Monday, July 25, 2005

July 21, 2005

Dear Sis

I'm sitting on my bunk with my little 5" TV, watching "Shark Week" on the Discovery Channel. They're showing the jumping Great Whites off of Seal Island, off the coast of South Africa. It's amazing to see such large, bulky animals move so fast & maneuver so quickly, turning around in mid-air as they chase those hapless little baby seals. I'm pleased that programs like this, and the whole "shark week" trip, have enlightened the public so much. I can remeber, as a kid in the 1960's, how sharks were universally feared and hated, and everyone thought that the best sharks were dead sharks. Now, more & nore people understand how important sharks are, ecologically speaking, and how they play an integral part in the balance of nature. And, we've learned that sharks are not mindless killers & that they don't hunt humans. When a shark bites a human it is most often accidental and/or incidental. What's really amazing, given the number of sharks and number of people in the waters, is how rare shark attacks are, which in itself tells you that sharks normally avoid people. One of the better programs, or episodes, in "shark week" is one where these divers intentionally go out and dive, withut a shark cage, with great white sharks. Some of the divers even "ride" an occasional great white by grabbing the dorsal fin. To see those immense sharks cruise by, within arm's reach of these divers, without being agitated or threatening, but just showing mild curiosity, is enough to dispel the common myth of sharks being relentless attackers. As for myself, I long ago changed my attitude about sharks, and I'm glad that I no longer operate from a place of ignorance. As a youth, like most people, I would not have thought twice about catching and killing sharks. (It's a cliche', but sadly true, that we -mankind- blindly kill and destroy whatever we fear or don't understand, and I was no different than the average person). Nowadays, if I was deep sea fishing I wouldn't even try to land a shark, even just to release it. I'd just admire it & salute it as it swam away. I'm glad that I've matured & learned, and glad that many, if not most, others have done likewise.

After two months of hard work, and miles of writing and rewriting, I've completed my cert petition & mailed it off to my lawyer. I'm pleased with the final draft, and much relieved to be done with it. It was a bear to write, much more so than a run-of-the-mill brief or petition, but I'm not complaining. My life hangs in the balance & this will almost certainly my last legal hurrah. Now it's up to the lawyers to edit it & fine tune it as they deem necessary; then it goes to the US Supreme Court, just in time for the brand new Justice (Roberts, once he's confirmed, which should be soon) to consider it along with the rest of the Court.

O.K., Sis, I'm gonna wrap this up & post it. Keep your chin up & keep smiling.

Love & Peace,

Friday, July 15, 2005

July 11, 2005 Monday evening

Dear Sis~
Just a quick note. It was 5:00p.m., just 4 hours before Rob's scheduled 9:00p.m. execution tonight when I heard on the news that the US Supreme Court had granted Rob a last-minute stay of execution. According to the newscaster, who was much less than clear (I don't think he knew very much)the Supreme Court granted the stay "without comment", ordering the stay to remain in effect until the Court's next term begins in October (the Court is out of session from July to early October; they always reconvene on the first Monday of October). Anyway, apparently the stay was based upon the current investigation of the Virginia Crime Lab (specifically the section dealing with DNA testing & analysis) which has been ordered by the Governor, after an earlier audit revealed false & fabricated DNA test results; at least one guy, Earl Washington, went to death row based upon such fabricated test results. Earl is now free, after some 18 years in prison (about 10+ years on the row) after being exonerated several years ago. You may recall that the State destroyed all of the evidence in Rob's case, which prevented him from challenging and/or testing the crime lab's results used against him at the trial. Until I speak with Rob, I won't know the precise reasons for the stay. But something is up with his case, and for now he's been given a new lease on life. They brought Rob back about an hour ago & I watched him shuffle up the long sidewalk leading to our cellblock, the same sidewalk I watched him shuffle down 4 days ago. Rob is now numbered among the very few who have ever returned from Greensville. I hope it's a good omen for him, and others.

I'm going to hit the hay, Sis, so I'll wrap this up and post it. Today has been a good day...(the Space Shuttle launches Wednesday! I've seen them launch in person; it's an awesome sight & experience).

