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Who killed Officer Vallandingham?Greg Curry
By Staughton Lynd,
June 10, 2006

A talk prepared for the Prison Forum to be held at Beeghly Hall, Youngstown State University, June 10, 2006, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

According to the Associated Press, as of summer 2005 there were almost 2.2 million persons in jails and prisons in the United States. The number of those behind bars was increasing at a rate of 1,000 each week. [1]

Every one of these incarcerated human beings has a claim on our empathy and our insight. Even if we restrict our gaze to the 40,000 to 50,000 prisoners of the State of Ohio, or to the approximately 311 prisoners presently at the Ohio State Penitentiary, or to the almost half of those 311 who are sentenced to death,[2] their need is overwhelming. And for every human being in confinement there is likely to be more than one anxious relative, and several friends whom candor should oblige to say, "There but for the grace of God go I."

There is no magic way to decide how to prioritize our energies in response to this need. In my own case it was partly accident. In 1996, at a public forum on the Ohio State Penitentiary, then under construction, my wife and I met Jackie Bowers, sister of George Skatzes. Skatzes was one of five prisoners sentenced to death after the prison uprising at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio, in April 1993. But there are reasons beyond personal happenstance for Ohio opponents of the death penalty and supermax imprisonment to focus on what happened at Lucasville.

Why the Lucasville Events Matter
The Lucasville Five were sentenced to death because of their supposed responsibility for the deaths of nine prisoners and hostage officer Robert Vallandingham. Other Lucasville prisoners are serving long sentences at the Ohio State Penitentiary because of alleged assaults, kidnappings, and conspiracies.

I believe that these events were decisive in consolidating support for use of the death penalty in Ohio. Lucasville was Ohio's 9/11. In April 1993, the death penalty had been reinstated, a number of men had been sentenced to death and were on Death Row, but no one had yet been executed.

In the weeks after the uprising, a petition circulated in southern Ohio that called for using the death penalty and for speeding up capital trials. Completed petitions were to be returned to Death Penalty, P.O. Box 1761, Portsmouth, Ohio, and more than 25,000 signatures were collected.

In each of two trials in Scioto County, State v. Scales and State v. Wells, two of twelve jurors appear to have signed petitions calling for the death penalty in Lucasville cases.[3]

Moreover, seven white correctional officers who had been held hostage appear to have signed petitions, four identifying themselves as "hostage" on the petition form. Several of these officers testified in the capital cases of Jason Robb, Siddique Abdullah Hasan (formerly known as Carlos Sanders), and George Skatzes in other Ohio counties. Additionally, former hostage Darrold Clark joined organizers of the petition in meeting with Governor Voinovich, on which occasion Clark advocated giving guns to guards at SOCF. "Shoot one of those suckers and they'll back off from a riot," Clark stated. [4]

In my view, the Lucasville events matter because they did so much to create the mindset with which Ohioans have come to regard maximum and supermaximum security prisoners as "the worst of the worst," as animals in human form who are incapable of rehabilitation and deserve life imprisonment or death. In what follows I will attempt to describe two examples of the Lucasville mindset. The first has to do with the murder of Beverly Taylor at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in 1990, and how what is universally thought to be true about it may not be so. The second calls attention to the fact that four men were found guilty of the aggravated murder of Officer Vallandingham but the State of Ohio still does not know who killed him.

Beverly Taylor's Death: A Plea for Open-Mindedness
I want to begin with a story that is not a finding or a
conclusion. It is a plea for open-mindedness.

After publication of Lucasville I took the book wherever I could find an audience. One autumn day I found myself speaking to a small group in the branch campus of a state university in Camden, New Jersey, across the river from Philadelphia.

During the discussion after I finished, a woman spoke up. She said her husband was imprisoned at Lucasville in 1990, when an African American prisoner named Eddie Vaughn killed a Caucasian teacher named Beverly Taylor. The woman said her husband told her the generally accepted account was not right.

This comment caught my attention, because the murder of Beverly Taylor set in motion the process that led to rebellion three years later. The Southern Ohio Correctional Facility is located in an overwhelmingly white, culturally Appalachian part of Ohio, from which most of the prison's officers are recruited. The prisoners confined at SOCF were two-thirds African American. When Beverly Taylor was killed, outraged whites picketed the prison, demanding that the State cease to coddle SOCF prisoners. A new warden was appointed who instituted what he called Operation Shakedown. He reduced programming, created a special mailbox for snitches, caused lines to be painted in the corridors and required prisoners to march to chow, forced black and white prisoners who hated one another to cell together, and overall, set the stage for insurrection.

