Story by Michael Stone 10-05-2017
Over 30 years on death row for a crime which he has always maintained was committed in self-defense. A spokesman for Governor Rick Scott said: “Signing death warrants is one of the governor’s most solemn duties. The governor’s top concern is always with the families of the victims of these horrible crimes.” However, here is aslo the additional unnecessary harm that may be caused to the whole Lambrix family members, should the execution go ahead:
Who is Michael Lambrix?
Cary Michael Lambrix (“Mike”), an honorably discharged disabled (military) veteran, who had enlisted in the Army as a means to support his new family.
But while assigned to a training battalion at Fort Silk, Oklahoma, he suffered an accident that resulted in him being honorably discharged due to resulting permanent physical disability for which he is now a legally recognized “disabled veteran”.
At the time of the offense in 1983 he was living with his girlfriend, Frances Smith, in a trailer in the Everglades of Florida. He has no prior criminal record of violence.
Today he is the long time friend of Dr Jan Arriens, founder of the oldest Death Row penpal organization in Europe, Lifelines, as well as of Professor Michael Radelet, an eminent US scholar whose research interest evolves around criminology, deviance and societal reactions.
Originally diagnosed as a slow learner, Mike Lambrix shares today with his friends his unquenchable thirst for reading. He has consumed volumes of books ranging from classic literature to philosophy and even became a student of quantum physics.
All his family and friends believe that he is innocent of capital murder.
M. Lambrix was indicted on 2 counts of first degree murder on March 29, 1983 on Clarence Moore and Aleisha Bryant outside his home. Clarence Moore was a 35-year-old career criminal, and a known associate of South Florida drug smugglers, while Bryant was a 19-year-old local waitress who had just met Moore. Clarence Moore had also a record of violence towards women.
M.Lambrix always maintained his complete innocence in the murder of Aleisha Bryant, and that he was compelled to act in in voluntary self-defense when he killed Clarence Moore, attempting to stop the violent assault of Clarence Moore upon Aleisha Bryant. His case is circumstantial.
At his first trial, the Glades County jury ended with the declaration of a mistrial on December 17, 1983, when the jury failed to reach a verdict after deliberating for 11 hours. The retrial jury found M. Lambrix on both counts of indictment on February 24, 1984.
Plea for an exceptional clemency hearing — Legal summary
Cary Michael Lambrix is scheduled to be executed on October 5, 2017 for the 1983 murders of a couple with whom he and his companion, Frances Smith, had met at a bar in southwest Florida. The jury recommended a death sentence by a vote of 8-4 for murder of Lawrence Lamberson (aka Clarence Moore) and by a vote of 10-12 for the murder of Aleisha Bryant. Nevertheless, he is about to be executed without the benefit of a clemency hearing where he can present why he should not be executed in light Hurst v. Florida, the United States Supreme Court decision which requires a uninanimous jury verdict.
It is undisputed that the case against Mr. Lambrix began with the 1983 arrest of Frances L. Smith after she was caught driving the victim’s. After a series of lies, she eventually told authorities that Mr. Lambrix had killed the victims (even though she was not outside during the fight so she was not an eyewitness) and brought them to the location of the bodies. That information led to the arrest and indictment of Mr. Lambrix
There were numerous structural failures in Mr. Lambrix’s case that support the grant of clemency:
. Frances Smith later admitted she was having an affair with the investigating detective, one of the witnesses later admitted that here trial testimony was not truthful;
. the trial judge admitted in 1996 that when it came to death penalty cases, he would shoot the defendants himself; the lead prosecutor has a history of securing wrongful convictions;
. there was evidence that existed at the time of trial regarding a plea deal and hair evidence that had never been disclosed;
. the jury never heard that Lamberson had a criminal history of violence; and several biased and partial jurors served on the jury for the retrial after the jury was hung on the first trial.
. If this case went to trial today, today, it would be very unlikely that the death penalty would be recommended or imposed.
Because of complex procedural legal bars, Mr. Lambrix was not given the benefit of a 1992 United States Supreme Court case, Espinosa v. Florida, which held that case law holding that the jury instructions given to his jury were unconstitutional.
. The non-unanimous jury never heard that Mr. Lambrix was the product of rape who was severely abused as child. As an adult, Mr. Lambrix was an admitted alcoholic who worked at the carnival but, unlike Mr. Lamberson, he had no violent history at all.
