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Keith LaMar was supposed to die on Thursday -- the day prison wardens were to take him to the execution chamber -- but an unusual circumstance led to a reprieve, and the convict is honoring his additional time with the release of a song, "The Journey," composed with the help of a Spanish musician publicizing his story.
The execution of LaMar, a Black man, has been delayed until 2027, and he intends to use the time to plead his innocence.
In a phone call to AFP from Death Row, LaMar, a convicted murderer, voices "a sense of relief" that his death sentence handed down in 1995 has been delayed.
He's been granted, he says, "additional time... to put together a formidable legal team... a viable campaign... to bring my story to a wider audience."
The 54-year-old convict won't be put to death Thursday because laboratories, fearing liability, refuse to provide the component chemicals for his lethal injection, a common way to end an inmate's life in US prisons.
LaMar's execution is now set for January 13, 2027.
LaMar defended his innocence in the book "Condemned" that he published in 2014. In 2020, at the height of the covid-19 pandemic, a group of jazz musicians came to his defense.
- 'Prison cell in hell' -
A year and a half ago, he recorded the album "Freedom First" with his own lyrics and music by Spaniard Albert Marques, who has taken his story to concert halls in Europe, South America and the United States.
LaMar, a lifelong fan of jazz great John Coltrane, often participates by phone from his prison in Youngstown, a small city in the midwestern state of Ohio.
"Music can... keep my case out to a wider audience... So, yeah, more people know about my case... And with that comes more support and more public demand," LaMar says.
In 1995, an all-white jury found LaMar guilty in the deaths of five of nine inmates and a guard killed in the 1993 Lucasville prison riot, one of the worst in US prison history.
At the time, LaMar was already serving time for the murder of an old teenage friend in a drug dispute in his native Cleveland.
LaMar claims that he did not have a good defense and that he was the victim of a "mockery of justice" in a process in which other prisoners were given reduced sentences in exchange for testifying against him.
Now, however, LaMar has the support of the civil rights lawyer Keegan Stephan, of the firm Beldock Levine & Hoffman, who plans to appeal his conviction in Ohio courts.
"There is a lot of reason to believe that he is innocent and at the minimum didn't get a fair trial," Stephan says.
"There was a considerable amount of exculpatory evidence that was not turned over to Keith and his defense team."
In the meantime, LaMar intends to utilize his additional time to fight for an acquittal.