Thus Ms. Taylor's death was a turning point. The generally accepted account of it goes like this: Mr. Vaughn was an educational aide to Ms. Taylor. He followed her into a women's rest room and tried to rape her. She called out, "No, no, no!" Before officers could break down the door, Mr. Vaughn cut her throat with the top of a metal can. How, one might wonder, could this received version of events not be right?

I told the woman in Camden where I would be speaking that evening and asked if her husband could come and talk to me. He did. He told me that no prisoners had witnessed the event but that the prisoners' grapevine reported the following: When the officers learned that Mr. Vaughn was in the rest room with Ms. Taylor, they jumped to the conclusion that he was raping her. Ms. Taylor called out to them that she had the situation under control. She said that she and Mr. Vaughn were sitting on the floor, talking. The officers began to break down the wooden door. It was then, according to my elderly black informant, that Mr. Vaughn, who grew up in northern Mississippi, panicked and grabbed Ms. Taylor as a hostage, holding the metal edge to her throat. Ms. Taylor cried "No, no, no!" but she was speaking not to Mr. Vaughn, but to the guards. She was begging them not to break down the door. The officers paid no attention and a terrified Mr. Vaughn cut Ms. Taylor's throat.

When I offered this material at Ohio State University in February a longtime correctional officer spoke up. He said that the area of the prison where the murder occurred is shaped like an L. The officers' union had brought it to the attention of the warden that two officers, not one, were required to keep both ends of the L under observation at all times. But the prison did nothing about it until after Ms. Taylor's death.

Again, I do not offer this narrative as the truth. I do not know whether it is true. I have talked both to Ms. Taylor's husband and to Mr. Vaughn, who was sentenced to life imprisonment. When I got back to Ohio, I questioned two very experienced prisoners who had been at SOCF in 1990, one white, one black. Both confirmed that the prisoners' version of what happened is what I was told in Philadelphia. My reason for sharing this experience is to plead for your open-mindedness. Things may not always be what they seem, or what we have been
told that they are.

Who Killed Officer Vallandingham?
I turn now to my contention that the State of Ohio has found four men guilty of killing Officer Vallandingham, but in fact, does not know who did the killing.
Recall the context of the Lucasville investigation and prosecutions. After a negotiated surrender, the Ohio State Highway Patrol entered the cell block that more than 400 prisoners had occupied for eleven days. All the physical evidence that they found was contaminated. There were no fingerprints, no bloodstains, no DNA evidence, that linked any defendant with any victim. There was no physical evidence in L block that the State could use at trial.[5]

How then were forty-some verdicts or plea agreements obtained by the Lucasville prosecutors? Prosecutorial misconduct took many forms. As already noted, jurors were permitted to serve who had signed petitions calling for the death penalty for prisoner defendants.[6]

In one case, the prosecutor refused to comply with his obligation to turn over to the defense the statements of witnesses who had made exculpatory declarations: instead, the prosecutor offered a stack of statements, and a list of names, and was permitted to leave to the defense the task of determining which prisoner had made what statement. [7] In another, the State produced a decisive rebuttal witness whose testimony it must have known to be physically impossible.[8]

Even in a homicide arising from a barroom brawl the defense may offer evidence of provocation, but in Hasan's case evidence as to what caused the rebellion was excluded.[9] These irregularities occurred in courtrooms in Scioto County, where the Lucasville prison is located; in Lawrence County just to the east where African American potential jurors were equally few; in Cincinnati, the death penalty capital of Ohio, which has convicted a quarter of the men on Death Row; in Dayton; and in no community further north than Columbus. Unscrupulous prosecutors presented cases to residents of communities already saturated with fear and loathing for Lucasville prisoners.

The key to the overall success of the Lucasville prosecutions was the testimony of prisoners who became witnesses for the State. It is true that there were so-called tunnel tapes made by FBI agents who placed microphones under the rooms where riot leaders held meetings. But these tapes were so difficult to understand that, in practice, they had to be interpreted by prisoner informants who claimed to have been present. In the end, then, everything came down to the believability of a parade of prisoner snitches. In exchange for their testimony, some indictments were never filed, some charges were reduced, some sentences were made to run concurrently with time already being served rather than consecutively, or the prosecutor wrote letters to the parole board describing the helpfulness of these prisoner informants.

