Siddique Abdullah Hasan
The Siddique Abdullah Hasan Story
Spiritual leader helps save lives, despite his efforts he is given life in prison
By Richard M. Kerger, Esq.
Edited by Terri Smith, JD Staff
Justice Denied Issue 23
On Easter Sunday, April 11, 1993, a riot broke out at the infamous Southern Ohio Correctional Facility at Lucasville. Lucasville had the reputation of being one of the most violent and predatory prisons in the country.
The atmosphere at the prison had become extraordinarily tense since the arrival of Warden Arthur Tate Jr. in 1990. Shortly after Tate's arrival he began dissolving almost all the programs in the prison. He stripped the college program down to the bare bones. He did away with the music and literary programs and a host of other positive avenues the men were using to do their time. Prisoners were required to march to chow, chapel, commissary, infirmary, recreation, school and work. In addition, prisoners who had been celling in a particular block for years were forced to move to other blocks. Further, prisoners classified as Max- 4s were locked in their cells after 6:00 p.m. and prevented from further participation in the vocational programs unless they had fallen under the grandfather clause. Rules were made up on a daily or weekly basis and not put into writing or issued to prisoners. To make matters worse guards implementing these rules and regulations often abused their power and authority causing more conflict. The prison was a tinderbox ready to be ignited. Simply put, overly rigorous constraints combined with ill-advised housing regulations which selectively and forcefully integrated White Extremists in the same cells as Black Revolutionists had tension at an all-time high. Overcrowding was a contributing factor to the tension. Prison conditions had become so adverse and debilitating they unnecessarily deprived prisoners of their rights and opportunities to rehabilitate themselves or even maintain the skills they already possessed. Tate declared that all of the aforementioned implementations were to make Lucasville "safer" for those confined there. But the record showed the reality that the rapes and assaults, plundering and beatings, stabbings and murders continued. Then Tate mandated tuberculin skin testing through a process that would require the Muslims to violate their religious tenets.
The Muslims had been clear in their objection to the proposed procedure and equally clear that they would be willing to submit to chest x-ray, urinalysis, sputum specimens or any of a number of other tests that would not require the injection of phenol (an alcoholic substance) or any other unlawful substance or its derivatives into their system. Instead of honoring the Muslims' request to submit to an alternate method of testing that would not infringe upon their religious beliefs Tate refused to even entertain the possibility. Because he had absolutely no respect for the prisoners under his control and care Tate adopted a hard-line approach. He made it known that he was boss and the testing was going to be conducted his way.
In the week before Easter the administration telegraphed its intention to lock the prison down that Monday to accomplish the forceful testing of all prisoners who had not previously submitted to the TB test. By doing so they seemed determined to provoke a confrontation. On Easter Sunday they got a confrontation that resulted in a major riot that rocked the entire Ohio prison system.
Rising as one with racial differences ignored the prisoners took control of the facility. Several guards were taken hostage in the process. For eleven days a standoff existed. During that time nine inmates and one guard were killed.
The riot ended without further loss of life and came to a non-violent conclusion due to the efforts of four inmate leaders: George W. Skatzes, Jason Robb, Anthony J. Lavelle and Siddique Abdullah Hasan (aka Carlos A. Sanders). The first two men were leaders in the Aryan Brotherhood. Lavelle was the head of the Black Gangster Disciples. Hasan was the spiritual leader of those Sunni Muslims who took their teachings from the Mujiisul Ulema of South Africa (Council of Theologians) whose base is in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. The Sunni Muslims' difference in dress, conduct and social etiquette had caused them to be the target of derision and hostility before the riot. When the riot occurred attention was focused on the Sunni Muslims and in particular Hasan. He became the target of the prosecution.
At the time of the riot Hasan was one year from parole, working on his apprenticeship in vocational school and in an honor block. Of all the prisoners he had the most to lose. Yet it was perceived that he was the leader and the one responsible for directing the activities of the prisoners once the riot had begun.
Over six years have passed since the disturbance he stands convicted of one count of capital murder and several felony charges. It was the contention of the State that while he had not participated directly in the killings of a guard and a prisoner he had ordered them that his conviction was obtained was understandable. The investigation was conducted with an eye not towards establishing who did what, but with an eye toward establishing the guilt of the leaders of the prisoners, particularly Hasan. Millions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of man-hours were expended in the investigation conducted by the State. Special prosecutors were hired. They had thousands of exhibits and thousands of witness statements all computerized for rapid correlation and retrieval. They had full access to all the investigative resources of the State Highway Patrol and the FBI. Prisoners were promised significant reductions in their potential sentences in exchange for their cooperation, particularly cooperation directed at Hasan. There exists reliable evidence that shows the state played upon its witnesses biases, fears and motives to secure and shape their witnesses cooperation and testimony. In fact, some of these witnesses have described the systematic campaign of witness intimidation engaged in by the prosecution,
including the lying, threats, promises, coercion, badgering, deception, brainwashing, prompting, indoctrination, suggestion, coaching and retribution used by the prosecution in an attempt to obtain their cooperation and testimony against Hasan and others. Because of this unfair prosecution Hasan was ultimately convicted and sentenced to die in Ohio's electric chair. To make certain that he would be convicted, the State stacked the deck. For example: lawyers for the State were being paid $60 to $100 per hour for their services. These payments were made monthly and in addition to the sums they were making in their home counties as Assistant.
