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





Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Death Watch Journal (part 31)


 As I write this, it is Saturday March 25, 2017 and it has been now 480 days since Florida governor Rick Scott decided that he would put me to death despite readily available evidence substantiating my consistently plead claim of innocence and I was to die on February 11, 2016. It has now been 397 days since that scheduled date with death.

When the death watch supervisor came to tell me that I would be moved off "death watch" and back to the regular death row housing area on February 9, 2016 I was having a visit with my family and close friend Jan, and we all knew at the time that it was supposed to have been one of my last visits. Because I was still on "death watch", the visits were restricted to non-contact, meaning I was separated from them by a glass window.

It was also my older sister Debbie's birthday..she turned 60 and we all sang her Happy Birthday - and I sang extra hard to make sure they could hear me through that way too small hole in the glass window, and when I was told that I'd be moved off death watch, Debbie quickly claimed that news as the best birthday present ever.

Flash forward to today. I just had another great visit with my sisters and this time it was in an open "visiting park" where we all sat around a steel table and could hold hands and walk around. When the visit started, I got a big hug from each - and noticed that they brought some small white frosted cakes that they purchased in the main visiting park downstairs before coming up to the death row visiting park.

No sooner did I get that big hug from each of them and we sat down at our assigned table, they began ripping open the plastic packaging on the cakes and laid them neatly on napkins in front of each of us - and then in obvious preplanned and practised unison, they began to merrily sing Happy Birthday, and I smiled - and stopped them short on that first chorus: "Whoa, what the hell are y'all doing", and for a moment they looked puzzled, then I continued "you know you can't sing in the visiting park unless you stand up and dance", and they all smiled, and one of my sisters quickly stood up (I won't say which one - she'd be embarrassed!) and started to dance as all three continued to sing, and I couldn't help but smile the biggest smile I could as I thanked them and we ate our cake.

                                                           

It's moment like those that make it all bearable. I'm lucky in that even after all these years. I do still get visits from family as very few get any visits at all. This particular day there were only two others in the visiting park, both of them having visits with their girlfriends, and they both left early so at the end of the day we had the visiting park to ourselves, and it was a great visit, although I admit that it might have been a little better if only I had a girlfriend as then I could have gotten a birthday kiss too...but who would put up with an old dog like me?

This "birthday" visit was especially great as I needed it. As a few of my past posts reflect, I've been kind of "down" lately as in the past few months we went from thinking that the courts would rule favourably and this nightmare would soon end, to having both the state and federal courts deny my appeals and now I'm looking at having my execution rescheduled within the near future. Obviously, the thought of imminent death weighs heavily on me, but it's even harder on my family and so it was especially nice to see them laughing and enjoying the moment.

Still, that cloud hung above us and I did all I could to not talk about what may very well soon come. But it wasn't something that we could avoid and the conversation swung around to what I thought would happen in the coming weeks.

I explained to them that even though the Florida Supreme Court denied my long pending appeals on march 9, that decision is technically not final until my lawyers file the "motion for rehearing" on march 31, then the Court reviews that and decides whether they will allow their decision to stand "as is", or reconsider it, and either actually grant relief, or at least rewrite that March 9 decision.

I shared with them my hopes that the Florida Supreme Court will recognize that it was both factually and legally wrong and then grant me the relief I'm legally entitled. For example, what I believe was our strongest issue was the request for DNA testing of the evidence to substantiate my consistently plead claim of innocence. As they do in all cases, the state opposed DNA testing and in denying my request the court adopted as "fact" that DNA testing was previously conducted when it clearly was not. And that was a significant error, so rehearing should be granted.

More importantly, as a matter of law I was entitled to have this evidence tested for DNA if there's any reason to believe that it will support my claim of innocence - which we did establish how it will, so legally the court was wrong in denying the request for DNA testing and hopefully the court will have the integrity to correct it's own mistake.

Of course, the lawyers are far more interested in arguing the issue of why - the death sentences imposed on me are illegal, and I have no problem with that - I do think it's a really strong legal issue, but I'm not too excited about merely having my sentences reduced to life as I've spent the past 34 years trying to prove my innocence and get my freedom. The truth is that if I wanted a "life" sentence, I would have gotten that many times through the years, but I've repeatedly turned it down as here in Florida it's all but impossible to get parole and so if I'm going to die in prison. I'm at least going to go down fighting.