Officer Vallandingham was only one of ten persons brutally murdered during the occupation of L block. But public attention naturally focused on the murdered officer, not the murdered prisoners. Accordingly, the mystery that still surrounds Officer Vallandingham's death is the most dramatic evidence that the verdicts in cases arising from the Lucasville disturbance are unreliable. Let me now explicate in detail the prosecution's wandering search for the men who actually killed Robert Vallandingham.

Targeting the Leaders
From the beginning, the Highway Patrol and the prosecution targeted the four men who had been visible spokespersons for the prisoners in rebellion: George Skatzes, who made a radio broadcast on April 15; and Anthony Lavelle, Jason Robb, and Siddique Abdullah Hasan (formerly known as Carlos Sanders), who negotiated the terms of surrender. Two prisoners who had almost been killed by other prisoners during the riot were placed in the Lucasville prison infirmary after the surrender. Troopers from the Highway Patrol talked with them. Johnny Fryman states:

They made it clear that they wanted the leaders. They wanted to prosecute Hasan [Carlos Sanders], George Skatzes, Lavelle, Jason Robb . . . . They had not yet begun their investigation but they knew they wanted those leaders. I joked with them and said, "You basically don't care what I say as long as it's against these guys." They said, "Yeah, that's it." [10]

Emanuel "Buddy" Newell concurs:

These officers said, "We want Skatzes. We want Lavelle. We want Hasan." They also said: "We know they were leaders. We want to burn their ass. We want to put them in the electric chair for murdering Officer Vallandingham." [11]

For a year, the State made relatively little progress in building a case against the leaders of the uprising. Then in the spring of 1994 two things occurred.

Anthony Lavelle Becomes An Informant
First, as a result of shameful manipulation by the authorities,[12] Anthony Lavelle turned State's evidence. Mr. Lavelle was the leader of one of the three prison gangs active in the disturbance, the Black Gangster Disciples. He was also one of the three men who negotiated the surrender agreement. Thus in the words of Director Wilkinson, Lavelle was a "primary riot provocateur." [13] Lavelle's decision to become an informant was a critical breakthrough for the prosecution.

But significant obstacles for the prosecution remained. First, thereafter the prosecution was obliged to discount the growing number of witnesses who stated under oath that during the morning of April 15 it was Lavelle himself, together with two masked associates, who had entered the cell block where Vallandingham was being held and caused the officer to be strangled in a shower on the bottom range. [14]

Second, Lavelle was prepared to testify only that a meeting of gang leaders on the morning of April 15 had discussed killing one of the hostage officers. He was unwilling to say that there had been a final decision. Indeed he was quite explicit that before any one was to be killed, a second meeting to make a final decision was to be held. [15]

Thus Lavelle's testimony alone was not sufficient to convict any of the leaders of the rebellion. Hasan, if he was present at all, had spoken at the morning meeting on April 15 only to indicate the times at which Muslim prisoners would hold prayer services. Skatzes had actually spoken in opposition to killing a guard.[16] Accordingly the transcript of the meeting, and Lavelle's testimony, were simply not sufficient to support a murder conviction and a death sentence for any of the leaders of the disturbance.

Stacey Gordon's Fairy Story
Happily for the prosecution, three prisoners came forward with fabricated stories that filled the gaps in prosecution cases. One of them, Kenneth Law, who has recanted his testimony, explains what happened in a compelling series of affidavits.

Before my first interview with the O.S.P. [Ohio State Highway Patrol] myself Sherman Sims and another inmate [Stacey Gordon] talk always to regain our freedom back into society. We knew that information in the Vallandingham was the key to the door so we set out to find out all we could from other inmates. When this fail we put our own story together. . . . [17]

In fact there came to be three stories. Stacey Gordon's totally imaginary story was solemnly presented under oath at the trials of Robb, Skatzes, and Hasan. Gordon was a former member of the Black Gangster Disciples who became a Muslim shortly before April 11. Tall, a boxer, apparently a man to whom the Muslims entrusted some security duties in L block, and a smooth talker, Gordon made an initially plausible impression. His story came straight from cloud-cuckoo-land, however.

