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Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Wall -- November 15, 2014

High walls surround the maximum security penitentiaries of Illinois. They can be seen from almost everywhere on the prison grounds and even from many cells including my own. Most other facilities have a double fence perimeter with razor wire. The latter is probably more effective in preventing escapes, however, it does not have the same  psychological effect. A wall isolates prisoners from the outside world by not allowing them to see out or for that matter for anyone to see in. Convicts are banished to a void amongst themselves and are to be forgotten, never seen, or heard from again. Unlike a fence, a wall also seems much more permanent. It reminds the men condemned inside their transgressions are irredeemable and whatever life they had before is gone. Even for the innocent, the wall has a crushing oppressive affect. They as well as the guilty share the same grim fate. It may be years, decades, or a century, but the wall will always be there until their death.

Sunday morning I awakened as I have for over 21 years in the confines of a cell. Despite how much time I have been incarcerated, it is always a shock to go from a world of dreams where I am a free teenager with an entire life ahead of me to an old man captive in a maximum security prison. I look at the dreary mottled gray walls of my cell to the bars where I hope to see something more but am stymied. Beyond the bars of my cell are the bars of the gallery and then the cell house walls. Looking out the opaque windows, I see yet more bars and beyond them is cyclone fencing topped with razor wire. In the distance are the looming walls of the penitentiary which prevent me from seeing anything further except for the tops of a few tall trees.

On the cell table are 4 Styrofoam trays stacked on top of each other. I opened the lid of one of them and discovered why there were extras. For breakfast prisoners were served farina, bread, and the most distasteful gravy. I took the bread out to make a couple of peanut butter sandwiches to eat while I watched the news. Most of the news continued to cover the elections from the week before and what would be forthcoming. However, there were also reports from Germany where people were celebrating the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Where the wall once stood separating East from West Berlin, thousands of balloons were released to float up into the sky. The collapse of the Soviet Union was a great triumph for the West, however, I think people have become complacent. To remember the pervasive oppression and horrors of the communist state, I thought it would be better if they had left the wall in place. Then every day Berliners could wake up as I did contemptuous of a wall which created so much misery.

On the cell house loudspeaker a guard exclaimed, "Good morning Green Bay Packer Fans!" before announcing the day's activities. I assumed she was being sarcastic to the small contingent of prisoners who would be cheering against the Bears later in the day. It was a rotten morning like most are in the penitentiary and in fact the only thing I looked forward to was the Packers trouncing the Bears on Sunday night football. I had no loyalty to the local Chicago team and since free agency began, I do not know how other people continue to have a fervent support for any team year after year if personnel changes. I liked the Packers due to players such as Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, and others who I tended to like personally and had exceptional talent.

For dinner I left the confines of my cell to go to the chow hall. Prisoners were being served "tacos" but it was nothing similar to what most readers will conceptualize. A scoop of boiled turkey-soy, 2 stale corn shells, corn, and a little iceberg lettuce was placed on my tray. In the serving line, Snowman asked me if the IIP filed a DNA request yet. I was a little surprised because I had never told him about the lawyer's visit. Word travels fast in the penitentiary, so I said that I do not think anything will be filed in the courts for some time. Then it will probably take a couple of years or longer to get the results if testing is even allowed. Snowman responded that it took him 2 years from the time the Innocence Project at the University of Chicago filed his appeal to the time he was rejected. Cook County courts were much slower and I have heard of incarcerated men waiting up to a decade for a final adjudication of a collateral appeal. On the way back to the cell house, I looked at the vast concrete wall which encircles Stateville.

During a visit the week before, Cynthia gave me her phone number which I memorized to submit a request to be allowed to call her. As I suspected, she had quickly lost interest in writing. Very few people write letters anymore. It is email, texting, FB, or phone. I disliked talking on the phone, however, I knew women did and it was my only way to reach out to her. In the cell bars I placed a letter to her saying she will need to pay the prison collect call service provider upfront and it may be a couple of weeks before her number is entered into the system. Behind these maximum security walls it is difficult to maintain connections with people. Being able to call her may keep her in touch until the end of the year.

Monday morning the noise in the cell house came to a roar early. There was a relatively great amount of movement for men in a high security facility. Prisoners on the upper galleries were permitted to go to the commissary building. As always, they yelled to each other about exchanging goods, paying debts, or asking for handouts. Personal property lines were run allowing men to get legal papers out of storage. Some prisoners have 10 or more boxes of discovery, transcripts, and appeals which they could not possibly fit into the 2 boxes they may have in their cells. In addition, there was law library after lunch as well as several "B of I" lines. The B of I is short for the Bureau of Identification Office where prisoners are photographed. I asked a guard if I would be having my ID renewed and was told there was already too much going on. Possibly, tomorrow, but all inmates who had yet to have an annual update were going this week provided the penitentiary did not go on lockdown.

With my headphones on I read until the time of my health care pass in the afternoon. In the holding cages of the H.C.U., it was not much quieter. I intended to go to the back window and stare at the little patch of lawn which separates a hallway from the prison hospital. There was not much to see because 50 yards down was the front building and it was even taller than the 33 foot walls which extend away from the structure in both directions. A prisoner I knew 2 decades ago from the Cook County Jail stopped me from gazing out. Frankenstein seemed to believe we were compatriots of some sort because of the media publicity I received years ago as a mass murderer. No, I was framed for the Palatine Massacre and had nothing in common with the crazy serial killer except we were both Caucasian with ancestors from Poland.

Another white convict sitting next to Frankenstein upon hearing I was quartered in C House began a conversation with me. The man wanted me to send a message to Moon. I asked him what it was but all he would tell me was to tell his uncle his nephew was in the Roundhouse and he needed to get in touch. There were a number of black prisoners who had family members in prison, but this man was white and Moon did not seem old enough to be his uncle. Eventually he was to explain they were just in the same gang. Gang members will sometimes refer to themselves as family. It was not to be deceptive, but because their real family had long ago ceased to be a part of their lives. The gang was their family, especially within the confines of the wall.

After my doctor appointment, I was sent back to my unit and spent time on the gallery waiting for a guard to open my cell door. I noticed a prisoner working on a fan. He was trying to repair it, but said the motor was shot. My fan was working well, but had a shattered plastic exterior and I asked him if I could have it. He said, "Sure," and went on to explain how it was a cell house worker who had given him the fan in the first place. They had found it in the garbage and the man thought he may be able to repair it. Inside the cell, I gutted my fan and put the parts into the new one. The cracked shell and dead motor were discarded.

Guards on the 2nd shift were still trying to persuade my cellmate to work from 4 to 10 p.m. Anthony was a reliable worker the guards trusted and got along with. The dilemma for him, however, was he did not want to miss his TV shows at night which were his escape from the ugly realities of prison. In a compromise he told them he would work both shifts if they would allow him to lock up early and only on a temporary basis until they found someone else. Joe Miller had been assigned to work the 2nd shift, however, he was a repugnant convict staff did not like or trust. Prisoners also did not like Miller and it was for reasons other than him torturing and killing a number of women in his truck trailer. Regardless, "Whips and Chains" was a crippled old man now and would not be able to do the assignment.

After Anthony was let out of the cell, I did all the things I could not do earlier waiting to be called for the B of I and then at the H.C.U. I exercised, bathed, and cleaned the cell. Then, due to the poor meal served for dinner, I made a substitute meal. The hot water pipes in the building were scalding hot and I gave my cellmate a package of shredded beef to place on it as well as a bottle of water. The water I used to make instant refried beans and brown rice to go into the burritos I was making. After rolling them up, I placed them in a potato chip bag to also put on the pipe. The bag has a slight tin interior which singes the flour tortillas. I told Anthony I will regularly make burritos if he works the 2nd shift, but he only worked that one evening. There is not much for cell house workers to do on the 2nd shift and guards can go short staffed.

Tuesday I was repeatedly told to get ready for the B of I and then to never mind. I know many people who read this blog look at my IDOC mugshot to see what I look like. Thus, I spent time in front of the mirror posing for the photo. I did not want to look happy and smile like my cellmate nor did I want to look miserable. I tried to strike a middle ground. Then I combed my hair, parting it on the side, and then just letting it fall down naturally to cover my receding hairline. Eventually, I became fed up trying to look nice and waiting. I exercised and did the common things I usually do in the cell. When my cellmate finished working he told me the delay in ID updates was due to Moon blasting another prisoner who goes by the name Missouri. Both of them were at Gate 5 near the B of I office. After the incident, guards began taking only small groups of prisoners and were taking extra security precautions. I told Anthony sarcastically that Moon will now be able to talk with his Gaylord nephew in the Roundhouse.

During the evening news, reporters were talking about the Asian summit the president of the U.S. was attending along with other national leaders in China. The media made a big deal about Vladimir Putin putting a jacket around the Chinese premier's wife. They also spent time talking about Barack Obama chewing Nicorette gum. I thought this was absurd and there were many more important issues to be discussed. China and Russia were both projecting increased power. Russian tanks were rolling into Ukraine and China was demanding extensive rights in international waters. They had just acquired their first aircraft carrier and had the audacity to showcase their new stealth bomber which was obviously built on stolen technology from the U.S.

After the news segment, I took off my headphones to find out what a prisoner on my gallery wanted. He was shouting my name. Finally, I went to the cell bars and said, "Speak. Who calls?" The man told me a few packs of Ramen Noodles were thrown in front of my cell and he wanted me to pass them down. There was nothing there, however, and I told him that. A cell house help worker or some other prisoner had just tossed them up on the gallery from the lower floor. I did not know what to tell him and said maybe the child abductor next door to me abducted his noodles. Upon hearing this he began to shout his name demanding his stuff. John ignored him but his cellmate claimed he did not take them.

