December 19, 2006

Christmas In A Cage – Death Row Holiday

Growing up in a large family Christmas was always celebrated in the traditional Norman Rockwell style with many brothers and sisters both older and younger than myself, the excitement and anticipation of Christmas began immediately after Thanksgiving, when dear old dad would pull out all the holiday lights from the cardboard boxes concealed in the attic and spread them out across the floor as us kids would compete with each other to find any burnt out bulbs that needed replacing. Once that task was completed, it would be an honor to hold the long strands of lights as dad balanced precariously on a ladder nailing them along the roof overhangs, then as if by magic seemingly always just at the right moment as darkness began we would all gather to watch as they came to life. In that moment of unified silence the Spirit of Christmas became one with us.

Then would come the tree. Never but never an artificial tree, not in our house. Even in the years when there would barely be enough money for food, there was always a large freshly cut evergreen tree, with the scent of pine filling the room. Boxes of beautiful antique ornaments handed down through the generations would be carefully unwrapped and meticulously placed in just the right spot with rows of tiny flashing multicolored lights accented by a million strands of silver and gold tinsel, almost each strand carefully dropped over the boughs by us kids leaving the lower part of the tree with significantly more than the harder to reach upper branches, but no body even complained.

This majestic Christmas tree would always be up no later than the first week of December and then brightly wrapped boxes would begin to appear beneath the tree. That was the Christmas tease that has tormented children through the ages… What could possibly be in these beautiful boxes? Of course, children being children, we would all find a way to ever so very carefully steal a peek in that one of two particular box with our name only to almost without exception discover that the box contained nothing more than clothes. Silly kids – we already knew that only Santa Claus brought the good stuff and that wouldn’t happen until Christmas Eve.

Each Christmas Eve all of us kids would be herded off to bed early and given a stern warning that soon Santa Claus would be near and he’d know for sure if we weren’t sleeping. Of course we couldn’t sleep but each of us in our own way did our very best to pretend to as we each fantasized about what Santa might leave us. The hours would pass slowly – very, very slowly – until the early morning hours when dad would open the bedroom doors, releasing us from our rooms with the excited announcement that Santa had come and we would all rush into the living room and stand in awe at the piles and piles of presents that had been left beneath the tree.

With so many kids all anxious to rip open these gifts, controlling the chaos was the first priority. With the barely contained excitement of a child himself, dad would reign over the distribution of the presents, picking one box at a time and loudly calling off the name of each. In that large circle all our eyes would be gleaming in silent anticipation as we each awaited our name to be called. Then quickly pouncing forward when it was, to claim our gift and retreat behind the lines to rip it open. Soon enough the living room would be overcome with haphazardly discarded boxes and wrappings but nobody seems to really notice.

No matter what each of us received in that moment of time it became our entire world. Of course there would be the obligatory clothes, which were inevitably piled neatly to the side, to be collected later. Although we seldom got the toys we really wanted – apparently Santa Claus had a cash flow problem and couldn’t afford the most popular toys – what we got quickly made us forget about what we thought we wanted and the joy of receiving those gifts overcame any disappointment.

Looking back, I can’t recall even being disappointed at not receiving what I thought I wanted, as what I got always seemed to be even better. That’s why I knew even long after other kids my age gave up that Santa had to be real; dad couldn’t possibly afford all those wonderful presents. Only too many years later did I realize how much he would willingly sacrifice each year to make Christmas special, working long hours at the steel plant and even pawning off his few prized possession as nothing was ever allowed to break the sanctity of Christmas.

Soon after all the gifts were unwrapped we would be forced to set them aside and retreat back into our rooms to dress in our Sunday best then pile in the station wagon for a drive to the Christmas service. Even the thought of resisting this ritual seemed silly – marching into church as a family each Christmas morning was as much a part of Christmas as Christmas itself even of we didn’t fully understand the spiritual implications of Christmas at that time. But even as the priest administered the solemn sermon, already our thoughts were on the fest that would soon follow.

Within a few hours we were home again. The Christmas Spirit filled the house with a joyous mood as Christmas carols played endlessly on the record player and our attention turned from the gifts we already received to plots of pilfering the table piled high with cakes and candies laid out for guests that might drop by. With military precision us kids would band together and recon the living room then slowly sneak our way towards that table and careful not to let our presence be known, our little heads would pop up quickly as our hands reached for that morsel of sweet goodness and then a quick retreat would be made.

As all the dishes of cookies, candies, and cakes would slowly disappear the smell of Christmas dinner would fill the house. Without exception Christmas dinner would be provided with abundance in the traditional style with all the trimmings and the family would gather around the expanded table and eat. This was the one meal when no matter how dysfunctional the family was the rest if the year, we were truly family for that one meal. But then it would too soon be over and that one special day became only a memory.

These memories continue to be my Christmas and have become my ritual. Merle Haggard once sung a song about a man turning 21 in prison doing life without parole. My own ballad would not be that much different. I’ve never had another Christmas since leaving home. At 46 years old, this is now my twenty-sixth Christmas in a cage; the past 23 Christmas’ have been spent condemned to death in a cage on death row.

It is the Christmas of the past that remains my Christmas of the present. Being condemned to death I am not allowed to celebrate Christmas in any traditional sense. In the early years I would anxiously await the Christmas cards from family and friends, then hang each upon my cell wall and share the Spirit of Christmas with the few who chose to remember me. But as the years slowly passed the cards became fewer and fewer, even most of my brothers and sisters have now long forgotten me and given me up as dead. Although I remain blessed by a few special friends who make a point of sharing their Christmas Spirit with me, the friends too slowly drift away and become fewer and fewer.

Many years ago when I first came to death row we were allowed to celebrate Christmas and it was something we looked forward to. Each December we would be allowed to receive two packages from the outside world containing various necessities such as winter clothes, a pair of shoes, cosmetics and toiletries, and even a nice watch or ring. Then the Christmas meal would be traditional style, real turkey with all the trimmings and various pieces of cakes and pies. But then conservative politicians found out about the “special treatment” given to prisoners at holidays and made political careers by campaigning against these things. One by one every holiday privilege was eliminated and out of vindictive malice and spite the Spirit of Christmas was banned from prisons.

Where I once proudly displayed the few cards I’d receive on my otherwise barren grayish beige wall, I am now prohibited from doing so. Up until a few years ago I had a photo of a beautiful Christmas tree I’d tape to my back wall above my sink until one Christmas Eve a guard made an issue of it. I was ordered to remove it, but refused. A few hours later as I was taking a shower that guard went into my cell and removed that picture – ripping it into small pieces then throwing it into my toilet. That one small semblance of Christmas I so cherished was lost forever as that Spirit of Christmas was overcome by malice and spite.

Now each Christmas becomes more depressing as I become even more isolated from that world outside. Too often my thoughts now turn to my own kids and grandkids and wishing I could spend just one Christmas with them. All my own children are now grown, but I can only imagine the joy on my grandson’s face as he anxiously rips open the brightly wrapped box containing the small gift a friend so generously sent in my name.

Then I think of all the others here and in prisons across the country who like me can only think of Christmas’ past, as the Christmas of both present and future no longer even hold the hope of what the true Spirit of Christmas is about. I remain blessed by the few cards I will receive, but know that many others around me won’t get a card at all. There will be no Christmas sweets and treats. There will only be the same cold, barren walls and the sound of silence as each of us retreat into our own dreams of what once was and most likely will never be again.

So, this Christmas I ask you to remember what the true Spirit of Christmas really is as we gather to celebrate the birth of a men condemned to death for our sins, that through His condemnation each of us equally were given the gift of Hope. If those of us who claim to be Christian cannot actually be Christians on Christmas, then when can we be?

What would Jesus do of He were to celebrate Christmas today? I’d like to think that He would reach out to the lowest of the low and share hope with those condemned to death; that in the true Spirit of Christmas, in the true Spirit of Christ. Especially those condemned would not be forgotten.

To both friend and stranger equally the same, I say… Merry Christmas!!!

December 16, 2006

Blessings of Liberty In The Land of The Free

In America, land of the free, we take certain liberties for granted. Our Constitution itself explicitly declares that, “we, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice and insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and ensure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish the Constitution for the United States of America.

Those are some pretty strong words coming from a band of revolutionary insurgents, our Constitutional forefathers. But have you ever thought about what the same group of men (sorry, women had no rights back then – that’s why they specifically said every man is created equal, not women!) might write today if they had to do it all over again? What might they write if they lived in our contemporary society?

