Sentenced to death for 30 years, he counts on jazz to save him

Sentenced to death for 30 years, he counts on jazz to save him

NEW YORK | Music helped Keith LaMar survive nearly 30 years on death row.

At 53 years old, two-thirds of whom are in prison, this African American hopes that jazz will save him from an execution scheduled for November 16, 2023, for a quintuple murder that he says he did not commit.

His “last hope” is a Spanish jazz pianist and composer based in Brooklyn, Albert Marquès, who has been giving concerts for two years and has just released an album -which he composed and played on the phone with Keith LaMar from his prison in Ohio-. – to raise awareness in New York about what may be another miscarriage of justice in the United States.

Incarcerated after the end of années 1980, Keith LaMar was convicted in 1995 for the death of five codétenus lors d’une émeute déclenchée le 11 avril 1993 par des prisonniers musulmans que avaient refué de seumettre a tuberculosis test car le sérum contenait alcohol.

The violence had lasted 11 days and left 10 people dead, including a guard, at the Lucasville, Ohio, prison.

“If the time comes I am an unfortunate victim of the State (that will mean) that I would not have done everything possible to avoid it,” he whispered to AFP by phone, from his prison in this northern US state. state

Keith LaMar has been fighting to escape death for three decades.

34 years in prison

Jailed at age 19 for the murder of a drug addict friend who, at gunpoint, wanted to steal crack from him, he admitted his guilt at the time and was sentenced to at least 18 years in prison.

Seeking rehabilitation, he completes his high school studies in prison, enters university, and writes a book, sentence dictating over the phone to his editor: “I tried my hardest to redeem myself,” he says.

Keith LaMar denounces an America where “the truth only gives you freedom if you have enough money.”

In a country where various miscarriages of justice mostly affect African-Americans, LaMar demands reopening his case, which he believes is tainted with irregularities such as the destruction of evidence and the withholding of information.

“Black in a racist country”

“When you’re poor and black in a racist country, you plead guilty,” he says.

The prosecutors at the time, Bill Anderson and Seith Tieger, interviewed last February by the New York Times still judged Keith LaMar “completely guilty and where he should be: on death row.”

But the prisoner is no longer alone.

In addition to lawyers, the Catalan Albert Marquès, a music teacher in Brooklyn, today proclaims his “absolute” innocence.

The jazzman has been piloting a campaign and concerts in New York with other musicians since the summer of 2020 to demand “justice for Keith LaMar”. On May 20 they performed at the Jazz Gallery in New York, in the presence of AFP, for the release of an album, freedom first made up with the prisoner.

concert by phone

From her prison, on the phone, the voluptuous but powerful voice of the fifties resounded live for much of the concert.

“The idea is not to play for Keith, it’s to play with Keith,” the Spanish jazz player boasted to AFP.

The prisoner, the author of texts in which he recounts his existence and reflects on his destiny, is “one of the members of the group and earns the same as the rest of the musicians”, according to the Catalan who is pleased to be “the ‘friend ‘ from the American he regularly visits in Ohio.

Albert Marquès is one of the “blessings of (his) life” and his “last hope”, implores Keith LaMar who hopes his case will go beyond the New York jazz scene.

Man has always listened to jazz, especially the famous John Coltrane. Follower of the famous “oxen” (improvisations on jazz classics), he composes and writes more and more.

“I try to do useful things because it’s the only way to make sense of my own life,” concludes Keith LaMar.

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