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.

March 23, 2007

Prosecutor Charged With Sexual Molestation

It took federal agents in the Justice Department to end a campaign of alleged sexual molestation of inmates by a districts attorney in Franklin County, Alabama. This past month the now former district attorney John Pilati was indicted on federal charges that accused him of sexually molesting young men after they were forced to strip naked for searches at a local detention facility. John Pilati, of Russellville, Alabama will only face four misdemeanor civil rights violations, as the federal authorities do not have jurisdiction to pursue actual sex crimes against him.

Why did the federal agents have to investigate this reign of terror by a prosecutor who considered himself above the law? Because these southern judicial circuits are run by "good ole boy" gangs of corrupt state prosecutors who not only act with complete impunity as career criminals themselves, but remain protected from the law because they are the law in these area’s. Why isn’t former district attorney Pilati facing state charges as a repeat sex offender? Because the local corrupt state officials simply will not charge him. If not for the federal agents coming and pursuing these civil rights charges, this alleged pervert would still be molesting young men.

The real question is why is it that prosecutors are allowed to engage in practices that would easily qualify them as career criminals under state criminal statutes, but state agencies will not pursue investigations against them or hold these corrupt parasites responsible? If those who are responsible for upholding and enforcing our laws are themselves corrupt, then does it not stand to reason that the enforcement of the law itself in these areas will be corrupt?

People out there need to wake up and realize what’s going on. This isn’t about a single prosecutor being a sexual predator, protected by the law as he preys upon victims with complete impunity. This is about widespread corruption in our legal system in which career criminals are being allowed to “enforce” laws against others while engaging in corruption themselves. This is an epidemic in America, especially in the deep South, where long forged "good ole boy" clubs control state attorney’s offices for decades. Please read, “Anatomy of A Corrupt State Attorney.”

If you haven’t already read the website “Southern Injustice; Exposing Bigotry and Injustice in the South” then you should do so – exposing this epidemic of corruption is the only hope of instilling true justice.


March 13, 2007

Witness To A Botched Execution

Very rarely does the general public get a chance to witness the events and consequences of an execution, especially of a botched execution, as when a state puts a person to death the process is witnessed by only a few and almost always is so methodically sterilized that other then the resulting death of the intended victim there is nothing to report. Putting a person to death becomes a nonevent.

Recently however, the State of Florida attempted to put Angel Diaz to death by lethal injection on December 13th, 2006, but this “execution” did not go according to plan. Because of this botched execution Florida Governor Charlie Crist issued a moratorium on all further executions in Florida until a state commission can examine the circumstances of that botched execution.

Several other states have followed Florida’s lead in issuing indefinite moratoriums on any further executions until their own lethal injection process can be thoroughly examined. Numerous states are also the subject of pending legal actions directed at challenging that state’s protocol (methods and means) of carrying out lethal injection executions.

The following is an eyewitness account of the December 13th, 2006 botched execution of Angel Diaz. This is now provided verbatim from a transcript of a hearing held December 28th, 2006 in which witness Neil Dupree testified in the case of Corey Duane Hamilton, a death sentenced inmate in Oklahoma, challenging Oklahoma’s own process governing lethal injections. (See, Hamilton v. Jones, case # civ-06-1193F, U.S. Dist Ct., Western Dist. of Oklahoma).

This following testimony provides a graphic portrayal of an execution, witnessed firsthand by a lawyer sitting not more than ten feet away. Although somewhat lengthy, this unprecedented window allows each of us to witness the undeniably barbaric and torturous infliction of slow death of another human being at the hands of the state. Only by making this public can all others now have a view of the true impact and effect of capital punishment.

The following excerpt is quoted directly from the testimony of Neil Dupree, describing what he personally witnessed on December 13th, 2006.

“When you come into the execution viewing area there are several rows of seats. I was seated in the front row. There’s a window that opens up so that you can see into the execution chamber. That window was probably about 3 and a half feet high and 8 to 10 feet wide. I was in the front row on the far left seat.

When the curtains opened up – the curtains opened up promptly at six o’clock, I was able to see Mr. Diaz. He was strapped to a gurney. He had his right arm extended from one of the paddles that came out from the gurney itself. There was a leather strap that was over his forehead. There was a sheet that was covering his body. He still appeared to be wearing a white shirt.

