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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sunny Skies over Doomed Lives -- April 10, 2012

Today was a bright and sunny spring day which seemed to lift the spirits of many of the prisoners at Stateville. It was ironic to me how something as trivial as the weather could affect the mood of people who live such miserable and oppressive lives. The vast majority of inmates here are condemned to die in prison with natural life or have such lengthy sentences no mortal could serve. During the day, I pondered how these men could be cheerful under the wretched conditions they endure year after year without end. Possibly, some never accept reality and have faith they will be freed. Possibly, others adapt or do not feel the terrible anguish as I do. Regardless, I thought Stateville was an enormous mausoleum full of tombs of dead men and it did not matter if the sun was shining on its stone exterior. The stench of death and decay of over a thousand men, some innocent, most guilty, did not go away. If anything, it was more apparent.

Typically, I begin my day in a foul mood, although on days like today it can be exasperated. Every morning, I wake up to the harsh reality from a night of pleasant dreams or void of consciousness. This morning I also had to deal with severe lower back pain and stiffness. The medical staff has still not refilled my order for an NSAID medication and I have to rely on a nurse who comes by twice a day to dispense pills. I was given an Ultram which does little for my pain but most men were receiving psychotropics. Possibly, this was a reason for their warped sense of reality and irrational happiness. The angle of the sun has changed noticeably since the beginning of spring and now the light streams directly into my cell. The bright light is a great irritation upon waking and I wished the dead of Stateville were buried or kept in a crypt, including myself. Ironic how society thinks making convicts suffer indefinitely is more humane than executing them.

My normal routine is to watch the morning news while eating my breakfast. However, in my channel surfing, I noticed the James Bond movie "Casino Royale" was on the USA network. Casino Royale was probably my favorite Bond film and I decided it was worth watching. Possibly, the movie could help me escape the miserable reality which often pervades my thoughts. Daniel Craig is my most liked James Bond actor because I can more readily identify with the character he plays. The last couple of movies in the film franchise portray a more real, unrefined, and masculine man without the pretentious charm and humor. While watching the film I entertained the thought that I and the movie character had similarities including the same hair cut. If my brown hair was to get some sun, it may also be the same color. Being an intelligence agent always intrigued me since childhood, although I know possibly I could have learned the skills, I doubt I have the social qualities that make for a good spy. I probably would be much more suited for Special Ops than a secret agent. In Casino Royale, however, Bond is quite straightforward.

While I was watching the movie, a prisoner who goes by the name "Doc" stopped by my cell. He was initially speaking to my cellmate, Bobby, who was sitting on his box next to the bars until there was a commercial break and I turned around to address him. Doc has been in federal and state prisons since the early 80s, and is now 70 years old. Recently, he was given a cell house help job which basically consists of picking up garbage, sweeping and mopping floors, or passing out supplies. On the second day of his detail, he had to be taken to the hospital. I asked him about his health and he told me doctors found various enlarged blood vessels which are a result of being on dialysis too long. Doc has various medical problems and I expect he will die soon. Despite his imminent death, he continues to be a cheerful person. He is celled nearly underneath my cell and I often hear him laughing uncontrollably. Earlier today, he was also in a good mood.

Chow lines were run early in C House, but I was able to see Bond kill the villain at the end of the movie before I left the cell. Going to chow is a disturbing event for me usually because of all the noise, crowds and undesirable people I must deal with. Just leaving the building is annoying because I must dodge various inmates on the narrow gallery who stop to talk to others or are preoccupied in some other way. A fat man I have come to call the "elephant" blocked my path and I had to wait for him to move forward. Finally at the stairs, there was a crowd waiting and instead of being cramped within the herd, I walked past the stairs where Mertz was standing and there were fewer people waiting to go to the chow hall.

Stepping outside the building, I was hit with blaring sunlight and was envious of the prisoner I stood by in line who had sunshades. I would have taken them from him but they are only a thin strip of plastic which go with his eyeglasses. The man who goes by the name Chase commented that it was a wonderful day and asked me if I was going to the yard. I said, "Doubtful. Why do you ask?" He said, "It's sunny and nice outside." I told him that is precisely why I probably would not go. Plus, we were scheduled to be put on the small yard which reminds me of a crowded dog run. Mertz was standing next to me and I asked him if he was going outside. He said he had a health care pass but was planning on skipping it. "If Mertz goes out, I will," I told Chase.

In the chow hall, I was disappointed to see the menu had been changed from burgers to meatballs. I would not have come out if I had known that. The meatballs served at Stateville are made with gristle, chips of bone, veins, organ meat and soy filler. I offered my tray to those I sat with but there were no takers. To not make a total waste of my trip, I placed some bread in a bag and stuck it in my sock. I also pocketed the apple. When I was walking back to the cell house, a fat guard had the nerve to demand that I give him my apple. Inmates are not supposed to bring food back to their cells. I cannot understand the policy except that it may prevent theft of food not served from the kitchen. The guard was being incredibly petty confiscating my apple. Do those automatons who work here realize inmates are going to die in here and have nothing to lose? Yet they still want to enforce the dumbest of rules. I pondered walking up to the guard and crushing the apple onto his head, but I just simply tossed it to him without breaking stride. Inside the cell house, I had one of the cell house workers give me an apple off of one of the lay-in trays which no one wanted.

Standing outside my cell waiting for the door to be opened, the biker who lives next to me commented it was a beautiful day. "The sun is shining and the birds are chirping," he continued. If I had not known better, I would think I was standing next to a peace loving hippie and not a life long biker who has multiple stab wound scars from numerous fights. He then asked me, as Chase did, if I was going out to the yard, whereupon I asked him why he thought I was predisposed to like sunshine. He said, "Everyone loves sunshine, and it has tremendous mental and physical benefits." I asked him if he recalls the cassette tape I loaned him by the band Soundgarden. On the tape was a song called "Black Hole Sun," and I said I would be much more inclined to enjoy the eclipse of the sun and the glow of its corona than all this bright beautiful sunshine you talk about. My neighbor has spent three decades in prison and has stage 4 liver cancer. Possibly, with death knocking at his door, he is apt to enjoy such small things despite living as a captive.

In my cell, I worked on a top 50 stock list for a friend. I had finally analyzed all of the stocks on the NYSE and came up with 50 of my favorites. The list had purchase prices well under what the shares were selling for today because of my belief the U.S. will eventually go into a double-dip recession. Tomorrow, I will write him a letter explaining the chart and my opinion that this is not a wise time to buy into the market. As the election approaches, the economy's descent will be more apparent.

While I created the stock chart, I listened to Dan Proft and Bruce Wolf on WLS talk radio. The news recently has been focused on President Obama's public endorsement of same sex marriage. This has been met with huge praise by the liberal dominated mass media and I found it detestable how warped the coverage was on television yesterday. For years, Hollywood has tried to normalize homosexuality and make it more acceptable to the public. However, there is nothing normal about homosexuals. They are an abomination to nature, and if I were a religious person, to God. Obama has a new campaign slogan called "Forward." Forward to where? I must ask. Into the abyss of decadence and fiscal bankruptcy? Interesting that the Communists and radical left use the same slogan in Europe.

After Obama announced his support of gay marriage, coincidentally, the media the following day attacked Mitt Romney as being a bully in high school and cutting the hair of another student who was a homosexual. The liberals must be very desperate to go back decades to the Republican presidential candidate's high school years. What high school boy has not bullied, razzed, or got into fights with other students? I notice there has been a campaign by the liberals to end bullying and they have even made October "anti-bully month". However, bullying is a part of childhood. Unlike homosexuality, it is normal. There is a saying "boys will be boys," but I have yet to hear "boys will be girls," or vice versa. Ironic how Obama supporters throw these attacks at such a squeaky clean upright Mormon when their own candidate has a very shady past. The President has even admitted to smoking dope regularly in his youth. Given a choice between a bully and a stoner, I would definitely take the former, though there is much more to these candidates than what they did back in the 60's.

Toward the back of the line, I walked with Mertz to the two small yards. Other inmates had quickly walked or even ran to the yard. Although the average age on 2 and 4 galleries was probably over 40, the men acted like children running out to recess during grade school. Amazingly they seemed to forget about their natural life sentences and the misery of their incarceration. One may think they were going to the playground but there was a vast difference between the playgrounds that I remember from childhood and the virtually vacant small yard surrounded by cyclone fencing and razor wire. The yard was basically two concrete basketball courts with a short walkway to them. On the walkway were two rusted steel tables with connected stools. To the sides of the walkway were two little square patches of grass, one of which had a chin-up bar. At the far corner of the yard was a portipod cut in half and without a door to permit the guard in the gun tower to see inside it.

Men sat the two tables to play cards and dominoes. A couple of people sat on the concrete nearby to play chess. Other inmates just talked to each other at the perimeters, and to those on the identical yard nearby which is separated by about 10 feet. Most of the men went to the basketball court to play a game. Mertz also joined them, although he was the only Caucasian to do so. Chase challenged me to a game of one-on-one on the other court. He knew I was in a lot of pain and my back was stiff. I think he believed because of this I would not play, or if I did, he could make me look foolish. However, I accepted his challenge and forced myself to be competitive despite my back and sciatic pain.

