On Wednesday, Youngstown State University students got to hear what life is like behind bars by a death row inmate.
For the past 20 years, Keith Lamar has been serving on death row at the Ohio State Penitentiary for a crime he says he did not commit.
In 1993, at the Southern Ohio Correctional facility in Lucasville, Lamar, also known as Bomani Shakur, had been serving a sentence for a 1989 murder conviction involving a robbery until a series of five riots broke out within the prison between April 11 and April 21.
During these riots, nine prisoners and one guard were killed. The Lucasville riots were one of the largest in U.S. history.
Amy LaGorda, a YSU graduate student, said Lamar was accused of masterminding the riot with his group of prison inmates called “the death squad.”
With Lamar’s federal appeal approaching, LaGorda said it’s important for his story to be told.
At the event, Lamar called in live from the state penitentiary to talk to YSU students about his side of the story relating to the prison riots.
“We were asleep when it all happened, and we wanted to mind our own business,” Lamar said. “For 7,330 days, I’ve been sitting in this cell for a crime I didn’t commit.”
Lamar also talked about how he originally was charged for murder when he was a drug dealer and was involved in a shootout.
“I came to the realization I lost my life, and I lost my way,” Lamar said. “I was 19 years old when I went to prison, and I’ve been here since then.” Books and transcripts have also been published to help prove Lamar’s innocence, one being “Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising” by Staughton Lynd.
Staughton Lynd and his wife Alice, who are both lawyers, attended the event to testify about their conclusion that Lamar is innocent.
“Let the men tell their stories,” Staughton Lynd said. “But when they tell their stories, members of the media need to be in attendance to hear the proof.”
“There is no evidence linking any defendant to the murders,” Alice Lynd said.
Lamar’s oral argument will be this fall in Cinncinati.