Press Release – Siddique Abdullah Hasan (Carlos Sanders) R130-559 – Hunger Strike at Ohio State Penitentiary

Press Release re Sddique Abdullah Hasan and Hunger Strike in protest of his being locked up in the holePress Release
Re: Siddique Abdullah Hasan (Carlos Sanders) R130-559 &Hunger Strike at Ohio State Penitentiary

Contact: Free Ohio Movement, Tahiyrah Ali 330-366-6838, Khalifa Judge 216-213-4208
Jeff Klein 419-304-3520

On Tuesday August 9, 2016, Siddique Abdullah Hasan (Carlos Sanders, Prison Number R130-559), of the Free Ohio Movement was transferred to the hole and denied access to communication and his property. There has been no response to several calls and requests for the reasoning behind this action and requests for clarification on his safety. The Tuesday prior (8/2/16) Imam Hasan was visited by law enforcement who inaccurately described September 9, 2016 (National Freedom Movement Day) as a plot to harm people and blow up buildings. This is totally untrue.

Please call Gary C. Mohr, OSP Director, immediately and daily:
Tel.: 330-743-0700; fax: 330-743-0841 until they release him. Ask to speak to the Director Mohr and demand that Hasan be allowed back into his regular cell and regain access to his property. The person they connect you to may pretend they only know Hasan by the name Carlos Sanders, even though his name was legally changed to Siddique Abdullah Hasan decades ago.

Hasan is one of the few public spokespeople for the national protest that will start on September 9. It is important that we stand up to repression and terror-baiting as soon as it rears its head.

Effective Monday August 15, 2016 the Muslim Prisoners, including Imam Hasan,will begin a Hunger Strike until he is returned to his cell, his property restored to him and have their concerns heard and addressed.

Supporters of Imam Hasan say this:
The state is coming after Hasan on very flimsy pretext to silence him and stifle his revolutionary organizing. We must stand up together against this repression, otherwise they will come to silence us all.
– Ben Turk Freeman of LucasvilleAmnesty.org & InsurgentTheatre.org

Our system of locking people up has not and is not working. To capitalize on it through what is effectively slave labor just makes matters worse – Attorney Rick Kerger

Please call the prison and share this alert as widely as possible.
Thank you from the Free Ohio Movement
FreeOhioMovement.org

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:

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.

Pack the Courthouse on Dec. 2nd! Support Keith LaMar!

Keith LaMar (aka Bomani Shakur) was placed on death row after the State framed him for crimes he can prove he did not commit during the 1993 Lucasville Prison Uprising at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility. He has been held in solitary confinement for the past 21 years.

Please show up to events, come to the oral argument on December 2nd, read Keith’s book, Condemned, and spread the word. Let’s join Keith LaMar in his fight to stay alive!

Keith’s death sentence is nearing its most critical stage. His final appeal will be heard through oral arguments, scheduled for 2 p.m. on Tuesday, December 2nd at the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. The address is:

540 Potter Steward U.S. Courthouse
100 East Fifth Street
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202
Phone: 513-564-7000

Schedule of Events for Tuesday, December 2nd — Keith LaMar Oral Arguments, Cincinnati, Ohio

12:45 p.m. — Supporters’ Rally before Keith’s Oral Arguments. Let’s come together in Lytle Park, East 4th Street, 2 blocks east of the Potter-Stewart Courthouse in downtown Cincinnati. Wear or carry your shirt if you have one (more will be available for $15).

1:10 — March to the Potter-Steward U.S. Courthouse together. Family and close friends will lead us there (per Keith’s wishes). Address: 100 East Fifth Street in Cincinnati.

1:20 — (T-shirts off/covered/put away). Check in through security and be seated.

2-3 p.m. — Oral Arguments will take place. Be Keith’s ears and eyes and please conduct yourselves peacefully (per Keith’s wishes).

