Post 11: Thoughts about freedom

By David

Is freedom a state of mind? It’s not an easy question to answer from this side of the fence, so I’m going to need your help with this!

Some days I think that it is, depending on my mood and my headspace.

The reason that I’m saying this, is that I often hear people saying “you’ll have more freedom if you get resentenced to life.” It is true that I’ll no longer be in solitary confinement, and I won’t have a death sentence over my head, but I’ll still be a far way from freedom, or my understanding of what freedom is.

Of course, I’m still limited in many ways but I still have control of my thoughts, so in that sense I do have freedom, but when you’re looking at the years fly by through a fence, freedom isn’t the first word that comes to mind.

One love,

David

Post 10: A Thank You

From David

It’s on me to share my experience on Death Row, and to give people a better understanding of life on The Row.

I’m very thankful for the people that have shown interest in the Death Penalty, who aren’t directly affected by it. It’s easy to focus on the things that directly affect us- as we should of course. Sometimes we have a hard time even doing that.

I’ve met some amazing people over the years, including the people that made this blog possible.

This is just a quick thank you, for caring.

One love

David

Post 9: Today…and today….

A post from David…

I know the importance of making the most of today, and not dwelling on what could’ve been, but it’s something that I struggle with on a daily basis.

No matter all of the things I’ve forgotten, I still get some of the most random thoughts, and it takes me there. No one really plans to end up on death row, at least I haven’t met a single person who said that ending up on death row was a life goal and trust, I’ve met some interesting characters (interesting is one way to put it.)

I’m guilty of taking things, and people, for granted at some point in my life, and I’m sure we can all say that, not knowing I would find myself in this position.

Maybe it’s okay to dwell on the “what could’ve been”every now and again, as a reminder to appreciate what you have today.

One love.

David

Post 8: Re-set

David writes:

There was an execution on May 23rd. The first for the newly elected Governor. Now everybody is anxiously waiting to see what he does next. The previous Governor set the record for the most executions by a Governor of Florida. Hopefully, topping that number isn’t a goal for this Governor.

As long as I’ve been here, you would think that it’s just another day. But you can’t ignore the reality of the situation. When you exhaust your appeals, you’re eligible, and there’s no way around that. This was the 39th execution in Florida during my time on the Row, and it doesn’t get any easier. Of course you don’t ever forget where you’re at. You’re reminded by the cell bars every morning. But when there’s an execution, it’s like a pause, and you have to re-set.

Some executions affect you more than others, more so when you got to know that person, but even if you have never met that person you feel something, because deep down you know that could’ve been you.

So it’s time for me to re-set, and hope that this Governor didn’t get the satisfaction that the previous Governor obviously got, with each one he oversaw.

One love,

David.

Post 7: As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods…..

As David’s friends, we don’t want you to feel sorry for us. We’re happy to have a good friend in our lives. And actually David doesn’t want you to feel sorry for him either. 
But we want you to, sometimes, feel angry. As we do. With the random twists and turns of a system that, as David said in his last post, is all about politics. And plays with people’s lives as political flips of a coin. Last week we came across this article. It made us angry and scared…..

“More than 100 inmates condemned to death could face a major upheaval, as a revamped Florida Supreme Court ponders whether to undo a 2016 ruling that allowed nearly half of the state’s Death Row prisoners to have their death sentences revisited.

With a conservative bloc of justices led by Chief Justice Charles Canady now in the majority, the court has begun the process of reconsidering whether changes to Florida’s death penalty-sentencing system should continue being applied retroactively to cases dating to 2002.

The court’s reopening of the retroactivity issue, which came in an April 24 order, sent shockwaves through the state’s death-penalty legal community.

“This is judicial activism. The right has always complained about judicial activism and not wanting judicial activist judges. But when you don’t respect precedent, that really is the judicial activism,” Marty McClain, a lawyer who has represented hundreds of defendants in death-penalty cases, told The News Service of Florida in a telephone interview.” (ocala.com)

So where now? Will those currently in the Re-sentencing program (like David) progress? Will only those not started yet be revisited? Will those already resentenced be resentenced again? We, his friends, feel anxious and helpless. Imagine what he must feel.

And yeah, I can hear people saying “so what?” Or “they deserve it”. But – sometimes against our experience, we still believe in due process. In treating people fairly and transparently. And consistently. Are we naive? You tell us.

Post 6: It’s all about POLITICS!

Like with everything, politics is very much a part of the death penalty, and most importantly, how it is applied.

In my case, the State Attorney spoke out against the death penalty. The attorney had a change of heart regarding the death penalty, citing how broken the death penalty system was, the flaws that could lead to an innocent person being executed, and the financial burden of the death penalty. However, speaking out against the death penalty is basically career suicide in the State of Florida. The Governor quickly intervened and had her removed from any death penalty qualified case. The issue went before the courts, and they sided with the Governor – who in turn, handpicked a State Attorney from outside of the District, who of course is pro death penalty to take over the cases.

