To Take An “L”: A Story of a Juvenile Lifer Resentencing Hearing in Allegheny County

To Take An “L”

by Michale Anderson, BH-9234

The Latin sign for #50 is the letter L. To “take an L” is to suffer defeat: a loss, though, since this is borrowed from sports metaphors, continuing the fight is implied. “Half-a-man” is prison parlance for 50, too. Under the circumstances, this metaphor is woefully inadequate & apt at the same time.

On April 9th, Judge Lawrence J. O’Toole – a man who once battled a DA over lying when representing a man on death row – imposed 50 years-to-life upon me for killing my best friend. I was neither shocked nor in disbelief that the number was so abominably high. Four total days of hearings, 10 postponements, & quite literally EVERYTHING done to weaken my mitigation case, had already winnowed the faint hope I had for Justice down to nothing. The ADA really was seeking LWOP, uniquely & specifically for me, but for once, my attorney’s facility with keeping me out of the informational loop paid off. The second I said I had never received notice, per BATTS II, LWOP was impossible. The ADA & team scrambled to find proof she’d sent me a letter. All she could muster was evidence she’d alerted my lawyer, which wasn’t the law. Yeah. The hearing was like THAT.

Without editorial, here are the broad points. Day 1: 2/2/18 – Emotional testimony by 3 friends & 2 PADOC sergeants. One friend was told she was testifying just 48 hours before. The sergeants were told the Thursday week prior. No one was prepped & testimony spun out after only a few minutes, w/o meaningful questioning by my counsel. Cross-exam was a harbinger of things to come, as the ADA tried to establish that my friends weren’t “real” friends & that everything they knew about me came from me. And I am a liar.

Next came Victim Impact. Poignantly powerful, confrontational & accusatory condemnation of the murderer of their child by ppl no closer to the balm of truth than they were 28 years ago, on that horrible day. Two neighbors testified here, though my lawyer objected. V.I. is specifically for “family”, per §1102.1 but the judge allowed it. My lawyer submitted some support letters (omitting others) & over 37 exhibits covering everything from a hospice care program I got approved, to charitable giving, to tutor trainings I completed. He added nothing I couldn’t provide, which is what happens when NO investigation is done over 5 years.

Day 2: 4/5/18. No communication from attorney since Day 1. Surprise. Battle of the experts. Dr. Wright painstakingly culled 35+ years of records to find negative notes/entries in psych files, resurrect Dr. Welner’s psychopathy report, and select portions of prison records. His “opinion” was that I gave “inconsistent” statements about the murder, merging reports & years to add continuity & immediacy. He administered no tests, claiming he could not because I was inconsistent. He made conclusions that I had “never had treatment or psychotherapy” to treat whatever condition was present at the time of the murder & read a vague, unspecified prison note from 2015 that – he said – claims I had a “marginal adjustment” to prison. Wright took a 300+ question personality survey given to all JLers in 2013 to highlight 2 questions: (1) Sometimes my temper explodes…; and, (2) I have threatened to hurt ppl. These questions “raised alarms” for him, though he specified nothing.

On cross, my attorney revealed his friendship with Wright in a bit of pique. Why, he asked, did Wright spend an hour talking to the victim’s father in court? Said Wright, “It wasn’t an hour.” He explained that the father was “the Attending (training physician) when I was at college…I remembered his funny briefcase & only wanted to see if he remembered me.” My attorney was wounded enough to do his job. Remember how we became friends 10 years ago (after my ’08 hearing?)? Not really? How many of these (JL) hearings have we done? 10-15. Recall any case specifics? No. Rape/murders? Multiple victim killings? I don’t recall. Yet my client is worse than those that he deserves LWOP!?