3-3:15 p.m. — Please make your way to a private Vigil for Justice for friends and family at 1st Unitarian Church of Cincinnati. Address: 536 Linton Street (In Avondale off Reading Rd). Free parking and security provided.

3:15 — Fellowship and refreshments in the Fellowship Hall

3:45-5:15 — Vigil for Justice in the Sanctuary

Keith’s is a story about racialized injustice, State corruption, struggle, perseverance and truth. He has laid it all out in Condemned–a soulful, fiery, and captivating book. In it, he traces how the prosecutors fabricated a case against him, dismantles their lies by highlighting their inconsistencies, and proves that his Constitutional rights were violated by their willful withholding of evidence favorable to his defense. Most importantly, Keith compels readers to consider their place within the larger social system, inviting those who would stand on the side of social justice to join him, on his behalf and also for the countless other nameless, faceless people caught up in the struggle for humanity.

A documentary film that focuses on the State’s intentional railroading of Keith LaMar has just been completed (October 2014).

Ohio prisoners freed 39 years after wrongful murder convictions

This is from: Deutsche Welle, Nov 21, 2014:

After decades behind bars for a 1975 murder they did not commit, Ricky Jackson and Wiley Bridgeman have walked free in Ohio. The key witness, a 12-year-old boy at the time, said police coerced him into false testimony.

Ricky Jackson, 57, and Wiley Bridgeman, 60, walked free on Friday after spending two-thirds of their lives in Ohio prisons for a murder they did not commit. The two men, and Bridgeman’s brother Ronnie, who now goes by the name Kwame Ajamu, were sentenced to death in 1975.

A child, Eddie Vernon, testified that he saw the trio kill businessman Harry Franks on May 19 that year. Vernon recently admitted that he never saw the murder, saying that police detectives had coerced him into giving false testimony in the trial.

“The English language doesn’t even fit what I’m feeling, I’m on an emotional high,” Jackson said on Friday after his release, also saying that he harbored no ill will towards witness Vernon.
“I guess a lot of people will want me to hate that person and carry animosity towards them, but I don’t,” Jackson said. “People see him as a grown man today, but in 1975 he was a 12-year-old kid and he was manipulated and coerced by the police and they used him to get us in prison. As far as that young man is concerned, I wish him the best. I don’t hate him, I just wish he has a good life.”
Once set for death penalty, now pardoned

According to the National Registry of Exonerations, a University of Michigan project tracking wrongful convictions, Jackson’s 39 years in prison make him the longest-serving exoneree in US history.

The three-year process leading to the exonerations started with a story published in Scene Magazine in 2011, detailing flaws in the case and questionable elements of star witness Vernon’s testimony. Vernon, now 52, recanted in 2013 when a religious official visited him.

During a court hearing for Jackson on Tuesday, Vernon broke down as he described detectives’ threats before the trial, and the burden of guilt he had shouldered since. By Thursday, prosecutors had filed a motion to dismiss all charges against the three men.

After Scene’s 2011 article, the Ohio branch of Innocence Project, a national organization fighting to exonerate people convicted wrongfully, took up Jackson and Bridgeman’s cause.

ll three men were initially handed the death sentence, but their sentences were later commuted to life in prison. According to Mark Godsey from the Ohio Innocence Project, “one of them came within 20 days of execution before Ohio ruled the death penalty unconstitutional.”

Ronnie Bridgeman, now Kwame Ajamu, was released in 2003; he attended both men’s exoneration hearings on Friday.

ACLU Case: We filed this suit because the ODRC is violating the First Amendment rights of the prisoners and of the press

From: Free Greg Curry: This is about the ACLU Media-access case from the ACLU Ohio website:

May 6, 2014
21 years after the Lucasville prison uprising, the media is still waiting for face-to-face interviews with the condemned prisoners.

For more than two decades, Siddique Hasan, Jason Robb, George Skatzes, Keith LaMar and Greg Curry have claimed they are innocent of the crimes attributed to them during the 1993 prison uprising at Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF).

