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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Justice Prevails for Zimmerman -- July 15, 2013

Like many Americans, the trial of George Zimmerman captivated my attention the last three weeks. In addition to watching segments of the trial and commentary on the CNN program Anderson Cooper, I also watched many hours of live trial coverage. Closely, I paid attention to the defense, prosecution, and presiding judge's rulings. I also scrutinized many witnesses and the evidence submitted. Often I was able to compare my own experiences and recognize many nuances of court proceedings which may be missed or not appreciated by much of the public. As the trial unfolded, it became readily apparent my initial beliefs were correct. George Zimmerman should never have been charged and was justified in shooting Trayvon Martin. Last Saturday, the jury agreed and he was acquitted of 2nd degree murder and manslaughter. Despite the racial and political agitators who sought to influence the case, justice prevailed.

On Monday June 24th, the trial commenced with opening statements by the state and then the defense. Much was made of defense attorney Dan West's knock, knock joke that fell flat. However, the trial is about evidence and he did very well responding to the accusations assistant state's attorney John Guy hurled vehemently at George Zimmerman for nearly a half hour. The prosecutor claimed the defendant was angry about a string of crimes that went unsolved in his neighborhood. After spotting Trayvon Martin on a rainy night casually walking, he profiled and then stalked the teenager who was wearing a hoodie (a sweatshirt jacket with a hood). Martin was scared and only armed with a bag of Skittles tried to run home but Zimmerman caught him. After a brief confrontation, the wannabe cop began beating the youth bringing him to the ground. Martin wailed for help but Zimmerman silenced those screams shooting him through the heart. Pointing at the defendant, John Guy said he was a murderer and none of his lies justified this horrific crime. The prosecutor had a very fierce and condemning opening. However, there was just one thing wrong with it. None of it was true.

The prosecution sought to disparage George Zimmerman's character and give him a motive to kill Trayvon Martin. Witnesses were called to the stand to say after he was denied a job as a police officer, Zimmerman volunteered to be in a neighborhood watch program. Regularly, Zimmerman called in suspicious activity and described those people he saw to police dispatchers. In most of the calls the suspects were black men and on occasion he expressed disappointment when they were not apprehended. The prosecutor then played the calls to police on the night Martin was killed and attempted to insinuate Zimmerman had profiled yet another black man and this time he was not going to let the suspect get away. However, on cross examination the same people and evidence showed a different story.

Zimmerman had applied to be a police officer, but he was not rejected due to any professional or psychological reason. He was simply disqualified because of his credit rating and owing bills. Zimmerman volunteered to be a neighborhood watchman not because he was a rejected wannabe cop but because he was a good man trying to be of service to his community. There had been a rash of burglaries in the neighborhood and there was ample reason for him to place the calls to police. Most of the time the dispatcher would ask him for a description of the suspect including their race and what they were wearing. This also occurred on the night he saw Trayvon Martin meandering in the subdivision wearing a hoodie. The hoodie, by the way, initially prevented Zimmerman from knowing the race of the person he called in to police as suspicious. If the defendant was trying to be a cop or vigilante, he would not have repeatedly called police. From the evidence, it seemed Zimmerman's suspicions were warranted and his motives were pure.

All of Zimmerman's statements to police and others were admitted as evidence by the prosecution. An Asian man testified he spoke with the defendant just after the shooting. Zimmerman looked dazed and badly injured. He told him he was being beaten and had no choice but to shoot. He also asked if he would mind calling his wife to tell her what happened. With the phone in his hand, he took a photo of Zimmerman with a broken and bloody nose. Not long thereafter police arrived, assessed the scene, and took some preliminary statements. They also brought Zimmerman to the police station for further questions. Once again, but in greater detail, he told detectives how he was attacked, feared for his life, and had no option but to shoot his assailant. More photos of Zimmerman's battered face were taken along with the back of his skull and grass stained jacket. There was no reason to disbelieve him and he was released.

