Breaking news: The Florida Supreme Court has issued an indefinite Stay of Execution for Michael Lambrix. Mike was to be executed on Thursday, February 11, 2016. The order came hours after the court heard oral arguments that focused on the impact of a U.S. Supreme Court decision earlier this month that struck down the state’s death-penalty sentencing system.

UPDATE March 9, 2017: Florida Supreme Court has lifted the stay on Mike's death warrant!


Read more: http://www.southerninjustice.net
http://www.save-innocents.com/save-michael-lambrix.html




Michael Lambrix #482053
Florida State Prison
PO Box 800
Raiford FL 32083





Thursday, June 22, 2017

Latest developments..


 As summer begins there are a lot of commercials on the TV promoting the biggest and scariest roller coasters at the tourist traps spread out across Florida. Each one claims to bring the willing rider that much closer to a death defying trip - but if someone really wants to take a trip on Florida's ultimate roller coaster, they should spend some time on death row.

For over 18 months now I've remained under an active death warrant, not knowing if I will live or die, and as that constant uncertainty weighs heavy I find myself (especially lately) wishing they'd just come on and get it over with as that weight of uncertainty itself is almost a a fate worse than death, especially when other forms of drama drag me down even further.

As I wrote recently, I had expected that I'd already be rescheduled for execution after the Florida Supreme Court denied my appeal recently, and formally lifted my stay of execution. There didn't appear to be any reason for the governor not to reschedule both me and Mark Asay now that the Supreme Court rejected review of the state's challenge to Florida's new death penalty laws on May 22, 2017. I spent that week going through my personal property, throwing out the mountain of paperwork that always seems to accumulate - old letters, articles I collected and legal material that has no real value anymore.

I prepared my family and friends for what I thought was sure to come - that each visit might be the last visit, and that anytime I could be back down on "death watch", counting down the the last days. But this week I received news that in all probability the governor will not reschedule my execution anytime soon as the state courts are still struggling with whether the Florida Supreme Court's unprecedented declaration in Mark Asay v State of Florida - that those illegally sentenced to death prior to June 2002 will not be granted relief - is a legal decision.

This is what is now commonly being referred to as the "partial retroactive" rule. In context of my own case, there's no question that I was illegally sentenced to death as the jury vote was not unanimous, but my death sentences became final prior to 2002 and so by narrow majority the Florida Supreme Court ruled that I was not entitled to relief  and the state could go ahead and kill me.

But it "aint over 'till it's over" and now that ruling itself is being challenged in at least 20 cases, including my own.Now it appears that the governor will not reschedule executions until this issue has been resolved by the courts. The front case now addressing this issue is not my case, but that of James Hitchcock, who has been on Florida's death row for about 40 years, but has had his illegally imposed death sentence thrown out 3 times over the past 4 decades, the last time was prior to 2002, so he too was denied relief under Hurst.

With Hitchcock's case now leading the growing pack of other cases, this issue should now keep all executions on hold for a while. Ultimately, there's a good chance that the earlier decision, refusing to grant relief in pre-2002 cases will be reversed, resulting in many more death sentences (including my own) thrown out as being illegally imposed.

Bottom line, it now appears that I will not face yet another execution date anytime soon.  I'm not excited about the prospect of having my death sentence reduced to life in prison as I've already spent 34 years in prison  for a crime I did not commit and at 57 years old, doing time is becoming harder and harder. Pope Francis said it right last years when he said that a life sentence is in fact a slow death sentence.

What keeps me going are my other appeals that continue to try to compel the courts to allow full review of my substantiated claim of innocence. But if the courts deny my claims then I guess it will come down to the question of whether my will be thrown out and I end up with life in prison..

 
 
 
 
 

 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Cell 1: Florida's Death Penalty in Limbo (Epilogue)



                        


On March 9,  Lambrix lost his appeal to have his sentence overturned in light of the Hurst decision. You can read the decision here.

Despite a scathing critique of the Florida Supreme Court’s decision about how Hurst should apply to already sentenced inmates, his subsequent appeal of that decision was denied on May 10.

Unless a federal appellate court steps in, it looks like Lambrix’s death sentence will stand untouched by all the changes brought about by the Hurst decision.

“I think it’s yet another example of politics trumping the administration of justice and once again exposes the moral corruption of our highest courts,” wrote Lambrix after the Florida Supreme Court decided he would not get a chance at a new sentence.

He is confident that the U.S. Supreme Court will take up the issue of how the state interpreted the Hurst decision to apply only to some Death Row inmates, but is not confident that will happen this iteration of that petition for review.

“The real question is how many more of us will be illegally executed before the U.S.  [Supreme Court] gets around to telling the [Florida Supreme Court] it was wrong again?” writes Lambrix.
“The truth of the matter is that I do struggle with feelings of anger and contempt towards our politically corrupt judicial system, and I don’t like that. It’s been my philosophy to not allow the negativity of my experience to become part of who I am. I’ve seen far too many here grow angry and bitter as the years pass and it eats them up like a form of cancer--and that’s not who I want to become,” Lambrix writes.

