Follow up Interview with my friend Edward. He was sentenced to Death.
TJ: Is there anything new going on with your appeals since we last takes?
EL: Not necessarily. My case is now in the 6th Circuit Court of appeals. As of right now we are awaiting a ruling from the courts. This could take up to another 2 years or so. It’s a long process. We filed a motion for remand to get my appeals dropped back down to the district court. It’s a good chance that I can get back into the lower courts. My lawyers are optimistic about it.
TJ: How many lawyers do you have on your case and are they court appointed and do you feel confident with the work that they are doing on your case?
EL: I have two Lawyers representing me. Yes they are court appointed but they are private lawyers and not federal Ohio public defenders (OPD). The federal OPD cannot represent me due to a conflict of interest. I had many issues with the OPD’s I had during my state appeals in which I had to petition the courts to remove them from my case. Reason being is because they were not representing the way that they felt they should. They was doing a poor job doing my appeals; refusing to secure affidavits from people that could help me with my innocent, failing to hire private investigators, and not really listening to some of the many things that I was telling them that I wanted them to do on my behalf. So I threatened to stop my appeals if they continued to work on my case because I felt that they were doing more harm to my appeals then helping me with my appeals initially. They even fought against me to stay on my case, which is something I truly don’t understand why.
TJ: So were you able to remove them from representing you?
EL: Yes, after a long and straineous process. However when you raise issues in an appeal you have to preserve all of them in the beginning to be able to continue to raise them throughout the higher courts. Because of them doing such a poor job and not raising a lot of issues early on I missed out on the opportunity to raise these claims now. So it kind of messed up my appeals I. some ways. This is where the conflict of interest come in at because I filed a murnaham and Martinez motions which is basically filing ineffective assistance of council against my appeals council and the courts allowed me to get private lawyers to represent me who do not work for the OPD. So though I have lawyers representing me I am very active in my appeals and work with my lawyers to file things on my behalf.
TJ: Why do you think you were convicted of these crimes and what would you have done differently that could have possibly kept you from get sentenced to death and/or Convicted?
EL: I don’t think it was much that I could have done really. I didn’t truly understand the severity of my situation back then. I was ignorant to the law and didn’t really know what was going on. My lawyers did a poor job of representing me. It was an election year when I was going to trial so that played a role in some ways. My gang history was brought up throughout my trial and that painted me in a negative light in the eyes of the jury and I’m sure made them believe that I was very capable of committing these crimes. The fact that my codefendant testified against me made him look more credible in some ways due to me refusing to testify against him. While awaiting trial I was constantly I. the news for assaulting other prisoners and I assaulted two guards before my trial started. All of this I’m sure played a role in my conviction. But more importantly me getting caught with the murder weapon made me look guilty as well.
TJ: Why did you have the murder weapon?
EL: I was trying to help Antonio get rid of it. Bad choice!
TJ: Let’s back up a little. Why was it that you became involved in gangs?
EL: Well I was young and didn’t really have any positive role modela in my life to help guide me. It was embedded in my environment and something that I related to. Peer pressure played a role. Acceptance and a sense of belonging to. Most of these guys were like brothers to me. We were more like a family that bonded together. Plus I was ignorant enough to believe that that was the lifestyle that I wanted to live.
TJ: What was that life like?
EL: I can’t find the right words to explain it. But I’ve seen a lot in my years, lost a lot of people dear to me. I’ve done a lot of wrong, things I’m not proud of. Some of it was for survival and some of it was for the thrill and excitement of it. I was abusing alcohol, weed, and ecstasy pills daily and my judgement was wrong.
TJ: I understand that there are gangs in prison, so are you still involved with gangs or were you able to walk away from that life?
EL: Well That’s a tough question to answer. But I was a member of the Bloods since I was around 11 and reached a position of leadership since coming to prison. This is a very big organization not only in the US but in other parts of the world as well. It’s not easy to walk away from that life, but it’s not impossible as well. My dealings with this organization are very slim to none right now. I’m slowly but surely distancing myself from it. It’s not easy because I look at a lot of my comrades as brothers and sisters so it’s hard to turn your back on “family” you know? Loyalty has always been my biggest downfall in my life. But I’m not actively involved in any gang activity.
TJ: Since being in prison what are some of the different programs that you’ve been involved in and how do you spend your time?
EL: Well like I explained to you before I have gotten my High school diploma and my GED. I’ve been involved with a few other programs; Money smart, anger management, Kairos, and a poetry workshop program that I helped get started. Most of my time is spend writing, reading, and I draw as well. I’m also taking college courses. We have sports tournaments in here. I take part in the Basketball tournament. I’ve coached and played for the last 4 years or so.
TJ: What about your family? How do they feel about your situation? And what is your relationship like with them?
EL: Well, it can be very emotional at times. Truthfully we don’t talk about my situation much. They support me as much as they’re able to. I am a lot closer to my family now then I was prior to my incarceration due to the negativity that I was involved with. My mom and I have grown a lot closer. I’m very active in my daughters lives. My oldest will be 12 soon. She doesn’t really understand my situation but I’m very active in her life. I think that ‘s the hardest part of my situation. Seeing how it effects my family. It’s sort of easier for me to deal with because I’m forced to, but it’s a lot harder on them than it is for me.
TJ: Was it hard adapting to your situation early on and how did you cope with your situation being as though you’re not only convicted for a crime that you didn’t commit but sentenced to death for it.
EL: Adapting was definitely hard at first. I was bitter and angry and took my anger out on others around me. I spent a lot of time in segregation due to fighting with other prisoners. I spent 3 years in supermax housing for severely assaulting another prisoner. Believe it or not being houses in segregation helped me in many ways because I began to read, write and educate myself. I found myself as a person. Began to look at life differently and began changing my outlook of my life and situation. I’m a firm believer that things happens for many reasons. I’m trying to make meaning out of this situation regardless of te outcome of it. I don’t want this time to be spent in vain. I try to take something from everything that I experience in life. Maybe my situation can help others. Bring awareness to the death penalty as a whole. Keep someone from making the same mistakes that I made growing up.
TJ: What are some of the things that you are currently working on?
EL: Well I have several books that I’m in the process of publishing. I’m a poet with over 100 poems that I want to get published into a book. I want to use some of the funds to secure more art supplies. I want to create greeting cards to sell to be able to put funds in a trust account for my daughter.
TJ: What would you like to get from the blogs?
EL: Well I just want to bring awareness to not only my situation but the death penalty and injustice in general. I also want to be able to reach out to different people to be able to establish some friendships and bonds with them, possibly get some legal help and things like that. So if there is anyone who would like to reach out to me please feel free to do so.
To be continued…