Friday, August 19, 2005

August 13, 2005 Architectural monuments

Dear Sis~

I'm watching a program on the Discovery Channel about the building of an ultra-modern cable-stay bridge across the Charleston River in South Carolina. The bridge, now completed, is the longest cable-stay bridge in the United States, and it replaces and dwarfs two very old steel girder spans. Cable-stay bridges are the latest engineering rave; they're elegant, beautiful and very strong. Ever since I was a child I've been utterly fascinated with all types of very large construction projects (dams, bridges, skyscrapers, tunnels)and especially drawn to old stone block structures (cathedrals, castles, aqueducts, amphitheatres, bridges, buildings). Growing up, my dream was to be a civil engineer or architect because I so wanted to design and build immense structures. This desire, or interest, has always been innate and very powerful; it's just in my blood. I believe that in a past life or lives I built such structures. When I was in Italy in 1971 I used to walk the streets of Rome, Florence and other old cities (like Palermo, in Sicily) late at night, all by myself, marveling at the large and ancient structures. Rome, especially, drew me like a moth to a flame. Late at night I'd walk through the Coliseum (beautifully lit up at night) and I'd press myself against the large, cool stone blocks, as if I could go back and relive the construction. I always felt a strong urge to touch, feel and trace the contours of ancient stones and bricks. I was really at home in St. Peter's Cathedral (a basilica, actually) where you can overdose on the immense carved stonework, mostly highly polished marble, shiny as glass, and in surprising colors and hues. I was just as drawn to the engineering behind such beautiful buildings and structures, the nuts and bolts issues of how such structures were designed and built. The huge, ancient stone block aqueducts running from Rome to the water sources in the hills amazed me -a remarkable combination of form and function, and a very impressive engineering feat. The Roman-built aqueducts, some over 2,000 years old, still stretch hundreds of miles all across Europe and North Africa...Anyway, Sis, this new bridge at Charleston is a fine work of modern engineering. Still, if it lasts one-tenth as long as the Roman Coliseum, it will be surprising...

I've gotta get back to work, Sis (I'm deep into a stack of US Supreme Court decisions) so I'll mail this off with a hug. Just 34 days until our visit!

Love & Peace Bill

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

August 4, 2005

Dear Sis
I got a haircut this morning, certainly the worst in my life. Mine was the first hair that this guy - a fellow death row prisoner - had ever cut, and it shows! Rob, our regular barber, lost his barber job when they first signed his death warrant several months ago, and so they made this guy a barber. Anyway, I've got about six weeks until our visit which should be sufficient time for my hair to grow enough to eliminate the laugh factor.

In my August 2nd USA Today there was a story about a guy who was freed form prison after 17 years, after new DNA testing showed that he was not guilty. This is an unexceptional story; I read similar stories about once a week & I've been reading them for many years. Then in tonight's USA Today there's a story about Luis Diaz, from Miami, freed after 26 years in prison following DNA tests proving that he was not the infamous "Bird Road Rapist." I know Luis (not real well, though) and I remember the case very well. In the late 70's the "Bird Road Rapist" was terrorizing Bird Road, in Miami/Coral Gables, and there was tremendous pressure on the police to arrest somebody. Being that Bird Road is in our old neighborhood I followed the case from my pre-death row cell. When they finally arrested Luis, they trumpeted the news and assured the public that they had the right man, even though they had no physical evidence against him. All of the cases were based upon "positive ID's" by victims, and those ID's were induced by/via hokey police procedures. Even back then, in 1979-80, I sensed that it was a very suspect case, but the railroad train was already barreling down the tracks. Diaz ended up with at least 7 life sentences (his sentencing judge, Judge Durant, famously told Diaz from the bench that "in all my years as a judge I have never seen such overwhelming evidence of guilt." That was an absurd statement at the time, but Judge Duran was playing to the audience). Years later, two of the victims recanted their identifications and those two convictions were subsequently reversed. But that left him with five life sentences. Finally, Barry Scheck and his Innocence Project got involved. The State vigorously fought any DNA testing, naturally. Now, after 26 years Diaz is finally free (they ran this story on ABC World News last night, too).

