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Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Last Day of Summer -- September 22, 2012

Yesterday was the last day of summer and it seems the season went by quickly. Three months ago there was scorching hot weather, and last night temperatures dropped into the low 30's. Despite being incarcerated, time has the perception of accelerating as I become older. When I think into the past, it is similar to an ever speeding time lapse camera which ultimately is crunching years into minutes. The sun rises and sets in quick succession, hot summer days turn frigid, green foliage turns brown and then disappears. The cycle repeats time and time again all the while I remain behind bars, aging, and becoming more distraught and miserable. I am no closer to freedom, only death. Typically, I look forward to the end of summer. However, this year it only reminds me of my own deterioration and oppressive existence.

Friday I spent most of the morning and afternoon reading newspapers. As I become older, I have less energy and today I drank some coffee to help me go through a fraction of the pile of corporate reports, papers, magazines and books in my box. I receive the Wall Street Journal every day but Sunday and these newspapers often take me a couple of hours to read. Then I am given more papers when I receive visits along with various other publications. Every week, I also receive letters with more news articles or packages of magazines. My family must think I have an abundance of time on my hands being in prison. They do not realize how difficult and time consuming prison life is.

I skipped lunch because the process can take over an hour. There is the waiting on the gallery and waiting in the line. There is also the need to put all my property away and then take it all out again when I return. The rules of cell compliance are now being strictly enforced. My cell usually is in good order, but even this is not enough to appease my captors. For lunch a fish pattie and macaroni and cheese was being served but it was not worth my time preparing and getting ready for. Later in the day, I made myself a meal of roast beef, cheese rice, and a pack of Ramen noodles (all commissary purchases).

The warden posted a long bulletin on the television for everyone to read detailing cell compliance and a litany of new rules. Cell compliance is not a new rule but it has not been strictly enforced and apparently this lack of enforcement has upset the warden or his supervisors in the state capital. I agree some prisoners make no effort to have their cell in a clean and orderly fashion, but the cell compliance rules should be a guideline and not applied to the letter. According to the bulletin, nearly everything a prisoner owns must be placed in his two boxes and they must be placed under the bunk before leaving the cell. Many bunks do not allow 4 boxes to fit underneath because they are not wide enough or have triangle wedges underneath. Furthermore, the exceptions to property allowed out are not accommodating for many practical needs of inmates.

A few times this week, guards have told my cellmate or me to put away certain things before leaving the cell. My cellmate is regularly washing clothes in the cell and he had an article of clothing hanging wet that he did not want to put in his box. To please the guard, he stuffed it underneath the bunk and out of sight. On another occasion, a guard told me to put away some of the various rags my cellmate has. A prisoner has a need to keep out a wet floor or sink rag but my cellmate has about 4 additional rags. According to the rules, only 2 wash cloths can be left out. Therefore, my cell had too many outside the boxes. I threw out a couple of his rags but folded the others for him to keep and put them in his laundry bag.

Prisoners are allowed to keep out their TV, fan, and radio. However, when I went out for chow yesterday a guard told me to put away my Walkman. A Walkman, in my opinion, is a radio, but I did not argue with him. I typically hold the view a guard is always right even when he is wrong. The problem with putting my Walkman in my box and taking it out again every time I leave the cell is the batteries no longer work and the adapter plug has a bad short. It is very sensitive to movement and this is why I had it wrapped with a rubber band around a post on my bunk.

The warden's bulletin states inmates cannot have any fixtures on the walls, antennas out the cell bars, disinfectant or liquid soap. The last rule does not make any sense because prisoners are sold liquid laundry detergent and disinfectant is passed out to us. The bulletin says disinfectant must be used immediately but what are inmates supposed to do throughout the day, week, or weeks in between? Some prisoners have roach infested cells or cellmates with communicable diseases. I took down a small mesh laundry bag I had hanging on the wall with some of my hygienic supplies near the sink for convenience, but I left a plastic mirror up and several hooks, pegs, or screws. I also kept my watch wrapped around a horizontal beam of my bunk. Like my Walkman, if moved, it loses power. Many inmates have wires protruding out of the cells to pick up radio or television reception. It is actually difficult walking down the narrow galleries dodging them along with other people. My cellmate initially took his TV antenna down but then put it back up. Apparently he is unwilling to live with just regular cable. I should have known this because he just recently bought the $250 15" flat screen TV and has never had digital reception before.

A number of prisoners in E House were immediately sent to segregation when they left their cells out of compliance. However, guards in my cell house are writing disciplinary tickets or informing inmates what they must put away before they allow them to leave the cell. I tend to believe those given tickets will simply be given the punishment of commissary denial. There is no room in Segregation to send everyone out of cell compliance there and they are not going to bus men down to Pontiac or the soon-to-close Tamms Supermax for not putting property away. A strict enforcement of these rules will not be possible at a prison where nearly everyone has protracted death sentences. These petty rules are absurd to men with natural life w/o parole or the equivalent. Many guards also see them as trivial compared to other real concerns at maximum security penitentiaries.

During the day, I heard shouts of prisoners that Internal Affairs was in the building. I.A. is not concerned with cell compliance and they are generally present to conduct a search or get someone for questioning. When I first came to the penitentiary, I rarely ever heard of I.A. They were a very discreet and tiny unit. This has changed radically and now they have enormous resources and a large number of members. They also make themselves known and become involved in petty investigations of both guards and inmates, but mostly the latter. No longer are they investigating just murders, stabbings, or gang wars, but pilfered kitchen food, gambling, tattoos, and other things. For a moment I considered flushing the remaining bit of onion I had left over from my lunch, but I cannot be worried about all these minuscule rule infractions. All this week, I.A. has been in the cell house and if they want to put a prisoner in Seg they will, regardless if they have a legitimate reason or not.

At about mid afternoon, I became tired. I was tired of all the screaming, obnoxious and annoying convicts. I was tired of all the petty rules being enforced like I was in boot camp. I was tired of my miserable and meaningless life. I wish I could just throw myself in a giant wood chopper and be done with the ceaseless torment. Since I could not, I thought I would try to sleep, but as soon as I lay down, I heard the rap of bars. On every gallery, a guard was taking a metal stick and running it across the front bars of cells. The noise was loud and reverberated throughout the entire cell house. To my surprise, the lieutenant was rapping bars on my gallery and when I made eye contact with him he quickly said he did not want to hear about it. Despite what he said, angrily I asked him what he was doing?! He replied, "Believe me, it was not my idea." I then asked if he did not have some grunt to redundantly beat bars. He did not want to be doing the work and it was obvious some superior ordered him to do so. Never in my 20 years of incarceration has an inmate escaped by cutting through bars. It was just yet another dumb superfluous security measure. With my ear plugs in, I threw a pillow over my head.

I awakened in time to go to dinner which was being run early because we were thereafter going to yard. Every other week during the summer, prisoners at Stateville are given an extra recreation period in the evening. I looked outside the dirty cell house windows and saw dark cloud cover. I suspected it may rain and thus dressed warmly in sweats, jacket, skull cap and gloves. Outside, I was glad I did because not only was rain threatening but it was very windy.

Walking into the chow hall I was greeted by one of the lieutenants. He called me and the person I was walking with "Romney and Ryan." I asked him if that was tea he was drinking in anticipation of the great Tea Party which will be celebrated in November. He said he had to stay alert and vigilant for right wing extremists. I responded that if there was an extremist candidate it was Obama and his Marxist agenda. Later while I ate my meal of soy spaghetti I discussed Romney's purported blunder speaking about the 47% of Americans who do not pay any federal income taxes. The few I spoke with all agreed that there are far too many grasshoppers and not enough ants supporting the nation. However, at Stateville amongst criminals I am sure our sentiment was a small minority.

Out on the yard, I walked to the debilitated and rusted pile of weights. Benches were broken, bars of iron were bent, and there was not much equipment to work out with. It was not very inspiring but I made the best of the junk. I was accompanied by some other prisoners but most of them worked their mouths more so than their muscles. I listened to the various griping about cell compliance and the new rules. I also listened to conversations about the activities of I.A.  A piece of metal was discovered early in the week in a hot air vent near the sergeant's office. The investigative unit came by to take pictures of it and the vent like it was a crime scene. They have also been conducting searches of various inmate workers' cells. In one of them they found kitchen food and in another an immersion heater. Stingers used to be allowed in prison but now they are contraband and the cell house worker was taken to Segregation. Men said he had some words with I.A. when they were harassing him about some trays he was bringing into the cell house and this was payback. It is not wise to have an attitude with I.A. staff whether or not you are a model inmate.