And it's the same with the recent denial of my federal "actual innocence" appeal - although that was a hard blow and really took the wind out of me. But after I got over that initial blow, I realized that the decision has substantial flaws in it and that I have a really good chance of having that reversed - and the readily available evidence substantiating my innocence fully heard.

So, although we began the visit with that cloud of uncertainty hanging over us, there's still good reason for hope and if the courts do the right thing and allow the evidence to be reviewed, I could still be celebrating my next birthday out there in the real world, a free man.



Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Death Watch Journal (part 30)

(Written March 20, 2017)

Here's the question that I'm struggling with as I try to decide just what to write about  - not that I necessarily must write about anything. I'm pretty sure that if I were to suggest that I not write anything anymore, that I simply shut up already, some would agree and even applaud my long awaited silence. But I try to write what I can as it probably won't be long now before I'm silenced as it's fairly certain that now that the Florida Supreme Court has ordered my previously granted "stay of execution" lifted, my execution will probably be rescheduled in the relatively near future - and once I'm dead, I promise I won't write anything anymore.

But the question is, just what should I write about as I know only too well that each blog I write now could be my last. I understand that some who read what I write would prefer that I stick to talking about what goes on in here, that whole "life on death row" thing. And I'd gladly do that if only there was something to write about. The reality is that every day here pretty much is the same and I could easily write a generic entry detailing my so called "life" today, and simply re post it every day after without any feat that it would be substantially altered.

Lately I've written a lot about the recent legal developments that effect the Florida death row population in general, and me specifically. But I see this as a necessity as when I write about whatever the courts have decided in recent weeks, it does affect all of us here very much - and as in my last blog post, the recent ruling in my own case obviously affects me.

But it is more than that. There's a saying that "no man is an island" and that's true. These recent court decisions don't just affect me and others here on death row - the affect our families and friends, as well as the victim's families and friends. What goes on in the legal spectrum is not merely about some narcissistic need to scream from the mountaintops all about me. Rather, I'm that stone being thrown down into a pond, and the ripples spreading outward touch many others.                                                             

Shortly after I received the recent news that the Florida Supreme Court denied my appeal, the first thing I asked my lawyers was if they could contact my family - I didn't want them to find out on the news, as I know only too well that the court's denial would be harder on them than on me as I have no confidence in our legal system, but they still believe that the courts will ultimately do the right thing.

As I wrote in January when the Florida Supreme Court issued it's decision in Mark Asay v State, just before Christmas, establishing the rule that while all of Florida death row prisoners were now unquestionably illegally sentenced to death, the court would only throw out the death sentences of those sentenced after June 24, 2002, meaning that Asay and many others would not get relief.

It's easy to think that when I write about the legal developments, it's merely trivial news, but in truth these legal developments are a big part of this whole death row "experience". Those familiar with my posts over the past year know that after the Florida Supreme Court's ruling in Hurst v State, 147 So.3d.435 (Fla.2014) in October, 2016, all of us here on death row allowed ourselves to believe that our death sentences would be vacated and our family and friends shared that hope too - only to have the court pull the rug out from under us a few months later in that Asay v State case by declaring that only half of us would get relief, and the deciding factor had nothing to do with the circumstances of out alleged crime, but rather that the court decided that it simply would be too bothersome to grant all death row inmates a new sentencing so the court decided that they would cut relief off at June, 2002...those on the high side would be spared, those on the low side would die.

                                                           


When that ruling came I had a girlfriend and got my head out of this hell by writing her regularly. We exchanged long letters and each day I found my escape by writing her and every evening I anxiously awaited her next letter. But not long after the news came that the court would not grand relief in older cases like mine, she abruptly disappeared. I only say this because it's a big part of the death row experience...I'm not upset about that abrupt and unexpected departure. I cannot hold it against her. The truth is that I know it happens often and it wasn't the first time it happened to me.

If you're reading what I'm writing then there's a good chance that you know someone on death row and so you know that the condemned prisoner doesn't go through all this alone. Those who care about us are affected even more than we are by this morbid roller coaster we're all on together. But all too often those we so desperately cling to for support reach that point where they just can't deal with it anymore and they don't know what to say and so they just disappear. And the truth is, each time it happens it cuts deep and hurts like nothing else. At first you want to believe that something came up that is preventing them from writing, so you keep writing, desperate to hear back from them. But each time they pass out the mail and no mail comes, it cuts just a bit deeper and eventually you must accept they're gone, and you blame yourself even when they didn't bother to say goodbye or give you any reason why - and I don't need to ask, as I already know why.