He says when he is rescheduled for execution--he is pretty sure it will happen sooner or later--“there’s nothing I can do about it, except choose how I will respond,” writes Lambrix.
He says he plans to hunger strike if his death warrant is signed again.

Read the article and listen to Mike here

                           


And in Mike's own words, written on May 29, 2017:


Every day now I anxiously wait to see whether they'll come to take me back down to "death watch" with a new date of execution set. Mentally, I'm already there, as I have no doubt that they are coming. On May 10, 2017 the Florida Supreme Court denied reconsideration of their earlier decision denying all relief, even refusing to allow DNA testing of evidence that if tested would substantiate my consistently plead claim of innocence.

I thought they would come for me on Monday May 22, as on that date the United states Supreme Court issued it's order declining review of the State's attempt to challenge the Florida Supreme Court's own decision in Hurst v State that for the first time declared that an unanimous jury vote was necessary before a death sentence could be imposed. Florida's Attorney General Pam Bondie took that ruling personally. She built her career on prosecuting capital cases and sending many to death row, although more recently she's made national headlines for allegedly accepting a 25 thousand dollar political contribution from one of Donald Trump's organizations and just coincidentally dropped her office's investigation into trump's University alleged fraud shortly after reviewing that generous "political contribution".

Bondi argued to the US Supreme Court that the Florida supreme Court went too far in legally requiring an unanimous jury vote on death - she argued that the US Supreme Court never said unanimous jury votes are constitutionally required, although it's undisputed that almost all other states have long required an unanimous jury vote as a condition to impose death.
                       

Had the Supreme Court accepted review, then it would have effectively put a hold on all Florida executions until that issue was resolved as what it comes down to is the constitutionality of the Florida death penalty. But the court declined review, and now executions can resume.

So I've been spending a lot of time going through what personal property I have, throwing out the unbelievable amount of stuff that has accumulated since I came off "death watch" in early February, 2016. it doesn't seem that it's already been 15 months (almost 16) since I was last scheduled for execution. But in that time a lot of now irrelevant legal papers, magazines, and personal letters have piled up. I'm alright with throwing out unnecessary legal papers and give away the pile of magazines that have accumulated, but I draw the line at throwing out personal letters that still hold special meaning to me as when I'm really missing someone I go back and reread those letters so that at least in that moment, I'm there once again.

But I know when they do come to get me and take me back down to the death watch area adjacent to the execution chamber, the guards will pack my property up and if they think I've accumulated too much "crap", they will decide what to throw out. So, I'd rather thin it out myself and keep whats important to me.

And as I sort out my property, what weighs most heavily on my mind is that I'm doing this with the expectation that once again I will face that final count down to my own death...and this will be the fourth time that I've had an execution date set, and once again i know that i will come close as that's how it is - only too often the courts will sit on the case until you're close to that scheduled execution. That's how our legal system plays the games.

But I think that I will survive this latest date with death, as I do still have a number of appeals yet to pursue, any one of which could stop the execution.

However, I cannot assume that the courts will do the right thing for good reason, I have no faith in the integrity of our courts. I do think the legal system in this country is to be admired as It does attempt to instill fairness. But the problem is that while in principle our process is a model of what a legal system should be, in actual practice it is too easily exploited by those with their own political ideology and agenda.

too often, judges at the highest level of our legal system will simply lie to justify their intent to deny relief, and few people will ever know that they are deliberately lying as unless you know the facts of the case, there would be no way for the average person to know these judges lied.

Take for example the most recent denial of relief in my case before the Florida Supreme Court. Our primary issue was that state law required that we be allowed to have evidence potentially substantiating my plead claim of innocence subjected to DNA testing. You would think, even assume, that the Florida Supreme Court justices would at least have the integrity to be honest, especially when making a conscious decision to take a human life. But if they followed the letter of the law, then they would have had to allow DNA testing of this evidence, and then I might be exonerated - and they don't want that.

So, they denied our request for DNA testing by simply lying - the Court claimed that DNA testing had already been done on this evidence. Now, even if this was an inadvertent mistake in their March 9, 2017 decision, my lawyers did specifically bring this to the court's attention in a Motion for Rehearing filed on April 4, 2017 (Lambrix v State, FSC Case no SC16-08 page 20, "This court's assertion that DNA testing was performed on Bryant's panties" is blatantly false.There has never been any DNA testing conducted on any item in this case), then the courts would have corrected this mistake on rehearing.

But they didn't correct this "mistake" because it wasn't a mistake - the knew exactly what they were doing and they also know that the only way their deliberate lie can be further addressed is if the United States Supreme Court accepts review - and this will now be brought to the Supreme Court.

This is why I've often said that people out there just don't realize how completely corrupt our legal system is. We have laws and constitutional protections that are the envy of the world, but our legal system is politically corrupt and dependent upon judges motivated by their own pro death penalty ideology and only too often they will lie and there's nothing anyone can do about it, and so innocent people can be put to death.