With my breakfast Wednesday, I watched the 7 a.m. news. A large mass of Arctic air was moving into the upper Midwest. Along with the front was a snow storm that was already blanketing Minnesota. I thought about the foolish notion of man-made global warming and the president's non-binding deal with China to reduce carbon emissions. It was a ridiculous agreement not only because there is no evidence to demonstrate a correlation with carbon dioxide and a warmer planet, but because Barack Obama was stifling economic growth in the U.S. while China would never up hold its end of the bargain. China emits far more carbon emissions as well as other real pollutants. The pact with China was a farce solely to make the environmentalists in the U.S. happy and supportive of the Democratic Party.

Finally, guards let me out and several other prisoners to be escorted to the B of I. On the way there, gusts of wind tossed my hair. I went into the bathroom to wet it down but that was all I was doing to look nice. I hated posing for pictures. Waiting outside the office, Shaky commented about the small group and I told him about Moon knocking out Missouri. As I told the story, I looked at the child molester and made insinuations he could be blasted next. He went to the front right next to the door as if it provided him with protection. When I went in for my photo I was annoyed by not only John but all the low lives in the penitentiary. All the practicing the previous day for posing for a new mug shot went out the window.

Later in the morning I went on a visit only to be more annoyed by the badgering of my mother. She wanted me to quickly approve the draft petition sent to me by my lawyer. My parents had pressured me to listen to my trial attorney who failed to contest the interrogating officer's testimony. Then they proceeded to hire various attorneys on appeal who I did not like or approve of. This time my appeal was being done my way. I was submitting all the issues I had and was going to support the petition with every affidavit I could possibly procure. Never again was a lawyer going to burn me with incompetence or not playing all my cards.

Back in my cell, Anthony wanted to see my photo ID. He said, "Damn, you look angry, almost as if you are glaring at the camera." I am angry. I have spent over 21 years incarcerated in the worst maximum security facilities despite not having the least bit of involvement in the murder I was convicted of. I did not even know my roommate killed the man until months later when he was arrested and it was on television news. I had evidence my car was 50 miles away from the crime scene and yet the witnesses were not called to testify. Appeal after appeal has been denied or dismissed and I am still struggling to get my case in the courts. The photo expressed exactly how I feel as well as my age. I looked every bit 40 or older and the loss of half my life made me angrier. A post conviction appeal will take 5 to 10 years and that is after I find a good private investigator/ attorney to file it.

In the evening I was handed a stack of old newspapers for my cellmate and I. Anthony even had several magazines to go with his News-Gazettes. I was not about to read all the newsprint nor did I think I could in a few hours before I became too tired and had to call it a day. I chose to read just the edition of Barron's. the USA Today was a liberal rag and its articles would only upset me. To shut out the cellhouse noise, I put on my headphones and listened to the cassette tape "The Wall" by Pink Floyd. The band was popular amongst stoners when I was in high school. I assume they smoked dope or did LSD to the psychedelic music, but I just used it to relax and ignored most of the lyrics. The Wall, however, has an interesting blend of subject matters from WWII to the post war British Fascists as well as a person who has a great amount of emotions bottled up within himself. That was me wanting to break out beyond the wall.

The following morning I went through the USA Today papers. There was an article written by Oren Dorell. He wrote about the feelings of Germans towards supporting Ukraine against a Russian invasion. The people he interviewed were at Lindenstasse 54, a museum dedicated to victims of political violence. It was formerly a jail in East Germany where the secret police of the communist state, STAZI, tortured and held political activists. Despite many Germans suffering under the Soviet Union, few were eager to help Ukrainians. They felt resentment that no one came to their aid when the Iron Curtain fell over them. The U.S. should have sent forces straight through Berlin all the way into Russia to topple the Marxist government, but cowardly political leaders prevailed. Unfortunately, cowardly political leaders still prevail to the detriment of the U.S. and its allies. The only wall Barack Obama seeks to prevent rising is on America's southern border.

After WWII, the Soviet Union seized half of Europe. Millions of people were slaughtered or sent to gulags never to be seen again. Those spared lived under the heavy oppression of communist rule. The regime spread its system of government around the world even off the coast of the U.S. in Cuba. The Soviets seemed invincible until the 1980's when Ronald Reagan used every means possible short of nuclear war to undermine "the evil empire". Eventually, the communist state began to crumble and on November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall came down. Jubilant crowds took part in demolishing the wall into rubble and not long thereafter the USSR ceased to exist. It was a monumental achievement and I was glad when a small piece of the wall was given to me as a souvenir. The ugly chip of concrete held more value to me than if it were a semi-precious stone. It represented the defeat of America's arch nemesis and an ideology I abhorred. It also represented liberty. I do not know what came of the chip of concrete over my 21 years of incarceration, however, with a looming prison wall to stare at every day, I will never forget its symbolism.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Elections -- November 8, 2014

Elections and their potential to greatly alter political landscapes have centered much of my attention recently. Last week, Ukrainians voted for control of parliament. It was the first time sweeping elections were held since the revolution when their corrupt puppet president and his party were cast out. Despite pro-Western parties winning in a landslide, Russian forces continued to consolidate power in the east. U.S. President Barack Obama unwilling to assist Kiev militarily instead sought further unpersuasive economic punishment. On Tuesday, Americans went to the polls to vote on liberals' weak foreign policy and socialist domestic agendas. Democrats' policies were overwhelmingly repudiated by the public and Republicans took the Senate and will have the greatest House majority in over half a century. The GOP also won many state gubernatorial elections including Illinois. There is immense anticipation for change, however, I expect divided government will prevent any significant shift except possibly within the IDOC.

On Sunday, I awoke at sunrise. An orange-red glow slowly filled the sky. From the prison cell, it reminded me of the coming of a new dawn. I expected Republicans to win by large margins in Congress and set the stage for a complete takeover in 2016. I also expected Democratic Governor Pat Quinn to lose. If state Republicans could just win a couple of seats in Springfield, the new governor would command some authority or at the least check Michael Madigan's grip on power. Regardless, a Bruce Rauner victory will have a dramatic effect on the state's prison system. Governors have almost unbridled power over the IDOC and I wondered how he as well as the outgoing governor will use it. Governors throughout the U.S. wait until their last week in office to grant pardons and commutations they are politically restrained from doing during their tenure.

After my cell workout, I watched the remnants of the Sunday news programs. The political commentary I saw all agreed the Republicans would hold onto their control of the House. However, there was disagreement if the Senate could be flipped. I contemplated if these news reporters just sought to hype a close race or were biased. In the USA Today newspapers I read, it was obvious their writers were slanted hard to the left. I thought they were either trying to blind the public or were blind themselves. A great tsunami was approaching the U.S. coast and it was going to drop on the capital. The electorate was fed up with Barack Obama and his cohorts in the Senate.

The only football game I cared to watch this week was between the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots. This was a battle which most likely would decide what AFC team went to the Superbowl. Incredibly, the Patriots were 3 point underdogs at home. The casinos in Las Vegas must underestimate the dynasty put together by Bill Belichick. My money was on New England and with much fanfare I watched them crush the Broncos. Julian Edelman had a touchdown reception as well as an 84 yard punt return into the end zone. Tight end Rob Gronkowski broke through tackles repeatedly for over 100 yards and a touchdown whereupon fans at Gillette Stadium chanted "Gronk, Gronk, Gronk...!" The offensive line was probably one of the best in the league and allowed quarterback Tom Brady to eviscerate the Broncos defense. Contrarily, Peyton Manning was under tremendous pressure forcing him to make bad passes including an interception to Nankovich. In the end, the Patriots won decisively 43 to 21. It was the same unequivocal victory I expected for American patriots come Election Day.

After the game I called my mother who was home alone except for the dog. I was concerned how she was making do without my father and if her property was vandalized on Halloween. Surprisingly, she had bought candy for trick or treaters on what she used to call the "Devil's Day," however, very few kids stopped by. In fact, no one rang the door bell after 6 o'clock. The town passed a rule that dictated the hours for trick or treating, but she was not aware of it until the following day.  Although I ridiculed the law, she exclaimed it was dangerous for kids to be out at night without adult supervision. She went on saying they could be kidnapped, crime rates were soaring, and times have changed since I was free. What she said was preposterous. There was no serious crime in her area let alone kidnappings. Crime rates were plummeting to all time lows since 1990 across the nation and only a sensationalistic news media made it seem otherwise. What had changed since my arrest was the rise of the police state where individual liberty has been stripped away.

Monday morning prisoners at the maximum security facility were treated to a large strawberry pastry. These types of baked goods are donated to the IDOC. The wholesalers are given tax write-offs for perishable foods they could not sell and the prison system is more than happy to take them to fill holes in their budget. Before my cellmate left to work, he sat at the desk and ate his pastry like it was some type of delicacy. I cringed when seeing him lick his fingers with a look of almost joy on his face. The man lived in a cage and was condemned to die in prison and yet the sweet pastry seemed to make him content.

Monday was commissary day and convicts gave my cellmate a variety of goodies which made him even happier. The prisoners were giving him cookies, cakes, and sodas as a gesture of appreciation for the help he gave them. Unlike these men, I did not go to store. I was saving my money for a private investigator and in any event, there was no food I could be sold that would overcome the misery I felt. Later, though, I would barter over a slightly used pair of gym shoes and sweat pants. The shoes were too small and I gave them back. The sweat pants I bought, although they were too big and I had to pull the drawstring tightly around my waist. My cellmate saw me walking about the cell and stopped to laugh. He said it looked like I had parachute pants on. Jesting, I told him they were my "Hitler pants" and I was going to wear them until I won the war. (The leader of Nazi Germany was occasionally mocked for his big military fatigues he tucked into his boots and were fastened tightly around his waist with a belt.)