A biker complained about being told not to talk about a pedophile in the cell house. Pedophiles are not liked by inmates, and most staff for that matter. I assume the guard who spoke to him told him to tone it down for his own benefit because if something happened to the child molester, Internal Affairs may put him in Seg even if he had nothing to do with it. The biker is a very loud and outspoken person. He was particularly outraged with this pedophile because he pretends to be a devout Christian and has a smug attitude. Years ago, the man would not be so smug. He would be a victim and guards would turn the other way. Well before the biker found out about the child molester, I knew about his case. In fact, I knew just upon seeing him. After two decades of imprisonment, I have developed a sense for what convicts are locked up for. I told my parents not long ago on a visit that I not only have "fagdar" but "pedodar." My mother asked, "What is that?" I explained to her it was a type of radar which made me aware of any homosexual or pedophile who comes within my vicinity.

A purported pedophile was recently convicted in DeKalb County, Illinois of murder, kidnapping and child abduction in the death of 7-year-old Maria Ridulph. The case is over 50 years old and was based on very flimsy evidence. However, because of his charges and suspicion in other crimes, Jack McCulough is despised by inmates. On the yard, my neighbor was suspected of testifying against him. He claimed he slapped the 72-year-old man when he bragged about the crime. My neighbor regularly goes on court writs to the county jail and by coincidence he was placed in the same cell. This seems highly suspicious to me as well as the man admitting any guilt to a stranger. My neighbor has been trying to get rid of his natural life sentence for a long time. He was so desperate that I would not doubt if he made up a story to gain a deal with the prosecutor.

While I was lifting weights, it began to rain. It was a drizzle initially but then it began to pour. The rain was made worse by the strong gusts of wind and dropping temperatures. Most of the people working out or gossiping dashed off in a futile attempt to find shelter. I noticed a line of men standing up against one side of the handball court wall where apparently they were protected from the sheets of rain which came down at an angle. I was glad to be rid of the men around me and I then had all the broken weights and benches to myself. Rain or no rain, I was going to work out and even considered my plan to mimic the "Fitness Games" which are being telecast on ESPN. The Fitness Games combine various speed, agility, endurance, and strength exercises. However, I thought they would be no fun all by myself.

After my clothes were nearly drenched, the rain stopped. To keep myself from freezing, I began to run laps around the quarter mile track. I expected a lot of energy but I doubt I made any good times with the wind pummeling me and dodging or jumping over puddles of water on the asphalt. I also slowed down every time I passed an inmate named Brown to throw a condescending word or two his way. Earlier he had interrupted me while I was explaining to another inmate about how a corporation functions. He made some ridiculous claims which I made fun of. Brown is an obnoxious, loud, convict who believes he knows most everything but knows very little. Typically, I could care less how ignorant he is, however, the temptation to make him look foolish was too great. Brown did not take my zingers that well and he continued to rant long after I ran past him. Even a hundred meters away I could still hear him.

The last exercise I was to do were squat presses. I should not do these at all because it is what caused me to crush two lumbar disks in my spine. However, I used light weights and endured the pain. My life is nothing but pain anymore whether it be physical or mental. Prison has become just one long protracted series of sufferings. The pain in my lower back was trivial compared to the 20 years of oppressive hardship, slow death, and continuous misery that I have lived.

Toward the end of the yard period, I ceased to exercise and peered out into the sky. Various shades of gray clouds moved swiftly overhead. At times, they briefly let the sunlight stream in some distant place. From my vantage point, the sun was mostly blotted out but occasionally I could see it opaquely through the clouds and it reminded me of a full moon on a foggy night. It was a picturesque scene to end the last day of summer.

Mertz came to join me and noticed I was looking up into the sky. I brought to his attention how the upper clouds were traveling fast from the north but the lower clouds oddly went in the opposite direction. It seemed like they were spinning around us. I asked him if he ever saw the movie "The Philadelphia Experiment" where a U.S. battleship goes back in time to WWII. I said I wish we were in a similar time-space vortex where I could go back into the past. Guards not long thereafter came out to corral prisoners back into their cages for the night. I took one last look at the obscure setting sun before it was blotted out by darkness.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Saturday in My Cell -- September 15, 2012

I awoke this morning at 6:45 which gave me time to make my bunk bed and do a few other things before the national news programs came on and then ate my breakfast. I had bran flakes along with a couple of peanut butter sandwiches. As always, when I wake up my cellmate was sitting on his box near the cell bars. Today, he was humming to some Motown music on his Walkman. It was annoying and I thought about telling him to shut up. However, he is less annoying than most other cellmates I could have been assigned. To tune him out, I put on my headphones and was glad he was going to be gone soon. He attended Christian services on Saturdays and I would be blessed with his absence for most of the morning. This was a good day for me to attempt to avoid all the loathsome or obnoxious prisoners and I planned to stay in my cell. Living in a maximum security prison, especially Stateville, was most miserable and as much as possible I try to remove myself from it. My only refuge is the confines of my cage.

After watching about a half hour of TV news, I began to get ready for the day. As soon as my cellmate left, I planned to wash the floor, exercise, bathe, and wash some clothes. I try to get many activities done while my cellmate is gone. The cell is not very large and it is uncomfortable sharing the space. It is similar to being confined within a bathroom removed of a bathtub and a double bunk put in its stead. I often feel claustrophobic and despise having to regularly coordinate movements with another person. By completing many of my activities when I have the cell to myself, I avoid some of the conflicts or restrictions of movement.

Prisoners going to Christian services were not let out of their cells until about 9. While I waited for him to be let out, I placed my small box on my bunk and slid open the lid so it went over my lap. This is my makeshift table and I am currently using it to write on. Earlier today, though, I opened up one of my Wall Street Journal newspapers. This week, I renewed my subscription and have been receiving the paper daily. As I read the paper and took notes, I listened to a cassette tape produced by Metallica in the late 1980s.

Prisoners in Illinois do not have CD players nor do they have access to iPods or MP3 players. I have recently heard a rumor that Walkman cassette players are no longer going to be sold in the penitentiary. I am not certain if it is because the device has become obsolete or the administration seeks to stop the recording or the trafficking and trading of cassette tapes. There are only a couple of companies prisoners are allowed to buy cassette tapes from and they cater almost entirely to people incarcerated. The selection of tapes has diminished and the prices have gone up enormously creating a large demand for bootlegged music. Nearly all my tapes are copies and I have not ordered new tapes in over a decade. My Walkman is many years old and has begun to give me mechanical troubles. I wonder if I made a mistake not buying a new one while I still could.

Immediately when my cellmate left the cell, I began to wash the floor. The concrete floors in the cell house quickly become dusty. They also will accumulate tumbleweeds of blanket fuzz or clumps of frizzy hair if not regularly swept or cleaned. I wash the floor daily before I exercise. It is a habit I have developed because I do not like to stretch out or work out on a dirty floor. Also, it is a convenient time to do so when I have access to the entire floor and my cellmate is on his bunk or away.

I exercised for an hour doing nonstop calisthenics and cardiovascular exercises. Much of my routine involved not only strength movements but speed and agility. I have incorporated many mixed martial arts into the workout. At a maximum security prison, it is wise to maintain fighting skills. Fights can erupt at any time and, although violence is not nearly as great as it was in the 1990s, I am always prepared. I do not mention many of the physical conflicts I witness because I am aware my posts are being monitored by Internal Affairs. As I did my intense workout, I briefly wondered if by chance vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan was by coincidence doing his at the very same time. It was highly doubtful considering he was on the campaign trail. Unfortunate, I thought, since his nomination the congressman and Romney have not taken the fight to their opposition. What I thought was going to be an election of conflicting ideas has been suppressed by an overly cautious and defensive campaign.

Chow lines were run while I was practicing take downs and a barrage of strikes for a Republican campaign which had cowardly curled up in a ball. For lunch, prisoners were being served imitation bologna sandwiches. I cared less for the distasteful food and planned to make myself a meal in the cell. After I worked out, I bathed, and washed some clothes along with my gym shoes. It was near noon and I did not want to spend a long time making a meal and simply opened up a package of pink salmon and put it on some bread. A salmon sandwich was far better than a mystery meat sandwich provided by the IDOC. I ate my lunch while watching CNN's "Your Money." It was a financial show hosted by Ali Velshi, a liberal who regularly attacks conservative fiscal policy. Today, he was attacking Paul Ryan's plan to cut taxes and government spending. He also claimed Romney's promise of creating 12 million jobs over four years was preposterous and he said he will wear a dress if it happens. Liberals have little understanding how much economic growth can occur if capitalism is not oppressed by government. They only think of taxing, spending, and redistributing wealth as though this toxic elixir will somehow create economic prosperity and not financial decline or ruin.

I became bored listening to Ali Velshi and when seeing my cellmate at the bars, I asked him if the telephone was open. He informed me someone was on it and I asked him to reserve a spot for me at 4:00 if it was available. Every gallery in the quarter units of Stateville is assigned two telephones men can use between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. Some galleries elect a "phone man" to manage time slots and be responsible for the phone's working order. The phones are regularly broken or the wires are shorted from being moved up and down the gallery and shared by so many. When the wiring or phone handset/base cannot be repaired, it must be replaced with a new one. New phones are not always available and inmates can wait weeks to get a replacement. There is no phone man on 4 gallery and prisoners simply use it when open, or reserve a time by writing their cell number on a piece of paper taped to the phone.