Historically speaking, this band of brethren were especially concerned with protecting the individual person against the power of government, and to “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”

Could they have envisioned that this “Land of Liberty” would one day evolve into a country that incarcerates more of its citizens in jails and prisons than any other country in the world? Recent studies released by the U.S. Department of Justice (Now, that’s an oxymoron – run by morons!) show that right now there are over two million men and women incarcerated today – and well over seven million citizens presently under judicially imposed restraint. That means that almost one of every 40 people in this country live under actual judicial restraint. (Read, ”Death Row Tea Party”)

Our constitutional forefathers knew firsthand what oppression by an unfair government was. Clearly, their intent was to protect people from the excessive use of power of government. So, what would these fine men say today upon realizing that in recent years our own Supreme Court has declared that prosecutors are legally immune from accountability even if they deliberately convict and condemn an innocent man with fabricated evidence? (Read, Prosecutorial Misconduct: Does Immunity Invite Injustice?)

Think about this for a minute – here in America where “truth and justice” supposedly serve as the very foundation of our judicial system, a prosecutor is legally immune from civil accountability even if he is caught red-handed fabricating evidence and coercing false testimony with deliberate intent to send an innocent man to death row. As if that itself is not outrageous enough, this same Supreme Court then declared in Herrara v. Collins, 506 U.S. 390 (1993) that the Constitution does not prohibit the execution of an innocent person…it is constitutionally permissible to allow a state to put an innocent man to death, as long as he was given a “fair trial.”

Of course, if a person is convicted and condemned to death, there is a presumption that legal representation will be provided, right? Well, actually that’s wrong. The Supreme Court has also declared that those sentenced to death are not entitled to legal counsel. See, Murray v. Giarratano, 492 U.S. 1 (1989).

Most states have subsequently recognized that they cannot execute a person unless they are technically represented by a lawyer, so the states have taken it upon themselves to establish state funded quasi public defender offices to represent the condemned. But these state funded and thus state controlled offices more often provide nothing but the pretense) of representation and serve only the purpose of actually facilitating the execution. (Read, ”Legal Representation In Capital Cases – Privilege or Pretense?”)

Our esteemed Constitutional forefathers also placed great value on the concept of fundamental fairness in dealing with government and thus incorporated into The Bill of Rights the right to “due process,” which traditionally prohibits the government from engaging in unfair practices – sounds like a good things to me.

But then reality comes along and kicks our butt again. Under contemporary Constitutional law “due process” is defined by what process is due under definition and application of current statutory provisions.

What this means is that politicians who campaign for office by promising to push for more executions can pass current laws that substantially limit the right to review of a conviction. Take for example the “great” (puke!) State of Texas, which by far executes more men and women than any other government in the free world. Because of politically inspired and manufactured procedural rules governing appellate review of a capital conviction and sentence of death, appeals based upon newly discovered evidence – even if conclusively establishing a persons factual innocence – cannot be raised any later than 30-days after the conviction becomes final.

Let me put this in perspective – assume for a moment that you have been wrongfully convicted and condemned to death for a crime you know you are innocent of, but because of the incompetence of your state provided lawyer you couldn’t prove it. They now schedule your execution date. Suddenly God himself and a counsel of twelve archangels miraculously appear before the Texas Courts and declare unequivocally that you are innocent.

Sorry Bubba – in Texas not even the sworn “eyewitness” testimony of God himself can stop that execution, as under present Texas law (as well as many other states) politicians have created statutory laws stripping the courts of jurisdiction to even hear new evidence once the conviction becomes “final” after initial appeal.

I often smile at the unintended ignorance of people only vaguely familiar with our legal system – people who like Mary Poppins live in a fairytale world and remain conveniently clueless at how inherently corrupt our judicial system has become. Too many times I have heard (or read) these sheep say things that prove their ignorance. Most of the time they even mean well – they just don’t know any better.

For almost 24 years now I have suffered under an injustice few people can even begin to imagine. In early 1983 I was indicted and subsequently tried and convicted and condemned to death for a double homicide I know I am innocent of, a capital case of alleged premeditated murder that I know was deliberately fabricated by a single key witness and the local state attorney’s office. (Read, Southern Injustice: Condemning An Innocent Man)

Several years ago evidence came to light supporting my long pled claim that this entire case – the entire theory of events – was deliberately fabricated with the intent to have me wrongfully convicted. By the states own admission, there were no eyewitnesses, no physical or forensic evidence, and no confession. The entire wholly circumstantial case was based upon my then ex girlfriends claim that I told her I killed these two people by premeditated intent; her testimony was corroborated by her own cousin’s girlfriend, Deborah Hanzel, and the state attorney’s lead investigator, Robert Daniels.

In 1998 Hanzel admitted her testimony was false. Subsequently, in a letter to the judge (Circuit Court Judge R. Thomas Corbin) she explained at length how both key witness Frances Smith-Ottinger and the state attorney’s lead investigator, Robert Daniels, has coerced her to provide that false testimony. (See, ”Affidavit of Deborah Hanzel”)

When a hearing was held on this new evidence it was revealed that in fact, at the time the case was brought, this key witness (Smith-Ottinger) and the local state attorney’s lead investigator, Robert Daniels, were actually having a secret personal relationship “of a sexual nature,” which of course they never previous disclosed.

To put this into perspective, this case was out of one of the smallest rural farming communities in the south. (Glades County, Florida) The office that prosecuted this case now has the highest rate of wrongful convictions of any state attorney’s office in the entire country. (Twentieth Judicial Circuit of Florida) So far, at least five men have been wrongfully convicted and condemned to death by this office only to subsequently be exonerated and released from death row. ( Delbert Tibbs, James Richardson, Bradley Scott, John Landry, and John Ballard)

After the evidence was revealed finally substantiated my long pled claim that the evidence used to convict and condemn me was deliberately fabricated – just as I always said it was, (of course, I didn’t know my ex grilfriend was sleeping with the states lead investigator the very person who initiated these charges against me and personally supervised the development (fabrication?) of the circumstantial evidence used to convict me!), then suddenly the local circuit court and the state put the brakes on and have methodically obstructed progress of my case. ( Read, Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied.)

I now remain on Florida’s death row despite the fact that the evidence has been readily available for years to prove my innocence. One of the millions incarcerated here in the “land of the free,” one of the many innocent victims of a legal system that has become so inherently corrupted by lynch mob politicians and politically corrupt judges.

Thus, during this holiday season I will sit here in my cage condemned to death for a crime I am innocent of and reflect upon these “Blessings of Liberty” here in the “land of the free.” And I will ask you to say a silent prayer for the mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, wives and husbands and children of the millions of imprisoned souls who cannot be home with their loved ones and especially for those many who remain unjustly imprisoned by a system so inherently corrupt and cannot be with their loved ones.

Perhaps now I will write Santa Claus a letter asking him to send me some justice, but then again, I have no chimney so I guess I’m out of luck.


December 13, 2006

~ Angel Nieves Diaz' Execution Scheduled Tonight 6 pm~

Everyone has recanted. Fingerprints were not clear. There were no eyewitnesses and even the shooter says Diaz is an innocent man, but the Florida Killing machine chugs on anyway!!!!!

"Putting someone to death on the word of a jailhouse snitch is un-American," said Greenburg, director of the Florida Innocence Initiative.

Read more HERE

UPDATE: Diaz, 55, was pronounced dead at 6:36 p.m., just minutes after an executioner injected a cocktail of lethal chemicals into IV tubes leading into his arm My condolences to his family & friends.

:( Gov.-elect Charlie Crist expects to continue signing death warrants at a similar pace to Gov. Jeb Bush, who signed the black-bordered documents resulting in 20 executions, the most of any governor since the state resumed capital punishment in 1979. :(

:( "I support the death penalty," said Crist, who earned the moniker "Chain Gang Charlie" for his support of inmate chain gangs while in the Legislature. "It's a solemn task, but I believe in it, so I will sign them and review that process as the transition moves forward." :(

Crist told The Associated Press he will be as deliberative as his predecessor.

:( ~Kimy~

December 09, 2006

Don't Preach Pro-life While Actually Practicing Pro-death

Don’t Preach Pro-life While Actually Practicing Pro-death

As I write this its is Friday December 1st –World Aids Day. In my death row cell I just watched the ABC World News, which did a story about how some of the country’s leading conservative evangelical religious leaders are very upset because Illinois Senator Barack Obama was invited to be a guest speaker at a conservative church. Collectively these religious leaders signed a “letter of protest,” which they collectively released to the media, protesting Senator Obama’s appearance as they felt his “pro-choice” views on abortion conflicted with the conservative Christian “pro-life” agenda.