While in my XXL sweatpants, I read a newspaper from last week that had an extensive article about the election in Ukraine. The pro-western parties won handily, however, no single party had a majority. President Petro Poreshenko would have to form a coalition government with that of the prime minister, Arsenly Yatsenyuk. The Popular Front surprised most political observers with their large showing and ability to win the same number of seats in parliament. The results were not unexpected to me though. Poreshenko was not aggressively responding to the Russian invasion in the east. He was also not as conservative as Yatsenyuk's party.

For months, Russia has made no attempt to hide its insurrection in Donetsk and Luhansk. Their forces have poured over the border along with tanks and all types of heavy military hardware. There is even talk nuclear warheads have been moved into the region. President Barack Obama failed to prevent the unfolding events along with the U.S. treaty obligation to defend Ukrainian territorial sovereignty, however, it seems he is attempting to ratchet up economic sanctions. The price of oil has been plummeting and various newspaper writers have speculated Saudi Arabia was oversupplying world markets to undercut the U.S. oil fracking revolution which is now producing 10 million barrels of oil daily. Unlike conventional drilling done in the Middle East, companies which use fracking technology require higher prices to make a profit. What these news writers do not understand though is the special relationship the U.S. has with the House of Saud. The monarchy is flooding the market to punish Russia. America has a huge economy and oil sales make up only a small percentage of its GDP. Furthermore, cheap energy can stimulate overall U.S. growth. This is not true for Russia which derives over half its government revenues from oil and natural gas sales. Unfortunately, hitting Russia in the pocket book will not prevent Vladimir Putin from seizing parts of Eastern Europe.

Tuesday morning, I was excited it was Election Day in the U.S.  Federal and state congressional seats as well as the office of governor in Illinois were being voted upon. No, I could not vote and I was probably going to die in prison regardless of the outcomes. However, like many Americans, I felt a huge dissatisfaction with the direction of the country. There was a dire need for new leadership to stop the U.S. from falling into the abyss. If I was ever released, I did not know if I would even want to remain in this country. It was not the country I recalled from the 1980s before my arrest. Ronald Reagan had not just toppled the Soviet Union and in fact the tenants of communism were taking hold here along with its economic ruin. Socialism had weakened the republic and caused a staggering $18 trillion debt.

For the last couple of weeks, television has been filled with vicious attack ads against Bruce Rauner. Tuesday morning it was much more of the same as incumbent Pat Quinn desperately tried to hold onto power. These ads could not change the record of the governor and a state capital dominated by Democrats. They increased taxes during the lame duck session in 2011 without a single Republican vote and they were certain to do so again especially if Quinn won another term. House majority leader Michael Madigan and others claimed it was only temporary to pay for pensions without further borrowing as well as to pay interest on the debt. However, not a dime was used for those purposes. Illinois has the worst pension funding and obligations surpassing $200 billion. Direct debt owed was soaring also and because of this the state paid the highest 30 year interest rates (5.75%). Illinois also has the highest unemployment rate and businesses as well as its residents were fleeing. Under these dire circumstances, I was amazed Quinn's campaign staff continued to try to impugn Rauner as a successful businessman. The Marxist tactics of class warfare rang hollow.

After the first 20 minutes of TV news, I began my day as usual. I exercised, bathed, and read. I did not leave the cell even for meals. Around noon, my cellmate brought me an extra tray from lunch. I went to fill my plastic mug with sink water to wash down the soy burger and discovered it was a dark brown-orange color. When a guard passed by he mentioned a pipe had burst in B House the day before and plumbers were currently trying to fix it. There is so much wrong with Stateville. I am occasionally surprised the dilapidated buildings do not just fall in on themselves. Already a few buildings were razed and two are condemned. Other than funding more unionized guards, there is little money flowing to support the growing number of prisoners. They are just crammed into smaller spaces with less or inferior food, shelter, clothing, and health care. Democrats in Springfield meanwhile will do nothing to change the criminal statutes including much needed sentencing reform.

Towards 7 p.m., I made a large meal of burritos and nacho chips. I shared the food with my cellmate as well as my neighbors. The food was for me to snack on as I watched election news. There were 36 gubernatorial and Senate seats up for grabs. Initially, CNN began by making it a contest if the GOP could gain control of the upper congressional chamber, but this changed to how much of a majority they would have. The liberal news station almost begrudgingly made projections of Republican victories. They also tried to cast doubt in various senate races including Kansas, Georgia, and even Mitch McConnell's long held seat in Kentucky. They furthermore debated Louisiana's runoff election despite how there was almost zero chance of Democrat Mary Landrieu winning. The Republicans were sweeping the South and in fact when I saw the wall map of all the congressional districts, the entire country looked to be painted red. The only smudges of Democratic blue were around large cities, the West coast, the Northeast, and those pesky Norwegians in Minnesota who still clung onto socialism many generations after they migrated to the U.S.

Knowing the GOP would have solid control of the Senate and a House majority not seen since 1947 during the Truman administration, I turned stations to watch coverage of elections in Illinois. Judy Baar Topinka was the first Republican to declare victory in a contested state wide race. I assumed the popular comptroller would retain office despite her opponent being the Lt. Governor Sheila Simon. Bob Dole I was glad to see win against the most virulent campaign. Ironically, the more I saw the attack ads, the more I hoped he took back the 10th District from Brad Schneider. Jim Oberweis ran a pathetic campaign, and I was not surprised the far left liberal Dick Durbin won his 4th Senate term. Tom Cross had stepped down from his position as House minority leader to run for the office of state Treasurer. Considering how Democrats under Michael Madigan dominated Springfield, he probably thought he would have more influence elsewhere. The election was close and as of the time I am writing this, votes are still being counted.

By far the most important race was for governor. Democratic governors were required to dominate in Chicago because the rest of the state by and large was solidly Republican. In 2010, Pat Quinn had won a squeaker over Bill Brady simply by taking two counties: Cook and Alexander. After closing the supermax Tamms, Quinn was not going to win Alexander again. Thus when WGN broadcast that Bruce Rauner was getting over 20% of Cook County, I knew he was Illinois' next governor. By 10 p.m. the Associated Press and other news agencies were declaring his victory. However, despite 99% of precincts reporting and a 150,000 vote deficit, Pat Quinn refused to concede. His spokespeople claimed provisional and mail-in votes would put him over the top. This was ridiculous, but as I went to sleep, I head a sergeant and strong union backer yelling angrily that Quinn should not have conceded until every vote had been counted.

On Wednesday there was little talk about Republicans' sweeping victory in the U.S. Congress. On both prisoners and guards' minds was the flip in the governor's mansion and what it meant to them. Bruce Rauner had run on a campaign of shaking up Springfield including curtailing the power of state unions. Prisoners could not help but spite their captors who had lavish salaries, benefits, and almost lifetime job security. When "Sonic Hedgehog" unlocked the cell door to let Anthony out for work I asked him somewhat sarcastically if he voted for Bruce. He said, "Hell, no. I like to be wined and dined before I get fucked." Ironically, I thought the AFSCME and other state unions had been wined, dined, and much more for years.

When I returned from a visit, I stopped by Psycho's cell. He was very interested to get my opinion of what a Bruce Rauner administration meant. I told him it depends if the Democrats in Springfield maintained their super majority. With the power to override the governor's veto, he will be basically impotent regarding legislation. This seemed to make Psycho unhappy but then I told him regardless the governor still has full control over the IDOC and immediately upon him taking office he will replace the director as well as other administrators. I also assume after conducting a full audit of the state's finances, they will be making budgetary cuts wherever possible to deal with the runaway spending and debt. Because Rauner has said he will reopen Tamms, I speculate he will close Stateville and open Pontiac CC to general population. Because contracts with the union are constitutionally binding, he will not be able to take away promised pensions. However, I am certain he will reduce staff which is ridiculously redundant. Psycho said his kitchen supervisors were worried the new governor would privatize the IDOC or parts of it. This was leverage Rauner could hold over the union to agree to concessions, but I did not think he would privatize the entire prison system.

Close to 3 p.m., I was rudely awakened by the counselor. The guard who was being paid extra money to act as a liaison asked me if I needed anything. She was unwilling to do a lot of things other counselors will do for prisoners claiming it was not her job. I do not know exactly what their duties are, but I never had any expectations from them. All I wanted her to do was not wake me out of a dead sleep. After she moved on to annoy other convicts, I made a cup of instant coffee and turned on my television. There was breaking news and all local stations broadcast Governor Pat Quinn made a brief 3 minute speech. He seemed very bitter, but conceded it was clear he did not have enough votes to win the election. The gap in votes from Tuesday had actually widened to 170,000 or 5%.

President Barack Obama was also not taking the loss of the Senate very well. Incredibly, after his party platform was repudiated across the country, he was claiming a mandate on behalf of people who did not vote and threatening to use his executive power if the newly elected Congress did not do what he wanted. The president made it very clear he will veto any legislation he does not like and will nullify immigration laws to allow millions of illegal aliens to stay. Wednesday night I listened to the Rick Savage radio talk show and was amused when he called Obama a "Lilliputian." Lilliput was a fictional kingdom created in Swift's Gulliver's Travels inhabited by a race of diminutive people, albeit who thought they were very important. The president was a very pompous and conceited man despite his diminished political authority.

While listening to Rick Savage, I could occasionally hear prisoners yelling from their cells. They were of the consensus that any changes in the IDOC would be good. One black convict even exclaimed he did not care if he had to bust rocks in a chain gang so long as sentences were reduced. When I spoke to Psycho earlier, we spoke about how criminal statutes had only become more expansive and extreme over our decades of incarceration. The living conditions had also become worse. We concluded that when you are at the bottom, there was nowhere to go but up. This I believe was the same thought of many people in Illinois, although they may be disappointed by the governor's lack of power to carry through on his promise to "shake up Springfield".