Once my cellmate settled in and was on his bunk watching TV,  I decided to take a nap. Taking early afternoon naps has become a habit and I often find I am fatigued by mid day. Lying down for an hour or two restores my energy and helps take the strain off my lower back. Just as I put my earplugs in, I heard prisoners shouting "Major in the building!" followed by his movements in the cell house. Prisoners do this to warn others so if they are violating prison rules in one way or another, they will not get in trouble. It reminds me of watching nature shows where animals will let out a warning sound to alert others of a predator in the vicinity. I had my shorts drying on a line that transcends the length of my bunk. I took them down and placed them on a hook on the wall. For some reason, laundry lines are no longer permitted in the IDOC.

I awakened before three in time to make myself some tea and listen to the Larry Kudlow Report on WLS radio. Unlike Ali Valshi, Kudlow was a conservative economic news reporter and other than his support of free trade, we had similar fiscal opinions. His show was mostly about the extraordinary announcement by Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke that the fed was going to buy $40 billion worth of mortgage securities every month until unemployment dropped below 6%. He also announced the Fed's lending rate would be kept at zero until 2015. The news immediately caused the stock market to soar along with prices of gold, oil and other commodities. The massive and open-ended printing of money meant a devaluation of the dollar and inflation. The extremely low interest rates will cause investors to seek yield in places other than customary savings banks. Kudlow was very critical of fed policy. This will be the third round of quantitative easing and each round produces less stimulus and diminished returns while undermining the value of currency. Americans' purchasing power will be lost at a time when those who have jobs have reduced salaries. It also distorts the markets incentivizing consumption while punishing those who save. The true solution to America's economic woes is not more monetary stimulus but structural reform of fiscal policy at the executive and legislative level. Banks and large businesses were already flush with cash but did not want to use it. Businesses and individuals did not want to borrow money for homes or enterprise or they would have already. With the possibility of another recession and another Barack Obama presidency, there is little desire to take on additional risk. There is no sustained demand despite the president's economic stimulus gimmicks or the feds. On the Larry Kudlow Report as well as many other news programs there was suspicion cast on the fed for giving the market a "sugar high" to bolster Obama's reelection. There was also suspicion the extreme measures taken by the fed were done out of desperation. The Fed would have never acted in such an unprecedented way unless they believed the economic situation was very dire.

During the second hour of the Larry Kudlow Report, I began to try to reach someone at home. No one was answering and I suspected my father was outside working in the garden or involved in some other task while my mother was away. Finally, at about five my mother picked up the phone and accepted my collect call. She had just returned from a social gathering. My sister's birthday is coming up and friends decided to celebrate a few days early. I spoke to my mother for about an hour. The noise in the cell house was great and I tried to cover the phone so she could hear me. I also pressed a button on the phone to make her voice louder so I could hear her. Fortunately, the phone was working properly and I did not have to hold any shorts in the wire together as we spoke.

Apparently, while I was talking on the phone I was distracted and missed chow lines going out. Usually, chow is announced on the loudspeaker but it was not today. I heard doors being opened and slammed shut but I thought it was for showers or insulin lines. Ever since hypodermic needles went missing and were found during Orange Crush searches, men have been sent to the Health Care Unit rather than a nurse coming to their cells. Someone  told me the reason is more a lack of staff and it is easier to have those who take insulin come to the prison hospital rather than have nurses make rounds, however, I am not certain of the truth. There is a shortage of medical staff but there are also increasing security concerns.

I did not miss anything worthwhile at the chow hall. For dinner, prisoners were being served chili made with turkey-soy. Processed turkey-soy is used to make most of the meals served here and despite the various seasonings kitchen workers have at their disposal to disguise the taste, it is still disagreeable. If I had gone out, it would only have been to gather some bread and possibly a milk. Tonight, I will eat more peanut butter sandwiches and cereal. Without the milk, I will eat the cereal dry and it will be my substitute for popcorn at the theatre.

I plan to stay up to watch the move "Robin Hood" which is being broadcast on a cable station. This Robin Hood is the newest version and it stars actor Russell Crow. The theme has greater depth and is different from prior films. Rather than it being a movie of a thief stealing from the rich to give to the poor, it is about freedom over tyranny. King Richard the Lionheart after years of battle in the crusades, is killed in battle and his son takes over the reign of power in England. The monarchy faces huge deficits and to raise money the new king imposes oppressive taxation. A ruthless man is hired to collect the taxes from the nobles of Northern England and slaughters those who do not pay. When it is learned the French plan to invade, the king seeks the help of the wealthy land owners but they scoff at the man who brutally oppressed and taxed them. The king was made to promise justice, liberty, and less taxation in the form of a charter. I like this movie because it reminded me of Barack Obama who touts himself as a Robin Hood, although he is more like the tyrant king in the film.

Showers are currently being run on my gallery and I am again pleased to be without a cellmate. Bobby spends a long time in the shower or waiting area talking to Chub and washing clothes. He will wash several articles of clothing with bar soap and rinse them out under a shower. Showers are for many prisoners a time to socialize and wash clothes. I have already bathed and my clothes, as well as shoes, have already dried by fan. I noticed the soles of my gym shoes are coming apart and I will have to reglue them. That will be a task for tomorrow.

Nearly every Saturday at 6:30 p.m. I will watch the PBS program "The McLaughlin Group." One of my favorite political commentators and former presidential candidates is usually a guest. I am looking forward to seeing what Pat Buchanan has to say about protests and assaults upon American embassies across the Middle East and North Africa. It is ridiculous to me the U.S. has a foreign policy of creating democracies throughout the area as if somehow this would be advantageous to America. All I see is destabilization and the possibility of Islamic groups hostile to the west seizing power. Ironic how Barack Obama dares to say Mitt Romney shoots first and aims second. I also find it ironic how America goes abroad to give freedom to the world while liberty is stripped within. Another point of irony is the billions of dollars given to enemy states while the U.S. is crippled with over $16 trillion in debt. I am sure there will be agreement by Pat Buchanan.

Spending the day in my cell has diminished many of the unpleasantries and distractions that come with living in prison. I have largely been successful in blocking out Stateville and those incarcerated here to concentrate on various other activities and thoughts. I worked out, washed clothes, read two newspapers, spoke with my family, and wrote this blog entry. Later tonight, I will escape again while watching a movie on TV. Oftentimes, prison leaves me very miserable and I dwell on my injustice. However, on days I can isolate myself, I can be more productive and feel better. Hopefully, there are more Saturdays like this one.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Drew Peterson Guilty: A Dark Day for Justice -- Sept. 7, 2012

Former Bolingbrook Police Sergeant Drew Peterson was convicted of murdering his third wife, Kathleen Savio. Her death in 2004 was originally determined to be an accident but three years later when Peterson's fourth wife went missing, police reinvestigated the case. Quizzically, a new forensic team found that Savio was murdered after examining her exhumed body. Drew Peterson was charged with the murder in 2009 and finally brought to trial last month. After a 5 week trial and nearly 14 hours of deliberations, a jury found him guilty yesterday. The decision was based on hearsay evidence which is not allowed in U.S. criminal trials due to American's constitutional right to confront witnesses against them. The court made the extraordinary exception in the Peterson case based upon a new law passed by the Illinois legislature and named "Drew's Law". The pressure to convict Peterson was enormous and largely driven not only by the odd disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy, but his own brash and flamboyant behavior in the mass media. However, despite how suspicious and contemptible a person may be, the justice system should not be undermined. While people celebrated his conviction outside the court house, defense attorney Joel Brodsky stated "This is a dark day for justice." I agree.

The Will County Court House where Peterson was tried is only several miles from Stateville. It is an odd top heavy concrete building in downtown Joliet. Having lived in the far southwest suburbs of Chicago, I was familiar with the television footage of the court house as well as the town of Bolingbrook, although to a much lesser degree. Bolingbrook is to the northwest of where I lived and I only happened to pass through a few times before my arrest. It is mainly a middle class town with older homes. The closeness of events in the Peterson trial made them of greater interest to me. I have paid attention to developments in the case through television, newsprint, and local radio news.

The Chicago metropolitan area has been bombarded with news coverage and this has even went nationwide. The Drew Peterson case has been the subject of various prime time television programs and even a Lifetime movie. Before his arrest, Peterson was interviewed by several cable and network TV programs including "48 Hours," and "The Larry King Show." I never saw the movie which was on a cable station Stateville does not have, but I did see a few of his interviews. During the interviews, I thought he came across well, however, he seemed to have a cocky and at times bizarre attitude with local media which followed him around after his 4th wife went missing. He dared prosecutors to charge him with murder and occasionally took news media cameras to film them. He also goofed around with local radio talk show hosts and suggested a "Get a Date with Drew" show. As a police sergeant, I expected a little self confidence and swagger. It was impressive to see a man who did not cower in the face of media glare or the power of the state. Some of his antics were a little obnoxious, but I did not share the growing public outrage. The public seemed to want him to lament and prostrate himself. They also convicted him as not only a haughty cop but a serial wife killer, and they want him prosecuted with or without any evidence of his guilt. 