There was a person – if you could picture the gurney, it was lengthwise to us. There was a Department of Correction’s guard at his head, there was another DOC guard next to where his waist would have been, and there was a third DOC guard that was set off by his feet, but further back, probably about 3 to 4 feet from the gurney.

There were two other people I later learned were the warden and the assistant warden. There were two phones that were by those two gentlemen.

…Like I said, I was no more than 6 or 7 feet from Mr. Diaz. I could see the I.V. insertion site in Mr. Diaz’s right arm, where you would bend your elbow, if you normally got blood taken out, you know, for just an annual physical, there was obviously a needle inserted there. It was very heavily taped, as was his right hand. His right hand was palms up and it was strapped to the paddle and it was heavily, heavily taped. And then there was also a leather strap above where the I.V. needle had been inserted into his arm. There was a strap above that.

…I was able to see the tubing running from the I.V. insertion site into some other portion of the room. There was an I.V. tube that ran from his arm – it was taped to the gurney itself and then loosely fell underneath the gurney and then it appeared to go into the wall. There were two I.V. tubes that appeared to be in the back of the wall in what looked like a little port that was, I don’t know, 6 inches by 5 inches.

…At some point in time during the execution procedure I was able to see fluid flowing through the IV tube – it was a sudden rush, but that was further into the procedure. It was well after the procedure initially appeared to start, right then, that’s when it became noticeable to me.”

(Question by Jones’s lawyer) “If you would, please describe for the court… what happened after the curtain was opened and the execution began?”

(Dupree) “As I said, it opened promptly at six o’clock. The warden came forward – a person I later learned to be the warden, and asked Mr. Diaz if he had any last words. Mr. Diaz turned his head towards the audience and spoke in Spanish very briefly. I’m not totally fluent in Spanish; I understood some of what he said. And that was it.

Then the guard that was at his head put the leather restraint across his head, which he held manually. The warden stepped back toward the two phones that were in the corner. And I expected that somebody was going to say something or give some kind of indication the procedure was going to start. I did not hear the warden say anything. I really didn’t notice him make any kind of signal.

I guess their protocol is they turn off the system once the execution starts. Once that occurred, within just a few minutes, I noticed that Mr. Diaz appeared to be mouthing words. I do not know what he was saying; I could not hear him. But he appeared to be speaking to the man that was holding the leather strap over his forehead. He was grimacing, his jaw was clenching, his Adams apple, which was pretty prominent, was bobbing up and down furiously, and he just appeared to be in a lot of pain. His body appeared to be rigid. And, again, he talked for at least a minute and maybe more, but he was obviously trying to communicate something to somebody; again. I just don’t know what he was saying (as they turned off the intercom in the death chamber).

Within a couple of minutes after that, his head started to slowly roll to the right, his right eye closed, his left eye remained open. He just appeared to be, you know, slowly – I don’t know if “going to sleep” is the right word, but he just appeared to slowly be a little bit more relaxed. And then I noticed that his Adam’s apple started bobbing even more furiously, his jaw became clenched again, and then he started gasping of air. And then the gasping for air took a good 10 to 12 minutes, where he was literally gasping.

And the only thing I could liken it to is my father died of lung cancer five years ago and the last minute of his life -- we were there for it, my family was there – and at the last minute, he was doing the same type of gasping, where he really appeared to be almost a fish out of water because he was gasping so heavily for air.

It appeared to me that Mr. Diaz – his body rigid at points in time. And that’s basically my observation through what I saw until I saw the warden go to the phone, there was an open line – there was a black gentleman and a white gentleman. The black gentleman was the assistant warden. And there was an open line on the wall. The warden took the phone, spoke into it, gave the phone back to the black gentleman, turned around, maybe for a moment of two, took the phone again, and then went to another phone and picked up that phone. I don’t know who he was speaking to, obviously. And then he went back to his place, where he was standing originally.

It appeared to me that the DOC personnel were extremely uncomfortable. Clearly something was not going right. Mr. Diaz continued to move, he continued to gasp. And you could see the DOC personnel were kind of – their eyes were going back and forth to each other.

Eventually what happened is that Mr. Diaz – slowly his pallor changed. He was a – being from Puerto Rico, he was more tanned, he appeared to get very grayish, his breathing got more and more shallow, his Adam’s apple stopped bobbing, and then, oddly enough, his right eye, which had been closed, opened during that time, so now both of his eyes were open.

