Breaking news: Michael Lambrix was killed by the State of Florida on October 5, 2017.
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Michael Lambrix #482053
Florida State Prison
PO Box 800
Raiford FL 32083

For more information on Mike's case visit:

Contact Gov. Scott and ask him to suspend Mike's and ALL executions.
Phone: (850) 488-7146
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recanted and the other gave inconsistent statements to police. Read more

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Clemency denied and execution date set for Mike Lambrix!!

Michael Lambrix #482053
Florida State Prison
7819 NW 228th street
Raiford Florida 32026-1000

Gov. Scott has already broken the record for most executions by a Florida governor!

Contact Gov. Scott and ask him to suspend Mike's and ALL executions.
Phone: (850) 488-7146
- See more at:

Contact Gov. Scott and ask him to suspend Mike's and ALL executions.
Phone: (850) 488-7146
Email: - See more at:

Sunday, 26 April 2009

My First Day at Death Row

My journey to death row began early on the morning of Friday March 23, 1984. Only the day before Judge Richard Stanley had formally sentenced me to death as I stood before him in the one room Glades County Courthouse. It was merely a formality as there was no question of what the sentence would be. A month earlier in that same small courtroom the jury had convicted me of both counts of capital premeditated murder I was charged with. At a subsequent sentencing phase my court appointed public defenders had called several family members to testify on my behalf in the hopes that the jury would show ‘mercy’ and recommend only a ‘life’ sentence. But as a stranger in a small southern town, the panel of 12 jurors felt no mercy or compassion towards me.

Walking into that courtroom chained and shackled like a mangy dog I knew just what to expect as my fate was already determined. On this day of reckoning none of my family was present and that was just as well. I didn’t want to be there myself as I still felt angry and confused as to how this jury could have convicted me as they had to see that the state’s wholly circumstantial case simply made no sense. Looking back now, I accept that their verdict was not about justice, but vengeance, so truth had nothing to do with it. The way they saw it, a young woman from their own small rural community lost her life- someone had to pay.

Sgt Tommy Hearne seemed almost excited as he pulled me from the cell I had involuntarily called ‘home’ for the past year. As small as the county was, the local jail only had two cells with four bunks in each. No matter how bad prison might be, I certainly would not miss this backwater dump. It didn’t take but a minute to grab what few possessions I had, which Sgt Hearne carelessly threw into a small cardboard box- but gently laying my Bible on top.

Then Sgt Hearne and another deputy instructed me to assume the position which anyone familiar with police or prison procedure knew to mean stand up facing the wall, legs spread, slightly bent forward. They first placed the heavy leg shackles on my feet, then a chain around my waist. Handcuffs were fed through an enlarged eyehook at the front of my waist, then each of my hands attached at the wrist. They then double-locked the handcuffs, and then placed a black box over the cuffs through which the squared eyehook was fed and the chain pulled through, with its end pulled to the side out of reach and attached with a heavy lock.

I didn’t care to speak to Hearne. He was involved in the case and had on numerous occasions expressed his opinion that they should execute me. He was a small town redneck cop, intoxicated by his own power and I had nothing to say to him- I had nothing to say to any of them.

They then led me out the back door of the county jail where an inconspicuous two tone blue Chevy station wagon was parked and awaiting us. The back door was opened and I was instructed to sit in the middle of the seat, then a short piece of chain was secured with a heavy padlock to the shackles on my feet so that I could not run. The seatbelt was then placed around my waist and pulled tight. A moment later Sgt Hearne and another deputy got into the front seat and as we pulled away my journey to death row began.

It would be a long trip from the flatlands and sugar cane fields along the western bank of Lake Okeechobee where the small town of Moore Haven (the county seat for Glades county) was located to where the “Reception Center” for the Florida prison system known most simply as “Lake Butler” was located in the rural north central Florida. Back then all prisoners coming into the Florida prison system went through Lake Butler. Less than two years earlier I had myself first entered the prison system at Lake Butler and spent almost a week there awaiting transfer to Baker Correctional- another state prison in north Florida. At least this time I knew what to expect, or at least I thought I did.

I watched out the window as we drove north up Highway 27 through the heart of the state, until we got to Polk County where we then went northwest on Highway 98, basically a two-laned state road that traveled through farms, orange groves and open ranch land. I watched through the window as the world I once knew passed by. I had traveled this same stretch of highway myself as a free man and I couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps this was the last time I would ever see it.

