Bomani Shakur (Keith LaMar) OPS Hunger Strike

4/29/13

 

Hello everybody. My name is Keith LaMar. Most of my friends call me Bomani, and I’m one of the five men who was sentenced to death as a result of my alleged involvement in the Lucasville Prison Uprising. 

 

Before I speak my piece tonight and express what’s going on inside of me, I want to first extend my heart-felt gratitude to each and every one of you.

I am aware that there are any number of places that you all could be on this Friday evening. And so it means a lot to me that you are here to mark this very important occasion with us. 

 

By anyone’s estimation, twenty years is a long time. But twenty years spent in solitary confinement is torture. 

In all this time, we have yet to tell our side of the story. In a very real sense, we have been silenced, held incommunicado, while we move ever closer to being executed. 

 

Well enough is enough. By the time you hear this message, we will have been on hunger strike for over a week now, protesting the unfair and unreasonable refusal by the State to allow us access to the media.  

 

It’s time for the public to hear our voices. It’s time for you all to hear our side of the story. 

As many of you may or may not know, there was no physical evidence linking anyone to crimes.  No fingerprints, no DNA, or any other kind of forensic evidence that conclusively connected anyone to any of the crimes that were committed during the 11-day uprising. 

 

This means the State had to rely solely on the testimony of individuals who, from the very outset, were lacking in credibility. 

Yet, and still, a guard was killed and somebody had to pay for that. However, with no physical evidence linking anyone to the crimes, the question inevitably becomes, “How does one manufacture credibility and bring to justice those responsible?” This was the formidable task that was taken on by the State. 

 

In almost every case arising out of the disturbance of 1993, there were multiple versions of what actually occurred, and multiple individuals who, for various reasons, were willing to testify to different versions of the truth. So who to believe? 

 

“What made one would-be witness more credible than the next?” This is the question to ask.

In my particular case, the State called more than six witnesses against me who testified, under oath, that they saw me murder and/or order the deaths of five inmates, and they made it appear as though the testimony given by these individuals was irrefutable. And in a certain sense it was. Not because what was said about me was true, but because they prevented me from putting forth testimony that refuted their rendering of the facts.  

 

As is customary in all criminal cases, my attorneys requested– in a motion for discovery– all statements that tended to point the finger at someone else. For those of you who are not familiar with the legal process, this kind of evidence– that is, evidence that is favorable to the defense– is called exculpatory evidence and the prosecutor is required by law to turn it over, even if or when it sheds an unfavorable light on his case. After all, the prosecutor’s job is not to win a guilty verdict, but to see that justice is done. Or so the story goes… 

 

When my attorneys made the request in discovery for statements that tended to point the finger at someone else, the prosecutor refused to turn over these damning statements, and there were many. Indeed, for every witness that testified against me, there was a witness who claimed to have seen someone else commit the very crimes for which I was ultimately sentenced to death. Unfortunately, the jury in my case never got the opportunity to hear from these witnesses. 

 

Indeed, it wasn’t until my case was over and I was already sitting on death row that I even learned of these conflicting and damning statements. But it was too late by then. 

 

"So why, then, am I rehashing all of this now?" you may ask. "What do we possibly hope to gain by asking you all here tonight?" 

Well, since we didn’t receive fair trials through the criminal justice system, we intend to retry our cases in the court of public opinion. Since, when all is said and done, the ultimate outcome– be it freedom or death– will be carried out in your name. It’s to you, the public, that we must now turn.  

 

Out of the five men who were sentenced to death, my case is the furthest along in terms of being resolved. 

 

In late December of 2012, I filed my last appeal, moving me one step closer to the execution chamber. 

If the State has its way, they are going to kill me soon. However, in as much as my life is not for them to take, I intend to fight them, to stand up and speak truth to the power that has delivered me to this evening. 

I... no… We need your help. 

I’ve written a book called Condemned. In it, I lay out the particulars of my case and the overall injustice that occurred. Please read it, and if you believe it, and if what you hear over this long weekend rings true, join us in our efforts to right these wrongs. We can stop this thing. I’m innocent. The State of Ohio is trying to kill me.