Wednesday, November 29, 2006

November 20, 2006

Dear Sis~
I just finished devouring my December issue of Flying magazine, which I typically read cover-to-cover as soon as I receive them. My deep love for all things related to aviation emanates from something in my spirit, something I was born with. Although Dad was an executive with Eastern Air Lines and consequently, we were exposed to the fundamentals of flying at a relatively early age, (how I loved visiting the open-air rooftop viewing area on top of the old Miami International Airport terminal to watch those old propeller-driven airliners take off and land back in the early 1960's!) my inherent love of planes predated our introduction to flying by Dad.

Well, Thanksgiving Day is just 3 days away. Of course, it's a little less celebratory in prison than it is on the streets, but I really do have much to be thankful for, notwithstanding my being on death row...Still, while you're probably eating some juicy turkey and delicious sweet potato or pumpkin pie, with hot buttered rolls and spicy stuffing, my meal will be a little more mundane & generic. We'll get 2 slices of turkey loaf (i.e., lunchmeat), a couple of slices of white bread, some cold & lousy "stuffing", and a couple of tablespoons of cranberry sauce. Ironically, in the "old days" (the 1970's and early 1980's) we ate much better in prison during the holidays. Back then the prison kitchens made a real effort to make our three annual holiday meals special (Thanksgiving, Christmas and Fourth of July). Typ
ically we'd get a lot of real turkey meat, with hot mashed potatoes & gravy, rolls and butter, good stuffing, salad, hard-boiled eggs, corn on the cob, pumpkin or sweet potato pie, a big hunk of cranberry sauce and eggnog to drink. But, over the years, the prisons have outsourced their kitchens to private companies (like Aramark) who win the contracts based on the lowest bids. Not surprisingly, in such a profit-driven atmosphere, our meals have gone to Hell. We get very small portions of very bad food. This is a more or less universal thing, nationwide, in all jails and prisons (that's why we get a bag lunch - two stale sandwiches - every single day, year in and year out). So, when the holidays come, the meals are nearly indistinguishable from any other meal, which is to say they're equally bad. On the other hand, I'm alive, healthy and in good spirits, and that's certainly worth being thankful for!

Happy Turkey day, Sis! (Be sure to give some to the dogs!)

Peace & Love,

Monday, November 20, 2006

November 15, 2006

Dear Sis~

Well, as you know,Yancy was executed last week as scheduled. According to the media his final words were "Bring it on!", which, if you knew Yancy, you'd recognize was typical of him. Anyway, I was bummed out for the last week or so but I've pretty much returned to normal, to the extent you're ever in a "normal" state while on death row...

We finally came off of our quarterly lockdown yesterday, after 16 days cooped up in our cells, and I got out to the rec yard today. It was a glorious day, with a robin's-egg blue sky, a few fluffy clouds and the air pure and crisp. Considering it's mid-November the sun was beaming unseasonably; I estimate it was about 75 degrees. The birds were waiting for me, clearly upset at having to go two plus weeks without their regular handouts of bread and hotdogs. The sparrows were chirping like crazy, flitting through the cages, while the crows scolded me loudly as if I'd been intentionally neglecting them. I won't be able to feed the sparrows as much as I used to due to our new lunch menu. In the past we received a "bag lunch" each day, consisting of four pieces of bread, along with either lunch meat, or slices of cheese, or peanut butter, or occasionally tuna fish. From that, we'd make our own sandwiches (two sandwiches per bag). That gave me four pieces of bread each lunch for the birds (on those days I don't eat lunch myself). Now, however, we get 2 naked pieces of bread, and an already made peanut butter sandwich (with very little peanut butter on it, to boot). So, for now on, every day it's a stale peanut butter sandwich; that gets real old, real quick! I guess I can throw out pieces of the peanut butter sandwich instead of naked bread and the sparrows can eat around the peanut butter. (I guess that's sadly indicative of the lowly state of my existence when one of the more pressing issues in my daily life is whether I can hustle up enough bread to feed the birds! On the other hand, some stressed-out people might covet such a leisurely and simple life, other than that part about being executed).

Alright Sis, that's enough blathering on! Everything else here is good for now; I'm in excellent health and fair spirits, which is better than a lot of folks can honestly claim, and for that I'm sincerely thankful.

