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Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Jodi Arias Show -- May 16, 2013

In May of 2008 friends of Travis Alexander found him dead in his Arizona home. He had been stabbed 27 times, cut across the throat, and shot in the head. Immediately, a petite but obsessive girlfriend of the victim was suspected in the brutal murder. After conducting an investigation, law enforcement became convinced Jodi Arias was indeed the killer and she was arrested. During questioning, Arias denied being at the crime scene. However, when confronted with evidence, she told police two masked men had killed Alexander. This preposterous story was not believed and she was charged with 1st degree murder. For nearly 5 years while Jodi Arias was held in the Maricopa County Jail, she clung to this scenario until trial when defense attorneys stunningly claimed their client acted in self defense. The bizarre and lurid murder case became the focus of enormous media attention. Millions of people across the country tuned in to watch the live televised trial and media commentary. Mainly due to my own prosecution in a capital murder and experience with the criminal justice system, I also was captivated. It was "The Jodi Arias Show."

I thought my month long dual jury trial was long, but it did not compare to the Jodi Arias case. For over two months her trial continued on and with media commentary it almost seemed like a never ending soap opera. I did not follow all of it, but I did watch select testimony, news summaries, and the commentary on Headline News. The case was not covered or even mentioned in the paper I received and I had no choice but to turn to CNN or their affiliate HLN. Headline News televised all the trial and then it was discussed on the Nancy Grace, Dr. Drew, or After Dark shows. Typically, I cannot stand the tabloid TV journalism due to its non-objectivity, sensationalism, gossip, and innuendo. However, I found myself regularly tuning in for information and its entertainment value.

The proposition that Jodi Arias acted in self defense was absurd to the point of being comical. The ridicule I heard on shows such as Nancy Grace was well deserved. The victim had been stabbed almost 30 times and then had his throat slit. If this was not enough, Arias shot him in the head. How could this ever be self defense? Travis Alexander's stab wounds were also to his back and the back of his skull. Defensive lacerations to his hands corroborated he was the victim and tried to defend himself. Interestingly, Jodi Arias did not have a scratch on her and there was plenty of evidence of premeditation and concealment. The "Rabbit Boiler" as she was referred to by some on Dr. Drew did not even call police, but went about her life as if nothing occurred. When arrested, she persistently claimed not to be present until confronted with indisputable evidence she was there. Then, as Nancy Grace quipped, "two ninjas" just happened to break in and slaughter Travis Alexander leaving Jodi unharmed as a witness.

A true self defense case will soon be presented by the attorney representing George Zimmerman. Zimmerman had been elected by his community to be a night watchman in the area which was subjected to a series of burglaries. He noticed a suspicious hooded man in the neighborhood and called police. Before they responded, Trayvon Martin attacked Zimmerman. George Zimmerman suffered from a broken nose, bruises to the face, and gashes to the back of his skull. Marks on Martin's knuckles corroborated Zimmerman's account he was pummeled with punches and then had his head slammed repeatedly into a concrete sidewalk. Zimmerman who was licensed to carry a firearm shot Martin once, killing the 17-year-old juvenile delinquent. Unlike Jodi Arias, George Zimmerman clearly has a legitimate self defense case. The only reason he is being prosecuted is due to political pressures (see my post 156 on the Zimmerman case).

There is no need for Zimmerman to take the stand in his own defense next month when his trial is scheduled to commence, in my opinion. However, for Jodi Arias it was essential. She had to try and explain all the overwhelming evidence of her guilt and numerous lies she had told. While she testified, I was reminded of the testimony of my own co-defendant. He also was undeniably at the crime scene and made multiple changing statements when confronted with evidence. Even his final version of events was baffling, but like Jodi Arias, he answered the prosecutor's scathing questions unflappably, if not at times smugly. In retrospect, I wonder if he may have also tried to claim self defense if he ran out of "ninjas" to point the finger at. There were some uncanny similarities between Arias and my former roommate who had the penchant for telling tall tales. On Dr. Drew's show, they often discussed the psychology or personality of Jodi Arias. She was ego-centric, very confident and manipulative and they speculated she was a sociopath. These are characteristics which describe my co-defendant. In fact, I believe he is craftier and a better liar. This may explain in part why he was acquitted.

Jodi Arias was on the witness stand for an unprecedented three weeks. She claimed Alexander became furious at her for dropping a camera she was using to take nude photos of him in the shower and attacked her. She managed to get away and run into the closet where she grabbed a gun. Being armed with a firearm did not dissuade Alexander and he charged her like a "linebacker." She shot him in the head and then took a knife which just happened to be left on the top of the bathroom counter. From here, her memory blacks out and she does not recall going "Psycho" on Travis or slicing his throat from ear to ear. She also does not remember cleaning up the crime scene, deleting photographs from the camera, or tossing it into the washing machine. Memory of dragging Alexander's corpse and stuffing him back in the shower is also lost in the "fog." She does, however, remember driving through the desert disposing of the murder weapons on her way to stay with another man who she makes out with. The date and make out session she says she had to keep in order to appear normal. The lies she told later also were necessary to protect her from being wrongfully prosecuted and amazingly to protect Alexander's reputation.

Much of Jodi Arias' testimony dealt with her sex life. There is a reason why the media often hyped the murder case as "Sex, Lies, and Audiotape." In detail, Arias was to talk about how she had various types of sex with Travis. Personal phone conversations she had recorded where the two had discussed sex and sexual fantasies were also played in the court room. Arias attempted to portray the man as perverted, degrading, or abusive. However, it was clear the sex was consensual and she even admitted to enjoying most of it. She also admitted to having a number of other sex partners and engaging in similar types of sex. While Jodi Arias may have tried to disparage Alexander and his image in the Mormon community, she only managed to make herself more loathsome. I was amused when a juror submitted a question which asked what her definition of a skank was. Obviously, it was less of an inquiry than a statement.

Jodi Arias was not only a slut, but ugly, in my opinion. Media remarks that she was beautiful or a "blond bombshell" were as ridiculous as her claim of self defense. Even before she intentionally dulled her appearance for trial and aged five years in the county jail, I found her unattractive. When she appeared on television, I sometimes thought "woof" and how appropriate it was for her to gain entry to Alexander's house through the dog door. If I were him, I would have left out a bowl of Alpo, but then again I would not have even entertained such an ugly and promiscuous woman. Men at the prison I spoke with disagreed with me and commented any girl who brings her own KY jelly was their ideal woman. My cellmate, a/k/a "Giggity, Giggity," even at times defended Jodi Arias when I would ridicule her.

Two defense experts testified on behalf of Jodi Arias. Both psychologists' opinions, however, were irrelevant and based solely on the defendant. There was no independent verification Arias suffered from post traumatic stress disorder or was abused. The diagnosis of PTSD was supposed to explain "the fog" or why she could not remember butchering the victim. Typically those with PTSD are the victims of horrific trauma and not the perpetrators of it. A number of prisoners I have met over the years claim not to remember their crimes, but it seems like a convenient excuse. The proposition that Arias was abused also seemed contradictory to reason and the evidence. She regularly traveled 700 miles to see Travis Alexander or would sneak into his house through the dog door just to lie on his bed. It was her also who exhibited stalking behavior hiding in his closet when he was with another woman, reading his emails, joining his religion, keeping sex tapes and photographs. The sex they had was reciprocal and congruent with her past sex partners. Even if the claims of Jodi Arias were true, the loss of neither memory nor abuse was justification for premeditated 1st degree murder.