Thursday morning, I listened to another WLS talk radio show. John Kass and Laura Cohn had Illinois' new GOP minority leader on as a guest. Jim Durkin said the Democrats would not renew the increase in income and corporate taxes during the lame duck session. They actually took delight in Bruce Rauner trying to manage the fiscal disaster left to him without extra revenue. The talk show hosts asked Durkin how Rauner will deal with it. He said the governor could not propose a budget without a full audit of the state's expenditures, debt, liabilities, etc. He also will probably be stymied by Michael Madigan. The Democrats had managed to hold onto their super majority and could override the governor. John Kass asked why Republicans could not just win one more House seat. Durkin went on to explain how Democrats had gerrymandered the districts. "But Kankakee?!" Kass implored. The Republican challenger had lost by less than 100 votes.

On the prison yard, it was cold and windy with occasional wisps of rain. Along with a small group of black convicts, I lifted weights with the bent and rusted scrap iron. Two men argued about whether it was the federal government or Springfield which caused the detrimental changes in the IDOC as well as the justice system. After getting annoyed by the exchange, I told the younger and ignorant prisoner that except for federal appeals, everything was due to state politics. Then they debated what the new governor had in store for them. I did not say a word, but when I received a surprise visitor, they joked I had a Bruce Rauner victory party to attend. Apparently, I wear my ultraconservative beliefs on my sleeve.

Republicans flipped the Senate 34/56 and increased their dominance of the House. Their landslide victory was a clear message by the electorate to change course. However, despite the GOP's mandate and new power, the president is a socialist ideologue. He will not compromise and will veto all legislation passed that he disagrees with. Similarly, the same situation exists in Illinois. Voters elected a new governor to alter the downward spiral of the state yet Democrats with their super majorities in both chambers of the legislature can continue to do what they want. The only change which will come is in regards to divisions of government under his direct control including the Department of Corrections. After languishing in the dungeons of maximum security penitentiaries for over 2 decades, I look forward to the change. Ironically, though, the biggest change I can hope for is with the outgoing governor. Before he leaves office, he can grant my petition for executive clemency. My life will never be the same again.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Cellhouse Worker -- November 1, 2014

After much confusion, my cellmate finally began a job as cellhouse help. The assignment is not difficult and requires him to do miscellaneous menial labor in the quarter unit. In addition to his official duties, he also assists prisoners who are trapped in their cells in a variety of ways. For working 7 days a week generally between the hours of 8 a.m. and 2 p.m., he is given an extra $18 a month in state pay. No one accepts a job at Stateville for the money, but for the small perks which come along with it. Cellhouse workers are often able to walk the galleries of the quarter unit and occasionally go outside when escorted. The movement allows them to socialize and barter with a large group of men. Furthermore, they have access to state supplies, extra food trays, and a shower at the end of their shift. There is nothing appealing to me about the detail and I would never accept it, but I am glad my cellmate has. It conveys a few benefits, none better than not having a cellmate for part of the day.

Anthony was first made aware he was going to be offered a job when Internal Affairs had him submit to a drug test a few weeks ago. It is common procedure for prisoners to be tested before being allowed to work. Immediately upon returning from the chow hall, two members of the security unit were at the cell bars and gave my cellmate a cup to urinate in. They thought this was going to be a simple task for him and they could move on to other prisoners on their list to be dropped, however, I knew better. Anthony has trouble pissing in the presence of others even me despite us being confined to the same cell for almost 2 years. I grabbed a newspaper and sat on the table next to one of the men from I.A. and then told him, "This may take awhile. My cellmate has a shy bladder."

Prisoners have 2 hours to give a urine sample. If they fail to do so, they are immediately handcuffed and taken to Segregation. Typically, Internal Affairs will first ask the inmate whether they can go before handing them a cup. After giving them the cup, however, they must watch to make sure the prisoner does not cheat in some fashion. Anthony stood there trying to urinate for 5 minutes before giving up and putting the cup down. The security guard allowed him to drink some water, but I knew that was not the problem. He had a large mug of coffee before chow and at dinner drank 6 or more small cartons of grapefruit juice. His bladder was full. At other times I would ask, "What are you doing back there? Are you playing with yourself, Giggitty, Giggitty? How long are you going to hold your pecker?" and so forth. Occasionally, I will even poke him with my remote control stick or give him a kick. However, on this occasion, I did not know if I should attempt to lighten the mood or allow him to concentrate. Thus, I just read the paper and made a little chit chat with the guard while Anthony repeatedly tried to give a urine sample. Almost an hour passed before he was successful. The cup tests for 5 different drugs and they all indicated negative.

In the week following my cellmate's drug test, he was informed that he was approved for a cell house help job. However, there was much debate about which shift he was going to work. Several prisoners were jockeying for openings including those who already had assignments in the quarter unit. Anthony was ill and did not aggressively lobby the sergeant like others. In fact, he only spoke to her once and with the encouragement of a guard who got along with him. The sergeant was noncommittal and I speculated this was because either she was recently assigned to the quarter unit or was uncertain if she would retain the post. With the indecision, Anthony wrote the assignment officer asking if he could have his kitchen job back but if not possible he preferred to work the 1st shift in the cell house.

It was not until last Saturday that Anthony learned where or when he would work. Just before 8 a.m., a guard yelled from the lower floor for him to get ready to come out. My cellmate was recovering from a bad cold, but immediately jumped down off his bunk eager to begin his first day. He was not at work very long when he was notified he had a visitor. Prisoners and staff alike razzed him that he was already taking time off, however, later he told me there was not much to do. He was assigned 10 gallery (the 5th floor) and he basically just swept, mopped, and picked up trash on the bars of cells. For a period of time, he stood at the far end of the narrow aisle and starred out over the penitentiary wall. I asked him what was the best part of his day at work and other than the view he replied "being able to take a shower." Cellhouse help workers are permitted to shower every day after their shifts.

On Sunday, I awakened my cellmate at a quarter past 7. He told me the previous night to wake him up sooner, however, I did not want him in my way. I have a routine in the morning that I do not like disrupted. He could sleep a little longer until I settled in to eat breakfast and watch the news. Furthermore, I am not a social person and this is particularly true when it is very early. I hate my life and it takes me a while just to adjust to the ugly realities of it. Cellhouse workers can be let out of their cells any time between 7 and 9 a.m. On this occasion, he had plenty of time to get ready and even sat on the front table watching VH1 music videos for a half hour while he waited.

At my suggestion, Anthony chose to take up another cellhouse worker's offer to switch galleries. The view from the 5th floor may be nice, but it was much more practical to work the gallery you also lived on. While I was exercising, I had the opportunity to watch my cellmate at work. First he picked up all the trash prisoners left on their cell bars including many Styrofoam breakfast trays. Then he swept and mopped the gallery. I told him he was pretty good with the push broom and he mused it was due to his 4 years of training in the Marine Corps. Later he rolled a crate by with a bucket of disinfectant. Every Sunday morning prisoners are given a watered-down solution of disinfectant to clean their cells. When Anthony pored some into a container for me, he commented it was 9 out of 10 parts water.

At noon I turned on my television to watch the New England Patriots crush the Chicago Bears. Stateville prisoners were upset to see the home football team be so completely dominated but I was happy. I had no loyalty to the Bears and the Patriots, due to their personnel, were my favorite group of players. I particularly liked watching tight end Rob Gronkowski manhandle Chicago's defense and make 9 for 9 receptions and score on three occasions. The Patriots went on to win 51 to 23, but the cellhouse went quiet by half time. As I watched the game, I ate a tray of baked chicken brought to me by my cellmate. Every cellhouse is sent a rack or two of trays for prisoners who missed chow. When there are leftovers, they are given to cellhouse help. I disdain going to the chow hall and intend to take advantage of Anthony's benefits on the job.

In the evening, I called home using one of the two phones on the gallery. Since my cellmate was already locked in the cell, I was dependent on another worker to bring it to me. Initially, I was in a fair mood, but my mother was to quickly anger me. She told me about a litany of petty problems various family members had. I was railroaded for murder and had spent 21 years in a cage. Most likely, I was going to die in prison and none of them cared. Not one was willing to pay for a private investigator or a new attorney. Exasperated, I told my mother to let me speak to my father. I wanted to talk to him before he left to South Carolina.

The following day, I awakened to find a couple of small croissants in my breakfast tray and thought they would go well with coffee. Since my cellmate was now waking up near the same time as me, I also made him a cup. He appreciated the gesture but was again in my way before he left the cell. He even wanted to use the toilet at the most inconvenient time for me. I told him to shit downstairs in the lieutenant's office. The office is actually a cell directly below ours. There is no bunk bed but it has bars, a sink and a toilet. My cellmate grumbled something disagreeable and claimed he would be sent to Seg. I replied no staff would walk him for having to use the toilet. When you got to go, you have to go. Just walk straight in there, pull your pants down, and have a squat. If anything, they will be too stunned or amused to send you to Seg.

Later while on the job my cellmate asked me to hand him his electric razor and a mirror. From the gallery, he shaved to look clean cut for his photo. The prison was again taking annual mugshots and his name was on the list. He did not return for a long time and I asked him if he broke the camera. He said while he was at Gate 5 a fight occurred in the Roundhouse and there was a hold on all movement. I asked to see his new identification card and when I saw he was smiling I remarked, "Creepy." In fact, I told him he reminded me of "Creepy Rob Lowe" in his commercials for Directv. My cellmate told me numerous men were complaining of the yellow tint. I did not notice it in his photo, but I am certain with my pale complexion, I will soon have a new ID where I appear to have jaundice.