To keep it simple, the judge hired a hitman to do what someone else refused to do. That’s the easiest way to explain it.

It will probably be a while before someone else dares to speak out against the death penalty again in this State. So this is what I’m up against for my pending re-sentencing hearing.

The truth about the system…

It’s been two years since my sentence was overturned, but before then I was going through the appeal process. It was during this time that I started to realise the significant part that politics plays in the death penalty, and how disproportionate things are. You also learn that the judicial system treats you significantly differently, if you’re wealthy.

In my case, where I can’t afford legal representation. I’ve had to make do with attorneys that are often overworked, underpaid and have a lack of adequate means to present a proper defense. Some are even lacking in experience required for death penalty cases.

Note: my last attorney was removed from my case when it was revealed that he wasn’t actually qualified to be on a death penalty case. It took a year from that to come to light, actually 19 months!

The only thing that the public knows is that we’re given legal representatives, they’re not being told that a lot of these lawyers are incompetent and how much of a waste financially, the death penalty system actually is.

One Love

David

Post 5: Reflections

In this latest post, David reflects on the past 20 years…

Lately I’ve been thinking about a milestone that’s quickly approaching. I was 20 years old when I caught the case, and I’ll be 40 years old next year. That’s half of my life on the other side.

I’m having mixed emotions about this. On the one hand, I’m thankful to have had those 20 years and some may say “what’s 20 years in a whole life?”, on the other hand, some people may say that it’s 20 years that I didn’t deserve. Of course, we won’t always agree but I do respect all opinions.

As I reflect on the years passed, it doesn’t feel like it’s been that long. The reality is, I can’t say that I won’t ever do wrong again, but everyday the goal is to strive to do better, and to be better. Hopefully, I’ve made some progress in those 20 years, more than someone who is just existing.

One Love,

David

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.”

Post 3: Why do I write to someone on Death Row?

This post has been written by one of David’s friends who helps to run this Blog.

As well as discussing David’s experiences of the American judicial system and capital punishment, we hope to humanise the debate surrounding the death penalty and those who live on it. This is the first post from one of David’s friends which we hope offers an additional and alternative insight into David and the type of people that find themselves on death row – real people with family, friends and loved ones.

Why do I write to someone on Death Row?

I don’t. I write to my friend David.

You see, you wouldn’t say “I write to someone who lives in a bungalow” or “I write to someone whose flat is on the 6th floor”. The Row is where David lives. Where, as he said in his last blog post, he wakes up every morning determined to do something positive with the day. And, for me, when he’s writing to me or thinking about me, it’s overwhelmingly positive.

David encourages me to talk to him about my son, who died. He calls me out about working too hard. He’s just started a campaign to get me to stop smoking, because that’s what friends do.

I don’t know you, or why you are reading this blog. In fact, it would be great to know why, and what you want from it, (we’re really keen to hear from people reading this). But David’s blog team – his friends – know why we’re writing it. We’re not do-gooders. Or naïve. We’re terribly aware of our privilege, sitting in comfortable homes in the UK, writing when we feel like it. But we’ve got to know the person behind the label – the many labels – and we’d like you to as well.

There are many directions this blog can go in. The details of everyday life. The issues around legal representation for people on the Row. We’d like to know what you would like to hear more on, chat about and discuss?

But to begin with, my aim is to introduce you to my friend, just like I would at a party or if I bumped into you in the store.

What I know about David…

  1. David hates cigarettes.
  2. Is getting to like dogs (or maybe only my dog?!)
  3. David reads a lot.
  4. Loves reggae.
  5. Plays basketball really well.
  6. Supports a soccer team (luckily, the same one as me!).
  7. He keeps in really good touch with his ex-girlfriend.
  8. His handwriting is way neater than mine.
  9. He loves lions.
  10. David challenges me when I’m judgemental.
  11. He doesn’t quite get Brexit (who does?) but keeps really informed about politics on both sides of the pond.

Most importantly, he’s my friend.

Post 2: Am I the Worst of the Worst?

This is David’s second (and short) post.
Please, bear with us whilst we establish a rhythm to publishing blog posts and again, thank you for taking the time to read David’s story, ourselves and David appreciate you.

Words from David:

I often hear that death row is where you’ll find the worst of the worst criminals. The death penalty was put in place for the people whose crimes are so heinous, that they deserve to die.

Am I really the worst of the worst?

This is something that sometimes I can’t help but think about. No one’s ever said I was, at least not to my face, but as I grind through another day on death row, it’s something I know I can’t concentrate on too much. I’m aware of my reality, but the first thought that I had this morning was, how do I make today better than yesterday?

I’m not going to apologise for not allowing myself to fade away, to become nothing, in this cage. I’m still living and will do everything in my power to make the best of my time on the row.

Thankfully, I have people in my life that love and care for me, and that of course is added motivation. But most of all, I refuse to be counted amongst the worst of the worst.

One love,

David