Anyway, I cut out both articles & mailed them to my lawyer, explaining that they are representative of articles I see almost daily. The central issue in my soon-to-be-filed certiorari petition involves DNA testing of the blood evidence. And, last month, the US Supreme Court agreed to hear a Tennessee death row case where the issue involves post-conviction DNA testing. It appears that the Supreme Court, in this Tennessee case, is prepared to make a major decision regarding the importance of post-conviction DNA testing. My case is right on its heels, so I want my attorney, in our cert petition, to use available statistics to back up and emphasize our point that such DNA exonerations are routine nowadays. I want to stress the usefulness and necessity for DNA testing, to counter the Florida Supreme Court's holding in my case that DNA evidence proving I was not the triggerman would not have made any difference to my jury and judge. In essence, I want our cert petition, at least in part, to be a referendum on the whole issue of post-conviction DNA testing. My cert is due on or around October 15th...

That's it for now, Sis. Give Keesha a pat on the head for me!

Love & peace,

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

July 28, 2005

Dear Sis

It's Thursday morning & canteen has just been passed out. Everyone is up and a faint buzz of excitement permeates the celllblock as each of us paws through our bags of goodies. Of course, the food items are mostly junk - moon pies, honey buns, cookies, candy bars - typical of jails and prisons everywhere. I indulge in the junk occasionally but my taste runs more toward the few nutritious items available: peanuts, tuna fish, sardines, beef jerky, chicken (comes in a plastic/vinyl bag).When your entire life is restricted to a cell and the things you can do or enjoy are compressed to a few meager activities (yard, showers, canteen, mail call and meals) and each thing takes on an over-sized importance and you find yourself anticipating each event with a disproportionate enthusiasm that would probably appear comical to an objective observer. That's how it is when your whole world is contained in a 6' x 8' box (actually, these Virginia D/R cells are about 7' x 12', which is very roomy by prison standards).

Tomorrow morning is one of our regular yard days (if it doesn't get cancelled for some reason or another, which often happens). I'll go out and pace for 2 hours, soaking up the sun and talking with my neighbor, Bill (the ex-U.S. Army Military Intelligence Colonel). He's a very sharp, astute guy and we have many extensive & fascinating conversations. He was stationed in Europe (mostly Germany) for many years, as well as in South Korea. Stateside he worked in the Pentagon and with security details from the U.S. Capitol Building (mostly the U.S. Senate) on electronic countermeasures (i.e., looking for bugs, his specialty). You may recall that I wrote to you about him & his case once before. I've been living next door to him for about 2 years & I'm privy to all his legal filings & his case in general, and I have to tell you that I'm about 90% certain that Bill is totally innocent, and that he was flat out framed. I don't say this lightly; in my 17 years on the row & 30+ years in prison doing legal work & working on guys' cases I've only encountered a few death row cases where I was convinced that the guy was totally innocent. Bill's case is one that deserves to be profiled on 20/20 or 24 hours because it's got everything: sex (a love triangle) crooked cops, crooked prosecutors, fabricated (and destroyed) evidence, all converging to put a well-respected military intelligence officer on death row. I believe the truth will come out (it already is coming out), mainly because he's fortunate enough to have a top-flight legal firm out of Seattle on his case (Bill Gates' father's law firm) and they're digging up all the dirt. There is insufficient space here (and this isn't the place, really) for me to spell out all the sordid details, but you mark my words, you'll be hearing about this case down the line, and if there's any justice a couple of detectives & prosecutors will go to jail (that's hoping for too much, though).

Anyway, tomorrow when I go to the yard I'll take about 10 slices of bread with me (I save it up) to feed the birds. I've got a flock of them that wait for me to show up. I whistle a certain tune and they all fly over (they know that whistle means FOOD!.) If I'm late to the yard they're often there waiting for me, chirping angrily as if to say "Where the Hell have you been with our food?!" Sometimes I feed them pancakes, waffles of French Toast, but they like the straight bread the most. They're mostly little sparrows, with an occasional odd bird, but when the local crows (there's 4 or 5 huge ones that hang around here) show up on the scene, the little birds haul ass. Those crows land on the ground and strut; they know they're the top dog in the yard. I like to caw at them, cuz' often they'll caw back at me (too bad I don't know what I'm saying in crow talk!)

Alright, Sis, lunch is here (probably baloney today) so I'm going to wrap this up. Keep your chin up! I'll be calling you this weekend.

Love & Peace,