I Am A Killer S1E1

Photo credit: IMDB

So I don’t know if you have watched this show and at times it’s really not for the faint of heart. However, it gave me a different perspective on a few things, so I highly recommend it. I will say that the sticking point for me to want to watch it was when I was watching the trailer and an inmate goes “yeah I killed him, and I don’t feel bad about it.” He then laughed, and it sent chills down my spine. I had to know what made this person so cold and tick. I needed to watch this show as soon as possible. I am happy to say that I enjoyed every minute of it and I am now going to take you through each episode. I will be doing a blog post per episode. I am going to first talk about the episode and everything that was presented in it. Then I am going to talk about the additional research I have done on the inmate for that episode. As well as any thoughts and feelings I have about the topic at hand or policies related to the episode.

Before we begin my look at episode 1, they share the same fact at the beginning of every episode, and I figured I would do the same;

Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, 8000+ have been sentenced to death for murder.

IAAK EP1: Means to an End
Death Row Inmate #322534
James Robertson | Age 54 | In prison: 37 years

In 2008 James Robertson strangled his cellmate, Frank Hart, to death. In the episode, they claim that there was no clear motive for the crime. Robertson grew up on the east side of Orlando, Florida. He classified his family as lower-middle class, he was really indifferent when talking about his childhood. He claims to have started using drugs at a young age as well as early criminal behavior at the age of 12. When Robertson was originally sent to prison, it was at age 17 for burglary and aggravated assault and escape. His sentence was 10 years. He received additional time on his sentence for behavior issues while serving his sentence. Due to his behavior, Robertson was placed in Close Management (CM).

Close Management (CM): is the confinement of an inmate separate from the general population.
Close Management Rules:

  • Solitary confinement of up to 23 hours per day.
  • Permitted weekly exercise: 6 hours
  • Restricted work activities
  • Personal property can be removed
  • Restricted visitor rights

Robertson hated CM and wanted to be on death row. He killed his cellmate because he believed that Hart was a child molester. He freely admits that he feels no remorse over the killing.
They at one point interview someone who Robertson claims is a friend, yet the former inmate says they are not friends and he couldn’t stand Robertson. The former inmate refers to Robertson by his nickname of Chicken Head. He describes Robertson as a narcissist, a “piece of shit,” quick to violence and is a cowardly bully.
When Robertson killed his cellmate, he was not automatically sentenced to death. He fought for 3 years to be sent to death row. He went through 5 attorneys to get sentenced to death. In 2012, the Florida Department of Corrections (FL DOC) was instructed to prepare a pre-sentence investigation report (PSI). The PSI played a key part in the process of determining his fate. On December 18, 2012, Robertson was sentenced to death. The determination to sentence him to death was not made to reward him but because of his violent record only escalating over time. Almost 20 years (of the 37), Robertson had spent in CM. He has spent 5 years so far on death row. No execution date has been set.
——That episode was definitely an intense one to watch. However, I will say that my additional research definitely showed that death row was the only place he was going to end up. The first step in my research was the FL DOC record. You can find him via the inmate number provided at the beginning of the episode, that is his actual inmate number.  He is described as a white male, blonde hair, blue eyes, 5’11” and 200lbs. He was born May 26th, 1963. His initial receipt date is November 26th, 1980. He is currently housed at Florida State Prison, in maximum security, with his release date listed as death penalty. 
His crime and sentence record is as follows:

  • May 11th, 1980
    • Burglary
      • Sentenced 11/12/80 – 4Y 0M 0D
    • Aggravated assault w/weapon, no intent to kill
      • Sentenced 11/12/80 – 4Y 0M 0D
  • August 8th, 1980
    • Escape from prison
      • Sentenced 11/12/80 – 2Y 0M 0D
  • June 20th, 1985
    • Transmit contraband – prison
      • Sentenced 4/10/86 – 15Y 0M 0D
  • July 21st, 1987
    • Aggravated batter w/ deadly weapon
      • Sentenced 3/23/88 – 5Y 0M 0D
    • Introduce weapon/firearm
      • Sentenced 3/23/88 – 5Y 0M 0D
  • March 23rd, 1988
    • Escape
      • Sentenced 11/2/88 – 5Y 0M 0D
    • Battery
      • Sentence 11/2/88 – 8Y 0M 0D
  • August 30th, 1988
    • Construct/Possess contraband
      • Sentenced 5/19/89 – 12Y 0M 0D
  • April 9th, 1995
    • 1st degree attempted murder
      • Sentenced 4/29/97 – 8Y 4M 11D
    • Construct/Possess contraband
      • Sentenced 4/2/97 – 8Y 4M 11D
  • December 10th, 2008
    • 1st-degree murder
      • Sentenced 12/18/12 – Death
  • December 19th, 2011
    • 2nd degree attempted murder
      • Sentenced 12/18/12 – 15Y 0M 0D
    • Attempted robbery, gun or deadly weapon
      • Sentenced 12/18/12 – 15Y 0M 0D