Among other things, these five men accuse the state of coercing false testimony from other SOCF prisoners in order to convict them. They have spent years in solitary confinement, soliciting media attention in an attempt to convince the public—and ultimately the court system—that they do not belong where they are.

In response, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) has completely banned face-to-face media contact with these men, arguing that they are too much of a security risk to be allowed to tell their stories in person.

In late 2013, the ACLU of Ohio filed a lawsuit challenging this ban. The suit was filed on behalf of Hasan, Robb, Skatzes, LaMar and Curry, as well as one teacher and four reporters, including Pulitzer Prize winner Chris Hedges.  

We filed this suit because the ODRC is violating the First Amendment rights of the prisoners and of the press. It’s not hard to see that their actions have very little to do with security and everything to do with silencing an uncomfortable conversation about the Lucasville uprising.

For proof, consider that many other death row inmates in Ohio have been granted face-to-face access to the media. They include spree killer John Fautenberry, neo-Nazi murderer Frank Spisak, and convicted arsonist Kenneth Richey, who has since been released from death row.

In all, Ohio prison officials have approved nearly two dozen media interviews with other death row inmates while denying each and every request for face-to-face interviews with the five Lucasville prisoners. This ban is a special form of extended vengeance, reserved only for them.

These prisoners are complicated characters, and the Lucasville uprising is a complex story.

Hiding these complexities behind a wall of censorship will not make them go away.
The Basics

21 years ago, on Easter Sunday 1993, more than 400 inmates at an overcrowded prison in Lucasville, Ohio staged an 11-day prison uprising. In the ensuing violence, nine inmates and one corrections officer lost their lives.

The Basics – read more here.

(clockwise from top left) Jason Robb, Siddique Hasan, Greg Curry and Keith LaMar are all incarcerated at Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown, Ohio. Not pictured is George Skatzes, who is incarnated at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution (photo courtesy of Siddique Hasan and Greg Curry).


Artist Laurel Herbold’s imagined rendering of an actual legal meeting between prisoner Jason Robb, former ACLU of Ohio Legal Director James Hardiman, prisoner Greg Curry, ACLU Volunteer Attorneys Alice and Staughton Lynd, prisoner Siddique Hasan, ACLU of Ohio Managing Attorney Freda Levenson and prisoner Keith LaMar.

Ohio man Dennis McGuire is executed using new drug

Please consider to protest the execution of Dennis McGuire
You may also send an email to the advisor of the Governor: kim.kutschbach@governor.ohio.gov

Reblogged from BBC

A man convicted of murder in the US state of Ohio has been executed using a new, never-before-tried lethal injection combination.

Dennis McGuire, 53, was killed on Thursday with a two-drug cocktail, after the maker of the previous execution drug refused to allow its use in capital punishment.

McGuire appeared to gasp and snort over the 15 minutes it took him to die.
He was sentenced to death for the 1989 rape and murder of Joy Stewart.
Stewart was pregnant.

In recent years, US states have had increasing difficulty obtaining drugs for use in lethal injections, as their manufacturers have grown unwilling to provide them for that use.
Ohio officials elected to use intravenous doses of the sedative midazolam and painkiller hydromorphone for McGuire’s execution.

Lawyers for McGuire had said the drugs placed him at risk of air hunger, a phenomenon which causes terror as the patient struggles to catch his breath.

During the procedure, McGuire gasped several times and his mouth repeatedly opened and closed, according to an Associated Press news agency reporter who witnessed the execution.

An Ohio federal judge had rejected a last-minute appeal to delay the execution after McGuire’s legal team argued a jury never heard details of his reportedly troubled childhood.

McGuire’s lawyers alleged he was abused, leading to impaired brain function that made him prone to impulsive actions.

Ohio Governor John Kasich also rejected McGuire’s efforts to become an organ donor, a legal manoeuvre that previously allowed another death row inmate an eight-month reprieve.

Just got word that Soja has ended his hunger strike

From: Redbird Prison Abolition:
Nov. 4th 2013

UPDATE: Just got word that Soja has ended his hunger strike.