Basketball is the worst sport for a person to play with a low back injury. The continual abrupt pivoting and jumping jars and twists the spine. Plus, in prison the inmates play a very physical game which can catch a person with a spinal injury at the wrong time, sending them to the floor immobile and in excruciating pain. Fortunately, Chase did not play with continuous flagrant fouls and only elbowed me once into the lip. Accidentally, I hit him in the groin with a knee while going up for a shot and he folded in pain. Thus, I figure we were equal. Basketball is my least liked and least skilled sport. However, for the cardio exercise, I played for half an hour. This was all my back could take, and I was fortunate to play a close game and lose only by a basket.

Chase was surprised when I went to do a core exercise routine afterwards. He did not realize these and other exercises I could do with much less pain and greater skill and agility. For my lower abdominals I jumped to hold onto the pull up bar and pulled my legs upward. I was easily able to do sets of 50, and for fun, lifted myself up and around the bar. Chase dared me to do a full sweep around the bar with my legs straight out. I did so, and landed perfectly on the lawn like I was a competitor on the parallel bars in the Olympics. He was impressed and I asked for a score of 10, although I could only get a 9.9. A white prisoner named Scott was walking around the perimeter of the fence listening to his Walkman and he stopped by after my performance. Scott was a schmoozer and had a manipulative sociopath type personality I did not like. When he excessively complimented me, I told him to quit blowing smoke up my ass. He asked me why he would lie, and I said flatly, "Because you are a pathological liar." Scott said maybe when he was on drugs, but not anymore. Scott was heavily into drugs before his arrest and for part of his incarceration. Although there may not be any easily obtained meth or other hard drugs for him to smoke or inject, I do not think he has changed. Just like some of these anti drug commercials, I can see him selling out his friends, family, or anyone for another fix.

When Mertz finished his game of basketball, he came to sit with me in the corner of the yard on the grass. We spoke about his cellmate's futile attempts to appeal his guilty plea. If a defendant pleads guilty, he basically waives all of his appeals. There are very few issues a person can raise and most deal with technicalities. Incredibly, he pled guilty in an open plea and was given a natural life without parole sentence. Only a fool, in our opinion, would throw himself at the mercy of the court. Mertz also ridiculed him for gang banging in prison for the last couple of decades before reviewing the law to see if he could rescind his guilty plea. I asked if the evidence against him was insurmountable and I was told there was no question of his quilt. He broke into someone's home and killed someone with a knife. Due to the home invasion and murder, he was automatically eligible for the death penalty just like Mertz, although Mertz took his case to trial.

Chase came to sit with us and we took turns ridiculing him for also copping out to avoid the death penalty. His guilty plea was even more foolish because he agreed to life in prison. Then Mertz began to give Chase the 3rd degree about his case and various details. Chase shot two men with a 22 caliber rifle and then dumped their bodies in a large pit of hog manure. I told him he is supposed to dump the bodies in the hog feed similar to the horror movie "Hannibal" where some men tried to get the serial killer eaten alive. He told me this was a misnomer and pigs will not eat humans unless they are starving. Regardless, it did not matter, he said, because his co-defendant went to a bar, and while drunk told various people about what they did. He then testified against him in exchange for 115 years. His wife was sentenced to some 50 years for merely being a look-out of some sort. She will actually be freed soon because the former law mandated a person only serve half their sentence. Chase's wife divorced him before the trial, apparently for legal reasons and to distance herself from him. The plan did not seem to work that well. My co-defendant's wife told someone that she disposed of her husband's bloody clothing and she was never charged with anything, although she denied doing so later at my trial. She was smart to deny destroying the clothes because she could have been charged with concealment of a homicide. The prosecutor still had her on tape and the man's testimony but it was apparent the prosecutor did not care about prosecuting her although she repeatedly lied to the police when her husband was arrested.

I complained that I was condemned to die in prison with the likes of the two people I was sitting with and numerous others at Stateville when Chase mentioned my glum mood. Mertz jokingly said I should not have then killed all those people at the Brown's Chicken restaurant. Upon hearing about the mass murder, Chase told me he got along well with Juan Luna. I said, "If that is so, would you tell him to release to me the discovery he has so I can investigate my case further?" I am looking for staff who worked at the police station where I was interrogated and any names of those on the Palatine Task Force who may be helpful. Chase said he rarely sees Luna anymore. Mertz was surprised I was never given the Palatine files, but my judge ruled that since he was not allowing any of the investigation or even the mention of those murders in my trial, the files were not pertinent to my defense. I have witnesses who place my car 50 miles away from the crime scene, however, since the evidence was available at my trial, I cannot use it on an actual innocence appeal. I have procured additional evidence, however, I am uncertain if it is enough to convince a judge to grant me a new trial. The bar is set exceedingly high.

For 19 years I have watched hopes and dreams slip away from me. I was curious what the doomed men I sat with would do if they were given their freedom back. Chase told me he watched the show "The Most Dangerous Catch," and would like to be a fisherman on the high seas. Then he said he might be a lumberjack like his father. He knew he could get a job working with his father. I told him that was pathetic. "You spent two decades in prison and all you want to do with your life is fish or chop down trees? How uninspiring. You can remain in prison," I told Chase. Then I asked Mertz, but he would not answer. He said he does not entertain such flights of fantasy. I asked, "All those years you were on death row, you never thought about what you may do with your life if give back to you?" Finally, he said he would get a factory job through a family member at some hot dog packaging plant. Then after he was financially secure he would move on to better things. I said to him, "I'm glad the Marines prepared you 'to be all you can be.'" He told me that was the slogan of the Army. I was very disappointed and told him his homework assignment tonight was to write a 6 page essay.

As I write this journal entry, the cell house is very loud. The Bulls are playing in the NBA Playoffs and it is on most of the television screens of the inmates here. Someone just began yelling, "Bulls lose! Bulls lose!" to a chorus of "boos" and "shut ups". I am happy the game is over and possibly the cell house will quiet down. The sunlight is fading outside, but unfortunately the fluorescent lights across from my cell are never turned off. I look forward to going to sleep tonight and dreaming about a life I could have had. Even if it is a dreamless sleep, the darkness is better than the light of day here at Stateville. I despise the miserable doomed existence I have here and will be blessed if I never awaken to another day behind these walls.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Triple Homicide Case against William Balfour -- May 18, 2012

Last Friday, William Balfour was convicted of killing 3 members of singer and actress Jennifer Hudson's family. At the time, I was not aware who Jennifer Hudson was and I still only have a vague idea. However, amongst black inmates at Stateville, she is a famous celebrity who grew up in the ghetto of Chicago. Many of the prisoners in the penitentiary are from the same impoverished gang-ridden neighborhood of Englewood on the south side of the city or are well acquainted with it. I rarely watch local Chicago news and thus missed much of the vast coverage of Balfour's arrest, trial and conviction. I did not even care to acquaint myself with the case until Tuesday when I learned James McKay, the same person who prosecuted me, was the lead Assistant States Attorney who argued Balfour's guilt. Although I cannot give an opinion if Balfour committed the triple homicide, the high profile case, pressure to gain a conviction, and McKay's record of using unscrupulous tactics makes me skeptical of whether the defendant was given a fair trial.

I learned James McKay was the prosecuting attorney only after calling my attorney on Tuesday. I do not bother to call Jennifer often because, as my appeal has dragged on for years, it has become apparent to me she is not motivated any more. Since the beginning, I gave her a list of all my appellate issues as well as all the affidavits I need to be secured to support these and a claim of actual innocence. I have even provided her with a list of cases and arguments of law supporting my appeal. I would have simply just filed the successive post conviction appeal myself, but there are things I cannot do from inside these prison walls. Also, I know I will not be competent sparring with the prosecutor over technicalities once a judge takes jurisdiction of the case. The prosecutor will file a myriad of assaults on my appeal to prevent the issues from ever being heard in an evidentiary hearing. There is a misconception the system is unfair because skillful defense attorneys use technicalities to have their clients acquitted. However, these technicalities are used more often by the prosecutors to prevent justice from prevailing.

Regularly, I hear prisoners' names called over the loud speaker for legal calls. Also when I was in a cell on the ground floor across from the holding cage, I would see inmates waiting for the counselor to come to the cell house and place an unmonitored call in the sergeant's office. These calls are set up in advance by an attorney to speak to their client who is in prison at a specific time. All phone calls in the IDOC are subject to monitoring and are recorded and stored possibly indefinitely for review by prison security staff or the prosecutor's office. However, because I am innocent and have nothing to hide, I just use the regular phones which are on the galleries for inmates to use. When I am particularly bothered by the lack of progress in my case, I will give Jennifer a call.

Jennifer is a very friendly and personable attorney, however, I am long past pleasantries. I want to discuss my appeal and why it is not being diligently worked on. She told me she was having difficulties writing the Statement of Fact. A Statement of Fact is merely an introduction and overview of your appeal. She began to explain certain nuances in presentation I did not care to listen to. I am a very proficient writer and told her just to send me what she had and I will review and write it. A year ago, Jennifer told me she was working on the opening with the help of a recent college law graduate. At that time, I was told she would send me what was written, but I never received it.

