Tuesday, June 04, 2013

May 22,2013

Dear Sis~

I have 21 days left to live.  The fickleness, the arbitrariness, the fleeting nature of life itself is on display daily throughout our world but as good an example as any occurred here on Monday morning when, as I was being dressed out here on Q-Wing for a visit, a sudden radio call brought the wing officers rushing upstairs where they found a prisoner (non-death row) hanging in his cell.  After 20+ years in prison this guy (Earl) had finally given in to the utter hopelessness that can seize the heart and spirit of any man mired forever in an American maximum security prison.  The irony wasn't lost on me that while 3 of us on death watch are fighting to live, this poor soul, living just 10 feet above us, stripped of all hope, had voluntarily surrendered his life rather than continue his dismal existence.  When nothing but a lifetime of suffering lays ahead - with no hope, no promise, no opportunity to change your fate - the idea of utter annihilation can come to look appealing in contrast.  When everything has been taken from you, the one thing you have left, that nobody can take away, is the decision to live or die.  In that context choosing death can look like freedom.  I've been there myself, I understand the depth of despair and regret that can constrict your heart until all hope is wrung out and life itself is a bitter gall caught in your throat.  Death, like despair, permeates this wing like a suffocating shroud, this forlorn cellblock with its long and well-traveled history of violent murders, despondent suicides and extended litany of executions.

Today my neighbor, Elmer, went on Phase II of death watch, which begins 7 days prior to execution.  They remove all your property from your cell while an officer sits in front of your cell 24/7 recording everything you do.  Staff also performs a "dry run" or "mock execution", basically duplicating the procedures that will occur 7 days later.  This is when you know you're making the final turn off the back stretch, you know your death is imminent, easily within reach, you can count it by hours instead of by days.  Right now I'm on deck; when Elmer goes I'll be up to bat (that's enough sports metaphors for now).

I just learned today that the Florida Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision, has denied our motion for a stay of execution and the attorneys' motions to withdraw, and has ordered these 3 different attorneys to represent me - over their vigorous objections that they are unqualified and unfamiliar with my case - on the eve of my execution.  It's a circus and a farce; nothing like this has happened in Florida and it's setting a bad precedent.  The media are running with the story (Florida is looking really bad in this matter, the butt of jokes in the legal community) but the Supreme Court, or at least 4 of the 7 Justices, are doggedly determined to kill me on June 12, lawyers or no lawyers, and nobody can tell them otherwise.  They've decided to "pretend" I have legal representation (not competent, or qualified representation, just representation in name only) and let it go at that.

I'm being overwhelmed with letters of support from around the world and across the country, often from people I don't know, who thank me for positively impacting their lives (or lives of a loved one) through my writings, either my books, or short stories, or the blog posts.  I will not be able to reply to all these letters in the short time I have  left here on Schoolhouse Earth, but I am moved and humbled by these messages. I am not unusual in wanting to believe, at the end of my line, that my life counted for something good, that I had some positive influence on someone, that my life made a difference, that I was able to at least partially atone for the many mistakes I made earlier in life.  There's not much you can do in that direction from the confines of a cell; writing is about the only available vehicle that can transcend the prison bars.  That was the only tool I had, and I tried to use it in a positive, productive manner.  These letters tell me I succeeded and that counts for a lot in my heart.

That's it for now, Sis.  Give yourself a big hug for me, and a tummy rub for the doggies!

                       Love & Peace,


Anonymous said...

While I feel empathy with his predicament, I deeply feel that the
death penalty, when everything is said and done, is less cruel than a lifetime behind bars. But that's just me.

Liam said...

Bill, I truly hope this gets to you.

This is your pal Liam in Ireland. I want you to know I have received your letters but it will be too late for me to send post (mail) back to you.

I'm going to keep this short & sweet. You have been an amazing pen pal & I have learned so much from you. Though you may have been confined for some time, your thoughts and knowledge certainly know no bounds. I will never forget you or the wisdom you have imparted to me.

Until the next time Bill, I promise i'll keep my chin high & my thoughts positive.

Your pal, Liam.

Anonymous said...

You did succeed, Bill. I may be leaving this comment too late for it to reach you, but I wanted to chime in as a capital defender from a different state. As you know, not everyone on death row is as able to capture their experience in words as you, and I have read every post on your blog voraciously in an attempt to deepen my understanding of what my own postconviction clients might be experiencing throughout the decades they've languished under sentences of death. You have been frequently in my thoughts since your death warrant was signed, and I wish you light and peace today and tomorrow and many meaningful hours of time spent with your loved ones. If no stay issues, you and your family - and the family of Fred Griffis - will all be in my thoughts tomorrow evening, as I light a candle, reflect, and wish things could somehow be so very different for each of you.

Anonymous said...

Bill It's 3:32 June 12th. I just learned about your case a few weeks ago and Im praying for you and the Griffs family. I strongly feel after looking at this case the state of florida made a grave mistake. OK we all know that. All I can say is I hope your sentence is commuted. If so I hope to meet you in person one day. Bill I'm praying for you.

Anonymous said...

Bill and Family: you are all in my thoughts, as are the families of all who suffer at the hands of others. Regardless of the outcome in these next few minutes, Bill has redeemed himself, and what awaits him, next time or in the next place, will prove worth the investment he has made in seeking that redemption. He has helped us all understand what we do and who we are as a society, and I believe he has brought much healing to the same planet on which he inflicted much pain. May all be in greater peace today,

Unknown said...

What' s the different between the thinking that some people have to decide about ending a life than Hitler has. No difference....

Anonymous said...

I really hope, that both families are in peace now. bill is home now and the victims familie may now can open their hearts again to live forward, same hope for lisa.
terrible for you to lost your brother this way, but he was smart enough to let you behind with a smile on your face and in your heart. brave boy;-)
wishing you all the best, may fred and bill now rst in peace for ever