They then had – there was a metal door. The metal door opened and a gentleman – I guess I couldn’t say gentlemen – but a person who was garbed in purple from head to toe, it looked almost that a HAZMAT suit with a beekeeper’s mask, almost, except for – I don’t know if anyone can picture a welder with a little slit for their eyes – it appeared to me to be – that the only thing you could see on this person was his eyes, because it was almost like a welder’s suit, where you have that little part where you can see through the eyes.

That person came in. He shined a light into Mr. Diaz’s eyes, took out a stethoscope and checked his heart rate, and nodded to the warden, went back in. And I thought it was the second person that came out, did the same thing, where they checked his pupils, checked with a stethoscope, and then walked back in the room. At that point in time, the warden came in and announced that Mr. Diaz had, in fact, expired. And that’s what I observed.”

(Question by Defense lawyer) “How long did the execution process take from the time that it began until that time Mr. Diaz was pronounced dead?”

(Answer by Dupree) “From the time he stopped speaking (gave his last words), it would be 34 minutes.” (end of testimony excerpt)

The above is a first hand account of the botched execution or Angel Diaz on December 13th, 2006 at Florida State Prison. Immediately after that prolonged and torturous death, the DOC spokesperson attempted to blame the problems on Diaz’s liver problems, which were proven false, and a deliberately fabricated attempt to cover up the incompetence of those responsible for carrying out the execution. The medical examiner conducting the autopsy on Diaz’s body determined that the I.V. needles inserted into Diaz’s arms had been improperly inserted, completely pushing beyond the veins and into the soft tissue, causing almost foot long chemical burns on each arm, and preventing the lethal chemicals from being properly administered. Thus, Mr. Diaz was slowly tortured to death.

Subsequently the Governor of Florida formed a commission to look into the cause of this botched execution and how it can be avoided in the future. Within the next week or so a new blog will be posted entitled “Why Florida’s Commission Examining Lethal Injection Is A Farce” that will show how politicians have corrupted fair reviews of this botched execution with a predisposition of covering the state. I hope that all of you will come back when it is posted and fully read this expose.

March 12, 2007

Death Row Inmate Punished for Claiming Innocence

When does big brother go too far? As recently reported on the blog, see, State Moves to Silence Death Row Inmate’s Claims of Innocence, the State of Florida has recently taken action against death row inmate Mike Lambrix in a clearly unconstitutional attempt to silence Lambrix’s claims of innocence.

Since that article was posted the Florida Deputy of Corrections has formally subjected Lambrix to institutional disciplinary action. Lambrix was charged under a prison rule that prohibits inmates from placing ads soliciting pen pals. This draconian rule was enacted a few years ago under the pretense that the public needs to be protected from prisoners who exploit them for money. Most prisoners do not have any means of earning an income and little if any outside assistance and many do attempt to build friendships with pen pals often met through pen pal ads placed on the Internet. A small percentage of those inmates might have abused these friendships by soliciting money under false pretenses but in most cases the otherwise isolated inmates are simply trying to reach out to the real world and meet a friend willing to help them through their ordeal.

Big brother has taken it upon itself to crown prison officials as the great protector of the public, allowing the Department of Corrections to erect formal rules that prohibit inmates placing ads or otherwise “soliciting” for new pen pals. See, Florida Administrative Code, Chpt. 33-210.101 (9).

If an inmate is found to have placed an ad to solicit pen pals then they are subjected to inter-institutional disciplinary actions in the form of 30 days in “lock up” (disciplinary confinement) and up to six months of mail privilege suspension, during which time they are completely isolated from the outside world, prohibited from receiving or sending out any mail.

This by itself is obviously intended to isolate prisoners from the free world. Think about it – what is the real reason that prison officials would not want inmates to meet new friends? What possible reason would prison officials have to try to even further isolate prisoners from the free world? Is it really about protecting the public from being exploited by prisoners or is it really about trying to minimize contact with the free world so that prison officials will no longer have to worry about being embarrassed when they cross the line and beat an inmate to death?

Is it just a coincidence that this rule did not even exist until after a group of prison guards at Florida State Prison brutally beat death row inmate Frank Valdes to death? How did the media and public find out that inmate Valdes was murdered by prison guards? Inmates wrote there family and friends as well as the media… so eliminate the inmates ability to contact the free world by methodically eliminating their outside contacts and then prison officials can beat and even kill prisoners with complete impunity. Anyone interested in the true motivation of this rule intended to further isolate prisoners should read Valdes v. Crosby, 450 F. 3d 1231 (11th Cir. 2006).