Wright then introduced 3 consecutive psych progress notes from 2014 by then-Houtzdale psychiatrist, Dr. Khatri. For Axis II (where you’d list a personality disorder) she’d written “ASPD”. Axis I read ” ASPT”. Wright explained that this means I have antisocial personality disorder (a catch-all for rule-breaking/criminality) & antisocial traits. The reason for the note, he said, was because I requested to be put ON the antidepressant/anti anxiety drug Remeron®. No other notes from Khatri, who treated me for five or so years. {Absent were my ITP (Individualized Treatment Plan) notes, though I happened to have mine from -coincidentally – 2014. It’s signed by Dr. Khatri & 7 other treatment staff/Supervisors. My ICD code (psych diagnosis) is a number. 309.8. Enjoy looking that up. Worth it.} I tried to read my lawyer’s copy, but he pulled it away. Wright said that I had “absolutely no treatment”, for my specific crime, in 28 years. That no records said otherwise. In fact, he said, there’s evidence staff found me to be “manipulative” & “non compliant”. Besides Khatri, Wright cited a note from Ms. Parmar (psychologist) relating that I ” lied” during a speech I gave for inmate orientation. She says I told the men I “was enrolled in college or had attended college”, when records show I only made it to 10th grade. Finally, about 2015, I ” refused therapy” with Mr. Errigo (another psych), because I didn’t want to speak to an intern he had with him. {Almost no staff names were cited for reports, excepting Khatri}. Wright hammered my “inconsistent statements” over time. He never called me a “liar”, but it was clear he meant this. I was also “arrogant”, thinking I knew better than professionals & used my ” intelligence” to get over. Wright repeated my “history of violence” from the 1998 trial, where he said I “assaulted a boy at Schenley H.S. by throwing him against a locker/wall & breaking an arm, leg, & rib”, however, I was not prosecuted. Intelligence.

He said I had a court date for a “theft” complaint when I went to St. Francis for a “suicide attempt” in ’88. He mentioned in quite a low voice that among the items taken were a tie, a shirt & a roto-“phone”. Wright said an earlier referral to Western Psych was for “stealing & fire-setting”, which he said happened before age 10. A firecracker in a trashcan or playing with matches, depending how this single incident was reported back then. My inconsistency, per Wright, is that ” he told me at age 47 that he’d never set fires, but the record from his admission contradicts that”. (I’m 45)Wright cast doubt on the impact/scope of the sexual assault & abuse shared by me and my twin sis. Again, “inconsistent” as a 9-year-old. Was I raped or not? {Personal bombshell: Wright revealed the Abuser had been convicted (Judge Ridge?) of raping his OWN sister prior to hooking up w/our mom, but was let off for some reason. I mean, SHIT!}. Judge, ADA, & Wright rhapsodized about how “rehabilitation couldn’t even begin” until I gave a consistent history of the murder, because I could NEVER be treated for my specific crime. I’d “refused” the individual, one-on-one, intensive psychotherapy offered, so my prospects were “marginal” for any kind of reform. He drew heavily on reports by Dr. Strasser, Dr. Hiller, & Dr. Welner for nasty tid bits like “He told Hiller that lying was fun.”

Cross-exam began as I said, with my lawyer hectoring Wright about the inappropriateness of chatting up the father on the 2nd. On experience w/police & the “theft charge”, Wright admitted there was NO evidence I ever had contact w/police. Hard to duck consequences for theft when you’ve never been arrested. When asked if he knew if I’d returned the items to my friends, Wright didn’t recall reading that. I had to remind my lawyer that my 2nd trial happened because my attorney “relied” on bad evals by docs who !{Com. v. Michale J. Anderson, 686 A.2d 1361}. Wright knew nothing about Strasser. Never bothered to seek context from Khatri or Errigo. Didn’t verify his treatment comments w/ the prison or PADOC. In fact, he, the ADA, & judge admitted they hadn’t a clue about “how prison works”. Still, Wright conceded nothing. My 28 years free of “violence” meant nothing. The court opined, “Maybe it just means prison’s the place for him?” Wright gave no actual diagnosis. I had some antisocial features, but he couldn’t make a diagnosis. Likewise for whether I was/am “incorrigible” or “irredeemably corrupt”, the ” rare” JLer who merits LWOP because he can’t ever be rehabbed. “That’s not a psychiatric term. It’s not my job. It’s the court’s job.”