In the following days, Zimmerman voluntarily met with police to answer more of their inquiries. Repeatedly, he went over what transpired and even reenacted what occurred in detail at the scene. The jury heard Zimmerman explain he was in his car when he noticed a man walking inbetween homes at night while it was raining possibly looking in windows. He called a non emergency number to report the suspicious activity. The man he spoke with told him to keep an eye on him and call dispatch. In the second call, he described what he was seeing and was asked if he was following. Zimmerman said he was, whereupon he was told he did not have to do that. George is heard saying "OK," and he ceased following Martin, but he got out of his car to give police his location. While he was on a sidewalk, he was confronted by Martin who asked if he had a problem before punching him in the face. Quickly, Martin had him on the ground and was on top of him. He pummeled him with his fists before he began to slam his head on the concrete. Zimmerman thought the man was about to reach for his gun but before he did, he shot him.

The prosecution believed by introducing all of Zimmerman's statements, they could pick out discrepancies. However, it only reinforced the defense and told their version of events without having to put their client on the stand. On cross examination, lead detective Chris Serino testified that Zimmerman was very cooperative, non evasive, and truthful. Later, prosecutors objected to Serino's belief Zimmerman was truthful because it was his opinion, but the damage had already been done. How many times do the police tell the jury they believe a murder defendant? There is a reason why the police released Zimmerman and the original state's attorney refused to press charges. It had nothing to do with him being a mestizo of Caucasian and Peruvian descent and Martin being black. It was because Zimmerman was innocent.

The cross examination of the lead detective reminded me of my own attorney's questioning of John Robertson.  Robertson was the police detective who interrogated me after my arrest and claimed I admitted being told by my roommate that he was going to kill Dean Fawcett. According to the detective, I thereafter let Robert Faraci use my vehicle. This was completely false, but my attorney did not contest his testimony. When William Von Hoene  returned to the defense table to look at some of his notes before continuing the cross examination, I angrily asked him what the hell he was doing! I demanded he resume his questioning and eviscerate Robertson's testimony. In the heated exchange, my attorney asked, "Didn't you hear what Robertson said? He said you were 'a cooperative witness'!" In my attorney's mind this was great, and better than having the jury think I refused to answer questions and demanded to see a lawyer some 50 times. Von Hoene thought he was brilliant, but Robertson was no Serino and his strategy cost me my life.

The state called to the stand a few eyewitnesses who but for one did not witness anything at all. The only person to get a good look at what occurred on that dark and rainy night was John Good. He came across as a very credible eyewitness. His testimony was objective, concise, and unwavering. Furthermore, he lived right next to where the shooting occurred and when he stepped out his patio door, he was within 20 feet. Good testified he saw a figure in dark clothing straddling another person raining down blows MMA style. Martin was wearing a black sweatshirt and Zimmerman a red jacket. Clearly, the person on top was the former. Media news reporters asked why the prosecution would call an eyewitness who so greatly damaged their case. From my own murder trial, I knew very well the reason.

Assistant state's attorney James McKay called the wife of my co-defendant to the stand. Rose Faraci testified to conspiring with her husband to frame me of the murder. All the stories they told police implicating me were false and intended to keep Robert out of prison. She also admitted telling a mafia informant she saw her husband come home with blood all over his clothes the night in question. This was a bombshell to the prosecution's case but they diffused the impact by preemptively calling her to the stand. This way they could pretend her testimony was not significant and did not damage their case. It, furthermore, gave the impression prosecutors were being honest and forthright. These are the same reasons John Good was called by the state in the Zimmerman trial.

The prosecution's most important witness was Rachel Jenteal. She testified to talking on a cell phone with Trayvon Martin just before the shooting. Police confirmed the time by comparing her phone records with those who called 911 and the gunshot can be heard. According to Jenteal, her friend was not doing anything wrong after he left a mini mart. He was merely walking back to his birth mother's residence when Martin spoke of a "creepy ass cracker" following him. He was scared and she said she could hear him running. Despite only being a short distance away from his destination, when she called back a few minutes later he was still in the subdivision. During this call she heard a man confronting Trayvon Martin and then there was a thud followed by a sound of wet grass. Rachel Jenteal's testimony did not come across like John Good's. Contrarily, she was incredibly suspect and ridiculous.

