Two days before his scheduled execution, Michael Lambrix decided he won’t go quietly — not after 34 years on Death Row.
For an hour at Florida State Prison on Tuesday, the convicted murderer talked of life and death, his last meal and his upcoming funeral, and criticized a court system that he has long claimed ignored evidence that might spare his life in the deaths of Clarence Moore and Aleisha Bryant in 1983.
“It won‘t be an execution,” Lambrix told reporters. “It’s going to be an act of cold-blooded murder.”
Lambrix, 57, said he killed Moore in self-defense after Moore killed Bryant during a long night of drinking near LaBelle in Glades County. He was convicted largely on the testimony of a friend, Frances Smith, who was with him that night. They borrowed a neighbor’s shovel and buried both victims.
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Previous coverage: “Death Row inmate Lambrix awaits fate from court: ‘It’s my last hope’ ”
Lambrix said he didn’t call police to report the deaths because he had walked away from a prison work-release program and knew he faced a long sentence for his escape.
His first trial ended in a hung jury. He was convicted at a retrial of two counts of first-degree murder, but in both cases the jury recommendation of death was not unanimous, which is now unconstitutional.
Lambrix has been on Death Row since March 22, 1984.
The governor who signed his first death warrant, Bob Martinez, left office in 1991.
Prison rules allow for a condemned inmate to hold a press conference or group interview before an execution, but most do not.
The talkative Lambrix, who has a wide following of online supporters in the U.S. and Europe, was in handcuffs and leg irons. A corrections officer loosened the metal chain around his waist and fitted him with a microphone. He sat at a wooden table in a drab room that featured the Department of Corrections’ motto, “Inspiring success by transforming one life at a time.”
“We’re the only Western country in the entire world that kills its citizens under the pretense of the administration of justice,” he told reporters.
I have no doubt whatsoever that I‘m going to wake up into a better existence.
Convicted murderer Michael Lambrix
Lambrix said his final meal will be a Thanksgiving-style turkey dinner, which is what his mother promised to cook if he was exonerated. He went on a hunger strike last month to protest his death sentence but ended it after 12 days.
As Thursday’s execution by lethal injection draws closer, Lambrix and his lawyers are making one final appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, asking for intervention.
Lambrix’s case has wound through state and federal courts for more than three decades. Gov. Rick Scott signed Lambrix’s death warrant on Nov. 30, 2015, but the state Supreme Court postponed his execution after the landmark decision in Hurst v. Florida in January 2016.
The state court decided that the case did not apply to Lambrix because he was originally sentenced before 2002 under a policy that lawyers call “partial retroactivity” and that Lambrix says is an arbitrary denial of due process.
In the state Supreme Court’s final denial of relief last Friday, only Justice Barbara Pariente supported a resentencing for Lambrix, “to avoid denying two of the most critical constitutional protections on the eve of the ultimate punishment.”
Attorney General Pam Bondi has repeatedly and successfully argued that Lambrix should be executed.
Lambrix would be the 94th inmate to be executed in Florida since the state reinstituted the death penalty in 1976.
He accused Scott of signing death warrants because “politicians need the votes.” An Army veteran who suffered a back injury, Lambrix said he believes he’s the first honorably discharged disabled veteran to be executed in Florida.
“We have a process that‘s more about the politics of death than the administration of justice,” Lambrix said.
A spokesman for Scott said, “Signing death warrants is one of the governor’s most solemn duties. The governor’s top concern is always with the families of the victims of these horrible crimes.”
A rambling Lambrix voiced regret at not giving police a statement when he was first arrested in 1983, and for not later accepting a deal offered by prosecutors of a sentence of up to 24 years if he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. Had he taken that offer, Lambrix would have been released from prison more than a decade ago.
The state released a list of 43 relatives and friends who are visiting Lambrix at the prison in Starke, including his parents, three children, close friends and pen pals. The state’s Catholic bishops have called on Scott to stop the execution, and prayer vigils are scheduled around the state this week.
Lambrix, who smiled and made small talk with the officers guarding him, said he’s “very spiritual” but not religious.
As he faces death, he said Tuesday: “I have no doubt whatsoever that I‘m going to wake up into a better existence.”
Contact Steve Bousquet at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @stevebousquet.