BREAKING NEWS: Execution Stayed for Michael Lambrix!!

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. 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. 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





Monday, January 16, 2017

Deacon Jason Roy


Shortly after the Florida Supreme Court’s absurd December 22, 2016 ruling issued in Mark Asay v State of Florida, declaring that while all Florida death row prisoners illegally sentenced to death — but only those whose first round of appeals were final after 2002 would be entitled to relief, while the other approximately 174 death row prisoners sentenced prior to 2002 would still face execution, it appears that the first victim of this morally and constitutionally indefensible decision was not a death row prisoner, but a religious volunteer who ministered to the death row population.

Through the years most of us here have come to know and hold great respect for Catholic deacon Jason Roy because of both his uncompromised commitment to volunteering his time to minister to us, as well as his genuine friendship and compassion to those he came to know. It was a full-time job for which he receive no compensation, and rain or shine, he would make his rounds on every floor of the death row wings at both Florida State Prison and Union Correctional (the main death row unit.)

Many here requested that “Deacon Roy” be their own designated spiritual advisor, a status that allowed him to minister on-on-one with those inmates and administer communion. It also meant that if that inmate had a death warrant signed, Deacon Roy would be with him throughout the death watch process and be the condemned man’s designated witness to that execution, that one and only friendly face the dying man would see through the glass wall that separated the witness arena from the execution chamber.

When Governor Rick Scott signed a death warrant on Mark Asay the very day after Oscar Ray Bolin was executed (please read: “Execution Day: Involuntary Witness to State-Sanctioned Murder”), Asay was immediately transferred from Union Correctional  to the death watch unit at Florida State Prison, where he joined me as we counted down the days towards our scheduled execution dates.

While my designated spiritual advisor was (and is) Catholic lay Minister Dale Recinella (check out his website at www.iwasinprison.org), Mark’s was Deacon Roy and both became frequent visitors to the death watch unit. It was immeasurable comfort and a reflection of the true spirit of Christian compassion, to have both Dale and Deacon Roy visit us on death watch regularly — and they reached out to our families as well.

Then in January 2016 the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Hurst v Florida, recognizing unequivocally that the manner in which Florida imposed death sentences by allowing the presiding judge to actually determine the sentence was unconstitutional as under the Sixth Amendment only the jury was authorized to determine whether the sentence of death should be imposed.

Because of that decision, in early February I received a stay of execution until it was decided whether Hurst would apply retroactively. A few weeks later Mark Asay received a similar “temporary” stay, and throughout 2016 we both remained on the regular death row wing pending the outcome.

After numerous related cases issued from the Florida Supreme Court, beginning with the October, 2016 decision in Hurst v Florida, all of us were confident that all Florida death sentences, with the exception of the relatively few who waived their jury determination of sentencing or had a 12 to 0 jury vote, would be thrown out and we all anxiously awaited that decision.

Then it came on December 22 — only days before Christmas! And while the ruling in the simultaneously released decision in Mobley v State did declare that the Hurst decision would apply retroactively to all those sentenced after June, 2002. In an 80-page decision in Mark Asay v State of Florida, a narrow majority of the court declared that while all those sentenced were illegally sentenced, because granting new sentencing for all would be too much of a burden on the judicial system. That effectively meant that of the 396 men and women on death row, approximately 212 would be entitled to have their sentences vacated, while the other 184 would not. Once again, the politics of death prevailed.

Shortly after receiving this news and learning that Mark Asay’s stay of execution had been lifted, Deacon Roy emailed the prison to arrange a visit with Mark… and then laid down to rest, obviously overcome with grief and despair, and passed away in his sleep. The first victim of the FSC’s absurd ruling went to be with the Lord.

 Too often both the courts and the media focus exclusively on the condemned prisoner and don’t even recognize that all of us have family and friends who are deeply affected by the outcome of our cases. These are silent victims, as they’ve certainly committed no crimes. While family is born into this, there are those like Deacon Roy who volunteer their time and reach out to the condemned because that’s just what Jesus would have done.

And too often, their personal sacrifice goes unnoticed. Here in Florida there is a small number of regular Christian volunteers who generously give their own time to reach out and provide spiritual fellowship. For many of the condemned, this is the only visits they ever get — the only friendly face that they will know as they too face death.



                                                               
So, today I just want to take a moment to ask all of you who read my blog to have a moment of silence in remembrance for Deacon Jason Roy and his family. If you go to church, maybe you can light a candle for him — and for the others who devote so much of their time to minister to the condemned — to Dale Recinella and his wife Susan, who for many years now have devoted their time to minister to the condemned and our families. Dale Recinella has written three excellent books on his experiences ministering to death row, available on his website: iwasinprison.org, and to the other Catholic volunteers, and to Bill and Ben of the Episcopalian Church, and Al Paquette of Al Paquette Ministries, and many more.

And beyond that small group, who give so much of themselves to come to minister to those on death row, there’s also the nonreligious group that are as equally committed to reaching out to the condemned with genuine compassion and in that  true spirit of humanity give us each the strength to maintain that humanity within ourselves.