During the three weeks of trial coverage my cellmate rarely watched any of the proceedings. However, he missed his regular programming to be humored by the prosecution's star witness who he nicknamed "Precious" after a black comedy I have never heard of. The 18-year-old was obese and her fat face was accentuated by big round earrings, balloon lips, and hair tied into a bun on the top of her head except for some bangs. Jenteal seemed retarded, but at minimum was terribly uneducated. During cross examination, she had to admit she could not read cursive and I wondered if she was not completely illiterate. Numerous times the court reporter or Don West had to ask her to repeat herself or clarify her testimony. Jenteal could not speak proper English and had difficulty articulating. She spoke a crude ghetto dialect that even I had trouble understanding despite being incarcerated at the Cook County Jail and the IDOC for over 20 years. On the Dr. Drew show, the panel expressed sympathy for the young black woman and claimed she was just being authentic. However, her bad attitude was controllable, and authentic did not mean truthful.

Jenteal had strong motivation to lie. Trayvon Martin was her friend and regardless if he was snooping in windows, he was not afraid of Zimmerman, and had in fact doubled back to attack him. She was upset and angry he was killed. The contempt she had for Don West could not be concealed and her attitude did not change until the second day of questioning after she had obviously been lectured or coached. Furthermore, the shooting of Martin had become a racially charged incident. She was a part of the black community and probably felt tremendous pressure from it as well as Martin's family and their enormous legal team. Incredibly, Jenteal never contacted police with information which suggested her friend was murdered. Police did not question her for a long time afterwards while she was at Martin's parents' home. When confronted with this, Jenteal claimed she believed police would check phone records and eventually contact her.

If there was a more biased state witness it was Sybrina Fulton. Trayvon Martin's mother testified the cries for help heard on the 911 calls were her son's. However, I knew from countless TV interviews often accompanied by her countless lawyers, she was angry about the shooting of her son. Fulton may have acted poised during TV appearances, but she wanted Zimmerman's head on a platter just like the mobs of African-Americans who protested in the streets. What was ironic was that although Fulton was Trayvon's birth mother, she had very little interaction with him since he was a toddler.

Tracy Martin had re-married and Trayvon lived with and was raised by them. Unlike Sybrina Fulton, she was rarely mentioned by the news media and most of the public probably did not know she existed. Trayvon Martin's adopted mother was never called by the state nor was his father. Why? Possibly it was because they knew it was not their son calling for help. Tracy Martin was called by the defense and he claimed he did not know. Police, however, were brought back to court to say the father in fact said it was not his son's voice. Sybrina Fulton's testimony was also countered by Zimmerman's parents, friends, and various other people who knew him. Listening to the tape, I had no idea, but it was implausible the person raining down punches or smashing a person's head onto concrete was the one yelling for help.

The prosecution attempted to belittle Zimmerman's injuries and exaggerate the pain Martin endured. Some quack and wavering medical examiner claimed Martin could have lived 10 minutes after he was shot. I am no expert, but I know death occurs quickly when a person is shot through the heart. Shipling Bao was an incompetent babbler whose testimony was not only incredible but irrelevant to whether Zimmerman was justified in killing Martin. The defense expert was one of the best forensic pathologists in the country and he made the prosecution's witnesses look like fools. Dr. Vincent Di Maio intelligently articulated the injuries of Zimmerman and Martin. Using enlarged photographs he described the abrasions and lacerations to the back and side of Zimmerman's skull as well as his broken nose. All of this was rather apparent to me but what I thought was intriguing was his conclusions that Martin's clothes were several inches from his body when he was shot. This along with the trajectory of the bullet showed Martin was not lying on the ground, but over Zimmerman.