Love & Peace

Monday, July 11, 2005

July 7, 2005

Dear Sis~

This morning a troop of guards came into the cellblock, chained up & shackled Rob Lovitt, then escorted him out, for the short drive to the death house at Greensville. (It's standard procedure for death row prisoners her to be taken to Greensville four days before execution). I hated watching him shuffle away, almost certainly the last time I'll ever see him on this earthly plane. I'm not privy to his current legal situation (i.e., whether his cert petition is still pending before the US Supreme Court, or whether he's been shot down) but I know he's got attorneys fighting hard on his behalf. On the other hand, every guy who gets dragged off to Greensville (other than a few volunteers) had lawyers fighting to save his life, and very, very few ever come back from Greensville. Still, right up until 9:00 p.m. on Monday, July 11th, I'll have some hope. By 9:10 Rob will be dead.

Speaking of the Supreme Court, everyone is in a tizzy about the unexpected retirement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. But in this case, with this Justice, all of the hoopla is justified. The entire balance of the Court is about to change. See, the Court is (was) split 5-4, with 5 conservatives and four moderates/liberals. Of the 5 conservatives, though, Sandra Day O'Connor was the least conservative, almost (but not quite) moderate. Consequently, she was often the swing vote, shifting over to join the four liberals/moderates on important votes. Many of the most crucial decisions of the last decade were 5-4 votes, with Justice O'Connor being the deciding vote (for example, the recent decision prohibiting the execution of juveniles was just such a 5-4 vote). President Bush is committed to appointing a hard core conservative to replace O'Connor, someone like Justice Scalia and/or Thomas, two Justices Bush has specifically identified as representing the type of Justice he admires & intends to appoint. When that happens, all those 5-4 votes of the past will become 5-4 the other way, in future cases. Of particular relevance to me is death penalty issues (and criminal law issues in general) which are (were) very often 5-4 decisions (Scalia, Thomas & Rhenquist have never seen a death sentence that they didn't like and approve of; Kennedy is a little better). The upshot will be that in the future you will see very few favorable death penalty decisions. This whole thing may, literally, cost me my life since my own cert petition will be hitting the Court in October, when the new Justice will be settled in.

Thanks for all the great pics of all the neat bikes; I saw a really good looking old panhead that I liked. And I immediately recognized Indian Larry's famous "chain frame" bike, the last one he built before he died. I watched him build it on the Discovery Channel. Indian Larry was a real craftsman; it's hard to believe that the chain frame is strong enough to ride, but there it is. I wish I could have known Larry, he was my kind of guy - down to earth and real, no pretensions...

O.K. Sis, I'm outta here for now. Give little Maggi a hug for me!

Friday, July 01, 2005

June 27, 2005

Dear Sis~

How's everything going out there in the High Desert? You guys got all the unseasonable rain, which produced the beautiful and bountiful crops of flowers and grasses, but now you're plagued with terrific wildfires. The weatherman's map showed fires all across the Southern California-Nevada-Arizona-Utah area, especially around Vegas. Just goes to show you that with nature, as with life, there's a price for everything, even the pristine beauty of carpets of colorful desert flowers.

Hey, I just learned that Bernie de Castro has officially announced his run for Governor of Florida. This should prove interesting...the reformed heroin addict/armed robber/ex-convict, turned successful businessman/minister/pillar of his community, now serving the Republican Party nomination. This is not an impulsive act or lame publicity stunt on Bernie's part. He's dead serious about running to win. Bernie's political positions are not easily pigeonholed; he's much more pragmatic than dogmatic, and seeks sensible, reasonable solutions to everyday problems. The biggest thing he has going for him, ironically, is his past record. See, you can't sling mud at Bernie 'cuz he's upfront with his record & who he was. He does not have to bite his tongue about what he believes in, out of fear that someone will dig up some dirt or say something bad about him. He acknowledges his past & uses it to demonstrate the power of change. Since he's not expected to win, he's got nothing to lose, which gives him the freedom to say what he believes and say what he means. (like his stance against the death penalty, which is political suicide in Florida & most southern states). He can move beyond the rhetoric & politically correct mumblings and propose real solutions & real change. Anyway, Bernie has a campaign staff, a website ( and a lot of volunteers willing to help, and he's committed to seeing the process through. The election is still 16 months off (November '06) but all of the other contenders have already declared, so I guess it's never too early in the political arena.

That's it for now, Sis. I'm super busy on my cert petition, lots of writing and lots of reading. I've got about 30 pages of notes so far & I've still got a stack of US Supreme Court cases to read & analyze.

Love & Peace

Any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
- John Donne