Introductions: Welcome to Life Row

This is an introductory post posted to this page by the Welcome to Life Row team, on behalf of David Frances.

David Frances, is an inmate on Death Row in Florida and this is David’s story. David wanted to create a blog; not to validate or make excuses for his crime and as David said, not to glamorize it or diminish any of his responsibility. Instead, this Blog is, as David put’s it, designed:

“…simply to share some of my life experiences, including my experience with the judicial system [in America], and my experience on death row.

“It is also, hopefully, to give an insight into the injustices in the death penalty scheme.

“Hopefully this will start conversations, and it can shed some light on the facts about the death penalty”.

It’s easy for many of us to say that we are pro the death penalty, especially when the victim of a crime is a loved one. But do we truly understand how the system works, how the death penalty is applied and the legal injustices that so often occur around the death penalty?

David and the Welcome to Life Row team (‘Life Row’), who are made up of his friends and loved ones trying to help and support David in gaining fair legal representation, hope this blog will provide some insight into the American judicial system, specifically state executions and we welcome your comments, thoughts and interactions on this blog.

This is a snapshot introduction to David’s story, his first blog post provided by David to the team by letter. We hope you find it interesting…

My name is David Frances. I’m 38 years old and I have been incarcerated for over 18 years. I’m from the Virgin Islands but caught my case in Florida, USA. I was convicted of a double murder/robbery that happened back in 2000, and sentenced to death. I do have a co-defendant, my brother, he was sentenced to life, which was recently reduced.

I’ve been on “the row” (that’s death row) now, for 14 years. My sentence was recently found unconstitutional and overturned, and I’m now preparing for a re-sentencing hearing. The state is seeking the death penalty again, so the journey continues.

I will either be sentenced to life, or sentenced to death again. Those are the only two possible outcomes.

My sentence was overturned because of an unconstitutional law that was in place for 40 years. The State of Florida was sentencing people to death and carrying out those sentences, even though the jury didn’t unanimously vote for the death penalty. Now it has been ruled that the jury must be unanimous, in order to sentence someone to death.

I’m not sure why it took 40 years for that law to change, but that’s one of the many flaws in our death penalty scheme. This one, like many others, got ignored.

I’ve been going back and forth, trying to decide on if I should do this blog or not, because I know that I will be opening myself up to criticism and straight hate. But my last legal setback motivated me to get this going.

I can’t simply stay quiet and continue on the path that I am. I can’t complain, if I’m not going to do anything about it, right?

Unqualified counsel 

After the courts granted relief in my case, they appointed new counsel to my re-sentencing. This counsel team were on my case for little over a year, before it was revealed that they weren’t qualified to be lead counsel on a death penalty case – the qualification for death penalty cases is specific and not all counsel have it.

My question? How can this happen when they were vetted and appointed by the State?

The thing is, this isn’t uncommon and the lawyers weren’t reprimanded after this discovery. They are free to move onto other cases, as if nothing happened. While they could have easily caused another death sentence for me,if they had remained on my case. They definitely didn’t have my best interests, it was all about money for them.

This is now another setback on my case – which my trial judge wanted completed last year. I have now been appointed new counsel. At the time of writing (February 2019), they have been on my case a little over a month and as you would expect, I’ll be checking their credentials!

Longstanding legal problems

From day one, I’ve had issues with lawyers. I can’t afford legal representation, so I’ve been having to depend on State appointed lawyers, and it’s been a challenge. That’s putting it mildly.

All I’m asking for is the same constitutional right to competent legal representation afforded to everyone that’s charged with a crime.

When you’re sentenced to death, you’re automatically appointed counsel to handle your appeal. This is different from when you’re given any other sentence, when you’re on your own, and you can pay for your legal representation if you can afford it, or go about it on your own.

So in theory, this sounds good. You’re given representation. But a lot of these automatically appointed lawyers are just going through the motions. I’m not saying they’re all bad but I can only share my experiences, and that includes what I went through recently. More of which, myself and my friends helping me run this blog, will go into soon.

Final Comments

We all go through chapters in our lives, this is my latest chapter. I do have some good chapters as well, it’s just that this chapter has my full attention at the moment, and I want to look back one day and say that this was a productive chapter.

Hopefully, by sharing my experiences, I can make a positive difference, or even change opinions about the death penalty. You never know! But this is me trying something different and looking forward to seeing how the story unfolds.

One Love,

David

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