Love & Peace,

Friday, October 27, 2006

October 23, 2006-John Yancy Schmitt facing death

Dear Sis~
I'm sitting here on my bunk only half-heartedly watching the Dallas Cowboys play the New York Giants on Monday night football; I'm not really into the game because my mind is on the upcoming November 9th execution of a friend of mine, John Yancy Schmitt. That's only 17 days from now and it's hard to get into sports or any other entertainment when the guy a few cells away from me will be dead in a mater of days. Yancy is a young guy too, only 33, which is way too soon to die. When I think back at how little I really knew at age 33, and how far I've evolved since then, it just reinforces how there is no substitute for time, and the experiences it yields, in this endeavor we call life, this struggle we endure in Schoolhouse Earth (that reminds me of an old proverb: "Experience is the fruit of the tree of errors.") You know, I've seen a lot of death in my 34 years in prison - too much death - and yet the fleetingness of human life still astonishes me. Yancy, for his part, is taking his eminent death like a trooper, with a fine-tuned mixture of stoicism and humor ... I'll write again, Sis, when I can better get my heart into it. Meanwhile, keep a smile on your face and joy in your heart!
Love & Peace, Bill

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

October 8, 2006

Dear Sis~

I'm glad that you are finally settled in in your new home in your new state, the Commonwealth of Virginia! As you are already learning, Virginia is the heart of the old Confederacy, and while the culture is different from say, Mississippi or Georgia, there still exists an element of the plantation mentality, at least in the minds of the power structure (including the court system). This is still the deep south, culturally, if not geographically...

It's interesting to watch this latest Washington DC sex scandal play out as the Republican leadership scrambles to contain the fallout. A lot of these guys were the same smug, self-righteous crew who campaigned so vigorously to impeach Bill Clinton, and now they are being hoisted on their own petard. I think the voter disillusionment now reflected in the polls is a reflection of not just this scandal, but a belated recognition by the people of the imcompetence and arrogance of this administration and the Republican leadership in general. In their hearts, most Americans sense that this nation is heading in the wrong direction on a lot of fronts. I think this latest scandal is just the tipping point. Today I saw that the latest poll has President Bush's approval rating at a record low of 33%, and I'm wondering how it's even that high. Who the Hell are those 33%? Anyway, now there's at least a reasonable chance that the Democrats can recapture the House and/or the Senate. If they do, it won't be because the Democrats have put forth any great and grand alternative policies, nor do they have any real telegenic or personable leaders, not anyone I'd be willing to charge the hill with, so to speak. It's amazing how the Democrats can be so singularly successful at failing to find and put forth sound, strong, sensible candidates who can inspire confidence in the electorate. These people exist, they just never rise to the top, through the filter of the political machine. Sometimes I feel like saying "a pox on both of your houses". I'd really like to see the Democrats come up with a Democratic version of Senator John McCain, but I don't see that on the horizon...
Alright, Sis, enough pontificating from my soap box. Give the dogs a belly rub for me and I'll see you soon!
Love & Peace,

Monday, October 09, 2006


To the many readers who have asked about Bill's website being down, please visit his new website at . I have been unable to get his original website transferred to a new provider and when I saw his new website, designed and developed by a close friend of Bill's, I was thrilled to see how beautiful it is. It gives you all the info with links to other stories about Bill and is much better than his original website.

I visited Bill last Saturday and he is always so happy when we meet...I am mailing him the pages from his new website as he doesn't know about it yet. Bill also told me he will send me a blog entry soon so he can continue this Death Row Diary. Thanks for all your patience and may God Bless you in all you do.
Lisa Van Poyck, Bill's sister.

Friday, October 06, 2006

We're back!

To all our readers:
I have moved from Las Vegas, NV to Virginia to be closer to my brother, Bill, who is the writer of this blog. I post the letters he sends me, but was unable to do so during and shortly after my move to Virginia. I am visiting him at Sussex I State Prison almost every weekend and Bill will now begin sending letters again for me to post. I'm sorry for the confusion this lapse in letters may have caused. Please know that Bill is in good spirits and I'll be posting his next letter as soon as I receive it. Thanks to everyone who reads Bill's blog. God Bless you. Lisa Van Poyck. Oct. 6, 2006.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

June 12, 2006 - PERCY COMES BACK!