According to Gordon, after the morning meeting on April 15 came to an end, he and certain prisoners designated by leaders of the three gangs assembled in L-2 for the purpose of killing a guard. Hours later they dispersed, he testified, because the guard had been killed by other means. He is wrong about who spoke on the phone for the prisoners that morning, wrong about where George Skatzes was, wrong about the time required for his invented scenario to unfold. No other witness in any trial supported Gordon's wholly imaginary and fabricated narrative. [18]

Moreover, even if Gordon were credited, his story implicated mainly the two white prisoners who held positions in the Aryan Brotherhood, Jason Robb and George Skatzes. Gordon had little to say about the African American imam whom the authorities considered the main leader of the uprising, Siddique Abdullah Hasan (formerly known as Carlos Sanders), or about his close associate and former imam James Were, also known as Namir Abdul Mateen.

Kenneth Law and Sherman Sims also Make Up a Story
Meantime, Gordon's two co-fabricators, Sherman Sims and Kenneth Law, made up an equally imaginary story about the supposed misconduct of Hasan and Namir.

The story later presented by Law at the trials of Were and Hasan, and at the Rules Infraction Board hearing for Alvin Jones a.k.a. Mosi Paki, was as follows.[19] About 10 a.m. on April 15, it was alleged, Law had found his way to the L-6 block where Officer Vallandingham was being held. There he saw Hasan and Were. According to this fantasy, Hasan said to Namir to wait until 10:30 a.m. and then, if Namir had not heard from Hasan, to take care of his "business." Namir was not able to wait, the perjuror continued, but at approximately 10:05 a.m. instructed two other Muslim prisoners named Alexander and Jones to strangle Officer Vallandingham. Vallandingham was then escorted from the cell in which he was confined on the upper range to one of the downstairs showers, and killed.
Apart from Law and Sims, no other prisoner in the ensuing thirteen years has said anything to support this story. Indeed prisoner Tony Taylor, also locked in L block at the time, told the Highway Patrol that it was Lavelle and Gordon who went to Vallandingham's cell to fetch the officer to the lower range.[20]

Simply, the testimony of Law and Sims was invented for the purpose of extricating Law and Sims from confinement, and has no basis in fact.

Was it Alexander or was it Law?
Further to complicate matters, Law and Sims came to disagree about exactly who had strangled the hostage officer. Law states:

Myself and Sims had a oral falling out. We agreed to can the made up story. . . . Then Sims gets charged. He tells me he is going to use the made up story. . . . He tells me I must help him that they will believe both of us. I say No. Sims goes forth. I know he's going to use our story of witnessing what happen to the C.O. murder, know he use my name. I go forth know that my story is the same. The O.S.P. takes my statement. [21]

Law was wrong: the stories he and Sims told the authorities were not exactly the same. Law said that Vallandingham was strangled by prisoners Darnell Alexander also known as Muhammad, and Alvin Jones also known as Mosi Paki. Sims, however, apparently annoyed by his "falling out" with Law, told the Highway Patrol that the killers were Alvin Jones and Kenneth Law.

From the standpoint of prosecutors, it really didn't matter. Alexander, Jones, and Law were all Muslims at the time of the uprising. Hasan and Namir were the real targets. As long as the two men who strangled Officer Vallandingham were Muslims, it could plausibly be maintained that the killers -- whoever they were -- had been supervised by their Muslim leaders, Hasan and Namir. Accordingly, in State v. Robb, the first of the major Lucasville trials, prosecutor Douglas Stead told the jury in closing argument:

Now, who killed Officer Vallandingham? Don't know. That wasn't the issue here in this case. The person who hands-on killed Officer Vallandingham is not important to the resolution of this case.

This prosecutorial position could not be maintained. Juries were apparently unsettled by the admission that the elaborate preparations for a killing described by Stacey Gordon did not actually cause the death of Officer Vallandingham: as Prosecutor Stead put it, "the plan was changed to a degree, but the result was accomplished."[23]

It must have been additionally disconcerting for jurors to learn that the authorities did not know who had actually killed the officer. Juror Katrina Fehr held out for hours against recommending the death penalty for Robb.

During the summer of 1995, accordingly, the State of Ohio felt obliged to choose between the Sims and Law versions of the story that the two men had fabricated. Law said the men who killed Vallandingham were Alexander and Jones. Sims said the killers were Jones and Law himself. Sims is by far the less plausible of the two men: as of 2003 he had recanted, and then recanted his recantation, and annoyed judge, prosecutors and counsel for the defense by his verbose and disjointed testimony in the remanded trial of James Were.

