A Message from Bomani Shakur (Keith LaMar) from Ohio’s death row about injustice, racism, and getting on with life

5 September 2015

Hello everybody:

Well, I finally received and read the court’s decision. What can I say? It’s so blatantly bogus that it’s almost impossible to form words to describe how I feel. It’s tragic. I mean, I’ve read the State’s theory quite a few times over the years, and I’ve refuted it every step of the way. But to now have it stand as the final word on the matter is a real slap in the face (to say the least). This system is such a joke, and these people, with their fancy titles and fancy robes, are nothing but a bunch of racist idiots with power—a power that they don’t deserve. And I’m expected to continue this charade by filing this or that motion, writing to this or that person, as if appealing to these people’s supposed conscience really means something beyond reducing me to a sniveling fool. I’m done with that. I’m done pleading and begging for my body, as if “my life” is something that they can truly take. My life is the sum total of all the thoughts and feelings that reside inside my mind, and they can never touch that.

We’ve given these people (?) way too much power over us, entrusted them with too much that is too precious, only to have them use, abuse and confuse us over and over again.

Why? Why do we continue to believe in this dream, this lie that we live in a post-racial society that recognizes only human beings? When will we ever wake up and see that all they have ever done is hide what’s real by revealing what’s false? I mean, contradiction after contradiction, and we swallow it all. Why? And this is how we’re expected to live our whole lives: watching little boys get gunned down at the playground for playing with toy guns—and no one is held accountable. How is that justice? A man standing on the sidewalk selling cigarettes (in the richest country in the world, no less) is murdered in broad daylight, on video, for everyone to see—and still no one is held accountable. And I’m supposed to be shocked and surprised that I lost my appeal?

Let’s get real. They’ve been killing niggers for centuries around here—hanging ‘em, burying ‘em, tar and feathering ‘em. . .  And ain’t I just a nigger, a THING? No? Well, tell that to the Supreme Court who, in 1875, declared that Dred Scott could not sue for his freedom because HE WAS NOT A PERSON, BUT PROPERTY. Better yet, tell it to Eric Garner’s family who, instead of receiving justice for their loss, were given a bag full of money to bury their grief, as if he was some kind of farm animal.

Make no mistake: when it comes to the so-called “justice system” in this country, we’re still stuck in the 1800s; the only thing that has changed is the vantage point from which we view what we choose to see. So look closely, adjust your scope, and you’ll see the tree and the rope. They’re still hanging niggers in America!

Over 100 of you showed up at my oral arguments last December and saw with your own eyes how ridiculous this whole thing is; the State couldn’t defend what they did. Many of you left with an optimistic feeling, believing that there was no way such a mockery could be rewarded with a victory. I feel your pain. It’s the same pain I felt after the blindfold was ripped from my eyes twenty years ago when a man, testifying at my trial, got on the stand and claimed to have had microscopic microchips embedded in his brain. There’s no way a jury is going to find me guilty of this, I told myself. But find me guilty they did—and then they sentenced me to death! Believe me, I know what it means to be disillusioned. Indeed, for the past twenty years, I’ve watched the so-called “wheel of justice” roll over my rights while my alleged attorneys have done nothing but sit back and collect a fee to auction off my life. Trust me, this whole process has been nothing but a sham.

Case in point: Three weeks after oral arguments were heard in my case, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on another case in which the principal issue, once again, revolved around the withholding of exculpatory (favorable) evidence. In this case, a Mr. Darryl Gumm admitted to the kidnapping, attempted rape, and murder of a ten-year-old boy. However, since the State neglected to divulge to Mr. Gumm’s attorneys that other suspects—two of whom reportedly confessed to the murder—were initially pursued, Mr. Gumm was granted relief. He was also granted relief on the grounds of prosecutorial misconduct, after the prosecutor improperly elicited testimony from Mr. Gumm’s ex-roommate who testified that he (Mr. Gumm) “fucked a horse” that belonged to the roommate’s family.

Now, I think we can all agree that there’s nothing more deplorable than the rape and murder of a 10-year-old child (to say nothing of the horse!)—and yet, in reviewing his claims, the Sixth Circuit, notwithstanding Mr. Gumm’s confession, was correct in granting him relief since the State violated his Constitutional rights by not turning over evidence that contradicted their theory of events. This is the exact same thing the prosecution did in my case (and worse), and I, likewise, should have received relief. In fact, not only did Mr. Gumm and I have the same issue, but we had the same attorney, the same federal judge, and appealed to the same court (I wish I was making this stuff up).

