In 1989, Keith LaMar (aka Bomani Shakur) came 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 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 17 years-to-life.
Six years later, while attempting to put together the broken pieces of his life at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, Keith LaMar was once again ruled guilty, this time by an all-white jury in an all-white county in southern Ohio. To this day, Keith maintains his innocence of crimes he was framed for by the State of Ohio, crimes he can prove he did not commit during the 1993 Lucasville Prison Uprising at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility. In spite of his innocence, Keith continues to be held indefinitely in solitary confinement in a steel cage no larger than a closet, where he has spent the past two and a half decades. In all this time, he has not been able to see or touch grass or feel the wind blow against his skin. For sixteen of those years, Keith wasn't even allowed to touch a loved one until his 2011 hunger strike finally afforded him access to semi-contact visits (thick glass separation with just a small hole). It would be eighteen years in all until he could his family again when full-contact visits were granted.
In spite of being made to suffer inhumane conditions these three decades, Keith continues to pour love and knowledge on friends and strangers alike, inspiring them to find ways to live their lives with purpose. He has founded the Native Sons Literacy Project to help kids caught up in the school-to-prison pipeline discover that reading will open doors they never could imagine. Through his efforts, Keith has been able to get hundreds of meaningful books in the hands of at-risk juveniles. He exchanges calls and letters with high school and college classes, inspiring people to live their most meaningful lives while they can.
Keith LaMar’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 LaMar was made available online October 2014. In just 36 short minutes, 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.