While I did not watch every bit of testimony or see every scrap of evidence submitted, I am certain the prosecutor proved its case far beyond a reasonable doubt. Because I was convicted wrongfully of murder and must spend the rest of my life in prison, I do not judge other criminal defendants without the most serious contemplation. It was undisputed Jodi Arias killed Travis Alexander. The claims of self defense are preposterous and I have no doubt let alone reasonable she had no legal cause to murder him. I theorize Arias was obsessed with a man who thought she was beneath him. Although he enjoyed having sex with her, he had no intention of marrying her or committing to her in any fashion. Alexander dated other women looking for that Mrs. Right and this infuriated Arias. She planned his murder meticulously buying gas cans so she would not have to fuel her car on the trip to Alexander's home and could then drive on to Utah without detection as well as to establish a quasi-alibi. She stole the gun from the grandparents she lived with and took a knife along with her as well. After having sex with the victim, the "black widow" coaxed him into the shower to take photos of him nude. While his back was turned, she took out the knife and began to stab him repeatedly. Turning around to defend himself she continued to take out her rage eventually slitting him across the throat and then shooting him, possibly post-mortem. The photos she took of him nude or dying she may have saved as souvenirs before deleting. The purpose of throwing the camera in the washing machine was not to destroy the memory card, but to eliminate her bloody fingerprints or other DNA evidence. She wanted the police to find the photos of her and Alexander, but failed to notice how one picture put her at the crime scene. This murder case was not self defense but a classic "Fatal Attraction."

A few prisoners and I made a pool on how long the jury would deliberate before finding her guilty. The case was so cut and dry, the men wagered between one and three hours. I placed my wager at four, but only because I knew I would win with any time above that. The thinking of most people including those in the media was the jury would render a verdict quickly and there was nothing to debate. However, while there may be no debate as to whether the state proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt or the claim of self defense, there was certainly going to be discussion about the two months of trial and evidence they were unable to talk about until deliberations. This was a case of "Sex, Lies, and Audiotape" which had riveted not only the public's attention, but the jury. They were going to want to talk about it at length.

As soon as closing arguments ended, the media started their verdict watch clocks. Hundreds of people outside the Maricopa County Court House also waited on pins and needles as if the jury would return any moment. I thought this was silly. They were at least going to wait until after the weekend to render a verdict. Closing arguments ended on a Friday midday and a couple hours was not going to be sufficient for the jury to peruse the evidence or begin to express all their pent up thoughts. The prison was on lockdown, but if I were able, I would have told all the inmates in the pool they may as well concede they lost and send me their commissary.

By Tuesday of last week, the media was astonished the jury had still yet to return with a guilty verdict. Nancy Grace and other trial commentators were even angry no decision had been reached. Bitterly, the spoke about how the black widow may get away with the murder. It is well known the longer a jury is out, the odds of an acquittal increase. In my own case, the jury deliberated for three days and it greatly disturbed the prosecutor especially after my co-defendant was acquitted. He had killed a man and the evidence against him was far greater. I recall the prosecutor somberly conceding to the media he may lose both cases. On the other hand, my defense attorneys were upbeat and William Von Hoene even began to gloat his strategy of not contesting the lies of the interrogating officer. Despite how the days went by, however, I knew I was doomed. I sat in holding cells alone waiting in despair knowing my life was over. I even had the sorrow of telling my parents they no longer had a son. It was the last time I wept.

Finally a verdict was reached in the Jodi Arias trial after 15 hours of deliberations. It was going to be read in the late afternoon however, and during this time media pundits filled the void. There was some speculation of a jury compromise to the lesser charge of 2nd degree murder and even some talk of an acquittal. I do not know if their conjecture was serious or simply to add suspense. There was no doubt in my mind she was going to be convicted of 1st degree murder. When the guilty verdict was read, thus, I was surprised by the outburst of emotion. I was also puzzled by the mobs outside the courtroom which were ecstatic. The victim was dead and never coming back. It was justice but nothing to be jubilant about.

Jodi Arias asked her attorney what she thought as the jury filed in before the verdict was read. The lawyer said, "I don't know." I certainly knew and could not ascertain if this exchange was a pretense on both their parts. Later, Arias would sigh when the guilty verdict was read as if her last glimmer of hope was extinguished. She then looked at the jury imploringly as they were polled. I did not want my attorney to have each juror one by one say this was their verdict in my trial. They were not going to change their minds and it seemed impolite to put them on the spot. I knew it was a difficult decision for them to reach and noticed a few crying. They expressed more emotion than I did. After a month of trial, I was exhausted. I felt like a zombie throughout much of the proceedings and in the end I just wanted to crawl into a grave. I rarely looked at my jury and was not about to stare them down when they found me guilty.

After Jodi Arias' conviction she surprised the media by immediately giving an interview to a local TV network. Nancy Grace expressed outrage she would disregard her attorneys who were trying to save her life by saying she preferred the death penalty over life in prison. I thought it was odd the antagonistic talk show host and former prosecutor who wanted her to die would criticize her for wanting just that. On the Dr. Drew show they speculated if she was using reverse psychology. Afterall, Arias was a very cunning and manipulative person they reasoned. Why does the public have such a hard time believing some people would rather be executed than live out the rest of their years in prison? Prison from my experience in the maximum-security penitentiaries of the IDOC is the most wretched and miserable existence. Unlike death, it is never ending suffering. Jodi Arias' comment during her TV interview caused her to be put on suicide watch which if the same as in Illinois means stripped naked in a barren cell.

Due to the suicide watch, the penalty phase of the trial was delayed. It was not until earlier this week, the jury decided whether Jodi Arias was death eligible. Unlike earlier deliberations, the jury came back quickly with a decision the murder was extremely cruel. This did not surprise me. Travis Alexander had been stabbed nearly 30 times before having his throat slit, and then shot in the head. Blood was everywhere in the bathroom and hallway despite Arias' attempts to clean up. Furthermore, numerous gruesome photographs of the victim's nude eviscerated corpse were shown to the jury. The murder may have taken place within a few minutes of time, but the defense was hard pressed to argue their client did not act with great cruelty.

Once found death eligible, a new phase in the sentencing began. During this stage, both the prosecutor and defense are allowed to present witnesses to persuade the jury, or in my case a judge, why the defendant should be executed or spared the death penalty. Unlike the trial which has strict parameters, a sentencing hearing is open to almost anything. This week, a number of Travis Alexander's family members had given victim impact statements. The defense was supposed to begin calling their witnesses, but none has yet to be. There was a request to have a couple of friends testify on video camera and this was denied by the judge. Defense attorneys argued they were afraid for their lives, however, I believe this was a ruse. Jodi Arias does not want any mitigation presented on her behalf. Defense lawyers are obliged to do so even if their client is opposed. This is what occurred in my own death penalty hearing. The judge denying the attorneys motion gave them the excuse to do nothing.