Finally, there are our own families and friends who carry this cross with us and suffer the consequences of our (alleged) crimes, and it’s not an easy cross to bear, as with each day they suffer with us even though they’ve committed no crime. And they too deserve a moment of silence in tribute for all they so generously sacrifice to be there for us.

In this world we (the condemned) live and die in, mercy and compassion are seldom seen as the individual acts are too often drowned out by the thunder of those in society who only cast stones and call for our death under the pretense of administering justice.

Deacon Roy will be greatly missed by many, including his family and so many more whose lives he touched. And as a testament to the life he chose to live, we — the least of the least — are something better because his life touched our own.



Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Death Watch Journal (part 25)


Well, I was wrong. In my earlier posts over the past few months, I had all but said with resolute certainty that based upon the Florida Supreme Court’s October, 2016 decision in Hurst v Florida, and its subsequent decisions in which FSC repeatedly recognized the importance of the U.S. Supreme Court’s January 2016 decision declaring the way Florida has been imposing death sentences was unconstitutional, that the FSC would soon effectively throw out almost all Florida death sentences — the only exception being the relatively few who had waived a jury determination of sentence or had a clearly articulated 12 to 0 jury vote for death.

My mistake was a belief that at the end of the day the court would do the right thing — that based upon the tone of oral arguments held earlier this year a majority of the FSC would find that all illegally imposed death sentences had to be thrown out. It seemed like a classic no-brainer… if a person has been illegally sentenced to death then any subsequent execution would itself be illegal.

You’d think after all these years of repeatedly seeing our courts only too readily  speaking with a forked tongue, I would know better — that at the end of the day, when pursuing executions it’s not about the administration of justice which is inherently dependent upon principle of fundamental fairness — it’s really all about the insidious “politics of death” and in this twisted and perverse reality of administering “justice” politics will always trump justice.

On December 22, 2016 the Florida Supreme Court finally released the long awaited decisions that established the parameters in which the court will apply the Hurst v Florida decision to Florida cases.

In Mosley v Florida the FSC effectively ruled that 212 of the current 286 death-sentenced prisoners on Florida’s death row are entitled to retroactive application of Hurst  — but that another 174 are not. In Mosley the court explained at length that those sentenced to death (based on the date their direct appeal became final) after June 26, 2002 would be entitled to have their illegally imposed death sentences thrown out.

But in Mark Asay v Florida, issued at the same time, a sharply divided court explained why they will not apply Hurst to cases that were already denied on direct appeal prior to June, 2002.

What must be emphasized is that there’s no dispute that all of those sentenced to death in Florida since 1974 were illegally sentenced. That truth is no longer denied. But to justify this marginal decision to grant relief to 212 death-sentenced prisoners by fabricating this arbitrary line in the sand, while saying that they’ll just go ahead and kill the other 174 who were also illegally sentenced to death, the FSC basically said that it’s just too much trouble to grant relief to everyone, so they will limit relief to only those who were more recently sentenced to death.

In this published decision, the FSC also lifted the stay of execution on Mark Asay. He was previously scheduled for execution on March 17 — five weeks after I was scheduled (please read “Execution Day: Involuntary Witness to State-sanctioned Murder”) for February 11, 2016 — but we both received stays of execution until the court determined how they would apply Hurst.

Where does this now leave me? This is where it gets a little more complicated. In the court’s decision decision to deny relief to Mark Asay — and the other 173 — we had Chief Justice LaBarga, Justice Peggy Quince, Ricky Polston and Charles Canady vote to just go ahead and kill all those illegally sentence to death prior to 2002, while Justices Pariente and Perry strongly protested, arguing that to carry out the executions of those who were unquestionably sentenced to death in violation both the Florida and Federal constitutions would be fundamentally unfair and violate the constitutional prohibition against the infliction of cruel and unusual punishment. But Justice Lewis wrote a separate opinion in which he said that Mark Asay would not be entitled to retroactive relief under the limited circumstances of his case, but that in other cases in which the death-sentenced prisoner did previously raise the substance of this legal argument prior to 2002, they should be entitled to retroactive relief.

Although there were  four justices (a majority) ruling against pre-2002 retroactive application in the Asay case (LaBarga, Canady, Polston and Quince), in my own case Justice Peggy Quince is disqualified as she worked as part of the prosecution team. That means she cannot rule on my case — that also means that my case is split 3 to 3 vote, with half the court saying they want to kill me with the other half saying that because I was illegally sentenced to death I’m entitled to relief.

Problem is, the Florida constitution requires all legally binding decisions to be decided by a minimum of four votes — what they call a “quorum,” and so unless they grant relief on my other pending DNA/actual innocence claims, making the illegal death sentence issue moot, the most likely scenario is that after Justice Perry retires this week (December 31, 2016) the newly appointed Just Charles Lawson is sworn in within the next few weeks. That means my case will then be decided by the newly appointed justice — who has already vowed to vote consistent with the ultra conservative, pro death penalty justices Canady and Polston. See, “Scott picks Lawson for Florida High Court” by Brendan Farrington, the Lakeland Ledger, Saturday, December 17, 2016.