The true insidious motive of this rule is made clear in the action now taken against Lambrix. By creatively applying this rule prison officials – at the request of the state attorneys – have charged Lambrix with violating this rule because Lambrix had a My Space site that dared to publicly advocate his innocence. On February 21st, 2007 Lambrix was brought before the prison disciplinary team at Union Correctional Institution in chains and shackles and faced the kangaroo court.

Lambrix attempted to argue that under no conceivable interpretation was that My Space profile in any way soliciting pen pals. The only intent and purpose of that My Space page was to direct people to his web page “” that argues his factual innocence by showing how the 20th Circuit State Attorney’s Office deliberately fabricated the entire wholly circumstantial case brought against him.

However, the disciplinary team decided that by merely having a My Space account Lambrix was seeking new friends and thus guilty of violating the prison mail rule. When Lambrix argued that he hadn’t even posted enough information for someone to be able to contact him, the disciplinary team responded by saying that once someone simply sees his name on the My Space profile they can easily log on to the Department of Correction’s own website and find out Lambrix’s contact information. See, FL DOC and click on Offender Search in the menu bar.

In finding Lambrix guilty of the alleged violation the Florida Dept, of Corrections has crossed a clear constitutional line. The true intent and purpose of imposing disciplinary punishment upon Lambrix is clearly to silence him and punish him for publicly claiming his innocence.

If the state can now silence inmates by twisting this rule to circumstances where inmates attempt to publicly claim their innocence and speak out against the system then how will the public know what is really going on within the walls of America’s prison system? The First Amendment protects free speech and prohibits any agent of the state from subjecting any person to punishment for exercising their right to free speech.

Imagine if you were wrongly convicted and condemned to death (See, Condemning An Innocent Man) and your only hope of justice was to reach out to the free world and expose the injustice perpetuated against you by the state – only to then have the sate retaliate and punish you for doing so. Lambrix has now been sentenced to 30 days in disciplinary confinement (“the hole”) and 30 days of complete mail privilege suspension during which time Lambrix will not be able to send out of receive any mail.

Is this the America we are becoming? If something as fundamental and sacred as our constitutional right to free speech and to be protected against governmental retaliation can so easily be stripped from those citizens who most need to exercise that right – the victims of injustices perpetuated by the state – then where will that inevitably leave all of us and what kind of society will we become?

I ask you all to now please take a moment of your time to contact the Secretary of the Florida Dept. of Corrections, James McDonough at the following email and telephone number and ask him to immediately release Lambrix from the hole and this rule itself taken off the books.

Secretary McDonough

(850) 488-7480

Remember, the true purpose of this rule is not to protect the public but to isolate prisoners so that the public will not know what is really going on inside America’s prisons. Again, if you have any doubt, you must read the Valdes v. Crosby case and you will see why Florida prison officials are attempting to isolate and silence its prisoners, especially the ones on death row. Please contact Secretary McDonough immediately and express your outrage that any inmate can be punished in this draconian manner and remember the eternal words of President Lincoln ..”All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

March 04, 2007

"Florida Courts Caught Fabricating Records"

Imagine being charged with a serious crime -- maybe even capital murder. You’re arrested and thrown in jail and placed in a cellblock with a dozen other prisoners. Word gets around what you’re charged with and anyone who has spent even a few weeks locked up knows how the system works.

Whether you’re innocent or not becomes irrelevant. Virtually every county jail in the country is infested with rats – “jailhouse snitches” who are often themselves career criminals and know only too well how to play the system. It’s all about giving up a bigger fish… turning “jailhouse snitch” to get out of your crime and the bigger the crime the other guy is charged with, the better.

Prosecutors not only know how the game is played, but actually encourage it. Prisons are full or inmates convicted at least partially upon jailhouse snitch testimony. Some courts have recognized that this self-serving testimony in which some form of biological toxic waste turns state on another prisoner, claimed “he told me he did it” is inherently unreliable. Clearly the snitch has a reason for turning state – this parasite is not coming forth out of civic duty but because he knows that by becoming a state witness he will be rewarded by the state with a significantly lesser sentence than he would have other wise received – maybe even have the charges against him dropped altogether if he becomes an important witness in a capital case.