And now I will once again face execution for a crime that I'm innocent of because the justices on the Florida Supreme Court don't have the integrity to tell the truth. But we will still pursue other appeals and take the case to the Supreme Court. And so while I have nothing but contempt for those who took a vow before God and country to administer justice honestly and fairly, I do still believe that there are other judges and Supreme Court justices who have not abandoned all pretense to prevent the execution of an innocent person.

but it sucks that I must now go through the death watch process again, knowing that if the Supreme Court refuses to intervene, then I may very well be executed for a crime I did not commit.





Friday, May 26, 2017

Life On Death Row: WUFT Interview with Michael Lambrix (with audio)

Michael Lambrix Has Thrice Avoided Execution
By Rebekkah Mar

                                                                 


May 26, 2017   

Michael Lambrix, a 57-year-old death row inmate, walked into the small room with a smile as he greeted the lieutenant standing by the door.
He’s in an orange jumpsuit, bulky handcuffs and prison guard by his side. The location: the Florida State Prison in Raiford.
Lambrix joked with the lieutenant saying this wasn’t his first interview. Later, he says, “This is your show, I’m just along for the ride.” 

Read More: WUFT Interview with Michael Lambrix


 

                                                                  

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Death Watch Journal (Part 36)

Chances are very likely that by the time this is posted, I will be back down on "death watch", once again counting down the final days before my scheduled execution. As those who read this blog regularly already know, on November 30, 2015 Florida governor Rick Scott signed an active death warrant against me, scheduling my execution for February 11, 2016.

But on February 2, 2016 the Florida Supreme Court entered a "temporary" stay of execution so that they could consider whether the US Supreme Court decision issued in January 2016 in Hurst v Florida had any impact on the legality of my own case.

The court issued an opinion on march 8, 2017, rejecting all issues raised. My lawyers filed a Motion for rehearing, arguing that the court made numerous significant factual errors that required rehearing. But on May 10 denied any further review and formally lifted my previously stay of execution. this means that at anytime now the governor can reschedule my execution, and he most likely will do so towards the end of the month.

However, this doesn't mean that I'm out of appeals, as there still are numerous appeals yet to be filed in the near future. But since the death penalty is more about the politics of death than the administration of justice, the state of Florida will try to stack the deck against me by rescheduling my execution before my lawyers can prepare and file these next appeals as the state knows that the politically corrupt courts are especially hostile towards any appeals that are filed while under active death warrant.

Specifically, the Florida Supreme Court's recent denial of relief will now be challenged in several ways. first, we will ask the US Supreme Court to review the Florida court ruling. And we do have a few strong points - most especially, the Florida Supreme Court denied the request for DNA testing that could substantiate mt consistently plead claim of innocence.

Let me say this..most people who read about what courts do assume that those on the courts possess a measure of moral integrity that compels the courts to at least tell the truth, especially when they are deciding whether to take someone's life.

                                                                       

But once again my case (and many others) illustrates the complete absence of integrity by our courts - I ask you this...how can justice ever hope to prevail when truth becomes irrelevant?

For years now my lawyers have repeatedly sought DNA testing of evidence that could prove my claim of innocence. At first, the state claimed that there was no evidence to be tested, but when that proved to be a lie, they switched to argue that since no blood was found on the evidence, no DNA could possibly exist. Of course, that's not true, as skin cells also have DNA, especially if embedded in fabric, which is exactly what we argued.

Unable to get around this inconvenient truth, the Florida Supreme Court decided to just create their own lie - in the March 8, 2017 ruling, for the first time the court declared that DNA testing had already been done, which is absolutely not true. And my lawyers filed a motion for rehearing, arguing that they made a material mistake, as no such DNA testing has ever been done. But even when a person's life is at stake, the Florida Supreme Court refused to correct this - they would rather kill a person on a lie they created than admit they were wrong.

So, now we will appeal their ruling to the Federal courts and hope that they will have the integrity to intervene when they see that the Florida Supreme Court's decision is based on an undeniable false finding.

My lawyers will also be pursuing an appeal to the US Supreme Court challenging the March 15, 2017 denial of my actual innocence appeals. Again, to deny relief, the lower federal court (a judge known for his extreme pro-death penalty stance) simply lied to deny relief and the ends justify the means.

In that case, my lawyers presented numerous specifically plead claims of substantial evidence that have never been addressed by any state or federal court because my original "initial-review" lawyer failed to present them to the court, resulting in these claims (and evidence) substantiating my innocence being procedurally barred. But in 2017 the US Supreme Court announced a new rule of law that for the first time allowed procedurally barred claims to be raised heard by the federal court providing the petitioner can establish that the failure to be heard upon them would result in a manifest injustice.

But the Florida courts controlling Florida are comprised mostly of pro-death penalty conservatives and they use their control to block all death sentenced petitioners from being heard, and often they will deliberately lie to deny relief.

In my case, the judge declared that all my claims were previously addressed on the merits - which is absolutely not true. And not surprisingly, the Federal Court could not identify any prior court ruling that addressed these issues substantiating my innocence.

So, within the very near future we will appeal that to the Supreme Court, asking them to overturn the lower Federal Court's "clearly erroneous and objectively unreasonable" decision (based on the judge's deliberate lie).

