Saturday, September 13, 2014

Dead Letter File

I started reading Bill's letter back in 2008 when he began his letter of that day with:
Christmas is within sight and, while this is commonly a depressing time in jails and prisons across the land (it reminds you of what you don't have and perhaps never will), I'm focusing on the many things I'm thankful for, from a sound mind and healthy body to all those who love and care for me. It may sound syrupy but I can truly say that, even on death row, I am blessed. All I have to do is consider the many around me who are so much worse off (many here have nothing and nobody), not to mention those in even more wretched places (how about an Iranian prison?!) It's easy (and human) to feel blue and despondent, but since we all have the power to choose how we feel, I choose to feel good! ...continued at The Night Before Christmas
Whether it was empathy for him or just another human interst story I was drawn to his outlook on life with he knowing that his days were numbered.  So today I was editing my reading list for things that no longer mattered and thought just maybe someone else might want to read the diary of a man scheduled to die.  Not many of us can put death on a 'To-D0' list.  The letter your about to read is about seventeen months old.  Its the last of multiple essays  that started out in a Virginia prison and somehow ended in Florida.  This letter matters to those who have empathy for their fellow human beings; I took Bill off my reading list because Bill is gone now and to say that he no longer matters would be an injustice to his legacy that matters to no one other than those that care...(Does that last line make sense?) ~ Norman E. Hooben

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,

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