A word of thanks and a plan of action for the Lucasville Five

Dear supporter, or potential supporter, of the five men sentenced to death for their leadership roles in the Easter uprising of prisoners at Lucasville in 1993:
       First of all, thanks. When we visited the men on hunger strike at the Ohio supermaximum security prison in January, each brought to the visit a stack of letters from supporters all over the world. They are emphatic that it was this outpouring of support that caused Ohio authorities to take major steps toward equalizing conditions of confinement for all death-sentenced men at the Ohio State Penitentiary.
       Now we move on, redirecting energy to the underlying threat of execution. Each of these prisoners – Siddique Abdullah Hasan, Jason Robb, Bomani Shakur (also known as Keith LaMar), George Skatzes, and Namir Abdul Mateen (also known as James Were) – is in the early stages of appeal in federal courts. They can expect to live several years before they are killed.  We must help them use that time.
       Ohio was the only state with more executions in 2010 that in 2009. Second only to Texas, Ohio was the state with the greatest number of executions in 2010. Ohio has already scheduled nine executions in 2011, one a month from February through October.
       However, since the successful end to the January hunger strike, there has been another spectacular happening in Ohio. The most senior justice of the Ohio Supreme Court who helped to draft the state’s capital punishment law (Paul Pfeifer), a recent director of the state prison system who witnessed 33 Ohio executions (Terry Collins), and ten Catholic bishops including the bishops in Cincinnati (location of the Lucasville Special Prosecutor and site of major Lucasville trials) and Youngstown (where four of the five leaders of the 1993 rebellion are housed) have all come out against the death penalty. Here are some of the things they say.
      Justice Pfeifer: “[O]ver the years, the death penalty has come to be applied more pervasively than we ever intended. We also wanted a review process implemented in which the Ohio Supreme Court, in addition to considering death penalty appeals, would monitor death sentences across the state to verify that they were being evenly and fairly applied. Simply put, that hasn’t happened.”
       Former Director Collins: “I personally observed the execution of 33 men from 2001 to 2010. All 33 times, in the back of my mind I questioned: Had all the reviews and appeals got this case right?…I wondered that because I had previously walked people out of prison who were found not guilty after years of incarceration. What if we got it wrong for those we executed?…[W]e continue to be one of the few industrialized nations to carry out the death penalty when we know mistakes happen.”
       Catholic Bishops: “The Catholic Bishops of Ohio agree with recent comments made by both Ohio Supreme Court Justice Paul Pfeifer and former Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Director Terry Collins that Ohio’s elected legislative leaders ought to debate and ultimately abolish the death penalty.”
       Here are three facts with which the Lucasville prosecutors would agree.
       1.  There was no DNA evidence, there was no physical evidence that permitted the state to connect a particular prisoner with any of the ten murders.
       2.  Therefore, the prosecutors relied on the testimony of prisoners many of whom received benefits (no indictment, reduced charges, concurrent sentences, early parole) in return for their cooperation with the prosecution.
       3.  The five men sentenced to death were convicted primarily on the basis of their leadership roles.  The state still does not know for sure who actually strangled hostage officer Robert Vallandingham.
         If you would find it helpful to know more about the factual details, a new edition (with Foreword by Mumia Abu Jamal) of Lucasville by Staughton Lynd can be ordered from PM Press, www.pmpress.org
What can we do?
We have been advised that the most effective form of communication is individual letters.  Here are the names and addresses of key persons to whom you can write about the following issues:
·         Because there is grave doubt about the evidence used to convict prisoners involved in the Lucasville rebellion, an amnesty should be declared as in New York after the uprising at Attica;
·         In light of increasing doubts about whether the death penalty can ever be fairly implemented, it is time to end capital punishment in Ohio.
Please write to:
Gary Mohr, Director, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, Gary.Mohr@odrc.state.oh.us.

State Representative Ted Celeste, who according to the Associated Press hopes to introduce “legislation aimed at abolishing the death penalty in Ohio,” district24@ohr.state.oh.us.

Finally, so that we can stay in touch with your efforts on behalf of the five men and all others on Ohio’s Death Row, please forward copies of your e-mails to lucasvillefive@gmail.com.      

Yours in hope,

Jackie Bowers                       Dwight LaMar                        Staughton Lynd
sister of George Skatzes        uncle of Bomani Shakur         author, Lucasville

Denis O’Hearn
author,  Bobby Sands, the Irish Hunger Striker who Ignited a Generation