We are making available a number of brief statements written by individuals
serving Life Without Parole sentences in Massachusetts. Here's one story...
My name is Omar. I was born in Boston, Massachusetts. I grew up in the Mission Hill Projects in Roxbury. I am the elder of eight siblings; raised in a single female head of household. I was an honor roll student up to about the sixth grade.
Around the age of ten or eleven years old, I was introduced to alcohol. Between ten to thirteen, I experimented with alcohol, glue sniffing, marijuana, LSD, mescaline, an assortment of pharmaceutical pills, heroin, and cocaine. By thirteen or fourteen years old, I was a regular user of heroin, which led to addiction. From twelve to seventeen, I was involved in the Juvenile Criminal Justice System. My juvenile record of offenses include; truancy, larceny, driving a motor vehicle without authority, possession of marijuana, and possession of burglarious tools. There were no crimes of violence.
As a result of addiction to heroin, four months after my eighteenth birthday on September 14, 1971, I and a twenty-four year old accomplice robbed a convenience store at gun point. My accomplice shot and killed the proprietor of the store.
Subsequently, we were both arrested and charged with First Degree Felony Murder in 1972. During the trial, the prosecutor offered a plea reduction charge of Second Degree Murder, which allowed for a fifteen year parole eligibility.
My co-defendant accepted the plea offer. I instead chose to go to trial, based upon a juvenile disposition that I hadn't killed anybody, and a sentence carrying a fifteen year parole eligibility was a whole lifetime (only three years longer than my entire life up to that time).
Consequently, I was found guilty of First Degree Felony Murder and sentenced to a "Natural Life Sentence," on May 16, 1973. My co-defendant was paroled February 2001, over seventeen years ago.
From 1973 to the present, my institutional record includes: religious conversion, GED acquisition, college courses, computer courses, co-founding two youth deterrence programs, NDRP Senior Drug Counselor, Vice-Chair Norfolk Drug Counsel, Co-Camp Chair MCI Norfolk Inmate Council, public school and college speaking engagements, fifteen years in minimum security facilities (eight and half of those years in a Boston Pre-Release Center), eight and half years in the Furlough Program (completing 115 furloughs), marriage for 35 years, received two unanimous recommendations to have my sentence commuted by the Massachusetts Board of Pardons (1987 and 1994), a signature recommendation for commutation of my sentence by Governor William F. Weld (January 1993), April 1993 the petition was denied by the Governor's Executive Council (5-3).
From 1993 - to Present, I have been mandated and remanded to medium security institutions strictly as a result of political meandering. The commutation process for me has been nullified. My last two petitions were denied with the Board of Pardons stating: " ... Five members of the Board concluded that you have not presented any extraordinary or extenuating circumstances to merit a commutation hearing." A current petition has lingered for four years without a response from the Advisory Board of Pardons.
I and 64 other first degree Lifers were brought back to medium security institutions on January 1, 1988, and only two were classified to return to minimum security institutions; I and another individual, due to us being the only ones with commutation petitions recommended for the Governor's signature. The other individual was commuted, leaving me as the last First Degree Lifer serving time in-a minimum security facility.
So, let me leave you with this: 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55,56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, and soon, I will be 67 years old. Those numbers represent all the years of my life I have been incarcerated; and I am destined by law to die in prison; mainly because I did not take the plea deal in my adolescent state of thinking.
Thank you for your time and for listening to me. I look forward to any questions you may have.
(Omar was granted a medical release on March 4, 2020 after 48 years in prison.)