May 25, 2007

Death by Default: killing the condemned when they can’t be executed

When I was sentenced to death over 24 years ago, in my ignorance I thought my fate might lie in “Old Sparky,” Florida’s then infamous electric chair. I didn’t realize that the reality is that most of those condemned to dearth are not condemned to die at the hands of the state, but slowly rot away in solitaire confinement until they inevitably die of “natural causes.”

Recently several newspapers have reported that in the past decade more men on death row have died of natural causes than of actual executions. According to these published reports at least 29 men have died on Florida’s death row in recent years while waiting their judicially imposed date with death -- a few more have been stabbed by other prisoners and at least one (Frank Valdes) was beaten to death by prison guards. See, Valdes v. Crosby, 450 F. 3d 1231 (11th Cir. 2006).

The truth is that increasingly those sentenced to death are more likely to slowly die of old age than by execution. Although the state sanctioned serial killers (politicians and judges who exploit the death penalty to advance their own pathetic careers) constantly cry about speeding up executions – most of this is rhetoric – the truth is that they actually only want to speed up executions against those they believe they can actually execute… and many of those presently sentenced to death cannot be executed without controversy that would undermine the credibility of the death penalty itself. See, Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied.

That’s the dark secret of the death penalty in America – when the judicial system screws up and sentences someone to death who legally should not have been sentenced to death; then what do you do with him? In Florida, and many other states, it’s become death by default -- killing the condemned when they cannot be executed by simply letting them slowly rot away in a solitary cage until they die of old age, or other convenient “natural cause.”

Earlier today on the wing adjacent to the one I am warehoused on the guards were making their routine rounds when they discovered death row inmate Jack Farrell laying dead in his cell. Preliminary examinations indicate that Jack, a longtime diabetic, died of a massive heart attack. Another dead of “natural causes” after many, many years of waiting for his court ordered death sentence.

Down the hall from me just a few cells away a man I’ve known many years is slowly dying of cancer. Henry Garcia has been locked up almost his whole life. Now well over 50, he has almost nobody other than the friends he has in here. That’s the nature of the beast – as the years pass the condemned become increasingly isolated from the free world. Both family and friends drift away and we find ourselves abandoned and forgotten. See, Doing Life On Death Row.

When Henry was told that he had cancer they also told him that it was decided by the medical department that it was not “cost effective” to treat him – that the prison would not even attempt to fight the cancer, but would only let him die… death by default. Now Henry must face a slow but inevitable death alone in his solitary cage – and somehow this is supposed to be “humane.”

Maybe that’s what bothers me the most… we are supposed to be a Christian society, a society that values compassion and humane treatment, and yet we will deliberately turn a blind eye towards the inhumanities that exist in our own backyard.

Maybe if Henry was a mangy stray dog starving on the street then someone might care enough to show him compassion. Am I the only one that’s bothered by the fact that my friend Henry Garcia has now effectively been thrown out alongside the road and left to die while the world races by?

Equally so, what does it say about our system when we allow a man to simply rot away, deliberately deciding that he is not worth saving? How would any one of us feel if we went to our doctor today and were told that we had cancer – but that the doctor decided it was not “cost effective” to treat us and that we have already been given up for dead? How can we call ourselves a humane and civilized society when bureaucrats, who are more concerned with their budget than the patient’s life, decide the value of any person’s life?

If I had access to a telephone, I would personally call the Florida Department of Corrections appointed secretary Jim McDonough (phone number 850/488-7480) and ask him why prison doctors are refusing to treat Henry Garcia – why they have decided to simply let him die. But death row prisoners in Florida are not allowed to use the phone, so I can’t… I wish I could get others to. (Can you take a hint? The phone number is above or you can email him at

You have to excuse my ignorance, but even after spending my entire adult life in a cage in solitary confinement condemned to death for a crime I did not commit, there’s still a part of me that believes that there is good in each of us… that there are still people who are compassionate and do care, even about the welfare of the least of our society. That I’m not the only one who finds it morally offensive that any man should be abandoned and left to die alone. I’ve seen the worst of humanity and lived among the evil incarnate. But I’ve seen men society labeled as monsters show genuine compassion for those they live among while the world outside relentlessly gathers in glorified lynch mobs slobbering at the mouths while screaming for our deaths.

Now I look around me at the world I remain condemned to and I see what society doesn’t want to acknowledge… I see that the malice society has for the lowest of low has reached new heights, as society remains deliberately oblivious to the fact that more and more of those we condemned to death decades ago are rotting away and left to die of “natural causes” when they cannot be killed quick enough by the hands of the State.

And nobody cares. What could be more inhumane than to deliberately confine a man to a cage for decades (many now in excess of 30 years!) and when unable to quickly carry out his execution instead let him slowly rot away until he dies? To be deliberately isolated from the free world, abandoned and forgotten by society and given up for dead as if your life means nothing? Henry Garcia is only one of many others presently condemned to the same fate – death rows across the country have hundreds of condemned men and women perhaps even thousands, who will never actually face execution, but will be left to slowly rot away in their solitary cage until they die. Death by default is America’s new means of carry out the death penalty and this form of execution is administered not in minutes, not in hours, or ever months, or years – but in decades. It is a slow and methodically torturous death that is designed to kill the man’s soul long before the body finally gives up the ghost.

Is this what we, as a self-proclaimed “civilized” society intended? As a matter of moral conscience shouldn’t it bother us that another human being has now been left to die in a such a manner? If these men were dogs, every animal rights group in the country would beat the hates of the prison down to save them – why is it so hard for people to show that same measure of compassion to another human being? As Henry Garcia now slowly dies alone and abandoned by the world beyond, his inevitable death will remain as a commentary on the kind of society we have become – and perhaps that is the greater tragedy.

May 20, 2007

"Dead Man Walking"

by Sister Helen Prejean (Vintage Books)

Sister Helen Prejean's book can be considered only as an argument against capital punishment, and on those terms the book has merit for presenting that case passionately and backing its sentiments up with solid data about our criminal justice system. Then, one's feelings about the book are likely to be swayed by one's opinion about that particular issue.

There is much more to this book, however. It addresses themes far wider than our national debate on executions. Sister Helen Prejean has written a gutsy account of lessons she has learned in ministry -- of plunging into unknown territory as a nun, of facing aspects of humanity that confuse her, frighten her, frustrate her -- and persisting in offering her Christ's forgiveness and love to every customer.

Her decision, for instance, to face the families of the victims of homicide, not to convert them but to listen to anything they offer and accept instruction from them, is courageous and moving.

The book will not last because of its political position or because of any special literary merit; it will, I think, survive as a spiritual memoir and, perhaps, as a compelling argument for seeing even our worst offenders as human beings rather than monsters.

The thing that will stay with me about this book is the spare, unflinching, hypnotic tone of the writing. Helen Prejean has a writing style that will not let the reader look away. This is just as true when she is writing lists of facts as it is when she is recounting her personal odyssey. No matter which side of this debate one personally comes down on, her strength as a person is impossible to negate. She is painfully honest, revealing her own human fears and concerns, and recounting her growth as she acknowledges and faces them.

This is a book that is hard to leave and will be difficult to forget.

Reprinted by permission of the author and the Watkins/Loomis Agency

Excerpt from Book

May 11, 2007

Time To Impeach The Supreme Court

America has become a nation of brain dead punks – cowards incapable of thinking on their own. Just look around and you will see these yellow-bellied, pink-pantied wannabe’s all around you. And while you’re at it, look in the mirror – there’s another one. It’s no surprise we can’t win a war and even worse, let out elected leaders deliberately deceive us and get us into a war we had no business getting into in the first place. When other countries look at us they see our weakness – and they laugh at us. We are pathetic.

I grew up in the San Francisco Bay area in the late sixties and early seventies at the height of the Vietnam War and can vividly remember how so many stood their ground to protest government when they believed the government was wrong. These were the college kids across America that knew in their hearts that our country was heading in the wrong direction – and they were right. Just look at us today, only a generation later. The same generation that stood its ground against government when they believed in what they were doing has now raised a generation of spineless, self-centered, materialistic spoiled brats who are far more likely to whine when their Ipod batteries run low, than when their Constitutional rights as abrogated by parasitic politicians and conservative judicial activists.

Whatever happened to that generation that stood their ground even when Uncle Sam called out the National Guard and Mayor Daley sent in platoons of armed cops to beat them back at the Democratic Convention in Chicago? I’m not talking about the Height-Ashbury hippies that found peace at the end of a pot pipe, but the idealistic students that marched on Telegraph Avenue at the gates of Berkeley, and countless other colleges and universities across America. These were the educated, the idealistic cream of the crop, America’s future leaders who believed in a cause and were willing to stand their ground to make their voice heard. Where are they today?

