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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

My Last Post -- January 17, 2015

My 40th birthday was a turning point in my life. No longer can I dwell on memories of the past and pretend I can return to them. It is impossible that I could ever begin where I left off over two decades ago. The world has changed and I have aged. There was nothing I could do which could amend for the vast amount of time lost. When the last governor denied my request for clemency, it obliterated what little hope I had to make the best of the remnants of my life. An appeal will take possibly 10 years to be adjudicated, and even if it was successful, being free as an old man has little allure for me. This blog also has little more to offer and subsequently this will be my last post. It was never my intention to write indefinitely nor allow readers to watch me wither away. I only carried on writing thinking there was a minute chance I could end my story with some finality. However, I was not freed and will continue to languish in prison more than likely until my death.

Since my last post several more prisoners at Stateville have died. On December 4th, a Caucasian man was brutally beaten by his black cellmate. When medical staff removed him from the cell, he was unconscious with a cracked skull and an eye ball dangling out of the socket. The prisoner remained comatose and later died at an outside hospital. Purportedly, his cellmate, Pumpkin, killed him over a dispute regarding the grand jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri, although they had not been getting along since they were put in a cell together. Pumpkin was sent to segregation and will face murder charges, however, I doubt he cares. He was never going to be released from prison anyway.

Another prisoner who died was a fat, slovenly man most convicts referred to as Gay Ray. He had at one time been housed in the same quarter unit as I. Before he was given a lay-in tray, he could barely make it to and from the chow hall and I recall him hanging onto the cyclone fencing to keep himself from falling. Eventually, he was placed in the infirmary but apparently medical staff believed there were other prisoners who required more attention and he was sent to another quarter unit. Not long after he arrived, he suffered a heart attack and died. Medical technicians did not get to him for a long time and there is some contention he would be alive had he been kept at the infirmary. Being celled at the Health Care Unit is no guarantee of greater longevity, however, and another older prisoner with various medical problems died while there.

Of the men who died over the past month, the only one I had acquainted with was Sergeant Major. Sgt. Major was a white prisoner in his 70's who once was celled on my gallery. He was moved to X House where protective custody and inmates who are deemed as not dangerous are kept. His nickname derives from his rank in the U.S. Army before he retired. Sgt. Major was an alcoholic and was arrested a couple of times for DUI before he was in a major car wreck which killed the occupants of the other vehicle. He was sentenced to spend the rest of his days in prison and I am informed the last one was December 27th.

The spate of deaths at the penitentiary has caused some prisoners to derisively muse this was how the IDOC planned to solve the problem of overcapacity. However, deficiencies in health care have always existed. What has not existed are higher incarceration rates and elderly prisoners. There is a wider web of criminal statutes and the penalties have become much more severe. Even an 18 year old who purportedly lent his car to his roommate was convicted of 1st degree murder and sentenced to life in prison despite the actual killer being acquitted by a separate jury. I still have one more chance in the courts, but when I will be able to simply file an appeal remains a big question.

There has been no progress in my request for DNA testing nor collateral appeal since I last wrote. I have not had any further contact with the lawyer or two students I met from the law school at the University of Illinois in Springfield. I assume they are working on other cases or waiting to discern if forensic evidence was preserved by the Palatine Task Force. Under law, police are required to keep and maintain the integrity of forensic evidence, but this does not always happen. As for my appeal, I have yet to discuss with Jennifer Blagg my strong disappointment with the partial rough draft she sent me. Going on 6 years, I expected a fully polished completed work raising all my issues along with supporting affidavits. I have lost faith in her competency and I question if it matters if I ever speak with her again. Without the money to hire a new attorney, I may be forced to write and file my appeal without counsel.

I was finally able to hire a private investigator. His name is John Rea and he worked on my case with trial attorneys at Jenner and Block. Thus, he already had some familiarity with the evidence and people involved. I was glad he was willing to work directly through me rather than an attorney. Many PI's will not. I was also glad he did not charge me an arm and a leg because I will be paying him without the assistance of any family members. For years, I have been slowly collecting money on my prison account. Only one of the people who read my blog has sent me a dime and it has not been easy raising the funds. Hopefully, I have enough to cover all the expenses of the P.I.  His work is essential to supporting my appeal with new evidence not available or forthcoming at my trial.