The writing of the Statement of Fact seemed premature to me because the investigative work has not been completed. Thus, I went over a litany of people who I think she or a P.I. should speak to. My attorney asked me about a paralegal who had briefly been visiting me, as well as others who had contacted me and offered to help. Most of these people had been insincere or were not helpful. Appellate attorneys should have working relationships with private investigators, especially those who do post convictions. When I expressed my great disappointment that she has not done much lately, she said she obtained another affidavit for me.

My attorney on occasion reads my blog. After mentioning doing so, I said, "So, you are the one sending me the hate mail." She said she would never do that and asked what it was relating to. I told her it seemed homosexuals and radical left wing crusaders did not appreciate some of my posts. Many people cannot tell when I am attempting to be humorous because it often comes off flat or is said in a serious tone. Because of this, I will sometimes use it to see how a person responds, and considering Jennifer's lack of motivation and liberal politics, I thought it would be amusing to make the accusation. After hearing enough of her defending herself, I told her I was just joking. She did not like it and I suppose most people do not or even recognize it as my attempt at humor.

Before Jennifer went into private practice, she worked as a Public Defender in Cook County. She still maintains a number of contacts at the office and from what I was told the predominate conversation amongst lawyers recently was the triple homicide conviction against William Balfour. Balfour was represented by four public defenders, despite Illinois not having a death penalty anymore. Amy Thompson was the lead defense attorney and was assisted by Cynthia Brown, Scott Kozicki and Edward Kozibaski. I was surprised the Cook County Public Defenders Office was able to extend so much manpower. However, what surprised me the most was my attorney's revelation that my former trial prosecutor, James McKay, was the lead Asst. State's Attorney on the case. With an unscrupulous, zealot prosecutor like "Mad Dog McKay," the defense better have a full team of lawyers.

Since my call with my attorney, I have been trying to learn everything I can about the trial and conviction of William Balfour. However, it has not been easy because the majority of the news coverage is over. I caught a few television news bits, but learned the majority of my facts from old Chicago Tribune articles which I consider the most reliable journalism in the city and metropolitan area. On Wednesday, my mother brought a few papers with her when she visited. The sergeant at the front desk of the visitor waiting room would not accept a corporate report she brought, but did accept the Tribune newspapers. Inmates are permitted to receive any type of publication brought by visitors including books, magazines and papers. However, the sergeant wanted to distinguish these from an annual report of a corporation. He must either be asinine or intentionally being an ass and I hope my mother files a complaint.

The murders occurred 3-1/2 years ago on October 24, 2008. Jennifer Hudson's mother, Darnell Donerson, brother Jason Hudson, and 7-year-old nephew, Julian King, were reportedly killed by William Balfour out of his rage over his estranged wife, Jennifer Hudson's sister, Julia, dating another man. Julia found Jason Hudson and Darnell Donerson shot to death at their home, but the boy was abducted and discovered dead in Jason's SUV a few days later on Chicago's west side. A triple homicide is always big news, even in Chicago where there are hundreds of murders annually particularly in the gang areas of the city. However, what made this case intensely and nationally covered was its relation to the famous singer and Oscar winning actress. Much of the newspapers and television news I saw focused on Jennifer Hudson, although she was not directly correlated to the case and had limited testimony to offer the prosecution.

The small group of inmates I speak with knew little or nothing about Jennifer Hudson or the murders. However, the African-Americans at Stateville were well acquainted with the subject matter. Many of them, including my cellmate, voiced their belief that Balfour could not receive a fair trial due to the sympathy the public had for the celebrity. Although I did not pay nearly as much attention to the case as they did, I tend to believe most Caucasians and Hispanics knew little about Jennifer Hudson, let alone were fans of hers. The jurors who convicted the defendant were a diverse group who came from all over the southwest portion of Cook County. In my perspective, there were more things which could, and possibly did, prejudice them.

Although the judge acts as an arbitrator in the U.S. criminal justice system, he or she can have a significant impact on the evidence a jury is allowed to see. They are not always fair and impartial referees, especially in high profile cases. Judges are elected and thus political pressure comes to bear to make rulings that are popular with their constituents even if it goes against the law, the Constitution, or the principles of justice. For example, my trial judge explicitly told my attorney not to choose a bench trial because, although he believed the prosecutor lacked evidence to convict me, he did not want to handle the hot potato. Sam Amirante also said that if I was convicted, he would be forced to render a severe sentence to satisfy the public. I do not personally know about the integrity of the judge who presided over the Balfour triple murder case in Markham or if he had as large of political ambitions, but I do know before he became a judge, Charles Burns was a prosecutor for nearly two decades. This can warp the perspective of a judge in favor of the state.

Interestingly, while watching news coverage of the case, I heard my cellmate murmur something. Bobby does not regularly speak and when he does, he typically mumbles in an inarticulate fashion. I figured he was just griping that Balfour should have been acquitted, but when I took off my headphones, I learned he was rather muttering about the Criminal Court's Judge Charles Burns. He told me that in the 1980's Burns was the felony review officer at Chicago's infamous Area 3 headquarters where convicted police investigator Jon Burge worked. Burns, apparently, approved of Greylord Johnson's arrest for murder and I seem to get the impression my cellmate blames Burns for allowing Burge to abuse and torture suspects. The combination of Judge Burns and prosecutor James McKay undoubtedly created a framework which was heavily slanted against the defendant.

James McKay is one of the most immoral and malfeasant prosecutors in the Cook County States Attorney's Office and has been reprimanded by the courts on multiple occasions. This prosecutor does not care about truth, justice, or the innocence-guilt of a defendant. All he cares about is winning and will employ whatever tactics are necessary to do so, even if it means overstepping the law or sending an innocent man to prison indefinitely. Some people may believe that in the adversarial U.S. justice system, McKay is to be admired. Still others may want defendants to always be convicted regardless of the evidence, and respect a prosecutor who gets the job done even if he has to get his hands a little dirty. There are surprisingly many people who like Nancy Grace and her always hostile, one sided, and sensationalistic rhetoric. If Grace was not married, she and McKay probably would make a good couple because they both have the same disposition and perspective that everyone is guilty. However, unlike those who support such a mentality, I believe the prosecutor is a state official whose job is not merely to get convictions, but justice.

The Asst. State's Attorney is not nicknamed "James Mad Dog McKay" without good reason amongst his colleagues. The prosecutor can be very hostile, abrasive and aggressive in the court room. He will go after a defendant with the ferocity of a mad dog. He is unscrupulous, tenacious and driven with a wild zeal, despite the lack of evidence or rationale. What he lacks in proof, he will make up for with enormous irrelevant filler and what he lacks in reason, he will make up for with overwhelming emotion. For example, in the Balfour case, he put on 80 witnesses and I doubt 10 had any significance. In my dual trial with my co-defendant, he produced almost a month's worth of testimony, the vast majority against me was empty filler. He even called defense witnesses as state witnesses as a strategy and to pad his case including calling my mother, cousin and my co-defendant's wife, Rose, who told the jury her husband was trying to frame me for the murder and that he returned home covered in blood that night. A friend of mine was also called to testify that it was Faraci, and not me, who expressed a desire to kill Fawcett. McKay even used a long cart stacked with files to place in front of the jury box every day. On the front of the cart in bold letters was my name to suggest or give the impression that there was this huge amount of evidence against me, rather than just one lying cop.

The only way James McKay is able to get away with not putting a jury to sleep is with his theatrics and inflammatory language and abrasive tone. When his arguments and evidence do not add up, he simply appeals to jurors' emotions. He will also lie and manipulate the law or evidence to suit his needs in the most dramatic fashions. I still recall the prosecutor in closing arguments in my case saying, "All for one and one for all. The actions of one are the actions of all" to imply that I was like a Three Musketeer and was guilty by association. The prosecutor was not able to prove I was at the crime scene, but this did not prevent him from arguing I was "guilty in spirit" as the judge would even later ridicule at sentencing. There was no murder weapon and the cause of death is debatable, but according to the prosecutor my fingerprints were all over it, metaphorically. McKay would repeatedly attack my character or use images of a dead body ravaged by animals after weeks in the woods, although this had no relevance to my guilt. A "Mad Dog" does not need facts or a motive, he just passionately hurls malign accusations and inferences at a defendant.

Researching the Balfour triple murder trial, I sought to learn the motive the prosecutor used. The defendant was accused of killing his wife's mother, brother, and her nephew out of rage when he saw Julia Hudson received Sweetest Day balloons from a new boyfriend. This seems odd to me, because all of the prisoners I met who have had a falling out with their wives kill them, the new lover, or both. A family member is only killed if they are a witness or collateral damage. Also strange is the fact that, although the defendant and his wife were living apart and she had a new boyfriend, they continued to see each other romantically. Julia even admitted having sexual relations with Balfour the week of the murders. Furthermore, Balfour also had another girlfriend, leading me to believe it was a casual relationship. The possibility of someone else killing Jason Hudson, then the mother and boy over gang or drug hostilities is not far-fetched when someone knows the victim was a drug dealer and gang member in an extremely dangerous high crime area of Chicago. From my understanding, however, the jury was not so interested in motive, but evidence. In a Tribune article I read, jurors were described as putting together a jigsaw puzzle during their three days of deliberations. With so many pieces missing though, I wonder how they were able to come to a definitive conclusion.