I believe in America and I believe in a Constitutional Democracy and it makes me proud to be a citizen of a country that was founded not by rule of government, but by revolution of the people. But that democracy is dead and its battered body, decaying like an abandoned corpse callously thrown out with the trash. The America I believe in no longer exists and in its place is a contemptuous conservative theocracy, a beast that feeds off the individual to give power to this religious dictatorship. Am I the last true American – myself but a man condemned to death by an injustice deliberately perpetuated by the corruption of our judicial system?

I am also a Christian, believing without doubt in the resurrection of Christ as my only hope of salvation, believing in an eternity that can only come through salvation and faith in a God greater than myself. But I must hang my head in shame when I call myself a Christian as I know only too well that the right wing conservative Christians of America are by far the primary cause of the corruption of our Constitutional Democracy… and the cause of its probable if not inevitable death.

Our Constitutional forefathers knew of the evil of allowing religion to control government. The Constitutional mandate of separation of church and state was never intended to take God out of the country, but rather these founding fathers knew that to allow government to become one with any specific religion would ultimately be the destruction of our Constitutional Democracy. Only by separating religion and government could both survive in a balance that they fought to preserve.

But now the right wing conservative “Christians” control all three branches of our government. The beast has risen and taken control, and its evil tentacles have choked the life out of our democracy. The true “axis of evil” is the corruption of the three branches of government by those fanatically committed to instilling their own theocracy, to allow their own religion to rule our government.

Biblical prophesy speaks of the beast and warns that its power will come through the deception of the believers. The beast’s power comes from controlling those who call themselves Christians and blindly follow their leaders. But would a true man of God lead our nation into a modern day crusade against non-Christians? Think about it… What is the war in Iraq and Afghanistan (and before it’s over, the entire Middle East) really about? We already know the Bush Administration deliberately deceived our country. This past week former CIA Director George Tenet has come forth claiming that the Bush Administration also knew of an impending terrorist attack before 911, but deliberately took no action. Why? (Does anyone really ask?)

Is it really so hard to consider whether this contemporary conservative theocracy might have an insidious agenda? We all know that George W. Bush is nothing more than a puppet and the true power lies with the puppet masters that cower behind the scenes and call the shots. And they do have an agenda… they want America to be legislatively and judicially transformed into a theocratic apartheid – and they are winning!

Which brings us back to America becoming a nation of spineless cowards who today take their Constitutional rights for granted and have long forgotten the sacrifices so many made to preserve our Democracy.

What is it that makes America great? It’s not out government, but our people… it’s our 300 million diverse individuals, each with the inalienable Constitutional right to fundamental freedoms. But these freedoms are being methodically eroded. In today’s America, the individual person has become expendable as this conservative theocracy gives the power to government. How many of us have actually taken a moment to read the original “Bill of Rights,” the very foundation of our Constitutional Democracy? How many of us as parents have ever – even once – sat down with our children and talked about our Constitutional rights? When we do actually read the preamble of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, we realize that virtually every right articulated in unquestionably intended to give the individual the power to protect against government – not even one of these rights were intended for the government or for the government to have power over at the expense of the individual. Think about that.

We call ourselves the land of the free and yet America today has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. Our prison system has become a virtual industry of government. Equally so the quintessential American Dream is to own our own house, yet the conservation judicial activists on the Supreme Court have decreed that government can take your house and sell it to developers who want to build condo’s – why? Because condo units pay more taxes to the government than a single family home and the individual is expendable for the greater good of government. Where does it say that in the Constitution?

Growing up I watched with awe and reverence as masses of both men and women marched in the streets in anticipation of the 1973 Supreme Court ruling in Roe V. Wade and I believe it was their collective voice that made a difference. Growing up Catholic – even an alter boy at the time – I was indoctrinated to believe that abortion is murder… and maybe it is. But what right do I have to force my belief on another? Our constitution is about individuals’ rights.

Last month for t he first time since Roe v. Wade, the contemporary conservative cabal on our Supreme Court has finally succeeded in compromising Roe v. Wade when by a marginal majority the conservative judicial activists (Roberts, Saclia, Thomas, Alito, and Kennedy) ruled that “partial birth” abortions are unconstitutional. For the first time, since Roe v. Wade this case placed the perceived rights of the unborn fetus over the rights of the women – no exception was made for partial birth abortions necessitated by the health of the mother. Not surprisingly, conservative politicians in many states quickly introduced proposed new laws limiting abortions even further in anticipation of a legal fight in the Courts that they now feel they can win, with the objective of having all abortions ultimately declared illegal. And that will come if up to this court.

What offends me about this “right to life” movement is the blatant hypocrisy – when the Supreme Court conservatives ruled partial-birth abortions to be unconstitutional, they cited to their fundamental belief in the “sanctity of life.” But these very same conservative justices consistently are the ones who also slobber at the mouth like rabid dogs in their zeal to quickly kill condemned prisoners – even the innocent, See, Herrera v. Collins, 506 U.S. 390(1993). In Marsh v. Kansas, Justice Scalia even took the position that the claims of innocent people being wrongfully condemned to death is overblown – that there are very few truly innocent people convicted as the system works. And that although the system is not perfect, a few mistakes are acceptable in the interest of the greater good.

Why does the sanctity of life apply to an unborn child but not to an innocent man wrongfully convictred and condemned to death? Where exactly in the Constitution does it say that an unborn child has any rights? Our constitution says nothing about when, as a matter of law, life begins – this fantasy is created by the Supreme Court Justices to juetify their own agenda and that is the textbook definition of judical activism.

Recent polls show that President Bush’s popularity is about as low as any president’s popularity has ever sunk. Some are calling for the impeachment of President Bush. Which is arguably justified in you believe President Bush deliberately misled Congress and our country to it into a war… which I personally do.

But President Bush’s days are already numbered. Already the campaign for a new President is running. Although he can still inflict great harm to our country such as deliberately escalating Mideast tensions and perhaps even instigating a war with Iran and Syria, that conceivably could quickly evolve into World War III, one way or another in November 2008 we will elect a new President… thank God!

But the greater evil is the legacy he leaves behind. If we are truly tired of being force-fed this conservative hypocritical ideology and what to purge our country of its evil then perhaps the time has come to consider impeaching the conservative justices presently on the Supreme Court. These justices are appointed for life and will be around long after Bush is gone, and unless they too are removed from office this generation will see our Supreme Court transform America into a theocracy ruled by five men. The strength of a democracy is that we have the power to demand their impeachment in Congress – but are there enough people in America still willing to stand up for what they believe in? Or are we truly a nation of cowards, unwilling to confront this evil that threatens our constitutional democracy.

May 04, 2007

Does DNA Condemn The Innocent??

This past week the media reported that according to the Innocence Project, the 200th person has now been exonerated by DNA evidence. This sobering milestone was reached when Jerry Miller, a now 48-year old former Army cook was proven innocent by DNA. Evidence from a brutal kidnapping and rape that took place in Chicago in September of 1981 had sent Miller to prison. The victim never identified Miller as her assailant but two parking lot attendants did identify him.

Miller spent 25 years in several Illinois prisons insisting he was innocent before recently being paroled. Through these many years Miller filed numerous appeals challenging the validity of his wrongful convictions; to no avail. With no appeals left, about ten years ago Miller sought out the assistance of the New York based Innocence Project, co-founded in 1992 by renowned attorney Barry Scheck. Agreeing to take the case, Miller was released from prison on parole before the DNA testing was completed. Last week the Cook County Court granted a motion vacating Miller’s convictions and legally exonerating him.

But with all the attention focused on DNA testing, has exoneration by DNA evidence now become the new litmus test for proving innocence? If so, then could it be that DNA is now actually condemning more innocent people than it is exonerating? Through the past 30 years over 125 men and women have been legally exonerated and released from death row; after being found to have been wrongfully convicted and condemned to death. Of that number, only a handful, were exonerated by DNA evidence.

Of the 200 exonerations through DNA evidence, 54 of those were convicted of murder – with less than 10 also wrongfully sentenced to death. Like in the Miller case, the leading cause of the wrongful conviction was mistaken identity, followed closely by faulty scientific evidence. False confessions accounted for only about 25 percent.

There is no question that DNA testing has proven to be a valuable tool in exonerating the innocent. In fact, the very first criminal case in which DNA testing was used in an attempt to prove guilt actually resulted in an unexpected exoneration. The story of how DNA testing came to be utilized in criminal cases begins in Leicestershire, England. In November 1983 a local 15-year old Lynda Mann was raped and strangled to death with her body callously discarded in a field not far from her home. Although the local community searched for the killer, the case went unsolved.

