This originally aired on The Final Straw
Earlier this month, the United States Sixth Circuit Court heard oral arguments in the appeal of Ohio death row prisoner Bomani Shakur who’s government name is Keith LaMar. Bomani is one of the five prisoners prosecuted as the Lucasville Five. Targeted as leaders of the weeks long prison uprising that occurred in the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility that occurred in Lucasville Ohio in 1993. If you do the math you realize, this is a twenty one year old legal battle, so far.
Bomani was identified, targeted, prosecuted and condemned to death, strictly on the testimony of other prisoners. There existed no security footage, no DNA, no fingerprint evidence. Only the accounts of other convicted felons, who may or may not have had their own motives to lie, who may or may not have attributed their own criminal behavior to Bomani. While hundreds of prisoners were involved in the uprising, investigators only collected the statements it seems from less than a hundred of them. So we must conclude that hundreds of prisoners have no idea what occurred, suffering mass amnesia, or investigators simply chose not to take note of their accounts.
Bomani himself has written extensively. His account was published last year, entitled, Condemned. It’s an excellent read, and very revealing with regard to the tactics the state used in its frame up of targeted prisoners in the aftermath of a riot. I sent my copy to Governor JWow, who never even had the courtesy to write me back and tell me what he thought of the book. What an ingrate.
So anyway, the hearing… The reason this court hearing is so crucial is that the US Court of Appeals will either decide to vacate Bomani’s conviction or to set an execution date. The US Supreme Court only hears about 3 percent of cases, so that means this was Bomani’s last good shot at being heard.
Bomani wasn’t permitted to attend, of course, but more than 100 supporters packed the courtroom. His attorney, David Daughton was also there, but Bomani and his attorney haven’t been on speaking terms for quite some time. Imagine that: facing execution and being excluded from a hearing where your only hope is that someone who isn’t speaking with you can convince three judges who never met you that you shouldn’t be strapped to a table and then murdered.
The panel hearing the arguments was composed of two White conservatives, appointed by Bush, and one Black centrist appointed by Clinton, not exactly a dream for a Black prisoner Condemned for the death of a White guard, a conviction rubber stamped by lower courts for twenty one years.*
But, according to observer accounts, the arguments went incredibly well. Links to notes, a reportback [two actually] and even the audio of the hearing can be accessed online. The principle argument presented by Bomani’s attorney was the unfairness of the state withholding important evidence. In a process never previously employed in any other case, prosecutors at Bomani’s trial gave his attorneys a list of prisoner names and a stack of anonymous statements. It was left to counsel to attempt to “mix and match” statements to the prisoners who made them, and then attempt to figure out which statements were credible and which ones impeach which. The judges even referred to this as a “mix and match game” and asked the prosecutor why such a process was undertaken. The prosecutor could provide no coherent answer and one judge followed up to clarify that not even the prosecutor could justify such a process, one that could only be by design, an effort to confuse and obstruct Bomani’s defense.
Instead the prosecutor argued some kind of procedural minutiae, that Bomani’s attorneys should have filed something within a legal time frame because that time frame was going to change in the future. In other words, the court should ignore a deliberate injustice and execute an innocent man because his counsel didn’t exercise psychic powers to anticipate a future change in court rule.
So the real question before the court of appeals is whether the courts will turn a blind eye to prosecutors and prison officials scapegoating those that they don’t like, killing with a needle the fortune few that the Darren Wilsons don’t happen to shoot. The real question is whether or not the United States will yet again become the murderer that Bomani is falsely accused of being.
Free the Lucasville 5. Check out the links when this segment gets posted.
This is Ohio governor in exile elect, Sean Swain, from the Ohio Supermax Facilty. If you’re listening, you are the resistance.
*Sean’s got his facts wrong here. Bomani did not fully participate in the uprising. The other four of the “Lucasville 5” were wrongly convicted of involvement in the guard’s murder. Bomani surrendered the first night, days before the hostage guard was killed. Five perceived snitches were killed in the first hours of the uprising, and when Bomani refused and encouraged others to refuse to cooperate with investigators, he was targeted and framed for these murders.
Also, legal technicalities, the 6th Circuit doesn’t set the execution date, they green light the State of Ohio to setting the date, and the guy arguing the state’s side in this appeal is not the prosecutor from the original trial, and is not officially called a prosecutor, but rather the “state’s attorney”. These are errors contained in a report back Sean is referencing, which have been corrected, but he hasn’t seen the corrections, cuz y’know… prison.