Bottom line is that there are still numerous appeals we will yet pursue. But the state of Florida will stack the deck by scheduling my execution within the near future, and even though I do still have reason to hope that justice will prevail, I cannot have any faith in a judicial process governed by judges who repeatedly fabricate lies to deny relief and since they are the only ones who can overcome their own lies, truth can never hope to prevail.

Because most people are generally good people and try to do whats right, they need to believe that those we place in power to administer justice are moral and ethical. I don't think many people would support a legal system that is governed by judges who will lie to justify killing even one innocent person. But it's so much easier to ignore the truth than to lose faith in who we are as a society.

I may not be able to stop this corrupt system from killing me for a crime I'm innocent of, but I know this...I will fight this fight until I breathe my last breath.

Death watch journal (Part 35)

When it comes down to it, the difference between administering justice and pursuing vengeance is that the primary objective in the administration of justice is to protect the innocent, while the pursuit of vengeance is as easily satisfied by the sacrifice of the innocent as it is the guilty.

If history has taught us nothing else, it is that those blinded by their need to seek vengeance can seldom, if ever, see the error of their ways. To seek justice is a honorable thing and reflects the best of our moral conscience. But to inflict vengeance reflects only the worst of who we are not only as an individual, but as a society. And yet, often we quickly are blinded by that thirst for vengeance and the result is that we inflict an incomprehensible injustice under that pretense of administering justice.

In the past month, not just once, but twice, the Florida Supreme Court issued formal apologies to the victims of past injustices - crimes committed by those acting upon behalf of the state under the pretense of administering justice. In both cases, these apologies came only many years later and those responsible for inflicting the injustice were never held accountable for their own state-sanctioned crimes.

The first case involved what has become known as "The Groveland Four" in which back in 1949 a 17 year old white woman (and her husband) claimed that 4 black men had raped her. The rural community of Lake County (just north of Orlando) quickly came together as vengeance fueled lynch mobs, unquestionably consumed by common racial motivations, as Florida was, and still is, part of the traditional "deep south" and these good ole boy redneck - a contemporary evolution of the infamous Ku klux Klan - weren't about to tolerate any black man touching a white woman.

Of the 4 accused, Ernest Thomas initially escaped and fled to Madison county (Florida) only to be hunted down and killed by a local sheriff's posse. Of the other three, Charles Greenlee received life in prison, convicted solely on the testimony of that one woman while Walter Irvin and Samuel Sheppard were sentenced to death but had their convictions overturned by the Supreme Court and a few months later both Irvin and Sheppard were shot by a local sheriff and his deputy (who claimed they acted in self defence). Sheppard died, then Irvin was again convicted and sentenced to death again. That death sentence was later reduced to life by then governor Leroy Collins and eventually Irvin and Greenlee were paroled from prison.

The Florida legislative recent admission of injustice came about only because in 2012 author Gilbert King wrote a Pulitzer Prize winning book "devil in the Grove" that exposed this case nationally, to the embarrassment of the state of Florida.

                                                                       



In the other case, the Florida Senate passes a resolution already previously adopted by the other branch of the legislative, publicly apologizing for decades of physical, sexual assaults and murder of juveniles in stet custody, primarily at what was known as the "Dozier School for Boys"

Again, under the pretense of administering justice, these state facilities housing young boys systematically beat, raped and killed their wards and while this dark history was known for many decades, only in recent years, through the relentless efforts of surviving victims (Wikipedia: "White House Boys") was the now closed state facility searched and the bodies of at least 55 victims were exhumed, and at least 31 of the bodies were identified as those who has allegedly "escaped".

While the formal apology may seem to be a step in the right direction, what cannot be ignored is that in both cases  - as well as countless others in which injustices were only recognized decades later - those who were responsible for inflicting the injustices were held accountable, and those who suffered the injustices were never compensated.

To me, the bigger issue is why does it take so long before these representing the state are willing to acknowledge that an injustice occurred? And why is it that the only time these injustices even come to light is when a journalist or author exposes the injustice long after the damage has been done?

Here on death row there's a saying that goes around..you're only innocent when you're either dead or exonerated. Or in other words, nobody is willing to listen as long as you're alive and still on death row. Maybe that reflects how our society has become indifferent and even openly hostile to claims of innocence.

Often, I've heard the scepticism voiced by the media, as well as the courts, that everybody on death row claims they are innocent.

Of course, this absurd perception is categorically false...of the thousands and thousands of homicides committed each year, all but relatively few actually plea guilty and are sentenced to 'life" or less. Only a fraction of one percent actually continue to insist on their innocence, and demand their right to be tried by a jury.

If you know you did not commit the crime alleged by an overzealous prosecutor, it is highly unlikely you'd ever plea guilty to a crime you did not commit, not even when the state is promising you that if you don't accept the offer for a reduced sentence by pleading guilty, they will condemn you to death - as the prosecutor in my case did to me many times.

I just don't have all the answers. But what i do know beyond any doubt is that who we are as a society really has not changed that much in recent generations. While it is politically correct to no longer openly practise racism, it still exists within the hearts of too many. Even to this day it is a historical fact that while Florida will only too quickly condemn and execute (or lunch) a black for killing a white person, Florida has never - not even once - executed a white person for killing a black.

