Tuesday, October 30, 2012

October 25, 2012

Dear Sis~

Well, the execution has been cancelled, to the dismay of some around here.  Ferguson was scheduled to die on the 16th, but just before then he got a 48-hour stay.  Over the next week he got three such temporary stays from three different courts, with the sole issue being his sanity to be executed.  Finally, it was supposed to happen for sure 2 days ago, on the 23rd, and we woke up to the standard execution-day procedures, eating all three meals very early, the entire prison being on lockdown, and all guards wearing their dress uniforms.  As execution time (6:00 pm) neared the old white hearse pulled up outside the back sally port gate waiting to come in and pick up the body.  As 6:00 came and went I assumed the execution had occurred but around 7:30 a guy on the other side of my wing, which looks out on the back gate and the rear of Q-wing (the death house), called me through the vent and said the hearse never came in, but instead had finally driven off.  On the 11:00 news it was reported that the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, in Atlanta, had given Ferguson a stay of execution and that the US Supreme Court then approved the stay.  (The accuracy of that precise chronology is debatable because reporters are notorious for mangling stories involving court decisions).  At any rate, he got some kind of stay; how long that stay is remains unknown to me.  I heard on one  news report that the Eleventh Circuit granted the stay in order to decide "whether it is unconstitutional to execute the insane," which is an issue firmly settled by the US Supreme Court long ago in Ford v Wainwright.  If that's an accurate statement (a big "IF") it indicates the Eleventh Circuit may be trying to find a way to undermine or circumvent Ford, a way to go ahead and execute insane prisoners.  Any such ruling would toss the issue back to the Supreme Court, giving them an opportunity to recede from Ford if they so choose.  Also on the 11:00 news was the results of their earlier poll question: "Should insane prisoners be executed?"  Not surprisingly, 59% of the good citizens of Jacksonville answered in the affirmative. ("Yeah, that's right, let's kill all those crazy bastards!")  Now we go back on lottery watch, waiting to see whose death warrant the governor signs next, which is a great mood elevator for the upcoming holidays...

Last night's mail brought me (and others) a notice that the mailroom had impounded and confiscated the latest issue of Newsweek because, the notice stated, it contained an article about "pot use in America."  Censorship like this, which implies serious First Amendment principles, used to be, and is supposed to be, rare.  Only when an article clearly and unequivocally creates a substantial threat to the security of a prison should it be censored.  But, over the years, the Florida DOC has gotten progressively petty (and ignorant) on this issue (since the law now practically forbids prisoners from filing law suits anymore) until we've reached our present state where these impoundments have become almost daily and for the most absurd reasons imaginable.  If I told you the reasons given for some of these censorships you would first laugh and then call me a liar.  The main problem in the Florida DOC is their ill-thought-out policy where if I any peon in any mailroom in any prison in Florida (and we have well over 100 prisons and institutions) decides that something they see in an incoming magazine or newspaper is objectionable to them, a notice immediately goes out to all the prisons and they must all, immediately, seize and confiscate all those incoming magazines or newspapers.  So, we are at the mercy of the dumbest, most ignorant or biased mailroom employee in the state; their opinion spreads through the DOC like rings in a pond when a pebble is thrown in.  As a result, you get things like their impoundment of this month's Esquire because it "shows sexual activity." (Any Esquire subscriber knows it does not contain "sexual activity") or the impoundment of my Field and Stream for a little story on how a person lost in the wilderness can "start a fire from tree bark." (the prison declared this a security threat for teaching us how to commit arson).  When the prisons go to seizing mainstream magazines like Newsweek for having articles about "pot use in America" you know the mental patients are in charge of the asylum. (Whoa! News Alert! People in America smoke pot! What a security threat!) No court in America would sanction this blatantly unconstitutional censorship but nowadays, with nothing to keep them in check (lawsuit-wise) the prisons do just whatever the hell they want to, knowing they are immune from challenge...

Well, Sis, that's all the news from here for now.  Hopefully, I'll enjoy a quiet holiday season, which is about the most, and best, I can hope for.
Love, Bill

Thursday, October 11, 2012

October 2, 2012

Dear Sis~

Last week Gov. Scott issued a temporary stay of execution for John Ferguson, the Miami native who was scheduled to die on Oct. 16th.  The purpose is so that doctors can examine him and assess his sanity.  As I'd speculated in a previous letter this guy has a long history of mental illness which is one reason why he's been on death row for 34 years.  My understanding is that previous governors, being aware of his mental issues, bypassed him when deciding whose death warrant to sign.  At any rate being insane as a factual or medical matter, as opposed to a legal matter, does not guarantee he'll be spared.  You can be 100% Looney Tunes from a medical perspective and still be declared legally sane because they involve different standards.  More importantly it will be Simon simple for the state to find a doctor or two who will declare him sane no matter how profound his psychosis.  The state keeps on call a large battery of quack psychiatrists (their "expert witnesses") who will testify very predictably (and profitably) in the state's favor.  Here's the really peculiar thing, in my opinion.  The whole reason behind not executing a crazy person is the idea that it is "inhumane" to kill someone who is not aware of why he is being put to death.  Think about that.  Yeah, it's O.K. to cold-bloodedly and premeditatedly kill people, but only if they know why they're being killed.  In other words, the "bad" part is not the actual killing, it's the possibility that the about-to-be-killed guy may not grasp why he's being killed.  ("We want this guy to know why we're killing him!!!)  Is it just me or does this seem like an odd arrangement of priorities?  This is the kind of twisted reasoning you end up with here, where logic dives down the rabbit hole, when you try to parse the justifications for executing your fellow citizens... 

Here's an update on my friend Tom. When I last wrote he'd been taken away in an ambulance on the night of Sept. 11th after spending 14 or 15 post-seizure days futilely trying to convince the medical staff here that he was dying. Well, within hours of arriving at Shands Hospital in Gainesville surgeons performed emergency brain surgery and removed a golf ball-sized tumor which proved to be cancerous. An MRI also revealed a "large mass" in his chest which was also determined to be cancerous. Just 18 hours after his brain surgery prison officials (over the surgeon's objections) removed Tom from the hospital and returned him here to his cell. I stuck my mirror out, upon hearing the door roll, and saw Tom, a big bandage on his head, tottering slowly and unsteadily down the tier to his cell. That was on the 13th.  For the next 5 days he laid on his bunk, often moaning, while receiving no medication at all (despite the surgeons having prescribed many drugs). Finally, after 5 days he began getting some, but not all, of the prescribed meds (no pain meds, of course).  Importantly, he did not get the most crucial one, the one to stop his brain from swelling.  So he was suffering mightily until just 5 or 6 days ago when he finally saw a free-world oncologist who was shocked that he was not getting the brain swelling medication.  After another 3 days he finally began getting that one and he told me the relief was immediate.  I knew it was bad when he kept telling me he had fluid coming out of his ears.  He's been told he'll get chemo and radiation treatment but that remains to be seen.  If the prison has their way he'll get nothing.  (It kills me to read or hear about citizens crying about all the "great, free medical care" prisoners get.  They are so clueless about what really goes on in prisons and about the criminally negligent medical personnel who commonly work in jails and prisons, many of whom have been barred from treating free-world patients, but who get to work in prisons under special laws that permit such).  The only reason Tom is alive is because he managed to get to a real hospital, out of the grasp of FSP's quacks...

Ok, Sis, that's the news from here - some of it anyway - so I'll post this now and hit the hay.  Give yourself a big hug from me!