Anyone charged with a major crime and thrown in jail to await trial becomes a target. Not surprisingly the use of jailhouse snitches by prosecutors is significantly higher in circuits that have a history of wrongful convictions, where morally and ethically corrupt prosecutors adopt a “win by any means necessary” mentality and encourage county jail inmates to turn snitch on each other. Prosecutors know they can knowingly use false testimony and cannot be charged themselves even if caught as prosecutors are protected by immunity. Please read, “Prosecutorial Misconduct: Does Immunity Invite Injustice?.

The legal system attempts to protect against wrongful conviction of innocent men and women by establishing rules that require prosecutors to disclose any deals or agreements made to these parasitic jailhouse snitches so that when they do testify the jury will know that they have an interest and substantial incentive to testify against another inmate.

By law, the state must fully disclose all promises or deals made to any witness in exchange for their cooperation to the defense counsel. Thus, when a jailhouse snitch does testify the defendant’s lawyer can then subject the snitch to cross-examination and expose his personal motivations for testifying against another inmate.

As stated, most of these jailhouse snitches are actually career criminals themselves, and they have no problem falsely claiming another inmate confessed to them – it’s not like truth means a lot to a burnt out junky and career criminal out to save his own pathetic butt. If this snitch is actually testifying only because he (or she) stands to personally gain by turning snitch, then certainly the jury needs to know that before they can weigh the credibility of that crucial testimony.

But once again we see that the legal system itself is so inherently corrupt that now it is revealed that the judges themselves are secretly collaborating with state prosecutors to deliberately conceal deals made to snitches in criminal cases, intentionally hiding crucial information from the jury.

In an investigation conducted by the Miami Herald a few months ago, it was discovered that the Miami-Dade and Broward County Courts were working secretly with local prosecutors to fabricate false records to protect snitches. (Please read, “Dockets doctored to shield snitches,” Miami Herald, November 18, 2006). This investigation only looked into court records in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties – but what of Florida’s other 65 counties? If those records are deliberately concealed, then how can it be determined just how widespread this practice is?

Incredibly, the judges and state prosecutors caught collaborating together to fabricate these false records to protect snitches now claim that their conduct is justified as it actually serves a public interest to conceal the truth.

But what of those wrongfully convicted and even condemned to death because of the use of false testimony provided by a jailhouse snitch only because he was secretly awarded a deal for his “cooperation?” The truth is that there are literally hundreds of men and women presently on death row today because of testimony provided by a jailhouse snitch, an experienced criminal – who was rewarded for that testimony with favorable treatment in exchange for his “cooperation.” This favorable treatment has enabled may a career criminal to continue his criminal career and even end up back in jail numerous times to snitch and do it all over again and again.

How can it ever be within the public’s interest for the courts and the prosecutor to secretly collaborate together to conceal the very evidence necessary for exposing the truth and prevent an innocent person from being wrongfully convicted and often even condemned to death? If a jailhouse snitch’s testimony is for all purposes being bought and paid for by the state, then shouldn’t the jury know this so they can consider that when weighing the credibility of that snitches own self-serving testimony before possibly convicting an innocent person?

Consider this, too – almost without exception these parasitic jailhouse snitches are themselves career criminals, knowledgeable in how to manipulate the legal system to their own advantage. They know that by giving the state a bigger fish they will be rewarded with a substantially reduction in their own sentence, or even have their own charges dropped altogether, then are released back on the streets to then continue their own criminal career.

By “playing” the system. These snitches know that they have been granted what amounts to complete immunity to commit more crimes often even violent crimes – as even if arrested again and again they are protected by prosecutors and need only to find another innocent victim to turn upon in the jail to again buy their own freedom. In many cases jailhouse snitches have actually repeated this cycle many times over, which begs the question… how can it ever be in the public’s interest to release a career criminal back on to the streets with what amounts to complete immunity to commit more crimes and continue his own criminal career?

The real tragedy here is that the general public still continues to conveniently ignore the truth… Our contemporary judicial system is inherently corrupt and the corruption comes from within the system itself. Truth and justice no longer matter, as prosecutors today are politicians who climb their career ladders by winning convictions by any means necessary, and ethical constraint is a career liability.

Today’s judicial system accepts and even embraces that it is all right if a few innocent men and women are wrongfully convicted and even condemned to death. But maybe they wouldn’t see it that way if it were them (or their own child) who became a victim of today’s corrupt judicial system.

