Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Dateline: April 17, 2009


Murder at Noon. If Garrison Keillor was writing this, he’d probably say, it’s been a rough week in Lake Wobegon, but he’s not, I am. Yesterday, Thursday, they had a particularly unappetizing lunch in the chow hall, so I stayed in my dorm. Next thing I know, there’s a commotion at the housing area to the west, A—Dorm, and “open dorm,” which is a warehouse-type space filled with about seventy-two prisoners and bunks on two separate sides. Close quarters.

I saw something I’ve never seen before—guards— “white shirts,” higher-ranking lieutenants, a captain, the colonel, it looked like, and several prisoners were all trying to carry a wounded prisoner to medical. They left the nurse with the wheelchair behind. It had to be bad for such exalted ranks to get bloody and jump in to help the guy.

It didn’t matter. Ten minutes later, Dexter Bridges was dead, seventeen stab wounds, one through his heart. The killer, Tim Howard, sat on a locker with the long, sharp piece of steel in his hand and waited. When the first guard approached him, he handed over the “shank,” and put his hands behind his back for the handcuffs. Last I saw of him was his back, shuffling slowly up the road to confinement. We won’t see him again.

The week started out badly on Saturday. When they opened the yard Saturday morning, two Latino gang members, one residing down the hall from my cell, hurried to the other end of the compound, entered “J” Dorm, another “open” dorm filled mostly with prisoners with bad medical problems, proceeded to a far corner, threw a blanket over a man, and beat the hell out of him before hurrying out. They were locked up shortly thereafter.

Sunday morning, I was very glad that my friend, Libby, got here early for visit. Only the first sixteen were admitted before they closed the yard, locked down the entire prison. No one came in or out for at least a couple of hours. The warden walked through the visiting area with a foot-long piece of sharpened steel sticking out his back pocket a little later.

When I finally left visiting around 2:30 PM and returned to “B” Dorm, everyone was locked in their cells. The halls were littered with trash. Uh oh. I knew what they meant—the guards had come through en masse and ransacked the cells. I hated to look when they unlocked my door to let me in. It was bad, locker dumped out, property scattered, legal papers tossed, clothes and canteen items jumbled. Very little missing, though. They were looking for knives and other weapons. Neither my cellmate nor I have any contraband. That doesn’t keep them from regularly ransacking everything I own.

Then they came in with industrial steel saws that looked like electric carving knives on steroids. They cut the heavy steel handles off the sides of the stand-up storage lockers. Ah ha! That’s where the foot-long shank came from—he broke off a locker handle and sharpened one end to a point somehow. We knew it wasn’t over.

Monday morning early they cut off the water. No toilets or drinking water. That’s a dead giveaway. They’re coming. So they did.

Cell-by-cell, step out, strip search, carry your clothes thataway, get examined for gang-related tattoos. Sorry, I don’t have any. I prefer to put my art on canvas. Some prisoners looked dipped in ink. The guards were busy writing.

Meanwhile, other guards ransacked the cells again, dumping out lockers, trashing legal papers and other property, a different crew from Sunday, shipped in from another prison, their riot squad. It was a mess.

Life in prison. The week before, they raised the canteen prices, doubled in many cases, including tobacco, which caused great problems in an already tense and poverty-filled society. Prisoners whose families sacrificed to send them money to buy sweets, drinks, food items, and toiletries were getting assaulted, and their canteen bags taken from them. The strong ones armed themselves. It got so bad, immediately, that a large cadre of prisoners who have nothing, no resources whatsoever, and no hustles, no ability to earn money, who survive by panhandling cigarettes, cups of coffee, and the occasional Ramen soup, found themselves cut off from even those meager means of sustenance. The ones who previously provided for them found themselves too strapped to share.

Tuesday, prison life seemed to return to normal. They picked up and shipped out a van load of Latino gang members, which was a drop in the bucket. Then Thursday came, and the slaughter took place.

When I came here to Tomoka, almost seven years ago, I met Dexter Bridges in A-Dorm. He was a small man with a shaved head, very polite, interested in only one thing, young, white homosexuals. Any time you saw him, you saw a white boy with him. I say, “boy,” but that’s relatively speaking in prison. “Boy” relates more to their status as passive homosexuals on the receiving end, rather than their ages. There are thirty, thirty-five, forty-year old “white boys” in prison, most aged beyond their years.

A prisoner in a neighboring cell said that Tim Howard, chain-gang nickname, “China Doll,” a very rough-looking man, had “rented out” his white boy to Bridges for fifteen dollars, but Bridges hadn’t paid him. He told them before lunch that he was going over to A-Dorm to get his money, and if he didn’t get paid, he was going to kill Dexter. He was a man of his word.

Being locked down since it happened, we haven’t heard the whole story yet, but it will all come out if they don’t lock up and ship out the dozens of witnesses in A-Dorm. Initial reports are that Dexter tried to run, got stabbed four times in the back, in the side, both shoulders, then several times in the front, including the coup de grace heart shot that killed him.