Dear Sis~
Here's a belated entry about a sliver of good news that occurred last week. Percy (aka Crazy Horse) was scheduled to be executed last Thursday night, June 8th, and I has assumed it was a done deal, that his death was inevitable because he'd exhausted all legal remedies and avenues. But, at the last moment, our new governor, Tim Kaine, stayed the execution for 180 days to give psychiatrists a chance to examine Percy to see if he's insane. Under prevailing constitutional law a person has to be sane in order to be executed. (Isn't this a little bizarre? I understand the principle behind this, which simply stated is that "society wants you to know that you are being executed and why you are being executed." But when you pause to really consider this you see that the basics for such a rule is not grounded in decency or concepts of civility, but rather are based upon revenge and mean spiritedness. They're saying it's fine to kill people but we have to make sure they are aware of their impending death! When you mull this over, you see the true rationale - we want you to know (and thus suffer) that we are about to take your life. If you are not aware of your impending death, well, you don't suffer enough!)
Anyway, I was very pleased that Gov. Kaine had the political courage to do this (and in bloodthirsty Virginia it does take political courage to stop any execution). I was really upset and depressed about Percy's, then imminent, execution because to me, it was so barbaric and so representative of what is wrong with the whole capital punishment trip in America. You gotta understand that I've been around Percy for 6 1/2 years and he is absolutely insane, 24/7. Everyone here (prisoners, guards, staff, doctors) knows Percy is crazy, and yet the State has relentlessly sought his execution, pulling out all stops and employing all manner of dirty tricks to kill this guy. As the clock ticked towards his 9:00 execution that Thursday night (I was unaware that he had gotten that last-minute stay) I was profoundly sad and morose; my sadness was more about our society, about what this action says about us as a people, than it was about Percy himself, who remained blissfully ignorant of what was about to happen to him. They brought Percy back about 10:30 that night and I watched him, out through my little back window, as he shuffled up the sidewalk, chained & shackled, with the same crazy gait and expression he had when he left, totally unaware of how close he'd come to death, or why these unforeseen forces are so determined to extinguish his life. Percy lives a sad, miserable, solitary life in his bare, filthy cell, totally alone in his own befuddled mind, and yet the State is absolutely determined to take even that away from him. It was a sad spectacle to watch, but Governor Kaine's humane decision brought a narrow ray of hope to this dark corner of the world.
Love & Peace, Bill

Sunday, July 16, 2006

June 29th, 2006

Dear Sis ~
It's a beautiful day outside, with a bright sun in a cloudless blue sky, and the birds flittering outside my cell. I'm waiting to go out to "yard" and get my daily stroll on, feeding the birds and perhaps enjoying a game of chess with Mike. As I've told you before, Mike has an execution date of July 27th, which means they'll take him to Greensville around July 17 - 18th (lately, they've been getting guys 8 - 10 days prior to their execution; it used to be 4 days). It is almost a certainty that Mike will die on the 27th, barring some unexpected and astounding legal occurrence, and Mike is fully aware of this, harboring no illusions or false hopes. He is resigned to his fate and fortunately, he is well-grounded and mature, possessing a substantial spiritual/metaphysical depth of character and nature. Still, when death is imminent, when it has gone from an abstract concept to a concrete reality, from the general to the very specific and personal... well, it isn't easy. As his good friend it is also hard, and awkward, for me as I count down his final days with him. We have a lot of good, deep conversations and yet in the background is that constant awareness that the minutes, hours and days are slipping past and the end is rearing up its ugly head, rushing forward to swallow him up. For all of my 18 years on the row, this is the first time I've had to go through this, on a daily basis, with someone who is a real friend, someone I like, respect and care about. Mike is on the row for killing a fellow prisoner - a convicted murderer who was a violent bully in another prison, a fact that Mike's jury was prevented from knowing - in a typical prison beef where one must choose to kill or be killed. I see a lot of myself in Mike. Like me, he was an inherently rebellious kid and ended up in a series of youth halls, reformatories and eventually prisons, with his crimes being either drug possession or burglary (trying to get money for drugs). At heart, he is a good guy with a strong character and solid values, not at all what the average citizen envisions when imagining a "typical" death row prisoner. Like me, he is totally self-educated, having spent many prison years questing for knowledge (academic, philosophical, spiritual, metaphysical). Society will not benefit one iota by executing Mike, and in my eyes will suffer a collective loss, although your "average citizen" cannot see that. Notwithstanding his seemingly dismal, dead end existence Mike has, through self discipline and will power, grown and matured remarkably and is far advanced on the spiritual plane, much, much more so than those who have judged him and deemed him worthy only of death. The shame is on them and their trivilization of death and life. Mike's execution caters to our society's desire for simplistic solutions (it's too hard to think about such things!) and our nation's ineluctable impulse, grounded in Puritanical moral certitude, to blindly inflict maximum punishment, to relentlessly seek revenge and retribution as the "answer" to all problems. This is why we, alone in the world, are always at war with someone, somewhere, over something. We are a violent people and we enjoy killing - it's as simple as that- though we refuse to recognize that inescapable fact (Americans love to declare that we are a "peace loving nation" which is a joke in the face of historical record). As a nation, we reap what we sow - blood for blood, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. It's the definition of a vicious cycle...
Anyway, it sounds like a cliche (Hell, it is a cliche) but Mike will be going to a better place, and he's a better man than most of those he leaves behind.
Love & Peace, Bill