Visitors are permitted to leave publications for the person they are seeing. I had too many newspapers to read and only quickly perused the Mokena Messenger my mother had left. I noticed the Lincoln Way Knights were ranked below all the other Lincoln Way schools and took solace that because of the new schools since my arrest, I would have attended LW East, rather than Central. The Griffins had just beat Bolingbrook and were going to win the SWSC Blue Title. I was going to throw out the newspapers but then thought my neighbor may like to look at them because he was also from that area. Not long after I did, Leprechaun was excitedly tapping his mirror on my cell and proceeded to tell me his brother was spoken about at length in one of the articles. His brother was a long time developer in the SW suburbs and was soon to be half owner and manager at an enormous new indoor gun range. Live Fire Gun Shop and Club was to open next year in Mokena. I asked Leprechaun how close of a relationship he had with his brother. He said he had not had any contact with him in well over a decade.

Before I went to sleep I was delivered more mail. After 5 years my attorney had sent me a rough draft of my appeal. I briefly looked at the issues raised before putting it away in my property box to read some other day, week, or month. As I anticipated, she only raised a quarter of my issues and still had yet to get the affidavits I required. Even if the appeal was done properly, I had lost all faith in my attorney. Filing the appeal was the easiest part. How could I trust her to represent me in the 2nd and 3rd stage of a post conviction proceeding? I will probably just wait for the Illinois Innocence Project to file for DNA testing and decide if they want to represent in entirety, although this will take 2 years.

On Tuesday, my cellmate asked permission to attend the gym. Cellhouse help and other workers have a special yard day on Saturdays, but sometimes are allowed to go to other recreation periods. The sergeant gave Anthony the go ahead and after picking trash off the cell bars of the gallery, he went to play basketball. While he was gone, other workers swept and mopped the floors. They also passed out supplies. One of the workers returned to my cell to give me an extra roll of toilet paper as well as an extra bar of soap. Apparently, the extra supplies were a perk of the job.

Since Anthony was at the gym, I did not know if I could rely on him to give me an extra lunch tray. At the chow hall, a couple of black prisoners oddly sat with Leprechaun and me. One of the men is referred to as Big Jr. because he is a sizable man, although not as muscle bound as Big. Big Jr. had the audacity to take my two juice cartons. Occasionally, I will lift weights with him and I did not know what to think of what he did. Was he testing or playing with me? Maybe, he simply thought I did not want them because they were not close to my tray. Then I considered if he was just delirious because he was a diabetic and his blood sugar levels drop greatly when he works out. Dubious to his intent, I simply said, "So, you are just going to gangster my juices?" He did not reply, but placed them back.

In the afternoon, my cellmate seemed to be trying to make up for his absence earlier. He sorted and passed out the majority of the laundry bags and sheets which had been returned to the quarter unit. After his shift, he was very tired and was about to take a nap when the sergeant who works from 3 to 11 p.m. yelled to him. The sergeant said he had pulled some strings so Anthony could work for him. My cellmate got along with the staff on the 2nd shift, but he had sought working the 1st shift so he would not miss all his television shows during prime time. Later, the sergeant as well as a guard came to the cell to further persuade him. Anthony was trying to be tactful, but finally I blurted out that he cannot work the 3 to 11 shift. His life was watching TV at night. Not happy, they went away and my cellmate worried that he may face retaliation.

Again on Wednesday, I was anxious for Anthony to leave the cell. His new job assignment was great because it provided me time during the day without his presence, however, in the mornings he was very disruptive and annoying. Before my medications begin to work, I am regularly suffering from back pain and stiffness. I do not like engaging my cellmate just after waking, let alone playing a game of Twister in the small confines of our cell. Eventually, he was let out at 8:30 and I immediately washed the floor and then worked out. I expected to receive a visitor and had a lot of things to do before my name was announced.

After arguing with my mother for most of our visit, I returned to the cell and took a long mid-afternoon nap. When I awakened, I noticed my cellmate had glued a couple of hooks on the wall to hold his two jumpsuits. All prison workers must wear a baby blue jumpsuit while on their assignments. This is largely done to differentiate them from other convicts. My cellmate was too lazy to fold and put away the jumpsuits. Furthermore, he did not want them in his property box because they could only be washed once a week. I told Anthony I did not like his placement of the hooks and the jumpsuits would be in my way when I used the table or worked out in the cell. Later, the issue would become moot because the hooks fell off the wall.

For dinner I went out to the chow hall. It was a beautiful autumn evening. A navy blue sky was mottled with dark grey clouds which passed over a bright crescent moon. Over the 33 foot high prison wall, I could also see the tops of some trees. Their leaves had turned orange and I briefly imagined what it was like outside the penitentiary. Walking into the chow hall, I was brought back to my ugly reality with mobs of yelling prisoners. In the feed line, the Snowman asked me if I wanted a job working with him in the kitchen. Although my cellmate did, I had no such desire. He told me if I change my mind to let him know. On the way out of the building, I stopped momentarily to talk with a lieutenant. I jested for him to make sure he voted for Bruce (Rauner) and went on to tell him it was soon going to be very lonely for his favorite president when Republicans take over the Senate.

Anthony did not request to have time off work to attend another rec period, and I went to yard without him. I lifted weights with Suave, D-Boy, and a couple of other black prisoners. Conspicuously absent was The Elephant and I inquired about him. Prisoners laughed and said the prior day he went on a hunger strike. From what I was informed, his lawyer had arranged for a legal call, but the counselor was a couple of hours late and when he dialed the number, no one answered. Repeatedly, counselors have been late for his calls and to make a stand, he declared he was no longer eating until the problem was addressed administratively. Prisoners thought our counselors were negligent and had a conflict of interest being guards temporarily assigned the jobs as liaisons. However, their amusement was in a 350 pound man who was continuously eating, declaring a hunger strike. They placed bets on how long he could go.

At night, I watched the beginning of the movie "Lost Boys" until the local Chicago news came on. WGN broadcast Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez telling a crowded room of news reporters that Alstory Simon was innocent and being released immediately from prison. She claimed Northwestern University's investigators pressured the man into confessing which exonerated their client, Anthony Porter. The Porter case captured national media coverage because he was hours away from being executed when he was granted a stay. Later, Illinois Governor George Ryan would commute all the death sentences in 2003 just before leaving office based in part because of Porter. The announcement by Alvarez struck me as nothing but political. She wanted to discredit the law school while simultaneously adding integrity to the states attorney's office. I knew very well cops and prosecutors used various unscrupulous tactics to gain convictions and what Paul Ciolino was accused of doing was nothing comparable, even if true. Furthermore, Simon repeatedly confessed to the murders of Marilyn Green and John Hillard as well as in open court. There was no one I can recall ever who did this and was innocent. Regardless, there was more to Anthony Porter's exoneration than Simon's confession. Students under the tutelage of Professor David Protess discovered the witnesses to the August 1982 double murder in Washington Park could not even see what happened from their vantage point. Make no mistake, the criminal justice system is broken and politics does and will continue to play a factor.

On Halloween I watched the ESPN sports show, Mike and Mike, while eating breakfast. The two goof balls were dressed as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. I did not like their humor, but Belichick was a guest and I thought highly of the Patriot's coach. Afterwards, I asked Anthony if he was going to wear a costume or do any trick-or-treating. With the lieutenant already screaming at the cell house help for "trading and trafficking," he doubted he could do any of the latter, but in his light blue jumpsuit he may appear to be a giant Smurf.

For part of the day, the female lieutenant sat against the outer cellhouse wall like a gargoyle watching workers for the most trifle infraction. Cellhouse help were weary of leaving their assigned gallery or even passing a book to another prisoner. However, while getting cleaning supplies, Anthony was able to get a little bleach to pass to me. I used it to scrub my white gym shoes to eliminate the rust stains. Later when my cellmate passed by again, I inquired if the lieutenant had shut down Halloween festivities. He said there were definitely no treats while she was working, but he was repeatedly tricked while walking by Killer Ray's cell. Apparently, the man had a centerfold open at the front of his cell of a black woman with her legs spread. "Giggitty, Giggitty" could not help himself but to look at the vagina, although every time he did, he was disgusted by the dark and disfigured genitalia. My cellmate said he had to get off the gallery and escape the purple vagina, both the one in the porn magazine and in the cell house. He volunteered to haul the quarter unit's garbage to the dumpsters on the other side of the building. I noticed him through the windows pushing a crate soon thereafter and could tell it was a blustery, cold Halloween. In fact, the penitentiary was placed on a low level lockdown on the 2nd shift.

This morning, the regular lieutenant was back from his extended vacation. There was talk he would be reassigned to another unit but this proved false. Both staff and prisoners were pleased to see him, although they expressed it in their own ways. Horse yelled from his cell, "Lieutenant! Lieutenant!" and when he replied I heard, "F**k you!" For his part, the lieutenant said, "On these nuts, Horse!" In similar spirit, I told Anthony to show the lieutenant how much we appreciate him by taking a dump in his toilet. Then I shoved the cellhouse worker out of the cell.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Ebola -- October 25, 2014

Once again, many inmates are sick with colds. It does not take long for the virus to spread exponentially in a crowded prison. Just a few people can go on to pass the airborne pathogen to the entire population of incarcerated men as well as many staff members. I have tried to take precautions to elude the germs and those who carry them, but with my cellmate already ill, I can only hope my immune system is strong enough to fight off the invaders. The situation reminds me of the Ebola epidemic raging in West Africa and threatening to spill over into the U.S. The White House administration has been slow and incompetent to respond to yet another international crisis. Rather than quickly suspending visas and mandating quarantine for citizens exposed to the scourge, the president lackadaisically addressed the matter with a plan which ironically encourages an open border policy. Although the hysteria is certainly overblown by the media and Americans are far more likely to become sick from other germs, this is little consolation to the relative few who will be afflicted with Ebola and die a quick and horrible death.