Contrary to the liberal media's portrayal, Trayvon Martin was not an innocent child. He was a 17-year-old juvenile delinquent of considerable size. Martin was a violent youth and had been arrested previously including while in possession of burglary tools. He was temporarily staying at his birth mother's residence after being suspended from high school. The judge refused to allow any of his school or criminal records to be admitted, but Zimmerman's attorneys fought hard to introduce evidence of THC being in his system and numerous texts. The text messages recounted a fight where Martin beat his opponent and his brother asking him when he will teach him to fight so well. There were also Facebook posts where a gun is brandished and Martin is acting like a gang banger. Judge Debra Steinberg-Nelson, however, refused to permit any of this evidence in as well citing the defense could not prove someone else did not have access to his phone or FB account. This infuriated Don West and rightfully so. The prosecution deliberately withheld critical information to validate Martin was indeed the person who posted the texts and photos. Furthermore, the jury is commonly allowed to determine whether the evidence is probative or not. I know many prisoners where the prosecution was allowed to introduce incriminating computer or phone data despite not being able to confirm the source. In fact, a man I speak to regularly was convicted based partly on Google searches made on his girlfriend's computer.

Closing arguments began on Thursday and went long into Friday. Unfortunately, I missed most of the defense and had to later watch clips on CNN. While Mark O'Mara was addressing the jury, the power went out in the prison. Despite this, I was still able to see how, as in my own trial, the prosecution had to abandon their original accusations. Furthermore, assistant states attorneys John Guy and Bernie de la Rionda relied on emotion and dramatics to mask their empty case. In contrast, O'Mara went over the evidence as well as the law comprehensively. From what I saw, he also seemed to connect with the jury and speak to them personably.

The jury deliberated for a little over 16 hours. Initially, I had no doubt Zimmerman was going to be acquitted. In fact, I believed the judge should have rendered a direct verdict before the defense even began its case. Every witness the state called was either irrelevant, totally unbelievable, or demonstrated Zimmerman's innocence. Judges seldom use their power particularly in super politically charged, high profile cases. They like to play Pontius Pilot and absolve themselves from any responsibility. In my own case, Judge Amirante told my lead attorney not to consider a bench trial. He did not want to handle the political hot potato and could not be fair. Later, my attorney even told me the judge thought I would be a fool to take the stand because the state had not proven their case. Ironically, he like Judge Steinberg-Nelson, denied my motion for a direct verdict. Now the decision was in the jury's hands and they asked for clarifications on the law of manslaughter. The lesser charge of manslaughter had not even been addressed by the prosecution nor the defense.

Saturday evening when I left my cell for dinner, I met a guard who I wagered a soda on the verdict. He was unable to watch developments on TV and I told him what had occurred. He was interested in what I thought the note meant and if there would be a conviction on manslaughter. I told him the jury ruled out 2nd degree murder but was now considering the lesser charge. We had a discussion about what the definition of manslaughter was. Manslaughter is when a person accidentally kills someone and is negligent in some way like in a DUI or bar fight. It was not applicable, however, because Zimmerman was claiming self-defense. The key was if he justifiably killed his attacker. I had no doubt he was, but a jury can sometimes come to compromised rulings, particularly in pressure cooker cases. They also probably had no idea manslaughter with a gun in Florida carried a penalty of 30 years in prison.

Close to 9 p.m., an announcement was made the jury had reached a verdict. Prisoners yelled out from their cells the news and as the courtroom assembled it became strangely quiet in the cell block. When the verdict "not guilty" was read, I jumped off my bunk and cheered. I did so because I knew nearly all the black convicts would have done so if he was convicted and I wanted them to eat dirt. Simply because Trayvon Martin was black, they wanted an innocent man to go to prison. Just like the OJ Simpson case, many African-Americans did not care about truth, justice, or law. They accused the system of being racist, however, they were racially prejudiced. The hypocrisy was made worse considering some of these same men claimed innocence.

Unlike many other murder defendants, George Zimmerman remained subdued after he was acquitted. Throughout his trial, he appeared depressed or on Valium. Did he feel like a zombie as I did after weeks of trial or was he intentionally repressing his happiness? I tend to believe he did not express jubilation out of respect to Martin's family or to subdue public anger. I told my cellmate that despite the lynch mob, he should jump in the air like he just scored a game winning Superbowl touch down and give his lawyers high 5's. My cellmate chimed in saying he could pretend his hands were guns and feign to shoot the prosecutors before running wildly down the hallway full guns blazing yelling "Yahoooo!"  Zimmerman had reason to celebrate. He had defeated racism, a liberal biased press, and politicians and prosecutors bent on destroying him. He may feel a need to suppress himself and go in hiding. However, I do not.  Justice for Zimmerman!