There is speculation if next week Jodi Arias will give an allocution and what she will say. Will she tell the jury she wants death or will she make a plea for her life? I was able to address the court but only after the death penalty was taken off the table. Therefore, I was only statutorily facing 20 to 60 years in prison. I told Judge Sam Amirante I sympathized with the victim's family, but I should not be held accountable for my co-defendant. I knew the judge was under tremendous pressure to give me a harsh penalty despite his ruling I was not at the crime scene and the killer had walked free. I asked him to give me hope, but for my pleadings the judge told me he was going to give me no hope at all. I would spend the rest of my life in prison. If Jodi Arias is smart, she will convince the jury to give her death. There is nothing worse than an indefinite prison sentence. It is better if the Jodi Arias Show ends with curtains.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Two Decades in the Trenches -- May 3, 2013

Twenty years ago on April 28th, my cousin and I were rehabbing a large older home in Chicago. For lunch we took a break from our work and decided to eat at our grandparents' house which was not too far away. On the same city block lived my cousin's friend and he just happened to be outside. I stopped the car and he asked if we would give him a ride. Scott had poor timing and soon after my cousin let him in the car I noticed an odd white van parked further down the block. It was obviously a stakeout vehicle and I was not surprised it followed us. For the last week there had been continuous news reporting of my former friend's arrest for a murder along with speculation of his involvement in the infamous Browns Chicken Massacre. I was living with my friend at the time of the mass murder and assumed police would want to question me. However, what I did not know was that he and his wife had accused me of those murders and a few others.

I kept an eye on the van through my rear view mirror. Another vehicle seemed also to join in tailing my car, but I was not concerned. I assumed they were just conducting surveillance particularly when I drove from a quiet residential neighborhood into a busy commercial part of Chicago. I was rather shocked when I stopped at a traffic light and saw unmarked squad cars had boxed me in and numerous gun wielding police jumped out. They shouted at us to put our hands in the air and then to exit the vehicle. With a swarm of laser scope dots focused on our bodies, I was not certain what to do: take my hands down to shift my car into park and open the door, or keep my hands up in the air. These cops acted as if they were going to shoot me from multiple directions and reaching for the gear shift knob did not seem like a wise idea. I compromised and opened the door without changing gears. Immediately, I was grabbed and yanked out of my car, thrown face down on the asphalt and handcuffed behind my back. Later, in the back of an unmarked police car, an FBI agent told me I was lucky to be alive. After enduring 20 years in captivity, however, I know now I was not lucky at all.

Two police officers drove me to a secret location in the northwest suburbs to be interrogated. Sergeant John Koziol was a central figure in the Palatine Task Force which had been assembled to capture the perpetrator or perpetrators of the Palatine murders. The last I heard he was Palatine's chief of police, but he has probably retired now. The other man was deputy John Robertson and he was an investigator from the Cook County State's Attorneys Office. He had been involved in other high profile murder cases including the Dowaliby case where a mother and father were wrongfully prosecuted for the killing of their daughter.

I did not know anything about the police driving me out of the city at the time. All I knew was two large sized plain clothes cops were pretending to be my friends and acting like everything was cool. Koziol turned around and addressed me as "Vik," short for Viktor, a name most of my friends called me. He tried engaging me in small talk mentioning things like the Arlington Race Track where my friend Bob loved to gamble. I was also asked where I wanted to stop for lunch. I considered saying, "Yeah, stop at the Brown's Chicken Restaurant. Extra crispy, all white meat m-f-er."

At the Rolling Meadows Police Department, I was put in a small white cinder block interrogation room. It was about the size of my cell and on one wall it had what was obviously a 2-way mirror. I told John Koziol immediately when he was arresting me that I wanted a lawyer, and on the trip out of the city I largely ignored both of them. Their attempts to establish rapport was in vain. I may have autism, but I was not stupid. I knew my constitutional rights and there was no way I was going to waive them. It was apparent by the way I was arrested that they sought much more than background information on my former roommate. These men were not my friends and I had no intention of speaking with them. When they came back in the room with a sandwich and a drink, I told them they could keep it. I was not talking to them and again insisted I wanted a lawyer. The amiable facade quickly went away and I was told frankly by John Robertson in a case of this magnitude I would never see an attorney until they were done questioning me. It was the beginning of a distressing two day interrogation, a long trial, and two decades of incarceration.

For hours upon hours, the two police investigators attempted to question me in tandem and separately. My refusal to speak and at times to even acknowledge their presence frustrated Koziol and Robertson. They began to use various tactics to coerce me to talk. At times they would tell me it was in my best interests to cooperate. Koziol in one instance entered the interrogation room with a clip board of all my former roommate's changing statements. He did not believe him, but if I did not refute them, authorities would run with it. I was skeptical that Faraci had made such outrageous accusations against me but Koziol let me briefly look at the pages. Still in disbelief, he pointed out his signatures. When such overtures to persuade me to answer their questions failed, they resorted to threats, intimidation, and violence.

A blue sheet was placed over the 2-way mirror to prevent anyone from looking inside the interrogation room. I was asked if I did not care about myself, or my family. I was told my elderly grandfather was going to have his home ransacked and he would be roughed up during interrogation. Furthermore, he said my mother would be arrested for lying to the FBI. However, if I would cooperate, phone calls would be made and none of this would occur. I stared at a wall, refusing to say anything and Koziol sought my attention. He sat right next to me and when I continued to be unresponsive he'd kick me in the shins. At one point, I repeated my request for a lawyer and he told me this was the wrong answer. After making a snide remark about my Miranda rights being violated, Robertson gave me a good shot to the jaw. It was not the only time he struck me when I failed to answer questions. Over the years, I am not so angry about the abuse as I am with Robertson's lies. After failing to gain an incriminating statement from me, he simply fabricated one.

In his testimony to my jury two years later, he manipulated the vast majority of what little and disjointed things I said. The most damaging claim he made was that my roommate armed with a gun told me he was going to kill the victim and I permitted him to use my car after he asked for the keys. I had let my cousin and both of the Faraci's use my car while staying with them. However, never did I loan Bob my car after he expressed an intent to kill someone. This was preposterous and a blatant lie by the detective. Unfortunately, my defense attorney refused to contest Robertson's testimony or put on any witnesses who would discredit him, including those who could place both me and my car about 50 miles away from the crime scene the day in question. Instead, Bill Von Hoene chose to spar with the prosecutors over the law of accountability in closing arguments. With an unscrupulous assistant states attorney willing to lie about the law and a jury believing I let the victim go to his death, I was not surprised by the guilty verdict.