County Prosecutors. These lawyers had no office expense. On the opposite side of the table, Hasan's lawyers were paid $30 an hour for their out of court time and $40 an hour for the time they appeared in court. His lawyers were told there would not be any interim billing they would have to wait until the conclusion of the case to submit their vouchers before being paid. In early 1994 he was initially given $700 for an investigator. Ultimately he was given $25,000 to hire an investigator but that money was not authorized by the trial judge until October 25, 1995, only ten weeks before his trial -- notwithstanding that he asked for it as early as January or February of 1994.
With a single investigator confronted with having to go throughout the state to interview potential witnesses -- it was the legal equivalent of giving a man who had been in the desert a drink from a fire hose. It could not be accommodated and was of no practical benefit. The short of it, Hasan was deprived any semblance of due process because of the totally inadequate funding of his defense, and the procedures used by the state to assure his conviction.
Not satisfied with this there was also interference with his right to counsel. After having appointed two lawyers one was removed when he became financially unable to proceed and the other was removed from the case when he said he could not be ready to go to trial with new co-counsel on two capital murder cases and six unrelated felony charges in five weeks. Indeed, five weeks was an unrealistic time schedule for anyone to handle such a case. The truth of the matter was the second lawyer was removed because he had been too aggressive in his attempt to defend his client. This became evident when following his removal the trial date was pushed back for some 15 months. Mind you, this was done after the judge told the media that the case would not be continued under any circumstance.
Venue was also shifted to help assure the state's goal of a conviction. Originally the case was brought in Scioto County, the location of the prison. After objection by the defendant concerning the inability to secure a fair trial in light of the number of people who worked at the prison the case was moved to Franklin County. This was a relatively neutral site and the defense lawyers accepted it. Then the judge assigned to try the case removed himself and was replaced by a judge from Hamilton County.
This new judge told the Chief Justice before his appointment that if he were given the case he would move it from Franklin to Hamilton County.
Therefore, for the new judge to have later erroneously claimed that he made the decision to move the case to Hamilton County upon a motion having been made by the State “for the convenience of the parties” is absurd. What is also significant is that the special prosecutors assigned to the case came from Hamilton County.
The new Judge assigned to try the case had been a member of the same prosecutor's office before coming to the bench. Finally, Hamilton County has the highest percentage of people accused of capital murder being convicted of those charges. By changing venue the State and Judge were able to manipulate the system to quintuple the odds that defendant, if convicted, would receive the death sentence. Then the new lead lawyer assigned to the case resigned four months before trial due to financial stress. After a month and a half of looking the Judge assigned a new lawyer to serve as lead counsel. This lawyer came into the case less than two months before the matter was set for trial, yet it was felt that he could be ready to try this truly complicated matter. When the realization hit home that this case could not be adequately prepared in such a short time he filed a motion seeking a continuance or, in the alternative, permission to withdraw in the event a continuance was denied. Not the least surprised the motion was denied. On the day of the trial and throughout the trial lead counsel repeatedly said he was not adequately prepared for trial. To make matters worse a conflict developed between the two lawyers representing Hasan and there was active dissension between them. Public arguments occurred in and out of court. Perhaps the most bizarre set of circumstances in this very unusual aspect of this case came when efforts were made by one of the lawyers to finesse the other one out of the case. This occurred on the weekend before jury selection was to commence and was initiated without Hasan's knowledge or consent.
All this had a dramatic impact on the entire trial especially the mitigation portion. For example, it was not until after the defendant had been convicted in the guilt phase of the trial that counsel began preparing a case for mitigation. This occurred despite the fact that all competent capital counsel know 1 Of 143 individuals sentenced on Death Row in Ohio by January 1996, 34 of them, roughly 25, came from Hamilton County. Franklin County had only seven individuals sentenced to die despite the fact that it has a larger population than Hamilton.
That mitigation is perhaps the most important part of the defense in a capital case and should commence at the same time as the defense on the merits begins. In spite of this counsel was too busy with the problems in their relationship to properly prepare a case for mitigation.