Drew Peterson probably did himself a disservice to take on the public limelight. He did not have a personality that was well received and he only added to media attention. The odd coincidence of his 3d wife dying by accident and then a 4th wife at large was too suspicious for many people to accept. However, in high profile cases, there is a greater need to be proactive and defend oneself in the public. Suspects often can be convicted in the media well before they ever go to trial. A lot of innuendo and rumor while not admissible in a court of law shape perspective jurors opinions. Public opinion can also pressure the state's attorney's office to file charges or not, such as in the George Zimmerman case. I personally know well how much influence the media can have. 

After seven people were brutally murdered at a Palatine Brown's Chicken and Pasta Restaurant in January 1993, enormous pressure was put on police and prosecutors to solve the crime. The lies of my former roommate and his wife implicating me were incredulous but too good to pass up. I was quickly arrested and charged not with the mass murder, but a murder in Barrington the state's attorney's office thought would be easier to prove. The media then began a vicious campaign of character assassination. I was reported to have committed the Brown's Chicken massacre in Palatine and was the subject of various other nefarious innuendo. When Rose Faraci finally admitted the stories she and her husband told authorities were not true, it did not matter. I was already tried and convicted in the eyes of the public. At this point, there was no way prosecutors were going to admit to have made a mistake and drop the charges against me. Jurors who may have sought to be fair and base their decisions on the evidence, I cannot but believe were to some degree motivated by the pervasive negative, inflammatory and false reporting. I wonder if I or my attorneys had engaged the media instead of being silent, it may have altered public perceptions which once formed are extremely difficult to change.

Drew Peterson was not charged with the murder of his missing wife, Stacy, but his ex-wife Kathleen Savio. However, it was unarguably the reason for his prosecution and similar to how I was prosecuted for being accountable in a Barrington murder rather than the Palatine massacre. It was not until Stacy disappeared that suspicion was even cast upon Drew Peterson in the death of his 3rd wife. In the spring of 2004, Kathleen Savio was found dead in the bathtub of her home. Crime scene investigators and the coroner concluded the death was an accident. There was a gash on the back of her head and it seemed apparent she slipped, hit her head, and died by drowning while unconscious. This is not a rare or odd sequence of events and nearly every day in America people die in similar accidents. No suspicion of foul play was even entertained by police until three years later when Peterson's 4th wife disappeared. Prosecutors had no evidence to prosecute him in the case and thus they exhumed the body of Kathleen Savio. Almost magically, a new forensic team and coroner were able to conclude from a corpse the prior findings were incorrect and she was killed. I can very well understand how a fellow police officer did not come under great scrutiny originally, but I cannot understand how science becomes better from a body that has been in the grave a few years. The conclusion was not based on advanced DNA technology but purely on politics. Contrary to public perception, state's attorneys are not honorable men and women of integrity who seek truth and justice, but unscrupulous elected officials motivated by politics.

The similarities remind me not only of my own case, but that of a man recently released from prison on twisted science. James Kluppelberg was convicted of an arson mass murder in the late 1980's. Originally, the fire and resulting deaths were determined to be an accident by Chicago police. However, when a former friend of Kluppelberg's got into trouble with the law and fabricated a story implicating Kluppelberg years later, the conclusions of crime scene investigators changed. The fire was no longer an accident but an arson and the deaths were now homicides. James Kluppelberg spent over two decades of his life in prison before the former friend recanted his lies and the fire was once again determined to be an accident. With Drew Peterson there is no one facing criminal charges trying to make a deal for himself but there was just as questionable hearsay statements incriminating Peterson.

Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow's prosecution of Drew Peterson was based on the testimony of friends and family of the two women Peterson is suspected of killing. They did not have any direct knowledge of the murder but claim the women told them incriminating information about the defendant. Kathleen Savio's sister testified that Peterson threatened to kill Kathleen and make it look like an accident. Two friends of Savio claimed Kathleen said Peterson threatened her life and abused her. The most damaging hearsay evidence was the testimony of Stacy Peterson's reverend and a divorce attorney who happened to be Kathleen Savio's former divorce attorney. Neal Schori claimed Stacy came to see him about wanting a divorce. She told him she woke up one night to find her husband not in bed. When he came home later she found him dumping women's clothing into the washing machine. He told her to give him an alibi for the night Kathleen died. Divorce attorney Harry Smith was oddly called by the defense and he admitted Stacy was seeking to gain some money out of a divorce settlement, but also that she sought to do it by threatening to tell police Peterson killed Savio. She wondered if she had leverage because she could tell police that Peterson killed Stavio. This conversation allegedly occurred three days before her disappearance.

There is a reason courts do not allow second hand information to be submitted into evidence. It is not reliable. Prisoners will often pass along gossip and rumors about others or events in the penitentiary. I normally will ignore it because it is false or altered. If I really seek the truth, I must go to the source or the actual eye witnesses. Whether one lives amongst convicts in a maximum security penitentiary or not, all people have a tendency to lie, embellish, or retell information inaccurately. It is difficult enough testing the credibility of initial sources of information let alone second or third hand accounts. This is a significant reason the framers of the U.S. Constitution were wise enough to forbid hearsay testimony and mandate witnesses appear in person to be confronted by the accused.

Amendment 6 of the U.S. Constitution and Article 1 Section 8 of the state constitution were violated when hearsay testimony was allowed in Drew Peterson's trial. Will County States Attorney Jim Glasgow dared not to prosecute the Bolingbrook police sergeant despite his arrogance and antics or mounting public pressure initially. He knew there was no evidence to convict him. Two years passed by after Stacy Peterson disappeared without a trace before Drew Peterson was charged with murder. Was it because new evidence was uncovered or the prosecution was steadily building its case by conducting a thorough investigation? No, he was waiting for Illinois legislators to pass a new law. The new law appropriately called "Drew's Law" allowed prosecutors to use hearsay if it originated from a victim the defendant is accused of killing. Apparently, Illinois legislators care little about violating their own constitution or the U.S. Constitution when it comes to getting public enemy #1.

It is outrageous the Illinois legislature would create a law which violates millions of people's constitutional rights to prosecute one man. It is also a gross abuse of power to make the law retroactive. The Constitution clearly states no ex post facto laws shall be passed. Article I Sections 9 and 10 prohibit both Congress and the states from making any law that changes the rules of evidence and receives less or different testimony than was required at the time of the commission of the offense in order to convict an offender. It also prohibits laws that deprive people accused of a crime of some lawful protection to which they have become entitled or alters the situation of a person to his disadvantage. Although an appellate court upheld the use of hearsay evidence in the trial of Drew Peterson to my astonishment, other courts will not. In Illinois, appellate courts are elected and swayed by politics. However, federal judges are appointed. Justices in the U.S. Supreme Court are appointed for life, and although the decision of Chief Justice Roberts was baffling on the issue of Obamacare, I believe there is little chance Peterson's conviction will stand. Drew Peterson may have to spend years in prison as his case is appealed through the system, but eventually a court will have the courage to strike "Drew's Law" and Peterson's conviction.

Many legal experts have already weighed in on the issue and the vast majority agree. The only attorney I have seen interviewed who expressed disagreement was Richard Kling of Chicago-Kent College of Law. He said that exceptions to hearsay have been allowed since the 1970's. However, those rare exceptions deal with a person who is being taken to the emergency room after being stabbed or shot and tells someone before they die who attacked them. I see no correlation between these cases and the case of Drew Peterson. Even the Chicago metropolitan area public which seemed to loathe the defendant were polled on WGN news. A third of them believed the verdict will be overturned.

Yet another major problem exists for prosecutors on appeal. The new law created by the Illinois legislature specifically says hearsay can only be used when the victim is dead. The most damaging evidence to be used against Drew Peterson was hearsay from Stacy Peterson. Stacy's body has never been found, but the judge opined she was killed despite there not being any evidence. Stacy's family is certain she was murdered by her husband. I have listened to interviews of Cassandra Cales and other family members who claim Stacy would never leave her children behind. While it is highly suspicious, I cannot but think of the man who was thought to be killed by John Wayne Gacy. His family also believed he was killed by the serial killer. However, 30 years later, he was found alive living in Florida. Drew Peterson was never convicted of Stacy's murder and he was not even on trial for that yet the judge was willing to assist the prosecution. There was speculation there would be animosity between circuit court Judge Edward Burmila and Will County States Attorney James Glasgow because the former unseated Burmila as states attorney in 1992. However, while they may not like each other, they both are politically motivated officials seeking to please the public while feigning to uphold justice. The illusion and hypocrisy of freedom, liberty and justice in America is pathetically veneer.