I spent two years in the Cook County Jail awaiting trial and then I was transferred to the IDOC after being sentenced to natural life without the possibility of parole. It was a sentence worse than death and I have regularly regretted not reaching down in my car on the day of my arrest to give police a justification to kill me.  I have spent the past 20 years in the most violent, oppressive, and miserable maximum security facilities in the state. At the jail and the first years I spent in the penitentiary, I faced continuous hostilities. Regularly, I was in danger as a white "neutron" in the concrete jungle where black and Mexican gangs dominated. I lived without fear, however, and welcomed death. As years passed by, the prison system has become less violent, but increasingly more oppressive, austere, and miserable. There are extensively more rules, regulations, restrictions, guards, and security precautions which go beyond absurd.

I was 18 years old at the time of my arrest and now I am an old man. All the best years of my life are gone and I struggle to find a reason to carry on. Even if one day I were to win my freedom, what have I really won? There is less appeal for me to live out the remnants of my life outside these walls and there has never been any meaning to live within them. I have contemplated ending this blog because it also seems to serve no function other than make me brood more about my miserable existence. This week, I spotted my first grey hair and I plucked it out as if this would stop the steady march of time. However, nothing will stop my decline and I will never get to be 18 years old again.

While in the penitentiary, I have sought to have my conviction overturned. However, I have been thwarted by the most incompetent attorneys. My direct appeal was done by a recovering alcoholic with serious personal problems. He failed to raise numerous issues of trial error. After losing, without my knowledge he then filed a post conviction appeal on my behalf. This appeal was deficient in not enclosing the mandatory affidavits and was summarily dismissed. A new lawyer was hired to fight off a wrongful death civil suit by the victim's mother. Although he bungled this and I now owe the plaintiff $5 million, he was permitted to work on my federal appeal. The lawyer filed the appeal without addressing any constitutional violations, but most catastrophically he filed it one day past the one year deadline date. In Modrowski vs. Mote, the district court judge ruled she could not even review the case or allow it to be amended due to the appeal being filed one day late. The judge scolded my attorney and the Illinois Bar Association revoked his law license, but that was the end of my regular set of appeals. The only remaining legal recourse I now have is filing a successive post conviction appeal.

This week I received a letter from my current attorney who has been working here and there on my case for 4 years. All criminal appeals have a minute chance of succeeding, but a second collateral appeal faces even more hurdles. Despite this, I have found numerous case law to permit me to have my case reheard in the courts. A 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling (Martinez vs. Ryan) gives even more support to my contention my successive post conviction appeal meets criteria to be heard on its merits, at least in regards to defense attorneys mistakes at trial and on appeal. The letter I received said she was already aware of the ruling and enclosed another lower court ruling based on it. Despite this, my appeal is not ready to be filed due to lack of progress on investigative matters. By contract, she is not responsible for the costs of any investigation and I am currently seeking out these funds. Private investigators are not cheap and finding Tom Selleck's 1980's character in the TV show "Magnum P.I." is like looking for a needle in a hay stack.

My father refuses to pay for the investigative services I want and it seems as if I am on my own. Despite having little to no knowledge about my case, he has deemed my need for another P.I. as unnecessary and a wasteful use of money. He would rather blame me for my predicament. When I was a teenager, he scolded me for associating with the likes of my co-defendant. Had I listened to him, I would have never been arrested. My father, however, did not like me reminding him that he was the main reason I left home.

Earlier in the week while sick with the flu, I had plenty of time to brood about my arrest, interrogation, and 20 years of incarceration battling for my life. It has been a long, grueling, and miserable struggle. I happened to catch some old black and white World War I footage on TV. The men on the Western front went into battle thinking the war was going to be quick and decisive. They were quickly disillusioned when armies dug in and spent years trying to break the deadlock. Millions died fighting over sometimes nothing more than a few feet of dirt in no man's land. The men lived in an extensive network of trenches filled with mud, the rotting dead, rats, and disease. In fact, more soldiers died of influenza than from exchanges with the enemy. Fighting for your freedom is a lot like trench warfare. I have spent two decades in wretched conditions trying to win a battle in court to no avail. I may spend years more or I may never make it out alive. Even if I make it out, I may not have a life worth living.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Stomach Flu -- April 30, 2013

At a crowded penitentiary with close to 2,000 prisoners doubled celled and stacked on top of each other in mainly two enormous buildings, viruses spread quickly. Recently, a virulent strain of stomach flu has made a number of inmates very sick. It has not been as widespread as the food poisoning epidemic on Christmas Day, but in my opinion caused much worse symptoms. Last week, my cellmate, and then I soon thereafter became extremely ill. I was sick for three days and still continue to suffer from fatigue and loss of appetite. Since Friday, I have not left my cell and have largely slept or engaged in passive activities. Being so horribly ill has reminded me of how meaningless and miserable my existence is. On April 28, 1993, I was arrested and I have now spent 20 years in captivity. Despite my innocence, I see no end in sight.

My cellmate contracted the flu virus on Wednesday and within a few days I was sick as well. Because I tend to stay in the cell more, he is exposed to more germs and passes them on to me. There is little I can do to prevent contagion in the small 6 x 11 foot cell we share. I am already exceptionally clean and hygienic. I wash the floor and the common surfaces we may touch almost daily. Just as often I will disinfect the stainless steel sink and adjoined toilet. I also scrub the sink and floor rags vigorously with soap or disinfectant and wash my hands repeatedly throughout the day, particularly before I eat. However, much of this is done in vain. I cannot escape the airborne pathogens.

My cellmate generally sleeps until noon because he works the midnight kitchen shift. While he is sleeping, I will go about my day trying my best not to disturb him. The cell house is very loud with a cacophony of noises, but even so I will turn my fan on high to block out any noise I may create when I exercise. The fan also serves as an exhaust to dispel any body odor or perspiration. Oddly, Anthony woke up Wednesday norming to use the toilet. He was behind the privacy sheet for quite some time and I had to duck for cover to avoid being overwhelmed by the stench. Most people may complain, however, after sharing small confined spaces with various cellmates over the years, I knew it was just something I had to accept. No one's shit smells like roses.

Initially, I did not know my cellmate was sick. However, throughout the morning he continued to climb down off his bunk to use the toilet and eventually just stayed awake. Anthony has repeatedly made fun of me when I have become sick from eating bad prison food and this was my opportunity to turn the tables. After he told me he was getting dressed to see the dentist, I told him he needs to see the butt doctor instead. A dentist will be looking at the wrong end. My cellmate looked miserable and I advised him to skip his appointment and try to get some more sleep. However, he insisted on going because seeing the dentist at Stateville was very difficult. Even if rescheduled, he may not get another appointment for months. Some men wait over a year for basic dental care. Cleanings are only done once every other year as well as check ups. I have only had one cleaning in the seven years I have been at this prison.

I went on a visit Wednesday and when I returned my cellmate was sleeping. He stayed asleep until 8 p.m. when his show "Supernatural" came on TV. I tend to think even if Anthony was dying of bubonic plague, he would not miss his favorite television shows. Typically, he will have his face almost pressed to the screen, but now he watched TV lying down and peeking out from under a sheet. I told him he missed baked chicken for dinner and dangled a package of cookies in front of him which were passed out with the mail. He told me if he ate anything he may vomit. I sat back down on my bunk and tried to find the full moon I had seen in the twilight earlier when I went to the chow hall. It had moved beyond my vantage point in the cell, though.

