Monday, June 20, 2005

June 16, 2005

Dear Sis

We are on full lockdown, and have been since four days ago. This is a regular "quarterly lockdown" which usually lasts 14-18 days, during which the entire prison is locked down while a large "shakedown crew" of 20-30 guards goes from building to building, cellblock to cellblock, to search every cell, every office, every shop, area and/or room. In my 30+ years in prison this is the only joint I've ever seen that has regular, consistent, easily-timed mass shakedowns. They come every 90 days, regular as clockwork, to utilize an overused cliche, so everyone knows they're coming. From a security standpoint this is very poorly thought out. I mean, you know when they're coming, so you can hide your contraband ahead of time. Then, when they're gone, you know you're good to go for another 90 days. Some bureaucrat thought up this brilliant plan, you can believe that...Anyway, with no "yard" to go to I have even more time to work on my certiorari petition. I'll have 90 days to file it in the US Supreme Court, once the Florida Supreme Court (predictably) denies my motion for rehearing. That will occur in another 4-5 weeks, which means the cert will be due roughly in mid October. I intend to have my draft written and in my lawyer's hands even before our rehearing is denied, which will give us that 90 day grace period to edit/polish it, and to run it by a couple of constitutional & death penalty expert attorneys we know...As I told you in an earlier letter, Robin Lovitt is scheduled to be executed July 11th and when you're scheduled to die in this state (commonwealth, actually), well you die. None of that TV or movie bullshit here, no dramatic last minute stays - not in Virginia. Once they take you to Greensville, where the execution chamber is, which occurs 4 days prior to execution, you don't come back. This state is dead serious about the business of killing! When I was at Florida State Prison it was relatively common for some court (either state or federal) to grant a stay of execution even up to just one or two hours prior to death. But in my almost 6 years here I've only seen 3 guys go to Greensville and then come back, and 2 of them were executed shortly thereafter. The other guy, who murdered six people, got off the row and is now in open population somewhere. And, the few times that guys do get stays of execution, the stay invariably comes from a federal court, never the Virginia Supreme Court. This Supreme Court seems to pride itself on never giving any death row prisoners any legal relief, no matter how meritorious their claims may be. Things (errors) that would get you a new trial (or resentencing) in every other state in the nation (even in Texas!) get the stamp of approval by the Virginia Supreme Court. At any rate, Rob's fate is up to the US Supreme Court, and they've got about 25 days to decide whether they'll let Rob live or die. To them, Rob is just a faceless case, a name; but when you've been around someone for 5 years, every day, all day, when you've laughed with them, played chess with them, talked with their visitors, when you've seen their essential humanity (notwithstanding the grievous nature of all of our offenses), you understand at the most rudimentary, primal level that the State is going to cold-bloodedly kill a living, breathing human being...Oh, Rob does have one other possible avenue of relief. The governor has ordered a review of the results of the Virginia Crime Lab's results from DNA testing in 150+ criminal cases because it's been established that the Lab fabricated DNA evidence against Earl Washington, an ex-death row prisoner who has since been totally exonerated (I briefly wrote about Earl's case in my essay titled My Turn). Rob's case is supposed to be at the top of the list, but the Commission has stated that they won't even begin reviewing cases until the end of next month, by which time Rob will be dead, absent some intervention. Moreover, as you know, all of the evidence in Rob's case has been destroyed, so it's unclear how this is going to play out. This (DNA testing) is not in the realm of the courts, so the only way Rob can or will get a stay based upon that is if the Governor intervenes. In Virginia, you don't want your life depending upon executive grace... OK Sis, I'm outta here; it's past midnight & I'm gonna hit the hay. I suspect the shakedown crew will be here in the morning, tearing up our cells.

Love & Peace,