Although condemned to death, I have earned a degree in Christian Theology – and even certification in evangelical teaching – and the Bible I am familiar with has one particular scriptural passage (Matthew 7:5, NIV) that says. “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.” These words are attributed directly to Jesus.

This is why I’ve come to hold such contempt for the conservative right and their so-called “moral majority.” They are all too often a bunch of self-righteous hypocrites. These same conservative “Christians” who call abortion “murder” will slobber at the mouth like rabid dogs when preaching their support for capital punishment. If we want to preach about the “sanctity of life” then it has to encompass all life, not just the lives we choose to find worthy. We are not God.

Consistent studies have shown that it’s actually the so-called “liberals.” The “pro-choice” segment of our society that opposes capital punishment while the strongest support for the death penalty comes from these hypocrites who dare label them selves “pro-life!” But this is a no brainer… how can you dare to call yourself “pro-life” of you support the deliberate death of any person? Murder is Murder.

With a growing epidemic of wrongful convictions now being exposed because of the use of DNA evidence and already over 130 documented cases of wrongfully convicted innocent men and women condemned to death, there no longer is any question that innocent men and women are being sentenced to death. See, ”Southern Injustice: Condemning An Innocent Man.” So, advocating the death penalty means advocating the execution if innocent men and women.

Please tell me – how can anyone who calls them self “pro-life” also support the death penalty? By supporting the death penalty you support a system that will inevitably, by deliberate design, murder an innocent victim. We can’t have it both ways – if this is truly about the practicing the sanctity of life and protecting the innocent from being put to death, then those who call themselves pro-life must just as zealously oppose the death penalty, protecting the innocent from being put to death.

The simple truth is that nobody respects a hypocrite – so don’t preach pro-life while actually practicing pro-death.


Mary Poppins Does Death Row

I recently had the pleasure of a brief debate with a woman (who I will now call ”Mary Poppins”) in the My Space U.S. Politics Forum. After reading my earlier blog, ”Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied” as well as my posted commentary of how the Florida Supreme Court summarily denied my petition arguing a constitutional right to expedited review of my actual innocence claims (See, Florida Supreme Court Says, “No Right To Expedited Review of Actual Innocence Claim,”) and how I am now forced to seek review by the U.S. Supreme Court without the benefit of legal representation.

This individual responded by saying, “I smell fish” – that if my case was that strong I should have no problem finding pro bono legal counsel (a lawyer willing to take my case at no charge) and since no lawyers are beating down the prison gates to represent me my claims can’t possibly be credible.

Of coarse in all her infinite wisdom my new friend Mary Poppins still could not and did not provide the name of even one qualified lawyer who might be interested in taking on a capital case. Apparently she is so disillusioned that she actually thinks that lawyers do take on capital cases “pro bono” all the time. It must be nice to still be able to live in a fairytale world of sugar and spice and everything nice.

But I don’t blame her at all… her ignorance is only too common. People out there just don’t have a clue and they really do think that everyone on death row has quality legal representation and that there are swarms of lawyers out there lining up at the prison gates wanting to take on death row cases.

The reality of it is that there are very few lawyers willing to take on capital post conviction cases -- much less lawyers who are actually qualified to take on a capital case. As the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized, capital (death sentenced) post conviction appellate proceedings have evolved into one of the most inherently complex areas of law. Very few lawyers have the experience, training, and competency to handle representing capital cases.

Look at it like this – the practice of law is a lot like the practice of medicine. Both have specialized fields of practice that require specialized training and experience. Capital post conviction litigation today is like the brain surgery of law. Very few lawyers are trained in this area as it is incredibly demanding and pays very little. Over the years of attempts to expedite executions politicians have passed all sorts of procedural rules lawyers must navigate and if even one procedural rule is not strictly adhered to then the entire appeal is thrown out.

In a perfect world there would be lawyers willing to step up and volunteer to represent death sentenced prisoners “pro bono,” especially in cases where a substantiated claim of actual innocence is made. But wake up Mary Poppins, we don’t live in a perfect world.

Since I was sentenced to death in 1984 about 20 men and women have been released from Florida’s death row after being found to have been wrongfully convicted and innocent of their alleged crime. I personally knew most of these people and I don’t know of even one of these cases in which a lawyer stepped up to volunteer “pro bono" to represent them -- not even one.

So, the next time someone wants to question the validity of my actual innocence claims by arguing that if I had a legitimate claim of innocence then I’d have lawyers lining up around the block wanting to take my case, I would appreciate it very much if you would provide a list of lawyers you think are so willing to step up to the plate as I would really like to know who they are.

Until then I’m stuck with the reality that these lawyers simply do not exist. For that reason I must represent myself in this soon to be filed petition in the U.S. Supreme Court, hoping that they will at least read it. If the U.S. Supreme Court does actually accept review of the question of law I am presenting (whether there is a constitutional right to timely review of an actual innocence in the state courts), then I will be able to request the appointment of legal counsel. But for now I am forced to represent myself in this matter as no qualified lawyers are willing to step up to the plate. Of coarse, if Mary Poppins really wanted to help she’d just loan me her umbrella and I’d simply fly away or at least share whatever it is she’s so obviously on.


December 06, 2006

Death-row inmate appears in court

Death-row inmate appears in court

~Ft Myers News-Press ~December 6th, 2006~ Article about Mike's recent hearing.

December 05, 2006

Death Row Turkey Seeks Pardon

They did it again – it’s become a Thanksgiving ritual. The media converges upon the White House and with the cameras rolling the President stands before a turkey and formally announces that the turkey has been spared by Presidential Pardon and that because of this act of compassion that turkey will now live out its days on a quiet farm and enjoy a good life.

Every television station in the country will air that piece about the turkey receiving a Presidential Pardon. I’ve watched this ritual myself every year for more years than I can hope to even remember. The truth is that I don’t recall even a single year they didn’t go through this ritual.

But does anyone even stop to think about the pretense of all this? Although that particular turkey is presumably pardoned, tens of millions of others will still meet their fate as Thanksgiving dinner. Although the President pardons this one turkey; his family, their friends, and himself will still gather around the table only hours later and eat the traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner.

Like those millions of turkeys that meet their fate on Thanksgiving Day, I too am condemned to death. There’s been a few times in my life when I’ve been called a “turkey” as that was common back in the day. Maybe it’s time that I formally declare myself a turkey… maybe then I too will at least have a chance to also be granted a pardon.

What I do know is that my innocence itself certainly isn’t enough. For almost nine years now I’ve had a Substantiated claim of actual innocence before the courts (See, Southern Injustice: Condemning An Innocent Man) but innocence doesn’t matter. When the state can no longer contest your claim of innocence they just stop the case from proceeding any further by deliberately delaying review of that claim. They can drag it out until you eventually die of “natural causes” on death row and then declare the issue moot. (See, Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied)

Here in Florida the equivalent to a Presidential Pardon is the “clemency process.” Like the President, each year Florida’s elected Governor will make a public show of granting clemency to a condemned turkey. That lucky turkey will then live out its days on a nice farm out in the country.

Sadly, not even one condemned person in Florida has received clemency since 1983. I personally have had a clemency petition pending before the Governor since 1998. It hasn’t been formally denied – but I have no doubt that it would never be granted. People simply don’t get clemency in Florida – that discretional privilege is reserved exclusively for turkeys.

The fact is that since 1983 when that last condemned prisoner in Florida was granted clemency over 20 condemned prisoners have been exonerated and released from death row because of innocence… but not even one of these innocent men and women were granted clemency. In every case the state fought tooth and nail to prevent their release, deliberately dragging the case out for many years. Although Florida leads the country in the number of wrongfully convicted people sent to death row, the state has never admitted error in any case… not even when the evidence conclusively proved innocence.

Clearly, legal innocence is not enough for a wrongfully convicted and condemned person to get a pardon. If you really want a pardon, especially from someone whose name is Bush, your only real shot is to be a turkey. In the years that our current President Bush was Governor of Texas, he presided over about 150 executions; he has granted only one pardon to a condemned prisoner – and that was to self confessed serial killer Henry Lee Lucas. In the eight years his little brother Jeb Bush has been Governor of Florida he has not granted even one clemency – except of course to the turkey each year at Thanksgiving.

So, maybe I really do need to declare myself a turkey and only then petition the governor for clemency – maybe then I might even actually have a chance. Perhaps I too can then live out the rest of my days on a quiet farm in the country. Perhaps then too the media will find my story news worthy. I should be so lucky. But then again, I really should have been a turkey.