What this means is that when my case is finally decided after newly appointed Justice Lawson is formally sworn in, they will undoubtedly vote against me by a 4 to 2 vote, with LaBarga, Canady, Polston and Lawson voting to kill me while Justices Pariente and Lewis will vote that my death sentence was illegal so my sentence must be thrown out.

How long this will take, nobody really knows. It appears that before Justice Lawson can actually join the court in deciding my case, the entire case should be reheard — new arguments filed and then decided. But then again, they may not, and allow the case to be quickly decided based on the existing record.

When they do, it’s all but certain the Florida Supreme Court will then lift my stay of execution and Governor Scott will reschedule my execution soon after. For the fourth time I will face imminent execution. I do still have a substantial “actual innocence” appeal pending in the Federal courts, so I’m reasonably confident that even if rescheduled for execution and being moved back down to death watch, I would get another stay of execution. And the Florida Supreme Court’s decision to kill the 174 of us illegally sentenced to death would also be subject to U.S. Supreme Court review. If the USSC will accept review.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Death Watch Journal (part 24)


It's been a full year now since my death warrant was signed, scheduling my execution for February 11, 2016. Against the odds, I'm still alive although my longterm fate remains uncertain. I was the 23rd death warrant signed by Governor Scott and the 22 before me were all executed...I am the first one to survive a death warrant under Governor Scott.

Being that I loosely subscribe to Christian values, although I make no secret for my contempt of the hypocrisy of contemporary organized religion and the way it has corrupted the fundamental values of true Christianity by promoting hate and intolerance in the name of God.

At times I wonder how deeply I might scar my own spiritual consciousness when I find myself praying that those who so quickly judge me be then judged by that same measure...could I be wrong when I do that? Or is that what true justice is all about?

It's been a difficult year and I've been incredibly blessed by my small group of loyal friends who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to keep my hope and strenght up. When I find myself wondering what true grace is, I find my answer in them and I certainly don't deserve to be blessed with that depth of genuine compassion they o generously extend. And I know only too well that they are my strength, that without that selfless support they've given, i would not have had the strenght to make it through the past year.

When I look back over the past year, what i realize is that this prolonged uncertainty of my fate has not only touched me deeply, but it has inflicted immeasurable pain upon those that care so deeply about me. I can see it in the faces of my family when they visit as they anxiously ask me for the latest updates and I can read it inthe letters of my closest friends as they try so hard to avoid that proverbial "elephant in the room", putting so much of themselves into trying to keep me positive and keep that hope alive, and yet I can feel pain, and that uncertainty that we all try to ignore.

But then there's the hope - and good reason for hope too. While in the larger context the death penalty in general seems to become less popular, here in Florida there's good reason to believe that it is on it's last leg and that any day now the Florida Supreme Court will effectively vacate the majority of the death sentences. (Note: After Mike wrote this blog post the Florida Supreme Court ruled, read it here: the Florida Supreme Court decision of December 22, 2016
and more info here )
 
As I write this blog, I feel confident that within the coming weeks my own death sentence will be thrown out. But at the same time, I cannot shake the reality that I am still under an active death warrant, and I am still next in line for execution. I'm caught between those two extremes and the prolonged uncertainty is itself a heavy weight that makes hope difficult.

I can't help but wonder whether many over there in society even give a moments thought to this punishment they've inflicted. I'd like to think that as a whole, we are a "civilized" society - that most people are "good" in nature even if all of us are still imperfect creatures.

But I'm troubled by the complete absence of debate specifically on how long any indvidual should remain under an active death warrant and be forced to endure that ever present threat of being put to death, I know only too well that there will be those relatively few who will not hesitate to say I alone am responsible - and if I have a problem with remaining under an active death warrant so long that all I need to do is waive my appeals and they'll gladly kill me tomorrow...and these are the same people who want to call the condemned "evil".

But what about the majority of others? Do they even give it a moments thought at all? Here in America we are a constitutional democracy and as such government power is limited to that which the majority allows. Maybe this is what they meant when someone once said "ignorance is bliss" as I don't think the majority even give it any thought - out of sight, out of mind". I'd like to think that I do try to keep up with the greater public debate on the death penalty but I cannot recall ever hearing any debate on just how long any person should remain under an active death warrant facing that imminent fear of death before it crosses that moral line and amounts to torture.

And then there is - that one word...torture. Funny thing about the way we too often define what is, or is not, "torture" is that it comes down to our own perspective. And if we as an individual or collective society are the ones imposing a particular punishment upon someone we feel is worthy of nothing less, then we conveniently insulate ourselves with that whole "the end justifies the means" mentality. My punishment is death and if keeping me under an active death warrant facing that imminent threat of death for a year, or even longer, is what it takes to inflict that punishment on me or any other, then it cannot possibly amount up to "torture" as its obviously necessary to accomplish that objective of inflicting death.

