Two days before execution date, death row inmate speaks out

Convicted killer Michael Lambrix of Plant City is set to die Thursday<br>
Death row inmate Michael Lambrix, 57, is scheduled to be executed Thursday.
Death row inmate Michael Lambrix, 57, is scheduled to be executed Thursday.
Published Oct. 3, 2017

STARKE -- Two days before his scheduled execution, Michael Lambrix decided he won’t go quietly.

For an hour at Florida State Prison Tuesday, the convicted murderer talked about life and death, his last meal and upcoming funeral, and criticized a court system that he has long insisted would not consider evidence that would spare his life in the killings of Clarence Moore and Aleisha Bryant in 1983.

“It won‘t be an execution,” Lambrix told reporters. “It’s going to be an act of cold-blooded murder.”

Lambrix, 57, who dropped out of school in Plant City, said he killed Moore in self-defense after Moore killed Bryant during a long night of drinking near LaBelle. He was convicted largely on the testimony of a friend, Frances Smith, who was with him that night. They borrowed a neighbor’s shovel and he buried both victims.

Lambrix had walked away from a prison work release program and said he didn’t report the killings to police because he knew he faced a long sentence for his escape.

His first trial ended in a hung jury, and he was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder at a retrial in two divided jury recommendations (8-4 and 10-2) that are now unconstitutional. Smith subsequently said she had an affair during the trial with an investigator for the state attorney’s office.

Lambrix has been on death row for nearly 34 years. The governor who signed his first death warrant, Bob Martinez, left office in 1991.

Prison rules allow for a condemned inmate to hold a press conference or group interview before an execution, but most do not.

Lambrix was in handcuffs and leg irons, and a corrections officer loosened the metal chain around his waist and fitted him with a microphone. He sat at a wooden table that featured the Florida Department of Corrections’ motto: “Inspiring success by transforming one life at a time.”

Lambrix went on a hunger strike last month to protest his death sentence, but ended it after 12 days. He said his final meal will be a Thanksgiving-style turkey dinner, which is what his mother promised to cook if he was exonerated.

As Thursday’s scheduled execution by lethal injection draws closer, Lambrix and his lawyers are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene.

Attorney William Hennis of Fort Lauderdale said he filed a motion with the court Tuesday and Lambrix, a prolific writer, sent a 25-page handwritten request to the nation’s highest court from his cell.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: ‘It’s my last hope, Lambrix said of his appeal in 2016

Lambrix’s case has wound through state and federal courts for more than three decades. Gov. Rick Scott signed Lambrix’s death warrant on Nov. 30, 2015, but the state Supreme Court postponed his execution after the groundbreaking decision known as Hurst v. Florida in January 2016.

The state court decided that Hurst did not apply to Lambrix’s case because he was originally sentenced before 2002, under a policy that death penalty lawyers have described as “partial retroactivity.” Various other legal challenges were dismissed on procedural grounds.

“We have a process that‘s more about the politics of death than the administration of justice,” Lambrix said.

Attorney General Pam Bondi has repeatedly and successfully argued that Lambrix should be executed.

At various points Tuesday, a rambling Lambrix voiced regret at not giving police a statement when he was first arrested in 1983, and for not later accepting a deal offered by prosecutors of a sentence of up to 24 years if he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

Had he accepted that offer, Lambrix would have been released from prison more than a decade ago.

The state released a list of 43 relatives and friends who are visiting Lambrix at the sprawling state prison in Starke, including his parents, three children, close friends and pen pals. The state’s Catholic bishops have called on Scott to stop the execution, and prayer vigils are scheduled around the state this week.

Lambrix, who smiled and made small talk with the officers guarding him, said he’s “spiritual” but not religious. As he faces death, he said Tuesday: “I have no doubt whatsoever that I‘m going to wake up into a better existence.”