December 02, 2006

~ Still Alive From Death Row ~ Update Nov. 2006~

Hello… Can anyone hear me? Is there life out there? Here I am again, still alive from death row in Florida. For my faithful readers I submit another monthly update. I also want to acknowledge some special friends and family. With the holiday season now upon us this time of year can be especially lonely here in solitaire confinement. This is the time of year that family means the most.

This month my grandson Aden Michael turned two years old and I found out around January 15th I will be the proud grandfather of another grandson – cool! I hope to also see my daughter Jennifer, but it’s my oldest son Daniel Brian that I too often turn my thoughts to during the holidays. In the Bible it tells us about celebrating the homecoming of the prodigal son – Daniel Brian is my prodigal son, the son that by fate and circumstance I do not know. Although in recent years I’ve tried to reach out to him my attempts have met with failure. So, I’d like to send a message to him… wherever you might be, know this – you are always in my heart and I pray the time will come when you want to give me a chance to know you. If you do happen to read this, please write as nothing would mean more to me.

What a month it has been. Democrats took control of congress while here in Florida the Republicans held their ground by retaining control of both the State Legislature and the Governor’s Office. It’s got to be the water…why else would voters in Florida elect “Chain Gang Charlie” Crist as Governor and ”Mad Dog” Mc Collom as Attorney General?

I’d like to say that after over 23 years of living in a cage condemned to death there’s a light at the end of the tunnel but there isn’t. Recently someone told me to “keep the faith” as it’s always the darkest just before the dawn. Maybe so, but when dawn does finally break will my fate take a turn for the better – or worse?

After a long period of delays, the lower court (State Circuit Court) in Ft. Myers has finally scheduled a hearing in my case for “final oral arguments.” This will be an important hearing, as both sides will now be required to personally present their arguments on all the evidence and issues before the court. Of course, the issue that will be the focus of this argument will be the evidence supporting my actual innocence.

Over the past almost nine years the lower court has conducted sporadic hearings allowing only bits and pieces of the wealth of evidence supporting my claim of innocence in at a time. I believe this was deliberately done as a means in which to limit the public’s perception of the collective picture.

This upcoming hearing will, for the first time, allow all the evidence to be fully argued in open court. Although I will not be allowed to personally attend (I will be allowed to listen to the arguments by telephonic conferencing) anyone who may want to can personally attend this hearing as it is open to the public. If you would like to attend, this hearing (Lambrix v, State) will be held before Judge R. Thomas Corbin in hearing room #2 at the Lee County Justice Center (county courthouse) at 1700 Monroe Street, Ft. Myers, Florida; the hearing is scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m.on December 5th, 2006.

It is my hope that those interested in my case and able to attend will do so as a physical show of support can make all the difference. It is also my hope that members of the media will want to attend so that, for the first time, they can hear all the evidence argued in open court, evidence that collectively will show how, by deliberate design and intent, the state fabricated this case of alleged premeditated murder against me – deliberately having me convicted and condemned to death for a crime I am innocent of – a theory or events that simply never happened.

Anyone concerned about the corruption within the system; anyone concerned about the why and how innocent men and women are deliberately convicted and condemned to death in spite of innocence should attend this “final oral argument.”

For those not yet familiar with the factual circumstances of my case, I would like to encourage you to fully read the previously posted articles. For your convenience, I have listed these articles below, along with a brief summary of each, so you can easily click the link to them.

Again, I would like to express my gratitude to all of those who are committed to remaining vigilant in their concern for the injustices that are perpetuated against innocent victims of unethical, overzealous prosecutors. Without your continuous concern and willingness to speak out against the established system these injustices would go unnoticed. I know from experience how important hope is – without knowing that people out there do care there is no hope. Just knowing that there are people out there who are willing to listen and are concerned about those wrongfully convicted and condemned to death makes all the difference.

Please click on these links to the full length case summary and articles and read them now… publicly exposing an injustice is the first step to having justice served.

Introduction (a brief summary of the case as well as the circumstances that first allowed this injustice to take place and why it continues to drag out.)

Southern Injustice: Condemning An Innocent Man (Full length summary of my case from time of arrest, through the trial, the appellate process, and finally the new evidence uncovered that substantiates my long pled claim of innocence.)

Florida Supreme Court Says, “No Right To Expedited Review of Actual Innocence Claim.” (The Florida Supreme Court recently told me I had no right to a quicker review of my actual innocence claim even though it has already been pending in the Judge Corbin’s lower court more that 8 years.)

Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied (Article discussing the corruption of a judicial system that will push to expedite the execution of the guilty – but will deliberately obstruct and procrastinate review of a claim of innocence.)

Condemned by The Perfect Storm (Article discussing the elements that work together to make it more likely to be condemned to death – and why innocence itself becomes irrelevant – if you’re some like me and not O.J. Simpson.)

Prosecutorial Misconduct: Does Immunity Invite Injustice? (Although prosecutorial misconduct is the leading cause of innocent people being convicted and condemned to death, the question remains – does failure to hold prosecutors accountable for deliberate acts of misconduct result in wrongful convictions only encourage such misconduct?)

Legal Representation In Capital Cases – Privilege or Pretense? (Once wrongfully convicted and condemned to death exposing and correcting this injustice is entirely dependent upon competent legal representation. But no legal right to competent representation exits and a pretense of representation works to distract exposure of legitimate innocence claims.)

About Mike (Full length biography of Mike Lambrix from birth to death row in Florida.)

A Day in Life Under Death (Essay about a day on death row, written by Mike to allow the reader to see what an average day on death row is like.)

A Condemned Man's Perspective of "The Innocent Man" (Review of John Grisham’s recently released book “The Innocent Man” by a death row prisoner.)

Countdown To An Execution (Mike’s own death row account of the recent execution of Danny Rolling.)

Happy Holidays! ~Mike~

November 30, 2006

Visit to Death Row

We were on our way to America, my friend Dini, her son Michiel and I. To America, a country I had never thought about visiting before, as I didn't think I would be interested in seeing the country. But we weren't going there to go sightseeing or travelling around, but to visit our friends on Death Row in Florida.

The days preceding our departure had been hectic and chaotic, packing the right clothes, making arrangements for the kids, flying from Greece to Holland to see my mom for one evening and then leaving for Schiphol the following early morning, together with Dini and Michiel.

After a long flight we landed in Atlanta with a delay due to bad weather. Because of the delay we missed our flight to Jacksonville and by the time we finally reached our motel, it was the middle of the night.

The next day, jetlagged and groggy, we drove around the area. I had been told that this part wasn't the most beautiful part of Florida, but I was enchanted with its greenness and the overwhelming forests. Coming from Greece, I had expected Florida, which has about the same temperature as Greece, to be dry like my country. But it was lush and green and somehow very tranquil and peaceful. In some ways the pastures and the greenness reminded me of my native country Holland.

There was not much traffic on the road and while we were driving around, watching the landscape passing by, still musing about the similarities between this area and the part of Holland where I grew up, suddenly grey buildings appeared surrounded by wired fences. First the Florida State Prison and then the Union Correctional Institution. I then realized that any pretence of peacefulness, all similarities with my native country, ended here.

The next day we arrived early at the prison for our visits to begin. First we had to go through the security checks. Both Dini and Michiel had visited the prison several times before to see their friend William, but for me it was the first time and I still needed to be registered. To my surprise, the guards were rather nice and helpful. When I didn't know my height and weight in American measurements, the female guard wrote down her own height and weight as we were of similar body structure. She also apologized for having to pat me down.

After we were finished with the security checks we walked through a fenced passageway to the building where the visiting room was. The fencing went across the top of the passageway, so it looked like a tunnel with rolls of razor wire around it. On the way we passed the building for general population. The gardens around it were nicely kept; there were trees and a fountain with benches around it, very peaceful. Prisoners could take their visitors outside for a walk or sit on the benches under a tree and have lunch together. Squirrels scampered freely around in the trees and some cats were walking about.

Death Row prisoners receive their visitors in the 'visitor’s park'. A room filled with metal tables built into the floor with metal stools around it. As soon as we entered the room, we were assigned a table where we had to wait for our friends to arrive. There were about 25 tables in the room. On one side of the room there were small windows and on the other side there were vending machines and a counter where we could buy coffee, drinks and snacks. Also on that side there were the inmate bathrooms, an inmate search room, visitor bathroom, and a long glass wall, where we could see the “non-contact visitor” booths. One by one the prisoners arrived, dressed in bright orange shirts, they all looked around until they discovered their visitor and then they smiled.