The case against Balfour was circumstantial and there were no eye witnesses, a confession, or even forensics, despite his arrest only hours after the shootings occurred. The evidence consisted of a few people of Hudson's own family testifying the defendant made threats. The murder weapon, a 45 caliber pistol owned by Jason Hudson, was recovered but there was no link Balfour had possession of it. A couple of people testified the defendant told them to lie about his whereabouts at the time of the murders, including his girlfriend, at whose residence he was arrested. Plus, Balfour's own story that he left Englewood to West Chicago via the CTA, Chicago's interlocking train network, contradict records from his train fare card and cellphone. Apparently, the card was not used, and triangulated cellphone "pings" place him in the neighborhood at the time gun shots were heard, although ignored and not reported because there were so many of them. Then there was a jailhouse snitch who testified he confessed, a highly unlikely scenario in my opinion. The key to jurors' decision was literally a key Balfour was found in possession of. The key was to Jason Hudson's SUV where the body of the boy was found. This is highly incriminating, but I can find plausible reasons he may have it, considering his relationship with the family and that he lived in the home for a period of time.

On the yard today, I asked several black inmates if they thought Balfour was guilty. They, and others I overheard talking about the case, believed he was not, except for one. Jug Head, a large muscular prisoner with a Hitler mustache and beard told me the key and trail of phone cookie crumbs definitely made him guilty. Since I was not able to review all the evidence of the case and only recently began to critically look at news reports, I cannot give an opinion of whether he is guilty or innocent. However, from what I have learned, I am skeptical the prosecutor proved his case "beyond a reasonable doubt." The question of reasonable doubt is all that matters once all the subterfuge and bias is eliminated.

William Balfour will be sentenced to natural life without the possibility of parole. This is the only punishment he can receive under Illinois law for multiple homicides since the death penalty was eliminated. There will be a redundant sentencing hearing though so the judge can give consecutive or concurrent terms of life as well as a term of years for home invasion, armed robbery, and kidnapping, all of which Balfour was convicted of. No one can serve more than their entire life in prison, so it is a rather ludicrous formality of due process. Considering there are only two maximum-security prisons in Illinois, there is a good chance I will see him at Stateville soon. Regardless, those who are condemned to languish in prison the rest of their lives eventually have contact. Hopefully, his appeals go better than mine and if he is innocent, he is released eventually. Although I have nothing in common with the black gang banger from the slums of Chicago, because of his prosecution by James McKay I think of the saying "the enemy of my enemy is my friend". Furthermore, I loathe injustice such as has occurred to me, even in the stark contrast of backgrounds of men I meet in the penitentiary.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Penny Wise and Dollar Foolish -- April 24, 2012

Earlier today, my cellmate gave me a newspaper article reporting the Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections proposed to the state legislature that inmates only be served two meals on weekends and holidays to save money. This was not the first time I was informed about the cost cutting idea. Last week, I overheard prisoners talking about how local television news briefly mentioned the plan to cut breakfast and most thought this would be expanded to 7 days a week. They were rather angry not only about the possible elimination of the meal but various other ways the IDOC is eliminating basic necessities and in some instances charging for them. There is probably little sympathy for prisoners living under the most austere and oppressive conditions and many may believe if cuts are to be made they should be done at criminals' expense. However, even convicts must be minimally provided for. Furthermore, many of the people incarcerated should not be, and the cost cutting measures are minute and incredibly foolish when compared to the immense budgetary problems which go unresolved in the State of Illinois.

IDOC Director Godinez spoke before the state congress last week as plans for an annual budget are being discussed. He told legislatures by not feeding prisoners breakfast, $2.5 million can be saved. He added that most inmates do not even eat breakfast anyway and the food goes to waste. The director, however, failed to mention the reason why so few inmates attend the meal. Breakfast in penitentiaries across Illinois is served at 3 a.m. Prisoners must wake up in the middle of night, have their cell in compliance, be dressed in state blues, and walk sometimes a quarter mile to the chow hall in frigid or other undesirable weather. At the chow hall, they are given a tiny meal only to have to walk back to their cells, undress and go back to sleep before job details are run at daybreak. Fortunately, I and other inmates in maximum security have breakfast brought to their cells because of the perceived security risk associated with mass movement lines in the dark of night. Although breakfast may not be eaten by those in minimum and medium security prisoners, it is at facilities like Stateville or Menard.

$2.5 million dollars may seem like a lot of money but it really is an insignificant figure in the budget for the IDOC. Illinois spends about $1.5 billion a year incarcerating close to 50,000 prisoners at about 40 locations across the state. Because much of the food served inmates is made within the IDOC, ordered at discounted bulk rates, and is of the lowest quality, inmates are able to be fed for less than $1 a day. I assume the measly breakfast served costs less than a quarter. One of my favorite breakfast meals at Stateville is waffles and bran flakes. Typically, on Friday, inmates are given two cold waffles and two 1 ounce packages of generic cereal. Last week, for the first time in years, the waffles were served with a packet of syrup. Other than a carton of milk and sometimes a half carton of juice this makes up the entire meal. I tend to believe Director Godinez overstates the amount of money that can be saved, however, even taking his figure, this is less than 1/5th of a percent of the total expenditures of the IDOC. The cost of feeding inmates with basically cereal, bread, processed soy, beans, potatoes and lettuce is minuscule.

The director attempts to make his idea look more appealing by saying that instead of breakfast inmates will be served brunch. This implies a breakfast-lunch combination, however, having been incarcerated nearly two decades I am very skeptical there will be anything different. Plus, even if administrators begin to serve inmates a larger, more diversified meal, this will quickly disappear. I tend to believe nothing will change, including the timing of the meal because already prisoners are fed lunch between 9 and 11 a.m. at the latest. Breakfast will be eliminated and there will be a major gap between the two paltry meals of sometimes 10 hours. Like other inmates, I also tend to believe all breakfast meals will be eliminated.

In Cook County, Illinois Sheriff Tom Dart came up with a proposal to save costs at the jail. He did not suggest eliminating breakfast but incredibly charging detainees for their meals. I do not know what the cost savings would be, but I do know Cook County Jail holds about 15,000 people and is probably the largest jail in the U.S. It probably also detains some of the poorest people from the area, and I remember during the winter months homeless people would commit crimes just to have a place to stay out of the cold. Regardless of the number of people, the cost savings, or wealth of those at the jail, it was preposterous to hold people against their will and then demand they pay for the most terrible food which is served them. The proposal by Tom Dart was rejected by county officials, however, the State of Illinois has for a number of years been charging or seizing the savings of prisoners with over $10,000 for "room and board". Even a Stateville inmate who saved his money from working at the soap factory for 30 years was sued by the state. Fortunately, the State of Illinois lost and most prisoners are smart enough not to keep any significant amount of money in their names, although the vast majority have little to nothing anyways.

My cellmate only sleeps a few hours a night and is awake when I go to sleep and when I awake. At night, he will be on his bunk watching TV usually till midnight or later. In the morning, I will find him sitting at the bars starring out or reading. Typically, he is quiet and does not wake me up but last night he had me up for hours flushing the toilet. In prison, it is considered respectful to use "courtesy" flushes while defecating. However, while I am sleeping, I do not care if he is hovering over an elephant pile of noxious shit. The steel industrial toilets in the penitentiary roar when flushed and will always wake me up, but the stench of a full commode will not. In the morning, I ridiculed my cellmate rather than scolding him because I knew embarrassment would affect him more and I have a talent for making people feel their worst. My cellmate was indeed ashamed and told me he had accidentally eaten some food with soy in it. Bobby is allergic to soy and almost always is stricken with diarrhea when he eats it. Although about 5% of people have adverse reactions to soy products, the IDOC does not care and mixes it into almost all of the prison meals.

Unlike tofu or other types of soy, the soy used as filler is the least nutritional and digestible. Just as there are good cuts of meat and there are the scraps used in such products as sausage, the soybeans can be processed in a like manner. In prison, only the worst meat and soy products are used. They are usually combined in every meal because of their low cost. It is not a surprise inmates suffer from not only digestive disorders at a higher rate than the population at large, but have other dietary-health ailments also. My cellmate typically does not go out for chow because of his intolerance for soy. He supplements his diet with a lot of commissary junk foods including potato chips, cookies, cakes, and like many inmates, Ramon Noodles.

