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Monday, May 30, 2011

Law Library Day -- May 20, 2011

For months, I have been trying to get to the law library. Inmates at Stateville must submit a request to get on the list which is made up by a woman who works here. She is supposed to follow certain criteria, and give priority to prisoners who have pending court deadlines and dates. She also is supposed to be fair in allowing people access to the law books. Only 25 inmates are permitted to go to the library at one time, and in the Roundhouse, library is only run once a week. The cell houses in general population have 2 opportunities to go during the week. Although prisoners in Segregation are not allowed to go, due to the number of people in the cell house who are here on court writs, infrequency of lines, and the count limits, getting to the law library is very difficult. Today was the first time I made the list since the summer of last year.

I have been working on filing a successive post conviction appeal for years. I have an attorney, but I suspect she has not been working on my case diligently, or at all. Increasingly, I believe I must do the appeal by myself. Meeting the criteria to simply just be allowed to file a second post conviction appeal is difficult, but is made much worse because of the many limitations on my ability to research law and obtain new exonerating evidence. I need more time in the law library to dig through the books there. Since being released from Seg, I have submitted over 10 requests to go to the library, and was thinking I may have to file a grievance or write the assistant warden about the issue.

This morning, I woke up knowing it was Friday and law library day in F House, but I did not anticipate making the list. I began my day like any other by checking the three roach traps before doing anything else. Two of my potato chip bags had roaches in them, which I emptied into the toilet bowl before making myself a small cup of coffee. We were given pancakes and grits for breakfast. I mixed crushed cookies and peanut butter to spread on the pancakes, and then poured the hot coffee over them. Prisoners are not given syrup, and the cookie crumb-coffee combination is a good substitute.

While I was in the back of the cell brushing my teeth, a guard came by and yelled my cell mate's last name. He rose from his bunk, and the guard told him he was on the library list. The guard then continued down the gallery. My cellmate was happy to make the list, and although I was disappointed to once again be skipped over, at least I thought I will have the cell to myself for a few hours. In F House, a person rarely has any time alone because there is little movement. However, to my surprise, the guard backtracked and told me I was also on the list.

I had somewhat lost faith that I would ever make the law library line until I did some serious complaining. My legal papers were consequently a little out of order. I went through my correspondence box and took out my 9 x 11 legal envelopes to sort through. There were certain things I wanted to put in my extra law library box, and there were other things I wanted to keep in my cell. Then I made myself a list of all the things I wanted to do there. The list became longer and longer. I knew I was not going to be able to do everything, however, I was going to try. Who knows when I will get my next opportunity to go to the library?

While getting my paperwork in order, I noticed the cell house had two competent supervising staff on duty who had strong work ethics. They have been assigned to work in F House, but sometimes the sergeant and lieutenant are not here on the same day. For a long time, I have been trying to get some new clothes from the clothing room. I have turned in several clothing request slips in the last few months, but received nothing. I did not know whether to blame the staff for not submitting my requests, or the clothing room supervisor who has been especially stingy about giving out new clothes. However, I did know that if I turned in a slip today there could only be the clothing room to blame.

I looked through the envelope where I keep miscellaneous forms and discovered I did not have a clothing order form. I knew these were kept in one of the storage rooms, or offices of the Roundhouse, and began looking out my cell to see if I could spot an inmate worker who could get me one. I saw that the lower gallery worker was in front of the new sissy's cell, and thought what a scum pervert he was. However, I also knew the creep would get me a clothing slip.

When people who made the library list were let out, they went to the lower floor. Most of them, including my cellmate, were yelling to people in Segregation. I walked past these men to the front of the cell house near the front offices. A few guards were standing around, so I asked one if he could grab a clothing slip. He went into an office and returned saying he could not find one. The perverted cell house worker came by and I asked him for one. He returned quickly with a few slips from a storage cell. I filled one out, and gave it to the sergeant. I knew "Norman Bates" was good for something.

The walk to the law library was a long one. The library is on the other side of the prison grounds, and we had to walk through the tunnels and then across the south yard. I was very sore from my 5 hour "lift-a-thon" and wind sprints the day before. With every step I took, I could feel the pain in my lower back and the muscles through my entire body, but especially in my hamstrings. In the tunnel going around the chow hall, I was alert for any fights that could erupt. There was a large gang fight a couple of months ago in the tunnel, and I did not want to get caught off-guard. Although I was stiff and sore, I felt confident that I could still defend myself. Later, while in the library, I did not know why I was concerned about safety in the tunnel. The library only had one guard stationed there, and if someone or a number of someones had intentions of violence, it would be more easily done in there.