Nevertheless the Lucasville prosecutors decided to believe Sims, not Law. An indictment against Sims was dismissed. Alexander was indicted only for kidnapping, was tried and convicted, and is doing his time in Minnesota. Law was indicted for kidnapping and for the murder of Officer Vallandingham. As to the kidnapping charge, Law stated without rebuttal that his only contact with Vallandingham after the officer was taken hostage was to bring him food and a blanket. However, given Ohio's expansive definition of the crime of kidnapping, any prisoner who remained in L block for the duration of the disturbance and had contact with a hostage officer might be found guilty of kidnapping, even if, in fact, the prisoner had assisted the hostage. [24]
Law was convicted of kindapping.
On the murder charge, Law's jury hung.

State Sponsorship of Testimony Known to be False
What happened next is the clearest example known to me of prosecutorial misconduct in the Lucasville trials.

Remember, the Lucasville Special Prosecutor and his staff had concluded that Kenneth Law was a murderer. The prosecution had just tried Law as one of two persons believed to be the hands-on killers of Officer Vallandingham. Nevertheless prosecutors now came to Law and said that they would try him again for murder unless he agreed to tell his original fabricated story -- the story prosecutors believed to be untrue -- in forthcoming proceedings against Were, Alvin Jones, and Hasan.

According to Law, the lawyer who had defended him in his first trial also urged him to take the deal.

Here is Law's sworn account of what really happened on April 15, 1993, and how he came to lie about it.

On the morning of April 15, 1993, I was in L-1 and heard Anthony Lavelle, Aaron Jefferson, and Tim Williams talking about killing a guard. Lavelle left L-1, along with two others that I recognized to be Gangster Disciples, despite their masks.

A few minutes later, I also left L-1 and went toward L-6. As I approached the door of L-6, the two masked Disciples came out. I entered L-6 and saw Lavelle inside. I looked into the shower and saw Officer Vallandingham dead. It was very clear to me what had just happened: Lavelle and his associates had killed the guard. . . .

After the riot, prosecutors . . . and troopers . . . placed tremendous pressure on me, saying that they would convict and execute me for killing Vallandingham, which I had nothing to do with, unless I said that Hasan had commanded the killing. At one point, I revealed to them that Anthony Lavelle had killed Vallandingham. The prosecutor told me that my story would have to change, because Lavelle was a State witness.

. . . I cooperated and gave the false statement that the prosecutors wanted. Before my statement, I was coached for several hours and told what to say. Then they turned on the recorder and took my statement.

Afterwards . . . I went to trial for the Vallandingham murder and the jury hung. The prosecutors increased the pressure on me, and even my own lawyer pressed me to cooperate and avoid a second trial. They made it clear to me that I would die for something I had not done unless I said what they wanted me to say. I eventually broke, and gave false testimony [against Were, Jones and Hasan]. [25]

After testifying against James Were in the fall of 1995, Law testified against Alvin Jones at a Rules Infraction Board hearing in January 1996. Sergeant Howard Hudson, chief investigator in the Lucasville cases for the State of Ohio, also testified. Hudson stated in part:

Received statement from Sims wanting to speak w/ASP. Sims was indicted but charges were dismissed; Sims passed polygraph, Law failed polygraph. Law took himself out of act and replaced himself with inmate Darnell Alexander. [26]

Hudson's testimony shows that prosecutors continued to believe that Law's testimony was false when Law said that Alexander was a hands-on killer, and that he (Law) was not one.

Nevertheless the State permitted Law, a witness who had failed its polygraph test, to present testimony that it believed to be false to the juries that sentenced Namir and Hasan to death. Prosecutor Daniel Breyer told the jury in his opening statement in State v. Were: "Kenneth Law is going to be testifying from that stand consistent with the tape recorded statement he made a year before he was given any deal."[27] What Prosecutor Breyer failed to tell the jury was that Law's tape recorded statement was the fictitious story Law had concocted in order to get out of prison. Likewise in State v. Sanders, Prosecutor Krumpelbeck encouraged the jury to believe that what clinched Hasan's guilt was Kenneth Law's testimony about what Hasan told Namir on April 15, 1993 at 10 a.m. in L-6.[28]

Finally, in 2004 Special Prosecutor Piepmeier himself signed a pleading in the post-conviction proceedings for George Skatzes in which he said that the hands-on killers were "Law and [Cecil] Allen," still another Muslim prisoner.[29]

