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Ohio political prisoner: ‘Fight or die’
Published Feb 9, 2007 10:09 PM
Ohio prosecutors allege that Keith Lamar was the leader of a group of
prisoners dubbed the death squad and was responsible for ordering the deaths of
five inmates during Ohio’s longest and bloodiest prison uprising, at
Lucasville in 1993. Since the uprising he has taken the African name Bomani
Bomani Shakur at
Ohio State Penitentiary.
Bomani Shakur has proclaimed his innocence. He reports that police beat
him, left him naked in freezing conditions for long periods and in cells
without plumbing in order to make him confess to acts he didn’t commit
and to get him to become a witness for the state. He encouraged other prisoners
not to make false confessions or turn state’s evidence.
He is now on death row as one of the Lucasville Five.
Following is an excerpt of an interview by Bomani Shakur’s cousin,
Kevin Lowery. An earlier interview can be found at
How is everything going, Bomani?
Bomani: Things are going surprisingly well. A lot has happened
since we last spoke. [His self-published] book “Condemned” has been
well received and is in the process of being reproduced for wider circulation.
I’ve also won several crucial decisions in court and am one step closer
to receiving a new trial. The court granted me an evidentiary hearing.
I’ll be going back to court in mid-March.
Lowery: Great. For those of us who aren’t familiar
with an evidentiary hearing, could you explain what it is?
Bomani: Sure. It’s a hearing that will allow me to
present evidence. The best thing about a hearing of this sort is that
I’ll get to put the state on the stand and question them about why they
withheld certain things. This will allow me to further expand the official
record and give the court a more in-depth rendering of the issues.
In speaking about the riot, what are some of the
things you want people to keep in mind?
Bomani: Well, first and foremost, people should keep their
minds open and let the facts speak for themselves. As time goes by, it’s
starting to come out that the state hid evidence, forced certain individuals to
lie, paid for testimony, etc., etc. So people need to suspend judgment long
enough to look into what actually took place.
I think when it’s all over, said and done, Lucasville will go down as one
of the biggest fiascos ever. And the fact that five men were placed on death
row will, I think, spearhead the movement to abolish the death penalty
altogether here in Ohio.
When the public sees just how corrupt this system is and how politicians use
capital punishment as a tool to further their political careers, people are
going to call for change, just like they’re doing now concerning the war
in Iraq. It’s all about getting the truth out, man. And the truth about
capital punishment is that only the poor and underprivileged are being killed.
I didn’t kill anybody in the riot and, inasmuch as my life is not for
them to take, I intend to keep on fighting.
Lowery: Speaking of which, I just read about the rally in
front of the supermax prison. Would you care to elaborate on that? I hear it
was a big success.
It was. Despite the horrible weather—it was
raining real bad—quite a few people came out to lend their support. I
felt a deep sense of thankfulness looking out my window and seeing all of them
standing in the rain, speaking truth to power. It was a beautiful thing! Of
course I was too far away to see individual faces or signs, but that made it
all the more meaningful in that everyone became my brothers and sisters.
The rally was done to protest against the death penalty, but we’re also
trying to keep the Lucasville situation in focus. A lot of people—besides
the 11 that were killed during the riot—lost their lives as a result of
what happened and we’re trying to do something about that.
Lowery: Who are some of the other people involved?
Bomani: Well, besides the Lucasville Five—which
consists of myself, S.A. Hasan, James Were (Namir Mateen), Jason Robb and
George Skatzes—there are countless others who were sentenced to life in
prison: Greg Curry, Derek Cannon, Eric Scales, Timothy Grinnell, Mosi Paki
(Elvin Jones), and the list goes on. People can go to ourfight4justice.com to
learn about some of these individuals.
Lowery: Bomani, you wrote in your book that the riot was
a “set-up.” For those who haven’t had the chance to read your
book yet, why don’t you elaborate on that.
Yeah well, in the early 1990s, supermax prisons
began to proliferate as the focus shifted from rehabilitation to warehousing,
and Ohio wanted to get on board. The problem in making the shift came about
because Ohio didn’t need another prison and therefore couldn’t
convince the state legislature to provide the funding. To create the
justification for a new supermax, prison officials began to implement
repressive tactics to induce prisoners to revolt. I know this sounds
outlandish, but it’s the standard modus operandi of those in power.
We’re all connected. What is happening to people in the Middle East is
happening to us as well. So Power to the People!
Lowery: Well said. Stay strong, Bomani.
A copy of Bomani Shakur’s book, “Condemned,” can be
obtained for $10 from the Cleveland Lucasville Five Defense Committee, P.O. Box
5963, Cleveland, OH 44101.
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