Not long after that the Florida flatlands began giving way to the gently rolling hills around Ocala. This part of Florida reminded me of my home in northern California. Along the sides of the interstate were large horse farms with their planked fenced pastures, dotted by majestic grandfather oaks draped with Spanish moss. It seemed almost surrealistic that as we passed through this beauty and tranquility I was being driven to my own death. Again, I wondered if I would ever see such beauty again.

By mid afternoon we pulled off the Interstate on to a two-laned country road just north of Gainesville. I couldn’t help but notice the name of the small town we then passed through…Providence. Not long after that was a sign pointing the way to Lake Butler- for some reason I was surprised that there actually was a town and a lake there in Lake Butler as for me and so many others it was simply known only for the prison reception center, a large complex containing the main building and prison medical center where all incoming state prisoners were received and processed, but also the large 3-storey main dormitory building located in the very center of the compound, where the infamous ‘K-Wing’ was located- a maximum security wing with a reputation of brutality at the hands of vicious guards known to all by such names as “K-Wing Slim” and “Breezeway Red” and their reputation feared by even the most hardened convicts, to the many smaller single storey open dorm buildings lined up along the perimeter of the back fence, to the open recreation area and its sheltered pavilion with rows of concrete tables and the adjacent softball fields, and basketball and volleyball courts where countless lost souls have passed time awaiting transfers to whatever state prison they might end up assigned to.

But I would see none of that on this trip to Lake Butler. Until I actually arrived at the reception center, it never occurred to me that death-sentenced prisoners were treated differently. I knew that all death row prisoners were then housed only at Florida State Prison near Raiford, but that’s all I really knew.

After arriving at Lake Butler I was signed over to a prison sergeant who was then assisted by another sergeant as they removed the shackles and chains belonging to Glades county and immediately replaced them with almost identical shackles, chains and blackbox of their own. Other than asking me my name, they said nothing beyond curse orders to follow and then with one sergeant in front and another at my side I was led into the main room where at least 40 other prisoners sat in silence awaiting their own name to be called so they could be processed.

Unexpectedly, the sergeant in front all but yelled “death row coming through!” and the mass of prisoners and guards at the processing desk miraculously parked like the Red Sea and I was led to the front of the line. Other prisoners who had waited many hours, perhaps even all day, silently stepped aside. At the desk they already had my file ready and it didn’t take but a few moments to process me through the place.

I had assumed I would stay at Lake Butler a few days, just like all other prisoners do, but I was wrong. Within an hour I was processed into the system and given a cursory physical examination, then just as quickly escorted out of the building and into a plain white transport van. Although not that hot a day, the van was obviously also used to haul garbage and once inside the fully enclosed van the stench was almost overwhelming. But I didn’t complain as the reality that in their eyes I was nothing but human trash was only too clear.

I knew where we were now going- Florida State Prison, commonly known then as the “East Unit”- the Alcatraz of the south. Its reputation as one of the most violent prisons in the country was well earned. Except for those condemned to death very few prisoners are sent directly to the East Unit. Rather, it was the end of the line for the most violent Florida prisoners who could not be kept in any of the state’s other ‘correctional institutions’. Although housing about 1,000 prisoners, most ended up in the East Unit only after stabbing or killing someone at another prison, or becoming an escape risk. Nobody wanted to be sent to the East Unit.

This part of North Florida is known as the “Iron Triangle” as the entire economy of Bradford and Union County is built upon the numerous maximum security prisons in the area. In addition to the massive complex known as Lake Butler the oldest prison in the state, Union Correctional Institution, commonly known as “the Rock” was in Raiford.

Around the entire area, about 18,000 acres of state owned land, the prison has farmed and ranched the area for many decades. If one were to drive along Highway 16 and passed by these massive complexes they would see many homes and trailer parks lining the road, but this ‘secret city’ would not show up on any map. The streets have no names and the town doesn’t exist. These homes are state owned, used to house prison employees. The almost too perfectly sculptured lawns and gardens maintained by squads of ‘prison chain-gangs’. This part of Florida has never evolved into the 21st century and continues to exist as a window into a darker past when slave labor and all the evils it entailed was an accepted practice in the Deep South.

Beyond the state subsidized housing for prison employees lies thousands of acres of cattle and farming operations, all state owned and maintained by inmate labor. Just outside the rear gate of Florida State Prison is a smaller unit known as “O-unit” where prisoner cowboys and farm laborers were housed. Much of the meat and produce used to feed the prisoner came from this camp until the mid 1990s when the prison system contracted theses services out to private industry.