“I ended my hunger strike Nov 1, 2013, after a long discussion about my property and the harassment, I agreed to come off strike if my property was brought to me, which was given to me a short while later.

However, my issues with the harassment wasn’t taken too serious in my opinion. I was only told that he would keep his attention on the issue and be fair if something was to happen. At that point  his attention won’t stop something happening to me if that’s what is planned.”

Loss of Hope

Reblogged from the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Aug. 6th, 2013

My name is Vicki Adams Werneke and I am a Federal Public Defender. My colleague Joseph (Joe) Wilhelm and I represented Billy Slagle. 

This Friday, August 9, will mark my 20th year of doing capital work. I was hoping the date would be celebrated with the saving of another life, and by all accounts it would have been. Sadly, as happens with our clients at times, he lost hope. Apparently Billy wanted to die on his own terms. Although I can’t fault him, I am dismayed and a little angry that he made that decision. Anyone who has been in this macabre business very long knows the emotional roller coaster that the clients and defense teams go through when trying to save a life. The roller coaster in Billy’s case had many high moments and many low moments.

Two years ago we conducted a clemency hearing with compelling reasons why Billy should not be executed. He was just 18 when the murder happened, and at that young age he was already a chronic alcoholic. In fact, he was highly intoxicated on drugs and alcohol at time of the crime. Billy came from a very dysfunctional family and with 90 proof roots. He did not enter the victim’s house with any intent to do her harm, just steal from her to get money for more alcohol and drugs, and was very remorseful from the beginning. At that time two years ago, the Governor did not make a final decision on clemency, but instead granted a reprieve because of the lethal injection litigation. The new execution date was set for August 7, 2013.

In the interim two years, Billy reconnected with his family. He had always been withdrawn and getting him to talk was difficult at times. He was always respectful, he just didn’t show emotion or want to be a bother to anyone. But in those two years, he was more communicative and talked about his dreams for what he would make of his life if given an opportunity to live the rest of his life in prison. He knew that he would never get out and would have accepted a life imprisonment without parole. He talked about learning his native language, so he could talk to his aunt. Our office got him a book and CD set so he could start learning. He wanted to work with animals and dreamed of being involved in the program that inmates are allowed to train service dogs. His family talked about he rescued injured animals when he was a child and how good he was with them. Billy talked about how he wanted to help his nieces and nephews and be the patriarch of the family.

In preparation for the clemency hearing in July, we approached the county prosecutor to see if they would at least not oppose our clemency request. The prosecutor had made many public statements that he was approaching capital cases differently, but we weren’t sure whether that meant newly indicted cases or older ones like Billy’s. To our great surprise, the prosecutor actually joined our request! His written response indicated that he agreed clemency was warranted in Billy’s case. The Parole Board still had a clemency hearing and the prosecutor said reiterated his support for a commutation of sentence and explained why the office was taking that position. The prosecutor also told the Board that the murder victim’s family supported the prosecutor’s position. It was incredible and we were so hopeful. So was Billy.

The parole board issued their report on July 16 and the vote was 6-4 against clemency, which meant we had 4 votes for clemency! Of those 4 board members who voted for clemency, 3 were on the board in 2011 and had voted to deny clemency. We were disappointed that 6 members voted against, but again were hopeful. So was Billy.

But then Governor Kasich denied clemency on July 24. No explanation given other than “nothing had changed in two years.” We were devastated and felt like we had been punched in the stomach. So was Billy.
Circumstances had changed in two years, but I guess it didn’t matter to Governor Kasich that the county prosecutor stated Billy was not the worse of the worst and did not deserve execution. I guess it didn’t matter that the victim’s family was in favor of clemency.