If the death penalty is about administering justice, then how come you will almost never find a rich person on death row? Rich people do commit murder too. But they can afford quality legal representation to avoid the death penalty while those condemned can not.

Still under an active death warrant, I know well that I may soon face execution for a crime I did not commit. I also know that for over three decades I've done all I could to get the media to conduct an independent investigation into my case, but they simply won't.

My only remaining hope seems to be in the above cases, long after I'm dead, maybe future generations will finally look back on the evidence and expose the injustice that has been so deliberately perpetuated against me and maybe the politicians of that day will posthumously apologize for murdering me...but at the end of the day, I'll still be dead.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Death Row: The Ninth Ring

By Michael Lambrix, written for Minutes Before Six


Few books I´ve read over the many years I’ve spent in solitary confinement on Florida´s infamous “death row” have had more impact on me than Dante´s Inferno.  Obviously fictional, Inferno becomes branded upon the soul as it depicts a journey through the depths of hell, describing in detail the horrors that await the damned.

At the beginning the unfortunate soul is told that the only means of escape is to descend into hell.  If he can survive passing through the nine rings, each worse than the one before, only then can he escape from eternal damnation. No one yet has accomplished this.

As they pass through the gateway into hell, he takes note of what is written above …”Abandon hope, all ye who enter.” Like any mortal man would, he hesitates, unable to shake the feeling that something truly evil awaits him beyond.

They proceed along their descent, finding that there are many levels in hell, each assigned to a particular form of transgression – and each far worse than the one before.  Dante paints a vivid picture of the torment inflicted upon the souls of those sinners, making the Biblical lake of fire and brimstone seem merciful.

Finally, they reach the Ninth Ring, an incomprehensible abode buried deep within the bowels of hell. Reserved exclusively for the “worst of the worst,” the worst punishment imaginable is inflicted here.

But to my surprise, the ultimate punishment is not physical such as the precious image of worms feeding upon the flesh and the other physical tortures only the most depraved mind could imagine.  The Ninth Ring is an icy realm reserved for very few, each incarnated and frozen solid in eternal silence. Conscious of the passage of time for all eternity. Condemned to silence and solitude, unable to cry out in their misery or find the comfort of another´s compassionate touch.

The Ninth Ring is a vivid description of what life is like on America´s death row for the thousands sentenced to a fate far worse than death. Condemned to solitary confinement designed to break not the body but the soul, we are “frozen” in an eternal state of limbo, slowly succumbing to the abandonment of hope, and madness that consumes from within.

Our society professes pride in the preservation of human rights, but there´s an institution most choose to ignore.  Some call it the price of freedom, but within the past generation America has evolved into a society that boasts the highest rate of incarceration in the world. Over two million of its citizens are cast into contemporary gulags, forced to endure punishment motivated less by convictions for crime as it is the billions made each year by private corporations feeding off the misery of the imprisoned under the auspices of criminal “justice”. (See, “Trump and the Prison Industry” by Fredreka Schouten, USA Today , February 24, 2017, illustrating how private corporations donate obscene amounts of money to political campaigns, with the expectation of receiving billion dollar contracts)

Like with Dante´s “Inferno”, our contemporary prison system is comprised of many rings, each far worse than the one before.  At the very bottom of the Beast one will find the Ninth Ring – “death row”.

When we speak of the death penalty, most attention is focused on the execution, an event that does not take place often until decades later. Few give any thought to the many years between imposition of sentence and execution.  Fewer still acknowledge that of the thousands currently under sentence of death, a small percentage will actually face execution.  In truth, the vast majority are condemned to a fate far worse than death itself –decades of solitary confinement where they slowly rot in both body and mind.

I came to Florida´s “death row” in March 1984.  At the time, I was 23 years old. I am now 57 years old.  Over twenty years ago I wrote about “life” on death row was about (“Cruel and Unusual: An Intimate Look at the Death Penalty; C. Michael Lambrix. The Madison Edge, February 10, 1993).  At the time, Florida´s death-sentenced prisoners were housed at Florida State Prison (read: “Alcatraz of the South”). I described it as follows:
Upon being sentenced to death, each of us is kept in a segregated unit and each assigned our own cell in solitary confinement, designed to intentionally isolate us and deprive us of any ability to meaningfully interact with one another.  Not even for one moment are we allowed to forget that we are warehoused there, and waiting to die.
Each bare concrete cell measures approximately six feet by nine foot, including the steel bunk solidly affixed to the wall on one side, and the combination toilet/sink securely attached to the rear wall, and a single steel footlocker in which all our personal property is stored.  No property is allowed to be out of that footlocker unless it is being used at that moment.  Nothing – not even a single photograph of a loved one - is allowed to be affixed to the walls.  Each of the three walls are painted while the cell front is a wall of steel bars that look outward to the catwalks where the guards make their rounds.  There are no windows and the only source of natural light comes from the dusty, distant window located on the outer catwalk far from our reach.
At best, there is less than 30 square feet of open area in each cell in which we can “walk” (three short steps each way) and move around.  Although prison officials like to say that we are in our solitary cells an average of 23 hours a day, in truth departures from the cell are relatively rare and as brief as possible Each time, we are securely handcuffed, chained and shackled.
The routinely scheduled departures are limited to a short shower three times a week in a designated “shower cell” located at the front of each tier and twice weekly we are allowed to participate in two hours of “outdoor recreation” on a fenced concrete pad.  It is not uncommon for many to forego recreation for years at a time, electing instead to remain in their cells. All the time spent in solitary deprives them of the ability to socially interact. They retreat into their own world, the solitary cell becoming their own “security blanket.” Many abandon any interest in contact with others.
Conditions of our imprisonment are incomprehensible to most.  For too many years we were forced to live in an environment infested with cockroaches, insects and rodents.  Many of us would even make pets of rodents, or spiders, or even cockroaches, out of desperation for interaction with any form of life.  Although we could talk to and hear others in adjacent cells, we could not see or touch them. A pet provided a needed surrogate for interaction. 