Editor's Note:  The date on this post is correct. It was not received by us until Sept. 5th.  We're beginning to believe someone at Stateville doesn't like Paul's blog!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Rainbows Over Stateville -- July 13, 2013

Life in prison can be monotonous and this week was no exception. Inmates were fed a very narrow diet due to food shortages and I regularly made my own meals in the cell. Every day, I exercised and read, oftentimes while listening to music or talk radio. As expected, a conceal and carry law was passed without the governor's approval, but he signed legislation limiting the prosecution of juveniles as adults. Occasionally, I watched television including coverage of the George Zimmerman trial. Counselors were rotated this month and I met with one of the two assigned to the cell block. Tuberculosis testing was conducted and the electric power went out several times as it commonly does during the peak of summer. I continue to seek out a private investigator and contemplate why I bother trying to overturn my conviction when I have already lost nearly everything. After 20 years of incarceration there is very little that inspires or strikes me as remarkable. However, yesterday I witnessed an extraordinary natural phenomenon. A bright double rainbow appeared over the penitentiary for nearly a half hour leaving many prisoners on the yard in awe.

Supplies in the kitchen have fallen to unprecedented low levels. My cellmate as well as other kitchen workers informed me the walk-in freezer and other storage rooms look almost barren. Nearly every night, third shift workers have prepared farina and waffles for breakfast. I do not mind waffles, but the tasteless mush cereal I can and often do without. For lunch and dinner the entire week the main courses were sausage, fish patty, baked chicken, or mystery meat salami. The slick meat or sausage were served every day and I skipped those meals. However, I did go out to the chow hall for chicken. On Sunday morning, I even stripped the thigh and leg bones of meat and brought it back to my cell to eat later.

The chicken sandwich was sufficient to appease my appetite for the afternoon, but not the entire day. In the evening, I made burritos for my cellmate and I with food we had purchased from the prison store. I used the counter along the wall opposite our bunks to prepare them while occasionally looking at Anthony's television. He was watching the popular TV reality show "Big Brother." I was pleased to see the beautiful college student from Texas win the "Head of Household" competition which gives her power to select contestants to be evicted from the game while being protected from elimination. Aaryn Gries seemed to be the target of the shows producers after making a few trivial racial remarks and jokes. The comments were completely overblown by CBS and now I hope the young woman wins the half million dollars.

After the show, a prison cell house worker came to the cell bars and gave us a birthday card to sign. The card was for a prisoner who goes by the name "Danger," but is occasionally called "Lunchbox" due to his child-like behavior and stupidity. He is on psychotropics as well as strong pain medication further accentuating perceptions he is retarded. I have known Danger for about half a year and he has told me much about his past and criminal conviction. After 6th grade, he left home to work for a carnival before becoming an intermittent construction worker and thief. He has a long history of drug abuse and violence which culminated with his arrest in 2006 for murder. This is his sixth time to the penitentiary and his last. Sentenced to 55 years, he will never be released from prison.

The birthday card was drawn by Joe Miller, a serial killer and rapist who was once on death row. The card depicted a sleazy prostitute performing fellatio and on the inside a number of convicts had made brief comments. Most of them were snide quips too vulgar to repeat here. I did not like Miller nor his crude pornographic drawing, but I also added my own joke. Danger was 40 years old this week and has no family or friends outside the prison. He may appreciate that a number of prisoners took the time to sign his card.

Much of my life is mundane and on Monday I washed my fan, gym shoes, and shorts. This was no easy task with a sink that dribbles out hot water and using my toilet bowl to rinse. It took me a half hour just to fill up my small property box part way with water and dismantle the fan without a screwdriver. Fans must be periodically cleaned or they will become clogged up with dirt, hair and blanket fuzz. In a huge cell house where about 300 men are confined, there is an incredible amount of dust and debris floating around. With laundry detergent the fan was easily wiped clean except for certain parts which were not easily accessible. The new shoes I bought are made mostly of a synthetic material rather than leather. The fabric becomes dirty quickly and cannot simply be wiped off. The fact that all gym shoes sold in the IDOC are white to prevent gangs from showing their colors makes the smallest mark of rust or dirt more obvious. Considering I hate imperfection, it seems I will be soaking and scrubbing them in laundry detergent regularly. At least they rinsed easily in the toilet and dried quickly with the fan blowing on them.