Then almost three years later in August 1986 the body of another 15-year old girl (Dawn Ashworth) was found – she too had been raped and strangled in a manner remarkably similar to Lynda Mann. An investigation led local police to Richard Buckland, a porter at a nearby hospital. Buckland soon confessed to the Ashworth murder, but given the similarities and proximity of the earlier murder of Lynda Mann the police felt that Buckland had to also be responsible for that murder.

Anxious to close the books on both murders the police called upon Alec Jeffries, a professor at Leicestershire University, in England, who while attempting to identify the myoglobin producing gene, which governs the tissues that carry oxygen from the blood to the muscles discovered that DNA is unique to each individual.

The English police thought this new discovery could help them prove that Richard Buckland had also murdered Lynda Mann and Professor Jeffries collected blood samples from Buckland to compare against semen recovered from both of the young victims. The results shocked both Professor Jeffries and the police – contrary to his own confession; Buckland did not commit either murder! The semen taken from both Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth undoubtedly did come from the same man – the same man committed both crimes – but it wasn’t Buckland.

With this DNA evidence now able to identify the true killer, the police launched an extensive manhunt, collecting over 5,000 DNA samples from men living around the Leicestershire area – but no match was found, The cases seemed to be destined to remain unsolved and the killer free to kill again until the police unexpectedly received a call from an acquaintance of Ian Kelly, a baker who lived some distance from the area of the crime. He claimed that Kelly had told him that he had provided the DNA sample for a friend and information led the police to Colin Pitchfork . Pitchfork’s DNA was then proven to be a match for the semen found in both victims. Based on this evidence in January 1988 Pitchfork became the first ever person convicted based upon genetic fingerprinting and was then sentenced to life on both murders.

There can be no question that DNA’s genetic fingerprinting has proven to be an invaluable tool in both identifying the guilty and exonerating the innocent. And that those who are committed to fighting for justice by using DNA to exonerate the wrongfully convicted should be commended for their work. Barry Shack and the Innocence Project, as well as the many universities that now have similar projects, have brought hope to countless victims of injustice and have successfully brought justice to at least 200.

But the problem is that the success of of these numerous DNA exonerations have effectively stolen the limelight. Increasingly, because of all the attention on exonerations by DNA evidence, those who cannot prove their innocence by DNA – because it doesn’t exist or was lost by the state in their case – are ignored. Most of the Innocence Projects today will not even accept cases unless there is forensic evidence that can be subjected to DNA testing. Almost without exception, those exonerated by DNA evidence were convicted of sexual assaults, yet these crimes account for only a small percentage of those wrongfully convicted.

Historically most of those exonerated after being wrongfully convicted (and even condemned to death) never had any DNA evidence to prove their innocence – does this make them less innocent? If society and the judicial system place to much dependence upon DNA to prove a person’s innocence, then ultimately this dependence on DNA evidence as the litmus test of innocence will actually condemn far more innocent people that it will exonerate.

It is an unfortunate tragedy that there are very limited resources available to handle the many thousands of cases in which wrongfully convicted and even condemned prisoners allege innocence. Our judicial system generally has proven unwilling to provide legal support to the allegedly innocent and contemporary politics has resulted in Draconian procedural rules that actually make it almost impossible for a wrongfully convicted person to even argue – much less prove – his or her innocence.

Is it really fair that with all the attention on DNA and the vast majority if these limited resources available to the organization dedicated to fighting the injustices of wrongful convictions are now dedicated almost exclusively to cases where DNA evidence is an issue? What about the larger number of prisoners wrongfully convicted that do not have DNA evidence that are being deliberately ignored and forgotten?

Am I the only one troubled by the fact that in the numerous articles I read proclaiming the 200th person exonerated by DNA evidence this past week, not even one article mentioned that DNA exonerations actually account for only a small percentage of the cases in which the wrongfully convicted and condemned were subsequently exonerated and released? That in fact, DNA exonerations are almost exclusively limited to cases involving and alleged sexual assault and that of the now over 125 men and women exonerated and released from death row across the country in recent years, less than ten percent were exonerated by DNA evidence.

It is not my intent to negate the commendable job, Barry Scheck and many other dedicated lawyers associated with these Innocence Projects are doing. These are the hero’s of all those wrongfully convicted. But it is my belief that they have a responsibility to remind the public that DNA exonerations are actually only the more visible tip of the proverbial iceberg and that the greater mass if wrongful convictions cannot be so easily exposed by DNA testing. Without constantly reminding the public of this undeniable truth the greater injustice will be perpetuated by the very individuals so obviously and selflessly devoted to exposing injustice, as the general public becomes fixated on DNA evidence as the litmus test of innocence. As attention becomes increasingly focused on DNA exonerations inevitably overshadowing the significantly greater number of wrongful convictions that cannot be expose by DNA testing, then ultimately DNA will actually condemn far more innocent people than it will exonerate – and that would be the greater injustice.


April 22, 2007

Obstructing Justice – An Injustice Perpetuated By The Courts

Justice delayed is justice denied – this seems like a simple and self-evident truth, but in our politically corrupt contemporary judicial system this truth takes on two completely different and conflicting meanings. Those familiar with this blog are already aware of the case of Mike Lambrix, who has now been on Florida’s death row for over 23 years, (See, Condemning An Innocent Man) and his continuous fight to compel the courts to expidite review of his appeals. For over 9 years Lambrix’s now substantiated claim of actual innocence has been pending before the lower state court despite Lambrix’s own aggressive efforts to compel the court to provide timely review and reach a final disposition in his case.

Confronted with the lower court and the state prosecutors consistently obstructing timely review Lambrix petitioned the Florida Supreme Court to compel that lower state court to expedited review, but that court refused to take any action. Lambrix has now filed a petition with the United States Supreme Court arguing that his protected constitutional right to timely review of his capital post conviction appeals has been violated -- but will the Supreme Court intervene and hold the state as equally accountable for unnecessary delays as it so often does in holing death row prisoners who fail to “timely” file their appeals? Or is the Supreme Court’s push to expedite a “finality” in capital cases only applicable when its objective is to carry out an execution – and not applicable when the objective is to expedite justice? (The petition can be read in its entirety here.)

If the courts and politicians are so committed to expediting review of capital post conviction appeals under the pretense of promoting a timely “finality,” then why is it they only want to expedite review when their objective is to carry out executions – and not when the state itself deliberately obstructs timely review of a legitimately pled claim of actual innocence? If this is really about objectively expediting a finality in capital cases, then shouldn’t both the courts and politicians be as equally committed to expediting review when a claim of actual innocence is raised as they are when they seek to expedite an execution?

But again, it’s not about expediting justice – it’s about expediting executions. Think about it… the only time politicians and courts pass laws that they claim are intended to speed up death row appeals is when these laws are imposed exclusively against the condemned prisoner. Not even once has Congress or The Supreme Court ever passed a law that imposes any form of sanctions against the state if and when the state is the party responsible for deliberately delaying timely review.

The public remains conveniently oblivious to the insidious nature of these politically motivated campaigns to expedite review of capital post conviction appeals – what it is really about is devising insidious ways to deliberately circumvent a full and fair review of capital cases. (See, Supreme Court Slams Death Row Appeals.) But when confronted with a timely filed and legitimately pled claim of actual innocence, the politicians and the courts no longer have an interest in pushing for an expedited review as if the wrongfully convicted and condemned person is then exonerated that exoneration undermines their true objective of promoting more executions.

The simple truth is that allowing wrongfully convicted and condemned prisoners to fairly prove their innocence undermines public confidence in the judicial system and erodes public support for the death penalty itself. In recent years over 125 men and women have been judicially exonerated and released from death rows across the county. As the public has become aware of the inherent fallibility of our judicial system support for capital punishment itself has substantially declined.

Incredibly, confronted with this substantial decline, both conservative politicians and the conservative judicial activists on our courts have responded by pushing for even more limitations on death row appeals, especially limiting collateral post conviction appeals – the very type of appeal traditionally used to expose an injustice. By devising disingenuous means in which to effectively procedurally bar condemned prisoners from pursuing these appeals – thus eliminating any means in which to present the evidence necessary to prove their innocence; the embarrassment of having so many wrongful convictions exposed is circumvented.

But is this insidious practice of deliberately circumventing review of a legitimate claim of actual innocence only really painting our judicial system into a corner? Although it can be argued that most of these death row claims of innocence are specious, at best, many of these seemingly specious claims have proven to be substantiated upon full review.