Earlier in the month I was surprised a memo by Stateville's medical director was posted. It encouraged people to follow a number of common sense tips to avoid becoming ill and passing their germs onto others. The IDOC has a record 50,000 prisoners and continues to pack men as well as women into the system. The crowded conditions increase the likelihood of outbreaks and the percentage of elderly inmates only exasperates the problem. Due to excessive sentencing statutes, people are serving more time and the median age has gone from the mid-20's to almost 40. Despite this, lawmakers in Springfield are unwilling to reduce criminal penalties and the problems are passed on to prison administrators. The memo, however, was largely a fruitless effort because the best advice was for people to self quarantine. I highly doubted staff would stay home or convicts would stay in their cells and miss meals. At least flu vaccinations were being offered and when nurses did rounds asking men if they wanted one, I said, "Yes, and write my cellmate down for two."

Anthony was initially in denial about being sick. He tends to believe that if he does not think he is ill, he will not be. Furthermore, he does not want me to ridicule or blame him for exposing me to whatever pathogens he picks up. However, I can be very perceptive of a person's health particularly when in close proximity to them. While I may be oblivious occasionally to some matters like social dynamics, I notice minute changes and details many others will miss. Before my cellmate even showed any symptoms, I was aware he was sick. He claimed I was crazy that I could sense he was incubating germs and that it was noticeable in the air. Later when he sneezed I glared at him and said, "Ebola." I was jesting about the deadly virus but knew the sneeze was not innocuous.

The cold first affected his sinuses and then throat. By Sunday, he had black circles underneath his eyes and could barely talk. Other prisoners were also thankfully muted and as the Chicago Bears lost to the Miami Dolphins, there was not the usual shouting throughout the cell house. I was very busy and glad for the lack of disruptions. Occasionally, I would see what my cellmate was doing. He lay on his bunk watching television, took a nap, and sewed a couple of boxers. Prisoners have yet to receive any clothing this year and are forced to buy it at exorbitant prices or attempt to repair their old underwear or other garments. Last week, however, a guard did walk by asking men if they needed a jacket or blanket. Possibly, these will be passed out before winter.

A few days after I met with the Illinois Innocence Project, the penitentiary was taken off lockdown. The administration apparently saw no need for yet another SORT search or to collectively punish everyone for the actions of a few in the Roundhouse. Some inmates speculated also the administration was partly to blame because they permitted the lieutenant within the wall when his previous conduct reassigned him to the NRC (Northern Receiving Unit). The resumption of normal operations, however, had the adverse effect of allowing the continued spread of cold germs which was temporarily lessened while prisoners were confined to their cells. I intentionally kept myself on lockdown to limit my contact with people. Eventually, though, I realized my seclusion served little purpose with having a sick cellmate and I went out for dinner.

In the chow hall, I could not escape the presence of Anthony as he sat at the same table. He ate his chicken noodles without saying much. It seemed as if we were tied at the hip and I was amused but also a little annoyed thinking about a lieutenant who began to nickname us "M & M" after the chocolate candy and the first letter of our last names. With Mertz sick, I did not want to be stuck in the same bag or anywhere near him. Ironically, after I left the table I happened to bump into the lieutenant and he was asking where my other half was. I told him he did not want to approach my cellmate. Thanks in part to his idolized president, I mused he was stricken with Ebola. The lieutenant probably thought I blamed all the nation's problems on Barack Obama and asked if there was just anything positive I could say about him. I had to think long and hard about the question. I tended to believe he was the worst president in the history of the United States and I thought less of him than Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon B. Johnson, or Jimmy Carter. Finally, I said he was poised, articulate, and unwavering in his political ideology even if I found it repugnant.

Monday morning, I looked into my breakfast tray to find a cup of cereal and 3 small pancakes. In lieu of syrup, there were a couple of tablespoons of a substance I am told is Kefir and was donated to the prison in bulk. The vanilla colored liquid is unappealing to me and I refused to ruin my flapjacks using it. Instead, I spread oatmeal cookie crumbs over them and followed with some hot coffee. This was my substitute for syrup and made a tasty combination especially with peanut butter or nuts. My purported twin has noticed the way I prepare my pancakes and did the same later in the day as a snack. I regularly tell him I need to sue him for copyright infringement.

While I ate the bran cereal and improvised pancakes, I watched the news. After much criticism, the U.S. president announced he was taking the fight to West Africa. Just exactly how Ebola was going to be defeated was left up to the Pentagon. Officials created a plan to build 17 treatment centers which were in essence a series of tents. The tents will be used to isolate and help afflicted Africans survive the disease that has already claimed 5,000 lives. Military personnel under the charge of Major General Darryl Williams will not only build the mobile hospitals, but also give a full complement of medical aid. While several thousand troops are deployed to West Africa, only 30 people will be assigned to the U.S. in a rapid response medical team. The president and other liberals like to think of themselves as progressive and forward yet the lopsided use of manpower seemed backwards to me.

Most mornings I will exercise early. However, with my cellmate being ill, it may be wiser for me to wait until he leaves the cell. I did not want to be breathing heavily while he was spewing forth germs. Chow lines will take between a half hour to a full hour to be run and that was almost sufficient time for me to complete my routine. In the meantime I shaved and trimmed my hair by the cell bars. A variety of announcements were made over the cell house loudspeaker including a Jehovah Witness retreat. There are few Jehovah Witnesses in the penitentiary and it was odd to hear this religious service announced. Despite being ill, my cellmate joked by asking if I was attending. He knew that for a period of time during my childhood I studied with them and attended their Kingdom Hall. He also knew soon thereafter I became agnostic and have been ever since. Occasionally, I will quote passages from books by Friedrich Nietzsche including "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" where he mocks Christianity.

When my cellmate returned from the chow hall, I would not let him back inside. I had yet to finish working out and told him to go away. As he walked in the door, I gave him a knee to the stomach and pushed him back on the gallery. A guard who was standing nearby laughed at the exchange. He knew I was simply playing. He also volunteered to put my cellmate in the holding cage until I was finished, but I told him not to bother. Millions of airborne pathogens probably remained floating in the cell with or without him.

During the evening I stayed in the cell to watch NBR, an economics news program, and read a copy of Barron's. Last week, the stock market continued to fall and the Dow Jones even went to 15,855 before recovering. Investors were scared of slowing global growth, tensions with Russia, rising interest rates, and even an Ebola epidemic. Prices were frothy in September and people were probably wise to take profits then. However, now I saw opportunity in the energy sector which had been beaten down. Some stocks were down 40% and that was a bargain particularly for the long term investor. For example, Noble Energy, an offshore rigging company, was selling at $18 and had a sustainable 8% dividend. By 2020, I suspected the price would be over $40 and in the meantime investors would earn 32% on their capital.

Tuesday morning the news fleetingly changed to report on the fate of Oscar Pistorius. Pistorius became famous as the first man to compete in the Olympics without any legs. The "Blade Runner" did not win any medals but was still a champion in many people's eyes particularly in South Africa at least until he killed his beautiful girlfriend, Reeva Steemkamp. He claimed that it was an accident and he thought she was an intruder. I do not know if I believe him, but from my own experience with the criminal justice system, I knew he deserved the benefit of the doubt. The three judge panel seemed to agree and found him guilty only of culpable homicide which in the U.S., I believe, is akin to involuntary manslaughter. He was sentenced to 5 years in prison but will be eligible for home release in 10 months.

Tuesday was a pleasant autumn day and I went out to the small yard to lift weights. Even my cellmate could not resist going outside and I was surprised to see him have enough energy or breath to play basketball. He was definitely going to pay for that later and I did not believe for a moment his statement of "sweating it out". A person cannot sweat out a cold virus and the only thing he was managing to do was stress his body even further. Later, he would respond that I did squat presses despite having two crushed lumbar discs. However, I used a relatively light weight and took the precaution of using another prisoner's waist wrap.

Part of my weight lifting routine involved overturning a steel table so it was at a 70 degree angle and I could do preacher curls off it. This bothered some people including Bone who wanted to sit on one of its stools. After I finished my 6 sets I began looking for the sickly old biker. I found him lying on the ground and I could not stop myself from running over and pretending to give him a drop kick. Bone said it was just like me to kick a man when he was down. I told him when he is dead we were going to take his shoes, sweatshirt and pants. Horse retorted that he was not touching his pants, insinuating that in death he will crap in them. I really need some new clothes, however, and have no problem washing them. It is not as if he has Ebola.

Leaving the rectangular enclosed yard, I noticed an old black man being pushed in a wheel chair into the cell house. The unit had a number of elderly crippled men serving indefinite prison sentences. It was mostly due to the 1990s "get tough on crime" legislation. What made this prisoner different, however, was that he would be released on Thursday. I wondered what he was going to do. He cannot walk, has multiple health issues, and will require nursing care. No wonder when I passed by him he did not seem the least bit happy.

After taking a mid-afternoon nap, I made tea for my cellmate and me. From his bunk, he insisted I mix in a packet of artificial sweetener (the prison does not sell real sugar because inmates can make hooch and moonshine with it) and a couple of lemon cough drops. "Anything else?" I asked. Yes, he wanted me to pass him a roll of toilet paper so he could blow his nose. The tea apparently perked him up and he was happy to play the game show "Jeopardy" with him blurting out answers before I could. Afterwards he wrote a letter to the assignment officer asking if he could have his kitchen job back instead of a cell house help detail. He sought my help whereupon I told him that in his condition he could not be allowed to work with food. The entire prison would have Ebola in weeks.