Wearing my clean shoes and shorts, I went to the large South yard on Tuesday. Despite being early in the day, it was humid and the heat index was well above 90 degrees. The few men who lifted weights quickly broke out in a sweat. The 300+ pound "Eclipse" only did a few sets before he quit and "orbited" the quarter mile track. During the yard period, a few electricians worked on a transformer just outside the perimeter fencing. They had to wear very heavy protective clothing and take many breaks. I mentioned to a muscular black man lifting weights near me who went by the name "Jughead" that they stood around doing nothing more than they worked. At Stateville though, laziness is customary for union workers whether it is a hot humid day or very cool and pleasant.

A couple of weeks ago, the electric power went out across the entire penitentiary for a few hours and since then there have been other sporadic outages. Most everything at the prison is very old and in bad condition. This week, I was informed an electrical company was contracted to fix a few transformers and some wiring. The power was turned off periodically in the following days for sections of the prison or in its entirety.

When I returned to the cell, my clothes were damp with sweat and I wanted to immediately bathe in the sink. However, my cellmate who had not gone out to the yard was using it. Apparently, after sleeping in he had gotten up to buzz his hair very short and was attempting to get all the shavings off his body. I undressed to my boxers and while I waited for him to finish, I ate a special breakfast tray he had sent in for me. The tray was a large serving of scrambled eggs with some toast. I ate my meal by the bars and listened to the Rush Limbaugh show. Afterwards, I thanked Anthony for the food but made fun of his hair cut.

Not long after I had been able to wash up, the new counselor stopped by the cell bars. He was a Caucasian man in his 40's, immaculately groomed and dressed. He may have even had a manicure. Some prisoners think he may be a homosexual, but I did not get this sense from him. Rather, he seemed very meticulous and orderly as well as thoughtful and intelligent. Prisoners may question his sexual orientation, but they were pleased counselors were rotated and he was now assigned to half of C House. This counselor is thought to be one of the best at Stateville and was a stark contrast to the previous one who was thought to be lazy and have a poor attitude. Personally, I never felt as if counselors were obliged to advise or help me in any capacity. I do know one of their duties is to respond to grievances and I may send this new counselor a couple regarding the delay of my mail and prescriptions. Even with the most competent counselors, however, the grievance procedure is largely a farce and I rarely waste my time anymore.

In the evening while watching coverage of the George Zimmerman trial, I heard a lot of yelling and commotion despite having on my headphones. Briefly, I went to my cell bars to see prisoners from an upper gallery standing on the staircase. I assumed they were having their cells searched. Earlier in the day while I was at yard, my cellmate told me cell house guards had searched several cells on our gallery including ours. My assumption, however, was incorrect and tuberculosis testing was being conducted. Usually prisoners will be tested around their birthdays every other year. This time, everyone in the cell house was being tested on the same day. In fact, I learned everyone in the penitentiary was tested for TB during the week. It was unusual and I asked the nurses conducting the tests if there was an outbreak. They claimed there was not and this was just a more efficient method. I agreed with them and mentioned how I think it should be done more often and for other communicable diseases that are common in the IDOC.

During the day Wednesday, I wrote a few more private investigators. Recently, I learned about a U.S. Supreme Court ruling which allows prisoners to file federal appeals even if they are submitted beyond the one year deadline so long as they are claims of actual innocence. The ruling is not very important to men incarcerated in Illinois because the state's highest court long ago ruled collateral appeals could be filed any time when there is newly discovered evidence of innocence. They key for me is "newly discovered" because much of the evidence I have refuting the interrogating officer's testimony was available at trial and was not used by my attorneys.

