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,