----- Original Message -----
On this Wednesday, February 26, 2003, Florida is scheduled to kill Amos King for the 1977 rape murder of Natalie Brady. While you are reading this, Amos King's spiritual adviser, Kobutsu Malone Zenji, is on his way to Florida to accompany him to the death chamber, his lawyers are working on a last attempt to spare his life, and items from the original trial-- knitting needles and a garment-- are being scoured for DNA by Florida authorities. There is no stay of execution. The last brief stay of execution, imposed by Jeb Bush, was lifted when DNA testing of other items prove fruitless. Unless there is an unexpected intervention, Amos King will be killed.
There is a grim inevitability to Amos King's situation. After 25 years on death row, King has only the narrowest of remaining legal possibilities. But the case continues to cry out for clemency. And for that rarest of commodities, mercy. Let's take a brief look at the case, and how unsuitable it is for capital punishment. Let's take 25 years of appeals litigation in three paragraphs:
The trial case against Amos King was thin. Because there was no physical evidence connecting him with the scene of the rape-murder, the circumstantial case was primarly about King's opportunity to commit the crime. King was residing at a minimum-security prison located close to the crime scene, and he was absent from a routine bed-check around the time when Brady was believed to have been murdered. The sole actual physical evidence supposedly linking King to the murder was extremely weak: King's blood type- a blood type shared by twenty-two percent of the population- was consistent with the blood type of semen found in the victim's body. See King v. Florida, 390 So. 2d 315, 317-318 (Fla. 1980); see also Trial Transcript, at 1905. 22%, it should suffice to say, is not a probability equal to proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The other "physical evidence" in the case was not introduced at trial. Prison counselor McDonough testified that King had blood on his pants prior to their altercation. This implied that the blood may have resulted from the murder. However, the prosecution never produced any physical evidence of the blood. King's clothes were examined for blood, but no blood was found. See King v. Florida, 390 So. 2d 315, 317-318 (Fla. 1980); see also FBI Laboratory Report, May 24, 1977. So "physical evidence" is a misnomer.
Given this kind of weak trial evidence-- there was no direct physical connection, no identification, no "moral certainty" from circumstantial evidence-- shouldn't skilled counsel have gotten an acquittal? Well, maybe, if there were skilled counsel in the case. In 1983 the Eleventh Circuit ordered a re-sentencing because counsel had been ineffective during the sentencing phase. But the Court didn't find the same counsel ineffective during the guilt phase of the trial. See King v. Strickland, 714 F. 2d 1481 (Fla. 1983). Neverthless, the Eleventh Circuit wrote that King's lawyer made "a number of failures" which "raise some question as to ineffectiveness" and "certainly give us some pause." No kidding. The court evidently could have "pause" but not enough to stop the killing. In parts of the trial record King's lawyer admitted to being overburdened, physically exhausted, and unprepared for trial. Just before the trial started, King's lawyer begged the judge for more time to prepare, saying, "Judge, as an officer of the court, I cannot give Amos King a fair trial today or this week." On other occasions the lawyer pleaded "Judge, I am beat, I have got to go home and get some sleep," and, "I can't think anymore." King's lawyer met with him only twice before the trial started. And he was forced to take twenty-six depositions in one day and was still taking depositions after the trial started. See King v. Strickland, 714 F. 2d 1481, 1486-89 (Fla. 1983). This is not the defense you or I would want on a trfffic ticket, let along a death case. Tough, said the Court, even though "King was convicted on circumstantial evidence which, however strong, leaves room for doubt that a skilled attorney might raise to a sufficient level that. might convince a jury and a court that the ultimate penalty should not be exacted, lest a mistake have been made," it's ok for King to die anyway because counsel's performance during the guilt phase was not so poor as to raise serious questions about the reliability of the trial outcome. See King v. Strickland, 784 F. 2d 1462, 1464 (Fla. 1984); King v. Strickland, 714 F. 2d 1481, 1491 (Fla. 1983). Put another way, the Court said that even if the trial could have resulted in an acquittal, the fact that it didn't wasn't a cause for concern. [Special thanks to Abe Bonowitz and David Menschel for the factual information from www.fadp.org. Abe and David are not responsible for my editing or opinions].
There's more. A lot more. But here we are. It's important right now to say to the authorities that this Wednesday's execution is not in our names, that we oppose it, that we want Amos King to be spared. It's important also to say to Jeb Bush that if he intends to kill Amos King he should attend the execution in person. It's important to say out loud that Amos's life is precious and that killing him is just plain wrong. You can email Gov. Bush by clicking on this link: http://www.myflorida.com/myflorida/government/contacts/contactGov.html
As important is to spread the word to others to contact the Governor and the local Florida media to speak out against this killing and to the granting of clemency. Feel free to forward this email widely.
Pause also to feel the grim inevitability of this execution and to focus on that for a moment. Pay attention to how this feels in your body and to what you think when you examine this situation. Notice how this aches and creates suffering. Consider the far ranging results of this execution, and look deeply at where it stands now. "See yourself in others. Then whom can you hurt? What harm can you do? He who seeks happiness by hurting those who seek happiness will never find happiness." (Dhammapada X, Bryom trans). Right now it seems important to stop and to remember what is going on.
If the execution of Amos King is to be halted it can only be because each of us does what we can in our own way to stop this killing. We each will follow the promptings of our hearts. We'll examine our thoughts and feelings that this brings up. We might Fax or email or call Governor Bush. Or write to the editor of our newspapers. Or forward this email. Or sit in silence. Or light a candle. Or talk to our children. Or say a prayer. Or call a friend. You all know what to do to align yourselves with saving this life. Please take the time to pause and find out what you are prompted to do, and then please do that, recognizing that these small, personal steps are all we have now.
May Amos King be spared. May all on death row be spared. May all beings refrain from killing and prevent others from killing. May all beings affirm the preciousness of every life. May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness. May all beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering. May all beings be free from hatred and attachment. May all beings have equanimity, so that they have neither too much grasping nor too much aversion, so that they may dwell in the sacred space of each present moment. May all beings have comfort, healing, abundant love, prosperity, delight, friendship, and wisdom. May all beings have peace. May all beings awaken. May all beings realize their enlightenment. May all beings have the spiritual bliss that is beyond suffering and untouched by sadness. Om gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha. Vamos, vamos, vamos mas alla, vamos a la otra orilla, !Illuminacion! !Gozo! peace, david
David Seth Michaels
Attorney at Law
PO Box 96; 1028 Route 203
Spencertown, New York 12165
Phone : (518) 392-9150
FAX: (518) 392-9130