So, when I write about the court's most recent rulings and the possibility of facing another execution date in the near future, I'm not writing only about myself, but about all those affected by that reality.

Here's something about me few people know...when I fist came to death row in 1984, for all practical purposes I was functionally illiterate. Despite the many obstacles that stood in the way, I taught myself how to write and, out of necessity, learned the law and not merely read books, but consumed knowledge like it was manna from heaven. I'm not who I once was and I'd like to think that I've grown and become someone better. But for all my pursuits and self accomplishments, the one thing I never yet learned, but would give anything to know, is how to spare those I love so dearly the pain of sharing this journey with me.


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Death Watch Journal (part 29)

Written March 12, 2017

Breaking News! On Thursday March 9, the Florida Supreme Court denied my long pending appeal and specifically lifted the previous “stay of execution,” effectively setting the stage for Governor Rick Scott to reschedule my execution within the near future.

As most reading this already know, all executions in Florida have been on hold since the state supreme court granted me a stay of execution on February 2, 2016 to consider whether the US Supreme Court’s January 2016 decision in Hurst v Florida applied to all previously imposed death sentence, such as mine.

Subsequently, in December 2016, the Florida court issued a decision in Mark Asay v State in which the court recognized that in light of the Hurst v Florida decision there was no question that anyone who was condemned to death by less than a unanimous jury vote was unconstitutionally sentenced.

However, in Asay v State, and its companion case of John Mosley v State, a marginal majority of the court ruled that they would only grant relief from illegally imposed death sentences to those whose sentences were imposed and final, after June 2002 (when the US Supreme Court issued its earlier decision that formed the foundation for the Hurst v Florida decision).

That meant that those illegally sentenced after 2002 would have their death sentences thrown out, but those whose sentences were “final” on their first direct appeal prior to June 2002 would not get relief.

Many in the media and elsewhere have since publicly questioned this finding, arguing that it is fundamentally unfair and makes no sense. That the court would recognize that the death sentences were unquestionably illegal, but that it would allow those sentenced prior to 2002 to be executed, while those sentenced after 2002 would be granted relief.

                                                                 


This point will undoubtedly be argued before the US Supreme Court. What must be emphasized is that what the Florida court did in arbitrarily cutting off retroactive relief at 2002 is clearly unprecedented. No other court has ever held that once a substantive new rule of law entitles to retroactive relief, they would only apply it so some, but not to others. A new rule of law is either retroactive or it is not.

The question now is whether the Supreme Court will accept review of this issue quickly. The Court accepts very few cases each year - and whether or not they accept a review is completely within their own discretion.

For this reason, it took 14 years (and 47 illegal executions) before the Court finally agreed to review a case that argued that under Ring v Arizona (2002) those sentenced to death were entitled to relief. When the Court did finally grant review in Hurst v Florida, they all but unanimously agree that Florida was illegally sentencing all of us to death.

It’s all but certain that the Court will eventually accept review of the recent Florida Supreme Court ruling of partial retroactivity — but it could take another 14 years and many more executions, and by that time I may be long dead.

In the recent decision denying my appeal and lifting the stay of execution, the Florida court did grant leave to file a motion for rehearing, so within 15 days (no later than March 24) my lawyers will file a Motion for Rehearing challenging this ruling, but it will almost certainly be denied within a matter of days, and I expect that the governor will most likely reschedule my execution before the end of this month. When that is done, the date will probably be set for some time around the end of April.

However, let me emphasize that although this Hurst issue has been getting all the attention, this is not the only legal issue being pursued in my case, and I do have other appeals pending. In the decision denying me relief they also (again) denied my request for DNA testing of evidence that would support my claim of actual innocence. This denial will be pursued further.

Additionally, separate from this state court appeal, in 2015 my lawyers filed a comprehensive appeal in the federal courts arguing that I am constitutionally entitled to have full review of the readily available evidence sustaining my actual innocence and that appeal remains pending before the Federal Court of Appeals (Lambrix v Secretary, Dept of Corrections, Eleventh Circuit case no. 16-10251).

Recently, the Supreme Court issued a decision in a Texas Capital case (Buck v Davis) that provides strong support for my claim of entitlement to full federal court reviews of my substantiated innocence claim and I remain hopeful that, based on the case, my federal appeal will not be formally re-opened, and fully reviewed. If this is done, I am confident that my convictions will be thrown out and I will be legally exonerated.

