Saturday, July 30, 2005

Some questions from a German High School

I got a paper with questions from a German High School class about the death penalty.
Here are some answers:

Would you agree that the death penalty should be a legitimate punishment for certain crimes ? Why ?
No, because once you open the door for one particular crime to received the death penalty. Politicians will expand it. Make it a death worthy sentence for other cases. When dealing with the law - you end up dealing with people who wish to interpret the law as they want it. Or as now - use it to run for higher offices. Move up the ladder of success.

So, though you may start up with a death penalty. For one offence it grows two - three - four - five. Then again you end up what we have now.

A justice system that is wrong.

If you could choose between life without parole and the death penalty, which one would you choose ? Why ?
Death. Because I might as well be dead than - die a little each day.

What do you miss most ?
The freedom to do what I wish.

Do you think about your own execution ?
No, not now - I was on Death Watch once - waiting to be executed. I had time then to get my thoughts in place and be prepared to die. It no longer worries me. If the time comes, I can do that. Till it does I don´t think on it.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

I´ll be still just an "Average Joe" on Death Row

And from the help of some old friends. Along with a couple now friends. Maybe some new friends. I think I´ll be ok. Smile but hey wouldn´t it be a kick if I win ?

Since the last time I talked with you guys I wrote my first book ! A science fiction - fantasy - adventure. I managed to put in some problems we face today - and may in the future.
Such as "Global Warming", "The Manufacturing of Chemical and Biological Elements", viruses, crooked politicians. Store bought religion, corruption and greed. Plus, a bit of a love story ! It´s not the greatest book ever written. But according to the 3 guys I let read - they liked it. Plus it´s a quick read 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Not sure what I´ll do with it yet ! I´m not allowed to publish by law !
Maybe I´ll give it to a friend - let them. Now that I´ve learned I can. I will probably write a couple of more books ! To be seen !

I´ll let you know how it goes at the hearing. Good or bad.

I talked it over with my friend who set up the blog. I used "Average Joe" as a name. Because I wanted you to see the issue. Not just one person - but any "Average Joe" here. We agree that´s been accomplished. So I´ll give you my real name now.

Even so, I´ll still just an "Average Joe" on Death Row. For now, I´ll just wish you a good life. Take it a day at a time. Enjoy what good comes of each one. Endure the bad. And if someone has or is helping you out. Or to adjust to whatever. Pass it along one day. It´s a good thing !

Sincerely Average Joe

Believe in yourself !

Add on - people being executed - friends. Your case just drags on and on. And it becomes on hell of a mental struggle. You question when is my turn ?

Those guys taught me to survive these things. They showed me where to begin. I remember one guy told me ! Believe in yourself ! And never give up ! It doesn´t matter if no one else does. That´s something no one can take from you. What you know and believe inside. That´s true. Whatever you`re inside or outside. Maybe so here !

Here´s a funny thing for you.

I was on Death Row 6 months before it dawned on me. I´m one of them. Till then I lived with the illusion - I don´t belong here. I´m not like them - not one of them. I was all along ! It just didn´t hit home till 6 months later. It doesn´t matter why they were there. Or if they were innocent or guilty. Nor if I was. Innocent or guilty - we had all been convicted of 1st Degree Murder. I was as they - just one of the men of Death Row.

You guys who read the earlier writings ( already have an idea of my life here. You know I´ve been here over 28 years. Thought I would show you where it began.

Some of the reasons why I am who I am today.
Maybe say thanks to those who helped me learn to survive. Most are no longer alive. But, I still pay back what they gave me when I can. Help a new arrival learn to survive. Help others when I can. This 28 years+ has been one hell of a path to travel along. And I wonder if - back in 1977 - someone had said - you may have to do 25 or more years. Would I have believed it ? Would I still have chosen to go through it.
And I think of what he said in the "Green Mile": Am I lucky or am I cursed ? I tell you - I just don´t know. Will it be worth it ? I guess I have to wait and see how it ends !

But I do have a little good news !

In 2005 I had an evidentiary hearing. In that hearing the judge ruled - all my issues were procedurally barred. So we appealed to the State Supreme Court. And in less than 2 months after oral arguments, the State Supreme Court ruled - none of my issues were procedurally barred. They ordered a new hearing on all issues. We have some very good - strong issues. So, I have a chance - maybe to win a new trial. Of course they could screw me over again. So, I take the attitude of wait and see what comes.

I will not let my hopes get up. I´ll do what I´ve always done. I´ll maintain my day to day philosophy. Live one day at a time. Enjoy what good comes my way in that day ! Hell if I win - I can celebrate then. If I lose. I can keep on doing what I´m doing ! Surviving !

Help behind the bars

After I was there for awhile I got some money in. I tried to repay they guys who had given me things. Not one would accept it. Rather they said. Just pass it on some day. Do for someone else what we did for you. They had done more than given me a few snacks - coffee - ect. They had helped me adjust - and to survive. You see Death Row is about survival. It is surviving mentally and physically. But mostly its mental.

You`re locked in a one man cell 24 hours a day - 7 days a week. You have a few things as distractions. A T.V. - radio - art work - other such things. Books. But, it´s the same distractions. Day in - day out. Every day is like yesterday and tomorrow. And as far ahead as you can picture. There is no break - no vacation. It´s 365 days a year. You can let it go for a lil while, on visits or while you read a good book. It´s always there, waiting for you.