The following day, I awakened my cellmate by knocking on the underside of his bunk. Prisoners on our gallery were being let out of their cells soon to be escorted to the commissary building. When my cellmate got down, he looked worse than he did Wednesday and I could tell he was reluctant to go. Once again, he used the toilet and although he formerly speculated he had become sick from food poisoning, he now believed it was something else. Inmates at Stateville commonly become ill from the unsanitary conditions in the kitchen, bad food, or poor food handling and hygiene of kitchen workers. I speculated he had the stomach flu based on his symptoms. On the way out of the cell I offered him a roll of toilet paper, but he refused. He would rather soil himself than use the filthy bathroom at the prison store which had little privacy.

I took a brief nap in the early afternoon and did not hear my cellmate return. However, when I stood up, I saw that he was in bed with a sheet wrapped around himself from head to toe like a mummy. Like the previous day, he slept until late in the evening. At about 9:30 he dressed in his white kitchen worker clothes and I was dumbfounded as to why he would go to work. I suggested he take the night off, and because he had Friday's off it would give him two consecutive days to try to recover. I tended to believe he had the flu and he would be passing his germs onto not only co-workers but the numerous men he made trays for. The previous night, he spent most of his time in the bathroom anyway. Again, however, Anthony refused to stay in but fortunately the kitchen supervisor seeing how ill he looked sent him back to the cell house.

I had gone to sleep and did not notice my cellmate had returned until I awoke in the middle of the night with an enormous thirst. I did not think it was unusual because I typically suffer from dry mouth in the night due to the antihistamine I am given to help me sleep. Wexford, the health care provider for the IDOC refuses to treat prisoners with sleeping problems. Therefore, instead of Ambien, Lunesta, or simply Melatonin, I am given Benadryl or Vistaril. I keep a bottle of water next to my bunk while I sleep, but even after drinking this I went to the sink to drink two more bottles. Little did I know my body had a purpose for all that water.

At the crack of dawn, I woke with severe cramps. I felt horrible and all that sunshine beaming into my cell only made me feel worse. Currently, the sun rises directly across from the cell and despite the cell house windows being dirty, the light is annoying. I had as much appreciation for the sunrise as I suppose a vampire may have, and like a vampire I felt like I was going to die. No, I was not going to burst into flames but writhe in agony. Throughout the morning, I was repeatedly going back and forth to the toilet. Instead of using a bed sheet, I used a blanket to hide away from the sunlight while on the commode and also when I slept.

When I awakened, my cellmate greeted me and asked me how I was feeling. I thought for certain he was being sarcastic. It was almost as if he was happy I was sick and he was the cause of it. Misery loves company and I responded bitterly, "How the f--- do you think I feel?" I continued saying I had spent 20 years in hell holes like Stateville because my attorney did not put on a defense. Unlike some people, I did nothing wrong, but suffer nonetheless. My cellmate was quiet, and later I learned he was not aware that I had become sick. He was personally feeling better and apparently his merry greeting was simply a reflection of this. I do not know how he slept through the multiple times I flushed the industrial toilet.

I did not have much energy to do anything and spent a few hours reading before going back to sleep. Four hours later, I awakened and made some tea for my cellmate and me. The movie "Trouble with the Curve" was played on the prison's cable system and I watched it with him. In the movie, Clint Eastwood played a baseball scout at the end of his career. His character was a grumpy old man in declining health, but with strong convictions. My cellmate mentioned I was similar in disposition and I replied the actor will probably be me in 20 more years but instead of going blind, I will be crippled with back pain. To his amusement I told him how the female medical practitioner told me during a physical that I looked like Clint Eastwood and I was not sure if she meant that as a compliment.

On Saturday, I spent the morning reading and trying to prevent myself from hearing all the cell house noise. It became very loud when prisoners were let out for various religious services and detail yard. I questioned my cellmate if he was going outside to leave me in solitude whereupon I could suffer alone. However, of course, he was still not feeling completely healthy and has only once ever gone to the yard on the weekend. He asked me why I did not work out in the morning as I usually do. I told him I would, but I may shit on myself and while I did not care, he may. I put my earplugs in and then put headphones on to block out the prison noises with some classical music. I have Mozart's Requiem and as I listened to it I pondered my own existence. Being severely ill in a maximum security prison can make one wonder why they continue to live when their future is nothing but indefinite suffering.

I slept most of the afternoon and had little energy to do anything when I awoke. I missed The Larry Kudlow Report on WLS AM radio which I usually listen to for expert analysis of the economy as well as political commentary. I did not really care if on Friday the markets crashed, although I did tune in to the McLaughlin Group on the public broadcast station to see if North Korea ignited a hydrogen bomb or if there was any new news about the Boston bombings connection to Chechnya's Islamic radicals. Thereafter I watched "Dr. House" and then Britain's "Doc Martin." There was little that could be done about the flu, but I wondered if I could benefit from seeing a doctor myself.

A nurse with a distinct German name came to my cell to give me my sleeping medication. As customary she asked me how I was doing and normally I interpret this as just polite social protocol. However, since she asked I said, "Terrible. I believe I have the stomach flu." The majority of nurses or medical technicians at Stateville probably would not have cared, but she asked me a series of questions to determine if there was anything medically she could do or if there was any emergency. There was not, and she told me she would just have some acetaminophen sent up to my cell. The great joke at Stateville is no matter what your problem is the medical staff have the same treatment: Tylenol. Infection? Liver failure? Broken ankle? Cancer? All of these can be cured with Tylenol for a five dollar fee. I knew there was no treatment for the flu and the recommendation is plenty of rest and fluids. The Tylenol which was brought to me I reasoned was just to be nice and act as a placebo. The most it could do is reduce body aches. I was about to throw the tablets on my shelf and go back to sleep, but for some reason I did not and I swallowed a couple of them. Later that night I would be glad I did.

During the night, I developed a high fever. I had to change clothes. All my underclothes were drenched in sweat. While I took them off to replace with dry ones, I shivered with such intensity like I have never experienced before. It was the oddest phenomena. I was boiling over in fever but was freezing at the same time. I put on two more dry pairs of socks, T-shirts and some boxer briefs along with thermals, a sweat suit and a skull cap. I still shivered uncontrollably until I went under two wool blankets. Somehow I fell back asleep despite how cold and hot I was.

In the morning, I felt better and assumed the fever served to kill off the virus. However, I wondered at what cost. I was mildly delirious and wondered if I had not also fried some brain cells. I just read an article about how a fever of 101 was nothing to be concerned about but mine probably spiked to 106. I mentioned the matter to my cellmate and he said I should ask the nurse. Most of the nurses were just walking pez dispensers, however. What type of people did my cellmate think Wexford employed? Did he think Dr. Gregory House and his team of experts worked at Stateville? The incompetence and neglect of medical staff at the prison is widely known. There is currently a man who has been denied treatment of throat cancer on the gallery below me and has been left in his cell to die. Apparently, the costs are prohibitively expensive to attempt to save his life.