Public confidence in our judicial system is dependent upon the perceived integrity of the courts themselves. Even with a marginal majority of our population still supporting the death penalty, no person of moral conscience supports a system that would inevitably result in executing innocent people. Advocating the execution of a guilty person can be called “justice.” but inevitably executing even one innocent person can only be called murder and in a constitutional democracy advocating the execution of even one innocent person makes murderers out of all of us.

Assume for a moment that a condemned prisoner does develop evidence to substantiate his long pled claim of innocence. Before our society carries out that execution, don’t we have a moral obligation to fully a fairly address that claim of innocence? Equally so, when a condemned prisoner properly presents a legitimately pled claim of actual innocence to the courts, then don’t the courts themselves have a moral obligation to ensure that timely review is provided? If justice delayed is justice denied, then isn’t the ultimate injustice that of deliberately delaying the probably exoneration of an innocent man?

Think about it for a moment… what conceivable purpose does the state (or the courts) have in deliberately obstructing timely review of a legitimate actual innocence claim? Being wrongfully convicted and condemned to death itself is an injustice of such extreme proportion that it can never truly be remedied. Even if the innocent person is ultimately exonerated and released from death row, the actual irreparable injury of being condemned to death; the many years of solitary confinement confronting that unjustified sentence of death; has already been irreversibly inflicted and cannot be undone. ( See, Bowels of the Beast: Condemned to a Fate Worse Than Death).

Lambrix has already been on Florida’s death row well over 23 years, with his substantiated claim of actual innocence based upon exculpatory evidence deliberately concealed by the prosecutor now pending before the lower state court for over 9 years. If Lambrix’s claim has no merit, then why is the lower court and the state deliberately delaying review? Is Lambrix’s case an exception? Or is this deliberate deprivation of timely review of a substantiated claim of actual innocence actually a policy and practice condoned by the courts? Do our courts collaborate with the state to deliberately obstruct and deny timely review in capital cases that present a legitimate claim of actual innocence?

Consider the case of Frank Lee Smith, a poor man convicted of allegedly raping and killing an 8 year old girl in Broward County, Florida. There were no witnesses to the crime, but a witness did allegedly see him leaving the house where the little girl’s body was later found. For many years Smith screamed he was innocent to anyone who would listen—but very few would. After many years on death row the science of DNA testing was introduced into the judicial system and finally Smith had hope of proving his innocence.

In 1991 Smith’s court appointed lawyers filed the necessary legal action to have the evidence recovered at the crime scene tested, only to then have the State of Florida obstruct any DNA testing of that evidence. Smith’s case dragged out in the lower state court for many years when finally --9 years later!-- testing was completed and concluded that Smith actually was innocent – and even identified the true perpetrator.

But the injustice deliberately perpetuated against Frank lee Smith by allowing the state to deliberately obstruct timely review of his claim of innocence could never be remedied and justice could never be served – several moths before the DNA test results finally were released, Frank Lee Smith died of cancer while still on Florida’s death row. (See, Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied.)

By allowing the state to deliberately obstruct and delay timely review Smith’s exoneration was a hollow victory – Smith still died a wrongfully convicted and condemned man.

When our courts effectively collaborate with the state to deliberately obstruct and deny timely review of a legitimately pled claim of actual innocence then our courts themselves become responsible for perpetuating the ultimate injustice against an innocent man. The reality of it is that these same politicians and justices who relentlessly advocate expediting death row appeals under this pretense of promoting a timely “finality” actually only want to expedite executions – not justice.

If the Supreme Court is so willing to protect the states interest in expediting review of capital cases when the objective is to expedite executions, then why won’t the Supreme Court recognize the wrongfully convicted and condemned prisoner’s right to timely review of a legitimately pled claim of actual innocence?

When it comes down to it, our courts have a constitutional responsibility not only to enforce laws intended to punish the guilty but even more so, to protect the innocent from unjustified punishment. When our courts deliberately turn a blind eye when state prosecutors first wrongfully convict and condemn an innocent man, then when evidence of that prosecutorial misconduct is finally exposed, allows the state to deliberately deny timely review, effectively allowing the ultimate injustice to be indefinitely perpetuated against an innocent man, then our courts have failed to carry out their constitutional responsibility.

Equality and fairness are the cornerstones of justice. If our courts are willing to prohibit a condemned prisoner from filing a substantiated claim of innocence because he failed to timely file the claim (See, Herrara V. Collins 506 U.S. 390 (1993)), then equally so – when a condemned prisoner does timely file a legitimate claim of actual innocence and the state obstructs and denies timely review, then equality and fairness demand that the state be procedurally barred from any further defense, and relief summarily granted, as Lambrix now argues in his petition presently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. To hold otherwise would only encourage the states to obstruct justice and the resulting injustice, would be perpetuated as a result of and by our courts.

(note: comments to this article are invited)

April 15, 2007

Supreme Court Reviews Southern Injustice

With corruption and injustice within the judicial system becoming increasingly exposed through unconventional media sources, those want to seek out the truth are increasingly turning to the Internet to get the story. Those already familiar with this blog know of “,” a website dedicated to exposing the new face of bigotry and injustice in the south. Southern Injustice especially details the corruption within the 20th Circuit State Attorney’s Office of Southwest Florida, as although relatively small in size this one particular office presently has the highest rate of wrongful convictions in capital cases in the entire country.

Southern Injustice’s efforts to expose the corruption with this particular judicial circuit has only been going for about six months now, but has already drawn in thousands of supporters. Among the repeat visitors to this site is the Florida Supreme Court, which according to “Google Analytics” recently spent three days downloading content relating to information based upon public records regarding the 20th Circuit’s State Attorney’s Office. See, the evidence of these visits here.

Why would the Florida Supreme Court suddenly develop an interest in Southern Injustice and its content? Recently both the Miami Herald and the Ft Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel exposed a dirty, dark secret going on in the courts of South Florida when it was discovered that the state circuit courts in Broward and Dade Counties have been secretly working with prosecutors to fabricate false records to illegally protect “jailhouse snitches” and others. See, “Florida Courts Caught Fabricating Records.”

In Florida, as in most states, it is against the law to conceal court records unless the records are sealed by specific court order upon a showing of cause. The intent of the law is obvious – if court records are not open and available to the public, then public confidence can easily be undermined by projecting an appearance of something to hide. In America, our courts are constitutionally obligated to administer justice openly, not in dark rooms behind closed doors; they are also ethically mandated to be free from even any appearance of impropriety.

According to the investigative reports in the Miami Herald and Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, the Broward and Dade County Courts deliberately fabricated records made available to the public while concealing the actual records. After this alleged misconduct was publicly exposed the matter was brought to the attention of the Florida Supreme Court. Immediately chief Justice Lewis promised a full investigation.

Southern Injustice has filed a formal complaint with the Florida Supreme Court concerning court records in the 20th Judicial Circuit. Although circuit court records are computerized or physically available at each county’s courthouse, the records in the capital case of Cary Michael Lambrix are not. Lambrix was tried, convicted, and condemned to death in rural Glades County, Florida in early 1984. When the Clerk of Court in Glades County was contacted, Southern Injustice was advised that all records are kept in Lee County (Ft. Myers). However, the clerk of the Court in Lee County claims that although the records are in Lee County, they do not know where. Both counties use a computerized docketing system, but neither could explain why the current Lambrix case files were not on their computerized system and were not accessible to the public. While they were both aware he had been convicted and condemned to death, they assured Southern Injustice that nothing had been filed on this case since 1992.

Why would the current court records in the Lambrix case be illegally concealed from the public? To understand the motivations of those who do not want these records readily accessible, a brief history of this case helps. The case brought against Lambrix over 24 years ago was wholly circumstantial – there were no eyewitnesses, no physical or forensic evidence, and no confessions. As the local prosecutor Randall McGruther conceded to the jury the entire case was built upon the testimony of Lambrix’s then recently estranged ex-girlfriend Frances Smith (now Frances Ottinger) who conveniently claimed Lambrix had told her he committed this brutal double murder only after she was herself arrested and in unrelated felonies.

Lambrix adamantly insisted that he was innocent and that the state and key witness Smith deliberately fabricated the specious, wholly circumstantial theory of premeditated murder. The jury was not allowed to hear that she actually told the police numerous stories before coming up with the one that conveniently won her immunity from any prosecution. Nor was the jury allowed to know that she failed a state administered polygraph prior to trial. In fact the jury was led to believe that she was not given any deal for her testimony and let her get away with saying under oath she wasn’t given anything for her cooperation. Then Lambrix himself was prohibited from personally testifying, leaving her testimony unchallenged. See, “Southern Injustice: Condemning An Innocent Man” Lambrix was convicted and condemned to death and has been on death row now since March 1984.