I would encourage you to fully read the website “Southern Injustice: Exposing Bigotry & Injustice in The South.” Only by recognizing the corruption within the judicial system is there any chance of correcting it.

March 02, 2007

~Anatomy of a Corrupt Florida Prosecutor~

It’s a simple enough truth… when you play in the mud; you’re going to get dirty. This truth is especially applicable in the shadowy and often corrupt world of politics. Where money buys influence and favors at a relatively cheap price. Anyone with even minimal political acumen knows how to play the game – when a candidate is running for an elected office that campaign is financed by monetary contributions from those who want that particular individual elected. After they win that particular elected office, the unspoken doctrine of quid pro quo comes into effect… I scratched your back, now you scratch mine. When that same candidate --even elected judges and state attorneys – run for office numerous times with the same contributors consistently funding that campaign, then an obvious bond is forged.

If we truly value the concept that “justice is blind” then the marriage of politics and justice is a contemptuous abomination – an entity of evil that can only and ultimately bear evil fruit. However, in Florida each judicial circuit elects its top state attorney and circuit court judges locally. Thus, each time the same candidate runs for the same “office” they become inherently dependent upon the continuing support of local contributors. Thus, at least theoretically, of course, if a person wanted to corrupt locally elected state attorneys and judges to protect against any prosecution in the future, then they could simply become a generous campaign contributor – and call in the favor when trouble does inevitably arise. That’s how American democracy works – that’s the American way.

The Bible teaches us that “money is the root of all evil” and this truth is especially applicable in the shadowy and corrupt world of politics. Consider the case of the elected State Attorney Steve Russell in the 20th Judicial Circuit of Florida. Steve Russell has worked in that circuit for over 30 years, since graduating from Stetson University and passing the Florida Bar. When previously long-time elected State Attorney Joseph D’Alessandro retired, Russell ran for that job and took office in 2003.

During the 30 years that Steve Russell has worked in the 20th Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office (much of the time serving as the top prosecutor), although relatively small and comprised mostly of the rural farming communities of Southwest Florida, that office has established a record of having the highest number of wrongful convictions in capital cases in the entire country. Incredibly, just this one office has sent more innocent men to death row (subsequently released by the courts) than most other entire states, combined.

Steve Russell’s long-time personal friend and Stetson Law School alumnus Randall McGruther has worked alongside Russell for almost 30 years himself. But then a few years ago McGruther screwed up and attempted to go into private practice (which obviously pays more) only to shortly thereafter find himself under investigation for unethical misconduct after a witness in a criminal case alleged that Randy McGruther had attempted to coerce him into signing a false affidavit. Apparently, McGruther didn’t realize that although as a prosecutor he could get away with that, as a private lawyer he is not as protected. See, Prosecutorial Misconduct: Does Immunity Invite Injustice?

Shortly after these allegations were publicly disclosed, his long time good buddy, Steve Russell, by then the elected State Attorney, abruptly called McGruther back into the flock (birds of a feather…), and even appointed McGruther as his new Chief Assistant State Attorney, making McGruther the top prosecutor in the office! Not surprisingly, shortly after this appointment the allegations of misconduct previously lodged against Randall McGruther conveniently disappeared.

Does that sound just a bit fishy? But it actually only gets better, as a search of public records shows that in recent years McGruther has personally contributed thousands of dollars to Steve Russell’s campaigns… quid pro quo, baby! In fact, these public records show that McGruther has personally contributed well over $4,000 in recent years, with these substantial monetary contributions being made by McGruther while he was going through a contentious divorce and facing allegations of professional misconduct… and all on the salary of a public servant?

Although most of that money went to Steve Russell’s political campaigns, public records also show that McGruther contributed to the campaigns of numerous locally elected Circuit Court Judges, which raises substantial questions of conflict of interest. Money buys influence and in the political world there is no such thing as a free favor. So why was McGruther contributing money to the campaigns of locally elected judges that he knew he would argue cases in front of? If you were a criminal defendant being tried before a judge who was elected to that bench by monetary contributions made by the prosecutor, do you think you’d get a fair trial?

These facts are a matter of public record and cannot be denied. But this is not the end of the story. In 2006 the Florida Supreme Court threw out the capital convictions and death sentences against John Ballard, ordering his immediate release from death row upon the finding that Randall McGruther’s prosecution against Ballard was unfounded… that no credible evidence existed to support the convictions. See, Ballard v. State, 923 So. 2d 475 (Fla. 2006).