Although Sunday I felt significantly better, I still did not exercise, bathe, or eat. I kept on a full set of clothes that made me look like the Michelon Man and drank water or tea. When my cellmate made some Ramen noodles and beef stew, I told him to hide it from me. I did not like the sight or smell of food. For my pudgy doughboy cellmate, the stomach flu had the benefit of forcing him to lose some weight. However, for me I knew eventually I would have to force myself to eat or I would quickly look emaciated. Eventually, I would also have to bathe but the thought of taking off all my layers of clothing was not appealing when I was still very cold with them on. Plus, the water would only make me feel colder while bathing out of the sink. Shower lines were run on the weekend, but this too I did not want to do. I told my cellmate if I smell of body odor he will just have to deal with it until the following day.

The only TV I watched on Sunday evening was a show on the Discovery channel called "Naked Survivor." It was a reality TV show where a man was left on a deserted island with nothing, not even clothing. I did not know what the reason was for this. Anyone in a survival situation would have some type of clothing. If it was an attractive woman I could see the entertainment value but not a man. This man also was not very skilled, resourceful, or intelligent. Watching Bear Grills or some other special ops in the wilderness was interesting but this man was pathetic. No wonder the show had been edited down to only 5 episodes. While watching the finale, though, I thought it was similar to me trying to survive at Stateville while sick with the flu. It was 20 years ago that I was arrested on that day and I recalled some of my near death experiences in the Cook County Jail and maximum-security prisons over the years.

Yesterday, I exercised as I normally do in the mornings at the front of the cell. My cellmate awakened briefly to tell me I was moving slow. I told him he needed to go back to sleep before I gave him a kick to the head. It took a lot to push myself through my workout and I was greatly exhausted afterwards, but quickly washed up before my body temperature dropped and I was cold again. I spent most of the rest of my day reading, but stopped to watch a defense expert in the Jodi Arias murder trial in Maricopa County, Arizona. It seemed absurd to me that she had an excuse to butcher her boyfriend, Travis Alexander. Even if I believed she was in some way abused, it did not justify a brutal premeditated murder. Later, I listened to all the "talking heads" on the tabloid journalism TV shows Nancy Grace and Dr. Drew. I did not like their reporting, but had to agree the woman was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Today I was glad the temperature rose to 70 degrees to take some of the chill out of my cold concrete cubicle. A cell house worker opened a few windows to let in some fresh air. Yard lines were run but the air from the windows was enough for me. I did not plan to leave my cell except if I was called for a visit. Over the weekend, I failed to call my family because I was feeling so ill. I am regularly in a foul or nonsocial mood. Lately, I have been attempting to be less unpleasant to my parents. This weekend would have been a futile effort while sick and brooding about my injustice. I did give my cellmate an earful after watching an ABC news interview of Amanda Knox.

Amanda Knox was recently re-indicted for the murder of Meredith Kercher despite the appellate court finding she was innocent. Unlike in the U.S., the supreme court in Italy can overturn an exoneration based on technical reasons. What those trial errors were has not been released by the country's highest court yet and one can only speculate. Knox is currently free in the U.S. but could face the prospect of extradition. Despite how the Kercher family continues to believe she is guilty in their daughter's death in some way, I am convinced she is totally innocent. It is apparent to me the African immigrant who plead guilty and testified against Knox and Sollecito for a reduced sentence killed Meredith. Ironic how the actual killer will serve less than 10 years and the prosecution continues to go after those he implicated, but then my co-defendant was acquitted and I continue to rot in prison two decades later. Amanda Knox complains of having to serve over 1,400 days in an Italian prison which was like a Ramada Inn compared to where I have been for 7,306 days (including two days at the police station). I hope Knox is not sent back to Italy to serve any more time and I am glad she was given $4 million for her book, however, there are far greater injustices in the U.S. that never gain any media attention or are ever resolved.

My cellmate has gone off to work and does not have to listen to me rant about the injustice of my conviction or how disparate the situations are between Knox and me. Apparently, I am feeling better to be so revved up. While I was ill I rarely said a word and I would not have been able to stay awake to write this post. I finally ate my first bit of food while watching the Amanda Knox interview: a piece of bread and a banana. The bread was donated by a charity and was very good. I am not certain the source but my cellmate tells me Costco is printed on the boxes. The bread the IDOC makes is usually stale and is always regular wheat or white sliced bread. Tomorrow I will eat a full meal. I believe I am quickly recovering from what was a powerful strain of flu.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

At the Movies from Argo to Zero Dark 30 -- April 20, 2013

At most penitentiaries there is an effort made to promote and facilitate recreational activities. However, at Stateville there is little to no funding or support for this. The LTS (leisure time service) supervisor is rarely ever seen and never sponsors any sporting events, games, or other play. The gymnasium and prison yards are not maintained and what exists there is falling apart. Other than basketballs, the only spending I have noticed is the rental of DVDs. Every week, four different DVDs are rented and played on the prison's cable system. For men who spend the vast majority of their time in cells, the movies can be a great source of entertainment and escape. I rarely watch any television but the last couple of weeks I have been taken in by the rented movies. A number of the films were nominated or won Academy Awards last year at the Oscars and I was pleased to finally get a chance to watch them.

Prisoners shouted out "Movie!" and I turned on my television to discover Skyfall was being set up to play. I have been looking forward to seeing the newest James Bond movie since it premiered in theaters last year. I quickly put away the newspaper I was reading and put on my headphones to block out all the cell house noise. The film began with a fast paced chase scene with Bond conducting such incredible feats no human could possibly do. The action was farfetched but I stayed riveted. I have watched all the Bond movies and particularly like the last two starring actor Daniel Craig. I do not know if a stunt double was being used or computer generated imaging, but Craig was on top of a speeding train fighting a very capable opponent. Another agent of Britain's M16 was watching from a great distance through a rifle scope. She was given the absurd order to fire and after a little hesitancy she did. The bullet missed its target and instead hit James Bond sending him falling off a high bridge and into the deep waters below where he was presumed dead.

My cellmate who had been watching the movie jumped off his bunk to make himself some instant coffee and grab some snacks like he was at the movie theater. He chose to make his "popcorn" run during the interlude when the credits are shown and the Bond theme song is played. The song appropriately called "Skyfall" I was informed by Anthony was by Adele, a famous fat English pop music singer I had never heard of. The woman had a booming voice and she could have probably been an opera singer. I was not surprised when my cellmate mentioned she won an Oscar for her performance.

Skyfall was not the best Bond movie I have ever seen, but I did like the theme. It opened with a plot similar to You Only Live Twice and Never Say Never Again. James Bond thought to be dead leaves the spy agency to live an alternative life. When he returns, he is much older and out of shape. The agency attempts to rehabilitate him but he fails their tests. What he lacks in youth, however, he is amply able to make up for in wisdom and strength of character or grit. Bond also seems out of touch with the modern age where technology has replaced the traditional field operative. Without any gizmo's, he lures the villain off the grid where any technological advantage is lost. In the Scottish Highlands, Skyfall falls back in time to a previous era.