At night, I had to yell downstairs to a guard because the nurse failed to stop by my cell. I may try to make do without the sleeping medication, but with the cold virus in the air and probably already in my system, I needed all the Z's I could get. The prior night guards awakened me at 2 a.m. because they miscounted repeatedly. They announced on the loudspeaker that all prisoners were to put their ID cards on the bars. I got out of bed and did this but later was awakened by another guard who did not see the cards. I pointed at them and he carried on after flashing a LED light at me. The nurse eventually did return, but after I had fallen asleep. She was apologetic unlike the guard and said she felt stupid for waking me to give me sleeping pills. I told her it was alright. My problem was not falling asleep but staying asleep.

The following morning while I was cleaning the floor and wiping off all common surfaces with disinfectant, Steve interrupted me. He had been let out of his cell for law library and was locked upstairs until the movement team was ready to escort lines. As I spoke to him, my cellmate looked up from his pillow. He looked terrible and Steve asked him if he wanted more aspirin. Anthony did and the pompous short man asked what he was going to do for him. My cellmate told me to "take care of that," but I replied, "Maybe we should take care of you." Continuing on I said, "You do realize that I have the cure for the common cold?" With dark circles under his eyes he looked at me with skepticism or suspicion as I delivered my punchline, "By killing the host, the parasitic virus is snuffed out."

Later in the day, I left Anthony in his misery to go on a visit. On the way to the front of the penitentiary, I heard there was a hold on all health care passes. The prison hospital was packed and unable to accept any more people. Many prisoners other than my cellmate were sick. The backlog of patients at Stateville is nothing new, however. Commonly, the holding cages are filled and prisoners are sent back. Just getting an appointment can take over a month.

For dinner I left my cell again and on the way out of the quarter unit acknowledged the lieutenant who was a big fan of the president by saying, "Lieutenant Ebola." It was actually a slip of the tongue and not meant as a joke. Ebola, Obama, and the lieutenant's name all sounded very similar. The officer could not help from laughing at my play on words even though it was done by accident. I was still musing about the incident as I entered the chow hall and confronted a large crowd of convicts who were coughing, sneezing, and blowing their runny noses. Some prisoners who had yet to succumb to the virus had pulled up their shirts over their noses. I was not certain a T-shirt could filter a virus and just tried to find the most space where I would not be shoulder to shoulder with sick men.

In the serving line, I went through nearly 10 trays before I found one without any food stuck on it. Then I wondered if it was what I did not see that was most dangerous. The tray washer at Stateville regularly fails to clean off the remnants of the last meal served. I complained to the Snowman who was working the line, however, he had an apathetic attitude. I suppose when a person works in a kitchen that has mice and roaches, uncooked and poorly handled food, as well as rotten and spoiled food, dirty trays were insignificant. As I sat down to eat my meal, I could only hope the water used had been hot enough to kill the germs on the tray.

For entertainment I watched the movie "Kindergarten Cop" before going to sleep. It is an amusing film where Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a kindergarten teacher. His partner became sick with food poisoning and he had to take her place. The muscle bound and brusque cop had trouble fitting into his undercover role. He was accustomed to dealing with hardened criminals, thugs, and various dregs of society and not little children. Eventually though, he is able to adjust and of course he gets the "bad guy" in the end.

My cellmate learned his lesson from playing penitentiary basketball on Tuesday and stayed inside the cell Thursday to rest up. I, on the other hand, went to the yard to finish my weight lifting regimen. There are some exercises which are just impossible to do on the small yard despite how much I improvise. While lifting weights I was occasionally joined by black convicts and I had the pleasure of their crude conversation. There was one prisoner though who impressed me by what he learned in a non-credited college course on politics and American history. The class taught by instructors from Northwestern University was one I wanted to take, but did not learn about until it was too late to sign up. Steve, who is in the class, told me I may like the subject matter but not the feminist radicals teaching it or their spin. He said he put a damper on their "girl power" in the first class when they asked if anyone knew when women gained the right to vote. Steve raised his hand and said, "1920, and they have never shut up since."

After yard, I bathed out of the sink and was glad the hot air blower was working. Last week, the boiler at the NRC finally began to send water over to Stateville and heat the pipes. Before then, it was very chilly in the cell house. The cold air may have even weakened the immune systems of elderly prisoners particularly those celled on the lower floor. The circular blower unit is almost directly across from my cell and while it was nice to have the heat sent in, I noticed it also sends in a lot of dust. I assume if it can blow dirt in, it can also blow in cold virus pathogens. There was no way I could avoid breathing them in or washing them off my body.

Yesterday, I was handed a stack of newspapers going back into the previous week. I was not surprised many of the articles focused on the Ebola epidemic. The headline for my most recent paper was "Ebola Hits New York" and I read about a doctor who had been treating afflicted Africans being allowed to meander around the U.S.'s most populous city until he tested positive for the disease at Bellevue Hospital. Mayor Bill de Blasso tried to reassure the public there was nothing to fear and people are not contagious until they develop a fever. In other articles I read stories also trying to counter the hysteria which pointed out influenza, measles, and norovirus were far more common and infectious. This was true but the mortality rate for them was not close to that of Ebola which killed almost 3 out of every 4 people. Fortunately, a few governors such as Chris Cristie were now mandating quarantines of all aid workers returning from West Africa. Despite liberals' cry that it will dissuade assistance, public officials' first priority was to protect Americans. It was a false premise that free Western nations could not keep out deadly epidemics. Throughout the 18th century, diseases of cholera, yellow fever, and small pox were stopped at the border by travel bans.

The U.S. President's unwillingness to restrict travel and sending troops to fight a plague but not engage in combat around the world are symptomatic of his liberal, international political ideology. He does not care about America, but creating a Marxist utopia. The military has been rescinded while enemies abroad proliferate and take advantage of power vacuums. The borders are not only open to deadly diseases but millions of illegal aliens with foreign allegiances if not hatred for their host country. A robust economy is weakened to fulfill a socialist agenda. People along with business are also oppressed for egalitarian purposes. Ebola was not the scariest thing the U.S. and other Western nation's faced. It was the 5th column growing within.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Meeting with the IIP -- October 18, 2014

Since the beginning of the year, I have been in contact with the Illinois Innocence Project. The law school in Springfield was given a grant to take cases in the northern part of the state provided there was exculpatory DNA evidence. I filled out their comprehensive questionnaire and then followed by sending various appeals, police reports, and evidence which demonstrated my innocence including a great amount not presented at trial. Over the summer, I was concerned that despite the egregious nature of my conviction they, like numerous other law schools, were not interested. Many of them are overburdened and do not accept accountability cases. They typically will only represent prisoners who were found guilty as the principle and whose convictions can easily be overturned by irrefutable DNA. Recently a lawyer from the University of Illinois introduced himself over the telephone and this week I met with him as well as two students. The meeting went well, however, it remains to be seen how much help they are willing to extend.

On the last day of September I was on one of the penitentiary's small yards working out. The music of the heavy metal band Slayer and a cup of coffee had me amped up. Quickly, I was sweating and began taking off layers of clothing on the chilly autumn morning. My cellmate noticed me and said, "Go Putin!" in reference to Vladimir Putin who is occasionally made fun of in Western media for being televised bare chested. Not long thereafter I was the subject of other similar jokes when a guard went to the gate and began yelling my last name. He could not pronounce it correctly and inmates thought it was Russian. The Elephant exclaimed, "Russian mafia. That must be you." I was not certain whose attention the guard was trying to get but eventually he verified that I had a legal call.

Lawyers can arrange to speak with prisoners on an unmonitored phone line. A counselor will come into the unit and place the collect call. She was not present and I was told to wait in the holding cage. A black convict who had just returned from a hearing on a disciplinary ticket was in the cage with me and inquired why I was there. I told him I had a legal call, but from whom I did not know. I hoped it was a representative from the Cook County States Attorney's Office or the governor. Anita Alvarez claimed to be reviewing my case under her appointed Conviction Integrity Unit, and Governor Pat Quinn to my knowledge has yet to decide my plea for executive clemency. Both of these possibilities were farfetched and regardless not anything I would tell another prisoner about. Instead, I answered it was most likely a private investigator or attorney that I had contacted pertaining to a successive post conviction appeal. He then began to tell me how he hoped to get back into court with a DNA test which excluded his DNA on a gun. At his trial, the prosecutor claimed the test was inconclusive.

I waited about a half hour for the counselor to arrive. She escorted me into a little hallway which led into the adjacent quarter unit. Inside was a counter with a telephone on it. Before she began dialing, I asked who she was calling. She seemed a little puzzled and said, "Your attorney, of course." Then she showed me a paper with a phone number and name on it. The name was that of a lawyer at the Illinois Innocence Project and I was glad the law school was finally reaching out to me by phone. Previously, there had only been written correspondence between us.

After connecting me with the attorney, the counselor stepped outside the annex so I could have a private conversation. John came across as a personable and friendly man. It seemed his call was just meant to introduce himself and be social. However, I am not good at chit chat and sought a more substantive dialogue. I asked him about his credentials and what he was willing to do for me. Apparently, law professors are not accustomed to being asked how competent and experienced they were. The fact that hundreds of convicts were probably seeking his help also may have made my inquiries seem odd. After realizing this, I told him how many attorneys had let me down in the past and then joked he needs to send his resume before I would consider letting him work for me. At present, he was only looking at the DNA aspect of my case. I was disappointed because I had numerous trial errors as well as ineffective assistance of counsel issues to raise on appeal. There was also plenty of evidence outside of the blood found in my co-defendant's car which proves my innocence. Despite this I could not look a gift horse in the mouth and thanked him for whatever assistance the IIP was willing to give. In the following month John told me he along with a couple of students would meet me in person.