I was a bit nervous as, even though Mike and I had been writing for 1.5 years, we had yet to meet in person. But once he arrived, I knew I shouldn’t have worried. Mike was easy to be with and talk to, especially as he was very talkative himself.

I was struck how everything seemed so normal. This could have been any visiting room, anywhere. There was a feel of happiness in the room. Most of the men were cheerful, happy to be out of their small cells for a while. The men did not look like 'the worst of the worst' to me, and I did not have the feeling I was surrounded by monsters, as they are often portrayed to be by the media. It was hard to realize that perhaps in some time to come, some of these men would not be here anymore, but would have been killed by the State of Florida. Coming from overseas, the thought of putting a healthy human to death is certainly surreal. This country with its ultra conservative ideas about abortions and euthanasia, happily executes its own citizens. I can't help wondering what is being preached in the many churches I saw everywhere.

Sitting there with Mike at a table, I wanted to ask him, “How is it possible that you somehow have risen above your surroundings to be the man that you are today, so different from the irresponsible youth you once were? Where did you find the strength to overcome the injustices done to you, the inhumane and indifferent treatment, and the agonizing experience of facing your own death? How did you keep your sanity, day after day, year after year, locked up in a cage for almost 24 years now? How does it feel being rejected by society and in some cases by friends and family, as well? And yet here you are, intelligent, opinionated, thoughtful, widely read, with a great sense of humour, a pleasure to be with. How did you manage?”. But I did not ask all this, as it was a day to be happy, to laugh and talk and to enjoy each other’s company.

Some of the other men were visited by their children, parents, and wives; they spent their time talking, walking about, eating together, playing table games, some were praying while holding each others hands, and reading the Bible. Several times one of the guards paced up and down between the tables. At every visit the men were being counted. All of them had to leave their tables and line up against the wall while the guards counted them. The men were cooperative; not wanting to cause any trouble, there was no way that they were going to jeopardize this precious time with their visitors. But I wondered why this was necessary, since I had not seen any obvious escape routes. The guards did not seem overly tough though, some were nice and willing to talk, treating the men in a respectful manner.

The rest of the visiting days were spent in a similar way but with the additional pressure that the countdown had started. We have had the privilege of sharing some of our respective life experiences, anchoring our friendship, and developing a sincere relationship; which enriches our lives now.

Inevitably, the end of the visit arrived, and after a last hug, we separated, in the firm belief that we will meet again.


November 28, 2006

Executing A Stranger

The other day I ran into an old friend that I hadn’t seen in at least ten years. Back then he was my cell neighbor for several years here on death row. We are both about the same age and had come to death row about the same time – Class of ’84. After a few moments of bantering back and forth, he commented on how much I had changed since he last saw me … that got me to thinking about just how much I really had changed since I last saw him – how much we all change through the years.

I’ve been on death row 23 years. When I was originally charged in this case I was only 22 years old. Now at the ripe age of 45, I’m a grandfather. It’s been a long journey and like any journey each step – each stumble – has changed me in an infinite number of small ways that add up to completely transforming the person I once was into who I am today.

I’m not the only person who has spent an entire lifetime in solitary confinement condemned to death. Here in Florida I know some who have been living under a sentence of death for 32 years – or better. Most people out there haven’t even given any thought to how death rows across the country have become multi-million dollar geriatric units, indefinitely housing those who slowly grow old while awaiting theor fate. Here in Florida more men on death row die of natural caused than of executions as old age sets in. We the condemned are more likely to die of cancer, heart disease, or other ailments common to aging than we are to die from execution; yet the state still spends millions upon millions of dollars pursuing our deaths.

The question I want to confront today is this … when it takes at least ten years, and often even twenty or thirty years to carry out a court imposed sentence of death, is the person we’re executing really the same person we originally sentenced to death? Or are we executing a stranger?

How many of us can say we are the same person today that we were ten years ago? How about twenty years ago? What about thirty years ago? Many of those sentenced to death committed their alleged crime when they were relatively young and immature. Almost without exception they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol – or both. That single act of violence led to their condemnation. Assuming for the moment that our judicial system is perfect and everyone condemned to death is in fact guilty, can we really say that person we condemned then; is the same person we want to execute today?

The fundamental truth here is that we all change. Most of us become better people as we age – more mature and responsible. I’ve seen men come to death row twenty years ago consumed by hate and anger, only to find faith and hope in the most unexpected environment and become a new person.

Myself, I too was once consumed by anger at being wrongfully convicted and condemned to death for a crime I know I am innocent of. (See, Southern Injustice: Condemning An Innocent Man). In the early years that anger was my strength. I wasn’t just sentenced to die; I was condemned to slowly rot away in solitary confinement one eternal day at a time. (See, A Day in Life Under Death). Believing in my innocence actually mattered, I pushed to expedite review in a desperate attempt to end this nightmare, (see, Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied); only to have my appeals up held out of spite by actions attributable to the state.

Although my impatience at ending the injustice remains, I know I’ve changed. Though I still must deal with frustration, I am no longer consumed by anger. When I came to death row, I had little education or even will to be educated. Since I’ve been imprisoned I got my G.E.D. and with it a sense of accomplishment. I searched my soul for spiritual meaning and found myself. (See, "To See The Soul -- A Search Of Self"). I began taking correspondence courses and earned a degree in Christian Theology, which gave me even greater confidence in who I was – and who I could yet become.

I have a faded photo of me taken a few weeks before I was arrested on these charges. That photo reminds me of who I was. When I look in the mirror today I see the person I’ve since become. I am not the same person sentenced to death so many years ago.

So, now I ask you this – Are you the same person you were so many years ago? In your younger and more irresponsible days have you ever made a mistake you came to regret? If we all recognize that each of us does change as the years pass, then doesn’t it stand to reason that we also have to admit that the person we seek to execute today, over 20 years or more later, is not the same person we sentenced to death so long ago – that when it comes down to it, aren’t we really executing a stranger?

November 24, 2006

Please Help Mike

Dear Readers,

I would like every one of you to send a letter to Judge Corbin, urging the Judge to provide review and end this injustice of delaying my case. Please use the sample letter I have provided for you here. You may alter it to your liking and then send it to the address, which you can find in the letter.

I thank you very much for your time, help and effort.

~ Mike ~

Judge R. Thomas Corbin
Lee County Justice Center
1700 Monroe Street
Ft. Myers, FL 33901

November 24, 2006

Dear Judge Corbin,

With this letter I would like to bring the case of Michael Lambrix to your attention.

To my astonishment the case of Mr, Lambrix has been before the 20th Judicial Circuit Court in Ft. Myers for almost nine years.

If the state courts can thoroughly review an original post conviction appeal, challenging the convictions and death sentences within 32 days in order to sign a warrant, then why does it take almost a full decade to provide review of a claim of actual innocence in the same courts?

In my opinion justice should be swift and decisive, regardless if it is a claim of innocence or affirming a conviction. Justice by definition should never drag its feet, even when none of the options favor the State. Justice delayed is justice denied.

I urge you respectfully to end this injustice, to expedite review on Mr. Lambrix’s case as soon as possible and end the prolonged uncertainty of his fate.

Sincerely Yours,

November 23, 2006

Ask Mike A Question

If you have any questions about Mike's case, prison in Florida, capital punishment, or anything else you would like to know from Mike please feel free to ask him here.


The questions will be forwarded to Mike and he will personally respond to your questions and the answers will be posted for here right here so please check back regularly.

Please be aware that due to mail, institutional, as well as court delays -- this could take a little while.

I invite you to browse through the rest of the Southern Injustice Blog while you wait and familiarize yourself with all the injustices Mike has been forced to suffer from the court system deliberately designed by political ambitions to make it almost impossible for a wrongflly accused prisoner to exonerate themselves.


November 21, 2006

Zero Tolerance For Executing The Innocent

A few years ago our federal government adopted a “zero tolerance” policy towards the possession of illegal drugs. These laws allow our government to board a private vessel and conduct a search for illegal drugs. If even so much as a single joint (one marijuana cigarette) is found on board then the government can immediately seize the vessel. In recent years, our government has seized boats and yachts worth millions of dollars; even when there was no proof that the owner knew that someone else had even brought the illegal drugs on board.

The courts have consistently upheld the governments right to seize these boats as this “zero tolerance” policy promotes a greater good by deterring other from using their own vessels as means in which to transport illegal drugs. Because of the “War on Drugs” it became a government priority to adopt this zero intolerance as a means in which to reduce the trafficking of illegal drugs and the damage they do to our society.

If we as a society find it necessary to adopt a zero tolerance policy on drugs because of a belief that these drugs have a damaging effect on our society, then why don’t we have a similar zero tolerance policy on conduct that undermines and damages the integrity of our judicial system itself?