In the law library, I quickly took chairs off of a table and put my legal papers down to claim the table. I did not want to sit with people I did not know or care for. My cellmate grabbed one of the chairs and sat down at my table to look through his papers, and I moved another chair to a different table so we would not have any unwanted company. I then took out my law library to-do list, and went up to the counter.

I used to talk regularly with one of the inmate law clerks before being placed in the Roundhouse. He was there that day, and seemed happy to see me. We shook hands, and he told me he had repeatedly been submitting my name, but I continued to not make the list. I told him after some brief small talk that I had a number of things I needed done, and I showed him my notes. On the top were three cases dealing with what is called a "void judgment." My natural life sentence without the possibility of parole went beyond the statutory authority of the judge, and I wanted to try voiding my sentence. According to some court opinions I had read or been told about, I could appeal the sentence at any time. However, I also read information that there was a two year deadline to raise the issue, or I still had to be on my regular set of appeals. It has been 16 years since I was sentenced, and all my regular set of appeals were over with long ago.

I began to explain my case to the clerk, and he stopped me in mid-sentence. He said he already knew all about it. His opinion was that it was going to be severely difficult for me to get in front of a judge to hear this issue or any other. He told me I would have to establish "cause," which I already knew. Cause meant, in legal verbiage, why I did not, or could not have, filed the issue earlier. The only cause I had was that my prior attorneys were ineffective and did not do their job. While I was talking to the legal clerk, the guard shouted out my name.

The guard in the library was sitting at a desk at the elbow of the "L" shared room. I had failed to sign in and pick up my prison ID that I had turned in upon entering the building. I was too busy to wait in line to sign my name to the registry when I first came in. I had a lot to do, and knew my time was short. While I signed my name, the guard gave me a hard look and asked me if I was once a high escape risk. I told him no, and quickly left to carry on my work. He seemed to be distrustful, and later when I walked up behind him, he turned around defensively. I had too much to do to concern myself with the easily scared cop.

Back at the counter, the legal clerk had all the books I wanted plus one more. He told me the large black book was all about defense attorneys' rules of professional conduct. My post conviction lawyer had forged my signature and submitted my appeal without notifying me. I was not even aware that he had done this until I received an answer from my original trial judge, Samuel Amirante, denying the appeal because he thought it had no merit, and it did not have mandatory affidavits attached. The law clerk told me that this may be my cause, though, I had to show the court I just learned about how the lawyer's actions were misconduct. I was already thinking of raising his counsel as falling below a reasonable level required by statute.

I asked the clerk if he thought it was better for me to present my post conviction appeal as the first, or as a successive one. He said it was definitely better if I could do the former because there are fewer obstacles. I asked him, however, how do I get around the statute of limitations? A post conviction appeal must be filed within 6 months of the denial of a direct appeal, or 3 years after conviction. Again, I was immensely over the time limits. The clerk was of the opinion I could try convincing the court to take jurisdiction of the case by pleading that counsel sabotaged my appeal through misconduct, and I only recently became aware of the law. I told the clerk I would argue the appeal both as a 1st and 2nd appeal as a safeguard.

While en route to the library, I mentioned to my cellmate that I had not seen Juan Luna, one of the men convicted in the infamous Palatine murders, in some time. I noticed that a cell house worker was in front of us, and asked him what happened to Luna. He told me that Luna no longer worked in the Roundhouse and was sent back to general population. I thought about how that took away my ability to pressure him for his discovery, or stomp on him in my anger for a mass murder he committed, but that was initially blamed on me. I asked the legal clerk to get me the address of the Palatine Police Department. I was going to ask them again under the FOIA for those investigative files. They denied me before because they said it may impede their prosecution of Juan Luna and James Degorski, but now they could no longer give me that excuse. The clerk said he would try to find the address but doubted it was available in the library.

At my table, I began to go through my extra box that was kept in storage at the law library. A man yelled out, "Last call for copies", and I quickly searched through my papers for things I needed copied. I found some notes my attorney had sent me regarding several issues in my case including my sentence, which a paralegal student I had met had asked about. I also wanted to send her my first post conviction appeal, which apparently is not on the Internet, but I could not find it in time. I did not wait on the copies, but quickly returned to my table to go through my box some more.

I placed a couple of 9 x 11 envelopes into my box that I did not need immediate access to, and took out several others. I found my post conviction papers finally, as well as my 5th Clemency Petition. I will be placing this petition online, and have wanted to for a long time. I cannot expect people to sign in support of my petition without allowing them to read it, or see the voluminous number of corroborating exhibits. Although almost a thousand people have signed already based on what information is already online, and some have told me it is unnecessary to see the original petition, I strongly believe it is my obligation. The pending petition will be linked to this blogsite, and I encourage those interested to read it.

