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Friday, December 26, 2014

Ebola -- October 25, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Meeting with the IIP -- October 18, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 8, 2014

Retribution -- October 11, 2014

The week began with normal operations and there were no restrictions on prisoners' movement. On Sunday, I went to the Health Care Unit and then later watched football on television. The following day, inmates in my unit were permitted to shop at the commissary for the first time in over a month due to repeated lockdowns. There were large crowds of men and plenty of drama, much to my annoyance, but later I received an unexpected visitor which was pleasant albeit brief. Tuesday, my cellmate and other prisoners attended "recreation" lines. I stayed in my chilly cell to exercise alone and have a little time to myself, although later in the evening I did leave for dinner. A full moon was rising above the prison wall which I did not want to miss. It is always a stirring sight and I was disappointed not to be able to see its eclipse when setting in the west. The earth casts an eerie red shadow on the satellite and is commonly referred to as a blood moon. The phenomena may have been a portend to violence for not long thereafter a lieutenant was beaten harshly. Initially, the motive of the assault was unclear and I wondered if it was simply rage. However, I have since learned the battery was retaliation for a malevolent act by the lieutenant a couple of years ago.

Sunday morning, I awoke to a dark and cold cell. Outside temperatures were in the 30's and strong gusts of wind brought the chilly air inside. Convicts as well as guards complained about the draft and lack of heat. Despite this, my cellmate left to take a shower. The shower room is located on the lower floor where most of the cold air settled. Upon his return, he told me not only was there a lack of heat but light. The lights in the shower room were not working and it was almost pitch black. I asked him if the pedophile copped a feel in the dark. He said, no, he thinks John only likes children but it would have been an opportune time for someone to bludgeon him. Guards almost seemingly read his mind and an announcement was made over the loudspeaker that all showers were cancelled until electricians could repair the lighting.

After chow lines were run, I got ready for my health care pass. The issue I most wanted to discuss with the psychiatrist was not receiving the melatonin the nurses were supposed to hand out to me at night. Some of the medical personnel hired by Wexford were incompetent automatons, and those who go cell to cell passing out medications I occasionally refer to as Pez dispensers. I did not know why I was not allowed to keep the over the counter drugs in my cell. How could a prisoner abuse a sheet of melatonin tablets? Medications often are problematic, though not because of the nurses but the pharmacy, and I ended up spending the majority of my time with the psychiatrist talking about my case. She was appalled by what happened and encouraged me to write to law schools such as Northwestern University.

Most prisoners were excited to watch the Chicago Bears play the Carolina Panthers. In fact, while waiting to return to the cell house I overheard men complain to the guard at the HCU that they were missing the game and to try to get them an escort back ASAP. The only game, however, I cared to watch was the New England Patriots play the undefeated Cincinnati Bengals. Despite losing some players the Patriots were still one of my favorite teams if not favorite. After being trounced by the Chiefs the week before, I expected them to rebound and rebound they did--crushing the Bengals 43 to 17.

The football game happened to be a matter of contention the following day at the commissary building. I had advised a prisoner to wager on the Patriots. He was reluctant to do so because the feeling was they were not a good team and he thought he should be given a handicap of several points at least. He took my advice, though, and wagered $40. At the store, the prisoner he had bet with did not want to pay him. He claimed the agreed upon wager was for only $20 of commissary. I did not want to get into the middle of the dispute, but eventually after conferring with me and others, they agreed to split the difference. There are a lot of convicts without any integrity and my best advice was not to bet with someone you could not trust.

Store day is always very chaotic. There are a number of movement lines on Monday plus men are seeking to pay off debts, help out friends, or trade commissary goods. The prison store only permits men to buy one jar of peanut butter, and one of this or that. People often exchange or trade for the commissary products they wanted. Since men are locked in their cells upon returning from store, we rely on cell house help workers to pass the items. Many prisoners want to move their commissary immediately and yell to one another obnoxiously until they can. I was not in any hurry, however, I was annoyed by all the noise and almost did not hear my name called for a visit.

While in the holding cage I spoke with Dave. He told me about a lawsuit he filed pertaining to the poor conditions at Stateville including lead paint, tainted water, and black mold growing on the ceiling and inside the plumbing tunnels. As he spoke, I noticed a man from Internal Affairs leave the building with a bag full of what looked like garbage and a piece of foam. Earlier the sergeant had taken a prisoner to Segregation, but none of us knew the reason. Dave did mention, however, the prisoner who was sent to Seg the previous week was found guilty of possessing contraband. Apparently, SORT wrote him a disciplinary ticket for having another prisoner's ibuprofen. This seemed very petty not only because it was an over the counter NSAID but because it was sold at the prison store.