Think about it… if illegal drugs are such an evil upon the moral fabric of our society that we will give our government the power to seize our homes, vehicles, boats – our private property and even impose mandatory life sentences for the mere possession of even small amounts of illegal drugs, then why are we not even more intolerant of an even greater evil that plagues our society?

The evil I speak of is the wrongful convictions and even condemnation of innocent men and women; all too often by deliberate acts of prosecutorial misconduct. What could undermine the moral fabric of our society more than to allow our judicial system to become so inherently corrupt from within its own ranks that even the innocence of any person becomes irrelevant?

How many people in our society today are aware that our United States Supreme Court has ruled that even the factual innocence or a person is not sufficient to stop the state from executing that person? That our Constitution does not prohibit executing an innocent man as long as he was given a “fair trial?” Even if our Constitution does not specifically protect against executing the innocent, as a matter of moral conscience shouldn’t we as a society be morally offended that our courts would find it acceptable? Shouldn’t we as a society insist on the adoption of a zero tolerance policy towards executing the innocent?

What could be more destructive to the integrity of our judicial system than to find that we have executed an innocent person? If public confidence is our judiciary is undermined, then can it ever truly be restored?

I believe the time has come to demand the adoption of a zero tolerance policy towards the execution of innocent men and women. When we as a society carry out the deliberate execution of even one person then we all become murderers. We can convict and condemn a million guilty men, but when we cross the line and by deliberate design and intent, convict and condemn then execute even one innocent man or woman; we all become murderers. Even the possibility of executing even one innocent person should be morally offensive; that as a collective society we should be repulsed – but in fact, very few express concern.

In fact, the truth is that as a society we have become tolerant of wrongful convictions and the causes for them. In recent years we have seen almost 150 men and women released from death row after being wrongfully convicted and condemned. Although this only shows those wrongfully sentenced to death, there are quite literally thousands more who suffered similar injustices we don’t hear about because they remain imprisoned with no means in which to prove their innocence.

As a matter of moral conscience this should bother us; not only those who are labeled as “bleeding heart liberal” because they dare to recognize our judicial system is imperfect and advocate change. But even the most conservative citizens should be bothered by a system that not only has such a high rate of wrongful convictions, but a system that has evolved to the point where politically manufactured procedural rules have been created that make it almost impossible for an innocent person to even prove their innocence.

This dirty secret our judiciary does not want the common public to know – the execution of an innocent person in today’s system is now inevitable. They know this, but they don’t want you to know.

Why is this? Because in the past 20 years political interests have forced the courts – even the U.S. Supreme Court itself – to adopt procedural rules that severely limit appellate review of claims of error. In an overzealous effort to expedite the execution of the guilty we have equally advocated expediting the execution of the innocent. As the procedural protections against wrongful convictions are systematically dismantled and appellate review “streamlined” with every elimination of these procedural protections we increase the probability of executing an innocent person.

In recent years as more and more “reforms” are adopted to eliminate review of criminal convictions in the interest of promoting quicker executions, that probability of executing an innocent person substantially increases. The simple truth is that if our courts become unwilling to even hear a persons evidence supporting a claim of innocence, then how do we know if the claim of innocence is valid?

What is especially troubling about this recent political push to eliminate full review of claims of procedural error and even actual innocence is that with the relatively recent use of DNA testing we are finding that there is an extremely high rate of wrongful convictions. Not everyone who claims to be innocent is actually innocent, but as a matter if moral conscience, shouldn’t we as a society at least recognize that we have a moral obligation to ensure to the fullest extent possible that those we do convict and condemn, are in fact guilty?

If we can give our government the power to impose a zero tolerance policy on drugs, then shouldn’t we also insist that our government and especially our judiciary adopt and practice a zero tolerance policy on wrongful convictions and the inevitable execution of innocent men and women? Isn’t it time that our elected politicians and appointed judges recognize that the inevitable execution of even one innocent person will ultimately and irreparably undermine the confidence our society has in the system as a whole? The only way to protect the integrity of our system itself is to adopt a zero tolerance policy towards the imprisonment and/or execution of innocent men and women by recognizing that any claim of actual innocence supported by competent evidence must be fully and fairly reviewed by the courts without imposition of procedural rules that today prohibit the review of such claims.

The time has come for all people of moral conscience to call upon both elected politicians and appointed judges to recognize that a legitimate claim of innocence should not and cannot be denied review because of procedural rules create to promote expedited finality of legitimate convictions. Only by insisting that all supported claims of actual innocence be fully and fairly reviewed can we minimize the inevitable probability of executing innocent people. That is the “zero tolerance policy” we need.


November 20, 2006

Hill's View

This is an extremely accurate depiction of a death row cell here in Florida. This was draw by Clarence Hill better know to us here on the row as Brother Razzaq Muhammed. He was killed by the State of Florida on September 20th, 2006.

The detail is amazing in this drawing right down to the grills on the back of the cell (no they are not windows) to the caging they welded over the bars for "our" protection and "security reasons" a few years ago. This is the view you would have from standing on the outside looking into Hill's cell.

Please click on the picture to see it in a bigger size it truly is an amazing detail work of art.

November 15, 2006

“If I Did It”

O.J. Simpson will spill the beans about the killings involving his estranged wife and Ron Goldman in the release of his book, "If I Did It."

O.J. Simpson, the former actor and NFL running back, is set to talk about "how he would have" killed his ex-wife and her friend.

O.J. Simpson, a 59-year-old acquitted double murderer, will appear in two 1-hour FOX television network specials on Nov. 27 and 29, followed by the Nov. 30 release of his book, If I Did It, according to the New York Daily News.

SO FOX IS GIVING O.J. Simpson two hours at the end of the key November sweep period to mull over what he would do if he were to commit murder. The title of the show is "O.J. Simpson: If I Did It, Here's How It Happened."

That's what I call a November sweep stunt--something that would no doubt bring high ratings and much interest, but I would rather see them focus on some real issues like... why more than 122 people have walked off of death row after being wrongfully convicted and how many more innocent men are still rotting on death row or worse yet, been killed by the state or died in jail as their innocence claims went unheard.

Perhaps if they would have had O.J.’s dream team they would being writing their “If I did it" stories too instead of being Condemned by The Perfect Storm like Mike Lambrix, who has been on Florida’s death row for 23 years now for a crime he didn’t commit.
”Let me ask you this… where would O.J. Simpson be today if he stood trial for the exact same crime in a small southern county and didn’t have the money to hire his “dream team” defense lawyers? That’s the undeniable truth – almost without exception. Those on death row are not condemned because of the particular crime they stood trial for, but because they were unable to defend against the resources available to the state… it is the lack of capital that makes you eligible for capital punishment.”— Michael Lambrix

O.J. said he would get all that back, "in spades" and Simpson must feel he is close to drawing that flush. Sadly, the story is quite different for the average man who cannot even get his claims of actual innocence heard even years after the discovery of exonerating evidence. See, Florida Supreme Court Says, “No Right To Expedited Review of Actual Innocence Claim.”

Why even our very own U.S. Supreme Court has said, “that the Constitution does not prohibit the execution of a person who is actually innocent.” Herrera v. Collins, 506 U.S. 390 (1993).”

Most people out there in the real world – especially those who support the death penalty – are conveniently ignorant of how the system works and the people of power who do know how it works have deliberately designed it so individual prosecutors can become nothing less than state sanctioned killers. Pretty strong words for officials who are supposed to be seeking truth and justice, but if the glove fits…

November 14, 2006

Death Row Tea Party

It’s Election Day and I’m pissed. For the last couple of months I’ve had to put up with listening to all these political ads on the T.V. and radio. This has been an especially nasty Election Year, as the mudslinging has gotten worse with each election. Today’s politicians don’t campaign on the issues but rather run for office by convincing potential voters that the person running against them is corrupt – but they’re all corrupt.

What really gets me though, is that I’m one of millions of American citizens that are legally prohibited from voting. Think about it for just a minute … the one defining act that led to our so-called Constitutional Democracy, that one act of defiance against the crown that brought our forefathers down the path of independence was the Boston Tea Party.
For those of us who smoked just a little too much dope during our high school years, that’s when a small group of insurgents decided they were tired of the English imposing high taxes on the American Colonies and decided to dress up like “savages” (American Natives) and jump on a ship in the Boston Harbor and destroy the tea shipped from England by dumping it into the salt water.

Today we call them patriots, true revolutionaries, and the forefathers of our freedoms. But in their day the ruling government at the time labeled them “insurgents” and charged them with treason.