Ventilation was minimal, and in long, hot and unbearably humid Florida summers, our concrete crypts became ovens. Our only relief from overwhelming heat would be to stand naked in our steel toilets and pour cool water over our sweating bodies.  In recent years, and only after pursuit of a Federal civil action, we are each allowed to purchase an 8-inch plastic fan.  Those who cannot afford to purchase their own fan continue to do without.
In winter months the death row unit at Florida State Prison often becomes so cold that a thin layer of ice will form in the toilet.  When the heating system would work, it provided only minimal relief.  Each prisoner is provided a coarse, wool “horse blanket” often worn ragged and riddled with holes. The only warmth for months at a time would be to get winter clothes (thermal underwear, sweatshirts, etc), purchasing them from the prison “store,” but many don´t have the money to do so.
Then there´s the food…by law, they are required to feed us but this is one area of prison administration that goes to great lengths to operate as cheaply as possible. As if saving money wasn´t itself a means by which to reduce our diet preparation and delivery methods further reduce it to something unfit for human consumption. By maintaining quality that discourages consumption, they encourage us to purchase our food from the prison “canteen” at escalated cost.
The unspoken truth of the American prison industry is that countless corporations compete each year for exclusive contract allowing them to sell to prisoners products of inferior quality at escalated price. Each year the captive market generates millions of dollars for politically-connected vendors who then make substantial contributions to elected officials.  Like all prisoners, those on death row are forced to ask what they can from family and friends just to survive day by day.
Family and friends are what keeps us going, a fragile thread that dangling in front of each of us as we desperately try to maintain contact with the real world.  But more often than not, both family and friends drift away, letters and visits growing fewer and further apart as the years pass.  Although those sentenced to death are technically allowed a social visit each week, in reality those are few and far between.
Although I am blessed with family that remains by my side, and receive a social visit on average once monthly, the majority receive far less. Many receive no visits at all for many years at a time.  Maintaining a semblance of a social relationship becomes impossible after prolonged isolation, their social skills eroding as they succumb to the inevitable mental degradation and retreat into a world of their own. Some even elect to forego minimal interaction with adjacent neighboring cells.
The solitary cell becomes a cocoon.  Every meal is served and consumed there without table or chair, cold trays passed through the door and balanced the lap.
Those are just the tangible aspects of our endless solitary confinement.  Words are inadequate to truly define the deprivation so deliberately inflicted upon the condemned. Not months, or even years, but decade after decade of solitary confinement under sentences of death, leaving each of us utterly powerless to influence our existence. We are methodically reduced to something less than human in this regime,  our fates infinitely prolonged, constantly reminded that the only purpose for our continued existence is to be warehoused until it is our time to die. When our appointed time does finally come, if we survive that long, our death tomorrow will come at the hands of those that feed us today.
Isolation of the condemned pales in comparison to the alienation from prolonged solitary confinement. It is in our nature to interact with others. Each of us fundamentally needs to be part of something more than ourselves.
Those sentenced to “life” in prison for crimes indistinguishable from our own are afforded the luxury of community.  They are housed in “general population” where they spend little time confined to a cell aside from the hours they sleep.
They eat in open dining halls and are able to converse with others. Assigned a job, they are rewarded with the sense of accomplishment that comes from self-sufficiency and being a contributing member of their community.

They are able to form social groups, often forging friendships with others, finding common ground in people and places they once knew out there in the real world.  They can participate in religious activities, communing in spiritual fellowship and even go to church.
Community can never exist for those arbitrarily condemned to life in solitary confinement under the pretense of being sentenced to death.  All we have are the fading memories of a life lived so long ago.