This Ballard case is an example of numerous other wholly circumstantial cases prosecuted by the 20th Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office that subsequently resulted in the appellate courts throwing the convictions out upon find that no sufficient evidence existed to support the convictions. (I.E. Delbert Tibbs, James Richardson, Bradley Scott, John Landry, john Ballard, etc.) Each of these cases was based upon specious -- and arguably fabricated – circumstantial evidence in which the person was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death only to be exonerated and released from death row by the Appellate Courts.

In another wholly circumstantial case prosecuted personally by Randall McGruther almost 24 years ago, newly discovered evidence has now come to light that shows that the State Attorney’s Office knowingly collaborated and conspired with a key witness to deliberately convict and condemn Michael Lambrix to death for a capital crime they knew he was innocent of.

In that case, Lambrix was charged with a double murder in a locally sensationalized case in Glades County, Florida in early 1983. There were no eyewitnesses, no physical or forensic evidence, and no confessions. The entire case was built upon the testimony of Lambrix’s estranged ex-girlfriend’s testimony, who conveniently claimed that Lambrix told her he committed these murders, but only after she was charged with a another crime herself.

Lambrix pled not guilty and has consistently maintained his innocence. At trial the jury was not allowed to hear that this witness, Frances Smith-Ottinger, had actually told law enforcement officials numerous conflicting stories and had even failed a state administered polygraph test. Additionally, Lambrix was prohibited from personally testifying and virtually no defense was presented. Lambrix was convicted and condemned to death and has remained on Florida’s death row since March 1984. For a complete account of this case, please read, Southern Injustice: Condemning An Innocent Man

In recent years another witness has come forth stating that she was coerced into falsely testifying, Lambrix admitted killing the deceased, at trial by both the key witness and the state attorney’s lead investigator. An investigation into these allegations then revealed that at the same time Lambrix was prosecuted in this capital case, the key witness was engaged in a secret, illicit affair “of a sexual nature” with the State Attorney’s investigator, Robert Daniels – the very person who had sworn out the affidavit initiating the charges against Lambrix, then this same investigator personally supervised the development of the specious circumstantial evidence presented at trial.

Additionally Investigations revealed that the very evidence McGruther presented to the jury to convince them of Lambrix’s guilt was fabricated – and that McGruther knew this evidence was fabricated. More recently evidence has come to light that contrary to the key witness’ testimony at trial, she was given complete immunity from prosecution in exchange for her “cooperation” – all other charges against her were dropped shortly after Lambrix was convicted and condemned to death.

After almost 20 years of methodically stalking Lambrix’s wrongful execution, in 2004 McGruther was disqualified from the case due to the allegations of misconduct. However, no action has been taken against him – and under the protection of elected State Attorney Steve Russell, McGruther remains the top prosecutor in that Circuit.

Incredibly, McGruther now has bigger plans. With the history of alleged misconduct preventing McGruther from running for any publicly elected office, Randy McGruther is now posturing himself for political appointment to the bench. Public records reveal that McGruther became a substantial contributor to the most recent gubernatorial campaign of now governor “Chaingang Charlie” Crist. Once again, McGruther is spending money to manipulate the system. If Randall McGruther is successful in being appointed to the State Appellate Court bench by now Governor Crist, because of McGruther’s substantial contributions to his campaign, then with McGruther politically appointed for “life” without ever having to publicly campaign – his history of unethical misconduct will never have to be publicly debated.

All of these facts are a matter of public record and can easily be confirmed. The questions now is whether the public should allow someone like Randy McGruther to so brazenly manipulate the system to his advantage – do we really want someone like McGruther appointed to this bench for life?

If you have any information about prosecutorial misconduct in cases in the 20th Judicial Circuit (Southwest Florida) especially involving elected state Attorney Steve Russell, Chief Deputy Assistant Randall McGruther, or Assistant Attorney Cynthia Ross please contact us at or Southern Injustice PO Box 184, Wickliffe, OH 44092-0184.

I would encourage you to fully read the Southern Injustice website and blogs found at and contact both Florida Governor Charlie Crist and Florida Attorney General Bill McCullom imploring them to initiate an independent investigation into corruption within the 20th Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office at the below phone numbers and email addresses:

Governor Charlie Crist

Executive Office of the Governor
400 S. Monroe Street, The Capitol
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001


Bill McCullom

Office of Attorney General
The Capitol PL-01
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1050