That one principle was branded into our history – we are a country conceived upon the principle that “taxation without representation” is intolerable, a Constitutional Democracy that mandates that power of government is given only by majority vote and every person is entitled, as an “inalienable” right to equality as reflected in that vote.

But that entire premise is a work of fiction, a freaking fairytale. The truth is that millions of American citizens are legally prohibited from voting. Today the United States incarcerates more of its citizens in jails and prisons than any other country in the world. Add to that the millions more people convicted of crimes that are not imprisoned and you’re talking about approximately 7.5 million American citizens that are not allowed to vote.

Why would we care about that? I mean, certainly these damned “criminals” brought it upon themselves and their own acts resulted in the forfeiture of their right to vote. That’s what they want you to think. In fact, they don’t want you to think – they want to tell you what to think -- the last thing they want you to actually do is think for yourself.

Me, I actually like to think for myself, sometimes it scares the hell out of me, but I like it. What I’m thinking today is that it’s really pissing me off that I’m not allowed to vote. Although I’m imprisoned I pay my taxes in what I must buy. I’m sure that there are millions of “convicted felons” in the free world today that are paying a lot of taxes --billions per year – yet they are not allowed to vote … “taxation without representation!”

Well. I’ve got an idea, maybe it’s time we stood up as a group and demand our right to vote. These elections affect us too. In fact, electing those into office probably directly affect us even more than the average citizen.

So, here is my idea … from now on when Election Day comes around let’s our voice heard. Not a single voice, but a collective voice. How many are ready to stand up and be heard? Why not organize a “Million Convict March” on the White House every Election Day and as we gather in the National Mall, let each of us throw a single teabag into the reflecting pool as a symbol of protest. Each teabag by itself will be insignificant, just as each voice by itself will never be heard. But a million teabags will stain the water and be noticed. If these politicians want to deny such a huge percentage of American citizens their “inalienable” right to vote, yet continue to tax us, then let’s stand up and be counted.

Today I am ready to be declared an insurgent. Today I’m ready to stand up and be counted – today I begin my protest even if I am in solitary confinement on death row … today – Election Day – I am having a Death Row Tea Party and will now gather what tea I have and will ceremoniously dump them into my toilet and every election day from here on out I will continue to dump teabags into my toilet. Will my voice be heard? No, it won’t. But at least I’ll know I did something -- can the millions of other who are denied the right to vote in elections that will affect their lives say the same?

November 13, 2006

Recent American Bar Association Report on Florida's Death Penalty

It's a troubling fact that 22 death row inmates have been exonerated since the death penalty was reinstated in 1973 - more than any other state in the nation. The ABA report notes that "During that same time, Florida executed sixty death-row inmates. Therefore, the proportion exonerated exceeds thirty percent of the number executed."

While it doesn't advocate or take any position for or against the death penalty, the ABA's research found a number of serious deficiencies. Here is a brief summary of their extensive report:

Florida Leads the Nation in Death-Row Exonerations: Combined, these death-row exonerees served approximately 150 years in prison before being released.

Inadequate Compensation for Conflict Trial Counsel in Death Penalty Cases: The statutory fee cap [..] and the failure to regularly provide for partial payments have the potential to dissuade the most experienced and qualified attorneys from taking capital cases and may preclude those attorneys who do take these cases from having the funds necessary to present a vigorous defense.

Lack of Qualified and Properly Monitored Capital Collateral Registry Counsel: Registry attorneys, who are being appointed with greater frequency to capital collateral cases since the closure of the Capital Collateral Regional Counsel Office in the Northern Region of Florida, need only minimal trial and appellate experience to qualify for appointment and are not adequately monitored.

Inadequate Compensation for Capital Collateral Registry Attorneys: In at least some instances, registry attorneys handling capital collateral cases are not fully compensated at a rate that is commensurate with the provision of high quality legal representation.

Significant Capital Juror Confusion: Death sentences resulting from juror confusion or mistake are not tolerable, but research establishes that many Florida capital jurors do not understand their role and responsibilities when deciding whether to impose a death sentence.

Lack of Unanimity in Jury’s Sentencing Decision in Capital Cases: The Florida Supreme Court recently noted that “Florida is now the only state in the country that allows a jury to find that aggravators exist and to recommend a sentence of death by a mere majority vote.” Additionally, a recent study found that Florida’s practice of permitting capital sentencing recommendations by a majority vote reduces the jury’s deliberation time and thus may diminish the thoroughness of the deliberations.

The Practice of Judicial Override: Between 1972 and 1999, 166 of the 857 first-time death sentences imposed (or 19.4 percent) involved a judicial override of a jury’s recommendation of life imprisonment or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. [..] Florida law still authorizes the practice.

Lack of Transparency in the Clemency Process: Full and proper use of the clemency process is essential to guaranteeing fairness in the administration of the death penalty. Given the ambiguities and confidentiality surrounding Florida’s clemency decision-making process and the fact that clemency has not been granted to a death-sentenced inmate since 1983, it is difficult to conclude that Florida’s clemency process is adequate.

Racial Disparities in Florida’s Capital Sentencing: [A] criminal defendant in a capital case is, other things being equal, 3.4 times more likely to receive the death penalty if the victim is white than if the victim is African-American.

Geographic Disparities in Florida’s Capital Sentencing: The cause of these geographic disparities is unclear, but one possible variable is the charging decision. Research in other states indicates that charging practices vary from prosecutor to prosecutor and few of the prosecutor offices in Florida that we contacted have written polices governing the charging decision. Research also suggests that some capital charging decisions in Florida are influenced by racial factors.

Death Sentences Imposed on People with Severe Mental Disability: The State of Florida has a significant number of people with severe mental disabilities on death row, some of whom were disabled at the time of the offense and others of whom became seriously ill after conviction and sentence.

In assessing Florida's system, the team measured state law, procedure and practices against protocols developed by the ABA to evaluate death-penalty jurisprudence. Its findings are troubling. It found "the state did not comply with 23 protocols, partially complied with 36, and fully complied with only eight." The team was unable to assess compliance with 25 protocols because the records do not exist or were not easily obtainable.

Florida is not alone among Southern states with broken death penalty systems. The ABA's study of the death penalty in Alabama and Georgia reveals similar problems.

November 07, 2006

Florida Supreme Court Says, “No Right To Expedited Review of Actual Innocence Claim.”

In an unpublished opinion by a unanimous court, the Florida Supreme Court has held that a death sentence does not have a constitutional right to timely review of a substantiated actual innocence claim. In January 1998 – almost 9 years ago – Mike Lambrix initiated an actual innocence claim in the lower court in Florida. See, “Southern Injustice: Condemning An Innocent Man.” After many years of deliberate procrastination by the state and lower court Lambrix filed a petition with the Florida Supreme Court arguing that deprivation of timely review without delay violated his constitutional right to due process. This is what Mike had to say about it…

Last Thursday the Florida Supreme Court denied my motion for rehearing in that habeas case i spoke about in “Justice Delayed is Justice Denied.” Of coarse the did not issue any formal opinion beyond “Motion for rehearing is denied!” I am not surprised – those justices didn’t take the time to address the issue on the merits as it’s all about politics, not justice -- and although it’s politically popular to expedite a capital case when they want to kill someone it’s not when it’s merely a case of actual innocence.

So, now I will file a petition for Writ of Certiorari ti the U.S. Supreme Court asking them to address the issue and I am hoping they will. I will have to represent myself on this, but I have no problem with that, as I am confident I can present a convincing legal argument. But in all honesty I don’t expect the U.S. Supreme Court to be anymore receptive as the whole system is totally corrupt – the courts and the politicians conspire together to come up with Time limitations to use against us when the objective is to kill us, but they won’t do the same thing to compel the lower court and the state to provide timely review when the objective is to prevent a person from proving their innocence.

I also have instructed my lawyers to now formally amend my pending post conviction motion to include this claim in that action. The Florida Supreme Court deliberately circumvented addressing the question of whether a death sentenced person has a constitutional right to timely review without unnecessary delay when arguing actual innocence by summarily denying my petition upon the finding that it was an unauthorized pro se motion – that since I had appointed counsel in the lower court I could not pursue a petition on my own.

Because of that ruling they’ve essentially said that it must be raised by my presently appointed counsel even though Florida Statutes prohibit them from doing so. But I want to make sure the issue is unquestionably preserved si I will instruct my lawyer to formally raise it.