June 1, 2006

Dear Sis~
This evening they brought John Muhammad, aka "The Washington DC Sniper", back here from Maryland where he was just convicted of six counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to six consecutive life sentences. He's already under a death sentence here in Virginia for one of his other murders. He was eligible for the death penalty in Maryland, under Maryland law, but according to the Maryland prosecutor they declined to seek the capital sentences because the Virginia prosecutors has somehow screwed up some evidence (apparently through mishandling the chain of custody) and thereby made any death sentence vulnerable to legal attack. From a legal perspective, that doesn't make any sense, but that was their story. If you're wondering why Maryland even bothered to prosecute him, given his Virginia death sentence, the Maryland prosecutor said it was for "insurance" in case Mohammad ever beat his death sentence here. Anyway, he's back here in cell #1, which they've set aside for him from the beginning. They won't even let anyone live in cell #2, next to him, nor in the two cells directly above him. They also don't let him go to recreation with the rest of us, (he must go to rec all by himself), and when he showers, a sergeant and two officers have to come in to escort him (in chains) to and from the shower, which is 30 feet away. They act like he's some kind of ultra-high security threat, capable of superhuman feats when, in reality, he's simply notorious. Florida used to do the same thing with guys who had very high profile cases and, in fact, they did it to me when I first went to F.S.P., treating me like Hannibal Lector. But, eventually they tire of the drama and begin treating you like any other prisoner. The truth is prison authorities like that kind of drama, at least for awhile, and they play it up. I guess it breaks the boredom nd makes their pedestrian lives feel important...
June 2nd
They just came in and chained up Percy Walton, aka "Crazy Horse" and took him to Greensville for his June 8th execution. It was a sad spectacle. Percy is genuinely and thoroughly insane, by any definition (legal or medical) and has been for the 6 1/2 years I've known him. He's oblivious to what is about to happen to him. Everyone - us, the State, the guards - knows he's crazy, but they're going to kill him anyway. It was depressing to see the State fight so hard in the courts to execute Percy, despite his mental illness, and the contemptible tactics they employed. You have to wonder about a State, and its society, which is so desperately determined to kill a man who has been so unequivocally insane for most of his life. (A couple of years ago, when Percy was also very close to execution, one of his attorneys confided in me that she was probably going to resign if the State put him to death, because she just couldn't take it anymore. This is a lawyer who has seen many of her clients executed already, but to her, Percy's case represented all that was wrong with the system. She did get Percy a stay of execution, but now the State has prevailed in its efforts to execute him).
As you know, Vince was executed a few weeks ago and we have two more executions scheduled for July. That will make 4 executions in 2 1/2 months, or 20% of our DR population here. I've gotta tell you, Sis, that after all these years, watching so many guys get put to death, it's becoming increasingly depressing to be witness to this spectacle, to be at the point of the spear in society's macabre battle to kill its own citizens...
Alright, I've gotta get back to work (legal work, that is) as I prepare my next battle plan in my own effort to avoid the executioner's sword. Give yourself a big hug for me & know that you are loved!
Love & Peace, Bill

Monday, April 24, 2006

April 16, 2006 Easter Sunday

Dear Sis~
Here it is, Easter Sunday, and we've got 2 executions coming up. One guy, Vince, is scheduled to be put to death in less than two weeks, on April 27th. The other guy, Bo, does not yet have an official execution date (to my knowledge) but it will be set very soon since his appeal has been denied by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals (Federal appeals court), and the Commonwealth of Virginia always moves to set your execution date as soon as you lose your appeal in the 4th Circuit. The State doesn't even wait for (or care about) you to file your certiorari petition in the US Supreme Court. Virginia just assumes (and with justifiable confidence) that the Supreme Court is not going to grant anyone any relief. Anyway, I find the dichotomy interesting, in this ostensibly "Christian" nation, Easter Sunday (with all of its spiritual implications) on the one hand, and the State machinery relentlessly & inexorably putting men to death on the other hand. What's wrong with this picture?