Behind the massive complex of Florida State Prison is another unit then known as the “Butler Transit Unit” (BTU). This unit was to house prisoners in transit between other prisons and was part of Lake Butler. I spent a few weeks there myself in the summer of 1982 after being processed at Lake Butler and while awaiting transfer to Baker Correctional, a maximum security prison about 30 miles north. Back then BTU was nothing more than a row of flimsy plywood ‘dorms’ with close-quartered rows of steel bunk beds. In the stifling heat of the Florida summer the stench of 100 men packed neck to neck in a plywood bunkhouse without even so much as a fan for ventilation was often overwhelming. With only a single guard assigned to each bunkhouse, who more often than not would conveniently step outside to escape the heat and human stench himself, fights and even rapes were only too common. But it was prison and nobody really cared.

The van now pulled up to the back gate of Florida State Prison. Looking forward through the front of the van I could see the rows of wings of the prison. Like the skeletal remains of a beached whale, the main hallway ran like a backbone for over a quarter of a mile in a straight line while the individual wings branched out like ribs at consistent intervals a couple of hundred feet apart. Between each of these 3 storey wings was a grassy area. No movement could be seen, even the small fenced recreational yards at the end of each wing were empty.

To the left was a large open recreational area used by ‘general population’ inmates when they were allowed to do so. Beyond that was the row of plywood bunkhouses I once briefly called home. Within a few years these bunkhouses would be torn down under orders by a Federal Judge and replaced with permanent concrete structures renamed “New River Annex” as if simply changing its name could erase the inhumanity of its previous existence.

The van pulled through the massive gates and into an enclosed sally port where several guards inspected the van. Several moments later the sergeant started the van again as a second set of massive steel gates slowly opened and we were pulled through, finally entering the compound of Florida State Prison.

The sergeants led me up a ramp and down a short hallway until we came to a set of steel gates. The gate buzzed and we stepped into what is known as “Grand Central”, where the two main halls of Florida State Prison intersect. About ten paces to my right was a large steel cage with a wooden bench where I was placed and locked within while the sergeant went to a control room to do his paperwork.

A few minutes later the transport sergeant returned and without opening the cage I was in, he removed the shackles and chains and without a word he left. I would later learn that I had arrived just before afternoon (4 pm) shift change so was left in that cage for hours, until they were ready to process me into this prison.

In prison, patience is much more than merely a virtue - it’s a means of survival. No matter how long they would have me wait, nothing good could come of me trying to push them. Even with my limited experience in the prison system I knew only too well that a big part of the violence that was only too common came at the hands of the guards, not other prisoners. As the hours passed I knew enough to keep my mouth shut and just silently watch as prisoners from general population lined up in the main hallway waiting to go into the dining room. Still unfamiliar with death row, I half expected to be brought to the large open dining room myself.

After a few hours a guard stopped by my cage and asked “you eat yet?” and I said “no.” He turned and walked away. A few minutes later he returned, now accompanied by an inmate wearing white holding a plastic food tray, which he handed to me through a cutout in the gate. I accepted in silence, looking down at what appeared to be a noodle casserole. There was no fork so I quickly asked the inmate if he had a fork, but he just walked away. It didn’t matter as I wasn’t hungry anyway. I sat the tray on the wooden bench.

It must have been a good three or four hours before two sergeants finally came to the cage and ordered me to “cuff up”. Again, my prior prison experience proved helpful and I silently turned around and stepped back towards the “bean slot” (aptly named as that is where the food trays are passed through) and they quickly handcuffed me behind my back then ordered me to come with them.

I was led to another larger cellblock located directly behind the main control room and placed in that cage, then they removed the cuffs. I came to learn that anytime I was removed from a cage or cell, I would be handcuffed behind the back. Only later did another prisoner tell me that they started doing that a few years earlier after a death row inmate stabbed and killed a guard. Before that death row prisoners were allowed generous out of cell time daily without the use of physical restraints. But as is only too often the case in prison, it only takes one incident to cost everybody a valued privilege.

In that cage I was ordered to strip. The clothes I was wearing were taken and I was given a pair of worn out prison denim pants- dark blue with a wide white stripe running the length of each side, and an apricot colored T-shirt that I would learn was to identify me as death row. At Florida State Prison they used different colored shirts to identify the classification status of all prisoners.

The general population inmates wore dark blue, unless they worked as a clerk or the canteen, then they would wear all white. The many who were in “closed management” which is what Florida calls those placed in punitive segregation- often for many years at a time- wore green shirts. Death row wore apricot shirts.