On Monday morning, I heard Don Wade on WLS talk radio weigh in about the prison director's proposal. He said it sounded like a great idea and he would go further by giving inmates only one bowl of slop and returning them to their cells to rot. This seems to be the attitude of most conservatives and I would agree with them but America has radically changed from a country which highly valued the concepts of liberty, justice, and Constitutional protections. Counting jail detainees, over 2% of all citizens are incarcerated. The pervasive laws, government intrusion, and prison industrial complex are not a part of the true conservatives ideal. Nor is a broken justice system that punishes both innocent and guilty to extreme amounts of time in the penitentiary. Alternatives to prison exist and even the worst convicts are still citizens deserving of protection under the Constitution. All prisoners are entitled to adequate food, clothing, medical care and warehousing.

Last time I was at the prison store, the person who scanned my purchases was formerly a medical technician who worked at Stateville. I asked him why the radical change in employment? He told me he was tired of dealing with the incompetent and negligent health care staff. He did not go into the medical profession to be a part of such an inept system. The medical care at Stateville and probably throughout much of the IDOC is very deficient. Doctors are regularly guilty of malpractice and treatment is regularly denied or delayed. For example, there is a prisoner on my gallery who was denied shoulder surgery until torn tendons, ligaments and muscle tissue fused together. When he filed a lawsuit and was finally operated on, the surgeon was unable to correct the injury and he will forever have limited arm motion. Another man was not being treated for glaucoma and is now almost blind. A few prisoners in my cell house have lost kidney function and now must have their blood filtered through a machine every couple of days due to negligence. I recall when my back injury was not seriously treated until I was unable to walk, and to this day I have problems getting medications refilled timely.

The prison population is rapidly aging due to the draconian sentencing statutes which send people to prison for life for such things as purportedly lending their car. Older prisoners require much more medical care but staff, in coordination with prison administrations and the health care provider Waxford, are intentionally trying to curb costs without concern of proper standards of medical care. Not only is treatment regularly denied or delayed, but beginning this year, inmates are surcharged $5 for any type of non emergency medical treatment. "Non-emergency" in prison speak means an inmate must be bleeding profusely with a shank in the eye or obviously dying by some other means. Just to talk to a med tech about a problem requires an inmate to fill out a $5 money voucher. Possibly, the state is able to get away with this because even an indigent inmate cannot be refused treatment and the voucher he or she fills out will just be deducted whenever that person receives their monthly prison stipend or money is sent to him by family.

A decade ago, prisoners were provided with clothing several times a year. However, now it is extremely difficult to just get a pair of boxers or socks from the clothing room. Last year when I did not have a winter jacket for months, I had to file a grievance over the matter. The counselor realizing grievances were often ignored took it upon herself to go over to the storage building and get me a jacket as well as some other clothes. Recently, I was amazed to see some bags of clothes come from the clothing room to inmates in my cell house. I asked a man on my gallery what he received. He astonishingly told me he was given brand name, 100% cotton, T-shirts along with some other underclothes. However, then he said the clothes were irregulars and he seemed to think they were donated to the prison as a tax write-off. I wondered what was better: cotton Nike T-shirts with three arm holes or the thin polyester shirts made by women at Dwight Correctional Center. Regardless, clothes of any sort were better than none.

The prison is currently on lockdown. Yesterday, prisoners in E House refused to lock in their cells in protest to a man whose Walkman was taken from him. From what I am told, the radio was taken because he had the speakers in his ears which apparently is not allowed except in the cell or on the yard. Inmates were given a warning shot for their defiance and when they still were not intimidated, they were maced. I am surprised there is not more rebellion about more significant issues but the prison security unit does a zealous job combating gang or any type of unity or solidarity against the administration. This may change, though, if Tamms and Pontiac Segregation are closed down. Those places are where the IDOC keeps many group or suspected group organizers isolated.

There has been chatter about protesting the infrequency of being able to shop and the expensive prices. The state legislature allows prisons to overcharge inmates 25% over their costs but it seems apparent they are making a much larger profit. Ten small packets of peanut butter which weigh under 10 ounces total cost $2.50. A 4 ounce bag of instant coffee is $5, and a 4 ounce package of chicken breast meat is $4. The prices of food are high but electronics are even higher. For example, a 15" flat screen television is being sold for $250, although I have seen advertisements in the Chicago Tribune for 30" televisions of better quality that are being sold for $200. I do not know if typewriters are sold anymore outside of prisons but a standard, no frills typewriter is priced at $250 also. (My sister says they are available for $99 at Staples, an office supply store.) Prisoners have been appeased recently, however, with the warden allowing inmates to shop in person rather than having their orders bagged and brought to them. This allows them to make substitutions and make sure they are not cheated out of goods.

Before the lockdown I was told Stateville must pay other prisons for their industry products and are behind in paying their bills to various vendors outside and inside the IDOC. This may explain why the clothing normally from Dwight was substituted with a charity donation. It may also explain why there has not been any donuts served for breakfast in two weeks. Every Saturday, inmates are given 2 small donuts with little to no frosting on them along with two packages of cereal. Despite the donuts being only a few bites and lacking frosting, this seems to be the favorite breakfast of Stateville inmates. I do not eat donuts and give them to my cellmate who in turn gives me his milk and branflakes. My cellmate not only cannot eat soy but is lactose intolerant and clearly by last night he does not need any more fiber in his diet. My cellmate has a sweet tooth and is disappointed not to have any donuts recently. Earlier today I heard him mumble in complaint about Stateville not paying the prison in Illinois River, however, I wonder if donuts are just too expensive to serve prisoners, especially with talk about eliminating breakfast altogether.

The prison has yet to stop passing out weekly supplies and today anyone in C House was given two small bars of soap, a roll of toilet paper, a 3" toothbrush, and a small tube of toothpaste, which most prisoners pass on. The toothpaste is of a very poor quality and most men refuse to brush their teeth with it but now that a tube of Colgate from the prison store costs $5 most men I believe are making due with the distasteful state-issued toothpaste. Soap is made at Stateville and has rarely been a problem receiving, but at one time guards tried to force prisoners to share a roll of toilet paper. This did not go over well, and there was mayhem in the cell house until 2 rolls were passed out per cell. The toilet paper supplied prisoners is of the thinnest I have ever seen, but despite this, there was a time period when the rolls were cut in width by a few inches to save money.

It is incredibly ironic how minute expenses of prisoners are painstakingly sought out while there is massive waste, inefficiency, corruption, and lavish spending elsewhere. I notice how the guards' union protects their jobs, salaries, pensions, and other exuberant benefits very well, although I am informed reductions have been made recently especially to new hires. I am surprised the IDOC even has the money to pay new guards when they purportedly do not have the money to feed prisoners a 500 calorie breakfast. Governor Quinn has proposed closing the supermax Tamms and Dwight, a female maximum-security unit, but I believe those guards who work there will remain on the payroll and be able to transfer to other penitentiaries. Quinn has also impressively breached the subject of pension and Medicaid reform this year. However, because he has not offered any specific plans and is depending on the legislature controlled by the Democratic party to take responsibility, I doubt anything will be done.

Medicaid and pensions are enormous, unsustainable, burdens in Illinois as is the health care and Social Security bills on the federal level. Federal Congressman Paul Ryan has come out with very good proposals to cut spending, however, those plans have been vehemently ridiculed by the President and liberals. Increasing the age of retirement and other reforms to Social Security are a necessity as people are living much longer. The program will be insolvent without drastic reductions. The health care voucher system is also far superior to Obamacare. By giving choice and money to individuals to make their own health care decisions, it will increase free market competition and quality while reducing prices as well as unnecessary and wasteful spending. Under the bill passed by President Obama, just the opposite will occur. Costs for government and individuals will rise while quality of care will decrease. If the U.S. Supreme Court rules the individual mandate unconstitutional, the program probably becomes untenable because health care insurers cannot just cover the sick. The President attacks Republican plans as social Darwinism but Romney and Ryan have the courage to take on the popular nanny-state which is financially crippling the Republic. Today, Mitt Romney won 5 more states and has secured the Republican Presidential nominee. I hope he chooses a fiscal hawk like Ryan to be his Vice President.

There are major costs bringing the State of Illinois towards bankruptcy. However, just like on the federal level, few politicians especially in the Democratic Party are willing to address the politically sensitive issues. They would rather pass the bill onto future generations, add more debt, and insolvency to the state, or make tiny cuts along the edges which will not ruffle the feathers of any major constituency. Thus, why administrators have sought to control spending by cutting the basic needs of prisoners including medical, clothing, shelter, and diet. They would even cut breakfast out and rolls of toilet paper than deal with the major problems.

Director Godinez has his proposal to squeeze blood out of a turnip, however, I have a much better idea. Instead of tinkering around the edges of a growing and unsustainable prison system, cut the Illinois Department of Corrections in half. Reduce the population of those incarcerated from 50,000 to 25,000, the staff by half or more, and instead of closing a mere two prisons, close twenty. There is no need to have all these men and women in penitentiaries. There are alternatives to incarceration that are more effective and it is obvious there is a problem when natural life sentences are given out like candy to 14-year-olds who are mere lookouts, or an 18-year-old who allegedly lent his car to his roommate. Cutting the prison population in half will save not $2.5 million, but close to $1 billion. Radical sentencing reform, however, is yet another politically controversial and unpopular subject. It is much better for government to be penny wise and dollar foolish.