Throughout these many years Lambrix has remained on death row even coming within hours of actual execution – but still adamantly insisting on his innocence, steadfastly claiming the circumstantial case was deliberately fabricated.

Then on 1998 the only other witness who corroborated key witness Smith’s claim that Lambrix admitted committing these murders stepped forward and admitted under oath her testimony claiming Lambrix told her he had committed this crime was not true. See, “Woman Recants Testimony.”

Hearings were subsequently held at which time this witness testified that both key witness Smith and the State’s investigator coerced her to provide that false testimony against Lambrix. When Lambrix’s own lawyers then looked into these claims, even more evidence was revealed – key witness Smith was actually having a secret affair with the local state attorney’s lead investigator, Robert Daniels, while Lambrix was prosecuted. See, “Witness Admits Affair.”

In fact, records show that investigator Daniels was the very person who swore out the affidavit leading to Lambrix’s arrest, then personally supervised the development of the specious circumstantial evidence used to corroborate key witness Smith’s own testimony. Of course, the jury was not aware of this intimate relationship between the key witness and Investigator Daniels.

As the evidence substantiating Lambrix’s long pled claim of innocence began to accumulate, a funny thing happened – inexplicitly, all the court files in this case were suddenly transferred from Glades County to Lee County (Ft. Myers) and public access prohibited. Could the Florida Supreme Court now be looking into this illegal concealment of public court records? But why would Circuit Court Judge R. Thomas Corbin, who has presided over this case since 1998, remove the files of a capital case and effectively prohibit public access?

To address that question we must go back to the fact that this judicial circuit presently has the highest rate of wrongful convictions in capital cases in the entire country. The prosecutor, Randall McGruther who put Lambrix on death row has a significant history of alleged misconduct that includes sending at least one other subsequently exonerated man to death row. McGruther is now the Chief Assistant State Attorney in that judicial circuit.

In recent months Southern Injustice has investigated Lambrix’s case and obtained public records relevant to that state attorney’s office that exposes a troubling truth. Quite simply, this 20th Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office has been, and continues to be, controlled by an inner circle of college classmates and alumni of Florida’s Stetson University… it’s a virtual Southern style “good ole boys” club of college buddies who consistently cover for each other to avoid exposure of alleged and apparently systemic prosecutorial misconduct. See, “Anatomy of a Corrupt Prosecutor.”

But this apparent corruption reaches beyond the local state attorney’s office as review of public records show that this Stetson “good ole boy’s club” also controls the local circuit courts. Again, when looking into the Lambrix case Southern Injustice discovered that although the case is assigned to Circuit Court Judge R. Thomas Corbin, it is actually managed by Senior Staff Attorney Steven A, Hooper and supervised by the Chief Administrative Judge Hugh Cary --both of whom are closely connected to The prosecuotr on Lambrix's case either through having gone to Stetson University Law School or who were originally recruited by and worked with the prosecutor Randall McGruther and elected State Attorney Steve Russell. See, our connection chart here.

As if this was not enough, further review of court records revealed that the Senior Staff Attorney Stephen A. Hooper now controlling this case in Judge Corbin’s Court was previously assigned to Circuit Court Judge Thomas Reese in 1994 when Judge Reese presided over Lambrix’s earlier post conviction appeal arguing his actual innocence, which was “procedurally barred” from review upon the pled merits… apparently, Stephen Hooper’s job is to make sure the Lambrix case is not heard.

Unable to credibly dispute Lambrix’s now substantiated claim of innocence, those responsible for perpetuating this deliberate injustice against Lambrix are now obstructing timely review of Lambrix’s “actual innocence” appeal, which has now been pending before the lower state court for over 9 years. See, “Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied.”

Lambrix has recently filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court (Lambrix v. Florida, case #06-9634) in which Lambrix argues that the failure to provide timely review of his pled claim or actual innocence in the lower state court violates his constitutional right to meaningful post conviction appellate review, entitling him to have his convictions automatically vacated. The petition can be read in its entirety here. Also see, Does the Supreme Court Suborn Perjury in Capital Cases?

But with the undisputable influence of the local state attorney’s office corrupting any chance of receiving full and fair review of Lambrix’s pled claim of actual innocence before the lower court, how can there be any hope that justice will prevail in this case? Lambrix has already attempted to compel the Florida Supreme Court to intervene, but they refused to address the petition until after the circuit court’s review.

What this Lambrix case is increasingly exposing is a corruption not simply of a single capital case, but of an entire judicial circuit. Southern Injustice has received letters from numerous other prisoners presently incarcerated after being convicted of crimes within the 20th Judicial Circuit and a pattern of “win by any means necessary” prosecutorial misconduct is indisputably emerging.

Could it be as this corruption is finally now being publicly exposed the Florida Supreme Court is beginning to take notice? Do we dare hope that a formal investigation of the 20th Judicial Circuit’s Stetson University “good ole boy club” may finally be imminent? If you haven’t already read the website, you should now do so now… has justice in the Deep South really changed?


April 03, 2007

“Does The Supreme Court Suborn Perjury In Capital Cases?”

Our Judicial system is the very foundation upon which our constitutional democracy stands – yet increasingly that foundation is becoming nothing more than shifting sands so easily manipulated by deliberate deception. The sacred concepts of truth and justice have given way to a system in which lawyers win at any cost. Without truth, there can be no hope for justice, and without justice there can be no hope in sustaining our constitutional democracy.

For several weeks now the headlines across the country have told the story of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales being “under the gun” for acts of misconduct within the Attorney General’s Office. Repeatedly it has been found that the Attorney General’s Office has deliberately deceived both Congress and the public in the matter of why numerous prosecutors were fired.

Confronted with this pattern of deceptions Congress has called for formal hearings to discern the truth only to have President Bush obstruct their proceedings by refusing to cooperate. Once again declaring that he has absolute confidence in a number of his inner circle, Bush blindly stands behind Attorney General Gonzales – just as he did for numerous other appointees when their integrity and competence were publicly questioned. One could even argue that the surest way to predict a soon to be announced resignation by one of Bush’s inner circle is to have Bush publicly declare his confidence in that individual.

The public is becoming increasingly familiar with this song and dance as those we place our trust in are subsequently exposed as corrupt. If our top prosecutors such as Alberto Gonzales will obstruct the truth from being revealed, then what does that say about the integrity of our judicial system itself?

Although the matter concerning Alberto Gonzales is played in the front page of most daily newspapers across the country, a far more insidious example of suborning deception and perjury can be found in a matter pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. Is it possible that our Supreme Court itself actively encourages governmental lawyers to commit perjury and protects these lawyers by granting them absolute immunity from accountability?

What does it say about our American legal system when at the highest levels of our judiciary -- The Supreme Court Justices knowingly turn a blind eye to governmental lawyers who deliberately misrepresent facts with the intent to deceive the Court? The truth is that these state lawyers know that the courts will protect them even when they commit perjury, and that it has come to the point where truth and integrity mean so very little to our Supreme Court that material misrepresentations of for (or in simpler language, deliberate lies) have become a way of life… a way to deliberately circumvent the truth.

Several months ago death sentenced prisoner Michael Lambrix, unable to obtain legal counsel, filed a “pro se” (acting as his own lawyer) petition in the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that the State of Florida has denied him timely review of his pled and substantiated actual innocence claims. See, Lambrix v. Florida, U.S. Ct. Case #06-9634 (The full Petition can be read here) and also please read, “Condemning An Innocent Man” (Full length summary of the Lambrix case from the time of his arrest, through the trial, the appellate process, and finally the new evidence uncovered that substantiates his long pled claim of innocence.)

Mr. Lambrix argues that in January 19998 his state appointed lawyer filed an appeal in the lower state court arguing an actual innocence claim. Now, well over 9 years later that appeal remains pending despite Lambrix’s repeated and even relentless efforts to expedite review and reach a final disposition. At the time in which the Supreme Court aggressively pushes to expedite capital state post conviction proceedings, under what conceivable circumstance could any state post conviction appeal remain pending before a single court for over 9 years?

Quite simply, the evidence supporting Lambrix’s pled claims that the local state attorney’s office deliberately conspired and collaborated with the sole key witness to fabricate the entire wholly circumstantial case brought against Lambrix, is now, so overwhelming that it cannot be denied. See, Southern Injustice: The New face of Bigotry and Injustice in the South. Unable to discredit Lambrix's claims of innocence, the state has instead decided to deliberately perpetuate this injustice by obstructing and denying timely review -- effectively holding the case hostage in the lower state court, refusing to allow it to proceed. See, “Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied.”