Not long ago I read a book called "Imagine Heaven" by John Burke and it has got me thinking a lot about these things. In this book it provided the accounts of many people who had "near death experiences" and found themselves peeking into the other side - a glimmer into Heaven, or for some, a reality check in hell. But what impressed me the most was that without exception, each person came away with the same truth...that what effects our spiritual conciousness the most is not so much the sins we've committed, but how our actions have impacted others.

                                                             

The pain we inflict upon others inevidibly becomes our own eternal pain. There are many who, without even knowing anything about the facts of my case (that evidence is readily available to substantiate my consistently pled claim of innocence, but the courts refuse to allow it to be fully heard on procedural grounds - please see. http://www.southerninjustice.net/ ) are only too ready to advocate any measure of pain they can inflict upon me. That is who they are. But there will always be those few who have only hate in their hearts.

I'd like to think that most would not condone a system that would keep any person under an active death warrant for over a year. Id like to think that the absence of opposition is the product of unawareness. I'd like to think that as a society, individually and collectively, we are better than that. But are we? I am still under an active death warrant.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Florida Supreme Court Decision


In a case that may very well decide my own fate as well as that of many others, on Friday, October 14, 2016, the Florida Supreme Court issued its long anticipated decision in Timothy Hurst v State of Florida, which questioned whether the manner in which death sentences have been imposed for the past 40 years was illegal in light of an earlier decision this year by the United States Supreme Court in Hurst v Florida, 136 S.Ct 616 (2016) that itself held that “Florida’s capital sentencing scheme is unconstitutional to the extend it failed to require the jury, rather than the judge, to find the facts necessary to impose the death sentence — Florida’s process that allowed merely for a jury’s advisory recommendation for death was not enough.” Hurst v Florida, 136S S.Ct., 619

In Friday’s decision, the Florida Supreme Court unequivocally held that consistent with both the U.S. Supreme Court’s earlier decision as well as long recognized constitutional principles under Florida law, a sentence of death can only be constitutionally imposed if the jury unanimously agrees on every element relevant to authorizing a death sentence. Bottom line, the Florida Supreme Court stated that:

“Before the trial judge may consider imposing a sentence of death, the jury in a capital case must unanimously and expressly find all the aggravating factors that were proven beyond a reasonable doubt, unanimously find that the aggravating factors are sufficient to impose death, unanimously find that the aggravating factors outweigh the mitigating circumstances, and unanimously recommend a sentence of death. We equally emphasize that by so holding, we do not intend to diminish or impair the jury’s right to recommend a sentence of life even if it finds aggravating factors were proven, were sufficient to impose death, and that they outweigh the mitigating circumstances… Nor do we intend by our decision to eliminate the right of the trial court, even upon receiving a unanimous recommendation for death, to impose a sentence of life.”

What this decision effectively means is that every person who has been sentenced to death in Florida — and every person who has already been executed in the state of Florida — since 1974 was illegally sentenced to death.

But as I’ve often said and those familiar with the legal system will agree, it’s not about administering justice or any other novel ideas of fairness… it’s really about the “politics of death” and perpetuating society’s seemingly unquenchable thirst for vengeance.

For that reason, even with the now unequivocal recognition that all prior death sentences — including my own — are illegal, already the State of Florida is aggressively pushing for the courts to now hold that this landmark decision cannot be retroactively applied to the older cases and even if retroactively applied, any error in illegally imposing these sentences of death was and is “harmless” as based upon the court’s subsequent analysis, a death sentence would have been imposed anyway… they call this “harmless error.”

                                                                   


In the coming weeks, the Florida Supreme Court will rule in my own case whether this Hurst decision will apply “retroactively” to older cases that have already been denied on initial appeal. If the court does find that last week’s decision in Hurst must be retroactively applied to not only my own case, but the majority of Florida’s other 390 cases currently under a sentence of death, then under this Hurst decision the court will look at the individual circumstances of each case to determine whether in that particular case the illegally imposed sentence of death was “harmless” and the State of Florida can proceed to kill us anyway.

As I said, it’s not about justice - it’s about the politics of death. But it begs the question… if, as in my own case and the majority of others, even without the requirement of jury unanimity, the juries that decided my fate in 1984 only recommended imposing death by non-unanimous votes of 8 to 4 and 10 to 2, with neither recommendation meeting the now constitutional mandated requirement of a unanimous vote.

Under this recently announced rule of law, from this day forward the only way anyone can be condemned to death is if all 12 jurors agree. If even one juror refuses to recommend death for any reason at all —- and they are not required to provide any reason — then “death” cannot be imposed and that person must be sentenced to “life.”

So, how can they now say that they recognize that I and many others have been illegally sentenced to death — that the fact that our death sentences were not unanimous renders them illegal — but just as long as they can weasel out of it by subjectively deciding that any error in illegally sentencing us to death was harmless, they can kill us anyway?

At this point I cannot assume what the Florida Supreme Court will actually do in my case. Maybe in coming weeks they will do the right thing and rule that this new rule of constitutional law must be retroactively applied to all Florida cases — but will they then circumvent this finding by deciding that even though my sentences of death were by less than unanimous jury recommendation, it was “harmless” and reschedule my execution?