Alright, Sis, this will be a short one. Everything is fine here for me (other than the fact that I'm on death row!) and I'm in good health & spirits. Tonight is my "kick back and relax" night, so the lawbooks get put away and I just spend the evening puttering around and goofing off. Tomorrow I'll be back at work!
Love & Peace ... Bill :}

Sunday, April 16, 2006

March 26, 2006

Dear Sis~
Last week the US Supreme Court declined to accept and hear my case. While it wasn't totally unexpected (the Supreme Court rejects over 99% of all petitions filed before it) it was disappointing. I'm not going to sugar coat this development, Sis. This was a substantial blow to me; this was my last really potent legal claim, the last one I could generate any real enthusiasm and confidence about.
Now, I still have two (2) other legal avenues to explore, but to be honest, they are marginal claims (both substantially and procedurally) and I can't get excited about them. This decision by the Supreme Court brings me closer to the day when I'll be executed. While I'm in no danger of being executed real soon, given the current de facto moratorium on death warrants in Florida, I can definitely feel the walls pressing in on me. Now, you know I'm a fighter and I'm not about to throw in the towel, but I'm also a realist. I'll be working hard to pull a legal rabbit out of the hat and perhaps something totally unexpected will occur in the interim - some major new decision by the US or Florida Supreme Court which will open a new door for me. Anything is possible and I'm an optimist by nature. In any event, what will be will be and I can live (or die) with whatever fate holds in store for me. Now, I've gotta get back to work, sis. I've got a big stack of cases to read and analyze as I chart my next legal course.
Love & Peace,

Saturday, April 15, 2006

March 20, 2006

Dear Sis~
Today is the Vernal Equinox, the first day of Spring, and coincidentally, we just went on quarterly lockdown. For the next 2-3 weeks the entire prison will be locked down while the shakedown crew roams from cellblock to cellblock, searching everybody's cell. This exercise in futility occurs every 90 days and is a monumental waste of time that does nothing to improve security. From a prison security perspective, there's nothing more stupid than to announce, ahead of time, that you're going to conduct a shakedown on a certain date(s). About as effective as drying ice with a towel. All it does is give prisoners time to securely stash, or discard, their contraband until the storm blows over. Luckily for this administration, though, this is a very low-key joint. There's nothing really going on here - no killings, no gang activity, no real drug activity - and the only real "contraband" is nickel & dime stuff that wouldn't even constitute contraband in most prisons. I've been in my share of hard core, old school gladiator prisons where everyone is strapped down (carrying a knife) and violence is a daily occurrence, where wine and dope is rampant and contraband means a gun, hacksaw blade, bolt cutters, machete or heroin. Places like that are a slice of the devil's pie. This joint is soft as cotton candy in comparison to say, Florida State Prison, or the Rock (Raiford). But, there's something to be said for living in a joint where you don't have to sleep with a shank under your pillow, and where they're not carrying bloody bodies down to the clinic every day...
Did I tell you that we got a new warden a couple of weeks ago? This warden is a female, and the consistent response, when I ask the guards what she is like, is "she's a real hard ass", or words to that effect (usually the description isn't that polite). Of course, that's from the guards' perspective which does not necessarily correlate to our perspective. The guards might resent her simply because she's making them actually do their jobs (she's demanding that the cellblocks be kept clean and spotless, for example) as well as the fact that she's a female. Corrections is historically a male-dominated industry with a lot of macho (and misogynistic) sensibilities. All I know is that, so far, she hasn't done anything to cause me any grief...
OK, Sis, I'm signing off. Give the doggies a big hug for me!
Love & Peace, Bill

