Dear Office of Executive Clemency
My name is Mitchell Barrow and I am currently serving “life” in the Florida Department of Corrections.
In May 1997, after turning 18 years old, just two months previous, I lost my freedom for life after being arrested for my part in a crime spree of which I was under the influence of Crystal Methamphetamines, duress, and youthfully naïve. Two of my co-defendants, Timothy Crosslind and Robert Lilly, of which were only a couple of months younger than myself, whom also happened to be “under duress” only received two year prison sentences to be followed by four years of probation. My other co-defendant, Danny Brandon, who was 24 years old at that time received “three” life sentences. I received the maximum amount of time out of all of us. Though it was always clear that Danny Brandon was the eldest and most dominant figure of the four of us. Though the unfairness of my sentence, compared to Tim and Robb’s looms.
Myself, Robert, and Timothy were teenagers and while approaching adulthood, happened to get involved with and under the influence of a much older and dominant man. Danny Brandon himself testified to this fact during an evidentiary hearing in 2007.
I have now been incarcerated going on 18 years, which ironically happens to be the very age of which I was at the time of my crimes. There isn’t a day that does by that I don’t wish I could only turn back time so I could’ve done something different. To this very day I just wish I could somehow take it all back. I don’t claim to be perfect. In fact, I was a troubled teen, though I never would have done anything like this without being under the influence of methamphetamines, duress, and so youthfully naïve.
In fact, my only prior convictions were in the state of Arkansas, and were committed when I was merely fifteen years of age. Two charges of which consisted of forgery and theft. The forgery was under $100.00. Yet, I was sentenced as an adult. I was simply a young man that was in need of help. Namely rehabilitation and therapy. Now I have been habitualized on those two prior charges and received that maximum when I only scored out to a little over 30 years.
I will not sit here and try to persuade this clemency board that I didn’t deserve to be incarcerated. Regardless of the circumstances, I made some very bad decisions. Though I didn’t understand at first, I have come to realize that my incarceration has helped me to become a better man. And as I have had some bumps along the way, overall I have made the best of this and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t struggle to better myself in some way. I have pursued and I continue to pursue every vocational trade this state has to offer. I have been kicked out of classes due to my sentence, to make room for inmates who have release dates, only to remain intent on pursuing the next possible vocation. I am now in the process of graduating Electrical Wiring. No matter how grim my circumstances may seem. Every day is a struggle in which I strive to better myself in mind, body and spirit.
After struggling with the hurt, anger, and failure to understand, early on in my sentence as to why the courts couldn’t seem to believe me… an affiliation with The World Church of the Creator, the DRs, and the utter sense of hopelessness, I have come to realize that none of that no longer matters. And I let it all go. I am now drug-free and my affiliations with the Church of the Creator have been severed for years. Only to heal and accept my fate, while doing everything in my power to focus on my future and making the best of it. Whatever that may be.
Eighteen years is a long time, I have become a man behind these bars. And I have learned a lot of lessons. Foremost, being that you don’t realize what you have until it is gone. To lose your freedom for “life” is a hard pill to swallow. Especially at the youthful age with your life sentence consisting of “the rest of your natural life”.
When I turned eighteen, I had a dream like most young men at that age. My dream was to become a marine and to serve my country. And though that dream was shattered, I have found that I can still dream. My new dream is that I come home one day to my family, friends, and loved ones. I wish to put all of this behind us and make the best of what I can with my future. I have lost a lot of years of my life behind these fences. Though, no matter what happens I vow to stay strong and positive minded.
Also my heart goes out to the victims of these crimes. I would sincerely like to apologize for my part in these crimes. A lot of people have suffered for these crimes: the victims, their families, my family, and myself. I will have to live with the decisions I made on those hot summer days, for the rest of my life. Whether I am granted clemency or not. Along with the knowledge of what this has done to my family. I truly believe that my mother has suffered just as much as I have. And she was just as innocent as the victims. I will always live with this.
The courts have recently deemed life sentences without parole unconstitutional for citizens under the age of eighteen years old. I simply missed this ruling by a mere two months. I ask that this clemency board also consider this along with the fact that I only had a mere two months to mature past the age of eighteen years old when my crimes were committed.
The rest I leave in the hands of the Lord, and this clemency board. I have now, and continue to accumulate certificates of completions concerning classes and programs. It’s been years since I have received a DR. And by the time this clemency board reviews my case a few more years will have gone by. I ask for mercy from this clemency board, along with asking for a chance to prove myself worthy of regaining my freedom one day. And most of all, I ask for forgiveness. See Department of Corrections records and classifications files for the numerous programs and school “vocational” certificates. Dating all the way back to 1998 when I took Small Engines vocational to the present of which I have completed Electrical Wiring and an currently in pursuit of another class.
Mitchell Barrow # U05334
Graceville Correctional Facility
5168 Ezell Road
Graceville, Florida 32440