All I can really do is wait and see, as, if I’ve learned nothing else over the past 34 years, it is that the courts are unpredictable, and we cannot blindly assume that they will do the right thing simply because it’s the right thing to do.

But with that said, this Hurst v Florida decision is a good thing. For far too long Florida has been stacking the deck against those charged with capital crimes just to get sentences of death.

From this day forward, Florida’s infamous “machinery of death” will now substantially subside. It will be difficult to get any jury to unanimously recommend future sentences of death. They will still get new death sentences imposed, but they will become the exception rather than the rule. And of those still under these illegally imposed sentences of death, many will now have their current death sentences thrown out and the ranks of the condemned will be greatly reduced.

But executions will continue for some time to come and if the Florida Supreme Court declines to retroactively apply Hurst to older cases like mine, or does so but finds any error “harmless,” then my own execution will be rescheduled within the foreseeable future.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Death Watch Journal (part 23 )



 As I write this, it has now been 36 weeks since the Florida Supreme Court ordered a "temporary" stay of execution only a week before I was to be put to death for a crime i did not commit (see; http://www.southerninjustice.net/ )That's not even counting the fact that prior to this stay of execution, I spent from November 30, 2015 to February 2, 2016 under an active death warrant on "death watch". So, in truth its now been going on a full year that I've been under death warrant with that (metaphorican) gun to my head, not knowing whether I will live or die - and knowing only too well that at anytime  they can come to my cell and drag me away, right back again to that "death watch" cell I previously occupied, the same cell where every man and woman executed in the state of Florida also occupied prior to being put to death  (please read : Execution Day - Involuntary Witness to State Sanctioned Murder)

I have to wonder at what point would even the most fanatical pro death penalty advocate conced that the psychological torment so deliberately inflicted upon the condemned under the pretense of administering justice become an even greater atrocity than the alleged act of murder committed by the condemned? At what point do we cross that line from administering "justice" to inflicting acts of depravity that make who we are the greater evil?

But the truth of the matter is that even as hard as it might be on me and others similarly forced to exist in this morbid and maliciously inflicted state of limbo, this uncertainty of death is actually even more difficult on my family and closest friends. Those who will so quickly justify their actions by transfering all accountability upon the individual who committed the alleged crime and with righteous indignation declare that the condemned deserves all the punishment they can inflict upon him or her cannot so quickly evade their actions when as a result, they also so intentionally torment the families of the condemned.

The inconvenient truth is that it's not about administering "justice". It's about playing politics, and especially in the Deep South, politics of death are the trump cards that inconsistently wins political elections as in these traditional southern states nothing brings out the voters better than a good, old fashioned lynching.

We like to say that as a society we have evolved, that those dark days of wearing white sheets and lynching an "undisirable" up on the lower branches of an old oak tree on the outskirts of town are long gone, but in our hearts, we know that's not true.

I recently read a most excellent article published in the magazine "The New Yorker"
on August 22, 2016 entitled "The legacy of lynching, on death row" by Jeffrew Toobin, in which renowned attrney Bryan Stevenson draws a direct and irrefutabe line between that not so distant past of southern lynchings and the death penalty today. This is an article that every person who gives any thought to the issue of the death penalty should read - especially those who continue to blindly support this form of "punishment".

But then again, if there's one thing I've learned in the over 33 years that I've been here on Florida's death row, it is that indisputable fact and logic are rarely enought to sway the minds of those already hell bent on having a good lynching...their blood lust blinds them of all else, and they don't even care if they kill a few innocent people along the way.

As I write this, we are now only a short while away from the presidential election and this is especially perhaps one of the most important elections ever for not only death penalty prisoners, but our society as a whole, as whoever wins this upcoming election will have the power to influence who we are as a society for generations to come.

                                                                 

Obviously, the choice will come down to either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Personally, I will never understand how anyone could support Donald Trump as he embodies and even personifies the worst of the worst characteristics of our society, while arrogantly proclaiming himself above all accountability for his never ending circus of transgressions. But it's not his arrogance and sense of entitlement that trouble me the most. Rather, it's his public promise of who he will appoint to the Supreme Court if he wins the election.

When justice Scalia died earlier this year, it created a vacancy on the Supreme Court that is of historic significance since Scalia was appointed to the court 40 years ago, fanatically pro death penalty justices have solidly controlled the courts, ensuring that after the landmark 1972 decision in Florida v Georgia declared the death penalty unconstitutionally "arbitrary and capricious", only a few years later Scalia and his conservative cabal quickly resurected it in the 1976 decision of Gregg v Georgia and Proffitt v Florida.

And for the 40 continuous years, we have seen one case after another be decided by marginal votes, affirming the death penalty again and again. But Scalia's death left the current court now tied with 4 pro death penalty conservatives and 4 members who presumably would vote to put an end to this politically motivated modern day lynching.

The next appointed Supreme Court justice will effectively decide the direction the Supreme Court goes in for the next generation...and whether the death penalty will once again be declared unconstitutional and abolished.