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

March 5, 2006

Dear Sis~
I'm feeling very energized as I just came out of a very deep and powerful vibrational state - something that sometimes occurs when I'm meditating. Anyway, I got up for supper, which proved to be hot dogs (we get them a lot). I wrapped the 'dogs up and saved them for the crows. There's the one, huge male crow that waits for me; he hangs around along the edge of the woods until I go out to the yard (the dog runs). As soon as I call him (Caw! Caw! Caw!) he flys over and I throw the hot dogs out on the grass. His mate, a smaller female, hangs back. She won't come that close. Instead, she lands in the grass near the perimeter fences, about 100 feet away. The male will land, eye me carefully, then hop over, grab a dog and fly away. He'll land by his mate, show her the dog, and she'll walk over to him and he'll share the dog with her. We've got a standard routine down now. The male always chooses a dog over, say, a sausage or some salami/bologna slices. Only when I have no dogs will he reluctantly grab the sliced lunch meat, and then he'll often caw at me as if he's disappointed or irritated. Yeah, he likes his dogs! He's a BIG crow, too, clearly the alfa-crow!
Anyway, sis, that's what passes for entertainment around here.
Did I tell you that I got a job a few weeks ago? Of the 22 guys here on the row, 8 or 10 of us have "jobs". Two of us are barbers (one white, one black) and the rest of us are "pod workers" (aka "housemen"). We get to come out of our cells (only one at a time) without handcuffs, but wearing leg irons, to sweep and mop the pod (the cellblock). Our pay is 20 cents an hour, which works out to about $18 or $20 per month, enough to keep you in stamps, envelopes, pens & paper, plus maybe some moon pies and potato chips. More importantly, for me, I get out of this damn cell and get to stretch my legs, and almost feel normal. After 18 years in a small cell, any degree of freedom is appreciated, even the most nominal...
You may already know about the bizarre case of California death row prisoner Michael Morales? A couple of weeks ago he was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection, but just hours before he was due to die, the two anesthesiologists (who were present persuant to a specific Federal court order) walked off, refusing to participate. This led to an unseemly last-minute scramble to find a doctor or dentist or nurse willing to conduct the execution; unable to locate a willing executioner the State had to cancel the execution. As far as I know, it's the first time in American history that an execution has been cancelled because nobody would kill the prisoner. That night, Morales' death warrant expired so he's not set to die anytime soon. But his case has ignited a legal controversy in California - the same legal debate going on in Florida and several other states -- regarding the constitutionality of the 3-drug cocktail used to execute prisoners. (The whole reason that Federal judge ordered that two anesthesiologists be present was to, obstensibly, ensure that Morales be put to death without undue suffering). If you pause and step back for a moment and really think about that Keystone Kops operation - the State desperately searching for someone, anyone, to kill a man - it should give any rational person cause to reconsider the whole concept of capital punishment. I mean, is this really what we, as a society, want to be stooping to? Doesn't this bring home the absurdity of it all? It's not just bizarre, or unseemly, or embarrassing, not just macabre, it's simply uncivilized. But, that's just my humble opinion.
Ok, Sis, I'll wrap this up and post it now. Keep your chin up and a smile in your heart!
Love & Peace, Bill

Friday, March 03, 2006

Sunday Feb 26, 2006

Dear Sis~
The closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics is coming on TV shortly and I'll probably check it out. Truthfully, I've watched little of these Olympics; I just don't get too excited over the winter sports in general, which is probably a function of being a native of Miami...
I spent a long time on the phone this morning talking with my attorney - he went into the office today even though it's Sunday, in order to catch my call - as we hammered out the details for our reply to the State's response to our petition for writ of certiorari. Tomorrow, which is Monday, our reply absolutely must be in the mail, on its way to the US Supreme Court, hence this last-minute scramble to wrap it up. His secretary ( who also came in) was typing away as we spoke and he wrote down my own thoughts and ideas re our reply. I have an extremely sharp attorney - actually, he's brilliant - and he's passionate about my case, so I'm confident that our reply will be the best possible. After tomorrow, it will be out of our hands and up to the US Supreme Court to give us a yes or a no. My best estimate is that this will happen in late March...
It's interesting to watch the big brouhaha that's been unfolding about the contract which the company from the United Arab Emirates has purchased to run all of those ports on the Eastern Seaboard (including Miami). The issue has been totally politicized, not surprisingly, with all of the talking heads and elected officials yapping away, producing much political heat, while shedding very little rational light. The security implications are being way overblown, but there is one interesting question that ought to be answered, but which nobody has yet to ask: Why is President Bush so heavily invested in this particular company, above any and all other companies, receiving the contract? Why must it be this company? There's something odd about Bush's intransigence, about how he immediately dug his heels in - even before, or so now he claims, he was even advised of the decision (talk about revisionism!) - and declared that there is no way in the world that he will consider any other option. Bush has repeatedly declared that he is "totally convinced that this is absolutely the right decision." Why? Why couldn't some other domestic company do the job just as well? Why must it absolutely be this company? I've yet to hear that fundamental question be asked, or answered. But, I'm just a convict sitting in a cell; what the Hell do I know?