Since the prosecutor supported clemency, we reached out to him again to see if he would agree to a judicial proceeding that would result in Billy’s sentence being modified to life imprisonment. The assistant prosecutor said he would discuss it with Prosecutor McGinty and get back to us. We waited as long as we could, and on Tuesday, July 30, 2013, we filed a Request for Leave to File a Motion for New Trial asking the trial court to vacate the death sentence. We hoped the prosecutor would not oppose the motion and we could work out a deal where Billy would be resentenced to life imprisonment. We also filed a Motion for Stay of Execution with the Ohio Supreme Court and a Motion to Vacate the Sentence. The thought was to give every court and judicial officer the tools to do the right thing and stop the execution. The judge summarily denied the motion the Motion for a New Trial on Wednesday, July 31, 2013, without a response from the prosecutor. We learned of the denial when I checked the online court docket at 4:30pm that day, which showed the order was posted at 2:30 that afternoon. No call from the court and so far not even a copy of the order in the mail.

In the meantime, the Ohio Supreme Court ordered the prosecutor to respond to the stay motion and the motion to vacate by Friday, August 2, 2013, at noon. The prosecutor responded late in the afternoon on Thursday, August 1, 2013.The prosecutor said they were opposing our motion seven though they admitted that at the clemency hearing they were in favor of a sentence commutation.

On Thursday, August 1, 2013, we filed a notice of appeal of the summary denial of our request for leave to file a Motion for New Trial. The same day, the Court of Appeals sua sponte ordered the briefs to be filed by Monday, August 5, 2013, by 9:00 am and that oral argument would be at1:30 pm. We were pleased, although knew it would have been difficult for us to win. We still had hope.

Our investigator Jan and I went to the prison on Friday, August 2, 2013, to visit with Billy. I shared with him the responses from the prosecutor to our stay motion and the motion to vacate. I also gave him the brief that Joe was filing with the Court of Appeals that day. He was very sad and obviously disappointed, but there was no indication that he was thinking of taking his life. I had documents for him to sign so we could take further appeals and he signed them without hesitation. I tried to give him hope, but also to prepare him for the worse. I told him we had the oral argument on Monday and that we were still fighting for him. Billy has always been somewhat withdrawn so it wasn’t unusual for him to not be very talkative. He was grateful for our visit, but was ready to go back to his cell after about an hour. I told Billy God didn’t want him executed. After Governor Kasich denied clemency, Billy told his family he didn’t want them to visit in person anymore. However, he did call them every day.

While Jan and I were driving the long 4 hours back to Cleveland, Joe called me. At about 5:00that evening, Joe had received a call from Prosecutor McGinty and his two assistants. Apparently one of the assistant prosecutors from the 1988 trial told McGinty that there had been a plea deal offered to Billy’s trial attorney back then. If Billy plead guilty, they would agree that he would be sentenced to life imprisonment with parole after 30 years. The assistant prosecutor said Billy’s trial attorney rejected the offer. However, it appears that Billy had never been informed of the plea deal. Billy even told us that had he been given a deal back then, he would have taken it. He did not know that he could have plead guilty back then and been spared the death penalty. About an hour after Joe talked with McGinty, one of the assistants called asking if we were going to file another stay motion with the Ohio Supreme Court. Joe replied “Of course”, especially based on this new information. The prosecutor told Joe they would not oppose the motion, meaning the Ohio Supreme Court would most likely grant the motion and the execution would be stopped. We would have been able to work out a deal where Billy’s death sentence would be vacated and he would have been sentenced to life imprisonment.

This was great news! Joe and I worked on Saturday to prepare a strategy and the pleadings .However, we were not able to tell Billy because we didn’t have access to him after hours. We didn’t tell his family out of concern that if the information leaked, others would try to stop the support from prosecutor’s office. We sent an email to the case manager at the prison requesting a phone call first thing Monday morning.

But then Sunday morning, the world shattered. I was in church with my dad and my phone kept vibrating in the middle of the sermon. I could tell I was getting phone calls, but didn’t look at my phone. As soon as I could find a discreet time to take a glance at my phone, I saw a text message from Jan telling me that Billy’s sister called to tell us that he had hanged himself. He was gone.