Were the hands-on killers Law and Alexander? Jones and Law? Law and Allen? Could it be that Law, as he now insists, is completely innocent? If I am right that overwhelming evidence points to Anthony Lavelle as the man who supervised the murder of Officer Vallandingham, isn't it likely that his two masked colleagues were not Muslims but members of Lavelle's own group, the Black Gangster Disciples? Brian Eskridge states under oath that Lavelle asked him on April 14 to be part of a death squad, and when he refused, had him beaten by other BGDs.[30] Aaron Jefferson, another member of the BGDs, told the Highway Patrol in the summer of 1994 that he had personal knowledge of Vallandingham's murder but wanted a lawyer present when he talked about it.[31] The troopers, who had already recorded the concocted story of Law and Sims, never followed up.

Two facts seem to me irrefutable: as I said at the outset, the State of Ohio still does not know who killed Officer Vallandingham; and, at the trials which resulted in murder convictions for James Were a.k.a. Namir Abdul Mateen and for Siddique Abdullah Hasan f.k.a. Carlos Sanders, the State knowingly allowed Law to present evidence that prosecutors believed to be false.

What does it all mean? Perhaps you will have to tell me. For ten years now, first through a series of documents I called "Skatzes Bulletins," then in a docudrama about the Skatzes trial, then in an article called "Who Killed Officer Vallandingham?," then in a book, most recently in a speech at the Mansfield campus of Ohio State University, I have tried to show that what the State of Ohio did in the Lucasville trials was terribly flawed.

What does it all mean? Perhaps you will have to tell me. For ten years now, first through a series of documents I called "Skatzes Bulletins," then in a docudrama about the Skatzes trial, then in an article called "Who Killed Officer Vallandingham?," then in a book, most recently in a speech at the Mansfield campus of Ohio State University, I have tried to show that what the State of Ohio did in the Lucasville trials was terribly flawed.

Perhaps I feel as did those who first discovered the Abu Ghraib abuses; or like the prisoners at Guantanamo who recently carried out their own prison uprising; or like Mumia Abu Jamal, who, after almost twenty-five years, is finally presenting the prosecutorial misconduct in his trial to a federal appeals court. When will public opinion say, "Enough is enough"? When will we progress from the appeal of individual sentences to address the entire pattern of prosecutorial misconduct? When will we begin to struggle with the instruction of Jesus of Nazareth in his first public appearance, Luke 4:18, quoting the prophet Isaiah, Isaiah 61:1: "liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound"?

1 Elizabeth White, "Number of US Inmates Rises 2 Percent," AP, May 22, 2006.

2 Calculation of Attorney Alice Lynd from data as of the end of April 2006.

3 My wife, Attorney Alice Lynd, obtained copies of the petitions from the office of the Governor. The names of petition signers were then compared with the names of trial jurors in the trials of the Lucasville Five and an equal number of non-capital defendants. Professor Andrew Feight at Shawnee State University in Portsmouth doublechecked signatures and addresses against election records.

4 Clark's words were reported in the Cincinnati Post and Toledo Blade for June 9, 1993.

5 See Staughton Lynd, Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1964), p. 97, quoting Sgt. Hudson in State v. Skatzes, Transcript, p. 1913, and Prosdecutor Krumpelbeck in State v. Sanders, Transcript, pp. 1224-25.

6 State v. Scales and State v. Wells (both Scioto County).

7 State v. Lamar (Lawrence County).

8 In State v. Cannon (Hamilton County), the State called as witnesses a State trooper who interviewed Mr. Cannon, and five prisoners. The defense, in the words of Attorney Colin Starger of the New York Innocence Project, "called no fewer than twelve inmate witnesses who all corroborated Cannon's testimony that he was simply not involved. . . . All confirmed that Cannon did not enter the L-6 block where Depina was murdered during the uprising."
The prosecutor evidently felt that something more was needed to secure a conviction. He called as a rebuttal witness a man named Dwayne Buckley, released from imprisonment the day before he testified. Mr. Buckley said that he had been a porter in the Cincinnati jail where Mr. Cannon was confined awaiting trial. Cannon, Buckley testified, had confessed to torturing and killing Officer Vallandingham. And after Mr. Cannon was found guilty, the trial judge, having spoken to members of the jury, told defense counsel that Mr. Buckley's testimony had been the most persuasive for them.
Now first, Mr. Cannon was indicted for murdering Mr. Depina on April 11, not Officer Vallandingham on April 15. And second, Officer Vallandingham was killed in the occupied cell block and Mr. Cannon could not have been there on April 15. Official documents show that Cannon left the occupied cell block (L block) on April 11, was picked up on the yard and confined in K block early on April 12, and was taken to another prison on April 16. It was physically impossible for Buckley's testimony to be true, and it is inconceivable that the prosecutor did not know this when Buckley testified.