My cellmate is condemned to spend the rest of his life in prison as I am, and occasionally we will joke to make light of our hopeless and miserable existences. "The Eclipse" gave us an opportunity to turn our humorous, although disparaging, remarks about ourselves to him. The obese man had just returned from a court writ and was dressed in a huge bright yellow jumpsuit. Normally, I call the suit the banana suit but on him my cellmate thought he looked like a giant lemon. I turned around and could not help being amused. I chimed in that he was the Kool Aid Man and said, "Oh, yeah!" like on the commercials. Dave was going to ask my cellmate for some food, but upon all our jokes, he turned away.

Both on Thursday and Friday mornings, the electric power went out. I was annoyed because I was looking forward to watching the closing arguments in the Zimmerman trial live. Instead, I put some batteries in my Walkman and listened to the news as well as talk radio on WLS. As I expected, Governor Quinn's veto of the legislature's conceal and carry law was passed overwhelmingly on the 10th. What did surprise me, however, was the governor's threat to cut off the salaries of congress until they passed a bill curbing pensions. On the radio there was a debate of whether the governor had the authority to do this and how the state comptroller Judy Baar Topinka would react. According to the Illinois Constitution Article 4, Section 11, the salary of legislators cannot be changed during the term they have been elected. This was incorporated in the constitution to prevent law makers from increasing their salary without being accountable to the voters. Pat Quinn argues regardless he is not altering their pay, but merely suspending it until they come to an agreement. He seems to be technically correct and legislators may not see their paychecks for a long time despite separation of powers and Constitutional concerns. What I do not know is whether the state constitution allows for pension agreements with the state to be broken. Possibly, Illinois will have to consider bankruptcy as the city of Detroit is doing.

While the governor and legislature fight over guns and pension reform, they have come to an agreement about juveniles being prosecuted as adults. Formerly, anyone 17 or younger who was charged with a f3elony was automatically adjudicated as an adult. However, beginning on January 1st, those teenagers will remain in juvenile court system unless they are accused of murder, aggravated sexual assault, and a few offenses involving a firearm. Although I think this is a step in the right direction, I do not believe any teenager should be treated as an adult. The saying "adult time for adult crime" is ridiculous and I have seen numerous men who have been sentenced to life without parole or decades in prison for crimes that occurred before they were able to vote, drink, or smoke who are now radically different. I do not need scientific studies to illustrate how teens are less mature, neurologically developed, or thoughtful. It is also very obvious the rehabilitative potential of young offenders is far greater than adults.

The highlight of my week was yesterday when I left my cell to attend an evening yard period. Despite the cyclone fencing with razor wire, the gun tower, and the few rusted, bent iron bars and benches, I like the open space. Prisoners spend vast amounts of time confined to their cells in maximum security institutions. The large yard which could contain a couple of football fields can give men some semblance of freedom. What made Friday evening even more liberating was the exposure to the elements. The humidity felt throughout much of the week was lifted by strong winds. Dark storm clouds sped across the sky occasionally causing brief torrents of rain intermixed with sunshine.

It was unusual for there to be rain while the sun from the west was streaming through the clouds. After a downpour of rain which left many men attempting to scramble for cover, the precipitation suddenly stopped and to the east the largest rainbow I had ever seen appeared. From the yard, it looked like it went over the main housing unit which was over a city block long and 70 feet in height. The building regularly reminded me of an enormous mausoleum holding captive most the living dead of Stateville. The dull grey monolith eerily contrasted with the bright spectrum of colors over arching it not only once but twice.

The double rainbow caught not only my attention but everyone on the yard. Even the guard in the gun tower was staring at the phenomena. For some prisoners, the sight seemed to be a divine portent. As an atheist I knew the rainbows were simply a refraction of light on water vapor in the sky, however, there was something incredibly remarkable occurring. Every color of the light spectrum could be seen in two complete 180 degree arches. The coincidence of it appearing from our vantage point over the prison also seemed to convey a supernatural message. The rainbows were visible for nearly a half hour and men contemplated if there was any meaning to them. For condemned men, I knew there had to be thoughts of hope. I certainly hoped for the end of systematic injustice and oppressive captivity in Illinois and across America.