On Christmas day, I learned Governor Pat Quinn went through about 600 clemency petitions. He decided even more on New Year's Eve. I asked my mother to look on a website to see if mine had been denied yet. Apparently, though, the governor's administration had ceased printing the names of those approved or rejected. The reasoning may have been to allow people to be notified by mail or not to disclose the identity of offenders who had been pardoned of their crimes. The vast majority of people seeking a pardon were not in prison but simply wanted their criminal records expunged. I told my mother over the phone that she will just have to wait until January 12th. If I am at her door, she will know it was approved, and if not, denied.

Needless to say, the day came and went without me being released. For a fleeting moment the counselor got me excited when she yelled to me from the lower floor. It seemed as if she had something urgent to tell me. However, all she wanted to say was that she found my letter to John Rea in the mail room and had brought it to the business office for my money voucher to be processed. A month earlier I had sent the P.I. a check and was impatient for him to receive it. Giving the money voucher to the business office, however, did not mean it would be processed any time soon. In fact, a package I sent out in September requiring only postage has yet to be stamped.

On the day after the governor left office I learned on the television news that only two people of the few thousand clemency petitioners were released from prison. Tyrone Hood who was convicted of a 1993 armed robbery and murder walked out of Menard Correctional Center on Tuesday. He was not pardoned but granted a commutation of sentence from 75 years to time served and he will be on parole for 3 years. The other man was Howard Morgan who in 2005 got in a shoot out with police after he was pulled over in his car for a traffic violation. Police claim there was an argument and he went for his firearm. The police began to barrage him and his car with bullets. Morgan who had a license to carry a gun fired back and was thereafter charged with the attempted murder of 4 police officers. His sentence was also commuted to time served from 40 years. There were some indications both of the men were innocent, however, I thought the case I made to the governor was much stronger.

My mother tells me she has yet to receive a letter from the governor's office saying my petition was rejected. I do not know whether to believe her, but it could be on the way. Regardless, it is irrelevant. Even if Pat Quinn did not decide my petition and passed it off to Bruce Rauner, I do not expect him to act. Granting pardons or even commutations of sentences to prisoners convicted of murder is highly controversial. It is why all governors wait until their final day in office to make such decisions.

Bruce Rauner has wasted no time taking the reigns of power from his predecessor. Earlier this week I was even told a few people from his transition team were at the penitentiary. Their visit put fear into union bosses and high ranking correctional officers who scrambled to put on the best show possible. Rauner may not be able to shake up Springfield but the IDOC already is anticipating an earthquake. I hope he does have the courage to make the tough bold decisions Illinois so desperately needs and other politicians cower from. However, I doubt he is willing to squander any political capital on my behalf.

I may not have as yet received confirmation my clemency petition was denied, but I did receive a brief letter from the so-called "Conviction Integrity Unit." Assistant Cook County States Attorney Susan Caraher writes me: "I am in receipt of your inquiry letter requesting that the Conviction Integrity Unit review your case. Pursuant to your claim of wrongful conviction, we have examined your case. Based upon review, we have determined that your claim is without merit and does not warrant any further investigation on our part at this time." The letter does not at all surprise me. Since its inception, I have known the C.I.U. was a farce. I have written a reply asking exactly what they did to examine my case and then listed 4 pages of evidence which shows Robert Faraci killed Dean Fawcett and I did not lend my vehicle to him on the day in question. Amazing how they can come to a conclusion my claim is without merit having not spoken to a single person. I will request my reply to her be published under the post "An Open Letter to Cook County States Attorney Anita Alvarez" when I am able to make copies.