Because lawyers who represented me many years ago did not “timely” present my substantiated claim of innocence to the state courts in my original post-conviction appeal (in 1988), under politically manufactures rules designed to speed up executions, all evidence substantiating my innocence has been “procedurally barred” from review before both the state and federal courts. But the 2012 USSC case of Martinez v Ryan opened the door to finally overcome that procedural bar and have my innocence claim heard.

But the federal courts in Florida and Texas have categorically refused to allow death sentenced prisoners to reopen their federal appeals under this 2012 Martinez rule. The recent USSC ruling in Buck v Davis should now force these pro death penalty judges who control the Florida federal courts to now reopen my case and allow the evidence substantiating my innocence to be heard — at least I hope so.

But for now, I’m going to have to dance with death again, soon.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Mike Lambrix Loses Appeal, Opens Door For Execution

Friday, March 10, 2017



The Florida Supreme Court  has lifted the stay on Mike's death warrant, and he could find himself with a new execution date. Read it here 

                                             

Death Watch Journal (Part 28)

March 2, 2017

Sometimes I wonder whether this thing called "hope" is my greatest adversary, existing only to torment me, to break me...could hope be my nemesis, capable of a conscious form of malevolence not unlike the fictional sirens depicted in Homer's "Odyssey", their seductive charm luring the passing sailors to their death, and so too does this entity of hope haunt me on countless sleepless nights as I grasp desperately upon those fragile strings of hope as I look down into that darkness of the abyss beneath me.

I remember the one scene in the movie "Shawshank Redemption", where the old and experienced convict (Morgan Freeman) sat in the prison chow hall, offering his sage advice to the new arrivals...telling them to forget about hope of freedom, as it will drive you crazy - maybe he was right.

As I write this today, it is March 2, 2017, and today marks exactly 34 years since I was arrested on these capital charges that subsequently led to me being convicted and condemned to death for a crime I did not commit.

It's been a long and hard journey and sometimes I wonder how I have managed to maintain my sanity - and again, sometimes I wonder whether I really have as perhaps I'm the only one who cannot see that I actually went nuts years ago.

Last year I yet again counted down the days to my own scheduled execution, only to receive a 'temporary stay of execution' and was removed from my "death watch cell" two days before I was to die. It wasn't the first time that I faced relatively imminent execution and I know the State of Florida will continue to use all available resources at their disposal to have me executed yet.

For most of the past year I had reason to hope that the January 2016 decision by the US Supreme Court in Hurst v Florida, 136 S.Ct. 616 (2016) (which declared that the manner in which Florida imposes a sentence of death - allowing a judge rather than the jury make the ultimate decision on death, violated long standing fundamental constitutional rights that rendered such death sentences illegal) would lead to having my own death sentences thrown out. In fact, this is the issue that the Florida Supreme Court ordered a stay of execution on.

                                                          



But on December 22, 201 - just before Christmas - the Florida Supreme Court crushed that hope when it issued it's ruling in Mark Asay v State of Florida recognizing that under Hurst v Florida there was no question Florida death sentences were imposed illegally and finding that all those sentenced to death after 2002 would be entitled to have their illegally imposed death sentences vacated - but that because it would be too much of a burden on the State to correct all these illegally imposed sentences, they would not throw out the death sentences imposed prior to 2002. My death sentence was imposed in 1984 and was affirmed on direct appeal in 1986, which meant that under Asay v State, I would not be entitled to relief under Hurst v Florida. Just that quickly, my hopes were crushed.

Although the Florida Supreme Court still has not actually issued any ruling in my own case yet, I had to accept that when they did, they would deny my appeal consistent with Asay v State, as they have numerous other similar pre-2002 capital cases in the past few months.

With my hope of being granted relief crushed, I began to mentally prepare myself for what I was sure would soon follow...the denial of relief in my case and having my previously stayed execution rescheduled.

Since that decision in Asay v State that seemingly sealed my fate, I spent the last two months letting my family and friends know that they should expect the court to soon deny my appeal, and that I would then be recheduled for execution again - and since the state and federal courts have consistently refused to even look at the readily available evidence substantiating my consistently plead claim of innocence, they should be prepared for that rescheduled execution carried out.