You watch others lose the fight. I´ve seen it affect people in so many ways. I´ve seen strong vital men come to Death Row. Then watch them slowly die inside. Become weak and feeble. Or grow cold inside. No longer care or feel. Some go crazy. It just becomes too much. It breaks them. Some committed some overdosed.

And those in charge never believe a guy is crazy or do not care. They think they are just playing crazy. One man who went crazy was close by me. I knew he wasn´t faking. I watched him slowly loose it. I couldn´t help him.

Those in charge did not believe he was. So, when the man just gave up, lay in his cell - urinated and defecated on himself - they would caryy him to the clinic a couple of times a week. Clean him up. The State doctor would say: he is okay. Put him back in his cell.

That went on for over a year. I told them he was for real. Wrote people about it. Nothing was done. Then, he just died.

So, you see this kind of thing. Or others not getting proper medical care.

Learning behind the bars

My attorney said before I came: You will be back in court in 6 months. I told them this. And all of them laughed. Saying yeah. That´s what I was told. I´ve been here 3 years so far. Same with the others.

The next thing you need to know. Is learn to depend on yourself. After time, here - family and friends will forget who you are. Or most will. I was never very close to much of my family. My brothers and sisters all left home at early ages. Then I did also. So, we really were not around each other much. So, that part would not surprise me !

However - I had 2 good friends and a girlfriend and what the guys said came true pretty fast. Less than 2 years. Both friends and my girl friend were gone. The guys explained that to me. We on Death Row become lost causes to them. And they have lives and move on. It makes sense in a way. Yet still it hurts to see them go.

The next thing they taught me was: don´t believe half of what your attorney says. An attorney will tell you things just to placate you. Get you to go along with ever they do.

Learn about law. Keep an eye on them. These attorney have several cases. they can and will spend only as much time on your case as they have to.

Learn law, research your own case.

Of course I was not able to do that then. I had completed only the 6th. Grade in school outside. I knew zero about law. Or anything else really. But, I did start to educate myself. I borrowed books from the Prison School Teacher. Started to read everything I could get my hands on. And some of the guys helped me. I watched public T.V. They have mostly educational programming.
Science - Nature - History - Documentaries.

And my eyes slowly opened to the world. I took the G.E.D. test in 1981 passed - got my High School Diploma. But that still did not teach me law.

And at Florida State Prison - a law library was a joke. So, I was still law - ignorant.
So, I had to rely on the attorneys. Which in later years I realized was just what the guys told me. They really messed my case up. But back to the first days.


I came to Death Row ignorant. Not stupid - there is a difference. Ignorance - means uneducated not aware of the world. Inexperienced. Stupid - is knowing or being aware educationally or world wise. But, just adopting a stupid attitude - or view of life. Or it´s the way I see it !

Anyway, I was ignorant. And, the way I was being threated surprised me. It was not what I expected.

We went to the exercise yard 2 days after I arrived. Back then - that was just a dirt yard. Fenced in - beside R-Wing. it had a volley ball net. A basket ball goal - and some pull up bars. That and a drinking fountain. When we went outside that first time I was surprised again. Guys would meet - shake hands - or dap. That is just a cool hand shake. And stop and talk with each other. It was very civilized. The guy in cell 9 who became a good friend walked over - shook hands. Then laughed. Not quite what you expected huh ? No, it wasn´t He and I - 2 or 3 others got to talking. They had experienced the same things when they first came. And they began to enlighten me.

Talking behind bars

The guy in cell 9 said: Hey new guy. Cell 8#: What´s your name ?
I figured out it was me he was talking to. I told him and he said: You drink coffee - smoke ??
I said: Yeah. He passed me over some coffee - and a pack of smokes and a pack of matches. Along with a cup and spoon. I made a cup of coffee - lit up a smoke.

And he and I talked. Sometimes others would join in. They explained the rules and regulations. Gave me the whole run down on the place. The guy in cell 9 passed over his radio. Said keep it till they bring you a T.V.
At that time they gave you a T.V. I got mine the next day. But what those guys did was help me settle in and adjust. They knew what it was like to just arrive. In those days, that´s the way it was. You helped others get adjusted. Made it as easy for them as you could. No. Not all, there is always the selfish ones. Or ones to wrapped up in their own misery. But, the majority would help you learn to survive.

The Beginning ! 1977 February 14th

I arrived at Death Row. I was 20 years old. I walked onto R-Wing at Florida State Prison. In 1977 R-Wing was Death Row. All 70 people were housed there. I was walked into the gate on 2 South. That means the second floor. R-Wing had 3 Floors. Split in half by a pipe alley. So you has 1-2-3 South floors. Then 1-2-3 North floors. Each floor had 17 cells. Thus 4 1/2 floors were Death Row.

1 1/2 were lock down population inmates.
I was led onto 2-South. Cell 8.

I must admit I was nervous. Even a little afraid. I mean - 6 months earlier I was on the streets. I knew zero about the Death Penalty. All I knew for sure was each person there was convicted of
1st Degree Murder. And as I walked by each cell - men in the cell stopped to watch me pass. Some said hello - others just glanced at me - went back to what ever they were doing. And I was thinking...I can´t believe they are putting me in here with these killers. I got in my cell. Looked about. Sat down on my bunk.

They gave me - 2 sheets - a blanket. A towel. Toot brush and tooth paste. That´s what I had. I guess you could say a weight settled on my shoulders. I guess it just hit home, how bad a situation I was in.