That's why it troubled me this past week when I read the front page article of the September 24, 2016 Lakeland Ledger entitled "Trump tops Canady as potential court pick " . For those who don't know, that's Charles T Canady, who is currently a justice on the Florida Supreme Court and prior to his political appointment to the bench, worked as general counsel to former Florida governor Jeb Bush - it was none other than Charles Canady who attempted to defend Jeb Bush's "Death Penalty Reform Act" of 2000 before the Florida Supreme Court, which sought to adopt Texas death penalty appeal process to florida. But in Allen v. Butterworth, 756 So. 2d 52 (Fla. 2000) the Florida Supreme Court rejected Canaby's arguements and declared the Death Penalty Reform Act 2000 unconstitutional.

                                                               

Shortly after Canaby's defeat, Governor Jeb Bush appointed him to the lower state appeals court, where Canaby stayed for a few years before Jeb Bush's republican successor Charlie Crist promoted Charles Canaby to the Florida Supreme Court.

With Canady now Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme court, the pro death penalty politicians quickly pushed through the state legislature a new proposed law they labeled the "Timely Justice Act" (please read "The List" which in some ways went beyond the previously rejected "Death penalty Reform Act".

This time the outcome was significantly different - with Charles Canaby and Rick Polston controlling the Florida Supreme Court, this 2013 "Timely Justice Act" that sought to expedite executions by statutorily mandating the signing of death warrants upon completion of the "first round" of state and federal appeals - even if new evidence of actual innocence is revealed  - sailed through the courts and became law in Abdool v. Bondi, 141 So. 3d 529 (Fla. 2014)

Since being politically appointed to the Florida Supreme Court, justice Canady has relentlessly campaigned to eliminate death row appeals and expedite executions, even openly advocating for prohibiting actual innocence claims brought upon newly discovered evidence.

And this is precisely the kind of justice Donald Trump wants to put on the Supreme Court if he's elected as president. According to the Lakeland Ledger article, the reason Donald Trump would like to put Charles Canaby on the US Supreme Court is because Trump wants his pick to the court to embrace the ideology of the late justice Scalia...or in other words, Trump wants to ensure that the only Americans who have any legal rights are the rich and special interests.

When it comes down to it, it's not about administering justice. If it was, then those appointed to the courts would embrace uncompromised laws to protect the innocent from being put to death. Rather, it's about politics, and by preventing the innocent from any meaningful opportunity to prove their innocence, these fanatical pro death penalty justices know that their push to expedite executions will win elections.

Michael Lambrix

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Death Watch Journal (part 22)

Imagine being condemned to death for a crime you did not commit, and then finding yourself under an active death warrant, facing imminent execution - and having to basically defend yourself against the relatively infinate resources of the state...not even Hollywood can come up with such a bizarre plot.

But that's the reality I've found myself in these past months. It's now over 9 months (November 30, 2015) since Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a death warrant scheduling my execution for February 11, 2016 and over 6 months since, only days before my scheduled execution, the Florida Supreme Court granted a temporary stay of execution as they decide whether the January 2016 US Supreme Court decision in Hurst v Florida (which declared that Florida's practise of having the judge ultimately determine whether to impose death sentence rather than the jury renders Florida's death penalty unconstitutional) effectively makes my death sentence illegal... a decision will most likely be delayed until after the November elections as when it comes down to it, the death penalty is about politics, not justice.

During this period of time as I remained under this still-active death warrant, I've begged and pleaded with my state assigned legal counsel to work on developping new appeals, but when it comes down to it, they've refused to do anything. Maybe they are so confident that the Florida Supreme Court will throw out my death sentence that they just don't see any point in doing anymore work... but what if they are wrong and the Florida Supreme Court rules against me, as id that is the case then under Florida law the governor is mandted to to reschedule my execution within 10 days of when the court rules against me and I'd again be facing imminent execution.

If there's one thing I'm absolutely certain of after all these years, it's that if I were to sit back and let my life depend on the state assigned lawyers to fight this fight on their own, I would had undoubtedly been dead many years ago and it almost killed me in 1988 when I came within hours of being executed and so I make it a point to become personally involved with my own appeals - and if that means bumping heads with the lawyers assigned to represend me, then so be it! - I already know how hard-headed I am, so I can take it!

So, for 7 months now I've done all I could to try to get my assigned lawyers to do something, but all I get is a lot of talk. They do cover their own butt, though - almost every week they'll communicate with me and always in a manner that leaves no written record so that if I claim that they've effectively abandoned me, they can show that they did a 30 minute legal phone call or whatever each week.

My problem is that unlike my lawyer, I am not waiting on the Florida Supreme Court to rule on whether the Florida death penalty is unconstitutional. Even assuming they did rule favorably on that issue, the most it would do is reduce my death sentence to life in prison, and as Pope Francis put it so well, a "life" sentence is effectively a slow death sentence.

