Rolling around in the grass naked is the first thing Michael Lambrix said he would do if he were released from prison today.
The 57-year-old has been on death row for 33 years, all the while maintaining his innocence. On Thursday at 6 p.m., his sentence is scheduled to come to an end, along with his life.
“This is not an execution. This is an act of cold-blooded, pre-meditated murder,” he said Tuesday at a news conference at Florida State Prison in Raiford. He had requested to hold it because he does not plan to offer any final words on Thursday.
“Those responsible for ordering this execution know because they are familiar with the evidence, they know they’re committing an act of murder, but that is the system. That is the society we are today.”
Lambrix was convicted of two counts of first-degree murders in the 1983 deaths of Clarence Moore and Aleisha Bryant, a couple Lambrix and then girlfriend Francis Smith met at a bar.
The two couples went to Lambrix and Smith’s trailer home to eat after a night of bar hopping. The men tried to prank the women, but it backfired when Bryant got angry and began arguing with Moore, according to Lambrix.
Moore got physical. Lambrix contends that he heard a scream, went over to the two and tried to separate them, but when he couldn’t, he hit Moore with a tire iron.
Bryant was already dead by the time he stopped Moore, Lambrix said.
Lambrix has consistently claimed his innocence in Bryant’s death and that he was justified in killing Moore to defend Bryant.
But the state has maintained that he’s guilty, and he was convicted in 1984 on the two counts and sentenced to death.
Having already avoided execution three times, Lambrix wrote to the Supreme Court within the past week asking the justices to intervene before Thursday and order federal counsel to compel the state to provide access to evidence that will exonerate him.
Nevertheless, he has been planning for the last day of his life. He said he is set to have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner as his final meal, and his cemetery plot has already been chosen.
Lambrix said he chose a Thanksgiving dinner because when his mom and he talked about his possible exoneration day, she told him she was going to make him a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for him, friends and family.
He plans to have the meal during his final family visit on Thursday.
“A lot of people don’t realize just how much our families go through. They’re victims, too,” he said. “My mom has stood by me for so many years, and I am so blessed, and my family, too.
“The pain and suffering that this process inflicts on our family, it’s beyond comprehension.”
Lambrix said he sympathizes with the Bryant and Moore families. He said that Moore’s mom once sent him a Christmas card that said she forgave him, but the Bryant family has been less forgiving.
“I have nothing but sympathy for” the Bryant family, he said. “I understand they need to believe that I killed their daughter. I understand that for them that is what closure is about, but I also know that they are wrong.
“If my execution will bring them peace, then maybe that at least comes out of it. But this is why I will not say anything during the execution process as my last words because the last thing I wanna do is cause anymore pain or suffering to the Bryant family. They’ve been through enough.”
Lambrix said that unlike others who want to be executed to get out of prison – “cowards,” he called them – he would rather live out the rest of his life in prison and grow old than be executed for a crime he didn’t commit.
He was offered multiple plea bargains in his three decades on death row, but each time, he turned it down. All these years later, he said he regrets turning down the pleas because he never thought he would be executed for a crime he didn’t commit.
“Anybody who would believe that we are not executing innocent people is either hopelessly naïve or deliberately blind,” Lambrix said.
He ended the news conference by paraphrasing a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche.
“When we fight monsters for so long, we should not so much fear the monster itself, but of becoming the monster because every time we go through this process of putting even one individual to death, it takes away part of our own humanity. And that is because we are deliberately compromising the sanctity of life.
“We as mortal beings should not be making decisions to deliberately take that life,” he said. “Otherwise, we become the monster.”