Love & Peace

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Feb 10, 2006

Dear Sis~
The weatherman claims we'll be getting snow tomorrow, so I won't be going to the yard for awhile. We don't get any kind of cold weather clothing here, so when it gets below 40 degrees or so, I stay inside. It's no fun to go out in those pajama-like uniforms (think medical scrubs and you've got the idea) to shiver in the sleet and snow...

Earlier today I was sitting on my bunk thumbing through my latest Architectural Digest when the wing officer came around and told us that we'd all be moving tomorrow. This is the only joint I've ever seen that does this: every 90 days (in reality it's about every 4-5 months) everybody on death row is randomly moved to a new cell. Supposedly there is a "security" justification for this. But I've never been able to discern how moving us around to new cells increases security. Maybe they think we're digging through the walls and they'll move us in mid-tunnel, thus thwarting an escape. Who knows? Anyway, it's a pain in the ass. I've gotta pack up all my stuff (and after 18 years I've got a lot of stuff!)and move into a new cell. Invariably, it will be dirty, sometimes absolutely filthy, so my first task is to scrub it down, washing the floor, and the walls as far as I can reach up (when I move into a cell that was occupied by a smoker the walls are covered in a yellowish grime). I scrub the sink & toilet, and hope that everything works (toilet, lights, electrical outlets). Then I put all my stuff away. It's a major project. The other things is I end up with new neighbors. We've got a couple of certified crazy guys here; they yell & bang & flood out all the time, so needless to say, I don't want to be around them. And I don't want to move into their empty cells, either (nobody does); one of the crazy guys occasionally rubs shit and/or food on his walls and floor and his cell stinks like a sewer. I've refused to move into his cell in the past (everyone refuses to follow after him) and even the guards don't press that issue 'cuz they know how bad he smells. Anyway, that's on my agenda tomorrow...
Recently I got a big packet of letters, all from a classroom of 16-year-old students at a school in Ireland. The instructor read some story about me on the Internet (I have not read the article but I understand it was run in Europe) and he had his students, as a class project, come up with a bunch of questions for me. So, each kid wrote me a short note, telling me his name (they're all male students) and asking me a few questions (e.g., "What is life on death row like?", or "Why did you try to free your friend from the prison van?", etc...). I sat down and answered all of their questions, finding it interesting that their teacher would even propose such a project. I cannot imagine an American teacher suggesting that his class write to someone on death row. These kids are very bright and they have a refreshing and different perspective on things, especially on capital punishment, very different than your typical American response which seems to accept the idea of killing (executing) people without questioning the underlying premise. In contrast, most Europeans are baffled by the concept of the State killing its own citizens. These kids, in particular, cannot understand how I remain sentenced to death even after the State conceded and the courts have held that I did not kill anyone and did not intend for anyone to die. Well, it puzzles me, too!
Okay, sis, it's way past midnight so I'm gonna hit the hay. I'll call you tomorrow if I can get hold of a phone.

Love & Peace,

Friday, January 13, 2006

January 7, 2006

Hey Sis~

I'm sitting here on my bunk watching my new little 5" TV; it's a real cheap, toy-like model, but it's the only one sold in the canteen so I've gotta go with what I've got. My old 5" Phillips Magnavox lasted 6 years before it finally gave up the ghost. It was an old, cathode-ray tube type TV, but the picture quality was excellent, much better than the new flimsy flat screen I've got now.