Monday, May 14, 2012

19 Years and Still Fighting -- April 30, 2012

On this day 19 years ago, I was sent to the Cook County Jail after being charged with 1st degree murder. Two days prior, I was arrested by numerous gun wielding policemen within the Palatine Task Force including agents from the FBI. This group of law enforcement was brought together to solve the mass murder at a Brown's Chicken and Pasta restaurant in the suburb of Palatine. For hours upon hours, I was interrogated while held incommunicado at the Rolling Meadows Police Department. My Miranda rights were ignored and I was intimidated, threatened, and struck many times in a determined effort to make me give an incriminating statement. Late on the 29th when this still did not occur, I was regardless charged as a second party to the murder of Dean Fawcett and then taken to the Barrington Police Department. Those days are ingrained in my memory more than any other dates of significance. For me, they are days which will always "live in infamy".

This morning I awakened expecting normal operations at the prison, as did my cellmate, Little Bobby. He was sitting by the cell bars dressed in state-issued blue clothing with a few folders by his side. Monday mornings, C House is scheduled for the law library and Bobby expected to be on the list. My cellmate claims to be on his first post conviction appeal, but I find this difficult to believe considering he has been incarcerated since the 1980s. I speculate he is rather being assisted on a successive post conviction petition by a former attorney who worked on his case while he was facing execution. There are many people fervently opposed to the death penalty and even when the State of Illinois emptied its death row population, some of these attorneys continue to assist their former clients.

A few years ago, a Chicago police office named Jon Burge was investigated for torturing suspects into making confessions. He was not able to be prosecuted for crimes which occurred decades ago, but he was tried and convicted of lying under oath while giving depositions. Since news surfaced of beatings, suffocating, playing Russian roulette, and even giving electrical shocks to suspects in order to get them to falsely confess at Area 3 police headquarters under Burge's supervision or direct participation, many other prisoners have come forward to claim they were also abused. One of those prisoners is my cellmate who says he was held out an upper level window by his feet to coerce him to confess. I have no doubt Jon Burge and numerous other police officers are guilty of abusing suspects particularly in high profile homicide cases, but I am skeptical of all the claims coming forward by men in prison.

Unlike the vast majority of these men, I immediately told numerous people about my abuse at the hands of John Koziol and John Robertson. My claims of Miranda violations are also corroborated by a multiple sources including the Palatine Police Department's own code of conduct directives which state all suspects brought in for questioning must sign a waiver of those Miranda rights. One may think in a mass murder case that these directives would be followed and although there are signed waivers from my co-defendant and the others questioned by the Palatine Task Force, none was obtained from me. Police did not even bother asking me to sign this because while I was being arrested, I told law enforcement that I wanted a lawyer. I also told Koziol and Robertson this at the Rolling Meadows Police Department repeatedly until one of them told me frankly this was never going to happen. Despite this, I continued to ask and was occasionally struck for doing so.

Although police kept me in an interrogation room close in size to my current cell for nearly two days, except when I was taken out for a few hours at night, I rarely said a word. Much of the time was spent with Koziol and Robertson attempting to cajole me to speak, or even look at them. There was a period of time when John Koziol sat directly across from me, inches away from my face. I gather he was trying to make eye contact or intimidate me. He slapped his fist into his hand and made various threats. When he asked a question and I said "I want an attorney," he kicked me in the shins and said, "That's the wrong answer". He told me my frail grandfather would be roughed up and his house destroyed by ransacking police. He also stated my mother would be arrested for lying to federal agents, but if I would speak with them, none of this would happen. At one point, he showed me a pack of papers and said he was holding Robert Faraci's statements. "Do you not want to repudiate any of this?" he asked. He said he thought Faraci was "full of shit," but without me saying anything they "would be forced to believe him."

On the first day of questioning, a blue sheet was put over a two-way mirror to prevent anyone from looking into the interrogation room. This seemed to imply to me that my two inquisitors could act with impunity, although Koziol said he did it so I did not have to worry about others looking in. Both Robertson and Koziol worked trying to coerce me to talk separately and at times in tandem. Although Koziol was a Palatine police officer and I believe he is currently the Chief of Police there unless he has retired, Robertson was an investigator who worked for the State's Attorneys Office. It was him who punched me and cracked me across the face when I refused to respond or made quips about the violation of my rights. He was also the person who made up the story that Bob Faraci told me he was going to kill Fawcett and I lent him my car. Despite the tactics employed by Koziol, I can understand his desire to solve a mass murder. What I cannot understand and find horrendously corrupt is Robertson's willingness to twist my statements and outright fabricate things to serve his superiors in the prosecutor's office.

After a period of time passed and no announcements were made over the cell house loudspeaker for law library, details, or anything else, I realized the prison was on lockdown. The night before I had overheard a cell house worker speaking about a nurse losing some hypodermic needles and if they were not found inmates would be kept in their cells until an investigation was conducted. Unaccounted for syringes are considered a major problem in prisons due to the large number of men who are drug addicts. From what I am told, the old Jamaican nurse has lost or misplaced needles before while making insulin rounds early in the mornings. I suspect these men who take insulin will have their cells searched and the nurse will probably not be allowed to work in the prison any longer. However, it is possible the Orange Crush special tactical unit will be used and all cells will be ransacked. Hopefully, this is not the reaction of administrators. It is a costly and heavy handed approach which usually nets little or no results except to intimidate and disrupt the lives of inmates.

After researching defensive stocks for a bear market in the utility, food, and tobacco sectors, I put on a sweatshirt and tried to take a nap. When the prison goes on lockdown and there is no movement, the cell house tends to be quieter, particularly during the day. Despite this, I wore my earplugs to muffle what noise there was. I do not usually take naps, but I was feeling rather lethargic and glum. I have spent 19 years as a captive and there were no prospects for a better future. My appellate attorney seems to care less about making any progress with my appeal. I would have tried to hire someone else if I had the money. I have even considered filing my appeal pro se, but I need some investigative work done. Furthermore, I could not effectively deal with the litany of motions that would be filed by the prosecutor to have my appeal dismissed before obtaining an evidentiary hearing. Any public defender assigned to my case will probably have even less zeal than my current lawyer.

I did not fall asleep but just laid down thinking about the events which took place 19 years ago. My bunk is only 6 feet in length and I alternated from one angle to another before deciding to just keep one knee bent and my other leg to the corner. I recall when I was free I slept on a queen sized bed where I could roll over throughout the night without falling off the side as I often did at the Cook County Jail when assigned to a cell with one of those small bunks. However, my first couple of weeks at the jail were spent at the jail hospital where I was given a large room with an adjoining private bathroom and a spring mattress. After my arrest, the news media reported endlessly about me and the suspicion of my involvement in the Palatine massacre. Due to the enormous inflammatory and super hyped reporting, I could not be sent to general population and was kept at Cermak Hospital.

On May 30, 1993, my day began in a jail cell at the Barrington Police Department. During the night, I was transferred there from Rolling Meadows where I had been held secretly. The news media was told of my new location and in the morning they were camped outside the front of the building. The Barrington Police Department has a long flight of stairs to the street where the media could have ample time to film and take photos of me before I was placed in the back seat of a squad car. It was a well staged event and it was meant to be so. The purported villainous mass murderer had been captured and the prosecutor's office wanted to gloat. It meant nothing. I was not charged in the Brown's Chicken killings nor had I ever been to the town of Palatine. All that mattered was appearances and the States Attorney was a skilled magician. Although it was a bright and sunny morning as I walked down those steps, the crowd of reporters may as well have been in a dark room full of smoke and mirrors.

Being processed at Cook County Jail was a terrible experience. Cook County Jail is probably the largest jail in the U.S. and holds close to 10,000 people in 14 buildings mostly connected by underground tunnels. The jail processes over a hundred men and women daily and the large open area I was taken to was incredibly noisy, dirty, chaotic and crowded. It was worse when detainees were being sent out to the various court buildings Monday through Friday, however, I had yet to experience this until my arraignment. The large processing and court writ area has a number of "bullpens" which are basically holding cages with concrete sides and a fence over the front. I was placed in a small one by myself and as the hours passed by every now and then a curious jailer would look in at me. I was not processed until late when I was able to go through the maze by myself. Most of the people had an assembly line mentality but other staff were hostile. The worst part of booking was being forced to be tested for gonorrhea where a long Q-tip was shoved into my urethra. I was threatened to be beaten and tied down for this test if I did not cooperate.

My room at Cermak Hospital was empty except for a bed, a sink and toilet in the bathroom. The room did not even have a door and I was free to walk out if I wanted to, but where was I to go? There was a dayroom down the corridor and a guard's desk on the other side. A telephone was outside my room and I made a couple of collect calls to family members. Otherwise, I spent my time alone with the lights off inside the room thinking about what had just occurred and trying to make sense of it. Once in a while a Caucasian man who worked in the kitchen stopped by to see how I was doing. He offered me cigarettes, coffee, candy bars, and other things. I told him just to give me a couple extra trays which seemed to surprise him because of how terrible the food was. I knew I had to keep my strength up, however, and was going to be denied bond.