This may have been because lead counsel was not adequately qualified under Rule 65 to handle capital cases and could not appreciate the need for the proper development of a case in mitigation. On yet another point the jury pool was stacked against Hasan by the jury coordinator. When defense counsel noticed that three-fourths of the minority jurors were in the second half of the
panel, a statistically unlikely event, a hearing was held. The jury coordinator explained that he, a white male, passed out written questionnaires to the jurors who would be selected to appear in court. The order in which they were to be called was the order in which they returned their questionnaires. That is to say, the ones who completed their questionnaires first went to the top of the list. He also said that he would review the questionnaires and if in his opinion, there were any errors or incompletion, the questionnaires were returned for proper completion. This method effectively vested discretion in the jury coordinator to select Hasan's jury. During the trial there were a number of rulings made that were crucially prejudicial to the defense. The defense was barred from presenting evidence concerning the conditions at the prison and the circumstances that led to the riot. The defendant was denied an expert to further analyze the extent to which there had been hypnotically refreshed testimony given by two witnesses for the state. This denial was given notwithstanding affidavits submitted by experts suggesting that hypnotic therapy had been performed. The judge also refused to appoint an expert to evaluate a crucial tape recording that had been successfully used to refresh various witnesses' recollections and served as substantive evidence in a number of other capital cases to establish the guilt of the alleged leaders of the riot. Careful analysis by the defendant made it appear likely that this tape and potentially three others had been substantially altered. these alterations include deleting portions of some tapes and recording over other tapes to make events appear to follow in a particular sequence when they in fact did not. Put more clearly, conversations that took place on days following events were recorded with other conversations so it appeared that talks took place before the event. Believing Hasan's analysis to be accurate a sample of the tape was submitted to an expert in tape analysis who made a preliminary determination that there was discontinuity during ongoing speech in the tape, abrupt ends during ongoing conversations and changes in background signature, indicating that the tape may have been electronically edited. Despite defendant's demonstration that the analysis of the tape was necessary to present an adequate defense and that the failure to do so could result in an unfair trial the judge denied funding to allow the defense to try to develop that the tape had been doctored and that key witnesses' testimony were based on a doctored tape.
This case is now on appeal and making its way through post-conviction proceedings. One of the new lawyers appointed to represent Hasan has failed to communicate with him in any meaningful way and has missed crucial deadlines, failed to raise significant issues and generally performed in a manner wholly unsatisfactory to the defendant's wishes and appropriate legal strategy, failed to work with co-counsel for the interest of his client and has neglected several legal matters entrusted to him. Significantly, this lawyer is now before the Disciplinary Board in Ohio on charges of neglecting legal matters of other clients. Due to irreconcilable differences and these ongoing poor performances Hasan has made repeated efforts to have him removed from handling his direct appeal and post-conviction petition, all of which have been rebuffed by the Trial Judge, the Court of Appeals and the Ohio Supreme Court.
It may be possible to remedy the wrong sustained by Hasan when his case enters federal post-conviction proceedings, but that is a matter that in no small measure will be determined by the funding he has available to him. First and foremost, competent counsel is needed. Proper evaluation of the tape recording is essential. A more complete investigation through witness interviews is essential. The retention of an expert witness to testify concerning the adequacy of trial and appellate counsel's performance is crucial as well as an expert to thoroughly examine the possibility of hypnotically refreshed testimony. To put it very simply, Hasan needs financial and legal help. The lawyer who has been appointed by the State to represent him is performing in a totally incompetent manner and Hasan personally believes that is one of the reasons he was appointed. Hasan has no funds and has been so demonized that the average Ohioan would have preferred to have him executed before he was ultimately tried. He is endeavoring to fight back and any help that can be provided, particularly financial assistance, is deeply appreciated. He is threatened with the possibility of paying the ultimate price for his religious convictions.
The tale of Hasan's trial is not only sad for him, but for any system of justice. However reprehensible the conduct ascribed to the defendant he is nonetheless entitled to be treated fairly and have a chance to defend himself consistent with the Constitutions of Ohio and the United States. He should have been presumed innocent not guilty. That did not happen in this case. Hasan is a unique individual and in spite of all odds he remains hopeful that one day he will be able to expose the conspiracy surrounding his convictions. Anyone wishing to offer Hasan legal assistance should contact this writer at:
Richard M. Kerger, Attorney At Law
The Baker Bldg.
33 S. Michigan Street, Suite 201
Toledo, OH 43602
Siddique Abdullah Hasan Continued
Although Hasan is confined in the new Super Max prison in Youngstown under extremely depressing conditions and has very limited means to write and post letters he does try to answer all incoming mail. To be sure of a prompt reply please enclose a "pre-embossed envelope" when writing to him. He is allowed to receive 15 of said type envelopes per letter. The reason for the limited means to write is due primarily because he is only allowed to purchase 15 pre-embossed envelopes from the commissary every two weeks. Hasan's mailing address is:
Siddique Abdullah Hasan #R130-559
Ohio State Penitentiary
878 Coitsville-Hubbard Road
Youngstown, OH 44505-4635
You may learn more about Hasan's case on the Internet at http://www.cadp.org.