When I returned from the prison gymnasium yesterday, I made myself a post work out snack and sat on my bunk to eat and watch television while I did so. I had by coincidence just tuned in after Drew Peterson was found guilty and all the local news channels were reporting the event. Mobs outside the Will County Court House were jubilant. They sang songs and shouted insults at Drew Peterson and his attorneys. They had billboards with stick figures of Peterson being hung on a tree like times of past when quick lynchings were performed without due process of law. The signs read "Put the cocky one away" or "Justice for Stacy." The families of Stacy Peterson and Kathleen Savio were interviewed. Savio's family was most gleeful and Nick Savio compared it to the Chicago White Sox baseball team winning the World Series. I can understand a family who believes one of their loved ones was murdered feeling anger at Peterson and a sense of retribution. However, there is something odd comparing the guilty verdict to a sports event and their excessive happiness when Kathleen Savio is still dead. Families of victims can often think in terms of a competition and have great emotions that supersede rational truth seeking and justice. It is yet another reason why hearsay testimony of people, especially friends and family of the victim, should not be allowed. A trial should be based on credible evidence and not emotion, innuendo or suspicions.

Yesterday, I watched various news programs about the Drew Peterson case and his conviction, even the tabloid television programs on Headline News hosted by Jane Valez and former prosecutor Nancy Grace. Both of the women were obviously slanted against Peterson. They sought to further sensationalize and appeal to viewers' emotions dismissing law and evidence. More of the two women's families were interviewed or excerpts were taken from earlier reporting. For example, Kathleen Savio's mother was repeatedly quoted or shown yelling to defense attorneys that they could now "go smoke cigars downstairs with the red man in the suit." The fact she could not even properly articulate her words only emphasized to me the incredible emotions involved. Nancy Grace had Joe Lopez, one of the Drew Peterson's attorneys on, but he was attacked and not allowed to speak. At one point, Grace turned off his microphone only to continue arguing the state's dubious case. She went over how cops were called for domestic disputes 17 times. However, half of these calls made by Kathleen Savio involved Drew Peterson not returning the children they shared custody of on time, and two resulted in Kathleen being charged with battery. There is no doubt there was a contentious divorce and a tumultuous relationship proceeding it, but this did not prove murder. Nor did a blue barrel being moved out of Peterson's home which people speculated may have contained Stacy's body. Stacy weighed a little over 100 pounds. I doubt Peterson would have needed help especially from that of Stacy's brother to move it. Nancy Grace claimed to "blow to bits" Lopez' arguments. She claimed to have "torpedoed" his explanations and they didn't make any sense. The Will County State's Attorney also said to jurors to use their common sense. However, this is only a ploy to argue a case which has no evidence. Instead, Glasgow, Grace, and others want people to speculate. Speculation has no place in the court room.

Initially, jurors did not want to speak to the media. However, eventually it was learned the original vote was 7 to 4 with one undecided. The jury continued to deliberate until there was only one holdout. His name was Ron Supalo and I saw him interviewed from his automobile by a local television news reporter. He was of particular interest to the media because the jury seemed to have been deadlocked when after 9 hours a note was sent to the judge asking what "unanimous" meant. In jury trials, all 12 jurors must unanimously agree to convict a defendant. Ron Supalo said he was the reason for the impasse. He did not believe the hearsay testimony was credible. However, apparently after being pressured by the rest of the group he finally gave in. He said the most incriminating evidence came from Kathleen's divorce attorney, Harry Smith, and eventually he was convinced this was enough to find Drew Peterson guilty of murder. Ironically, it was the defense who put the divorce attorney on the stand to attack the credibility of Kathleen. The defense team was in a conundrum about how to discredit the witness of a person not even there to question. Joel Brodsky gambled and seemingly he lost. I recall when my lead attorney gambled with my life as well by choosing not to contest the testimony of the interrogating officer who claimed I admitted being told by my roommate he was going to kill the victim, and then lending him my car. I knew it was a blunder immediately and had vehement arguments with Bill Von Hoene. He refused to listen to me and later when I heard Robert Lovick and other jurors say this is why they convicted me, I was greatly disheartened.

On the Jane Valez Show, the question was asked, "What is Drew going through now?" People on the program said he loves attention and being in solitary confinement at the Will County Jail will be miserable for him. I am an introverted nonsocial person, but even if I was a social extrovert like Peterson, I do not think solitary confinement until my sentencing hearing on November 26th would be unwanted nor do I think he will care about the hearing. Drew Peterson has been convicted of 1st degree murder and will spend the rest of his life in prison failing to win his appeals, regardless if he is sentenced to the minimum of 20 years or maximum of 60. Peterson is 58 years old, and even the minimum will be a protracted death sentence, but I am sure he realized he will be sentenced to 60 just as I knew I would get a harsh sentence. The Palatine massacre still hung over my head and with Peterson, all the innuendo and speculation of his involvement in Stacy's death will be admitted during the hearing. Peterson probably will want to be left alone and I am sure he will be furious with his attorney as well as despondent. Yes, he has a good chance on appeal, but he will soon be sent to prison to enjoy the same oppression and obnoxious criminal low lifes I do. He may have even arrested some here as a Bolingbrook police officer. I doubt he will be sent to Stateville and more than likely he will be placed in protective custody at Pontiac C.C.

I have spent most of this post defending Drew Peterson, but even I tend to believe he is guilty in one of the two murders. However, there is a big difference between me thinking or speculating he is guilty and him being proven beyond a reasonable doubt that he is. The evidence submitted against Peterson was insufficient to convict him. I have plenty of reasonable doubt about the testimony presented at his trial and this is all that matters. When a person looks beyond the evidence, the law, or does not hold the state to the burden it has, this is when innocent people are convicted. There is a reason for the threshold of evidence being set high and there is a reason the founders of America explicitly wrote in the constitution about prohibitions of hearsay and ex post facto laws. They knew of wide abuses in the past. America was supposed to be a country where individual rights and liberty were inalienable rights. Drew Peterson may be guilty, but it was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt and his conviction sets an unprecedented usurpation of the rights of everyone. America was a free country where liberty was valued, but it has become an oppressive, unjust, police state. Indeed, yesterday was a "dark day for justice."

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Blue and White Cap -- August 30, 2012

Yesterday, I met a prisoner who told me a long yarn about a blue and white cap. The story and how it may cause him to be freed after 17 years behind bars made me highly skeptical. Many prisoners lie or embellish their criminal convictions or appeals. Some of these men are so desperate for a glimmer of hope they believe in law or court rulings which do not exist, are misinterpreted, or inapplicable to their case. I tended to believe this man was one of them and just a couple of hours ago while watching television news I was proven correct. The tale of the criminal statute and the blue and white cap were false. However, I also learned that despite his lies, Alprentiss Nash was innocent and will be released tomorrow. His convictions for the 1995 home invasion and 1st degree murder of Leon Stroud were being dropped by the Cook County State's Attorney. This time tomorrow, Nash will be a free man while I am in my cell still puzzled by the story of the blue and white cap.

My mother visited me yesterday and once again I addressed with her the need for a private investigator to aid in my appeal. My attorney is of the opinion the work will be redundant and not refute the prosecutor's theory of accountability. I was convicted based on the testimony of one interrogating officer who claimed I admitted to being told by my roommate he intended to kill the victim and I then lent him my car. The roommate has already given a sworn affidavit that he did not borrow my car on the day in question, and his former wife testified to the grand jury that I left the apartment that afternoon in my own vehicle. However, the latter testimony, like other witnesses who place my car 50 miles from the crime scene were available for my trial, and cannot be used now in an actual innocence petition. Their statements can only be used to support the issue of ineffective assistance of counsel which the prosecutor will argue for dismissal on technical grounds. The States Attorney's office does not care about truth or justice only maintaining convictions. My appeal must be so overwhelming in supporting law and evidence, the judge has no choice but to grant it. My attorney may think there is enough to proceed, however, it is not her life at stake. I cannot leave any stone unturned.

After my visit, I was waiting with a group of prisoners to be strip searched. There was a bald black man standing next to me talking with the sergeant. He spoke about how one of his daughters had come to see him and he was impressed she was going to attend college. The man only knew his daughter as a toddler, just like many prisoners here who have children that have grown up while they have been incarcerated. I did not really care to overhear the banter of the man next to me until he mentioned how he had a court date the following day and may be released. This caused me to ask him what type of appeal he had submitted and then how long the court process had taken. He told me he submitted a successive post conviction appeal based on actual innocence in 2007. I questioned that he may be freed, but I believed he was far along in the appellate process and because of this was curious about his legal experience and issues. Possibly, they could be helpful to me.