Then there´s the forbidden fruit we call “hope”; the imaginary sweetness we allow ourselves to long for. Yet each time our teeth sink into reality we taste only bitterness. One court after another denies our appeals and with each, we take one more step toward the gallows.
As the years slowly pass, meaning drifts further away.  Family and friends become distant, strangers whose lives go on while ours remains trapped in time.  As that hope fades, anger grows stronger, filling an emotional void. We find ourselves increasingly intolerant towards the slightest imperfections of others around us, causing unnecessary conflict and alienating us further, even from those similarly confined.
Many of us begin to fantasize about the only realistic escape: death. It creeps up on you, its siren song whispering. Before you realize it, there you are in the stillness of the night, lying on your bunk with your eyes wide shut, imagining you had already had taken your last breath.  Imagining death, and its promise to end the misery.
But it doesn´t end. Fantasizing about slicing your wrists, or stringing yourself up at the end of a sheet is much easier than actually doing it.  When the news comes that one of your own did find the strength to bring an end to their own misery, there´s a momentary sense of loss that quickly evolves into an overwhelming envy. You find yourself asking, “If only it could have been me.”
Often someone we´ve known for years, or even decades, and lived in close to, is told he has a terminal illness, most often cancer. And then for months, sometimes years, we continue to live in close proximity as that person slowly succumbs to death.  As the proverbial “lowest of the low”, we are extended no empathy or compassion from the prison system or society in general. A terminally ill condemned prisoner will remain in a regular death row cell until their condition progresses to the point they can no longer feed and bathe themselves. Only then are they transferred to a medical unit, where they die.
For the most part we look out for each other because when it comes down to it, nobody else will.  We try to become hospices for one another, doing what little we can to help a terminally ill fellow prisoner. Society may see us as no more than cold-blooded killers and “monsters”; but the empathy and compassion we extend to one of our own remains is a testament that even in the “worst of the worst”, there are redeemable qualities if only we are willing to recognize them.
Whether unexpected suicide, prolonged terminal illness, or one of our own being led away to “death watch”, each loss takes something from the rest of us personally. It´s hard to say why that is, but it is.  Every time one whom we´ve lived around for years dies -- as the death row population continues to grow older, it happens more frequently, they take with them a piece of each of us and hopelessness consumes even more of us.
Those who have never seen it cannot understand the emptiness within the eyes of those who’ve held on to hope for too long only to be crushed beneath it.  They are the living dead. Not one of us immune, and even the strongest among us knows that we too might wake up tomorrow and join their ranks.
Especially in here, hope is a seductive mistress that keeps you going only to turn on you, leaving you broken and depressed.  Being on death row is like going down with a sinking ship once so called life, and finding yourself stranded on the open sea. Human nature compels us to constantly search the horizon for a ship that will save us – that´s hope.  All the while, helplessly watching others around us slowly sink beneath the murky surface, or unexpectedly fall victim to the creatures of the sea.
As hope fades away, we become that much more to desperate to hold on to it. Hope itself becomes the weight dragging us under. Time and time again those distant ships on the horizon prove to be nothing more than mirages within our own imaginations. Hope transforms into belief that we have been betrayed.  Like a succubus it turns on us, consuming our very souls, leaving us empty and abandoned.

Throughout the years I have prayed that God would just let me die.  I´m told He is a merciful God, and yet not so merciful as to allow this misery to end.  For that I found myself angry at God as if he had betrayed me by forcing me to continue to live while so many others around me were allowed to die and I keep asking, “Why not me?”

Those that somehow find the strength to survive the years with some measure of sanity and self-identity, are then rewarded with the signing of their “death warrant,” removed from their familiar surroundings, they are led away to the bowels of the beast that is Florida State Prison, placed in the solitary cell feet from the execution chamber, they’re forced to then count down the days until they will die.

I’ve been in that cell where so many spent their final days, most recently when Florida Governor Rick Scott signed my latest death warrant on November 30, 2015.  I spent 72 days in “cell one,” counting down the days to my own scheduled execution.  A few days before I was to be put to death for a crime that I’m innocent of (please check out southernjustice.net), I received a temporary stay of execution and although I am now still awaiting the decision on whether I will live or die, I have been moved back to the regular death row wing as I anxiously await my fate (you can view a six part PBS documentary about my death watch experience here.) . 

For my family and friends, that news of a temporary reprieve was cause to celebrate. But I know better. At any time the court could lift the stay of execution and have me put to death.  I´ve been through this before (read: “The Day God Died”). A temporary reprieve is judicially sanctioned Russian Roulette…they put that gun to my head with the promise of pulling the trigger at precisely 6:00 p.m. on February 11, 2016. They pulled that trigger, and it landed on an empty chamber. The cold steel of the gun remains pressed to my head and the fear of death remains. Next time it might just land on a loaded chamber.

Do I now dare to hope this temporary reprieve will result in something more lasting? I can almost see the seductive mistress of hope smiling, and if I listen closely, I can hear the sirens’ call. There´s still a part of me desperately wanting to embrace hope once again… but do I really dare to? 

As I weigh these thoughts, I need only look around this cell. I know that each of the last 23 men who previously occupied this very cell each desperately held on to that same hope and without exception each of them are now dead (read: “Execution Day – Involuntary Witness to Murder”).

I have ordered my last meal and the warden had me measured for the dark blue suit I will wear when they kill me.  But death will have to wait a little longer. And I will remain the solitary soul entombed in ice unable to move and yet only too aware of all around me… frozen in time and space on this Ninth Ring.