The incident caught them off guard here. After the local riot squad had to come in Sunday and Monday, a disturbance at the prison in Brevard, the next county south, required the locals from here to go down there yesterday to ransack and search, supposedly to restore order with a show of force. We had a skeleton crew on duty. Today they had to bring in additional troops to do the mopping up exercises, guards from other prisons, some a long distance away, leaving them shorthanded.

On the news, they say they need to build nineteen more prisons in the next five years to accommodate the burgeoning prison population. Who are they going to hire to staff them? They can barely staff the prisons that exist now, and then only through double shifts and overtime. It doesn’t make sense to me.

The high-ranking officials came into B-Dorm this morning to reassure the men that things would be back to normal soon. I talked to the colonel, and he authorized turning on the telephones, so we could call our families, and let them know we were safe. The TV news shows just said that a prisoner had been stabbed to death, prompting much worry among family members with loved ones in prison.

And things will probably be back to normal tomorrow, since this was a “BOB” crime, a “black-on-black” murder, no gang related activity that might lead to reprisals or racial incident, which undoubtedly provided relief for the worried guards. Had it not been a “BOB” crime, we could be locked down for days. As it is, it was a typical, run-of-the-mill homosexual stabbing, like so many others, that concern only those involved.

I remember Dexter coming out to the visiting park some weeks back, a stooped old woman hugging him. He nodded his head to me when he walked by, smiling, and I nodded back. It may not mean much to those in charge, but today, one poor mother’s heart is broken, and I feel sad.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Dateline: March 27, 2009



After spending months researching legal cases, I’m beginning to understand Hillsborough State Attorney Mark Ober better. He’s not such a bad fellow after all.

The Florida Supreme Court automatically reviews death penalty cases, and after reading so many of them, discovering all the horrors that the victims suffered, realizing the depths of evil some of these people have reached, I have suffered, too, and feel great compassion and empathy for the victims and their families. I’d heard about the “Jimmy Rice Act,” and why it came about, but I had no concept of what “heinous, atrocious, and cruel,” actually meant until I read the account of what the evil Chavez did to that little boy. It haunted me.

After researching serial killer, Oscar Ray Bolin’s, horrific crimes against Stephanie Collins, Teri Lynn Matthews, and Natalie Blanche Holley, and imagining what their families must have endured in trial after re-trial after appeal, over and over again, the facts of their cases made me physically ill. It just doesn’t seem possible that one human could commit such crimes against others, but, sadly, it happens all the time. Perhaps the answer is that Bolin is not human.

It now seems clear to me why Mark Ober is the way he is. I have gained insight into why he wrongfully prosecuted me for a murder I did not commit, let the actual killer go free with “immunity from prosecution for first degree murder,” why he coerced convicted felon state witnesses to perjure themselves, why he withheld exculpatory evidence from the defense, and why he has continued to make false, misleading, and malicious statements against me before the Florida Parole Commission and on Fox News.

Mark Ober has paid a high price for exposing himself to all the crimes in his career as an assistant state attorney, private defense attorney representing Bolin, the most notorious serial killer in Hillsborough County history, and now as the elected state attorney sending people to Florida’s Death Row.

Immersing himself in all that evil has infected Mark Ober with a serious disease, a mental illness, similar to“Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),” commonly associated with soldiers affected by the horrors of war, but also applicable to civilians, victims of crimes, police, fire, and rescue workers, and now, perhaps even prosecutors.

Mark Ober is sick, and he deserves our sympathy. The moral conflicts he must have suffered when he was torn by the decision to further his political career by trying so hard to free the monster, Oscar Ray Bolin, in exchange for months of free publicity and name recognition attendant with his efforts to save Bolin from the electric chair must have torn him up inside and warped his conscience.

Once you go so far across the no-man’s-land of moral turpitude, it’s virtually impossible to turn around and make your way back through the minefield of lost souls, even with your eyes wide open. It’s like becoming a cannibal—once you’ve fed on human flesh, any other acts you commit seem inconsequential and pale by comparison.

So, Mark Ober suffers from PTSD, and unless he gets some intensive psychiatric treatment and therapy for it, it will only get worse. I’ve seen many such cases in over thirty-one years of false imprisonment. Often they are prescribed so many psychotropic drugs that they become zombies.

Mark is trying to do it on his own, like going fishing in Tampa Bay for snook and redfish every chance he gets, going to Bucs football games and Yankees baseball games, but that isn’t enough. You know, he owns a Ruger .44 magnum pistol, and there is a history of suicide in the state attorney’s office. Mark’s predecessor, Hanging Harry Lee Coe, supposedly blew his brains out beneath the Crosstown Expressway during the 2000 election campaign (which Mark won by default). Lots of pressure, it seems he took the easy way out.

Don’t do it, Mark! Hang in there and get the help you need. In the meantime, you could come clean, confess your sins, and admit you’re sorry for the prosecutorial misconduct you committed against me. Show some remorse! It will make you feel a lot better.