9 Lucasville, pp. 163-165, citing the trial transcript and Ohio Supreme Court decision in State v. Sanders.

10 Lucasville, p. 83, quoting Affidavit of John L. Fryman, June 17, 1998.

11 Id., pp. 83-84, quoting Affidavit of Emanuel "Buddy" Newell, Dec. 30, 1998.

12 See Lucasville, pp. 106-110. Lavelle "rolled" when the State prevented George Skatzes from returning to his cell, adjacent to Lavelle's, after an interview. A letter from Lavelle to Jason Robb proves that this was the triggering event in Lavelle's decision to turn informer.

13 Reginald A. Wilkinson and Thomas J. Stickrath, "After the Storm: Anatomy of a Riot's Aftermath," Corrections Management Quarterly (1997), p. 21, quoted in Lucasville, p. 106.

14 The statements under oath of ten prisoners incrimating Lavelle are collected in Lucasville, pp. 63-68. Most of these statements were made at trial and were therefore well-known to prosecutors.

15 Lucasville, pp. 125-126, quoting Lavelle's testimony in State v. Were, State v. Skatzes, and State v. Sanders.

16 Hasan's voice does not appear on the transcript of Tunnel Tape 61. As to Skatzes, see the transcript in Lucasville, Appendix 1, pp. 187-188.

17 Kenneth Law, Affidavit of March 9, 2000.

18 Lucasville, pp. 62-63, citing the transcripts of the Robb, Skatzes and Sanders trials, as well as the transcript of Gordon's taped interview with Sergeant R. T. McGough of the Highway Patrol, Tape A-194, Jan. 5, 1995.

19 Interview 1245, Tape A-189, April 27, 1994.

20 Interview 871, Tape A-128 (A,B,C), July 20, 1993.

21 Kenneth Law, Affidavit of March 9, 2000.

22 State v. Robb, Transcript, p. 5121 (emphasis added).

23 Id., p. 5123.

24 Orson Wells was found guilty of kidnapping Officer Harold Fraley. Wells had observed Fraley in the L-6 shower with what appeared to be a life-threatening head wound and carried him to the riot infirmary in the L-3 day room, whence others carried Fraley to the yard. Similarly, Skatzes was found guilty of kidnapping Officer Darrold Clark, who testified that he had asked Skatzes to have him moved from L-6 to L-2, where Skatzes lay on a mattress between hostage Clark and the door of the cell in which Clark was confined so that no one could harm him. Skatzes personally released Clark to the authorities on April 15. Wells and Skatzes were each sentenced to 15-25 years for their conduct.

25 Kenneth Law, Affidavit of September 19, 2003.

26 Sergeant Howard Hudson, Testimony at Rules Infraction Board, January 18, 1996 (emphasis added), summarized by RIB secretary Andrea Carroll and certified as "true and accurate" by Sergeant Hudson, attached to "Defendants' Third Motion For Leave to Supplement the Record in Support of Summary Judgment," in Jones v. Baker, Case No. 5: 93 CV 1402 (U.S. Dist. Ct. N.D. of Ohio), filed February 9, 1996.

27 State v. Were, Transcript, p. 837.

28 State v. Sanders, Transcript, p. 5091.

29 Memorandum in support of "Motion to Dismiss Defendant's Petition to Vacate," State v. Skatzes, Case No. 94 CR 2890 (Montgomery County), p. 26 ("The State produced evidence that Muslim leader Sanders designated fellow Muslim James Were to kill Corrections Officer Vallandingham. . . . Inmates Law and Allen were the other two participants.") (emphasis added).

30 Lucasville, pp. 66-67, 221 n.42, citing affidavit of Brian Eskridge, Second Petition for Post-Conviction Review, State v. Sanders, Exhibit 9, and his testimony in State v. Were II, Daily Transcript of Proceedings, May 9, 2003, pp. 69-73.

31 Interview 1264, Tape A-190, June 23, 1994, pp. 12-13 (knows about murder of Vallandingham).

Staughton Lynd
1694 Timbers Court
Niles, OH 44446-3941
[email protected]


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