In the visiting room, I led Cynthia to one of the back tables. I told her I reserved a table for two where we could have some privacy. There was no privacy, of course, and I believe the sergeant was just being nice allowing me to move from the center of the mob to a quieter area. Some of the staff other than those in the Mental Health Care Unit are aware I have autism. Once again I spoke to Cindy about junior high including if she went to any dances. She did, but apparently not as anyone's date and never danced with any boy. That seemed sad to me and if I had known I would have asked her hand in a slow dance. Later, she inferred that she would have wanted to go to the prom with me.

A couple of weeks prior my cellmate had inquired why I never dated Cindy when we went to school together. First, I did not become uber self confident until high school. Second, she was not the type of girl I sought out. At the time I was watching the movie "Fear" and mentioned how the actress Reese Witherspoon appealed to me. He joked how she just made a terrible film where she plays an employment counselor who befriends Sudanese immigrants. Apparently, she also was pulled over by police while her husband was driving. Both were intoxicated and Witherspoon began to tell the cops in slurred speech that this was America. My cellmate is an expert on celebrities, even their personal lives. I should have known better to then mention Alicia Silverstone's role in "Crush" because then he began to tell me how she was regurgitating food into her toddler's mouth like a bird.

Tuesday morning, I was without my cellmate. There was no purpose for me to go to the gym. All of the equipment on the 3 universal machines is broken except for one pulley. Last week prisoners had an opportunity to speak with the LTS (leisure time service) supervisor about the lack of weights and exercise equipment as well as their terrible condition. He claimed there were no barbells, benches, or other equipment to replace what was broken. He also added that there was no money to buy anything new. This is a farce. Prisoners know very well there are stacks of iron in the penitentiary hidden away most likely in the M and M shop. Furthermore, money was not an issue because there was plenty in the inmates' trust fund, and charitable organizations have offered to donate new gym equipment. While prisoners were talking with the supervisor, I even offered to donate all my exercise equipment and pay for broken cables out of my own account. He said the warden needed to approve any donations and this was the crux of the matter. Neither the administration nor union want prisoners to have access to weights or other equipment that will make them strong. Strong prisoners were dangerous prisoners in their perspective.

For dinner incarcerated men were served noodles with estrogen producing soy meal. Snowman, who was on the line, joked about the matter and then countered by saying, "Here, have some extra vegetables. They will make you live a long time in prison." The soggy broccoli and carrots were overcooked and the vitamins in them were probably boiled out. I did not come out for the food, however, nor the Snowman's quips, but to see the Harvest Moon. I love autumn with the waning summer light and shadows which only seem to bring out the colors of trees turning gold, orange, and red. I also do not mind the chilly nights as long as my dwelling has heat. The full moon, however, was the most impressive as a prisoner. Watching it rise over the penitentiary's 33 foot high concrete wall was spellbinding. If I were a wolf, I would howl longingly for the freedom so greatly deprived me.

The regular cell house lieutenant went on vacation and in his place was an obnoxious, loud, black woman. Wednesday morning she was screaming and bitching at various prisoners. They were let out of their cells to attend law library, barbershop details, and various passes. Convicts loitered and did not come directly down the stairs thus ensuring her wrath, although she seems regularly angry. The lieutenant also yelled at cell house workers and told them to stay on their assigned galleries. These men do not work for the extra $18 in state pay they receive monthly but to be out of their cages and wandering about. Regardless, laundry had been returned and they had to pass out all the bags.

Toward 11 a.m., the lieutenant was yelling at cell house workers again. This time she told them all to go to their cells to lock-up. I assumed the lieutenant was angry because they did not follow her commands, but then I noticed prisoners returning from the library and other places. The entire penitentiary had been placed on lockdown and everyone was locked in their cells. As this was going on, I heard a prisoner shout to another that a lieutenant was beaten up. From what I could make out over the noise, he said an inmate wanted to get a basketball before going on the South yard. The lieutenant refused to let him and an argument ensued. When the correction's officer became insulting, the convict reacted with a barrage of punches. The prisoners in the cell house shouted that the lieutenant working in the unit should get a beating, although the exchange abruptly ended when someone shouted "Warden in the cell house!"