In the holding cage, prisoners waited a long time to be escorted back to their cell houses. One of the men who sat next to me on a wooden bench along the wall of the narrow holding cage was the same excitable man who claimed to have a strong possibility of being released from prison. He was not at a loss for words and continued talking about how he had been a victim of Jon Burge. Earlier he had told the sergeant about an interrogation room at area 5 police headquarters in Chicago which had concealed electric wires. These wires were behind a radiator and a loose brick in the wall. From what he said, suspects were zapped with them in order to coerce them to confess. Some men even had the wires applied to their testicles. Even if police had used medieval tactics of torture on me, I thought I would still not confess to murder. Although everyone may not have the same tolerance for pain and strength of will, I tend to believe many of these claims of false confessions are false. Even if true, I look down on them for not having any fortitude. Gang members who act tough but then I learn were squeezed by police, get even less sympathy from me.

I asked the man next to me if the new evidence of Jon Burge torturing suspects was what allowed him to advance his appeal based on actual innocence. No, he said. He filed his appeal claiming evidence left at the crime scene, if tested by modern DNA technology, would demonstrate he was innocent. According to the prisoner, a blue and white cap was left by the killer a couple of feet from the victim. In his appeal, he requested that the hat be tested, but the prosecutor claimed the evidence had gone missing. I asked, "Then how did he intend to prove his innocence?" He said he did not have to. The state was mandated by law to preserve the evidence and because they did not, they must free him. This was a preposterous claim. I have been incarcerated nearly two decades and have studied the law and never heard of such a statute. I also have had communications with several attorneys about the blood found in my co-defendant's car. They all have told me I will have to hope the police preserved the evidence.

The idea the court would simply let a convicted murderer, who I assumed made a signed confession, go free without proving his innocence was absurd. There are many people who have the perception there are all types of technicalities convicts can use to free themselves. However, this is a great misconception. The burden is on convicts to prove their innocence beyond a shadow of a doubt, and technicalities of law are predominantly used by the prosecutor to obstruct justice or at the minimum to prevent an issue from being heard on its merits. Despite how I ridiculed the man, he insisted he was correct and began to cite court rulings and a 1961 statute. Illinois criminal law has been rewritten several times since 1961. Even the state's constitution was rewritten in 1970. According to 1961 law, I could not have even been tried as an accountable party unless the principle was first convicted.

The man stood firm on the issue and even three bystanders listening were persuaded by him. I was not going to argue the matter and cared little if they all were ignorant. Thus, I went back to the blue and white cap. I asked how the cap was connected to him and the murder? I am always the devil's advocate and think about appeals from the perspective of a prosecutor. The prosecutor was definitely going to argue the cap was meaningless and had no probative value. The man said a few people had testified to seeing him wearing a blue and white cap before the murder. He also said the prosecutor argued that when he fled the crime scene, the hat flew back off his head. The man had a shaven head and I asked him, "What was the possibility any DNA was left on the cap?" He told me hair was not needed to conduct a DNA test, and just skin cells or sweat could identify a person. Regardless, I said, "Possibly the hat had not been worn long enough or was worn by multiple people." At this skepticism, he asked to borrow the cap being worn by the person sitting on the other side of me. With the hat in hand, he put it to his head and then away. He said, "Just by trying on a hat DNA from skin cells will be left behind and there are methods lab technicians can isolate various different DNA strands. This I was aware of, but I was not certain enough skin cells would be shed and would not degrade or be lost after 15 or 20 years.

While talking to the man about the possible probative value of the missing hat, he mentioned another surprising detail. He told me he asked for and received photos of the crime scene. In the photos, the cap was not blue and white, but black. I asked him if it was possible the photos had been altered and he said an expert had reviewed them and came to the conclusion there was no distortion of color or tampering. I then asked him if a blue and white cap was identified in court and submitted into evidence. He said yes, and was puzzled himself when he received the crime scene photographs.

Before we left to go back to the quarter units, the prisoner I met asked me for my cell number so he could send me the statute he was talking about which mandated the police to preserve all evidence. I told him, "If you cannot remember, just give it to a law clerk who knows who I am." His confidence in the law made me question my own. What if he was correct and I was mistaken? Then the issue of whether the material taken from my co-defendant's car was kept was irrelevant. In fact, it would be better if they lost it because I do not know if it is the victim's blood or not. The blood type is the same but it could still be anyone's. My co-defendant told me in the county jail that the blood was his own, but then again, my co-defendant has said a lot of things which ended up being false.

While standing in line in the hallway, I began to think about the polygraph test my co-defendant took after his arrest. About 5 to 10 pages contain questions and answers from him pertaining to the Palatine Massacre. In it, Faraci told the examiner he was driving in the northwest suburban town of Palatine when I told him to pull over at a Brown's Chicken and Pasta restaurant. According to Faraci's story, I told him to wait in the car and I was going in to get some take-out. Not long afterward he claims to have heard gun shots and screams coming from inside the building. I returned to the car and told him to take off because I had just robbed the place, Faraci's story continued. I never knew my co-defendant had ever said he was the driver and at the restaurant himself. I thought only his ex-wife had made up this tale and he had only made up stories of how I admitted to committing the mass murder. My mother had been digging through the 40 boxes of discovery materials and had just told me on our visit about it. Ironic, I had asked him about the story I had heard reported on television news while in Cook County Jail and he claimed that was just his crazy and stupid wife who said those things to police. Then later while at trial, he boasted he was "going to get one over on McKay" by slipping into his testimony that he had passed the lie detector test, although he had not. Evidence of polygraph tests are inadmissible in Illinois' courts and the prosecutor could not impeach him. The jury would thus be led to believe he was telling the truth.

I was aware great advances had been made in identifying people through trace amounts of DNA. However, I was still skeptical that skin cells definitely would have been left on a hat, especially after 17 years. Outside the hallway, the escorting guard, I, and the prisoner who was sitting on the other side of me in the holding cage casually walked back to the cell house while discussing the blue and white cap. The guard seemed very knowledgeable about forensics and told me it was very probable DNA evidence was still on the hat many years later. He described in detail the evolving science and how DNA could be extracted from skin cells. He said I would be surprised how much the human body sheds its epidermis and the vast majority of the dust I find in my cell was actually accumulated skin cells.

Regardless if there was probative evidence in the missing cap, I still questioned a law which mandated the state to preserve evidence and court rulings which released prisoners where it had not. While in the cell house waiting cage, I saw Steve at the front of his cell. Steve was once a paralegal and for a while worked at the prison law library. I asked him if he had ever heard of a statute or any case law backing up what the man I met in the visiting room had said. Steve, like me, never heard of any such thing. He asked me for the statute and case citation. I told him 725 ILCS 5/116-4 but that it was from a 1961 statute. When I mentioned "1961," he said that is a long time ago and even if it once existed, it may not anymore. However, he said the prosecutor typically keeps evidence just in case a convict wins a new trial so they can present it. I asked if he knew where I was going with this and he did. I did not want a hundred inmates to overhear me speak about the blood evidence in my co-defendant's car. Possibly, it is a redundant precaution or desire for privacy, considering I write in detail about my case and life online for the entire world to read.

The guard who escorted me back to the cell house was the same who unlocked the sliding barred door to my cell. I was impressed with the guard's depth of knowledge about forensics and asked him if he was studying to be a crime scene investigator or police officer. He told me no, he was just a science buff. It was obvious the guard had not been working long in the IDOC and he did not fit in amongst the others. I asked him what in the world made him chose to take a job as a "turn-key". He informed me he was a science teacher but changed employment because being a guard had a much higher salary. It was sad to hear this. Society values locking people up more so than educating them. What a waste of talent and human resources I thought, and I began to brood about how much clout the guards' union had to keep lavish wages, benefits, and jobs despite the massive fiscal problems of the state. The union was even able to win a court injunction to stop the closing of Dwight and Tamms along with other IDOC facilities. The victory probably only will be a delay to give guards' representatives more time to negotiate better terms and employment benefits. However, it is symbolic of their power.

Today, I had temporarily forgotten about the man accused of leaving behind a blue and white cap at a murder scene and went out to the small yard. For the first half hour, I ran laps around the perimeter of the fence at a fast pace dodging people and an occasional basketball. It was crowded in the small area and at times I came close to running into people or catching my gym shoes in the twisted and bent cyclone fencing. After every 10 laps, I would stop to where an old biker was and have him raise his hands at various positions so I could throw punches and high kicks. When Anthony was done playing a full court game of basketball, I ended my cardio workout by playing him a one-on-one game. The new medication I have been given for my lower back injury was not as good but I was able to procure a couple of ibuprofen and was not feeling too bad.

After defeating Anthony on the court, we sat in the corner up against the fence. It was 90 degrees outside and the sun was strong. I sat away from it and was glad I brought out my blue cap. That reminded me of the man I met yesterday and I spoke to Anthony about it. He, like Steve and me, thought even if there was a statute mandating the preservation of evidence, courts would not simply release prisoners where they had not. Despite how none of us had heard about such a circumstances before, I was still going to research it at the law library. The blood in my co-defendant's car could be very valuable to my claim of actual innocence on appeal and I would not want to be thwarted if the prosecutor claimed the evidence had disappeared.