On his initial appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court, Mr. Gumm’s convictions were upheld (as were mine), after which an appeal was filed in federal court. Here, Mr. Gumm was appointed an attorney named Kate McGarry (as was I), who diligently pursued his claims, even after his sentence was reduced to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole. Chief Magistrate Michael Mertz  (same judge as I) presided over the case and recommended that Mr. Gumm receive relief. The State appealed to the Sixth Circuit, who ultimately upheld the District Court’s decision to grant relief to Mr. Gumm.

I present this case and its particulars, not to judge or castigate Mr. Gumm (obviously, he’s a very sick man), but to illustrate the arbitrary and capricious (and racist!) way in which “justice” is meted out in this country, and why the death penalty cannot be administered fairly.

Unlike Mr. Gumm, I never confessed to any crime; indeed, when the State offered me a deal, I rejected it outright and demanded a trial. I said it then, and I say it now: I didn’t kill anybody during the riot. But instead of turning over evidence that would help prove my innocence, the State played a game of mix and match, mixing random witness names with random excerpts of statements, and then told me to figure it out on my own. They never attempted to treat me fairly.

In 2007, when I was called back for an evidentiary hearing, I was allowed, through my attorneys, to put Lead Prosecutor Mark Piepmeier on the stand. He was the one who had fashioned the guidelines by which exculpatory evidence was turned over. Therefore, getting him on the stand was pivotal in proving that I was deprived of my right to due process. Under examination, he admitted that he had devised a Brady scheme that was decidedly narrow; to wit, in order for a statement to be viewed as favorable to my defense the witness had to “specifically exclude” me as a suspect.

In other words, if a witness came forward and claimed to have seen one of the murders, his statement was not viewed as exculpatory unless he specifically stated, “By the way, Keith LaMar wasn’t there.” This is crazy. Why would anybody, testifying to what they saw, think it necessary to specifically exclude me if they didn’t see me? And if they didn’t see me, how could they automatically assume I was a suspect? It didn’t make sense—unless, of course, the whole purpose behind narrowing the qualifications was to stifle and hinder the defense.

Because of what Piepmeier revealed on the stand at my evidentiary hearing, attorneys representing other prisoners who were sentenced to death after the riot (S.A. Hasan and George Skatzes) were able to convince the court to put their clients’ cases on hold while they combed the prosecutor’s files to determine for themselves what exactly was wrongfully withheld—and whether or not it was exculpatory.

It was the only fair and reasonable solution to circumvent the preposterous provisions that were established by the State (note: this all happened in 2011, over four years ago, and their cases are still on hold!). But when I asked my attorney, Kate McGarry, to file the necessary motions that would put my case on hold and allow me to go back and review the files, she refused (after initially giving me her word that she would). Why?

To put it plainly: racism. Kate McGarry is a racist. That’s the real reason why she didn’t diligently pursue my claims, and why I lost my appeal. I mean, how else to explain it? A white man admits to the kidnapping, attempted rape, and murder of a ten-year-old boy, and she goes above and beyond to protect his rights. Meanwhile, I’m swinging in the wind, strung up in a tree of lies.

About being a racist, I’m sure Kate would vehemently deny such an accusation. But racists very seldom acknowledge that they are racist. Once, while engaged in casual conversation, Kate broached the subject of Trayvon Martin’s death, wanting to know what I thought about it. I told her point-blank that it was racist bullshit.

“How can you justify killing a teenage boy who’s walking home drinking pop, eating Skittles?” I asked. She went on to explain George Zimmerman’s side, as if there was a plausible excuse for why he did what he did. That was the first time I saw it.

On another occasion, I asked Kate about a Senate bill that was being proposed in Arizona, having to do with improperly stopping suspected illegal immigrants. I wanted to know if she was in favor of something that would effectively violate the rights of large groups of Mexicans. She said something to the effect that, “those people enjoy our freedoms, but they don’t want to pay taxes. . .” She went on to tell me about a time when she was having one of her houses built and suspected that there were a few “undocumented workers” on the site.

“Did you go out and stop production? “ I asked.

“Oh, no, I didn’t do that,” she replied, without the slightest sense of hypocrisy in being willing to benefit from their cheap labor while at the same time denying them the right to live as human beings.

Imagine what it felt like coming to the realization that I was being represented by a racist. And before I’m accused of singling Kate out, let me be clear: this whole process was steeped in racism, from the strategic selection of the all-white jury to the hand-picked racist judge that presided over my trial. And that’s the true truth.