During my stay at Cermak Hospital, I rarely ever spoke and was withdrawn. Other than the kitchen worker, a couple of jailers tried to make small talk with me. One told me the room across from mine was once where John Wayne Gacy was held. When he left, it was made into a storage room for books. He commented that maybe a storage room will be made of my quarters as well. Since my arrest, I had not seen or read anything in the news media. I was not aware of the around the clock blanket news coverage nor its severe bias against me until a guard said, "Come with me. You have to see this." He brought me to the room where all the other detainees were watching television. We sat in the back waiting for the 4 p.m. news to come on. The first thing shown was my perp walk down the steps of the Barrington Police Department and then film footage of the dead bodies being brought out of the Brown's Chicken restaurant in body bags. Other men in the room looked back at me with astonishment and maybe as if I was the Devil incarnate.

I could not believe I was the focus of the media and how far they went to villainize me. The news coverage went on and on straight through till 5:00 as if there was not another thing occurring in the Chicago area. The TV news, desperate for any type of information about me or the case, even interviewed students I had went to high school with. Few had anything good to say about me including a former student at Westmont High who said I used to beat and bully him during my freshman year. Scott was a stoner, and we never got along. He failed to inform the reporter that I was only 14 when he was 18 and constantly threatening me.

At my arraignment, I was finally able to meet the Public Defenders who would initially represent me until my parents foolishly replaced them with the prestigious, although civil, law firm of Jenner & Block. If I had to do it all over again, I would have kept the attorneys from the Capital Litigation Division who had tremendous experience, if not the clout and resources of the Chicago law firm. Dale Coventry was the supervisor of the Public Defender's Unit of Cook County which handled death penalty cases. He was not assigned my case, but chose it, along with Deborah Grohs, another excellent attorney. Coventry knew the case against me was empty and politically motivated despite my crucifixion in the media. He also was able to surmise from the very beginning that the prosecutor's case hinged on my alleged statements to police. Although no judge will throw statements out despite how blatant the violation of my Constitutional rights were, he told me he would eviscerate detective John Robertson's testimony. I have no doubt that had I stayed with my original trial attorneys, I would not be here 19 years later.

Before my arraignment, I was able to receive visitors. I was surprised the first person to come to see me was not my attorney nor anyone from my family, but a girl I dated years earlier. I met Diane when I was 15 and lost contact with her when my family moved to the southwest suburbs. She told me she had tried to get in touch with me but my friend Jerry liked her too and refused to tell her where I had moved. Diane continued to come to visit me even after I was convicted. Finally, while at Pontiac Correctional Center, I had to correct her belief that a life sentence was parolable after 11 years. She did not understand that "life" in Illinois literally meant life.

While I was thinking about those first visits I received at CCJ, my name was called over the loudspeaker for a visit. The prison was not technically under lockdown but what is called "restricted movement," and this can be any type of quasi-lockdown the warden sees fit to have. In the visiting room, I was not met by any surprise ex-girlfriends. Those have ceased to see me for some time, although on occasion I will get a brief email message. My sister and mother were there to visit. Bernadette was particularly happy to spend some time with her brother, but unfortunately despite her attempts to cheer me up, nothing could unburden me from the heavy sorrow and despondency I felt. The 28th and 30th of April are days I associate with my death. If I could have those Task Force police shoot me from every direction during my arrest, I would do so rather than have my family and others visit my tombstone.

After our visit, I swallowed a few Ultram pain killers so I could work out. I was set upon doing an extra intense exercise regimen. I had a tremendous amount of rage pent up brooding about the injustice dealt to me. Nineteen years have been stripped from me. Nineteen years I have suffered and endured. I have lived longer as a captive than as a free man and I will probably die here. During the cardio part of my workout, I did various martial arts and was surprised to see blood splattered on the wall as I threw punches. Apparently, I had grazed the bars and split the skin on the knuckles of my left fist. I wrapped some toilet paper around my hand and continued exercising. As Jesse Ventura in the movie Predator said, "I don't have time to bleed."

Later in the evening, I wrote a letter to my brother-in-law. Over the years, my parents have hired the most incompetent attorneys and have apparently given up. They are now both retired and their mental and physical faculties are deteriorating. I told Ron that I can file my appeal myself and have counsel appointed by the court to deal with the attempts by the prosecutor to dismiss it on procedural grounds if I must. However, what I do need desperately is a private investigator and not your run of the mill P.I., but one who is motivated, skilled, resourceful, and has connections. Other than the character "Magnum P.I.," I thought I needed a former or retired police officer. What better way to fight fire but with fire?

Not long ago, I went to the law library and was digging through my legal box when I came across some interesting newspaper articles from years ago. In one Chicago Tribune article it said, "Sources inside the Palatine Task Force say the suspect is refusing to cooperate." Someone other than John Robertson and Koziol knows what took place in that interrogation room 19 years ago. Even if Robertson never told anyone about how he falsified his report, I know police are aware my Miranda rights were violated. Police, or other staff, who were not willing to talk then or were never approached when I was a suspect in the massacre may now be willing to come forward. There are a number of leads I have to substantiate my appeal based on actual innocence, but I can't do it from inside these prison walls.

Also of interest looking through those old newspaper articles was one dated April 28, 1995. I was coincidentally sentenced and sent to the penitentiary almost precisely 2 years after my arrest. In the article it quotes the judge saying he is giving me the same hope I gave Fawcett, and that is no hope. The judge may have condemned me to die in prison, but until I die, I will continue to fight for my freedom.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Childhood Memories -- April 20, 2012

Today commemorates three years of writing this online journal. It was three years ago that I began this project with the opening introduction post "Memoirs of a Prisoner." Since then I have written weekly about various subjects including the criminal justice system, my case, and those I have become familiar with in prison and through the media. Mostly, I have written about my experiences in the maximum-security penitentiaries of Illinois, particularly Stateville. This week, however, I am going to take a step back in time before my arrest. My childhood and teen years have greatly been on my mind lately.

This morning, I ate a large breakfast and even made myself a cup of hot coffee to start my day. I did not intend on going out for lunch or anywhere until the late afternoon. This week, I received a number of emails and a few letters and I was determined to finish my replies to them. What motivated me was that several people were former class mates who wrote or posted comments. I have been incarcerated since I was 18 years old, and for all practical purposes, I feel that my life has been over since I was arrested on April 28, 1993. Thus, the years before take on an ever more important value. I am delighted to hear about, or hear from, former friends or just those I shared experiences with even from the distant past.

One of the letters I received was from a reader of my blog. She informed me there was a man who posted a comment on the Illinois Crime and Politics blog claiming to be a former friend of mine. She was skeptical and probably rightfully so because the Internet is full of fake information. However, this person did not post anonymously or use an alias. The woman writing me did a cursory search and found a photo which she enclosed in her letter. Although well over two decades had passed, I could still recognize him. This was indeed Rich, the boy I shared the same classroom with for 5 years at South Elementary School. We also went to the same junior high and high school but had little interaction there.

Although he did not email me, I was delighted to have his picture and contact information. I was definitely going to send him a message and earlier today I wrote a letter to be forwarded to him on the Internet. Maybe he will reply, maybe he will not, but regardless I was glad to recall the memories from childhood. This week I have been thinking about various times from grade school to my senior year. It is a great escape from the wretched life I have here.

I lived across the street from my elementary school and could actually see inside some classrooms from the living room. When I was sick or feigning to be ill, I could use my binoculars or telescope and zoom in on my classroom to see exactly what everyone was doing. Usually, I would find Rich picking his nose and then scratching his head trying to figure out some math problem. I am just kidding, and I tended to like Rich. We shared a lot of good times in class, recess, or on sports teams. Occasionally, we even spent time together after school and he lived only a few streets over from me.

My friend did not send me the actual comments, therefore, I do not have a copy of what Rich actually posted. Apparently, he commented that I was an outgoing and humorous child. This is interesting because I do not recall being so. However, Mike, my best friend throughout grade school, contacted me a few years ago and commented how witty and amusing he thought I was. He even offered to send me one of the cassette tapes we made together as children, not realizing I cannot receive these in prison. We were pretending to be radio talk show hosts, and he told me the "Mike and Paul" tapes were so hilarious he saved them all these years. I tend to recall the talk radio show was called the "Paul and Mike Show," but I will give him the benefit of the doubt. After all, even if I was the witty one, he was definitely the outgoing extroverted child.

Possibly, Mike and I pretended to be a talent at par or better than such duos on WLS talk radio or popular shock jocks. Mike was a good friend and we played on sports teams, at school, the playgrounds in the neighborhood, and at each others homes. I can remember so many things from our childhoods and it is strange how radically different my life has become. How did I ever get from that point in my life to being at Stateville? Neither one of us ever foresaw such an eventuality and if one of us would have went to prison, I would have assumed it would have been him. Mike could have a mischieveous "Dennis the Menace" like quality. When his parents moved to another town after grade school, I was left mainly to make new friends in junior high and once again in high school. Although I was a loner much of the time, I did make some friendships. They were mostly older and probably considered bullies, although many probably thought the same as myself. From Mike in grade school, I made friends with Tom, and then the likes of Brian, Bob, and others. These were not just rufians but men who sought to be in the mafia and killed people.

