Post 4: It was a good day when…

When events, political appointments and cases take place in other American states that issue the death penalty, there is a knock on impact.

In this latest Blog post, David discusses the impact of the new Governor of California and their decision to place a moratorium on executions.

We hope you enjoy this fourth post…

It was a good day when we got the news that the Governor of California had placed a moratorium on executions in that State. He said that there will be no executions during his term.

I’m not sure how this will affect the death penalty in Florida, and it probably won’t at all, but it’s uplifting when you see news like that.

Good news stories are far and in between when it comes to the death penalty, so you rarely ever wake up to an entire floor in good spirits, and in a talkative mood, first thing in the morning, but that’s what happens when you get some good news on this subject.

I don’t know a single person on California’s death row, but I’m happy for each and every one of them, and there’s over a 100 people on the row in that state.

Now, I’m not saying that the moratorium will make their situation any better, because that won’t change their sentence, but it has ignited the conversation again and with California being the state with the most people on its row in the USA, it will be hard to ignore.

I do often wonder if the people on death row, those in other states, also get excited when people on death row in states different to theirs get some good news? When over 100 cases were overturned and given re-sentencing hearings in the state of Florida, I wonder how the people of death row in Alabama felt? Why Alabama? Well I thought about Albam particularly because their sentencing procedures were very similar to the sentencing procedures in Florida and so I’m sure it gave them some hope (although as of today, they still haven’t made any changes to their procedures – unlike Florida).

It’s a good day when a state abolishes the death penalty, but deep down, I wish that it was the state of Florida, and I know for sure that I’m not the only one who wishes it was their state that was abolishing, rather than just the one that is.

The State of Florida quite recently elected a new Governor, but I truly cant say where he stands on the death penalty. The outgoing Governor did set the record for the most executions during a term, and we can only hope that topping that record isn’t on the new Governor’s agenda. A moratorium would be nice, but I reckon tath’s wishful thinking. First, let’s wait and see what type of impact the decision in California will have, because speaking out against the death penalty is usually political suicide in this country. Hopefully it won’t effect him in a bad way, and instead, it will lead to more politicians speaking out against the death penalty because that’s the reality. Like almost everything, the death penalty is a political issue but that’s a conversation for another day.

One Love,

David

UPDATE: In one of David’s latest letters (26 April 2019) to his blog helpers, he wrote:

“Before I go on, a bit of bad news to share. The new Governor [of Florida] signed his first warrant this week, an execution is set for next month. This came days after there was talk about him not signing any warrants. I’m guessing that word got back to him (that people didn’t think he was going to sign any warrants) and he had to do something… The guy that he’s signed for has been on the row for well over 30 years, and has a high profile case, so the media will be all over it…

It’s still a sad day when a warrant gets signed, no matter who it is.”

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Post 3: Why do I write to someone on Death Row?

This post has been written by one of David’s friends who helps to run this Blog.

As well as discussing David’s experiences of the American judicial system and capital punishment, we hope to humanise the debate surrounding the death penalty and those who live on it. This is the first post from one of David’s friends which we hope offers an additional and alternative insight into David and the type of people that find themselves on death row – real people with family, friends and loved ones.

Why do I write to someone on Death Row?

I don’t. I write to my friend David.

You see, you wouldn’t say “I write to someone who lives in a bungalow” or “I write to someone whose flat is on the 6th floor”. The Row is where David lives. Where, as he said in his last blog post, he wakes up every morning determined to do something positive with the day. And, for me, when he’s writing to me or thinking about me, it’s overwhelmingly positive.

David encourages me to talk to him about my son, who died. He calls me out about working too hard. He’s just started a campaign to get me to stop smoking, because that’s what friends do.

I don’t know you, or why you are reading this blog. In fact, it would be great to know why, and what you want from it, (we’re really keen to hear from people reading this). But David’s blog team – his friends – know why we’re writing it. We’re not do-gooders. Or naïve. We’re terribly aware of our privilege, sitting in comfortable homes in the UK, writing when we feel like it. But we’ve got to know the person behind the label – the many labels – and we’d like you to as well.

There are many directions this blog can go in. The details of everyday life. The issues around legal representation for people on the Row. We’d like to know what you would like to hear more on, chat about and discuss?

But to begin with, my aim is to introduce you to my friend, just like I would at a party or if I bumped into you in the store.

What I know about David…

  1. David hates cigarettes.
  2. Is getting to like dogs (or maybe only my dog?!)
  3. David reads a lot.
  4. Loves reggae.
  5. Plays basketball really well.
  6. Supports a soccer team (luckily, the same one as me!).
  7. He keeps in really good touch with his ex-girlfriend.
  8. His handwriting is way neater than mine.
  9. He loves lions.
  10. David challenges me when I’m judgemental.
  11. He doesn’t quite get Brexit (who does?) but keeps really informed about politics on both sides of the pond.

Most importantly, he’s my friend.

Post 2: Am I the Worst of the Worst?

This is David’s second (and short) post.
Please, bear with us whilst we establish a rhythm to publishing blog posts and again, thank you for taking the time to read David’s story, ourselves and David appreciate you.