After returning from yard, I learned C House was to be the last to be brought into the chow hall for dinner. I had not eaten anything since breakfast and thus made myself some peanut butter sandwiches to tide me over. While I ate, I turned on my television and watched the late afternoon news. To my astonishment, I thought I saw the same man I had met on a visit yesterday. It was a county jail mugshot and the reporter spoke about how 37-year-old Alprentiss Nash was to be released from prison after serving 17 years for a home invasion murder. Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez was dropping the charges after DNA tests were conducted on a SKI MASK left at the crime scene identified a different man. There was no blue and white cap. Apparently, the man had lied to me.

What was the purpose of fabricating such a fanciful story? If he did not want to tell me details of his case, he could have just said simply he was back in court due to DNA testing. He also could have told me it was none of my business or made up a simple lie. I did not compel him to answer any questions. I was just curious how it may apply to my own case. It was him, in fact, who rambled on about the blue and white cap and interwove an intricate story of lies. He did not at all seem like he did not want to talk about it, and he spoke fast and animated. He seemed contrarily excited and eager to talk about his case and the purported statute which mandated the prosecutor to preserve evidence. At times, I wanted him to shut up but he kept on talking.

I began to think I made a mistake. Possibly there were two bald black men who looked alike and had court dates in Chicago. I never looked at his name tag and there is a belief that people of different races have difficulty identifying one another. I turned to NBC and then CBS news. Time and again, I saw his mug shot and a short segment about the case. Alprentiss Nash, convicted of the April 30, 1995 murder of Leon Stroud at his south side home was to be released from prison after DNA on a ski mask identified another yet unidentified man. This was the first case States Attorney Anita Alveraz had dropped since she created the "Conviction Integrity Unit". The attorney representing Nash, Kathleen Zellner, was briefly interviewed and I was again angry and puzzled. I had asked the man who he had representing him on appeal and he listed off five different lawyers including Sam Adams, Jr., but never did he mention Zellner. I asked him why he went through so many attorneys and he gave me a reason for each one. The reason he said Sam Adams ceased to represent him was due to him not having time because he was working on former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich's trial.

A prisoner who goes by the name "Spooncake" happened to come to the bars of my cell and was talking to my cellmate. He mentioned that he was at one time Nash's cellmate. I asked him if he was from B House and gave him a description of the man I had met after my visit. He told me he had been transferred to Menard and did not think it was him, but he could have been here while he went to and from court in Cook County. I told Spooncake his story about the blue and white cap. He did not know why he would lie. I began to think this may be the type of personality that confesses to a murder he did not commit. If I had met Nash, he may have made a long detailed confession without being electrocuted, tortured, or abused in any way. Did this man lose 17 years of his life because he liked to talk nonsense?

Before Spooncake left my cell I asked him what the status of his case was. He told me the prosecutor had argued the U.S. Supreme Court ruling forbidding mandatory LWOP sentences for juveniles was not retroactive and the Illinois District Court agreed. This was outrageous. Everyone knew the ruling applied to all 2,000 juveniles across the U.S. Numerous legal experts on TV and newspapers had weighed in on the decision. The U.S. Supreme Court majority although not specifically saying it was retroactive, said it violated the U.S. Constitution. Anything which violated the Constitution was void and had to be remanded. Juvenile offenders had to be resentenced. Anita Alvarez may be tooting her horn caring about justice, being "proactive," and creating the Conviction Integrity Unit, but she only released Alprentiss Nash because she knew the court eventually would overturn his conviction. The Cook County prosecutor still was obstructing justice and fighting wrongful convictions where she could. I told Spooncake to take his case all the way up to the federal courts, and he said his attorneys had already appealed the decision but it looked like he and the 100 or so other juveniles in Illinois will have a long fight. This I only know all too well.

Update:  Months later I met the person who I thought was Alprentiss Nash. I immediately knew I had made a mistake because Nash was freed. The two men looked almost identical and I had to check his ID card to be sure. Yes, I was wrong and the doppelganger began to tell me again about the mysterious blue and white cap.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Paul Ryan: VP Nominee -- August 25, 2012

Two weeks ago I watched Mitt Romney announce his choice for vice president on TV, and have been captivated by political commentary since then. Despite critics, I do not think he could have chosen a better running mate. Paul Ryan focuses the Republican ticket on the economy and complements what Mitt Romney brings to the table. Romney is a successful businessman who not only has private entrepreneurial experience but the executive experience of being the governor of Massachusetts. Paul Ryan is the leader of the House Budgetary Committee and has been engaged in creating economic legislative policy for decades. Democratic partisans including the current president cannot deny the intelligence and depth of knowledge Paul Ryan has. He is not only a fiscal guru but brings substance, energy, and charisma to the Republican campaign. Liberals and Obama's reelection team have been ostensibly jubilant by Mitt Romney's choice for vice president because they believe it played into their quasi-Marxist rhetoric. However, pandering to special interest groups and using racial, gender, and class division will not overcome the enormous discontent of the electorate. Paul Ryan is not an albatross to the Republican Party but rather a great asset. He has an inspiring patriotic message of freedom, economic growth and prosperity.

The choice for vice president was clear to me from early in Mitt Romney's campaign. I even made a wager with another prisoner that Paul Ryan would be chosen but it only was a wash because I failed to predict the Supreme Court's ruling on Obamacare. It was obvious the two got along well during their campaigning in Wisconsin when Democrats tried to unseat Governor Scott Walker. Many people, including the inmate I wagered, believed Romney must choose a running mate based on swing states and Wisconsin was not thought to be one of those at the time or worthy enough to consider. There was also encouragement to choose a successor based on race or gender in the belief this would somehow diminish Barack Obama's support base. However, these were clearly red herrings. They had little to contribute to the campaign and would not increase enthusiasm amongst the base, independents, or minorities.

Before the selection of Paul Ryan, the Republican campaign had a lack of focus. It seemed those assisting Romney's election sought a referendum on Obama while not offering much of their own ideas. Of course, the Chicago-style politicians who represented the president were not going to go down without a fight. Contrarily, they would attempt to turn the tables and use whatever tactics or dirty tricks to maintain power. Mitt Romney had to fill the void to prevent being hit like a pinata and go on offense. Paul Ryan's legislative ideas brought substance and refocused the campaign on the ailing economy. He also brought charisma, energy, and enthusiasm to a flat, lackluster candidacy. Even I was excited to have a battle of ideas if not the very soul of the Republic.

Paul Ryan is a person I can identify with on many political as well as personal levels. He is a man with family values and lives in a nice home in the Midwest suburbs. He also has a strong work ethic and lives his life with intensity. The congressman is not an old grey haired man like most politicians and is not far in age from myself at 42. He listens to heavy metal, rock, and classical music such as Beethoven. Paul Ryan is also an avid bow hunter, Green Bay Packers fan, and a fitness fanatic who regularly trains to P90X, an exercise regimen similar to the one I do in my prison cell. From an early age, he has been interested in politics and has focused on fiscal policy in political think tanks before becoming a congressman where he is now the leader of drafting budgetary legislation. He understands the financial crisis the U.S. faces and is driven to reduce government spending and the $16 trillion deficit while cutting taxes and growing the American economy. Political pundits have described Paul Ryan as a bold and risky choice because of his unabashed willingness to grasp so called "3rd rail" political issues. However, in this I only have more respect for him.

The main attack on Paul Ryan by liberals has been his plan to structurally reform Medicare. The Democrats even have a political ad that depicts a Ryan look-a-like tossing grandma off a cliff from a wheel chair. However, these scare tactics have no merit and do nothing to resolve the immense problems facing the Medicare program. The fact is the Medicare trust fund runs out of money in four years and cuts must be made. Ironically, Barack Obama takes $716 billion dollars out of the fund to help pay for the massive expenses of Obamacare which still will devour an additional $2 trillion of taxpayers' money over the next decade. He is able to extend Medicare, however, by 8 more years by reducing payments to hospitals, insurance companies, nursing homes, and other health care providers. Obviously, Medicare will quickly become much leaner and look very similar to Medicaid until it becomes insolvent.

If Barack Obama wins reelection, his government mandated health care will go into full effect and eventually consume the Medicare program. The quality of care will greatly decline despite the extra debt and taxes Americans as well as American businesses will pay. Before Medicare is extinguished, doctors will increasingly cease to take new patients under the program. There will also be less incentive for many of the brightest minds and competent staff to enter the medical profession or practice in the U.S.  Hospitals and nursing homes will begin to lose money and be forced to reduce services, the quality of care, or personnel. Some will even be forced to shut down altogether. Medical innovations in the U.S. will dramatically retract from state of the art technology to designer medications and therapies. Americans, like in socialist countries, will face long delays for medical procedures or just doctor appointments. Lawsuits for negligence and malpractice will escalate causing prices to escalate with them as those expenses are passed on to the consumer. In effect, Obamacare will be very similar to the care prisoners receive at Stateville. Possibly, Republicans can produce a political ad of grandma behind bars in her wheel chair.