On January 31st, 2014, Robertson’s appellate counsel appealed to the Florida Supreme Court (FLSC) to withdraw counsel. That appeal was denied by the Supreme Court. They filed an appeal with the Supreme Court with the following argument on Robertson’s behalf:
The sequence of events resulting in James Robertson’s death sentence does not comply with the procedural and substantive standards set by the United States and Florida constitutions, the legislature, the U.S. Supreme Court, and this court, and — if the sentence is carried out — would result in state-assisted suicide.
In the appeal filed with the FLSC, I found some interesting information that paints a better picture of the situation. Robertson dropped out of school in the 8th grade, he also had an assortment of juvenile charges from age 11 to 16. In 1998, Robertson was nearly successful in a suicide attempt by hanging. He began to formulate his plan to get out of CM in July 2008, when he had a prospective release date of 2038. When he was initially charged with killing his cellmate, he was charged with 2nd-degree murder, which does not carry a sentence of death. 
In a letter-writing campaign to the State’s Attorney, he is quoted a saying: 

“My secondary motive was I wanted to get some guards in trouble but I don’t even care about that anymore. I just want my death penalty.”

On August 10, 2009, Robertson refused to the plea deal of life imprisonment for the 2nd-degree murder charge.  This forced the state to convene a grand jury to seek an indictment for capital murder. The reason Robertson conflicted with so many of his lawyers was because of the defense he wanted to present. The defense being:

“He wanted the defense that the homicide was the Department of Correction’s fault because they knowingly put Robertson and Hart in a cell together althrough both wanted to be moved. Robertson believed that correctional officers wanted him to harm Hart”

In 2011, Robertson’s lawyer at the time filed a notice of intent to rely on an insanity defense. Robertson underwent a psych eval in August 2014 and was found that he did not meet the standard for insanity. In December 2011, to prove he would not stop until he was sentenced to death, Robertson attacked a correctional officer. The incident brought about charges of attempted murder and attempted robbery. At a hearing on June 20th, 2012 Robertson’s attorney at the time told the judge the following:

“My client does want a plea, but he wants to plea to a death penalty case. That wasn’t offered initially, but I talked to Mr. Mason, and doing the research, and if I can put it together, he might go adead and do a — do a death penalty case and then we’ll just enter a plea to it, but, again, I don’t knof if it’s going to go that route or not.”

Robertson also admitted that he would keep killing until he was sentenced to death. He agreed to be evaluated by two mental health professionals, in order to make appropriate findings as to his competency. He also agreed to a recorded interview by a State’s Attorney office investigator. Below is a portion of that interview:

Investigator Ladelfa: Would you — would it be anybody?

Mr. Robertson: Anybody.

Investigator Ladelfa: Would it be any opportunity?

Mr. Robertson: Any opportunity that presents itself. You know – – you know, usually, there’s so many people in the prison that I hate, inmates and guards…[that]…I don’t really hae a problem fining anybody that I dislike to get…

At Robertson’s plea and sentencing hearing on December 18th, 2012, the following was presented by the defense:

Mr. Desisto (attorney for Robertson): You don’t have any remorse for anything you have done, do you?

Mr. Robertson: No.

Mr. Desisto: And you’re going to continue to kill or try to kill anybody and everybody you can till you get your point across; correct.

Mr. Robertson: Yes.

The state issued their response to the FLSC appeal on December 3rd, 2014. Their arguments/issues can be found below:
-Argument/Issue:This court should affirm appellant’s conviction and sentence as any alleged procedural errors by the trial court in imposing the death sentence were harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.
-Supplemental Issue:Appellant knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily entered into a guilty plea and his death sentence is proportionate.
-FLSC handed down their answer to the appeal case on March 17th, 2016. They concluded that the conviction and the sentence of death were affirmed.

Florida Department of Corrections Inmate Informational Page
Florida Supreme Court Decision, July 10th, 2014
Appeal Filed on Robertson’s Behalf with the FLSC
State’s Answer to appeal filed with FLSC
FLSC Decision, March 17th, 2016

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