Clearly, I felt that there was no reason to yet again hope for any chance of proving my innocence, and mentally I prepared myself to die, and I was not alone as when I shared this news with others, while most of those closest to me stood by me that much more, a few apparently decided that they didn't want to stick around just to watch me die and I haven't heard from them since - and who could blame them?

Little by little I began going through my personal property, weeding out what I would throw away so that when I was put to death it wouldn't be a burden on my family...I was prepared to die, again.

Then out of the blue come the phone call from my lawyers the other day, letting me know that on February 22, 2017 the US Supreme Court issued it's decision in the Texas capital case of  Duane Buck v Davis, in which the court addressed the issue of whether a prisoner can seek and be granted relief on a previously denied federal appeal based upon ineffectiveness of legal counsel in that earlier appeal, by employing a procedural motion to reopen that earlier case under Federal Rule of Procedure 60 (b), and the court agreed that equitable relief under extraordinary circumstances to prevent manifest injustice would be pursued and granted under Rule 60 (b).

Suddenly hope again sprung forth - the Supreme Courts unequivocal recognition that relief from an unjust conviction or death sentence could be granted by way of Rule 60 (b) meant that my own long pending Federal appeal arguing exactly that point would now have to be granted, opening the procedural door to finally receiving a full review of all the evidence substantiating my innocence. And if allowed to be heard, I would finally be exonerated, and win my fight for my freedom.

For the next few days I felt giddy - more than just happy, I was elated, especially when I was able to share this good news with my family, as they too hung desperately to every string of hope.

But as is the nature of hope, after that initial elation ran it's course, I found myself slowly sinking back into the depths of hopelessness and despair, reminding myself that in these past 34 years again and again I allowed myself to become convinced that truth and justice would prevail, only to have that hope crushed.

This Buck v Davis case should compel the federal courts to finally address the evidence substantiating my innocence and by every right and reason I should be elated - that previously unyielding door has been cracked open, But if I've learned nothing else these past decade after decade, it is that you cannot count on our courts to do the right thing. And for that reason I will not throw myself upon the rocks as that seductive siren call of renewed hope tries yet again to suck me in.


Death Watch Journal (Part 27)

I write this (February 20, 2017), I continue to await the Florida Supreme Court decision in my case. Every Tuesday I tried to catch the P.B.S "Capital Update" on the local news, as they will often report on decisions issued by the court. And then on Friday afternoon my lawyers will schedule a phone call so that they can tell me if any decision has been issued.

Let me explain just how this goes. Here at Florida State Prison the wing that houses those under sentence of death is located almost at the very end of a very long hallway - a straight corridor that runs from one end of the prison to the other. I've walked that walk so many times through the too many years, and it averages about 600 steps, and I go through three separate electronically controlled security gates to get from the death row wing to where the area for lawyer visits and phone calls is.

                                                       

It's a long walk and a lot of time to think about what the lawyers might tell me when I do finally get on the phone. Of course, since all death sentenced prisoners are fully restrained whenever we are removed from our solitary cells in full leg shackles, handcuffs and waist chains, that long walk is more like one short shuffle step at a time and if you do try to get too fast the leg shackles will cut into the back of your ankles and make a bloody mess.

As I make that journey I'm escorted every step of the way by one of the guards and I make a point of trying to keep my mind of what news may be waiting me when I do get to that phone reserved for legal calls, so I will talk to whichever guard may be by my side that day and I get along with most so will engage in casual conversation almost as if we were strolling a park together.

When we finally reach what is commonly known as "the colonel's office", I'm then escorted into a small office that has a plain small table desk with two chairs, and a phone on the table. They keep me restrained the whole time that I am in there, even though I will be securely locked in that small room by myself during that phone call as legal communication, whether in personal visits, phone calls or by mail, is considered to be "privileged and confidential" so they are not supposed to listen in, although I must admit that at times my paranoia will compel me to to wonder whether they are listening.

So, they will then connect me to my lawyers, who maintain their office in South Florida, and we will have 30 minutes. Again, because I must remain physically restrained at all times, I cannot actually pick up the phone receiver, so instead I will wait until the red light comes on indicating that the call has been connected, then I will push the button marked "Line 1", and then wait to hear a voice on the other end.

A long running joke I have with my lawyers of many years is that once that phone call is connected, from time to time one of them will say "hi" and I will immediately respond: "No I'm not - they drug test us!", and we will have a little laugh. And it's true, I cannot be "high" as for at least the past 23 years now they have been randomly drug testing prisoners and I've taken many drug tests, and never once failed one.