Paul Ryan instead has a plan to bring down costs and increase the quality of care for seniors not by collective rationing but by using free market principles. In ten years, Medicare will be transformed into a voucher system. Seniors will be given a fixed amount of money to buy their own medical insurance. They will have the power to choose amongst competing health care providers. Government will not dictate to the medical providers what they can and cannot do nor will it tell seniors what type of care they will receive. There will be no government board directing the health care industry. Critics point out the voucher may not keep pace with health care costs and shift a growing cost to seniors or force them to settle for lower quality services. Depending on the details, this is probably true, but unavoidable. There is a growing number of elderly in the U.S. and fewer people paying into the fund. The enormous deficit the country endures already consumes 40 cents on every dollar of government revenue in interest payments.

Since Paul Ryan was announced to be Mitt Romney's running mate, there has been speculation that seniors will turn against the Republicans and this will cause them to lose swing states, most notably Florida. However, polling since August 11th demonstrates otherwise. Seniors, since Ryan has been added to the ticket, are more likely to vote Republican. The gap in Florida has narrowed so that it is now an even race. This should be ever more concerning for Obama when the enthusiasm of likely Republican voters is much higher. Although people who answer their telephones may be split 50/50, those who are going to vote for Romney will be decidedly higher. I suppose those scare tactics of the Obama campaign did not succeed or possibly seniors are more scared of Obamacare than Paul Ryan's plan to reform the program so it is better and sustainable. Seniors are not even going to be affected by the proposed voucher system and they are thinking not about themselves but their children and grandchildren. The same goes for Ryan's plans to delay payments for Social Security which will go bankrupt in 21 years. Voters want solutions, not further lies, delusions, or the financial collapse of the country.

The socialist and class warfare antagonist, Barack Obama, has attacked Paul Ryan's tax plan. Recently, I have heard the president declare Ryan seeks a tax code which will benefit the rich at the expense of the poor and it will allow people like Mitt Romney to pay virtually no taxes at all. However, Obama has no idea how to grow the economy, only redistribute wealth. There is a reason a 25% top income and corporate tax is necessary to expand the economy as well as keeping dividend and capital gains taxes low. Those people who make over $200,000 are the most contributing citizens in the country. These are your doctors, engineers, scientists, and other professionals. These are also businessmen who are not incorporated and are the largest employers in the U.S. (and, by the way, they did build it). At the end of this year, if Obama wins reelection, taxes will increase for all those people to 45%. This is going to greatly retract the economy and it is going to hurt not just the 1% but the 100% who are not living off the public aid of Barack Obama.

There is this misconception amongst liberals that by taking from the wealthy and giving to the poor, economic growth will occur. However, the vast amount of poor are poor for a reason. They do not know how to grow capital or even save it. At best, redistribution of wealth creates a short term stimulus because of the consumption it creates. Encouraging consumption is the last thing the U.S. needs considering 70% of its economy is based on it and it leads to individual and governmental debt. An illustration of the folly of Obamanomics are people who win the lottery. Those who have never had money before do not know how to invest it. Typically, lump sums of money are blown away in years. I have even read about mega lottery winners filing for bankruptcy soon after spending sprees and terrible investments. Athletes who become sports stars often are poor years after their short careers are over. The NBA and other leagues have recently created funds for their players to pay into so they will have retirement money. Now if the poor who are given or abruptly earn millions of dollars cannot grow their wealth or maintain it, how are those given public aid going to lift the American economy? Liberals call the idea of supply side or trickle down economics "voodoo economics," however, the economy looked a lot better under Ronald Reagan than Barack Obama.

President Obama is correct that if dividends and capital gains were not taxed people like Romney and Warren Buffet would pay little to nothing. This is because a vast amount of their wealth comes from these two sources of income which is taxed currently at 15%. They, furthermore, make huge charitable contributions which are tax deductible. Successful businessmen and women are bright and have ways to pay Uncle Sam as little as possible. Although Paul Ryan agrees that loopholes and numerous tax deductions should be eliminated to create a simpler, fairer tax code, taxes for corporations and shareholders must be kept low. Already American companies pay the highest taxes in the developed world and people wonder why these businesses move to Switzerland or elsewhere. By reducing the taxes of U.S. corporations, the government will not see a reduction in revenue but contrarily the opposite as more and more companies return. I read corporate reports regularly, and I know how and why many corporations move their headquarters overseas. It just makes plain financial sense. Obama appeals to peoples emotions while Ryan is an economic intellectual. He and especially Mitt Romney may not feel Americans pain but they know what works.

Dividends and capital gains are in effect double taxed. The corporation is taxed on its profits and then the shareholders who own the company are taxed again when they receive a portion of those profits. Under Barack Obama, taxes on shareholders who earn over $200,000 will be taxed at about 45% while the corporation is taxed an additional 35%. It does not take a rocket scientist to know that investors who take on great risk funding and growing businesses will have less incentive to do so if they only receive a reward on profits of 20%. To spur growth in the economy, government cannot hit investors over the head with an oppressive tax system. Even former President Bill Clinton has disagreed with Obama's tax increases and said that taxes should remain as they are.

The current national debt is over $16 trillion, surpassing the gross domestic product of the entire nation. It is outrageous that Barack Obama ridicules Paul Ryan's tax plan as increasing the deficit while under his tenure it has skyrocketed almost $6 trillion. A second Obama term will bring the national debt to over $20 trillion. At that point, the country's annual debt will far exceed America's gross domestic product. This means the government will be borrowing more than the entire economy produces. It is absurd this enormous amount of money can be paid on the backs of the wealthy. Already, nearly half of Americans pay ZERO federal income taxes and those Obama seeks to increase taxes on contribute over half of all government revenues. Even if these people were to have their taxes doubled as the president seeks, it will not put a dent in the national deficit. The solution to the nation's debt crisis cannot be solved by more redistribution of wealth as if stirring a pot will magically create more from what you started with. It is also not creating more grasshoppers to live off fewer hard working ants. America must cut spending, increase productivity, and grow its way out of the looming economic catastrophe. Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney know how to trim fat and create wealth and prosperity. Barack Obama only knows how to take, oppress, and destroy it.

The Obama campaign in the last two weeks has not been getting any traction on the fiscal debate and therefore has turned to social issues when given the opportunity by an ignorant candidate running for senate. Todd Akin of Missouri this week gave an interview where he claimed a woman can naturally stop the pregnancy of a rapist. Apparently, he has not had a very good education and I and other prisoners have joked about how stupid he must be. However, Akin is not Paul Ryan despite how Democrats and feminists would like to cast them into the same group. It is true Ryan is pro life and will end government mandated free contraception, but this is honorable and just. The government should not be imposing its values or lack of them onto churches or other charitable organizations as well as health care insurance companies. Neither contraception nor abortion are health issues in the vast majority of cases. They often are a means for men, but especially women to avoid responsibility which should not be encouraged or financed by the American taxpayer.

Since Paul Ryan has been announced to become the running mate of Mitt Romney, I have renewed enthusiasm and belief the Republicans will win in November and turn this country around. The inmate who I wagered on Obamacare and Romney's vice presidential choice to a stalemate, has accepted a new wager on the presidential election. He does not want Obama to win but thinks it is inevitable. The mass media is unquestionably behind the president, social demographics have changed, and many people have become dependent on the nanny state. America has changed radically from its roots and the news media is predominately biased in favor of liberalism, but I think Paul Ryan has the ability to break through those headwinds. On my way to chow, I have taunted my political nemesis even telling him he is invited to the tea party at my cell. I will be serving tea along with various desserts. The lieutenant quipped instead he will bring the Uncle Ben's Rice and fried chicken to celebrate Obama's victory. I asked him if he did not mean dog meat which the president has said to have eaten while living in Indonesia. Walking back to the cell house, I thought it was preposterous Obama who is a millionaire eats any of those things. He may not be as rich as Romney but lives quite lavishly. Despite what Obama may say or how he acts, he is a part of the 1% he demonizes in his rhetoric.

I am looking forward to the battle of ideologies this election year in large part due to the ideas Paul Ryan puts forth. In many national elections, both candidates run to the center and attempt to blur their values. However, in 2012, there will be a clear contrast in messages: socialism and big government vs. free market capitalism and individual liberty. This presidential election may be the most important choice American voters will ever make. There is no return from the path Barack Obama seeks to take this country. He will change the Republic indefinitely, and I doubt if it will ever be able to claw its way out of the abyss. As a prisoner, I have no vote. I am also a captive who lives in a cage and my circumstances probably will not change in the slightest regardless who wins this November. However, although my existence may be meaningless, I can see past the bars, fences of razor wire, and walls around this maximum-security prison and envision the millions who will be affected, if not the world. I may be oppressed and hopeless but this need not be the case for others.