After all that has been inflicted upon me under the perverse pretense of administering “justice” in the end my only reward is the ritual of “death watch.”

The punishment this presumably “civilized” society has chosen to impose upon me is not an act of God, but the product of a “Christian society.” I find myself once again praying that if only all those responsible for inflicting this misery upon me will themselves be blessed with the same measure of “mercy and compassion” they have extended to me. I am disgusted by that thought since it reduces me to the same evil of vengeance that has consumed them.

As I remain in this state of judicial limbo, not knowing whether in the coming days I will live or die, I think of those words Socrates so long ago spoke to the tribunal that condemned him. Perhaps those will be the same words that I speak as I lay strapped to that gurney and about to breathe my very last breath… “to which of us go the worst fate – you or I


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Michael Lambrix 482053
Florida State Prison
P.O. Box 800
Raiford, FL 32083-0800

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Death Row Journals (Part 34)

Recently I read an interesting article by renowned journalist and now retired associate editor of the Tampa Bay Times, Martin Dyckman entitled 'Clemency and Florida's Overbearing Politics of Death'. For obvious reasons, this is an issue that holds significance to me and all other death sentenced prisoners in Florida, as before the governor can sign a death warrant scheduling our execution, the governor and Florida cabinet must consider whether a grant of clemency is appropriate. Mind you, they key word there is "consider", as that's all that they are required to so.

There's a reason you won't hear too much about this particular part of the death penalty process as for all practical purposes, it has long ago been reduced to nothing by a deliberate pretense..for too many decades now, Florida has reduced this clemency process to nothing but a shame.

Why is this even an issue? Because as the Supreme Court recognized in Herrera v. Collins, 506 U.S. 390 (1993) and Harbison v. Bell 556 U.S. 180 (2009) - and I quote "Executive clemency has provided the "fail safe" in our criminal justice system...recent authority confirms that over the past century it has been exercised frequently in capital cases in which demonstrations of actual innocence has been made". Or in other words, historically clemency has been available to prevent an innocent person from being put to death when the judicial process has failed.

On of the common misconceptions about our criminal justice system is that our courts always specifically look at every capital case to ensure that the person facing execution is actually guilty of the crime and that simply is not true. The inconvenient truth is that both the state and federal courts  - even the US Supreme Court (Herrera v Collins) has made it clear that innocence is not an issue, and the courts will not address a claim of innocence on its own merits.
                                                             

Worse yet, the way the criminal justice system really works is that after you're condemned to death you're then appointed a lawyer who becomes responsible for presenting your appellate issues to the courts (arguing why you're entitled to have your conviction vacated because the state deliberately used false evidence or whatever), if that lawyer fails to timely present these technical issues to the court within the time frames required, then the courts will not allow those issues to be heard at all, even though if addressed on the merits, it would establish that you are innocent.

Often in capital cases, substantial constitutional issues that would establish innocence are procedurally barred from any form of judicial review, as has happened in my case many times.

For that reason, the availability of a meaningful clemency process is the only true safeguard to protect against the inevitable execution of an innocent person.

But as I said above, for all practical purposes, this clemency process in Florida, and most other death penalty states, has become a deliberate pretense. Just look at the indisputable facts....since 1978 (when the death penalty was reinstated following the landmark Furman v Georgia decision in 1972 that found the old death penalty unconstitutionally "arbitrary and capricious") here in Florida 81 men and women have been executed and 26 men and women have been legally exonerated and released...and since 1974, there have only been 6 men granted clemency (their death sentences reduced to life) in capital cases.

Notably, not a single person has been granted clemency in a capital case in Florida in over 33 years. All six men were granted clemency by then governor Robert Graham, who left state office to become a US senator in 1986. Since that time, not even one person has been granted clemency in a capital case in Florida.

What it comes down to is the "politics of death" and in these pro death penalty states even expressing an open mind to consideration of leniency in a capital case is essentially political suicide.

Here in Florida it is a stacked deck anyways. Under Florida law a governor cannot grant clemency alone, but must have at least 2 other cabinet members agree. It's my understanding that for many years now that cabinet reviewing all capital clemency petitions consisted of only 3 people...the governor, the Florida Attorney General and the commissioner of agriculture. And let there be no mistake, each of these individuals are personally familiar with the inherent imperfections of our judicial process and know that the only way to ensure that an innocent person is not put to death is by granting clemency in capital cases in which a legitimate issue of innocence exist.

My own case illustrates this. A wealth of readily available evidence exists to substantiate my consistently plead claim of actual innocence, which the courts have refused to address because my lawyers failed to properly present this evidence to the courts.

On several occasions my lawyers have petitioned the governor and cabinet for clemency consideration, and hundreds of people have signed petitions and sent letters to the governor asking him to look at the evidence and allow a fair clemency review. But each time it has been refused to even allow my case from being brought up for a hearing and the evidence discussed.

Bottom line, there is no meaningful clemency process in Florida, and in evidently, innocent people will be executed and without this historically available "safety valve", there is virtually no process available in which to prevent the execution of the innocent.



Innocent and Executed - please read