On the psychs from 1989, the PA Superior Court lambasted my first lawyer saying, (pp. 5-6 of their 1996 opinion) “Instead of investigating the more recent evaluations and their impact, if any, on appellant’s cognitive function and diminished capacity defense, counsel (Botula) chose to rely on stale behavioral reports (Allegh. Cty Behavior Clinic – lone source of “arm, leg, & rib”), information which he received from a psychologist WHO HAD NEITHER EXAMINED NOR TREATED APPELLANT, or his own impressions, even though he admittedly lacked medical expertise with regard to the field of mental illness.” They found Botula “ineffective” & ordered a new trial. The Commonwealth & Wright ignored this history because Strasser et al. had negative things to say. Didn’t matter that some of these “experts” didn’t know me from a hole in the wall. Cross went like this. Blowing the dust off shoddy work & misleading b.s., while never DIGGING to expose the lie. My lawyer had no idea what to make of my ITP. It’s a TREATMENT plan! How could I have annual ITPs but NOT be “in treatment”? 309.8 is the coding for PTSD, not ASPD. Couldn’t Khatri’s 3 notes be just a mistake? The woman was psychiatrist for 2,000 inmates. And what do the other 60 entries say? My formal complaint against Psychology was mentioned (why I filed it!) but not plumbed.

My willfully hapless counsel (that’ll show ME for trying to assist in my defense! I mean, you KNOW this is what clients are supposed to do, right?) didn’t ref the clear record of abuses I set out vo-frikkin’-luminously there. OMG! Kelly Ann Conway just said something I agree with: “Ppl who write books aren’t under oath!” (more on that later!) Wow. I, literally, just opened my complaint file & found (1) a 4/08/14 request to Khatri where I did request meds. Next line? “Please do not refer me to psych. I have spent the last year making myself open, available, willing & motivated to work with my last 2 psychs. For their own reasons, each decided I was not worth responding to. Each failed to keep appointments or schedule me, etc. It is only after I quit my job (clerk) that my last psych saw me (Errigo). Long story. The point is that he seems unable to see how his actions have led to a breach of therapeutic trust. Would you talk openly with someone who ignores your requests and logs (journal work) for months after telling you you’d be seen?” Psych Boss Jack Walmer responded scheduling me for a meet. This, apparently, is what set Khatri off? There’s a dialogue of requests between me & my unit manager, Mr. Shelter, where we discuss Errigo’s failings. It ain’t on me.

Backing up. I did a 2-pager to Dr. Walmer about Ms. Parmar. She had been made unit psych & I didn’t want to see her. Wonder why? Avoiding treatment? Or is it the “college” lie? Salient bit reads: “”Part of my script was one line, where I said, ” I should’ve been in college. Instead, I am here.” Ms. Parmar called me into her office and said I was lying to inmates. I said “How?” ” A speech I gave for 2 years should not have led to all this. It was all about staff behaving badly. Walmer didn’t use one word to address this. Instead, he kept me with Ms. Keith. Were I wrong, he would have told me to see Parmar. The date of this request in 10/2/12! History, man. Facts matter!

Oh, yeah. I did, actually, WIN my complaints at Central Office (rare for inmate). Dr. Marsh ordered the psychs to knock it off & return my “therapeutic journals”. Hmm. Why WOULD psychs have journals from someone resisting therapy? The worst part is none of this was ” mandatory” psych counseling. I’d done all my programs. This was ELECTIVE therapy I sought & turned to look like I ducked prescribed treatment. It’s like asking for a boob job & the surgeon getting pissed because you backed out. Because he wouldn’t stop taking pictures. With a Polaroid. In your CLOSET! Anyway, more Day 2. Dr. Applegate was next. She was AMAZING! I’m so grateful to her. She didn’t get everything (bad not to know I’m still in therapy, but off meds), though that’s not her fault. Point blank: Applegate came the closest ever to revealing the “impossible”. My psych picture on the day of the murder of my friend. All that testing & almost 6 hrs of questioning revealed this diagnostic picture: Generalized Anxiety Disorder, PTSD – in remission, Otherwise specified Depressive Disorder, history of Adjustment Disorder post-sex assault, history unspecified dissociative disorder, compulsive behaviors, Developmental Trauma, & Parental-Child relational problems. The fact that Applegate arrived here w/o fact-checks. Remarkable. For my peops in the Struggle, Applegate got a legit double take from the judge when she talked about “Framing the guilty”. She reffed my ITP, ” (I) has a GAF score of 70. Global Assessment of Functioning. 70 is a score you see for ppl ready to STOP therapy. It’s very good.” She said I’m stable & have been so for years! Applegate compassionately discussed the crime, while breaking down my impressions psychiatrically. Perceiving the weapon growing larger is not b.s. It’s called “macropsia” & is a hallmark of Dissociation/PTSD derealization. The best bit was the heated exchange Applegate had with the ADA over Wright’s cherry-picking of a 300 question psych test.