With the warden in the building, I did not think I could gather any more information and put on my headphones to listen to the Rush Limbaugh show. The radio talk show host was discussing Ebola and the president's flip flop on Iraq. He believed Barack Obama was now acting in part due to very low approval ratings. Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta had also come out publicly rebuking the president while on his very candid book tour. According to Penetta, Obama should have never taken out troops from Iraq. To temper his words, he said the president was moving in the right direction and those "advisers" were actually soldiers. Obama may say "no boots on the ground," but these people were military forces and would be wearing boots.

Kitchen workers were surprisingly let out for work and I wondered if it had something to do with the meal. Inmates were preparing grilled cheese sandwiches and although this may seem like a very easy thing to make, my cellmate who once worked in the kitchen tells me it is very laborious. The meal was not very filling and I added tuna fish to make two tuna melt sandwiches. As I ate, I watched the CBS TV show "Survivor". In this episode, former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker was voted out by his "tribe" because they thought he was a bigot. About a decade ago, he gave an interview while in New York City where he spoke candidly about his terrible experience in the subway. He said it was filthy and crowded with low-lives. I say this all the time about Stateville and could not imagine why his teammates were upset. Even if he was intolerant to other people, he was their best chance to succeed in challenges and it was dumb to vote him out. It reminded me why I did not like the TV show. It was much more about popularity and conniving rather than surviving.

The following day, I watched television news as I ate my breakfast. News programs had footage of the lunar eclipse I would have liked to see with my own eyes, however, it occurred on the other side of the building. My cell house faces the east where the moon rises, not sets. Regardless, I did not know if I could see the shadow through the quarter unit's dingy windows. After the first 15 minutes of news, I went to the sink to brush my teeth and discovered the cold water was not working. My immediate thought was the Orange Crush was going to raid the cell house. It was just searched a couple of weeks ago, but regularly the SORT was used as retaliation. When a guard or particularly a high ranking correction's officer was assaulted, inmates were collectively punished. I quickly awakened my cellmate so he would not be caught off guard, however, it was for naught. Staff in the cell house did conduct some cell searches, but the tactical unit never came.

The prison was on a strict level 1 lockdown and the only men let out of their cells were kitchen workers and those in need of emergency medical treatment. I did not mind the confinement to my cell because there was little I wanted to do outside it. True freedom was not meandering or socializing in the building or within these walls, but outside of them. Furthermore, I had fewer distractions and "room service" where trays were brought to my cell. In the evening, a stack of newspapers was handed to me and I had plenty to read if not too much so I saved most of it for later. There was no telling how long the lockdown could last.

Speaking with a kitchen worker, I was told the name of the lieutenant who was beaten up. However, it was very common and I could not put a face to it. I asked my cellmate and he ridiculed me for not knowing. He said she was a short, heavy-set black woman who I see all the time. "Where?" I asked. He told me she is often on the walk going to chow or onto the big yard. I still had no clue. "Why do you think someone would beat up the woman?" was my next question. "Was she like the lieutenant who occasionally works in the cell house?" He said no, but if an inmate got "jazzy" with her, he could see her giving it right back. Later a guard claimed the lieutenant was jumped by a group of gangbangers.  I was skeptical of this story because it did not take several men to pummel a woman.

On Friday, Internal Affairs was in the building, but I did not know what they were doing. I was listening to the John Kass/Laura Cohn radio show and my cellmate was, as usual, tuned into his TV. He was watching the film "World War Z" again which apparently is popular again due to Halloween approaching and the continual news reporting on Ebola. The president seems ironically to think the U.S. must take the fight to Africa while he is unwilling to do so for military crises in Ukraine, the Middle East, and elsewhere. Ebola is an untreatable disease however, and the best thing to do is isolate and contain it similarly to the zombie movie my cellmate was watching. It is only when an antidote is found that something can be done about it.

Being on a lockdown, word is slow to trickle through the penitentiary. However, I finally learned that the lieutenant thought to be assaulted was not. Apparently there is another lieutenant with the exact same name. The person is not a "she" but a "he" and he is not black but white. He was also working in the Roundhouse where most of the high aggressive inmates as well as staff assaulters are confined. Despite purportedly having an eye patch, I do not know who the corrections officer was but I am told he was assigned to work at the NRC unit because of misconduct within the wall a couple of years ago. After an inmate was subdued, he allegedly took a pair of handcuffs and bashed the man in the face. The inmate's gang never forgot the incident and when the opportunity presented itself, they retaliated. A few Hispanics diverted the guard's attention with a fight leaving the lieutenant alone to fend for himself. It was only one prisoner, but apparently retribution was delivered.