Do prosecutors have remorse?

I often wonder if, at the end of the day – or at the end of their careers – prosecutors have remorse for the role they play in getting someone to the execution chamber? In some instances, mine included, prosecutors are assigned to specific cases because of their track record of putting people on death row. How is that any different to being a contract killer?

Prosecutors are highly respected, and lots of them move on to careers as judges or politicians. I do understand that, in a civilised world, there has to be laws, and gatekeepers to make sure the laws are being enforced, but when you give prosecutors immunity, it will always be an unfair playing field.

At a recent court proceeding, the prosecutor was going through his calendar to see when he would be able to fit my case into his busy schedule. I couldn’t help but notice how nonchalant he was about the number of death penalty cases he had lined up. It’s as if he has become desensitized, and he’s just going through the motions. The idea of target practice came to mind.

When you exhaust your appeals, you’re given an execution date, and I don’t see how it can get any more premeditated than that. What makes their premeditated murder any different from the people they convict of premeditated murder? The appeal process is basically the opportunity to beg for mercy and prove why you deserve to live.

So, do prosecutors have remorse, or are they experts at compartmentalizing? Do they only look at it as just a job? And if that’s the case, that’s a whole other set of issues.

One love.

David

No fear

‘I try not to live my life in fear, but I’m starting to feel like one of my few fears in life is becoming a reality. The fear that I would become institutionalized, and I would start to feel, and think, that this, prison life is normal. There’s nothing normal about prison life.


I recently had my 41st birthday, 21st on the other side of the fence, and thankfully even after all these years, I still receive lots of love and well wishes for my birthday. Along with well wishes, there’s words of encouragement, and a few comments about how well I’ve held up after all these years. I know that they mean well when they say that I’ve held up well, but does holding up well mean that I’ve adjusted and accepted the circumstances? Have I fully adopted to my surroundings? Also, is that a good thing or not? I’m conflicted on the idea of holding up well, because I have my days where I feel absolutely out of place, then days where I do feel like I’m holding up just fine.

Then, I also thought about what if I got out this very moment. How will I manage? I can honestly say that there’s a good chance that I will struggle mightily. I’ve been in solitary confinement for almost 20 years and no telling how much damage that’s done, mentally, until I’m put I a ”normal” setting. Maybe I’m over thinking it, but I truly fear that I will wake up one day and think that prison life is normal.

I don’t fear dying, but another fear of mines is growing old and dying in prison, but that’s a conversation for another day.”

Age is just a number?

Today I had an interesting conversation with a young man who is at the start of his journey (of 10 years).

Things didn’t get off to a particular good start because he broke two of the many unwritten convict rules. He asked what I was in for and how long I’ve been down. Major no-nos before a proper introduction.

I chalked it up to his being young and not knowing any better. Hopefully he learns from his mistakes.

Anyways, we got talking, and I did get round to telling him that I’m coming up to my 21st year. I do look younger than my age, but with him I could see the wheels turning in his head, trying to process what he just heard.

His response was, “so that means you’ve been locked up more than half your life?”

I did realise that I was at that point, but it’s a lot different when you hear someone else say it. It’s like “DAMN. I’ve really spent more than half of my life in prison.” It makes me wonder if it’s downhill from this point.

It did make me reflect on the past 20+ years. It’s hard to come up with exact moments from the last 20 that I can reminisce on. I’m not saying that nothing good has happened the last 20+ years, but when I think of the good times, I think about my time before prison. They do say that life comes to a stop once you get locked up, and there’s days when I feel like that 20 year old young man.

I think deep down, I’ll always be that young man at heart.

Now I’m hoping that the young man I met today got something from the conversation, because even though 10 years won’t equal to half of his life in prison, it’s 10 years that he might want to forget, or 10 years that he’ll use to better himself.

I don’t believe that my 20+ years are wasted years, but I’m my own biggest critic, and will forever think that I’m falling short on my own life journey.

Keeping going in prison

People often ask me what it’s like being in prison, and how I have managed to maintain, physically and mentally, over 20 plus years.

Sometimes I have to ask myself the same question.

I guess it comes down to a number of things. I guess, for me, it started with not accepting that this is it. It’s all about waking up with a purpose. I’m sure that we can all say that. I try not to overthink it – it could be something as simple as filling out a card, or sending a short note to bring a bit of joy to someone else’s day. My main motivator is the drive to be better. I’m far from perfect, and have enough flaws, so I have something I can improve upon every single day.

Having people that care about you also makes a big difference, and is very important. I have some amazing people in my life that I am very thankful for, and I wouldn’t care what the future holds if it wasn’t for them. Of course, no-one knows what the future holds, but seeing their future unfold is enough for me to get excited about the future, and I want to be around for the ups and downs.

