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A gavel rests on the black table
Photo by isayildiz on iStock

It was September of 1986. I was 29 years old. And I was being sentenced for a capital murder I didn’t commit.

The jury and prosecutors had asked for a life sentence. So I was ill-prepared for the judge’s words, which I remember as follows:

“For your crime of murder in the first degree, it is the sentence of the court that you be committed to the appropriate executive authority of the state of Florida, who shall cause electrical currents to be generated through your body of sufficient force and voltage to cause your immediate death.”

My synapses and neurons started misfiring. I felt like my soul had left my body as I stared at the courtroom in disbelief.

I was to be culled from the herd of society. I felt so terribly alone, and the loneliness chilled me to my core. I screamed inwardly, “No, no, no. I am innocent!”

I was chained like an animal and put in the back seat of a deputy’s car. As I was transported down Florida’s State Road 100 en route to death row, I caught sight of a beautiful young mother and a baby girl in their front yard. The toddler was taking shy steps and looking for her momma’s approval. My heart ached for the sweetness of life I feared I would never experience again.

My emotions were a mix of terror, anger, depression, utter misery and adrenaline. Certain I was going to be murdered by the state, I felt the same agony of every innocent condemned person. I was broken. I was powerless.

I felt as if I self-immolated, then rose again from the depths of mental hell. In complete mortal surrender, I raised my head skyward and shouted Christ’s words, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

I hung my head and let my tears flow freely as the tires ate up the miles carrying me to the house of the living dead.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Global Forum Online has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

John Meritt is a writer incarcerated in Florida.