The villain in the movie is a former British secret agent like Bond. He was captured by the enemy and no attempt was made to save him. After biting into a cyanide capsule he was left for dead. He lives, however, and his sense of betrayal causes him to have a vendetta against the spy agency particularly its leader. Bond is able to kill the villain but not before he is successful in fatally wounding the director. Judy Dench has played the role "M" for well over a decade and her death reminded me of the passing away of one of Britain's greatest prime ministers, Margaret Thatcher. Times were changing not only in the movie but the world as well. It seemed like the old conservative bulwarks of the past were being replaced by a new generation of weak, more progressive, leaders.

At the end of Skyfall, the stage is set for a new beginning. There is a new spy headquarters and a new director to the spy agency. His name was the same as the original man who held the post in the 1960s as if the Bond Franchise had went full circle. His secretary Money Penny was also back and she was the agent who nearly killed Bond in the beginning of Skyfall. The new Money Penny was a black woman radically different from the character I remembered as a child. Possibly if there is another Bond film, he will be black as well to appeal to a more diverse and liberal audience. It is apparent this will be Daniel Craig's last performance as 007. The day after watching Skyfall, I gave myself a haircut like the actor. I identified with the actor whose career was over much like my life was.

The next blockbuster film I watched on the prison's DVD system was Argo. What made this movie interesting is that it was based on a true story. During the Iranian revolution of 1979, the American embassy in Tehran was overrun. Over 60 Americans were taken hostage. The new Islamic regime headed by the Ayatollah Khomeini demanded the previous ruler who was in the U.S. to be turned over. The American government had no intention of allowing Reza Pahlavi Shaw to be tortured and executed. Although the Islamic revolutionaries thought he was a repressive dictator, the Shaw family was an ally to the U.S. The American hostages were terrorized for over a year before a deal was finally made allowing for their release.

When the embassy was taken over by angry mobs, 6 Americans were able to escape in the chaos. They fled and hid out at the Canadian consulate. Hostile crowds of Iranians protested daily in the streets and sought out enemies of the Islamic revolution. Suspects were sometimes beaten to death or lynched on the spot without trial. All Caucasians were looked at with suspicion, but Americans in particular were hated due to the U.S. government's connection with the toppled secular dictatorship of the Shaw. Police of the new Islamic Republic also aggressively sought out enemies of the state and had a pervasive presence. With so much scrutiny and anger, the Americans who escaped capture were trapped inside Iran and even feared just to go outside.

A CIA operative played by Ben Affleck comes up with a wild plan to rescue the Americans. He contacts a Hollywood movie producer and convinces him to pretend to be behind the filming of a movie in Iran. A science fiction screen play is found called Argo, and thus the name of the operation and 2012 movie. After creating the facade in the U.S., the CIA operative asks permission to enter Iran under the pretense of being a movie producer. He meets up with the 6 Americans and gives them all new identities as employees in the film's production. This fools police, but the film Argo creates a lot of suspense making viewers believe they are just steps away from discovering the fraud and arresting or killing the Americans. In the final scene, police cars chase their airplane down the runway. However, this is all fiction to make for a better movie which was rather boring.

Although the film certainly did not deserve to be nominated for an Oscar, I did like the historical backdrop and how it reminded me of current events. The revolutions across N. Africa and stirring in the Middle East are similar to the 1979 revolution in Iran. However, the U.S. supported most of the insurrections even against Egypt's ruler, Hosni Mubarak, who was an ally in the region. Currently, a civil war rages in Syria with Barack Obama inching closer to supporting the rebels despite how the new government may be worse than the current. All the new governments which came to power after the Arab Spring are being led by radical Islamic groups hostile to the West. Before Obama, George Bush invaded Afghanistan and Iraq to form peaceful democracies, but without American power they will slip back to control unfavorable to the U.S. The weakness by which the Obama administration displays towards Iran's development of nuclear weapons is rather emblematic of his foreign policy.

History is said to repeat itself and the overrunning of the U.S. embassy in Tehran is eerily similar to the destruction of the Benghazi embassy in Libya leaving several Americans dead. It is shocking the Obama administration was negligent in keeping the embassy safe and failing to respond to the attack. The Libyan embassy repeatedly asked for additional security and was denied. During the attack, which lasted hours, pleas for Special Forces or fighter jets to be scrambled were also rejected. Watching Argo, one cannot help but be angry. The White House even had the gall to cover up the dereliction by making the public believe the incident in Benghazi was a violent protest movement in response to a U-Tube video and not a premeditated terrorist attack on the anniversary of 9-11.

In the following evenings after watching Argo, I watched Equilibrium and Breaking Dawn, Part 2. Equilibrium is a movie I saw before and is about a Big Brother type government which seeks to remove human emotions. Christian Bale plays the hero of the resistance movement killing "father" and bringing down the regime. It is not a great film and tries to mimic the action in the Matrix. I only watched it until a new NBC show called Hannibal came on. I am not a fan of the Twilight series. The goofiness of vampires and werewolves combined with a soft romance meant for teenage girls is not appealing. However, it was a Friday night and there was nothing else to watch. My cellmate did not watch Breaking Dawn and I made fun of the irony he thought it was stupid when he will never miss an episode of silly shows like Supernatural, Grimm, or Once Upon a Time.

This week on Tuesday, Basic Instinct was played. Not long ago I had watched this movie on network television, but I wanted to see the uncut version. I doubted my cellmate's claim that actress Sharon Stone is seen without any panties on when she crosses her legs during an interrogation. I should have known not to question him. My cellmate has an obsession with celebrity women. Occasionally, I will jokingly call him "Giggity, Giggity" after the perverted cartoon character Quagmire in the show Family Guy. The movie was very popular in the cell house for its nudity and sex scenes. I imagine there are a lot of Quagmire-type prisoners at Stateville. While numerous TVs were turned on to the movie, a guard jokingly yelled out for the sexually deprived men to turn the porno off. I made some jokes of my own comparing certain scenes to Jodi Arias who is on trial for stabbing to death her boyfriend, Travis Alexander. Although not as attractive, she reminded me of the actress Sharon Stone who plays a black widow killing men she has had sex with. A better actress and movie to compare her with is Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, but unlike Alexander, the character played by Michael Douglas is able to escape being butchered.

On the following evening, I made beef burritos for my cellmate and I while we watched the remake of the movie Red Dawn. The original movie made in the 1980s was one of my favorite childhood films. In it, the Soviets along with their Communist Cuban allies invade the U.S. The motion picture takes place in a traditional small rural American town where a group of high school students are able to escape capture or slaughter. The students include a couple of actors who later became famous including Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen. The teenagers were not content to merely hide out in the Rocky Mountains, but took it upon themselves to attack the communist invaders. They named their group "The Wolverines" after their high school football team and used guerrilla warfare tactics to successfully inflict significant casualties on the enemy. In the end, nearly everyone was killed, but they inspired other resistance groups and the U.S. military was able to turn the tide. Ultimately, the Soviet and Cuban forces were defeated and America was once again a free nation. I knew the remake would not be as good as the original, but I did not expect to be so disappointed.