Determined to bring an end to this nightmare of injustice, Lambrix filed a petition in the Florida Supreme Court attempting to compel that Court to take the action necessary to force the lower court to expedite review and make a ruling. However, Florida’s Senior Assistant Attorney General Carol Dittmar convinced the Florida Supreme Court that Lambrix was prohibited from petitioning the Court for relief as only the state appointed supervised post conviction counsel could file any action in the case – Lambrix had no right to personally address the Court. The Florida Supreme Court blindly adopted this pathetically disingenuous argument in an unprecedented ruling, refusing to compel the lower state court to provide timely review. See, Florida Supreme Court Says, “No Right To Expedited Review of Actual Innocence Claim.”

Lambrix then initiated the now pending Petition in the U.S. Supreme Court. In a response to this petition submitted by Senior Assistant Attorney General Carol Dittmar, the State of Florida again is attempting to manipulate the Court to circumvent review of the issue of whether a capital post conviction (death-sentenced) prisoner has any enforceable right to reasonably timely review of a pled and substantiated claim of actual innocence Once again Florida’s legal counsel Carol Dittmar has filed an action saturated with deliberate deceptions and factual misrepresentations intended to deceive the Supreme Court. (Both Ms. Dittmar’s response and Mr. Lambrix's reply to that response will be posted in their entirety on this site within the next week.)

Why has our contemporary judicial system become so inherently corrupted that even a capital defendant arguing a substantiated claim of actual innocence cannot even hope that truth and justice will prevail? Because those at the highest levels of our state and federal judiciaries refuse to take any action against these morally and ethically corrupt state prosecutors who repeatedly resort to deliberate misrepresentations and outright lies to defend against claims. See, “Prosecutorial Misconduct: Does Immunity Invite Injustice?.”

What is even more tragic is that our courts themselves have lost their own moral compass – truth and integrity mean nothing in today’s judicial system. State lawyers such as Senior Assistant Attorney General Carol Dittmar know that they can flagrantly commit perjury before even the highest Court as they know the Court will not even concern itself with discerning the truth, much less take any disciplinary action against corrupt state lawyers who do unethically perjure themselves with complete impunity.

Under the pretense of a “conservative judicial agenda,” today’s courts would rather deliberately put an innocent man to death than expose an injustice. Incredibly, many of these so-called conservatives adopt a philosophy that it is acceptable to execute an innocent man as the Constitution does not protect the innocent from being executed – it only protects the right to a fair trial. See, Blessings of Liberty in the Land of the Free. Unless a factually innocent man (or woman) can show that he was denied a “fair trial” and show it within the statutorily mandated time limits; innocence is irrelevant.

How can anyone have any confidence in such a system? In case after case we see that the corruption of the system itself is the product of corrupt state attorneys who will do anything to win at any cost. See,"The Anatomy of A Corrupt Prosecutor". Truth and integrity are no longer relevant… only winning matters and state prosecutors such as Senior Assistant Attorney General Carol Dittmar knows that the only way to climb that politically controlled career ladder is to do whatever it takes to win – even put innocent men and women to death.

Is our own Supreme Court suborning perjury? Of course they are -- just watch as this case unfolds and you will see that the Supreme Court, even when it is brought to their attention that Ms. Dittmar has flagrantly misrepresenting material facts with the intent to deceive the Court, the Court will not make any attempt to discern the truth. To knowingly turn a blind eye when lawyers commit perjury is to encourage and invite unethical behaviors. By refusing to take action against parties that violate ethical standards; the Supreme Court does induce and suborn perjury.

Justice can never prevail when truth itself becomes irrelevant. In the words of President Abraham Lincoln, “Evil can only prevail when good men choose to do nothing!” There can be no greater within our judicial system than the deliberate disregard of the sacred concepts of truth and justice within our court system… justice can only hope to prevail when truth itself is religiously protected and preserved. The Supreme Court has a moral and ethical obligation to aggressively take action against any party who dares to misrepresent material facts before it – but today’s Supreme Court will do nothing.

When a state attorney general can appear before our Supreme Court and so blatantly defend against a state prisoners substantiated claim of actual innocence by presenting deliberate material misrepresentations intended to intentionally deceive the Court, and be so confident that they can do so with complete impunity, knowing full well that the Court will not take action against a state lawyer; then that itself provides a telling commentary on the integrity of today’s judicial system as a whole.

This is the greater tragedy… this unethical and contemptuous action by Senior Assistant Attorney General Carol Dittmar will be rewarded by the court because the Supreme Court itself has become so corrupt by its own bias against capital (death sentenced) prisoners that truth and justice are irrelevant. But consider this… when the very least of our society can no longer come before our courts with any hope of having truth and justice prevail, then the very soul of our constitutional democracy itself has now been executed at the hands of these conservatives who adhere to the philosophy that it is far better to execute an innocent man than to expose an injustice that might embarrass the judicial system and undermine the public’s confidence.

Don’t these conservative justices get it? The greatest threat to undermining public confidence in the judicial system is not exposing injustices, but eroding the sacred concepts of truth and justice. The integrity of our judicial system is dependent upon the Court’s willingness to protect truth allowing anyone to appear before the court and deliberately deceive the Court with complete impunity is the greatest threat. Eliminate integrity and there can be no justice.

April 01, 2007

A Laugh A Day Keeps the Executioner Away

I’ve got some really great new that I’d like to share with those out there who are concerned that many, including myself, may face an unjustified execution at the state’s corrupt hands. We have the power to now effectively abolish the death penalty… honest. All we have to do is truly believe and za-sham, no more executioners.

As many of us know the latest feel-good fad sweeping America is a book by now best-selling author Rhonda Byrne, “The Secret.” Already dear Oprah has devoted two entire shows to this book and sales have gone into the millions as those looking for a quick fix run to their nearest bookstore and buy into this pseudo-scientific babble.

Basically the premise of this latest craze is a contemporary application of the long talked of “Law of Attraction,” which preaches that each of us can miraculously change any circumstance in our life by positive thinking – just ask and believe and it will be. It’s so simple kids can even do it. Then again, the blind and trusting faith of a child helps facilitate this concept.

Myself I think Rhonda Byrne is a genius – but not because she’s now sharing “The Secret” with the masses. Rather, after years as a rather unsuccessful television producer she realized her own true calling… a master thief. Her recent best selling book is really nothing more than glamorized theft of the thoughts and ideas if the renowned and respected Pentecostal minister Norman Vincent Peale, who during the dark days if the American Depression (early 1930’s) ministered to the less fortunate on the streets of New York city. He shared a message of hope and faith to the down trodden and depressed; listing them from their own circumstances.

Many years later Norman Vincent Peale wrote a book called “The Power of Positive Thinking” in which he provided the message that Rhonda Byrne now preaches as if her own. With the donations and profits derived form his inspirational messages Peale established the still open “center for Positive Thinking” about an hour North of New York City. This was and still remains the legacy of a man who was motivated by his selfless desire to help those less fortunate. Yet in just a few months Rhonda Byrne has now shanghaied his message and made millions of dollars with the help of apparently clueless Oprah Winfrey – and how much of that money will be going to help those less fortunate or establish a foundation intended to perpetuate the gift so free given to others.

But what of the message itself? Can there be any truth to this “Secret?” Can in be that all I’ve really got to do to hold the executioner at bay is believe that it won’t happen? Could it really be that simple?

I believe in the power of faith and the perseverance of hope. But I do not and I cannot believe in the American judicial system. If all it takes is believing then perhaps rather than beg so many to simply care enough to help expose my wrongful conviction I should instead stand at my death row cell door clicking my heels together, chanting repeatedly, “there’s no place like home.” That worked for Dorothy as I saw it myself on T.V. So I know it has to be true, right?

But as I read Rhonda Byrne’s twist on Norman Vincent Peale’s inspirational message, even if I could get beyond my belief that she’s stealing an idea that was intended to help those less fortunate and shamelessly exploiting it through mass market sensationalism – all for her own selfish profit, then how do I get over the even greater obstacle in my ability to have faith in this corrupt system? How do I overcome my knowledge of just how inherently corrupt our judicial system is?

Perhaps if I believe strong enough those prosecutors who are perpetuating this injustice against me will miraculously develop a moral conscience and bow their heads in shame and admit that they were wrong. But the problem with that is that these parasitic prosecutors are psychopaths that prey upon those unable to defend against the seemingly infinite resources of the state, targeting those socially and financially disadvantaged for wrongful prosecution – convicting and condemning innocent men and women for no reason but to advance their own careers by maintaining a high conviction rate. See, “Southern Injustice: Exposing the New Face of Bigotry and Injustice in The South.” at ( and rather than address why these state sanctioned serial killers simply have no conscience. My common sense tells me that you simply cannot appeal to the conscious of a person who by their very nature has no conscience.