Applegate was livid about the test analysis by Wright. What he did wasn’t just unethical & confusing, but amounts to “malpractice”. She & the ADA fought over this. These are ” 300+ question instruments not intended to have select items taken out of context & evaluated. (I) scored a minimal 1-point on each item & NOTHING on the validity scales indicated a problem.” The idea that I’m a psychopath or still dangerous is “ridiculous” after 28 years of nonviolence. The 2013 report says I am “Suspicious of others and hypersensitive” but in context. Wright should lose his license for testifying as he did. Applegate broke the “4th Wall” surrounding everyone’s perceived elevation of this case. “EVERY (juvenile lifer) MURDER IS BAD this case is no different, but not nearly as bad as others -where LWOP is not on the table.” She compared case facts of several rape/murders & multiple murders she worked. NONE of those people got LWOP in Allegheny County after BATTS II! Ultimately, Applegate’s recommendation was for immediate parole eligibility.

Loose ends? Accounts of murder spotty & inconsistent because I’m psychiatrically making it up based on police version. When pressed, I admit there’s a point where I lose the ability to recall (flashback/dissociation). I’m compulsively attached to NOT having memory gaps, so I confabulate. Consistently since that awful day, I didn’t deny to cops I was responsible & I’ve shown significant “remorse” since the beginning. Applegate’s point is that this level of acceptance of responsibility is rare in all the cases she did. Dr. Wright, when referring to my “bald man” hallucinations, curiously uses the phrase “fat man”. Happened about 20 times. Odd. ” Can’t trust anything (I) said”, but confession & comments to random psychs are Canonical? Finally, juvie detention had no psychs on staff. How did so many random people allegedly get “access”? Who were reports for? How many never met me & did phone consults? Why are they in my case at all?

Day 3: 4/6/18 – closings by counsel with mine leading. Here’s where the guy who walked me to the gallows for more than 5 years “got religion”. ” We’ve done 10-15 other JL resentencings, your honor. One involved a rape where the defendant put a woman in her trunk & set it on fire. There was a rape/murder in an alley. Double murders. But THIS is the case where the Commonwealth wants LWOP? 28 years without a violent misconduct. He helps others as a tutor, he got (holds up papers) a hospice care program approved. HOSPICE CARE! Which of those OTHER cases has a record like this?! The staff testified. He’s been a model inmate. No problems. Who has a better record of service? This court sentenced guys to 22 or 25 years & NEITHER was better than my client.” That’s how it went. I should have been happy, but how many witnesses were turned off by him? How many voices were LOST to death, distance, or fear? How much evidence did he ignore? Shame. The ADA stuck to her guns. LWOP is what I deserve for this brutal murder. I have no history of positive prison adjustment or programs. Telling Wright prison had “nothing left to offer” is evidence of my “arrogance & narcissism”. Repeated inconsistency about murder. I’m not the only inmate to have prison officers testify (yup. 13 out of 260+ cases done. No biggie.) & nonviolence in prison? That’s not so difficult. Under her breath, the ADA cited a “history of assault & theft from friends. It’s a pattern.” I’m dangerous & need to stay in prison.

So. Defendants have a 6th Amendment right to give allocution. This is a statement prior to sentencing that can be about whatever the convicted person wants. I decided to fully engage this opportunity over the break between Day 1 & Day 2. The way my lawyer bailed. His non-contact after I returned to Houtzdale. Ditching key evidence & causing distance/pain among ppl I love. I had NO option. At all times, I wanted to be respectful of my victim’s family. If they buckled, I would shut up.

When I had enough waiting for my lawyer, I looked to my cellie, my brother, Benji, & said I was going into “The Lab”. This is a crucible. The place where my mind leaves obsessing & anxiety as I search for the Singularity of Purpose. My legal briefings were born here. Program proposals & my most heartfelt letters to loved ones live here. Smoking like mad & hours hacking at my dilapidated Etta typewriter, I miss meals & seldom talk, save for feverish abstracts bounced off Benji. You might think all of this hyperbole is just a nerd bragging on his ” smarts”, but you’d be so so wrong about that. I do not enter The Lab with my mind. I go there, stripped naked of pretense & self-regard. I go there with my heart.

