Sunday, July 22, 2007

Lucasville 5 prosecutor cross-examined at hearing

By Sharon Danann
Published Jul 22, 2007 10:11 PM

On July 9 and 10, supporters filled a courtroom of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio in Dayton for an evidentiary hearing for Keith LaMar (chosen name Bomani Hondo Shakur). LaMar hopes to get a new trial based on the violations presented in the hearing.

This was the first time that there has been the opportunity to cross-examine the prosecutors of one of the Lucasville Five in order to demonstrate prosecutorial misconduct in the original trials.

The Lucasville Five are five men on death row as the result of charges brought after the prison rebellion in Lucasville, Ohio, in 1993. LaMar did not take part in that rebellion, but he refused to either confess to crimes he didn’t commit or cooperate with the state, and he also encouraged other prisoners to do the same. For that he is now on death row.

In this hearing, the focus was on evidence that the prosecutors failed to provide to LaMar’s defense attorneys. At the time of the original trial, the prosecutors provided summaries of the interviews to the judge, who read them aloud at a hearing. However, all names had been omitted, rendering them virtually useless. The following day the defense was provided with an overall list of the names of prisoners who had been interviewed by the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

This forced the defense to re-interview the prisoners, for which the defense did not have adequate financial resources and time. Not providing exculpatory evidence to the defense, meaning evidence that could have proved LaMar’s innocence, is a violation of the legal precedent known as Brady v. Maryland, a U.S. Supreme Court decision from 1963.

In an unusual move, Judge Michael Merz interrupted the proceedings to thank the observers for taking the time to come to the hearing. It is hoped that this signals a positive inclination toward granting LaMar a new trial.

To write to Keith LaMar, include his prisoner number, #R317-117, Ohio State Penitentiary, 878 Coitsville-Hubbard Road., Youngstown, OH 44505-4635 and include a pre-embossed stamped envelope so that he can answer your letter.

To obtain a copy of Keith LaMar’s book, “Condemned,” about his torture at the hands of the prison system and the triumph of his spirit, send a check or money order for $10 to Cleveland Lucasville Five Defense Committee, P.O. Box 5963, Cleveland, OH 44101.

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