What if these state prosecutors who are already personally responsible for innocent people having been wrongfully convicted and condemned to death now miraculously did develop a conscience? Would they admit they were wrong? The fact is that despite over 125 men and women being exonerated and released from death row across the country, I have yet to see even one prosecutor actually admit that maybe – just maybe they were wrong, which brings us back to my belief that these prosecutors are cold blooded psychopathic state sanctioned serial killers not at all unlike a blood crazed rabid dog – and we all watched “Ole Yeller” and know that there’s really only one way to cure a rabid dog.

The problem is there’s virtually no accountability… these prosecutors act with complete impunity, knowing that the judicial system will protect them from being held accountable even if they deliberately coerce witnesses to lie, fabricate evidence and deliberately send an innocent man to death row. See, Prosecutorial Misconduct: Does Immunity Invite Injustice?

What has to be understood is the corruption that drives these parasites. Most prosecutors actually do follow the law and their own conscience – but it’s the relatively few who are corrupted by the power entrusted in them and rather than seek justice the job becomes a means in which to build their own career… by any means necessary. Not surprisingly when wrongful convictions are exposed a pattern begins to show that it’s the same state attorneys who break the law to wrongfully convict and condemn innocent men and women. That a relatively small group of corrupt state attorneys actually account for an alarming rate of wrongful convictions and yet the judicial system continues to protect them, even promoting them to higher office rather than tar and feather them as it should be. See, "The Anatomy of A Corrupt Prosecutor".

If only it were so simple as to just believe that an injustice could come to and end by believing in the power of positive thought. But then, how much faith could a person out into a message from a person who shamelessly stole the concept from someone who intended only good for it?

The good news is that a few weeks ago I read an article in the USA Today newspaper that I can believe in. (See, USA Today, March 12th, 2007 “A laugh a day may help keep death farther away.”) According to this scientific study conducted at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology having a sense of humor has now been proven to prolong a person’s life. And I’ve now got it in writing, conveniently taped to the space over the door of my death row cell. If the power of positive thought can move mountains and make miracles happen, then just imagine what I can accomplish with the power of a sense of humor! A laugh a day keeps the executioner away – bite me, you slimy bastard! Ha Ha Ha! See, now I know the true “Secret” – all I got to do is stand at my cell door clicking my heels together chanting “There’s no place like home” repeatedly while spontaneously laughing and I can escape the executioner… they can’t kill a crazy man, right? Beam me up, Scotty, the jokes on them. (And now I close with a big smile!)

March 27, 2007

Supreme Court Slams Death Row Appeals

On February 20th, 2007 the U.S. Supreme Court issued its long awaited decision in Lawrence v. Florida (case number 05-8820), which raised the question of whether the 1 year statute of limitations for seeking federal habeas relief from a state court judgment is tolled while an “application for state post conviction or other collateral review” is pending. Ina typically marginal 5 to 4 vote, the court decided that the statutorily defined one year limit to initiate a federal habeas following exhaustion of state appellate review is not tolled pending the discretionary review by way of petition for writ of certiorari from a state court denial of a collateral appeal.

Why is this even important? It seems to be just a technical ruling that doesn’t mean much to anyone. But in truth it is a substantial ruling that will immediately effect at least 20 Florida death row prisoners who, because their state appointed post conviction counsel failed to “timely” file their original (first) federal habeas within the statutorily required one year, they are now procedurally barred from pursuing any federal review whatsoever.

The right to pursue Writ of Habeas Corpus is one of the most sacred rights evolving from common law upon which our Constitution itself was conceived. In fact, the U.S. Constitution prohibits suspension of the Writ except in times of war or civil unrest.

However, these conservative justices are splitting hairs. Constitutionally, the power to establish the rules governing habeas corpus belong to Congress, not to the court. With the backlash of the 1996 Oklahoma City bombing and the intent to expedite more executions Congress passed substantial “reforms” on the federal habeas corpus statutes, which severely limits the federal courts jurisdiction to review state court criminal convictions. Among these draconian rules was the rule that allows only one year from the time the state conviction is affirmed on “direct appeal” to file your federal habeas corpus.

This rule is “jurisdictional,” so any failure to file on time subjects the condemned prisoner to a procedural default that prohibits the federal court from hearing the case – they are legally prohibited from reviewing the pled claims of constitutional error, even substantiated claims of actual innocence! See, Blessings of Liberty in the Land of the Free.

In the Lawrence v. Florida case, condemned prisoner Gary Lawrence and many others argued that the failure to timely file their original federal habeas was the fault of the state appointed post conviction counsel and that they did not voluntarily waive their rights. In a (again) technical argument, they claimed that because the law was ambiguous and reasonable counsel may have mistakenly assumed that the time to file continued to be tolled while certiorari review to the U.S. Supreme Court upon denial of state court review of post conviction relief was pursued.

Alternatively, if the time could not be “equitably tolled” due to counsel’s inadvertent error, then death row inmates should be allowed an exemption from procedural bar under the argument that this state appointed and supervised post conviction counsel failed to provide reasonably competent representation.

In an opinion written by none other than ultra-conservative, pro death penalty advocate Justice Clarence Thomas, the Supreme Court slammed the door upon all these condemned prisoners by clearly finding that (and I quote) “Lawrence argues that his counsel’s mistakes in miscalculating the limitations period entitles him to equitable tolling. If credited, this argument would essentially equitably toll limitation periods for every person whose attorney missed a deadline. Attorney miscalculations are simply not sufficient to warrant equitable tolling, particularly in the post conviction context where prisoners have no constitutional right to counsel. e.g. Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 756-57 (1991)”

“Lawrence argues that his case presents special circumstances because the state courts appointed and supervised his counsel. But a states effort to assist prisoners in post conviction proceedings does not make the state accountable for a prisoners delay. Lawrence has not alleged that the state prevented him from hiring his own attorney or from representing himself. It would be perverse indeed if providing prisoners with post conviction counsel deprived states of the benefit of the AEDPA (Anti Terrorist and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996) statutes of limitations” (end quote)

Not surprisingly, fellow death penalty advocates and ultra conservative zealots Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Alito, and Kennedy sided with Justice Thomas in this draconian decision while four justices (Ginsburg, Stevens, Souter, and Breyer) condemned the marginal majority for their pathetically disingenuous manipulation of constitutional law to simply facilitate their own agenda of expediting executions even at the cost of innocent lives.

But what is even far more troubling is what this opinion does not say, but was in fact raised in a comprehensive “Americus” brief filed by the ACLU – that Lawrence is actually only one of many Florida death row prisoners now being subjected to procedural default and completely deprived of any federal appellate review of their convictions and sentences of death for non reason but the lawyers assigned to represent them failed to timely file their appeals. In fact, this decision will now make at least 20 Florida death row prisoners eligible for execution without any federal reviewing their claims of constitutional error.

For those unfamiliar with the legal system this may not seem to be that big of an issue. But historically many innocent men and women were saved from state execution only because of federal court intervention. By manipulating procedural rules to effectively deny a large number of condemned prisoners federal court review of their convictions – some of whom are attempting to argue actual innocence – the Supreme court has now substantially increased the probability that innocent men and women will be executed.

Another extremely troubling aspect of this decision is that regarding the counsel “appointed and supervised by the state” what Justice Thomas didn’t talk about is the manner in which the post conviction counsel is appointed in Florida.

In all of these cases the post conviction counsel was appointed and supervised by the state controlled agency called “Commission on Capital cases.” This agency is an extension of the Florida State Legislature, created with the intent to find ways to expedite more executions. To accomplish that specific agenda this agency was given statutory power to appoint counsel for death row prisoners.

But anyone bothering to look at who controls this agency would be extremely troubled by the obvious political agenda – take a look at the board of directors that control that agency. For example, when now recently elected Governor “Chaingang Charlie” Crist was then the elected Attorney General for the State of Florida and personally in charge of pushing for executions of condemned prisoners, his own brother Florida Senator Victor Crist was appointed to the board of directors overseeing the appointment of lawyers for death row prisoners. However, nobody challenged this obvious conflict of interest.

Florida knows that they must provide lawyers to condemned prisoners or they cannot execute them. But Florida also knows that, as Justice Thomas has now again said, that all that is required is a lawyer – it does not require a competent, or qualified lawyer. And when the lawyer does fail to provide competent legal representation the condemned prisoner does not have any means to correct that error.

Under this system if a morally corrupt politician wanted to deliberately circumvent the condemned prisoners constitutional right to meaningful appellate review, this could easily be accomplished by simply forming a state controlled office that could deliberately appoint incompetent lawyers to represent death row prisoners, thus reducing the entire post conviction appellate review process to a pretense and expedite the execution of death row prisoners, including those with legitimate claims of innocence.