So, here I am, standing on the other side of a very long and treacherous journey. What now? In thinking about what to do with what remains of my time, I think it’s important to turn my attention to the movement to abolish the death penalty. Indeed, if we are ever going to move beyond the 1800s, we have to end this barbaric practice of State-sanctioned murder.

There will be a 7-day Walk to Stop Executions (October 4-10) from the Death House in Lucasville to the State House in Columbus to show opposition to capital punishment, and I want to encourage all of you who are able to come out and show your support. We have to stop this thing, and only we—standing together!—can do it. So please show your support. You can find more information at: http://walkagainstthedeathpenalty.footprintsforpeace.net.

In addition to that, I intend to increase my efforts to reach out to at-risk youth. I’ve had several opportunities to phone in to juvenile detention centers and talk with groups of young men who’re at the beginning of this road, and it’s been a very meaningful exchange. I want to double my efforts there and get them some books that’ll teach them about what it means to be alive. A very good book called “Between the World and Me” (Ta-Nehisi Coates) just came out, and I want to get as many copies as possible into juvenile detention centers.  It’s a powerful piece, written to the author’s 15-year-old son about the perils of inhabiting a black body in a racist country.

To raise money to purchase the books, I’m putting up for auction one of the paintings I recently finished, a piece I’m calling “Chillin’ on Green Court,” a reference to the projects where I spent most of my formative years.  It took me 117 hours to complete, and I’m hoping you all will support me in my desire to get some books in to these young people. They need our help. The auction can be found online at Ebay through September 25th at: http://csr.ebay.com/sell/success.jsf?itemid=121760895747&mode=AddItem&draftId=483016342002

I also intend to resume writing my own manuscript. While awaiting the decision, I found it hard to concentrate on writing, which is why I took up painting. Now that the federal court has said what it has to say, I need to get back to my life. I refuse to allow these people, and this situation, to distract me from my purpose. They put me in this madness to make an example out of me, to show other rebellious souls what they’ll do to them if they resist. They tried to break me, to strip me of my strength and rob me of my smile, all so that they could parade me around as a warning to others. But, look! I’m still standing! I’m still smiling! I’m still fighting!

It ain’t over,

Signature of Bomani Shakur (Keith LaMar) Keith LaMar (Bomani Shakur) summer 2015 KeithLamar's mile 2015 KeithLamar with friends 2015   Bomani Shakur

New Film Sheds Light on Lucasville Prison Uprising Cases:

Advertisements

Ohio: Walk to Stop Executions!

From the website: Walk Against the Death Penalty:

On Sunday October 4, 2015, abolitionists from Ohio and beyond will begin a 7 day 83 mile walk from the Lucasville prison where death row inmates are executed to the Statehouse in Columbus calling for an end to capital punishment as proposed in two bills pending in the House and Senate. 

Those unable to participate in the full walk can join the final two hour leg in Columbus on Saturday, October 10, the World Day Against the Death Penalty, or attend the 12 noon rally at Trinity Episcopal Church, 125 E. Broad St. across from the Capitol.  

Keynote speakers include OJPC director David Singleton and two murder victim family members Sam Reese Sheppard, and OTSE President Melinda Dawson.

Death sentence imposed in Pakistan on Asia Bibi, a young Christian mother of five, imprisoned under the country’s controversial blasphemy statute

From: Huffington Post, Nov 30 2010

Pakistan: The Shame and the Promise

The world is shocked by the death sentence imposed in Pakistan on Asia Bibi, a young Christian mother of five, imprisoned under the country’s controversial blasphemy statute. This inhumane act paradoxically occurred while devout Muslims fulfilled their Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca where they prayed for Allah’s mercy. This punishment is contrary to Islamic teachings on justice.

How can the benevolent act of sharing water, the source of life, undertaken by this Pakistani Christian woman toward her Pakistani Muslim co-worker lead to a death sentence? The co-worker refused to accept water drawn from the same barrel as a non-Muslim sparking a callous and controversial case.

Court documents indicate that the encounter provoked two unmarried women to accuse Bibi of making an offensive remark about the Muslim Prophet Muhammad. Bibi denies this allegation testifying that she never defiled the Prophet or commented against Islam. She maintains her innocence but asked forgiveness and after already serving 15 months in prison received an astounding response by the judge who condemned her to be executed. Leaving one to ponder, where is Islamic justice?

