Cary Michael Lambrix

Law professor: “Nobody” executing Death Row inmate

Chance Meyer, a Nova Southeastern University law professor who previously defended prisoners sentenced to death, penned an op-ed in advance of the execution of Cary Michael Lambrix, scheduled for Oct. 5.

Meyer, an instructor and adjunct professor at Nova’s Shepard Broad College of Law, contends those involved in the execution process — including Gov. Rick Scott — maintain that they are merely following state law in ordering and performing death by lethal injection.

Here’s Meyer’s take on the proces:

Nobody is going to execute Michael Lambrix

On Thursday, October 5, around 6:00 in the evening, in the lethal injection chamber at Florida State Prison in Bradford County, nobody is going to execute Michael Lambrix.

Nobody on the team of corrections officers that performs the lethal injection will be the one who executes Lambrix. Department of Corrections procedures give each officer a discrete task in the overall process, so nobody is responsible for the end result. The tasks are “requisite,” so nobody has to choose whether to perform them. The officers’ identities are “kept strictly confidential,” so nobody has to be anybody.

The officers just follow orders from the warden. And the warden just follows orders from the Governor.

On September 1, Governor Rick Scott sent the warden a death warrant ordering Lambrix executed.

In the warrant, Scott explained that a Florida statute “requires that I set a . . . date for execution . . . .” In other words, he didn’t choose to have Lambrix executed. Nobody did. He just followed orders from the Florida Legislature.

The Legislature passed the statute in 2013, as part of the so-called Timely Justice Act. At that time, legislators explained that their intent for the act was “that capital postconviction proceedings be conducted in accordance with court rules, and that courts strictly adhere to the timeframes . . . established therein.” In other words, the Legislature was not giving new orders. Nobody was. The Legislature was just trying to ensure that everyone would follow court orders.

A court ordered Lambrix executed, but neither the judge that issued the order nor the jurors that voted for the execution are responsible.

Lambrix was sentenced in 1984. His judge made the critical findings necessary to impose the death penalty. Since then, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that only juries, not judges, can make “the critical findings necessary to impose the death penalty.”

In 1984, his jury’s recommended sentence of death was not unanimous. Since then, the Florida Supreme Court has held that a “jury’s recommended sentence of death must be unanimous.”

So nobody made a lawful decision to execute Lambrix.

“[T]umble[ing] down the dizzying rabbit hole of untenable line drawing” is how Justice Lewis of the Florida Supreme Court describes the legal regime that permits defendants like Lambrix to be executed. Nobody understands it.

So, on Thursday, October 5, around 6:00 in the evening, in the lethal injection chamber at Florida State Prison in Bradford County, nobody is going to execute Michael Lambrix.

 

Death Row inmate launches hunger strike

Florida Death Row inmate Cary Michael Lambrix is going on a hunger strike as a protest for his upcoming execution, set for Oct. 5.

Lambrix was sentenced to death after he was convicted of killing Aleisha Bryant and Clarence Moore in 1983 after escaping from a work-release program.

Gov. Rick Scott ordered Lambrix to be put to death last year, but a series of court rulings overturning Florida’s death sentencing system put the execution on hold. Scott reset Lambrix’s execution date earlier this month.

But Lambrix’s lawyers and supporters say the state lacks evidence that he committed the crimes.

Save Innocents, an organization based in France that provides assistance to prisoners condemned to death, issued a press release this morning announcing Lambrix’s hunger strike.

“I have been forced into a non-win situation in which the vast resources of the State of Florida are being employed to put me to death for a crime I am actually innocent of. I cannot stop anyone from executing me. But I am constitutionally entitled to protest against this injustice by declaring and maintaining a hunger strike as an expression of the free speech without governmental intrusion,” Lambrix is quoted in the release.

 

According to court documents, Lambrix met Bryant and Moore at a LaBelle bar and invited the pair to his mobile home for a spaghetti dinner. Lambrix went outside with Bryant and Moore individually, then returned to finish the dinner with his girlfriend. Bryant’s and Moore’s bodies were found buried near Lambrix’s trailer. Lambrix was originally scheduled to be executed in 1988, but the Florida Supreme Court issued a stay of that execution. A federal judge lifted the stay in 1992.

UPDATE: Hurricane Irma prompts Death Row lawyer to seek filing delay: “We have families, we have homes.”

LambrixUPDATE: Siding with lawyers for the condemned killer, the Florida Supreme Court extended the deadlines for appeals and other briefs for a week, due to Hurricane Irma.

Hurricane Irma has prompted lawyers for Cary Michael Lambrix to ask the Florida Supreme Court to postpone filing deadlines for appeals, imposed after Gov. Rick Scott set an Oct. 4 execution date for the convicted killer.

Lambrix, who’s spent more than 33 years on Florida’s Death Row, was slated to die by lethal injection last year, but the court put his execution hold after the U.S. Supreme Court, in a case known as Hurst v. Florida, overturned the state’s death penalty sentencing system.

In a motion filed this morning with the state Supreme Court, Lambrix’s lawyer Marty McClain requested an extension of next week’s deadlines. The court established the schedule Friday, after Scott signed a new death warrant for Lambrix.

McClain and his colleagues, who are located in Broward County, are preparing for Hurricane Irma and may have to evacuate, the lawyers wrote.

In his motion, McClain quoted Gov. Rick Scott, who on Thursday called Irma “an incredibly dangerous storm,” and warned that “I think right now, everybody has to assume you’re going to get impacted.”

Lambrix’s entire litigation team is in the path of the “potentially catastrophic storm” and has to put aside work on his case while preparing for the hurricane, according to McClain.

“We have families, we have homes, and we have to prepare as Governor Scott directed,” he wrote.

As of Friday morning, projections showed Irma “scraping the coast of Florida” which could bring a “huge storm surge” and “massive flooding” to Broward, McClain pointed out.

“This is as scary as it gets for those who are supposed to be focused on representing Mr. Lambrix pursuant to this court’s scheduling order,” he wrote.

“Quite frankly in these circumstances, Mr. Lambrix is without representation because those assigned to his case have simply had to turn their attention to saving their families, themselves and their property as best they can,” McClain argued.

But, Irma or no Irma, the state isn’t willing to give McClain and his team more time.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Scott Browne urged the Florida Supreme Court — which ordered all courts to be closed on Friday, due to the hurricane — to turn down the request.

The state’s lawyers “are sympathetic to the plight of Lambrix’s attorneys and anyone else in the potential path of Hurricane Irma,” Browne wrote.

But, he added, “The hurricane has not yet had any impact upon Florida’s weather and its impact may be days away.”

Browne noted that Lambrix’s legal team can “phone into” case management conference and file pleadings electronically, and that it’s “unlikely” the defense lawyers will have to travel to make any court appearances next week.

Lambrix was convicted of the 1983 murders of Aleisha Bryant and Clarence Moore in Glades County. According to court documents, Lambrix met the couple at a LaBelle bar and invited them to his mobile home for a spaghetti dinner.

Lambrix went outside with Bryant and Moore individually, then returned to finish the dinner with his girlfriend. Bryant’s and Moore’s bodies were found buried near Lambrix’s trailer.

Lambrix was originally scheduled to be executed in 1988, but the Florida Supreme Court issued a stay of that execution. A federal judge lifted the stay in 1992.

We’ll update if the court issues a ruling regarding the scheduling order.