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.

Geesje

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.

ASK MIKE 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.

~Kimy~

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.

~Mike~

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.

~Mike~

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