I am told Rich mentions in his comment that he heard my parents were abusive and became strict Jehovah Witnesses which prohibited me from maintaining my regular social ties. I believe this is how he infers I became involved with the wrong crowd. There may be some truth to this, but our weekly Bible studies didn't interfere with my activities. I continued to play sports and I only studied with the Jehovah Witnesses for a few years. My relationship with my father created a much more significant factor. When I became a teenager, I became bigger and stronger than him and became much more independent. For an authoritarian parent, this caused a major rift between us and created a hostile cold war-like stalemate. My sister moved away at a young age, and I also thought about living on my own. The friends I had outside of school were much older than me and had cars, money, and places to stay. I was willing to overlook their criminality. Indeed, it was when I had an argument with my father that I moved in with the Faracis, just after my 18th birthday.

On the Illinois Crime & Politics blog is an old article about my case and someone noted how it was ironic the Palatine Brown's Chicken murders had been solved yet I was still in prison. The author notes that I am serving natural life for supposedly lending my car to Faraci who was acquitted of murder. Underneath are a number of comments, some good and some bad. From what I am told, Rich is not the only one who weighed in but some friends of the victim, Dean Fawcett. They comment how the victim was a nice person but I was mean to him and others. If that is all that is said, it is largely true. However, I hope former friends of Fawcett and his family do realize now that I had nothing to do with his death.

The letter I received did not specify what the friends of Fawcett comments were about and thus I began to speculate why they did not like me. My thoughts led me to a party Fawcett threw. Dean was in his early 20's when I met him and he lived at home with his mother. She was gone quite frequently and Dean held regular parties. Once in a while my friend Brian would want to stop by and although I disliked parties, I went with him. At one such party, I found a girl who I had been dating making out with some other man. I was angry at the girl, roughed her up, and asked if she was a whore. Another man known as "The Beer King" apparently had a problem with what I did, and I KO'd the king of beers, who I gather was rather popular amongst Fawcett's circle of friends.

Among the email messages I received this week was one from a woman who claims to have went to high school with me. I write "claims" because unlike Rich, I do not remember her. Hence, I have previously attempted to make her prove her authenticity. I grilled her about Lincoln Way High School including the sports teams, the school grounds, teachers, and other students. I asked for just a simple photo so I could see if I remembered her, but she has evaded me. I went to high school with over 2,000 students but I tend to have a good memory, especially for the prettier girls. Because this email still did not contain a photo, I told her I have downgraded her in appearance to a hippopotamus. I have written well over a hundred women and I know if I do not receive a photo within a few letters, they are unattractive.

The woman who claims to have went to Lincoln Way High with me says she was a freshman when I was a junior. However, I knew a number of freshman girls and dated a few of them. To trick her, I mentioned some but purposefully listed the name of a girl who was an upper classmate. Surprisingly, she knew her and furthermore told me she became a nurse while I was in prison but just recently died. She knew not only this Amy but another, although only through Olivia, a shared friend. I was very skeptical initially and even called her a "Lincoln-Way impostor," but I tend to believe her now. She even corrected my mention of Chris and asked me if I meant "Chrissy" which is what most of her friends called her 20 years ago.

Chrissy was in two of my classes and was my favorite freshman girl to flirt with. On one of the very first days of school, I whispered in her ear she was the prettiest girl at Lincoln Way. I was not playing altogether either. There were over a thousand girls at that high school and Chrissy immediately caught my attention. She was not only exceptionally pretty, but always fashionably dressed, effeminate, and intelligent. In our history class was a nerd who sat behind her but I quickly had to remove him to have his seat. Sometimes if I got to class ahead of her, I would sit at her desk and grab her onto my lap. Fortunately, I got along well with the teacher and although other students disliked him because he was strict, set learning levels high, and could be mean spirited, we shared a lot of the same interests not only in history but politics as well.

I got along well with all of my teachers at Lincoln Way and some may think a little too well with a few. I did not, however, get along with the upper classmate's principal who sought to have me removed. He was intimidated by me and apparently thought I did not fit in at his school. The teachers at Lincoln Way were rather exceptional and a few I must add were rather attractive too. However, I will never tell what teacher I had extracurricular activities with. Apparently, these days it is thought of as criminal. Despite what Nancy Grace or others may say, I was definitely not a victim. I dated a number of girls as well as women when I attended Lincoln Way and those are good years to remember.

When I was 16, my friend Brian rented an apartment for use as a secondary residence. The apartment was a very spacious 3 bedroom unit with brand new kitchen appliances, Italian hardwood floors, and a lot of other nice woodwork. The building had a state of the art security system with an iron gate surrounding the premises, three sets of steel reinforced doors and even bars over the windows. A meth maker may envy such security but I was angry at Brian for getting an apartment next to a high crime area in Chicago. However, my friend had to choose this location because it was the old little Italy community which at one time was the neighborhood of mobsters, even going back to the days of prohibition and people like Al Capone. It did not matter to him the modern syndicate had moved away because of the public housing units and crime. Despite how far away the apartment was from my home and the terrible area, the location did have some perks.

I lived near a train station and could easily get downtown and walk the two miles to the apartment. Plus, the girls from the far southwest suburbs loved to be taken to the lake front, art museum, planetarium, or the Sky Deck in the Sears Tower (now known as the Willis Tower). The Sears Tower was always a crowded tourist attraction, however, I did not like to go.

Out on the south prison yard, I lifted weights with Mertz and between sets we spoke about our death sentence hearings. Although the judge refused to give me the death penalty because I was not at the crime scene, Mertz was sent to death row and was only recently let off when Governor Quinn signed legislation abolishing the death penalty. Unlike my case, the prosecutor and defense focused more on sentencing and not guilt or innocence. I do not think I have heard of a case with the volumes of evidence entered during the sentencing phase such as his. However, like all sentencing hearings, the prosecutor is allowed to introduce virtually any kind of testimony, regardless of its value or credibility.

Mertz told me how a woman was allowed to testify she believed he killed her goldfish. I thought this was greatly amusing and asked if he strapped the woman down first and then ate the goldfish tauntingly like in the movie "A Fish Called Wanda." He said no. They were just floating at the top of the bowl when she came home. Did they perform an autopsy to learn the cause of death? Of course they did not, and he did not answer. I said that story is even better than the vindictive girl I dated in high school who accused me of stabbing her dog without the slightest evidence I did so. Mertz told me a number of former girls he dated or just "hooked up" with testified against him and I believed him when he said the majority of what they said was false or an exaggeration.

I was told how the prosecutor was permitted to introduce his political opinions and evidence he was probably guilty of another murder. Another woman in the area was stabbed to death and there were some similarities in the two crimes. The prosecutor was trying to make the jury believe he was a serial killer. He also wanted them to think Mertz was a sympathizer of Timothy McVeigh. A couple of people testified about him stopping in Terre Haute, Indiana when McVeigh was executed. Mertz does have similar political views but he does not necessarily believe the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was right. I talked to him a little about the Waco Massacre which happened on April 19th and how the government has become far too oppressive, and intrusive, violating citizens' Constitutional rights of freedom and liberty. The prosecutors in my case were forbidden to enter any evidence of my political values but unfortunately they were also not allowed to bring in my suspicion in the Palatine Massacre. I told Mertz had they done so, after the case was solved I would have had grounds for a new trial.

I asked him if his attorneys introduced any mitigation or did a good job examining the state's witnesses. He told me his trial attorneys did a poor job and that was his major argument on appeal. The defense, as is customary, mentioned he came from a bad home and his father was abusive. This was not a subject most prisoners like to discuss so I volunteered my father was pretty mean. Mertz said his father was a big man and had a mustache like Paul Sr. in the cable TV show "Orange County Choppers". He would beat him excessively for insignificant childish misbehaviors. I get along well with my father now and am saddened I will not be able to spend any time with him except in a prison visiting room. Mertz, aware of the circumstances of my case, said something optimistic like I may still be able to be with him before he passes away.

I told Mertz a story how when I was in the 5th grade I joined a book club. I hated reading novels as a child but I joined to be near a girl named Kris who I liked throughout grade school. Although Kris would always move away from me when I sat by her, I got a chance to read a good book. It was called "The Count of Monte Christo." It was made into a movie and just last week it appeared on television. An innocent man in Spain was framed for murder. He spent over a decade languishing in a dungeon until escaping. When freed he was able to find a treasure of Spartan gold and he returned to his old place of residence. No one recognized him because so much time had passed and because he was now rich. A pirate who knew his past, beseeches him to go far away and not risk his liberty and riches. However, the Count did not care and just wanted justice. Mertz tells me, and he is not the only one, that once free I will not think the same way. I do not think they understand how terribly wronged I have been. I have suffered two decades and everything has been taken from me. All I have left other than childhood memories is justice.