In the new Red Dawn it was an odd coalition of North Koreans and Russians who invaded the U.S. This was a ridiculous scenario in the 21st century with Russia no longer America's nemesis. The new cold war and most dangerous threat today is Red China and their North Korean allies who regularly threaten nuclear war. After mentioning this to my cellmate, he informed me the movie originally did have the Chinese and North Koreans invading the U.S., but it was redone so movie producers could make money selling the film in China. Not only was the plot bad, but the acting was as well. Tom Cruise's black adopted son who played a role could have been abandoned by the Wolverines a lot earlier in the movie. Furthermore, the small rural town and great outdoors where much of the original movie was filmed was replaced by a mainly urban setting. The new movie also ended with the group breaking into North Korean headquarters to steal a technological device which absurdly holds the key to winning the war. The plot, acting, background, and drama of the remake of Red Dawn were all a big let down.

Zero Dark 30 was the DVD I was most looking forward to seeing out of all the movies rented in the past couple of weeks. From what I read and heard, the film was a factual inside look at the search for Osama bin Laden and the covert operation to assassinate him. Even more so than James Bond, I was interested in how the CIA and Special Forces worked without the fiction or dramatization of Hollywood. Most spy and movies depicting the military have little basis in reality. They are meant to entertain the public and make money rather than be a documentary. Zero Dark 30 did not have to be distorted, however, to be interesting to viewers, particularly myself.

The beginning of the film was mainly about the mild torture of enemy combatants to procure information about the Islamic terrorist network. Last year a lot of controversy surrounded the depiction of interrogation techniques used by intelligence operatives. The White House categorically denied any torture was used in the hunt for Osama bin Laden and politicians like Senator John McCain repudiated the movie. The former P.O.W. strongly believes any type of physical or mental coercion is wrong. Personally, I think this is absurd and neither the CIA nor military should be restrained by any lofty code of ethics. It is a necessary part of war and it is foolish to think the enemies of the U.S. will treat Americans nicely. Terrorists are ruthless and abide by no laws.

While watching Zero Dark 30, I was reminded of the bombing of the Boston marathon. On Monday, two brothers from Chechnya used crude bombs to kill three people and injure over a hundred with shrapnel. Yesterday, when Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured by police, the media made a fuss about how the FBI planned to question him without being given a Miranda warning. Neither foreign combatants nor terrorists have any rights under the Geneva Convention or the U.S. Constitution. I find it particularly ironic U.S. citizens' rights are routinely violated by police while jihadist Islamic terrorists from the Middle East or Africa are defended. The police did not allow me to have a lawyer and cared less about my right to remain silent. Rather, I was held incommunicado for two days where I was regularly threatened, intimidated and physically abused. The Tsarnaev brothers were legal U.S. residents and Dzhokhar was last year given U.S. citizenship demonstrating the folly of U.S. immigration policy. While I think all U.S. citizens should have full constitutional rights, Dzhokhar should never have been given this honor. Furthermore, I have no problem with the FBI questioning him without a Miranda warning particularly when his statements were solely for Intel purposes and not to be used in his criminal prosecution. The interrogation methods in Zero Dark 30 were not very abusive in my opinion and had U.S. citizenship policy not been so dysfunctional, they should have been applied to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev despite how I think he has little valuable information to provide.

After the bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed and later his younger brother captured, there were jubilant and patriotic public demonstrations. However, it again made me think of how weak and soft Americans are. Across the Middle East bombings occur regularly and people carry on as usual. In America one incident leads to national hysterics, Marshall Law, and a lockdown of an entire city. Lockdowns are for maximum security prisons, not a free republic. The people of Boston should be ashamed of themselves for allowing police to take over their lives and suspend their constitutional liberties. It was ludicrous to see signs of "Boston Strong" when the people of the city showed such cowardice and hid in their homes. A true testament of strength and courage would have been if the citizens of Boston on the anniversary of the Revolutionary War armed themselves and went about their business shooting the bomber if encountered. Unfortunately, in Massachusetts the 2nd Amendment largely does not exist and legally carrying a firearm is prohibited. Foreigners and enemies of the state have more and more rights while Americans have fewer and fewer. Welcome to the U.S. where Guantanamo Bay causes great public controversy but not the incarceration of millions of Americans, many who live in much worse captive environments.

The mid part of the movie Zero Dark 30 continued to focus on a female intelligence agent's pursuit of the leader of al-Qaida who was behind the 9-11 attacks. The interrogations led her to a courier of the terrorist network who frequented a compound in Pakistan. The building was surrounded by a wall hiding the inhabitants. From spy satellites, the CIA was able to see down into the place and even through walls or roofs with body heat sensors. I am sure the spy agency also used technology to hear conversations inside the compound, but this was not disclosed in the movie. Instead, days and months go by with superiors demanding more proof that Osama bin Laden was inside. The woman was absolutely certain, however, there seemed to be no hurry to act. I tend to believe high level Pentagon officials saw no pressing need to kill bin Laden. The al-Qaida leader was no longer a strategic threat and was no longer giving any orders. He was a figure head and a bogey man more than anything. President Barack Obama is a very careful and calculating person. Bin Laden's assassination probably was mainly a political trophy to put in his pocket for his reelection campaign.

Finally, the order was given to take out Osama bin Laden. A Navy Seal team was assembled and from a base in Afghanistan they flew in eluding Pakistani radar using undetectable helicopters in the night. I tend to have a very high regard for special operation forces in the U.S. military. They are known to be the most elite military forces in the world. The movie, however, to my surprise portrayed them as clumsy, slow and very average-like men. Before the mission, they were shown playing horse shoes in what looked like a camping outing. Going into the compound, one helicopter went down and the men came barreling out befuddled. They did not seem like an elite strike force and spent an incredibly long time going through the building which was mainly housing hysterical women and children. The Navy Seals depend on all types of gear including night vision goggles to kill a few defenders and finally a pathetic weak old man. I was so disappointed at the chow table amongst other prisoners talking about the movie that I had to boast I could have been parachuted to land on the top of the building and killed Osama bin Laden all by myself. Big John who was sitting with us played along and said, "But 'the Machine' is a ruthless cyborg. He could have went through the entire compound killing everyone in three minutes flat while listening to Drowning Pool's "Let the Bodies Hit the Floor" on his iPod." He went on saying, "Just look what you did at the Brown's Chicken restaurant and they just gave you the wrong chicken order." I suppose I will always get a razzing about my suspicion in the Palatine Massacre despite how the crime was solved years ago.

Nearly from sun up to sun down, I am busy reading, writing, or exercising. I study stocks, law, and various other subjects sometimes while listening to music or news radio. Occasionally, I will leave my cell to go to the chow hall, yard, gym, or other places, but I attempt to isolate myself as much as possible. Life in a maximum security penitentiary is very unpleasant and the less I am a part of it the better. However, even in the confines of my cage it is difficult escaping the misery. As the date marking the 20th year of my incarceration approaches, I grow even more frustrated and despondent about my continued captivity. I am innocent and yet I continue to be punished, and freedom remains only a dream. At the end of a long day, watching movies can help me unwind. They can also be an escape from this wretched existence, if only temporarily.