It is readily apparent to me that I will not be released any time soon and will most likely die in prison. From my very first post I had no intentions to continue writing indefinitely. In fact, after 5 years had passed, I was going to put my pen down, but with my clemency petition still pending and my belief Governor Quinn would not have another term in office, I thought I may as well see it out. Had Quinn granted me a pardon or a sentence reduction, I could have written my final post from home. Regular readers probably would have been satisfied with this conclusion. Unfortunately, this is not a movie with a happy ending.

The purpose of this blog was to give readers a little peak into my life inside these prison walls. I believe I have done this and more. Towards the end, the subject matter even occasionally diverged because I had run out of new ideas. My life is mainly spent in a cell and because I am not a social person, it is even more insular. There is probably a greater range of prison topics and stories a more outgoing convict could have written about. However, that is not who I am. In fact, sharing my experiences, observations and thoughts with strangers around the world is opposite to my natural disposition. Furthermore I absolutely loathe my life and having to think and write about it weekly only made me more miserable.

Readers probably do not realize the amount of time and effort that has gone into "On the Inside." All my posts are hand written on paper. I must print neatly and avoid corrections. Recently I began using a pen because pencil sharpeners are not allowed. When I make a mistake, I must start over with a fresh page of paper or use white acrylic paint to wipe out words. The stories I write are folded and placed in a numbered envelope to be mailed. All posts are numbered to keep track of them as well as to dissuade prison staff from destroying them. For periods of time I had to write duplicates because my letters were disappearing. At Stateville, the mail room is incredibly slow and my posts can take a month or longer to reach the person who reads, types and posts them. As traffic to the blog increased, so has the number of comments and emails. I wanted the site to be interactive as much as possible and therefore those messages are printed and sent to me via mail whereupon I will respond in writing only for it to need to be mailed back and then typed and posted. There is various computer related work which must be done to maintain the blog. I cannot even explain because the Internet did not exist when I was arrested. I was spending occasionally 3 days a week devoted to the blog and it is time for me and those who assist me to move on.

With my free time, I will be working on my appeal. I will be keeping in contact with the private investigator and providing him with information. The evidence he is able to procure will be used in crafting a successive post conviction petition. The petition will have a statement of fact and at least 50 pages of argument. To supplement the arguments, I will need not only evidence but law. I have already done a lot of research, however, my time spent at the prison library will increase and I may begin going on an almost weekly basis excluding lockdown periods. The blog never assisted in gaining my freedom. It was only a diversion. I must use my time more wisely or I will never see justice.

In the movie "Gladiator," Russel Crowe plays a character whose entire life is torn from him. He was a commander of a Roman army, however, after the emperor was murdered by his own son, he was sent out in the woods to be executed. Maximus escapes his executioners and races to save his family. He was too late and both his wife and son were dead. The republic he believed in was dead. His status as general was dead. His entire purpose for living was dead and therefore with a broken heart he just laid there waiting to die himself. Eventually, travelers find him and make him a slave. He is forced to fight as a gladiator and fight he does until he has slaughtered hundreds. His master brings him to the Roman Coliseum where he is told he can win his freedom. Maximus does not care about freedom anymore, though, only to kill the new emperor who took everything worth living for from him. Upon meeting his nemesis, he says, "I will have my justice in this life or the next." And that is all I care about anymore as well. I may be an old crippled man when I am freed with nothing to live for, but I will have justice.

This is my final post and I say farewell to all those who have followed my blog. I hope to have given some insight into the dark realms inside the criminal justice and prison system. If nothing else I hope my stories have been entertaining. I will continue to respond to some comments and emails for a few months. During this time I will also be looking to maintain contact with a few readers on a personal level. I do not currently have any pen pals, but if anyone is interested in corresponding regularly, I encourage them to send me a letter introducing themselves. It may become lonely at times in these dreary dungeons. My time on the Internet must come to an end just as my liberty and life for all practical purposes ended on April 28, 1993.

Update  (April 2015)

Paul's clemency petition was denied by former Governor Pat Quinn on Christmas Eve. The letter was received by his parents after this post was written. Paul continues to work on his post conviction appeal and seek out new legal counsel. He will also file a 6th Clemency Petition in 2016 with the Rauner administration. Hopefully, his suffering in prison will not be indefinite.