From my box, I also took out a few envelopes that were filled with hundreds of personal letters. I had these far too long, and needed to send them home. I trust my parents with their safekeeping.

I began to go over one of the books given to me, but only midway through the "keys" I was interrupted by the law clerk. He had the pencils I had given him to sharpen along with a list of five addresses. He said he could not find the address to the Palatine Police Department, but I could send requests to these agencies. I was skeptical of what he told me, and before I said anything, my cellmate, who was sitting across the table, interrupted and told me I need to send the FOIA form directly to the police station, and not any of these other places. He also told me he had everything I would want to know about the FOIA in the cell.

The clerk asked me if the books were helpful. I said I had not even had time to read them. He told me I had better hurry up because there was only a short time left before the guard would be yelling for prisoners to turn in the books. I said, fine, but before I delve into them, tell me what you know about retroactivity. I told him, "I recently read a number of cases that were remanded back to the circuit court due to their post-conviction appeals being dismissed at the first stage for procedural defaults. I have learned that a new legislative law was made in 2000 after my appeal, restricting the court from throwing out appeals for mistakes. Can I use this intervening change of law as cause to get back into court?" He said, "A person that knows well about this subject is another law clerk named Nick," and he called Nick over to the table.

I have known Nick for a few years, and had in fact not long ago spoken to him about intervening changes of law while we were waiting in a visiting holding cage. He had asked me if I was having any luck getting back into court. I told him, no, that I was going to die in prison. Nick told me not to think that way, and to be continually checking new law to see if it can be applied in my case. As he explained in the law library, he had been given a lot more time than he was eligible for, but a new Illinois Supreme Court decision had allowed him to file a successive post conviction petition, and he should be sentenced to 20 to 40 years. I asked him for a specific ruling, or statute that said inmates can refile if the law is changed. He did not know. He let his attorney take care of all those details.

Nick then asked about my co-defendant, Bob Faraci. He asked if that "rat scum" had ever got out of prison. I told him he has been released for the check fraud scam for a while now. Nick told me that Faraci and his entire family were a bunch of slime. He told the law clerk that Faraci was from their area, and he knew his cousin. Nick began to relate a story he had told me at least five times before about what this woman did at a party (I omit what she did here for obvious reasons). I am skeptical whether Nick really knows Bob, or any of Faraci's family, but he is adamant about his recollection.

Nick continued talking to the other law clerk I know saying that Faraci testified against me. Again, I interrupted to correct him, and said, "He did not." Nick then said, "Well, he told the police that you committed the Brown's Chicken murders and various other crimes." I agreed this was true, and I would never have been arrested if not for his numerous lies to the police. Nick said Faraci was a rat piece of shit, and if he had a single righteous bone in his body, he would retract his lies. Nick would not get any argument from me on that, and I thought about some of the things Faraci recently posted on my blogsite, but I did not mention this to the others. I do not want the inmates at Stateville to know I have a blogsite where I write about my life and the goings-on at the prison.

Not long after Nick left the table, boxes were picked up and there was an order for books to be returned to the counter. I barely got anything done. I looked at the clock and saw that we had only been in the library a little over an hour. An inmate worker wanted my box, but I told him he will have to wait. I still needed to put some things in it. He stood there impatiently until Nick came back around and told him to go get lost. Nick said he would bring my box to the storage area.

On the return to my cell, I was stopped repeatedly by prisoners in their cells. One man insisted that I used to work in the kitchen. I was not going to argue with him, nor did I see the relevance, so I just walked on. Another man wanted me to pass something for him. In front of my cell, my neighbors wanted to talk. The door to my cell could not be opened soon enough.

In my cell, I began to sort through, and put away, all the papers I brought back with me. I stopped when I got to my letters. I had letters from several women that I had written over the years. They had too much meaning for me to ever throw away. I read over a number of them, and looked at their photographs. As I read, I became very sad. I had ended these relationships even though they had wanted to continue writing despite my continued imprisonment and life sentence. It was terrible to read their last letters, or their letters that said things like, "I will love you forever," and had a hundred little hearts drawn on them. I only wish that was true, I thought. After putting the envelopes away, I threw a blanket over myself and went to sleep.

It is now 6 p.m., and the letters still weigh heavily on my thoughts. I am tempted to pull them back out, but I know reading more of them will only make me more unhappy and bitter. I have recently begun writing another woman, although I swore I would never do so again. I must be foolish to continue to climb the same cliff only to throw myself and the woman I lured with me off onto the sharp rocks below. Hopefully, this will not be a continuous cycle.