Keith LaMar (Bomani Shakur)
In 1989, Keith LaMar (aka Bomani Shakur) was sent to prison at age 19 for murder. He had been living in Cleveland, Ohio, where he sold drugs as a means of survival in the Crack-infested streets he knew as home. On a day that would forever change his life, Keith was robbed at gunpoint and exchanged gunfire with his robbers. He was shot twice in his legs and hit one of the other men in the chest. That young man, once a childhood friend, died. Keith pled guilty and was sent to prison for 18 years-to-life.
Four years later, Keith was attempting to put together the broken pieces of his life at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, hoping for another chance at life. It was an Easter Sunday, and the weather had just turned warmer; Keith and about 400 other men were outside exercising in the rec-yard when commotion broke out inside and it became clear that some type of protest was underway. Keith made a quick decision to slip inside for a few minutes to secure his personal belongings (since his cell assignment was in the area being taken over). Once back out in the yard, he and the others waited to see what would transpire, watching as the bodies of several men were dumped onto the yard.
As Easter came to an end, the Ohio State Highway Patrol rounded up those on the yard and secured them into another part of the facility. Prison records prove that Keith was among them. Though no one could have predicted what exactly was happening, or how it would all result, an 11-day siege ensued. In the end, nine inmates and one guard ultimately lost their lives. When the dust began to settle, the State of Ohio needed someone on whom to pin several of the early inmate deaths. This is where Keith’s troubles began…
A few months later, several prisoners were enticed with the promise of early paroles and/or dropped charges if only they would come up with a reasonable story to help the State sweep up the “mess” at their out-of-control prison. They determined Keith would be the fall guy, and they pointed their fingers at him. Thus, to make it all come together convincingly, the prosecution withheld actual confessions from his defense, as well as eyewitness statements that contradicted their fabricated version of events. In spite of zero DNA or forensic evidence, they moved forward with their accusations against Keith. In fact, they made sure his trial would be racially biased in their favor by calling for the removal of the few potential black jurors, and by holding his trial in an all-white county in southern Ohio. In spite of having no motive to kill anyone, no actual proof connecting him, nor any affiliation with any of the groups organizing the uprising, the jury didn’t take long to find Keith LaMar guilty of the murder of five of the inmates. He was sentenced to death.
On November 16, 2023, the State intended to execute him (this date has now been postponed until January 13, 2027), even though he has maintained his innocence for three decades, all while being held in indefinite solitary confinement. In the aftermath of the 1993 Lucasville Prison Uprising, the State of Ohio was under public pressure to clean up a multi-million dollar mess, one that included the death of a prison guard and multiple prisoners. After State investigators trampled the crime scene and contaminated any and all potential evidence, they paid jailhouse informants to create a false narrative that implicated Keith, even though he wasn’t affiliated with any of the groups involved in the riot. To bolster their claim, the State withheld evidence that would have proven his innocence (including the confession of an actual perpetrator who admitted to murdering one of Keith’s alleged victims). His trial was staged in a remote Ohio community known to be highly racist. Any Black prospective jurors were promptly dismissed by the Prosecution, leaving Keith’s fate in the hands of an all-white jury, who swiftly sentenced him to death.
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Keith’s is a story about racialized injustice, State corruption, struggle, perseverance and truth. He has laid it all out in Condemned, a soulful, fiery, and captivating book. In it, he traces how the prosecutors fabricated a case against him, then goes on to dismantle their lies by highlighting their inconsistencies. Keith shows clearly how his Constitutional rights were violated by the State of Ohio’s willful withholding of evidence favorable to his defense. Most importantly, he compels readers to consider their place within the larger social system, inviting those who would stand on the side of social justice to join him, not just on his behalf, but also for the countless nameless, faceless people caught up in the struggle for humanity.
A documentary film that focuses on the State’s intentional railroading of Keith was made available online in October of 2014. In just 36 short minutes, many of the issues about what happened in Keith’s legal case are illuminated. The film was updated in 2019 and can be viewed by following this link.
For more information, please visit https://www.keithlamar.org/
Please see the links below to the three Voices from the Frontlines conversations with Keith Lamar:
Keith LaMar has been scheduled to be executed on January 13, 2027 in Ohio, even though illegitimate tactics—withholding exonerating evidence, dismissing ALL potential black jurors, etc.—from a corrupt and racist prosecutor undermined the reliability of his conviction. Keith has maintained his innocence nearly three decades now, all while being held in solitary confinement. He has written a beautiful book, Condemned, detailing his ordeal. Learn more about Keith's case and join his legal fight at www.keithlamar.org.