After I changed into the apricot shirt, the two guards again handcuffed me and we began our journey from the front of the prison towards the back down the long straight hallway that eventually ended at a partition that segregated the last 5 wings of the prison.

As we walked, I curiously looked into each open door, passing the prison chapel, the main dining room of general population and a large gymnasium with a basketball court and stage area filled with weights for those who wanted to work out. I tried to take in every detail, assuming that I would soon be able to visit the dining hall, chapel and the gym- not knowing that I never would as death row was not allowed to participate in worship services or go to the gym, or even eat meals in the prison dining hall.

We passed wings housing prisoners, each directly opposite of the other. As I passed each door I could see that each was a three tier layout with an open center area. Many prisoners were walking around in each of the wings and there was a TV/Rec room adjacent to each population wing.

To the opposite side I first saw “W Wing” which was closed off by a solid steel door. I couldn’t see into that wing and I would later learn that I didn’t want to. W-Wing was the psychiatric housing unit for the prison and was infamous among prisoners for the horrors that took place within. Through the coming years I would become aware of the inhumanity inflicted upon those placed on that wing under the pretense of psychiatric care. I would hear firsthand accounts of prisoners who had been shackled naked to steel bunks for days and weeks at a time, and how physical brutality was the true form of mental control. I would come to know that even as brutal as death row solitary confinement might be, at Florida State Prison there were many levels to this man made hell and perhaps even far worse than even the infamous “Q-wing” where the death chamber used to carry out executions was, W-wing remained a horror even worse.

After W-wing there was a small barber shop off to the side of the main hall, followed by two more wings, each with its solid steel door closed. These wings housed those placed in “closed management” which was long term solitary confinement for those who had been found guilty of “serious” rule infractions such as assaults or stabbings- or just as often not really guilty of anything but arbitrarily incurring the wrath of a vindictive guard who then used his power to write an unfounded “disciplinary report” as a means of having the prisoner placed in segregated “close management”.

In coming years I would become only too familiar with how common it was for guards to abuse their power by writing fabricated “disciplinary reports” as a means of retaliating against a particular prisoner for some form of perceived offense. That is how it is and always will be. Although disciplinary sanctions are a necessary means of maintaining order within a prison, if you do have a problem with any guard you can expect to be subjected to a fabricated disciplinary report, which is then rubber stamped substantiated by the kangaroo court you’re brought before.

My journey continued as we came to a steel bar partition with electric controlled gates to each side. Beyond that gate remained the last 5 wings at the far end of the prison. At the time (early 1984) only the two wings on the left (S and R wings) were for death row, while the two wings to the right (N and P) were used for more “closed management” confinement prisoners.

I was led to the solid steel door (with a small ‘peep’ window) of S wing and the sergeant escorting me knocked on the door leading to the “quarter deck” Each wing of Florida State Prison was laid out in a similar fashion, with a quarterdeck off the main hallway where the wing officers station was.

As I was turned over to the wing sergeant I was “logged in” and my name and inmate number was added to a large board. That only took a moment, then I was led to the staircase, and escorted downstairs. My assigned cell was “S106” meaning S wing, first floor, cell #6. Each floor was divided into a northside and a southside. I would be placed on the southside. Each side had a total of 17 cells, as well as two shower cells where we were allowed to shower three times a week.

It was already dark when I entered the wing. My first impression was the smell, an almost suffocation mixture of smoke, body odors of every sort imaginable, and humanity at its worst. I would come to learn that during the winters they would seal the windows shut so that for many months (from November until April or May) the wing would be almost sealed- and the smells and odors fester- with the exception of broken windows; deliberately broken by the prisoners who would rather endure the freezing temperatures of a north Florida winter than suffocate by the smells.

The next unexpected thing I noticed was the sounds. Once we reached the first floor and approached the gate leading into the tier, all sorts of noises could be heard. The cellblocks were on the inside of the wing away from the outer windows, so that the prisoners could not have access to the windows. Outside the cells were “catwalk” runs, the second and third floor catwalks constructed of steel scaffolding. If standing on the first floor catwalk you can look up all the way to the 3rd floor as the area is open. Thus the noise being generated was not only the 17 cells on 1-south but a total of 71 cells.

The floor was dark with just a few light bulbs spread out along the way. Some of the cells had their lights on too. But most cells were only dimly illuminated by the light of a small black and white TV that each death row inmate had. And each TV was apparently tuned to a different station. A few used headphones, but most apparently preferred to simply turn up the volume on their own TV as a means of drowning out their neighbor, while others listened to small radios. This was certainly not what I had expected, but then I really didn’t know what to expect.