There is a demonstrated need for procedural bars within the court system but it is just as important that those procedural bars do not result in a travesty of justice.
That is where the clemency process must act as a fail safe but no Florida Governor has granted clemency in a death case since 1983. Given that Governor Scott has broken the record in terms of signing the most warrants since the death penalty was reinstated in Florida, it is clear that he does not intend to grant mercy to any condemned inmate.
Mike Lambrix deserves mercy.
Read more: Does clemency exist in Florida?
“Myself, many many years ago.
I was compelled to involuntarily take the life of another man and to this day,
even over 30 years later, not a day goes by that I am not haunted by that memory. I didn’t rob anyone or rape anyone. I only found myself in a situation where I was forced to respond (please check out: www.southerninjustice.net) and even though I might justify my actions within that letter of law, it does not relieve me from the nightmares that follow when I can still see the face of that man whose life I was forced to take.”
In a 1986 letter to Mr and Mrs Bryant, Michael Lambrix wrote: “I’m really sorry that you had to go through this, and for what happened. As much as you need to believe that I did kill your daughter, I did not. The person who killed her is dead.”
What his lawyers say
“There was no evidence that M. Lambrix had procured the tire iron as a weapon in advance of the homicides. He had not known the victims prior to the night of the offense, and there was absolutely no statement or evidence of any prior intent to kill”. R2205
See press release here about latest legal filing (December 2014):
Litigation Director CCRC-South William M.Hennis III urges the court: This is the extraordinary case in which a prima facie case of actual innocence has been established.
Clemency counsel, Adam Tebrugge, says:
I am hopeful that there will be a new investigation into the Michael Lambrix case.
His court hearings have been plagued by repeated errors and he has never received a full and fair judicial review. People from all over the world have been writing to me to emphasize that Mike’s life has value and to plead against his execution. I am optimistic that Michael Lambrix might be the first person to receive clemency in Florida in over thirty years.
What his friends say
Mike is a man of rare intelligence and courage who has managed to rise above his dreadful circumstances of being on death row over 30 years.
He is a superb correspondent who has written outstanding essays on what it is like to be under sentence of death. His death at the hands of the state would diminish us all.
Dr Jan Arriens, Founder of LifeLines, UK
Before coming to the University of Colorado in 2001,
I spent 22 years on the faculty at the University of Florida.
I served as Chair of Sociology Departments at both the University of Florida and the University of Colorado for five year terms. I am one of the top academic authorities on the death penalty, particularly in Florida. I do not routinely write letters in support of commutations of death sentences. I believe this is the first such letter I have written in support of clemency in the past 35 years. (…) Mr. Lambrix is a man who has demonstrated an uncommon ability to make contributions to the outside community from his death row cell. I first met with him over 25 years ago, and we have corresponded monthly (…). His writing skills are so polished that I once included a chapter he wrote in a book that I edited — a book that was published by a prominent university press that is still being used in college courses.
Over the years I have met probably 300 death row inmates in prisons in a dozen states. I sincerely believe that Lambrix’s case is unique — there were errors and mistakes made at several points along the way, and his life today has a tremendous amount of value to others. Please allow those to be heard who can shed light on his personal attributes, on how he has grown over the past 25 years, and how this case has fallen just below the radar of the appellate courts. The purpose of a Clemency Board Is to intervene in cases precisely like this.
Professor Michael L. Radelet, USA
I have been writing to Mike for over 10 years and
I have visited him many times during these years.
We have become good friends and through the years he has become like a brother to me. I admire him for the man he has become, a caring, intelligent, well read man, despite the circumstances of being 30 years on death row. I’m proud to be his friend. I would be devastated losing him by execution. It would be like a much loved family member would be taken away from me.
I’ve learned so much about the triumph of the human spirit
from my friendship with Michael Lambrix.
His thirst for knowledge is amazing and has driven him to complete his schooling and a degree in Theology, as well as a vast knowledge of the Florida legal system. In our letters we discuss everything from religion to archaeology and I find his knowledge impressive for one who has no access to the internet and is only able to read prison library books.
All I can say is that a great light will be extinguished if this act is carried out and a great void will be left in my heart.
– December 2015
. The Circuit Court for the 20th Judicial Circuit denied 4 claims arguing that he was denied due process; that he was deprived of effective assistance of counsel pre-trial and at trial; that his constitutional rights were denied because the jury’s verdict was not unanimous and that the totality of the punishment imposed on him violates the 8th amendment. However the motion was denied.