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,


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


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.


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,


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.” (

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


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,


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,


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,