The truth of the matter is that being condemned to death has almost made me a saint. I don't smoke - I did long ago, but quit that nasty habit way back in my early years on the row. I don't drink (probably could if I wanted to, but I don't want to), not do I do any drugs, although I do still wonder from time to time whether maybe this "reality" I'm trapped here in (death row) isn't really real at all, but merely a bad acid trip and anytime now I'm going to wake up and exclaim; "wow!, y'all aren't going to believe the trip I just has!", and I don't even run around with wild women anymore - gotta admit  though, that's probably the one bad habit I miss the most as it does get really lonely here, I don't even cuss that much anymore - yeah, I probably am on my way to sainthood and only because I was condemned to death - kind of ironic huh?

Back to the phone call ...it's now been over a year since I received that stay of execution and each week I anxiously await word on whether the court has ruled. They've already decided the main issues relating to whether the January 2016 US Supreme Court ruling in Hurst v Florida will be applied retroactively and based upon their December23, 2016 ruling in Mark Asay v State of Florida, I already know that I will be denied relief on that issue as Like Asay, I was sentenced to death prior to 2002, and in Asay, the FSC said they will not grand relief from the indisputably illegally imposed sentence of death in cases in which that sentence of death was imposed prior to 2002.

And so each and every week I anxiously await that decision that will decide my fate, knowing that it will all but certainly be against me - and yet still clinging to that hope that for whatever reason the court will actually grant relief. And with every step of that long walk that possibility of what I might hear plays out in my head...the Florida Supreme Court generally releases it's decisions in capital cases around 11.00 AM each Thursday, so we do this phone calls on Fridays, and so each Friday begins when I wake up knowing that today may be the day that news comes.

You see, it's the continued uncertainty of my fate that weighs most heavily on my mind. I've heard it said that they can only kill you once, but I know that that is simply not true - every time I'm forced to confront my fate, I'm a part of me dies. Most define the death penalty only by that end result - the execution - and give no thought to anything else that the condemned prisoner and his family and friends go through.

But in truth, the contemporary death penalty is actually a lot like that old Chinese torture, commonly known as a 'death by thousand cuts', each little stab is never enough to kill you, but eventually enough small stabs will take their toll. And in it's own way, that's what the not merely days, or weeks, or months - or even years, but decades of death does to the condemned...each and every time he is forced to confront the uncertainty of his (or her) fate, it's another small stab that cuts deep down into the soul, a seemingly endless journey through a hell few can even begin to imagine.

And so i make that long walk week after week, at least so far each week being told that there has been no decision - and at least for that moment I feel that weight of confronting the uncertainty of my fate briefly lifted, but it doesn't take long before it quickly comes back, as just as soon as I complete the phone call and start to make that long way back, the anxiety of that same walk next week is already starting to creep in...as I said, it's not a quick death, but by deliberate intent and design, my condemnation is a death of thousand cuts.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Death Watch Journal (Part 26)

I remember a cartoon I was read years ago. In the first frame it depicted a desert scene with a large cactus in the forefront and on the arm of that cactus were two vultures — the larger one presumably was the parent while the much smaller one was the younger child. But intently stared off into the distance. Across that great expanse of endless sand dunes and off in the distance there was what appeared to be a small dot with a puff of dust rising above it. The second frame showed the same scene, only now the small dot was much closer, and it could be seen as a man desperately crawling across the scorching, barren death, obviously on the brink of death, but stubbornly refusing to give up hope as he clawed his way forward. Both vultures sat silently, just watching as the man drew closer and closer. The third frame showed the man now almost immediately in front of the cactus, looking up towards the vultures with a look of desperation as the younger vulture began to jump up and down, all but screaming, “Can we get him now?” and the larger vulture calmly patted him on the shoulder, “Patience, Son, patience.” The fourth and final frame showed the man now crawling past and away from the vultures, a slight smile of hope and defiance as he seemingly escaped his inevitable fate. Now the younger vulture looked at his father with a look of malice and intent in his beady little eyes, and exclaimed, “Patience, my ass — let’s just kill the bastard!”

Well, the vultures are circling again and with each pass they draw just a bit closer, and I am that man desperately crawling across that barren desert. This time last year I was facing relatively certain imminent execution despite my innocence and had already ordered my last meal and been measured for the suit the state so generously bought for no other reason but to kill me in.