Even though I’m in solitary confinement, I try to stay as active as possible in my tiny space. The least I do on a daily basis is pace back and forth in my cell for an hour. (To give you an idea, I can only take 4 steps before I am at the back of my cell and have to turn round). I can also attest that working out is one of the best stress relievers.

I’ve had to adjust to going without visits since covid and, in the process, I’ve realised how much of a difference having a visit to look forward to made. Having something to look forward to makes a huge difference. I still have letters, emails and cards to let me know that I’m not forgotten, so I’m managing without the visits.

I guess that it was expected of me to go to prison, because as a child I was given advice as to how to survive in prison. Now that I think about that, it was messed up and far from normal. It didn’t make sense to me back then, but it does now. The advice was to mind my business, avoid gambling, and avoid homosexual activities. Follow these rules and you stand a better chance of surviving in prison.

Everybody’s experience is different but, for me, it’s about trying to stay in a good space and make the best of today.

Keep in mind, a lot of people didn’t wake up this morning, so it would be wrong of me to take it for granted.

One love

David

When did I first realise I was black?

I recently heard a question that has stuck with me, and had me wondering if every black person has experienced that moment. The question is, do I remember the exact moment when I realised I was black?

Growing up black in the Caribbean, like I did, is much different from growing up black in the USA, and it didn’t take long for me to notice that difference. Thankfully, I came up in a pro-black environment, so I’ve always been conscious of the beauty behind my skin tone. Unlike in the US, it was black everything. Black family. Black friends. Black teachers. Black people holding political office. That was my norm, so when I heard about racism growing up, it was via history books, not as a personal experience of mine. Of course, Caribbean history, like that of every other country, is far from perfect, including the Christopher Columbus sham, but I did learn of some great men and women throughout Caribbean history, and it wasn’t one designated month of the year.

I’m dark skinned, which I quickly learnt in this society isn’t always as welcoming as the lighter shade of black. You learn that your first day at school. Children are the most honest people in the world, and the most curious as well. What do you say when you’re asked why your skin is so dark? Not in a malicious way, but complete curiosity. You also have to put up with the jokes from the children that’s trying to fit in.

Thanks to my family, my confidence was never shaken. I was constantly reminded how beautiful my dark skin is. Looking back at it, they were preparing me for the road ahead.

That confidence was at an all time high when girls started saying That my dark skin was one of the first things about me that they were attracted to. Life in the Caribbean was good. I’ve always realised that I mattered.

In the US, dark skin is not always as welcoming, at least from my experience in the Southern part of the country. Sad to say, but even some African Americans aren’t as welcoming. I was speechless when a woman that I was interested in, a Black woman, told me that I would look better if I wasn’t as dark. The confidence took a hit for a second, but that feeling was quickly replaced by disappointment.

I didn’t think that it could get any worse than that, but this is the experience that made me wonder if there’s levels to blackness. When another Black person told me I should go back to Africa, that did it. No way was I going to be speechless. In reality, this person and I could easily be related. The only difference is that my ancestors were unloaded in the Caribbean, while his were probably unloaded in the state of South Carolina. I probably didn’t say it in such a calm tone, but that was the gist of my response.

So, even though I always realised that I am black, I’m often reminded. Similar to when white people would lock their doors when I walked past their car in parking lots, cross the road to avoid walking next to me, or clutch their purses tighter if they couldn’t aoid walking next to me. Little things like that, they somehow think that we don’t notice.

In the US, I find myself making a mental checklist to not be a stereotype, and still be the confident Black man that I know I am.

One love.

David

I’d like to hear from you

If someone has a comment, wants to start a conversation, or just wants to get to know me, feel free to get in touch. The best way is by email. You need to go to jpay.com and set up an account and then contact me (David Frances x33939 in Florida)

I welcome different opinions but would appreciate if you’re respectful about expressing them.

Thank you.

Is love in prison any different…?

Is finding love in prison any different to finding love in the free world?

Love is one of the best things we can experience in this lifetime, and everyone deserves to be in love. I admit to being a romantic at heart, but even I struggle with the idea of someone wanting to have a relationship with a prisoner. Not saying that it’s not possible, because there’s some amazing people who find a way to make it work, and I’m not talking about the groupies who jump from prisoner to prisoner. Yes, that happens, so you have to be careful who you fall for.

To get a better understanding as to why it’s possible: you’re actually getting to know each other, minus the physical. You also have to make the best of each letter – the letters are the memorable moments you would usually be creating through normal conversations in “normal” relationships.

