reflection.
The past few weeks a few conversations about stories in the news even surprised me, but not because of the initial conversation itself, but rather what caught me by surprise was where the conversation went from there.
Often, almost daily, me and a few others within proximity of me will get up on our cell door, usually sitting on our footlocker, and pass a few hours just talking about whatever comes to mind.
This past week there were three issues that seemed to dominate these conversations. First, there was the widely reported story in the news about the elected state attorney in Orlando (Aramis Ayala) who publicly announced that she would no longer seek the death penalty in her circuit, which brought an immediate response from governor Scott - in an unprecedented move Governor Scott publicly denounced her and used his executive power to strip her office of jurisdiction over the 22 pending capital murder cases, reassigning these prosecutors to Brad King, a state attorney in Ocala who is widely known for his aggressive pursuit of the death penalty.
But then one of the guys engaged in this open conversation pointed out what the mainstream media didn't mention - Governor Scott never took action against former Jacksonville state attorney Angela Corey in the past when he was in office and Corey made it clear that she would seek the death penalty in all capital cases and categorically refused to allow any to plea out to life without parole to avoid death. During the first four years that Governor Scott was in office Angela Corey sent more people to death row than any prosecutor in the entire country. But Governor Scott never had a problem with that.
Of course, in 2016 the voters kicked Angela Corey out of office in large part because of her fanatical overzealous prosecution, and of those record number of people Angela Corey had condemned to death with very few exceptions every single death sentence imposed by Corey's office has been subsequently thrown out as "illegally imposed" - her overzealous prosecution of capital cases cost Florida taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.
Then the conversation shifted to the widely reported stories about how the state of Arkansas announced it's intention to put 8 condemned prisoners to death within the next few weeks for no apparent reason but that the drug used to carry out executions would soon expire and they could no longer obtain this drug legally.
Keep in mind that Arkansas hasn't executed anyone in 12 years - and now they want to expedite 8 executions within a matter of days, a rate of executions not even Texas ever attempted.
One of the guys too the position that the death penalty today is a lot like Ralph Reed's "moral majority" during the Reagan administration a generation ago...they never were the majority and they damned sure were not moral - rather, they simply had the biggest mouth and knew that the vast majority of voters are sheep, only too willing to blindly follow their "pied piper", even to their own destruction.
But the the open conversation took an unexpected turn as we confronted the third topic of the day - Florida's push to amend it's "stand your ground" law to place the burden of proof upon the prosecutor of the preliminary stage, making it much more difficult to prosecute those who kill another under the claim of being in imminent danger.
At this point I sat back and listened to the ongoing discussion as others debated the ramifications of this change of law. One would think that in a micro community of condemned prisoners, each convicted of "cold blooded murder" and implicitly labeled by society as "the worst of the worst", that there would be uniform support for any change of law that would make it more difficult to prosecute for murder...but you'd be wrong!
Without exception, every single person taking part in this open conversation agreed that this "stand your ground" law should NOT be changed. While each had their own reason (several pointed to the highly publicized case of when George Zimmerman gunned down Trayvon Martin, killing him for no apparent reason but that he was a black kid wearing a hoodie - and then Zimmerman got away with it by exploiting Florida's "stand your ground" law that allows anyone to murder another as long as they can claim that they had a subjective fear.
At his point I joined the conversation again. Anyone who has ever been around me knows that I place great weight in the importance of confronting the conscious decision to take any human life. If the republicans want to impose substantial limitations on abortions (which by the way I agree with) then why won't they support that same measure of conscious reflection when it comes to carrying out an execution?
Here's the thing...as I've often shared with others, nothing has haunted me more through all these years than the knowledge that I took another life. I have to believe that that measure of humanity within each of us - the inner essence that makes us human - becomes our greatest persecutor if and when we take another person's life, as I have dealt with that myself.
Those familiar with my case know that I have consistently claimed that I was compelled to act in self defence in the case that put me on death row. See, http://www.save-innocents.com/save-michael-lambrix.html
but even with that qualification, it has not spared me that haunting memories and remorse, and that never ending soul searching as I ask myself if I could have done anything different that night.
And so I once again expressed my opinion that taking a life should never be easy and often it's far too easy to find reason to kill, while refusing to even confront reasons not to kill. Why is that? What part of our inherent human nature refuses to evolve as it continues to be predisposed to finding reasons to take a life whenever possible.
Then I proposed something that I've advocated for years...if we insist on having the death penalty, then rather than carry out the execution in the manner it is today(by prison officials); what I propose is this..the prosecutor and the governor should be legally required to be the executioner. They should not be allowed to hide like cowards hundreds of miles away in their office, but rather they should be responsible for inflicting death - and not behind a distant curtain, but look the condemned in the eye as they carry out that execution. And both the jury and the judge that imposed that death sentence should be legally required to witness that execution.
What it comes down to is that we cannot make taking any human life too easy. When anyone makes the conscious decision to take any one's life, they must bear the responsibility of inflicting that death, as I know from my own experience that if they are forced to confront the reality of their own actions, it will change them. And others around me uniformly agreed. And maybe then - but only then - they will at least consider reasons not to kill.