No one from the prison called us, his attorneys. I learned that after they called Billy’s family, the prison media person called the press. By the time I got out of church, it was all over the news.

There are lessons to learn from this case for everyone. I hope those in position to make the final decisions about a man’s life or death take heed of these lessons. The roller coaster of emotions that I, as a lawyer, experience is heart wrenching—but that is only a fraction of how Billy felt. Even in a case where there is no question of guilt, there remain serious questions about whether the death sentence was the appropriate punishment and the cat and mouse games played by those in power. Hope is a powerful thing and loss of hope can be deadly.

Governor Kasich: Please Stop the Execution of Billy Slagle!

This comes from an email received on July 22nd. We urge the Ohio governor to stop the execution of Mr Billy Slagle:

Native American Billy Slagle, a pen pal of mine, is on death row for a crime he committed in 1987 when he was just 18 years old. A psychiatrist testified at trial that his emotional age was only 12. Billy’s tragic life leading up to the murder of Mari Ann Pope– a life marked by abuse, neglect, drug and alcohol abuse– explains why this young man of 18 years had not emotionally developed beyond age 12. He became already an alcoholic at the age of four. No one can blame alcoholism on a child of four years.
According to the 2011 Parole Boards’s report Joseph Wilhelm of the Federal Public Defender’s Office told the parole board that “Slagle was a broken person who had a broken brain from chemical addiction, a broken childhood from abuse and neglect and was emotionally retarded”.
A federal appellate judge said prosecutors were “most vile” during the murder trial. U.S. Circuit Judge Karen Nelson Moore described Slagle’s trial in CuyahogaCounty as infected with unfairness, and said his conviction should be overturned because prosecutors in Cleveland repeatedly made inflammatory comments during the trial.
Judge Moore, the only member of the panel with a Cleveland tie and former Case Western Reserve University law professor, was highly critical of remarks prosecutors made that portrayed Slagle, an American Indian, “as a nonbeliever or a believer of dubious faith.”
U.S. Circuit Judge John Rogers, who delivered the majority opinion, said 15 improper comments were made during the trial, but found none were strong enough to cause a miscarriage of justice.
Some of the comments included statements that Slagle “has no conscience” and that his life “has been one big lie” and that he was “one of the greatest threats against community and civilization.” The prosecutors also belittled defense witnesses, calling one expert on alcoholism a person who offered “only liberal quack theories.”
I was sorely shocked to get to know that Ohio Parole Board recommended in a unanimous vote in 2011, that the Governor of Ohio should deny Billy Slagle’s clemency request.
After a stay of all executions in Ohio from 2011 to 2013 – due to juridical problems with a new execution protocol – the Ohio Parole Board voted 6-4 to turn down a new request for clemency for Billy Slagle on July 16th, 2013, despite the mitigating circumstances, although even Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty asked the Ohio Parole Board to recommend clemency to the Governor of Ohio to commute Billy Slagle’s death sentence to life without parole. I endorse his request wholeheartedly taking into account the mitigating circumstances of Native American Billy Slagle who was a teenager and chronic alcoholic when he committed the crime.
Billy Slagle is not the teenager anymore who committed a crime in 1987. Billy Slagle is no alcoholic anymore. He is a grown-up kind man who has spent more than the half of his lifetime on death row. He has changed entirely, and feels deep remorse for the crime that he committed as a juvenile of 18 years. 

“I’m neither inherently evil nor a bad person, but rather someone that has made a terrible mistake and wishes that I could take that night all back,” Billy Slagle wrote in a statement to the board in 2011. I know my friend Billy deserves the mercy of the Governor of Ohio!
Please ask Governor Kasich to stop the execution of my friend Billy despite the denial of the request to recommend clemency to him by 6 members of the Board!
Remembering the words of the New Testament “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40) I am imploring Ohio to show clemency to Native American Billy Slagle! 

Please urge Governor Kasich to spare the life of Native American Billy Slagle!

Thank you.