Prison Radio
Dennis “Solo” McKeithan

This is Dennis Solo McKeithan at SCI Phoenix in Pennsylvania. 

And I called tonight to speak about the wrongfully convicted and excessively sentenced. You know, referring to myself, you know. I remember growing up hearing and reading stories about the injustice perpetuated against Black men and women by the criminal injustice system that was created to protect the status quo. One of the first books my sixth grade teacher gave me was the Scottsboro Boys.

Prisons became the new plantations and Black bodies became the new economical product. The government created unjust laws geared towards Blacks, just like the crack cocaine [inaudible]. Philadelphia was no exception. But the now-defunct career criminal program was established in Philadelphia, January, 1983 and lasted about two years. This program was ruled by a policy, not a law. It was established by the district attorney and a president judge. The only- the Pennsylvania legislature had nothing to do with it. This policy allowed the district attorney to judge [inaudible] to take you in front of one of three judges favorable to the district attorney’s interests. And thus lead to Black prisoners being sentenced the death penalty in numbers for crimes like robbery, crimes with no physical injuries of any type.

Many of those Black men and women are still in prison today 35 to 40 years later waiting to die. I am one of those stories. One of those Black men murdered by a criminal injustice system for a crime I did not commit—and a crime void of any physical violence. I was sentenced to 110 years for robbery, wrongfully convicted and excessively sentenced. This program was established by the ex-Supreme Court Justice Casteel. He used this program in order to climb his way to the Supreme Court. When this program was established, they put out a memo that you had to have three previous convictions of a certain type and a new crime. I didn’t fit that criteria, but at that time, no one knew what this program was. So therefore, I never knew I didn’t fit the criteria. I never knew what the criteria was. And when I did find out, every petition that I filed asking for the court to look at this—because if I was misclassified, I was also sentenced illegally. And I should have been sentenced to my prior record score, which mean that I would have been home 30 years ago or 20 years ago. 

The district attorney office today talks about an integrity unit, talks about wanting to get people out of prison that’s been excessively sentenced. I came to jail in my twenties, I’m in my sixties. What are they gonna wait until after I die and say that was wrong? It’s important that people contact the Philadelphia district attorney office about those like myself and protect me myself. Who’s sitting in jail today because they were misclassified as career criminals back in the early 1980s. And no one has ever reviewed this situation to the day.

No matter how many petitions was filed, no amount-no matter how many letters write. This district attorney today states that he is against the death penalty, but how can he be against the death penalty and not be against what has happened to me?

I encourage everybody to contact the Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner and ask him to look into the case of Dennis McKeithan. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, worst- versus Dennis McKeithan. And ask him to look into his misclassification as a career criminal, his excessive sentence, and his wrongfully convicted situation. I appreciate having this time and being able to share this with people because they have a lot of people right in Philadelphia that don’t even know that this career criminal program ever existed.

It was here one day and gone the next, but by time it left, it had left a lot of bodies in its wake. I’m one of those bodies. Thank you.