Words from David:

I often hear that death row is where you’ll find the worst of the worst criminals. The death penalty was put in place for the people whose crimes are so heinous, that they deserve to die.

Am I really the worst of the worst?

This is something that sometimes I can’t help but think about. No one’s ever said I was, at least not to my face, but as I grind through another day on death row, it’s something I know I can’t concentrate on too much. I’m aware of my reality, but the first thought that I had this morning was, how do I make today better than yesterday?

I’m not going to apologise for not allowing myself to fade away, to become nothing, in this cage. I’m still living and will do everything in my power to make the best of my time on the row.

Thankfully, I have people in my life that love and care for me, and that of course is added motivation. But most of all, I refuse to be counted amongst the worst of the worst.

One love,

David

Introductions: Welcome to Life Row

This is an introductory post posted to this page by the Welcome to Life Row team, on behalf of David Frances.

David Frances, is an inmate on Death Row in Florida and this is David’s story. David wanted to create a blog; not to validate or make excuses for his crime and as David said, not to glamorize it or diminish any of his responsibility. Instead, this Blog is, as David put’s it, designed:

“…simply to share some of my life experiences, including my experience with the judicial system [in America], and my experience on death row.

“It is also, hopefully, to give an insight into the injustices in the death penalty scheme.

“Hopefully this will start conversations, and it can shed some light on the facts about the death penalty”.

It’s easy for many of us to say that we are pro the death penalty, especially when the victim of a crime is a loved one. But do we truly understand how the system works, how the death penalty is applied and the legal injustices that so often occur around the death penalty?

David and the Welcome to Life Row team (‘Life Row’), who are made up of his friends and loved ones trying to help and support David in gaining fair legal representation, hope this blog will provide some insight into the American judicial system, specifically state executions and we welcome your comments, thoughts and interactions on this blog.

This is a snapshot introduction to David’s story, his first blog post provided by David to the team by letter. We hope you find it interesting…

My name is David Frances. I’m 38 years old and I have been incarcerated for over 18 years. I’m from the Virgin Islands but caught my case in Florida, USA. I was convicted of a double murder/robbery that happened back in 2000, and sentenced to death. I do have a co-defendant, my brother, he was sentenced to life, which was recently reduced.

I’ve been on “the row” (that’s death row) now, for 14 years. My sentence was recently found unconstitutional and overturned, and I’m now preparing for a re-sentencing hearing. The state is seeking the death penalty again, so the journey continues.

I will either be sentenced to life, or sentenced to death again. Those are the only two possible outcomes.

My sentence was overturned because of an unconstitutional law that was in place for 40 years. The State of Florida was sentencing people to death and carrying out those sentences, even though the jury didn’t unanimously vote for the death penalty. Now it has been ruled that the jury must be unanimous, in order to sentence someone to death.

I’m not sure why it took 40 years for that law to change, but that’s one of the many flaws in our death penalty scheme. This one, like many others, got ignored.

I’ve been going back and forth, trying to decide on if I should do this blog or not, because I know that I will be opening myself up to criticism and straight hate. But my last legal setback motivated me to get this going.

I can’t simply stay quiet and continue on the path that I am. I can’t complain, if I’m not going to do anything about it, right?

Unqualified counsel 

After the courts granted relief in my case, they appointed new counsel to my re-sentencing. This counsel team were on my case for little over a year, before it was revealed that they weren’t qualified to be lead counsel on a death penalty case – the qualification for death penalty cases is specific and not all counsel have it.

My question? How can this happen when they were vetted and appointed by the State?

The thing is, this isn’t uncommon and the lawyers weren’t reprimanded after this discovery. They are free to move onto other cases, as if nothing happened. While they could have easily caused another death sentence for me,if they had remained on my case. They definitely didn’t have my best interests, it was all about money for them.

This is now another setback on my case – which my trial judge wanted completed last year. I have now been appointed new counsel. At the time of writing (February 2019), they have been on my case a little over a month and as you would expect, I’ll be checking their credentials!

Longstanding legal problems

From day one, I’ve had issues with lawyers. I can’t afford legal representation, so I’ve been having to depend on State appointed lawyers, and it’s been a challenge. That’s putting it mildly.

All I’m asking for is the same constitutional right to competent legal representation afforded to everyone that’s charged with a crime.

When you’re sentenced to death, you’re automatically appointed counsel to handle your appeal. This is different from when you’re given any other sentence, when you’re on your own, and you can pay for your legal representation if you can afford it, or go about it on your own.

So in theory, this sounds good. You’re given representation. But a lot of these automatically appointed lawyers are just going through the motions. I’m not saying they’re all bad but I can only share my experiences, and that includes what I went through recently. More of which, myself and my friends helping me run this blog, will go into soon.

Final Comments

We all go through chapters in our lives, this is my latest chapter. I do have some good chapters as well, it’s just that this chapter has my full attention at the moment, and I want to look back one day and say that this was a productive chapter.

Hopefully, by sharing my experiences, I can make a positive difference, or even change opinions about the death penalty. You never know! But this is me trying something different and looking forward to seeing how the story unfolds.

One Love,

David