Then the Florida Supreme Court granted a “temporary” stay of execution and on February 9, only two days before my scheduled execution — I was removed from the death watch housing area and placed back on the regular wing housing death row at Florida State Prison, where I remain today.

Over the past year the state courts struggled with the question of whether the January 2016 U.S. Supreme Court case of Hurst v Florida would require all illegally imposed sentences of death to be thrown out. Until that issue was resolved, my stay of execution would remain in effect. As the months passed, numerous rulings gave us the hope that the Florida Supreme Court would do the right thing and rise above the only too common corruption of the Politics of Death.

When the Florida Supreme Court issued its own decision in October, 2016, in Hurst v State, in which the majority of the Court not only recognized that consistent with what the U.S. Supreme Court plainly stated in Hurst v Florida, the manner in which Florida imposed death sentences — all death sentences since 1974 — was unconstitutional, but went a step further to also add that the previously existing process violated even greater protections afforded under the Florida constitution  and that such illegally imposed death sentences amounted to the unconstitutional infliction of “cruel and unusual punishment,” we thought for sure the court would now throw out all these illegally imposed sentences of death.

As reflected in my previous blog posts, after that October 2016 decision in Hurst — and others that closely followed — it appeared that the Florida Supreme Court was going to do the right thing and upon recognizing that all death sentences were illegally imposed, retroactively apply Hurst and effectively vacate all Florida death sentences. It seemed that was the only logical conclusion.

But on December 23, 2016, perhaps reflecting the malice in their hearts by releasing these decisions just before Christmas, the Court issued its decisions in Mark Asay v State of Florida and John Mosley v. State of Florida in which any hope of having all death sentences vacated was quickly dispelled.

In Mosley, the Court concluded that there was no question that the U.S. Supreme Court opinion in Hurst v Florida made it clear that they were wrong when they previously decided that the 2002 case of Ring v Arizona did not apply to Florida’s cases. Of course, the FSC made no mention of the fact that since they were wrong in the 2002 case of Leroy Bottosin and Amos King, they had allowed 47 men (no women) to be put to death based upon which is now recognized as their own clear error.

The FSC then went on to recognize that since John Mosley was sentenced to death after that 2002 USSC decision of Ring v Arizona, fundamental fairness entitled him to relief from that illegally imposed death sentence, and the Court ordered his death sentence vacated, and a new sentencing.

This is called “retroactive application” of new law, which allows more recent substantial court rulings to be applied to older cases. Which brings us to what the Court then did in the Mark Asay case. It must be emphasized that in all the state and federal cases previously addressed on the issue of retroactive application, no court has ever adopted a “partial retroactive application” rule of law… until now.

In the Mark Asay case, a marginal majority of the Court first recognized that like John Mosley and all others, it was beyond dispute that Mark Asay was illegally sentenced to death. But then the Court departed from convention and decided that because Asay’s sentence was originally affirmed prior to 2002 (before Ring v Arizona), they would allow his sentence to stand. To justify this decision, the Court said that granting Asay (and all others whose death sentences were affirmed prior to 2002) relief under Hurst would burden the courts and inconvenience the state. It would be easier on the state to go ahead and kill them all even if their death sentences were illegally imposed.

Asay’s lawyers quickly filed a “Motion for Rehearing” in which they argued that arbitrarily granting relief to post-2002 cases while denying it to pre-2002 cases violated numerous constitutional provisions that govern fundament fairness and prohibit arbitrary punishments. But this decision had little to do with principles of law, or doing what was fair or morally right (obviously, if someone was illegally sentenced to death, they should not be put to death). Rather, once again it is about politics — not administering justice down here in the Deep South. Executions win elections, and the end justify the means even if it means illegally executing people.

On February 1, 2017 the Florida Supreme Court summarily denied an reconsideration and lifted the previously granted stay of execution. Any day now, Mark Asay will have his execution rescheduled, and I expect that it won’t be long before I again join him down there on death watch. Although the Court has not issued a ruling in my case, as least as far as this one issue is concerned, it’s clear that the Court will soon rule against me and life my own stay of execution. I do have other appeals pending that focus on my consistently maintained innocence, but whether the courts will address those innocence claims remains to be seen. And I know without any doubt that the courts have allowed innocent people to be put to death in the past, so I guess will soon enough see.

Innocent and Executed - please read