RACE TRAITOR - treason to whiteness is loyalty to humanity
 

Black and White and Dead All Over: The Lucasville Insurrection
by Staughton Lynd

 

In April 1993, an inmate rebellion broke out at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF) in Lucasville, Ohio, near Cincinnati. Nine prisoners and one correctional officer were killed during the 11-day uprising.

In court proceedings following the end of the riot, five inmates were sentenced to death and are presently on death row at Mansfield Correctional Institution. They are: Siddique Abdullah Hasan (formerly known as Carlos Sanders), Namir Abdul Mateen (formerly known as James Were), Keith Lamar, Jason Robb, and George Skatzes. Hasan, Mateen, and Lamar are black. Hasan and Mateen are Sunni Muslims. Robb and Skatzes are white and are members of the Aryan Brotherhood.

 

Introduction and Chronology
 
I. Anatomy of an Uprising
II. A Riot, a Race Riot, or a Black-and-White Insurrection?
III. A Travesty of Justice
IV. On Death Row
V. Epilogue


III. A Travesty of Justice

On February 3, 1997, the House of Delegates of the American Bar Association voted 280 to 119 to urge Congress and state legislatures to declare a moratorium on the death penalty.

The ABA calls for implementation of previously-adopted policies intended to "minimize the risk that innocent persons may be executed." These policies include: (1) Competent counsel for all defendants in capital cases; (2) Availability of Federal court review of state prosecutions; (3) Elimination of discrimination in death sentencing on the basis of the race of either the victim or the defendant; (4) No execution of mentally retarded defendants or defendants under 18 at the time their crimes were committed.

The ABA House of Delegates acted on the basis of a Report by its Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities. Referring to the four previously-adopted policies listed above, the Report states that "the federal and state governments have been moving in a direction contrary to these policies," for example by ending Federal funding for lawyers helping death row inmates to pursue appeals. According to the Report, "fundamental due process is now systematically lacking in capital cases." It characterizes present administration of the death penalty as "a haphazard maze of unfair practices."

The trials of the Lucasville Five were just such "haphazard maze[s] of unfair practices" as the ABA condemns.

These unfair practices included the following:

  1. Attorney Niki Schwartz of Cleveland, who helped to negotiate the settlement that ended the uprising, has denounced the criminal prosecutions of participants in the rebellion as a travesty of justice. According to Schwartz the prosecutions violated point 2 of the settlement, which said that "criminal proceedings will be fairly and impartially administered without bias against individuals or groups."

    Schwartz has asserted in a letter to Chief Justice Thomas Moyer of the Ohio Supreme Court and in testimony under oath in the trial of Jason Robb that Special Prosecutor Piepmeier successfully aborted efforts by the inmates to obtain counsel during the investigative stage of the proceedings. Schwartz states that Piepmeier told him that if the inmates had counsel prior to indictment they would not incriminate themselves.

    According to Schwartz, after the Ohio State Bar Association, the Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the Ohio Public Defender Commission recruited and held training seminars for over 200 volunteer lawyers to provide individual representation to the inmates targeted for criminal charges, the Special Prosecutor blocked appointment of many of the volunteer lawyers, and through ex parte contacts with the judges persuaded them to appoint lawyers for the inmates selected and approved by the Special Prosecutor.

  2. Millions of dollars were provided to the prosecution, while the inmates' defense was starved for funds. According to an article co-authored by Reginald Wilkinson, Director, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction: "Over 1,250 interviews were conducted. Investigators received on-the-job training from FBI forensics experts. More than 4,000 items were tagged as evidence. A special computer program using over 1,000 megabytes of memory was developed to store and retrieve data on crime witnesses, locations, and events." ("After the Storm," Corrections Management Quarterly, 1997, pp. 20-21.) An article in the Columbus Dispatch, Apr. 6, 1997, based on "state records," summarizes the money made available by the State of Ohio to the prosecution and the defense in the Lucasville criminal cases as follows:
    Prosecution
    Criminal prosecution $1.4 million
    State Highway Patrol investigation $1.3 million
    Total $2.7 million
    Defense
    Defense attorneys, investigators, expert witnesses $892,000
    Thus the state's own figures show that three times as much was spent on the prosecution as on the defense.


  3. The prosecution conceded that there was no physical evidence linking any of the defendants to the murders and kidnap- pings with which they were charged. The allegations against the defendants rested altogether on the testimony of guards and other inmates. In the case of George Skatzes, the Ohio State Highway Patrol pressured him to cooperate with them, that is, to inform ("snitch"). They said they would indict Skatzes for only one murder if he would testify against other defendants. Skatzes told the prosecution that he could not help them. The next time the authorities came to see Skatzes, they told him that this was his last chance, that if he would not help them he would be indicted for three murders. Skatzes once again refused to plea bargain. The prosecution did exactly what it had threatened.

    The testimony that caused the Lucasville Five to be convicted came from inmates who had themselves helped to kill the victims about whom they were questioned, but had entered into plea bargains. A statement to the press by Special Prosecutor Piepmeier indicates that thirteen months into the investigation, Anthony Lavelle, leader of the Black Gangster Disciples, agreed to cooperate with the authorities. (Cincinnati Post, Apr. 6, 1996.) Robert Brookover testified that he had killed David Sommers (Skatzes trial transcript, pp. 3668-69) but he received no additional time as a result of the Lucasville riot. Many of the witnesses conceded that their testimony at trial contradicted their initial sworn statements to the authorities. In many instances, their testimony was inconsistent with the testimony of other witnesses.

  4. The prosecution was permitted to question witnesses at length about events that occurred after the riot as well as about horrendous murders and beatings with which the defendants on trial for their lives were not charged and in which they were not involved. Inevitably this prejudiced the minds of the jury.

    Robb and Skatzes are white and the men they were charged with helping to murder (Vallandingham, Sommers, and in the case of Skatzes, Elder) were also white. Yet the prosecution was allowed to spread on the record the facts that Robb and Skatzes were leaders of the Aryan Brotherhood and that many members of the Brotherhood are hostile to blacks and Jews. This must have had a prejudicial impact on the jurors, and may have been unlawful under the holding of the Supreme Court of the United States in Dawson v. Delaware, 503 U.S. 159 (1992).

  5. The prosecution's theory as to the defendants was essentially that they were leaders, and therefore responsible for anything that happened during the riot. Inmate Johnny Fryman was so badly beaten and stabbed at the beginning of the rebellion that witness after witness who saw his body lying in a pool of blood assumed that he was dead. After the surrender, the Ohio State Highway Patrol told Fryman, "we don't care how we have to do it, we want Robb, Hasan and Skatzes . . . . Give us those three." Special Prosecutor Piepmeier told him, "We're able to make any kind of deal you want." (Interview notes of Attorney Jeffrey Kelleher, Sept.30, 1995.) Reginald Wilkinson, ODRC Director, later wrote:

    [T]he key to winning convictions was eroding the loyalty and fear inmates felt toward their gangs. To do this, [Piepmeier's] staff targeted a few gang leaders and convinced them to accept plea bargains. Thirteen months into the investigation, a primary riot provocateur agreed to talk about Officer Vallandingham's death. He later received a sentence of 7 to 25 years after pleading guily to conspiracy to commit murder. His testimony led to death sentences for Carlos Sanders, Jason Robb, George Skatzes, and George Were. ("After the Storm," p. 21.)

     

Next Section

Introduction and Chronolgy
 
I. Anatomy of an Uprising
II. A Riot, A Race Riot, or a Black-and-White Insurrection?
III. A Travesty of Justice
IV. On Death Row
V. Epilogue

from RACE TRAITOR #8, Winter 1998