In just under 2 weeks I had 77 pages & a good 50 more of exhibits. I took the stand with this sheaf of papers & found my Center. Some of you have seen this. None of you understand what I see. PTSD & some other weird stuff in my head makes me visualize things differently. Patterns that may or may not be. Faces in hauntingly beautiful focus. Moods in a micro-expression that sing to my soul. Perspicacity. Here’s what I saw. Devon to my left, alone. Eyes trained expectantly on me. Leaning. My lawyer with his bald head on his left hand staring at the floor. Anywhere but at me. His mouth knit with trepidation. The ADA a mess of frenetic, confusing contortions. Anger…no, revulsion, on her face. The 2nd chair ADA locked on me, her face shifting from dislike to something ineffable. Just behind, a man with a dusting of grey. Handsome. Strong. His eyes breaking into a riot. Side-long eye rolls even as he LISTENED to every word. Two younger women behind him. One so fragile & always crying. The other masking her emotions, occasionally getting up to leave & return. All the sheriffs, whose expressions were never disengaged. And my victim’s mother. Vibrant with poise & strength. As beautiful as she ever was. Quick eyes trained on me & calculating responses. My judge, immediately to my left. A weariness about him, but still young looking. Strong jaw. Sonorous baritone like an oboe. Neither fully present nor distracted.

I’d arranged my allocution into themes: Life, 2nd Trial, & Memories. My erased life history. Perversions of Truth haunting me from the 1998 retrial & memories of “us”. My victim & I from before anyone might’ve ascribed such a final, tragic & unspeakable word to her. I worked to integrate these themes into stand-alone chapters: “Psychopathy”, “Witnesses”, “Family”, “Campbell Report”, etc. All the thoughts, fears, guilt, pain, defiance, & love I’ve held back for more than 20 years stuffed into 77 pages. I couldn’t get past page 4 of “Campbell” before tears began to flow. (Hufflepuff, Ica. I told you.)

I have a copy, of course, but it’s not the same. The difference between hearing Hendrix on tape & being in Monterrey. When you live the material, improvisation takes over.The first “moment” came when I confronted the ADA about a lie she, her predecessor & both experts for the State perpetuated. I’d waited 20 YEARS to speak on this, so hearing Wright repeat it stiffened my resolve to right this wrong. ” Six times now, I’ve listened to the Commonwealth’s experts repeat this story about how I was a freshman at Schenley & picked some kid up, slammed him into a wall, & broke his arm, leg & rib. Can ANYONE tell me this kid’s name? (to ADA) Can YOU!? No. You can’t. You can’t because this brutal assault -attempted murder, really – NEVER HAPPENED! Where are the EMT reports? The hospital records? School disciplinary reports? His parent’s complaint? They aren’t there, BECAUSE IT ISN’T true & saying it happened doesn’t make it real. Not ONE person involved with this case EVER investigated this story. No lawyer did. I get it. I’m a murderer, so this is what I deserve.” Or something like that.

Here were stories about the girl whose life I saved, Julia, only a year before I took precious life from another. Stories of service, deep empathy, humor, & teenage love. Choices fraught with earnest importance only kids can muster. And so many mistakes. I did not really choose the moments I went off book to reminisce about the life of my victim. Her mother’s expressions decided that. I gave whenever it felt like she needed it & my god! If you ever doubted Restorative Justice & its potential power to heal, you should have seen what I did. At times, the Mother gave emphatic knowing nods. She “helped” me by whispering the name of a place that had escaped me. Helping me reveal the beautiful & complex retelling of her daughter’s premature twilight. It was not all perfect & neither is living, but I think she appreciated what I was attempting to do for her & for her child’s memory. “To honor (her)” has been the theme of my life & of my speech. To see the Mother say “thanks” to me was beyond words. This is the opportunity my county – my state – missed by locking us into pointlessly adversarial roles & fighting any change in how we treat offenders. I hope I did give some measure of comfort to the family.

So. I only cried for 90 of my 180 minutes. Preserving issues for appeal was also important & I was uncharitably direct about my deliberately inept representation. There was never really time to say it all. Legally, I could STILL be talking, but I wanted to respect those gathered &, though he’d disagree, the Court. I will always see my judge as the young attorney from N. Versailles who waged an epic battle against the selfsame issues in the DA’s office I am. For a death row inmate, no less. He wound up losing that case &, if I could, I would have liked to ask when he lost faith in the system. Impertinence! But, it’s still true. ADAs who lie & twist facts. Defense lawyers who give up clients. Experts with no professional integrity or ethics. All apostate, but why?