As we came to cell # 6 the sergeant signaled an officer at the front gate and a mechanical system “rolled” the cell door open. The sergeant reached for a light cord and pulled the string and the single light bulb that precariously hung from the ceiling at the front corner of the cell flickered on. As my eyes adjusted to my new home, I was disgusted by the mess- trash and even discarded food lay all over the floor. But I remained silent. The sergeant removed the handcuffs and left without another word.

No sooner did I hear the gate leading on the wing slam shut, I then heard a voice calling ‘cell 6”. I didn’t realize that I was in cell six until suddenly an arm reached around with a rolled up newspaper and banged on the bars of the cell- I was in cell six and I had my first “phone call.”

Unlike the Hollywood version of being the new guy in prison, nobody called out “fresh fish” or taunted me in any way. The voice that called me quickly told me his name was J.D (James D. Raulerson) and asked me what wing I came off- he thought I simply had a cell change. I told him I just came in, and that my name was Mike.

As I kicked the old newspapers and trash towards the front of the cell, J.D talked to me. He held a mirror around the wall that separated our cells, so that I could see him- and I suppose more importantly, he could see me. He asked me if I wanted a cup of coffee or anything. I thought he was joking when I said, “Hell yeah!’ but a moment later he was reaching around the wall holding a steaming cup of hot coffee out for me. As I accepted that from him, a moment later he reached around again with a pack of cookies.

As I hesitantly accepted the food I told him I didn’t have any money yet and he laughed. I’ll never forget what he told me- “Hey man, we’re all in this together. Back here we look out for each other.” Soon word got around the wing that a new guy was on the floor and others hollered at me, each introducing themselves by whatever name they chose to be called and more often than not, also asking me if I needed anything.

Within just a few hours various others sent me an assortment of snacks, a bag of instant coffee, several cups and spoons, even a few bars of soap and a new bed sheet to throw over the moldy canvas covered ‘mattress’ that lay on the steel bunk.

It didn’t take long to clean the cell as there wasn’t much to it, just a 6 foot by 9 foot concrete cage with nothing but a steel bunk attached to the side wall and a stainless steel toilet/sink combo at the back wall. I was exhausted from the long day but too curious about my new world to want to sleep. Besides, the noise would not die down until after midnight, so I stood at the front of the cell and talked to JD for hours as he patiently told me about my new world.

J.D Raulerson had already been on death row many years by the time I came in early 1984. He was an easy going guy who called himself a ‘Christian Buddhist’ and was self–educated in many vocations. I could not have asked for a better neighbor as in the weeks and months that I adjusted to this new life, J.D. generously mentored me, never once asking for or expecting anything in return. But before the year was out the Governor signed his death warrant and in January 1985 James D. Raulerson was executed.

To my other side in cell # 5 was a Hispanic man named Louie Urango. He was quiet and preferred to keep to himself. A few years later Louie had his convictions thrown out by the court and was released. I later heard he had returned to Colombia, only to be shot and killed shortly after.

I came to realize that for the most part Florida’s death row was not unlike a college fraternity house. With few exceptions there was a “commadre” among its residents. And it was not uncommon for the guys to generously share what little they might have with each other, even occasionally some homemade ‘wine’ or a little bit of pot obtained by means never asked or spoken of.

As I came to know the others around me, I also came to know men who would by every right and reason become my brothers- my family. It would be years before any of my family would visit, but these guys taught me how to adjust to prison life “death row style”, and some even hooked me up with penpals they knew.

Looking back at that floor I was first housed on, I can do a mental roll call and it’s reflective of what I’ve come to know. Many of those I originally met have been executed, but even more slowly succumbed to death by ‘natural causes’ as they toll of prolonged solitary confinement took its measure. But equally so, a number of those I then knew were later exonerated and released- and others removed from death row by having their death sentences reduced to life.

As months became years and years became decades, I became one of the “old timers” myself, and in respect for the generosity so many showed me when I first arrived, I too try to share what I am blessed to have. By doing so I hope that those “new guys” that I meet will look back on their own first day descending into the uncertainty of a hell few can even imagine with a memory not of the overwhelming isolation and sense of abandonment we all feel while condemned to our solitary cells, but with a memory of the kindness of another condemned prisoner and the truth that ultimately no matter where we might find ourselves, as individuals we choose to be the person we each become and collectively we chose to create the environment we must live in.

Michael Lambrix
Florida Death Row

Please check out my website 

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