Updated: Jul 9, 2021
A few years ago, my current attorney and I were discussing the ongoing problems with the mail room here at the prison. Missing incoming and outgoing letters and packages, “inside sources” saying that the legal correspondence was being tampered with, etc.
This prompted the attorney to use this situation as an excuse for not wanting to commit certain things to writing, which in turn led to the caution of discussing potentially sensitive case matters over the (then recently installed) phones. “I will come visit you next week,” he says. Well, all too often, “things” come up that cause “next week” to become two, three, even a month or more. Then if one does show up, he or she is more often late than not, and/or rarely come at all.
Arriving late usually means you get perhaps forty-five minutes to discuss anything. This is the usual scenario in which the sensitive matters of your Death Row appeal is being discussed, often with people who have a different agenda. At one particular meeting, the subject was strategy concerning an upcoming hearing. By even going forward with the hearing, I risked “relief” not sought, but certain testimony and evidence put on the record was urgently needed.
An option to avoid that potential “relief” was to allow the proceedings to continue as long as the testimony was productive. When that testimony stopped, the option was to withdraw the claims and so avoid a ruling. My attorney advised me to weigh that option carefully as it would most likely infuriate the judge. He (attorney) also cautioned that this particular strategic move would raise a red flag with the entity known as the CDPL, or Center for Death Penalty Litigation.
Well, it did indeed, because it was shortly after that meeting with the attorney that the director of CDPL herself came to see me when she had never bothered to before. It was with caution that I met with this person because my attorney, at that time, had the decency to warn me about a recent development involving the so-called CDPL. A hypothetical had been posited among the employees there, as to how, and of which, if any, scenario could be acted upon and have the merit to reasonable declare a client incompetent so that the attorneys representing Death Row prisoners could go forward with only their opinion on how and what that representation should ultimately achieve.
CDPL is a misnomer. It should instead be the CLSL or (Center for Life Sentence Litigation), as that seems to be all it is concerned with. In fact, the former director made a statement on one of the local radio stations saying, “our job isn’t to get them out of prison, but to get them off “Death Row”.
This is the prevailing attitude of the people who not only assign attorneys to multiple Death Row “clients” who have conflicting interests, but these “people” also have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. The status quo being that a person condemned to be murdered by the State, directed to do such by a “Jury of Peers”, can, and in most cases does, languish here in conscious expectation of that for decades while never having their appeals heard, or ruled upon in a court of law.
The CDPL was purportedly put in place to “counsel” our all too often inept and inexperienced “representatives”. So if you take into account what has been revealed here, then you get a better picture of exactly what that “counsel” consists of and what they truly “represent”.
The attorneys assigned to me thus far (which include the hiring of support services and expert fees) have accumulated in excess of $561, 793.98. My appeal isn’t even through the second phase after 17 years, so their fees will continue to grow. This amount doesn’t include the cost of the trial nor the four years waiting on it. Consider that attorneys assigned to represent capital appeals have multiple clients on death row. If each “client” has an appeal that only amounts to half of what mine has cost, how much will an attorney like mine make over time from 5 or 6 clients in 20 years? Is that incentive enough to keep us here, unheard and misrepresented until we just die of old age?
As of this writing, the last person to be freed from death row was represented by the “then” director of the CDPL. At one point this attorney tried to convince his client to take a life sentence. All of the 30 years which this man was under a death sentence, the same DNA evidence that exonerated him was left untested by his attorney. It took an outside party taking interest in the brother of this man ”who was conflicted with him, but not on death row” to get both of them freed. How much money was made off of this man’s suffering? How many ways did his attorneys fail him?
When I wrote the judge conducting the hearing on my appeals, and ask that the attorneys be removed and replaced because they do not represent my interest, he ordered that I undergo a psychiatric evaluation. When I was later called into court and informed that I passed the test and ’have the capacity to proceed” to make my own decisions in my case, it was revealed that the CDPL and appellant defenders office had asked this judge to order this evaluation.
The warning my attorney had given me materialized, when I had the audacity to complain, after close to two decades that I am not being represented. The very people that proclaim to defend prisoners with a death sentence tried to remove any say I have over my own fate.
The judge told me that I am indigent and so have no say about who my attorneys are. Also that they are fine lawyers and he would not remove them. To this day, my attorneys continue to ignore my lawful instruction and gain my consent.
So am I being paranoid, or ……?
A transcript of the court hearing mentioned in this post can be downloaded here.