Rather, from the day I was arrested on that crime I have always and unequivocally maintained my innocence, adamantly insisting that the key witness and the prosecutor deliberately fabricated this wholly circumstantial ( i.e., no eyewitnesses, no physical or forensic evidense, no confessions, etc) theory of alleged premeditated murder - the key witness (Frances Smith) was desperate to do anything to get immunity and the local small-town prosecutor was as equally desperate to make a name for himself....it's not merely a coincidence that this same prosecutor has already had two others in unrelated cases subsequently exonorated and released from Florida's death row after the Florida Supreme Court recognized that this prosecutor crossed the line with overzealous prosecution (John Ballard and Bradley Scott were both set free due to prosecutional misconduct)

I am, and always have been, fighting for my freedom and so even if the florida Supreme Court did reduce my current death sentence to life, that would be a "hollow" victory. My state assigned lawyers would celebrate that "victory", but I would not...only my freedom is a real victory.

But of the state assigned lawyers controlling my case have effectively given up, then what am I to do? The vast majority of those sentenced to death simply do not have the intellectual capacity to understand the complexities of the law and are basically helpless. But I'm not your average death sentenced prisoner, and I'm not going to just lay down and give up....I didn't fight this fight for 33 years to quit now.

                                                                   


So, I did the only thing I could do....I wrote up my own appeal and recently filed it in the US Supreme Court, explaining to the court that both the State of Florida and lower courts have unfairly stacked the deck not only against me, but against many of Florida's death sentenced prisoners, by assigning US state agency lawyers who under Florida law are strictly prohibited from pursueing any form of "civil" action challenging our conviction and sentence of death...and I am asking the Supreme Court to exercise their jurisdiction by expeditiously ordering the appointment of new legal counsel that can represent me in what must be pursued.

Specifically, for over 25 years the prosecutor deliberately concealed forensic evidence in my case that conclusively shows that the Florida (FDLE) crime lab found several hairs on the alleged murder weapon that they determined in 1983 did not match me or either of the victims. These only recently exposed crime lab records also conclusively show that when the crime lab told the prosecutor about this unexpected discovery, the prosecutor instructed the crime lab to return all this evidence to his office - and he then hid the evidence until it was accidently revealed in 2009.

But when my state assigned lawyers filed a new appeal in 2009 argueing that this blatant act of deliberate prosecutional misconduct required the court to throw out my conviction and allow a new trial, suddenly my case was reassigned to Judge Christine Greider - a local former prosecutor who previously  worked with prosecutor Randall McGruther and in fact, was appointed to the bench while McGruther himself was on the 20th Circuit Judicial nominating committee.

Not surprisingly, Judge Greider summarily denied the appeal even after the Asst Attorney General representing the state conceded that the previously undisclosed hairs most likely were the key witnesses hair and that they never did disclose this evidence.

A motion to have this previously undisclosed forensic evidence subjected to DNA testing was filed - by me, but was also summarily denied by Judge Greider. The Florida Supreme Court subsequently affirmed the summary denial, rejecting our arguements that under well established law it was per se reversible error to deny this "new evidence/actual innocence" appeal and request for DNA testing without providing any form of evidentiary process necessary to establish the materiality of this deliberately concealed evidence.

My only recourse at that point would be to file a federal civil action under Skinner v. Switzer S.Ct. 1289 (2011) as a means to challenge the denial of DNA testing necessary to establish my actual innocence as "arbitrary and unfair" but under Florida law my assigned state counsel is categorically prohibited from representing death sentenced prisoners in civil actions.

So, last year (before my death warrant was signed) I asked the Federal court to appoint Federal counsel to my case as is statutorily mandated under applicable Federal law (18 U.S.C. 3599), only to have the Federal Court refuse to do so, leaving me with only the state assigned counsel. I appealed this to the Eleventh Circuit court of appeals in January, while facing imminent execution, but Chief Judge Edward Cornes has refused to allow the case to be docketed - as he has done in other similar capital cases (Judge Cornes and his Alabama cronies are knwon for their fanatical support for the death penalty and overzealous pursuit of executions)

With few remaining options - obviously I simply don't have the ability to hire a lawyer to represent me and contrary to popular myth there are no lawyers willing to volunteer to help an innocent man avoid execution - my only remanining option was to write up the appeal myself and file it with the Supreme Court, which I did on August 17, 2016.

If you like to read this 32 page appeal asking the Supreme Court for help in getting legal representation so I can prove my innocence, you can read it in HERE . You can follow the progress of this appeal on the Supreme Court's website at https://www.supremecourtus.gov/  and pull up the case, docketed as In re: Cary Michael Lambrix, Case No. 16-5715 (https://www.supremecourt.gov/search.aspx?filename=/docketfiles/16-5715.htm )

What does it say about our legal system that a poor and uneducated man facing imminent execution for a crime he did not commit must write up and file hos won appeals? The reality of it is that in capital cases, the appointment of legal representation is most often a total pretene intended to project the appearance of fairness in an inherently unfair process. - Mike Lambrix


Sunday, September 25, 2016

Democratic Party Adopts Resolution to Abolish Death Penalty

I have to admit that if anyone had asked me even if you years ago whether I thought I'd ever see the day when a major political party in the United States would openly advocate for the abolishment of the death penalty, I would have laughed and asked: "Are you nuts?".

