On April 11, 1993, I was 32 years old, serving my fourth year on a 6-25 year sentence for attempted murder. I had had arrived at SOCF about two years prior to the disturbance and, as luck would have it, I had only been on L-side for about 10 days before the riots took place.
After a somewhat rocky star adjusting to the overt racism that was prevalent at SOCF at the time, I had somehow managed to stay clear of any major infractions and was on my way to becoming what some would call a model prisoner. In fact, what caused me to be moved to L-side, ten days before the disturbance, was a drop in my security status from max to close 3. Supposedly this meant I was moving in the right direction and was one step closer to my goal of obtaining a parole and returning home to my family. I was just given a ninety (90) day continuance by the Ohio Adult Parole Authority, which based on patterns of release at the time, gave me every reason to believe that I would be granted a parole at my next hearing. I had no idea fate was about to intervene and rob me of my dream.
When I woke up that Easter Sunday, I was in a positive place in my life. My wife and I had just renewed our vows, which reinforced our support and determination to do everything within our power to stay focused. In my efforts to secure a parole, I became something of a hermit. I limited my association with those around me and ventured out of my cell only when necessary. I had no way of knowing that Muslims were involved in a confrontation would ultimately change the course of my life.
The recreation yard had finally been re-opened the day before the uprising and I decided to go outside. Since SOCF didn’t allow prisoners to go out during the winter season, this was the first opportunity I’d been given to venture out and get some fresh air. I went out with the intention of jogging but, with thoughts of my impending release weighing heavy on my mind, I wound up just walking the track, lost in my thoughts of going home. I was so selfishly isolated in my pursuit that I lost sight of my surroundings. In fact, it’s only in hindsight that I can pinpoint the signs of something brewing. Looking back, it’s hard to overlook the fact that there was very little staff on hand but then again, it was Easter Sunday and staff was usually reduced on Sundays. I also vaguely remember whispers and rumors about an impending lockdown revolving around some prisoner’s refusal to take the TB tests but none of this seemed to concern me at the time.
At around 2:45pm the alarm sounded to warn us that it was time to start lining up to re-enter the building. As I was leaving the track to join the line, a guard ran out the door with blood running down his face, followed by a masked inmate wildly swinging a P.R. 24 and screaming, “we’re taking over, we’re taking over!” I was shocked; I felt like I had just woken up from a deep sleep. I didn’t know what to think. However, shortly after the masked inmate stopped beating the C/O, who had collapsed to the ground, a few masked inmates appeared to announce that L-side was under their control.
My initial reaction was to stay on the yard, to not get involved; accordingly, I moved away from the entrance and sat down on some nearby picnic tables, anticipating the arrival of the goon squad. Whenever something of this nature occurred, a group of C/O’s, allegedly trained to handle such situations, was supposed to assemble to restore order. But that never happened: I didn’t know what to do.
Please read the letter below about Derek Cannon, who is still incarcerated, even though the Innocence Project has deemed it highly likely he is innocent of the charges brought against him following the 1993 Lucasville prison disturbace.
Letter from the Innocence Project (2005) recommending Derek Cannon’s case of innocence for investigating and ultimately having him released:
Derek Cannon: A Compelling Non-DNA-Based Innocence Claim
At the request of scholar-activist and attorney Staughton Lynd, I have analyzed documents concerning the case of Derek Cannon, an Ohio prisoner currently serving a life sentence for a murder committed during the infamous 1993 Lucasville Prison riot. Mr. Lynd has published an authoritative account of the 1993 incident and its aftermath, Lucasville: The Untold Story of Prison Uprising, and is convinced that Mr. Cannon has been wrongfully convicted.
Based on my independent review, I agree that the justice system has utterly failed Mr. Cannon, and that he is in all probability an innocent man. Unfortunately, it is not possible to have scientific certainty of innocence in Mr. Cannon’s case because no relevant biological evidence exists that could be subjected to DNA testing. The lack of a viable DNA angle also means that the New York Innocence Project cannot directly represent Mr. Cannon (the IP’s mandate is strictly limited to DNA-based innocence claims). However, because Mr. Cannon’s case is particularly compelling and is rooted in the broader Lucasville injustice, I believe that the “innocence community” needs to help Mr. Cannon. His claims beg for thorough investigation and he deserves legal assistance from an individual or organization “on the ground” in or around Ohio.
The purpose of this memorandum is to persuade your organization to take on Derek Cannon as a client. To that end, I have outlined the relevant facts and context of Mr. Cannon’s case, and suggested possible lines of inquiry that might be explored to vindicate his innocence claim. If you cannot help, perhaps you can suggest an individual or organization that can. The New York Innocence Project remains committed to helping Mr. Cannon and will gladly consult with counsel on matters related to his case.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Innocence Project Staff Attorney
cstarger [@] innocenceproject.org
December 22, 2005