I’ve never experienced it myself, but through conversations with fellow prisoners, and the women who fall for them, they said it’s like falling in love on a different level.

It usually starts as a friendship, and grows from that.

It’s not always about weird, mentally unstable women reaching out to guys in prison, like they want you to believe. The connection can be very different, but ends up being more meaningful than any connection you’ve had in the past, because you’re really having to get over the perceptions, and really get to know each other.

In the end, prisoners are still humans, and humans feel most alive when they’re in love.

How is it fair?

Four years ago my sentence was overturned and I was granted the relief based on an unconstitutional law that was in place over 40 years.

It took them 40 years to correct that wrong. Think about that for a second: 40 years.

You would think that life would be a little less stressful after relief was granted in my case, but it has been the total opposite. If anything, it has gotten more stressful. It has also proven how unfair things really are. The state has been trying everything to stop this re-sentencing from happening.

First it started with a State Attorney being removed from my case after she spoke out. Apparently, she had a change of heart, and no longer believed in the Death Penalty. That led to the Governor intervening, removing her from over 20 death penalty eligible cases, and hand-picking her replacement (google Aramis Ayala). Of course the replacement was one of the top States attorneys when it comes to seeking the Death Penalty.

Then it really got back when the Florida Supreme Court had to replace 3 judges, which led to it being a pro-conservative panel of judges. This was like the green light for State Attorneys throughout the state to try anything and everything. Push the envelope to see what they can get away with. It’s very troubling because the now pro-conservative courts have already reversed some Death Penalty laws that that have been in place over 40 years, in favor of the State. In light of these decisions, the State is back at it again, trying to argue that the decision in my case shouldn’t be upheld, and my death sentence should be reinstated, with no re-sentencing hearing. They’ve been at it for 4 years now.

If it as the other way round, there’s no way I would’ve been able to challenge a court’s decision for 4 years. How is that fair?

Post 4: It was a good day when…

When events, political appointments and cases take place in other American states that issue the death penalty, there is a knock on impact.

In this latest Blog post, David discusses the impact of the new Governor of California and their decision to place a moratorium on executions.

We hope you enjoy this fourth post…

It was a good day when we got the news that the Governor of California had placed a moratorium on executions in that State. He said that there will be no executions during his term.

I’m not sure how this will affect the death penalty in Florida, and it probably won’t at all, but it’s uplifting when you see news like that.

Good news stories are far and in between when it comes to the death penalty, so you rarely ever wake up to an entire floor in good spirits, and in a talkative mood, first thing in the morning, but that’s what happens when you get some good news on this subject.

I don’t know a single person on California’s death row, but I’m happy for each and every one of them, and there’s over a 100 people on the row in that state.

Now, I’m not saying that the moratorium will make their situation any better, because that won’t change their sentence, but it has ignited the conversation again and with California being the state with the most people on its row in the USA, it will be hard to ignore.

I do often wonder if the people on death row, those in other states, also get excited when people on death row in states different to theirs get some good news? When over 100 cases were overturned and given re-sentencing hearings in the state of Florida, I wonder how the people of death row in Alabama felt? Why Alabama? Well I thought about Albam particularly because their sentencing procedures were very similar to the sentencing procedures in Florida and so I’m sure it gave them some hope (although as of today, they still haven’t made any changes to their procedures – unlike Florida).

It’s a good day when a state abolishes the death penalty, but deep down, I wish that it was the state of Florida, and I know for sure that I’m not the only one who wishes it was their state that was abolishing, rather than just the one that is.

The State of Florida quite recently elected a new Governor, but I truly cant say where he stands on the death penalty. The outgoing Governor did set the record for the most executions during a term, and we can only hope that topping that record isn’t on the new Governor’s agenda. A moratorium would be nice, but I reckon tath’s wishful thinking. First, let’s wait and see what type of impact the decision in California will have, because speaking out against the death penalty is usually political suicide in this country. Hopefully it won’t effect him in a bad way, and instead, it will lead to more politicians speaking out against the death penalty because that’s the reality. Like almost everything, the death penalty is a political issue but that’s a conversation for another day.

One Love,

David

UPDATE: In one of David’s latest letters (26 April 2019) to his blog helpers, he wrote:

“Before I go on, a bit of bad news to share. The new Governor [of Florida] signed his first warrant this week, an execution is set for next month. This came days after there was talk about him not signing any warrants. I’m guessing that word got back to him (that people didn’t think he was going to sign any warrants) and he had to do something… The guy that he’s signed for has been on the row for well over 30 years, and has a high profile case, so the media will be all over it…

It’s still a sad day when a warrant gets signed, no matter who it is.”