This harsh Blasphemy Law, forced upon Pakistan by former President Zia ul Haq, was one of the first examples by extremists in Pakistan to manipulate and exploit Islam for their own political gain. In Zia’s case, it was consolidation of power. Later his supporter Nawaz Sharif, known for ordering the Pakistan nuclear tests in 1998, now heading the hardliner Pakistan Muslim League PML(N), continued the politicization of Islam. Equally disturbing are the actions of former self installed President, Pervez Musharraf, who defends the cruel Hadood ordinances that force women to produce four witnesses when they are raped or be arrested for adultery.

This pattern of perversion of Islamic principles in Pakistan now rivets the world’s attention as it did when Benazir Bhutto was assassinated three years ago. Bibi and her family fear that she will be murdered as well while waiting for justice to be served. The death sentence against Asia Bibi for blasphemy is not only directed against her and her family, but in a broader sense against all of Pakistan, a nation whose international reputation hangs by a thread.

The Blasphemy Laws of Pakistan are antithetical to the protections to minorities guaranteed in Pakistan’s Constitution and the very concept of religious freedom on which Pakistan was founded in 1947. A study by the National Commission for Justice and Peace reports that a total of 964 people have been charged under this ordinance: 479 Muslims, 340 Ahmedis, 119 Christians, 14 Hindus and 10 of other religions. Thirty-two people charged with blasphemy have been murdered through extra-judicial killings. In the case of Asia Bibi, the Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court said, “the treatment meted out to the woman was an insult to humanity.”

Read the rest here.

Noel Irwin Hentschel specializes in World Religions and Global Ethics at the Franciscan School of Theology and is CEO/ Chair of AmericanTours International and The Noel Foundation.

Copyright © 2010 HuffingtonPost.com, Inc.

Don’t Kill Domestic Abuse Survivor Gaile Owens

From Death Penalty Focus

Gaile Owens, a 54-year-old woman and domestic abuse survivor from Tennessee, is scheduled to be executed on September 28.

Owens is seeking to have her death sentence changed to a sentence of life in prison and only Governor Phil Bredesen has the power to grant the request.

The National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women (NCDBW) and the Tennessee Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (TCADSV) have been working together to support Owens. Owens’ supporters say her death sentence should be commuted to life because:

* Owens may be the only prisoner in Tennessee to receive a death sentence after accepting a prosecutor’s offer of a plea agreement for life in prison. In 1985, after years of sexual abuse and severe humiliation by her husband, Owens hired a man to kill him. The prosecutor’s office said Owens could plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence. This offer was made with the approval of her husband’s family. Owens accepted the plea. However, when Owens’ codefendant – the man she hired to kill her husband – refused to take the plea, the prosecutors withdrew the offer.

* Owens’ death sentence is excessive. A recent review of nine cases from Tennessee involving women who have killed or hired someone to kill their partners, shows that six have received probation or early parole and that two received life sentences with eligibility for parole. Only Owens has received death

* Owens was sentenced to death by a jury which never heard critical information about the physical, emotional, and sexual abuse she endured throughout her life, including from her husband. Owens was subjected to physical and sexual violence from a young age. Her husband was but one of the perpetrators of violence against her. When her trial attorneys asked for funds to hire an expert witness with experience in abuse and trauma to evaluate Owens, they were denied.

* The prosecutor withheld exculpatory evidence from the defense. To this date, at least one juror has come forward saying that if she had the information about Owens’ experiences of abuse, she would not have voted in favor of execution. In other words, the proper presentation of this evidence could have resulted in an entirely different verdict and sentence by the jury.

Key Evidence Found in Reggie Clemons Case

Mar 11th, 2010

Last year, Chris Hill, formerly of our Capital Punishment Project, blogged about the case of Reggie Clemons. Chris called the case a horrifying confluence of “police brutality, prosecutorial misconduct, witnesses with motivations to give false testimony, dreadful defense lawyering and blatant racism.” But Clemons, one of four men convicted of murder in the 1991 deaths of two sisters, and who has been on Missouri’s death row for 19 years, may have caught a break.

On Monday, Stephen Hawke of Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster’s office sent a letter (PDF) to circuit Judge Michael Manners, the “special master” who is reviewing the case after Clemons’ June 2009 execution was stayed by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. The letter informs Judge Manners of “previously undisclosed evidence” in the case. That evidence, a rape kit and three lab reports, could possibly support Clemons’ innocence claims. Clemons’ defense attorney, Jeanene Moenckmeier, told the St. Louis Disptach that she “didn’t recall a rape kit.”

Koster’s office has requested a hearing “to be scheduled to determine an appropriate protocol for the testing and dissemination of the test results of the biological evidence in question.” Stay tuned.

Posted by Suzanne Ito, ACLU

 Link to Article Here