I am just so disgusted in how completely corrupt this system is. But I don’t really blame the courts – I blame the people… “We, the people” who refuse to see just how inherently corrupt the judicial system has become. Don’t they get it? If someone sentenced to death cannot get fair review – if our system will deny justice in the most extreme cases—the how can the average person out there have any confidence that if and when they or someone they love find themselves caught up in the system, they’ll get “justice?”

People out there need to care about how politically corrupt our judicial system has become because it does effect all of us, not only the unfortunate soul victimized by the system today as tomorrow is may very well be their own family member. As I’ve said before, “evil can only prevail when good people choose to do nothing” and it’s those who choose to do nothing that are ultimately responsible for what the system has become.


November 01, 2006

~Case Update~ November 1, 2006

Each date an update will be posted so that those who wish to follow my case can stay up with the latest progress and any new developments. This month I gave birth to this new blog. Like a new parent giving birth to a child this event brought with it a lot of anxiety and uncertainty. I would welcome any comments and suggestions on how I can make this even better. Please bear with me as I learn to walk in this new world.

Several people have told me that my blog entries are too long; however, let me explain that my objective is to post thought provoking articles on this blog so that those with the attention span greater than that of a mushroom can read a bit about both my case and the death penalty system from the perspective of someone who is actually condemned to death. I want to provoke thought not only on my own injustice but on the corrupt system as a whole. This isn’t about just me – I am not the only victim of injustice trapped within the system. By promoting awareness of why the system has convicted and condemned so many innocent people – and why so many innocent people remain trapped within the system, I hope to make a difference.

Once I have posted the longer articles, then I will attempt to focus on shorter weekly submissions as well as a monthly update. But I will remain hopeful that those who really want to know how the death penalty system works will want to read the full length articles previously posted. (Please see the menu links on the sidebar)

I am encouraged by the comments I have received so far, and I am inspired by the potential of this format to reach out into the world via cyberspace and give people a look from the inside out. But I need your help. I remain in a physical cage and am completely dependent upon the generosity and even sacrifice of a very few friends. A few letters to those in power to do the right thing in my case will not make a difference – we must make them take notice that this is not simply a whisper, but a collective scream for them to do the right thing. I need those who are willing to help to write physical letters to this Judge and remind him that Justice delayed is justice denied – it’s time to do the right thing!

This month saw only one development in the progress of my case. On October 23, 2006 the Judge, R. Thomas Corbin, sent a letter to all parties advising us that he has scheduled a telephonic hearing for October 24th, 2006 but apparently the clerk of the court “forgot” to mail that order out – how convenient! Judge Corbin then said, “the court is looking to rescheduling the oral argument (telephonic hearing) by separate order.” Of course, no separate order actually rescheduling this hearing has yet been provided. (Gee, what a surprise!)

This is indicative of the pattern of deliberate procrastination that has plagued my case for many years – why my claim of actual innocence has effectively been held hostage by this lower trial court for almost nine years now, and why my case will continue to drag on indefinitely unless I can generate outside support and an effective letter campaign encouraging Judge Corbin to expedite review and provide a final disposition. My wrongful conviction and condemnation itself pales in comparison to the psychological trauma of being condemned to solitary confinement and the prolonged uncertainly of my fate.

If you have not yet read the posted articles “Southern Injustice: Condemning An Innocent Man” and “Justice Delayed is Justice Denied” then please take the time to read them now and please, please, please ask others to look at this site too!

As I have written before, it is said that evil only prevails when good men (and women) choose to do nothing. One person alone is a whisper easily ignored. But many by standing together our individual whispers will grow into a collective scream that cannot be ignored. What will you choose to do? Please write a physical letter to Judge Corbin and let him know that Justice Delayed is Justice Denied. The strength that keeps me going is knowing I am not alone and forgotten so please also write me so I’ll know my voice is being heard.

Thank all of you for caring enough to read this blog.

Judge R. Thomas Corbin
Lee County Justice Center
1700 Monroe Street
Ft. Myers, FL 33901

Michael Lambrix # 482053
Union Correctional Institution
7819 N.W. 228th St (P-dorm)
Raiford, FL 32026-4400

October 31, 2006

"Countdown To An Execution"

There is something uniquely surreal about sitting in a death row cell watching your television as virtually every local station out of Jacksonville and Gainesville all cover the “Countdown To An Execution” live from outside the prison.

It’s a circus of its own peculiar morbid design but fortunately seldom seen. The parade of pretty people in front of their camera’s telling the story of the soon to be killed killer doesn’t come in droves except when someone of special status is to be executed.

Today it is the infamous Danny Rolling, a pathetic man in his own right who had pled guilty to five murders in the Gainesville area a dozen years ago. That entitled him to being labeled a “serial killer” and those killing not only defined his life but also will now define his meticulously and deliberately inflicted death.

What does that say about us? Have we really come that far from the days when we gathered outside local county courthouses to watch a public hanging in the town square? Or even a midnight lynching at an old oak tree?

Thanks top the media the ritual of execution is now carried to out living rooms. The bleached blonde reporters will walk you through it, all competing with each other to provide a graphic description of the moments leading up to that execution and as the clock ticks down they will hold your attention by telling you to watch the backdoor of the wing housing the death chamber as once the execution has been carried a prison employee will appear at that door and wave a towel, a white towel, signifying that the execution has now been carried out. For long moments the viewer will watch in silent anticipation, waiting for that sign yet another person has been put to death.

Although disgusted by the pathetic circus, I watch too. I had a personal connection as I knew Danny Rolling – I lived in close proximity to him for many years. Perhaps I knew him netter than any of them now congregated at the prison to watch him die. I never knew him as a killer – I knew him as a fellow inmate. I didn’t judge him by acts of momentary violence against innocent victims, but by years of interaction, seeing him as a person with obvious mental issues and personality flaws. In my world we all have issues –I’ve been on death row now for so long that my issues have developed issues of their own.

Did I mention that I’m disgusted by the spectacle the media is making of this? How can we not be disgusted by the organized and intentional celebration of the death of another human being? What does it say about us as a society when we gather around to watch another man being deliberately put to death?

After the circus is over will any of his victims be brought back to life? What exactly is accomplished by putting the man to death? Certainly by now we know that these so called serial killers feed off public attention, so doesn’t all this attention only inspire other pathetic losers to gain their own fame by killing even more? Is it just a coincidence that the increase in the number of “serial killers” corresponds directly with the increase of the public attention we provide them? Take away their spotlight and what motivation will be left? By making a media circus of Danny Rolling’s execution today. How many more innocent people will die at the hands of other serial killers out to gain their fame?

Here’s another thought… when was the last time you saw these swarms of media trucks gather outside a prison to cover the release of an innocent man? Since we cranked up the killing machine in recent years there’s been over 130 men and women exonerated and released from death row after being wrongfully convicted and condemned to death. When was the last time you saw the media gather at the gates of a prison to cover the release of an innocent man? In 23 years I’ve never seen it – not even once.

We accept serial killers are “sick,” but are we not as equally sick by wanting to watch them be methodically put to death? As we celebrate their death aren’t we doing the same thing we’ve condemned them to death for? How many of us have ever shown the same level of interest in advocating the release of an innocent man as we do in advocating the death of a presumably guilty man?

Today “We the people” put Danny Rolling to death and many celebrated by participating in the media circus that covered every detail. But where will these people be tomorrow when yet another innocent man walks out of prison alone and already forgotten? What does that say about us? Every circus has its clowns – today “We the people” became the clowns.

Did you hear of how he actually sang a Christian gospel song as his final statement? It's hard to deal with the freaking circus they make of it -- it's all so one sided as the media competes to come up with the best sound bite to graphically portray the death of a "monster." Even if we were to assume that he was a monster, maybe we should ask what it was or who created that monster? And what is the difference between him stalking his victims and those who make careers out stalking the death of condemned men and women? Are not both ultimately defined by the end result -- they brought about, by deliberate design and intent, the death of another human being.

When "we, the people" killed Danny Rolling it only made monsters out of all of us as we ultimately did the very same things we condemned him to death for. Only we made our victim suffer under the threat of inevitable death for years and being in solitary confinement awaiting the uncertainty of your fate really is a lot like having a gun held to your head.

Just so you don't get too comfortable with that, with each new appeal you build up the hope of a reprieve as if the gun might just be lifted, but instead the courts deny you -- as if they're recocking the gun and pulling the trigger like a game of Russian roulette. When they pull the trigger at the end of that next appeal, will that be the round that kills you? Or will it be the next one?

It's really the prolonged uncertainty that describes why capital punishment is "cruel and unusual" as if that Constitutional concept even has any meaning in our contemporary society.