Wake up America -- this is what is happening in Florida!! See, Legal Representation In Capital Cases – Privilege or Pretense? But nobody is willing to stand up for those condemned. Even though the American Bar Association released a comprehensive report that graphically shows how Florida’s death penalty system is fundamentally flawed last summer, no one has demanded a moratorium on executions until Florida addresses and fixes this corrupt system.

Already Florida leads the country in the number of wrongful convictions in capital cases with a small number of state attorneys accounting for record numbers of innocent men and women being condemned to death. See, “Southern Injustice: Exposing the New Face of Bigotry and Injustice in The South” at ( and rather than address why Florida has such a high number of wrongful convictions Florida instead is devising ways to deny review of post conviction appeals – by circumventing review of the innocence claims, seeing that they are not heard, and putting the condemned to death without any opportunity to even establish their innocence.

Why aren’t more people concerned about this corruption of justice? As I’ve often quotes in earlier articles –“Evil can only triumph when good men (and women) chose to do nothing.” What have you done to address this matter? I would ask you to now read more at ( -- only by becoming aware of this evil that exists (See, The Greater Evil".) can we ever hope to purge our judicial system of those who will kill innocent men and women to advance their own political careers. Becoming aware of this corruption is the first step to confronting this evil and as a matter of moral conscience we all owe it to the society we exist in to stand up and confront this evil now.

March 26, 2007

Justice Department Seeks To Speed Up Executions

At a time when public support for capital punishment is declining even faster than President Bush’s popularity ratings, a study commissioned by the National Institute of Justice (N.I.J.), which is a branch of the Justice Department itself, has concluded that it takes far too long to carry out executions and that its time for the federal government to find ways to speed these executions up and make executions even more frequent.

This selective study completed by Professors Barry Latzer and James Cauthen at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York allegedly examined 1,676 death sentences in only 14 subjectively hand picked “representative” states involving only sentences imposed between 1992 and 2002. This N.I.J. study was intended to provide a federally sanctioned attack on an earlier comprehensive study done by Professor James Liebman of Columbia University, released in 2000, which concluded that the contemporary death penalty system is “fundamentally flawed.” In that study, Professor Liebman examined all death sentence capital cases from 1973 to 1995 and found that over 60% of all death sentences were overturned on appellate review.

In a desperate attempt to discredit that Liebman study, the present conservative controlled Justice Department attempts to manipulate the results of their own limited study. The N.I.J. study suggests that the Liebman study improperly examined all death sentences imposed since 1973 during a time that the U.S. Supreme Court was still rewriting applicable law governing death penalty cases, thereby resulting in a high rate of reversals. However, The N.I.J. study does not suggest that the Liebman study is inaccurate – it only suggests that by limiting reviews of capital cases to death sentences imposed from 1992 through 2002 the rate of reversals in only those 14 representative states are significantly less than the Liebman study suggests.

However, even in attempting to manipulate the results by selecting a much narrower pool of cases examined, the recent N.I.J. study still concedes that even in these hand picked “representative” cases, at least 26% of the death sentences imposed were subsequently overturned on appellate review, which means that even by this obviously biased study intended to promote faster and more frequent executions, these kill-em-all proponents concede that one out of every four people sentenced to death are wrongfully condemned.

Can you even imagine the trauma inflicted upon those wrongfully condemned to death -- the trauma they must endure because of that unjustified imposition of a sentence of death? See, “Bowels of the Beast: Condemned to a Fate Worse Than Death” at ( the conservative’s own study finds such an alarming rate of improperly imposed sentences of death, then how can any person of moral conscience still express support for the death penalty? Much less continue to advocate expediting executions – to push for faster and more frequent executions means even further limiting of appellate review, which will inevitably result in error not being corrected and innocent men executed.

The only too obvious true intent of this N.I.J. study is revealed in reading its expressed agenda – to find ways to speed up executions on the pretense that by not killing the condemned faster and more frequently, the victims families are traumatized and the states must bear the burden of millions of dollars in costs to unnecessarily house these condemned men and women while the pursue their appeals. But the study does not even mention the infliction of trauma on those one out of four men and women wrongly condemned to death, or their families.

Conveniently, this N.I.J. study does not mention that over 125 men and woman have been judicially exonerated and released from death rows across the country; after being found to have been wrongfully convicted and condemned to death. Nor does it address the fact that the leading cause of wrongful convictions in capital cases is prosecutorial misconduct – in too many cases prosecutors have deliberately concealed evidence that if exposed would have proven the person’s innocence. See,
Condemning An Innocent Man.

By now pushing to expedite executions by even further limiting appellate review it is clearly a pathetically disingenuous attempt to accomplish the conservatives true agenda – further limiting appellate review would mean that substantially fewer wrongful capital convictions will be revealed; that even legitimate claims of actual innocence will be procedurally barred from appellate review. See, Blessings of Liberty in the Land of the Free.

These rabid conservatives are concerned that with the escalating rate of wrongful convictions exposed the public’s confidence in the judicial system will suffer – they would rather have the innocent victims of the ultimate miscarriage of justice murdered by the state, than allow the judicial system and its inherent fallibility to be increasingly exposed.

Additionally, the N.I.J. study fails to recognize that the leading cause of substantial delays in reaching finality in capital cases is the campaign of politically motivated interference with the process itself, which is a direct result of politicians passing one law after another in an attempt to circumvent review. The capital post conviction process itself has become inherently complex, requiring specialized lawyers and lengthy judicial review of complex questions that often revolve around the applicability of statutorily created procedural rules before actual claims of error can even be addressed. It is this insidious political interference as politicians all but openly compete with each other to promote “bills” to expedite executions that cause substantial delays. Adopting even more procedural rules under the pretense of promoting faster executions will, in fact, only slow the process down even further.

If the Justice Department really wants to objectively expedite the finality of capital convictions, then perhaps it’s time to impose restrictions on the politically motivated interference and tell those parasitic politicians systematically engaging in Machiavellian type plots to maliciously circumvent full and fair review to crawl back under their rocks and leave the system alone. Politics and justice do not mix.

Incredibly, even with the alarming rate of wrongful convictions and the unjustified imposition of death sentences subsequently reversed, the Justice Department has yet to commission a study to examine why this error rate is so high and what can be done to reduce making victims of those wrongly convicted and condemned.

Perhaps if the “Justice” Department was truly interested in promoting and preserving justice, it would commission a comprehensive study on the cause of this unconscionably high rate of wrongful capital convictions and find ways to prevent innocent men and women from being sent to death row in the first place, thus restoring the public confidence in the judicial system itself. Certainly there must be someone within the Justice Department to realize that by disingenuously finding ways to cover up wrongful convictions, inevitably the public’s confidence will suffer even more than by simply admitting the present system’s imperfections and constructively trying to find ways to minimize the improper imposition of death sentences in the first place.

The bottom line is that the death penalty is about politicians, not justice. The primary reason that the death penalty continues to be practiced in this country is because politicians exploit it to win votes. Politicians shamelessly exploit the trauma inflicted upon the families of victims under the pretense of pursuing justice knowing full well that if they were truly interested in sparing the victim’s families prolonged trauma and instill a sense of finality in a timely manner, they would abolish the death penalty and replace it with a life sentence with no possibility of parole – as many states that do not have the death penalty already have done. The victim’s families have already suffered an immeasurable trauma – they deserve the expedited finality only abolishing the death penalty can provide, not being dragged through the courts for years reliving that trauma.

But if we truly do want to debate the inherent fundamental flaws within the present death penalty system; then let’s start by looking at the alarming rate of wrongful convictions as illustrated in “Southern Injustice: Exposing the New Face of Bigotry and Injustice in The South” at (, and take an even closer look at the leading cause for their unconscionably high rate of wrongful capital convictions – politically ambitious prosecutors manipulating the judicial system to unethically win at any cost must be held accountable, especially prosecutors who have a history of repeatedly violating laws to wrongfully convict and condemn innocent men for no other reason but to promote their own political ambitions. See, Prosecutorial Misconduct: Does Immunity Invite Injustice? and "The Anatomy of A Corrupt Prosecutor".

If the Justice Department wants to actually promote justice, then they should look at and find constructive solutions to actually prevent miscarriages of justice, not use taxpayer money in a desperate attempt to manipulate the system in an obvious and insidious attempt to circumvent the judicial review necessary to exposed the innocence of those being victimized by the ultimate miscarriage of justice. Finding ways to execute innocent men and women before they can prove their innocence is not justice – expediting review in capital cases will only result in innocent men and women being executed -- and in our society, even the possibility of that inevitable result – should be intolerable.