Let's face it...America loves the death penalty. By conveniently subjective interpretation of circumstances, it morally justifies that basic primitive need for vengeance. In fact, most who demand nothing less than death will only too eagerly quote the Bible "An eye for an eye" arguing that therefore this measure of justice is sanctioned by none other than God himself. So what if the inconvenient truth is that this same chapter of the Bible also dictates that those who disrespect their parents "shall be put to death" (Exodus 20:17) and those who commit adultery must be put to death, and other crimes too. But our society wouldn't advocate that, so this part is ignored.

Then there's what the Bible says in Deuteronomy 19:15-20, clearly stating that if an innocent man is condemned to death by false testimony, those responsible for this injustice must be put to death so that others will know that condemning an innocent person will not be tolerated. In recent years hundreds of innocent people have been conclusively exonorated through DNA evidence, yet neither the witnesses that gave false testimony or the prosecutors who only too often do know the person was innocent and prosecuted him or her anyway have never - not even once - been held accountable.

When it comes to capital punishment, truth and justice mean nothing as often deciding whether the state will deliberately take the life of a person under the pretense of administering justice has very little to do with the crime the defendant has been accused of. Rather, it is about the politics of death and a particular prosecutor's own political ambitions. Nobody can credibly argue that only the "worst of the worst" get the death penalty. Rather, the overwhelming weight of the objective evidence shows that the primary elements applicable in deciding who will live and who will die is socio-economic...only the poorest of the poor will face the death penalty - and even then, they will only face actual execution if the victim was white as our legal process eagerly facilities racial discrimination - black lives do not matter when the victim was black, and they know this.

After over a generation of fanatical support for the death penalty and repeatedly seeing all honorable and morally ethical politicians all but publically burned at the stake when they voiced their opposition to the death penalty, I was flabbergasted recently to learn that the Democratic Party (Hillary Clinton) has now publically declared its intent to campaign for the abolishment of the death penalty.

But they're still many in the Democratic party who are not happy - some will even abandon the party in protest. Still, I just never thought I'd see the day when any political candidate, much less a major political party, would call to have the death penalty abolished.

                                                                   

How did this come about? Perhaps the Democratic party is merely exploring society's own views towards the death penalty as it becomes increasingly unpopular among voters who have seen a legal system corrupted by deliberate imperfection and a growing consensus that our legal system is only too willing to execute innocent people.

Myself, I certainly do not credit Hillary Clinton with the adoption of this resolution to abolish the death penalty. Although I do respect Hillary for many things, I cannot ignore the fact that Bill Clinton single-handedly is responsible for more innocent men and women facing execution than any other person.

I'm glad you asked how I could say, that will explain. It was in 1996 that then President Bill Clinton signed into effect what is known as the "Anti-Terrorist and Effective Death Penalty Act" (AEDPA) which was primarily intended to expedite executions by eliminating any meaningful Federal court review of State imposed convictions and death sentences. By signing the AEDPA into law, Bill Clinton made it only too easy for the states to carry out executions - in fact, under the 1996 AEDPA it even made it impossible to prove your innocence with new evidence. Although technically the AEDPA did allow for "successive" federal court review if new evidence of innocence could be presented, in the past 20 years since Bill Clinton signed the law into effect, not a single death sentenced prisoner has been allowed to prove their innocence under this law.

To be honest, having Hillary Clinton as president scares the crap out of me -  but not quite as much as Trump. Those of us who have been around awhile know that when Bill Clinton was questioned about his position on the death penalty while running for president in 1992, his response was to rush back to Arkansas, where he was still the state Governor, and ordered the execution of a mentally incompetent prisoner - to prove he was more than willing to kill.

What if Hillary Clinton proves to be cut of the same cloth? Although the Democratic party has now formally adopted a resolution to campaign against the death penalty, this resolution would have no binding effect on Hillary Clinton's exercise of executive power once she's in office.  When the time comes to nominate federal judges to the bench, will she choose judges who oppose or support the death penalty? When the time comes to preside over the execution of a federal prisoner, will she give the go-ahead while shrugging her shoulders and claiming that she's just doing her job?

But they say that "Hope Springs Eternal" - and what I would like to think is that at the end of the day it's not 1996 anymore. And we are not the same society we were then. When Bill Clinton was President America's support for the death penalty was at an all-time high, and for better or worse, Bill Clinton was a quintessential politician and if he had to send a thousand innocent people to their death to win office he would. And in 1996 nobody really cared.

If Hillary Clinton wins the election, she will come into office at a time when both society's support for the death penalty is at the almost historic low and the United States Supreme Court is receptive to throwing the dath penalty out once and for all.  This is why the Democratic party has now decided to oppose the death penalty - it's all about the politics. Maybe there really is hope that the end of the death penalty is within sight. The fact that a major political party campaigning for the presidency is willing to adopt a resolution to abolish the death penalty does suggest the politics of death may have finally shifted.

Innocent and Executed - please read