I did not expect the lawyer to visit this week. The previous Wednesday the penitentiary had been placed on a level 1 lockdown. A lieutenant was beaten by an inmate in the Roundhouse. The assault was in retaliation for the corrections officer bashing another inmate in the face, but I doubted this would matter to administrators. Any violence against staff was considered serious. Even a reluctant warden would be pressured by union officials to exact strong collective punishment. Furthermore, there was talk the prisoner did not act alone and gang members distracted guards in the building. Internal Affairs would probably want to conduct a prolonged investigation. Thus, on Sunday morning I was not surprised there was no prisoner movement except for kitchen workers.

I began my day as usual working out at the front of the cell. I was focused on my callisthenic exercises but had to comment to a guard standing nearby. He was escorting a nurse who passed out medications to both my neighbors in the morning. I asked "Sonic Hedgehog" why he was wearing the hat. The nickname I gave to this guard was due to his wildly spiked haircut similar to the video game cartoon character. The guard said he was having a bad hair day. I was wearing a T-shirt bandanna to prevent sweat from rolling into my eyes and retorted, "Me too." When I looked around to see if my cellmate had caught my humor, I found him underneath a sheet sleeping. Apparently, he had awakened early simply to watch VH1 music videos.

Most of the day I spent reading newspapers other than to watch the end of a football game and the CBS television show "60 Minutes". The news program had devoted a large segment to government eavesdropping. The exposures of the National Security Agency by Edward Snowden had finally awakened the public to pervasive snooping and in response, Apple as well as Google created encryption features to meet demand for privacy. FBI Director James Comey claimed these new security measures will put more personal data out of reach of law enforcement and hinder investigations Possibly, it will keep local police from prying but I think CBS, which advertises itself as a big all seeing eye, was just a tool for Big Brother who wanted to lure those it saw as threats into a false sense of security. Also of great interest to me was an interview of James Risen who formerly worked for the New York Times until he exposed illegal spying practices in his book "State of War". How many freedoms and Constitutional rights Americans have forfeited or been usurped to fight terrorism I think can never be quantified.

The loss of my own liberty weighed heavily on my thoughts and when a nurse who was dispensing night time medications asked me how I was, I sarcastically told her it was just another wonderful day. The nurse is one of the rare pretty women who work at the penitentiary who I find attractive. If I did not have a sentence of natural life without parole I might ask her out on a date. She seems to be trying to hide her beauty by putting her long blond hair in a tight bun and wearing nerdish glasses as well as baggy scrubs. I see through the disguise, unfortunately, and it made me gloomier. I took out photos of a former girlfriend that were over a decade old and I listened to the cassette tape "The Wall" by Pink Floyd. A song called "Hey You" resonated with me the most.

On Monday, the penitentiary was placed on a low level 4 lockdown. Cell house workers as well as other men were permitted to go to their details. Phones were placed on the galleries for prisoners to use and I heard visits being announced. The change in lockdown status was a surprise to me, but because it was a holiday I did not expect the lawyer I had spoken with on the telephone a few weeks previously to come. Thus, I did not prepare and went about my morning as usual. I exercised, bathed, and then dressed in sweats to read. Before I opened up the first newspaper, however, I was notified I had a legal visit and scrambled to get ready. My cellmate noticed my agitation while multitasking, and reminded me to be nice. He also advised not slamming a mug of instant coffee but otherwise I may be a nonsocial autistic mute.

My hurry to be escorted to the front of the prison was unnecessary. While in line to be strip searched a guard told me my attorneys were meeting with several clients and I could wait in the holding cage until they called me. I was not aware the IIP planned to see anyone other than myself but it made sense that they make the most of their trip. Most law schools and attorneys who visited with their clients were from Chicago or the suburbs. John and the students who came with him had at least 4 hours of driving. The state capital is over 100 miles from here.

The holding cage is actually two that are side by side in a narrow enclave off a hallway at gate 5. The barred door of one of them was unlocked and I sat down next to a bald headed Caucasian prisoner. It soon became apparent to me that the guard was separating men according to whether they had already gone on a visit and were waiting for an escort back to their living unit and those waiting to go on a visit. Since there was no backlog, I deduced the sole prisoner sitting on the bench near me was also there to see John and Co. Prodding the man to open up about his case was not difficult.

Interestingly, the prisoner was convicted of a murder near Eastern Illinois University, the same school my cellmate was attending when he was arrested. Coal County he claimed was very corrupt and he was unable to get a fair trial or for that matter appeal. His conviction was upheld along with his 72 year sentence. I was not so much seeking information about the murder, his trial, or appeals, but how he came to be represented by the IIP. From what I was told, a local private investigator who was digging into the various malfeasance and or scandals ongoing in the county believed in his innocence. He worked with the creator of the Innocence Project at Springfield and asked if he would take on his case. Bill, however, was too busy and therefore told his colleague John to look into the matter. This was the first time he was meeting John and he was impatient to do so. Chuck, "The Hammer," though, would have to wait until after I saw him.

From my experience with other law schools, I was expecting the school professor to be accompanied by a couple of young students in their early 20's. However, I was surprised that they were much older. It was puzzling why a person would wait until in their 30's to seek a degree in law, although this may be to my advantage. The students under Professor David Protess appeared to be in high school and lacked maturity. They also seemed lost as to what to do and were easily scared off when they were threatened and told to stop investigating my case. I knew Brian Palasz was concerned about being scrutinized but I also knew he was mostly bluster.

After a round of handshakes and introductions, John sat at the end of the large table and the two students sat across from me. This I also found unusual until later. The lawyer began by saying all he was prepared to do was a motion for DNA testing. He was not only going to have the blood stain tested but the victim's clothing, shell casings, and various other things alleged to be evidence. No previous attorney had mentioned a desire to do this and John said the body may have been dragged and the casings planted. Police did a thorough search immediately after the victim was found and oddly nothing was found until months later when Robert Faraci took them to the site. It was an intriguing theory that I have pondered myself. However, what did it matter even if trace DNA still remained? I was not found guilty of committing the murder or even being present but simply for lending my vehicle. John thought any new evidence could open up doors.

I was skeptical the prosecution would not object to what in legal jargon was referred to as a "fishing expedition." Furthermore, I was seeking counsel that would represent me on a comprehensive post conviction appeal. John said the law school had limited resources. There were over 1,300 prisoners who had requested their help and they had to pick and choose amongst them. Personally, I thought my case was one of the greatest if not the most blatant miscarriages of justice, but I could not argue. With that the law professor told me they had only 30 minutes to spend with me and they came here to see what I had to say. I did not know what he meant by this and there was a long pause. Was I expected to acquaint with the law students? Ramble on about my case? Give a sales pitch? I hope it was not the latter because I was not good at selling myself. Therefore, I thought to put the ball in their court by asking for their perspective and when they said they thought I was innocent, I asked why.

The female student seemed to have done her homework and I was impressed by her vast scope of knowledge. At times, I thought she knew my case more than I did. She must have been the person who voluntarily stayed on campus to conduct research over the summer. Despite this, there were still some questions or curiosities she had such as, "How did you meet Bob? Why did you go to Florida with them? Why did you return?"

I met Robert Faraci through Brian Palasz. Brian was out of state to avoid being picked up by police in connection with a burglary of a jewelry store. It was then that his friend Bob was released from prison. Brian asked me as a favor to him to take care of Bob and help him get on his feet. About a year later when I was having troubles at home, Bob invited me to stay with him and his wife, Rose. I was not aware there was already an eviction proceeding in the works and moving back to my parents' house was out of the question. I also was not aware Bob had killed anyone and to my knowledge that was not the reason they were moving to Florida. The victim's body had not yet been discovered and I assume they never thought it would be identified if or when that occurred. Rose had family connections in Clearwater and they both sought to get away from conflict with their other connections to organized crime. For me, the move was only temporary because I intended to go to school in the fall. I left early because I was tired of always being caught in the middle of their fierce domestic fights, among other reasons.

As I spoke, the professor seemed to like just listening or watching my interplay with the students. Despite having cloudy blue eyes, he made intelligent comments or inquiries every so often. For example, he wanted to know what the prosecutor argued in Faraci's trial. This was important because major court rulings have come down overturning convictions when the state's theory diverged. The prosecutor cannot have his cake and eat it too. Many times assistant states attorney James McKay and Paul Tsukuno used unscrupulous tactics to kill two birds with one stone.

Another question the lawyer had was about the many inconsistent stories of my co-defendant. The brazen lies Robert Faraci told over the course of his talks with his wife, a mafia informant, various friends, jail detainees, the police, and even his own testimony at trial went far and wide. From saying he drove me to the Brown's Chicken Restaurant in Palatine where I went inside and killed everybody, all the way to I just told him that I committed the massacre of those seven people. There was one where he shot Fawcett and then he said he was only present out of a fear for his own life. A half hour was simply not enough time to go over all of Bob's tall tales. Thus, I said one of the most glaring reversals that is documented by the police was his insistence that Brian Palasz was present at the murder site until he was told that Brian had an alibi. Coincidentally, Brian also disappeared from Rose and Nadine's narratives as well. It must have been a conundrum for the Cook County States Attorney's Office when the     "3 Musketeers" changed to 2, and then became only 1.

Ultimately I spent almost two hours with the attorney and students. In fact, we could have continued talking except it was almost closing time and they still had to see another prisoner. I tend to believe my case is one of the more intriguing case studies. However, if it was just mere interest that mattered, I would have been freed long ago. What I need most is action and there does not seem to be anyone willing to lend a hand. John said he would represent me solely to request the court for forensic testing, but thereafter he could make no promises. In two year's time, I may be back to square one. Often I am reminded of the Greek myth of Sisyphus who is condemned to roll a heavy stone up a hill in Hades only to have it roll down again, time and time again.