Yes. Great. I know. Blah, blah, blah. A 3 hour filibuster about YOU, you’re saying. A wonder you didn’t get 60 years! You might think this from the retelling, but you’d be wrong. Almost all of the “me” stories were, in truth, really “we” stories. History my victim’s parents had been denied by the adversarial process. The role she played before & after Julia’s suicide attempt. The courageous heart she showed in the face of bullies & self-doubt. The State’s narrative, for too long, had turned my victim into a dupe. A weak & awkward person conned by a malevolent kid in need. I wanted to counter those myths with a healthy dose of truth, while etching a necessary back story into a case sorely needing to humanize both victim & offender. I didn’t just apologize, either. I peppered the speech with spontaneous, periodic statements about what the commission of my offense meant for my life. How everyone I’ve touched or helped, how everything positive I’ve achieved, is my way of making my victim live for ppl who’ve never met her as much as she, even today, inhabits my life. I loved my friend. I hope that showed.

Legally, it was risky to do this. I made a choice to not discuss “me”, in terms of a résumé for my prison life, much at all. Whatever I’ve accomplished is evident, with none more significant than my choice to abstain from violence for all 28 years of my imprisonment. I did not dignify the catcalls & cynicism of the judge, ADA, & Dr. Wright (“It only means prison’s the right environment for him.”) by addressing it. These people are pissed my record doesn’t justify this in-camera lynching. Whatever. It matters that I used discernment, patience, deconfliction & humility to avoid violence. It matters for the future. (As I write, I’m just feet away from a 20-something inmate high out of his mind on “deuce” who just tried to initiate conflict. The new DOC is a harrowing & challenging environment.) My H8Rs couldn’t do 28 days in prison, forget 28 years.

I apologized without asking for forgiveness. I explained my belief (shared by The Office of Victim’s Advocate, BTW) that forgiveness is an act not Grace, not something to be requested for by a wrongdoer. Asking for forgiveness creates a burden, however unintended, for the aggrieved, just as “if you feel…” apologies are disingenuous when uttered. We must be “OK” with not being forgiven for what we do wrong in life, but live in a way that makes us worthy of others’ Grace. I’m sure I left things out, but we need to cover the sentencing.

Day 4 (4/9/18): There were maybe a dozen sheriffs outside & inside court. A near-perfect representation of who Allegheny County authorities think I am vs. reality. I’d handwritten my account of the murder & my treatment history, since the State decided I had no record of either. My lawyer was having none of it. He was furious at me. “You talked for 3 hours Friday. It’s ENOUGH!” he hissed. I set the papers down, anyway, asking they be used for post-sentence motions. It’s not normal to be assured an outcome. I had no butterflies & no fear rooted in the Hope of release. I told Dear Benji I’d get 45 or 50 before I left for court. He thought I was kidding. What all of this says about Pittsburgh Justice is…sad. Tragic. Oh. I did close my allocution with something I had discussed with my friend, Ica. When I’m given years more to do, “freedom” will be on the table. I said I’d ask all my loved ones to leave. To step away from this insanity & live their best lives without me. I mean this. I can’t go on hurting the people I love -my family- by requiring they stay for more appeals & things are already trending that way. Most folks in my shoes can’t argue that the level of love & support I’ve enjoyed these 28 years is a miracle. Even more, given all the lies & historical manipulations people more powerful than I have managed to put out. I could not love them & NOT make the offer.

An epic battle is beginning anew, and I’m already on the losing side. I can’t expect my people to sign on for this. Not again. They have vibrant, interesting, fulfilling lives to live & they have all done enough. They all deserve so much better than I can provide.