Anyway, I'm watching the Discovery Channel, which is showing The Blue Planet series (on the world's oceans), narrated by David Attenborough. It's a great series, very educational and guaranteed to fill a viewer with awe at the majesty of this planet and the elegant workings of Mother Nature. I've always had a deep fascination for the oceans and all of its creatures; as a teenager one of my career ambitions was to be a marine biologist. Of course, since we lived in Miami that wasn't very surprising, especially considering how much time you and I spent swimming in the ocean and playing on the beaches as kids. Actually, I think it was that early 1960's TV show Flipper (remember how we eagerly watched that program every week?) that first got me thinking about marine biology as a possible career choice. Of course, all that fell by the wayside due to my juvenile delinquency, my lack of vision & self discipline, Hell, my lack of good walking around sense...

Governor Warner, the out-going governor of Virginia here, finally (after 4 years of procrastination) signed an executive order to have the DNA tested in the Gary Coleman case. Coleman was executed here about 12 years ago, for the rape/murder of his sister-in-law. At the time, there were substantial doubts about his guilt, and in the interim, advances in DNA testing technology have created the opportunity for definitive testing of the evidence. The Commonwealth has, for many years, vigorously fought to have all the DNA evidence destroyed; they do not want these tests to proceed. The anti-death penalty people have, in turn, been fighting for years to have the testing done in the hope of establishing Coleman's innocence. The authorities actually succeeded in detroying the DNA evidence in Virginia but, to their chagrin, a sample exists in a private California lab, and that lab refused to send the DNA to the Virginia state crime lab for destruction. For 4 years Gov. Warner has dithered & equivocated about ordering the tests but now, on his way out the door, he's done so. If the tests do exonerate Coleman, Warner will have to answer for why he waited so long, and whether the true killer murdered any more people in the interim. And, of course, such an exoneration would certainly undermine confidence in the administration of the death penalty in Virginia, perhaps even leading to a moratorium (which is why pro-death penalty forces have so fiercely fought against this testing). We'll know in about 6 weeks ...

That's it for now, Sis!

Love & Peace, Bill

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

December 18, 2005

Dear Sis~
It's hard to believe that 2005 is already completing its trajectory and another Christmas is again upon us, even harder to accept that it's my 18th one on the row. My own perspective is animated by the competing tensions of being weary of so many dreary years inhabiting a cage, weighed against the appreciation of just being alive. In the end, life and hope wins out. Speaking of hope, I received my copy of my certiorari petition, which was filed in the US Supreme Court on December 5th. We're raising two (2) issues/questions regarding the constitutionality and propriety of the Florida Supreme Court's last decision in my case. My lawyers have done and excellent job in putting this petition together and if I don't get any relief it won't be for lack of effort by my long-suffering pro bono Milwaukee attorneys. Although my trial and direct appeal lawyers were incompetent bums (my direct appeal attorney, you may recall, was a mentally ill crack addict who, after being convicted of possession of crack cocaine, and being repeatedly committed to the mental hospital, was suspended from practicing law by the Florida Supreme Court. It was during that time that he botched my direct appeal). My post conviction Wisconsin lawyers have been excellent, fighting tooth and nail to save my life. In this respect I've been blessed because so many death row prisoners have no lawyers at all during their final years, or are saddled with inexperienced and/or incompetent attorneys. Anyway, I should know something by February or March, as to whether or not the supreme Court will agree to review my case.

Well, the quarterly lockdown officially ends tomorrow morning. On Friday, the flying goon squad rolled into our cellblock and tore up all of our cells. Some shakedowns are worse than others, depending upon the particular guards who happen to be in your cell. On Friday I had a bad crew; they dumped all of my property out on the floor in big heaps, pawing through it all, confiscating everything they could get away with taking. But that's just one of the realities of prison life. You learn to bear it and move on. At least here in Virginia, in this particular joint anyway, the guards are reasonably professional and they aren't mean spirited or cruel. At Florida State Prison it's a different story. There, the guards are positively gleeful as they throw your property onto he floor, stomping all over it, deliberately breaking stuff, ripping up photos or legal property, stealing your valuables. They act like their entire purpose in life is to be as sadistic as possible. The difference between here and there is like day and night. Anyway, tomorrow I can once again get out into the "yard" (i.e., fenced-in dog runs) to pace for a couple of hours, and feed the birds (after two weeks of no bread they're probably pretty damn hungry. It's been very cold, and wet, which makes their foraging difficult). I've got a stack of stale bread for the sparrows and two hotdogs for the crows (they love those hot dogs!).

That's it for now, Sis. Enjoy the holidays and give the doggies a hug for me.

Love & Peace,