The judge spoke for about 10 minutes. Off the cuff. He first congratulated both attorneys for “doing a good job”, which shocked me more than my sentence. He found the ” burden was not met” for LWOP, though, as I said, adequate notice was not given, so LWOP could not happen. Just THINK; if I hadn’t said a word about notice, my attorney wouldn’t have. I “guarantee you” that this is the only reason LWOP wasn’t imposed. The judge dismissed my entire defense with one compound sentence. He said he “couldn’t make sense” of “anything” Dr. Applegate said. “I reject that testimony”. That’s it. Absolutely nothing else from my evidence. However, as to Dr. Wright…”I believe Dr. Wright”. The judge said he’s ” always found this case troubling” & said there’s “something sociopathic” about this murder. He lamented not having esoteric answers about why this happened, neglecting the chance to ask me for clarification, of course. “You never really told us why you did what you did that night & that troubles me…We don’t need to get into the clear impact this murder had on the family – this community, again, but the impact was significant…I see that you’re an activist. I’ve looked at your prison record. It was marginal -if I can say that – marginal adjustment at best. I’m REQUIRED to consider the guidelines & I’m imposing 50-Life. Do you understand your right to appeal? Good luck to you.” And that was pretty much it. The judge must’ve thought me cold for not collapsing. I was busy memorizing his words.

An unprecedented four days for a JL resentencing. Reams of transcription. The first county JL, post-BATTS II, where the DA sought LWOP, & this was all he could say? The one thing that stands out for me is the fact that the judge felt mentioning my activism was important. Why mention it at all, unless he wanted to make a point. Oh. I’m sure it was only something that simply popped into his head – at sentencing – riiight.

Here’s where the law is, as I see it. My biggest challenge is not 50 years. I’m still handcuffed to an attorney who did nothing to advance my interests since 2012 & the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, to say nothing of the judge, is just fine with that. Whatever racial, financial or political forces are at work, none of it matters so long as I’m stuck with a Quisling on my side. The judge in my case is far too intelligent to think his sentencing statement was sufficient to satisfy MILLER/KNOX. There was no JL checklist & very little of the 4 days happened, excepting Applegate, that resembled a JL hearing. I was simply another adult being given de facto Life. Nothing special. In terms of influence, I can’t say. Spectators dropped to about a half dozen between both sides after Day 1. No news cameras & the halls were eerily clear of the usual gaggle of interested people. It was like everyone had better to do than be stuck in amber. I’m sure the family exercised some clout to support an op-ed in the local paper online. The judge read it, of course. I didn’t get to, also, of course. “My” lawyer. (sigh). My motion to reconsider could not have been done beforehand, so I have to rely on my counsel, in terms of protecting my right to challenge the “discretionary aspects of sentencing”. I wrote him twice since returning, but there’s just until the 9th to submit the motion. Any mistake or absentmindedness on his part & those issues are, effectively, waived. My belief has always been that they intend to highball me. Give LWOP or, say, 50 years & eventually “settle” on something just under that. Meanwhile, years of appellate work guaranteed for counsel & I’m expected to be grateful to have some distant date.

I’ll conclude by offering my most profound gratitude to all who testified & sent support letters. It MATTERED! It was never about that room. The hope is that I can get an appeals court to see & read the evidence that the hearing judge would not. Seeing what went down should piss anyone off. It’s a clear example of abuse by the powerful & a cynical take on Justice. It’s wrong. That there’s such a marked disparity between PA’s two population centers for JLers only clarifies the injustice, beyond individual case specifics. The true marker isn’t the sentence itself, since many Philly JLers had their relatively high minimums served by sentencing time. Rather, it’s time to parole eligibility that should serve as a mpoint of reference. In Philly, this means nearly 75 JLers are ALREADY HOME. In Pittsburgh, only 6. Also, COs have testified in ~12 -15 of nearly 280 JL resentencings. That’s 4.2 – 5.4%. I’m the ONLY one NOT to get “time served”!

My hope is that you’ll take time to think about sentencing in the Commonwealth. Adult killers who get plea deals without fanfare or hand-wringing from “troubled” judges. Former JLs with records measurably worse than mine. I will not survive to 67, absent some miracle of medical advancement that makes it behind the wire. So the salient questions are: How, exactly, do you hand out sentences when you admit you don’t have a clue as to how prison works? If I hadn’t earned the same “time served” sentence as my brethren from Philly, or the “fair” sentences of Lancaster, how much MORE time do I deserve? If this process was supposed to be about whether we’ve reformed, why does it feel like we’re still adjudicated adults being tried again? One thing’s sure, though. It should not be this difficult to report or remove attorneys such as mine. Poverty should not mean injustice, though we all know it does, unfortunately. Metta to you all. There is strength in me yet. I will fight on.

– Michale Anderson, BH-9234, SCI-Houtzdale

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