Watch any prison movie and everyone claims to be innocent. Everyone was set up, framed or rail roaded. Sa’id Salaam is no exception, except he’s telling the truth. He knows it, the police know it, even the jury at his 2007 trial knew it. So why is he serving a life sentence for a murder he didn’t commit?
In March of 2003 the body of a man was found in a music studio. There were no witnesses to how, why or even when the victim died. When Dekalb county police discovered the lease was in the name of Sa’id Salaam they immediately charged him with malice murder. It’s still a mystery how they concluded that the death was an act of premeditated, malice murder.
When Salaam was arrested the detectives who interviewed him told them they knew he didn’t shoot the victim. In fact they knew that the two were very close friends. They pressed him for information but since he was actually charged with a crime he insisted upon having a lawyer present.
The assistant district attorney first assigned to the case declined to prosecute for lack of evidence. However, the victims family who are law enforcement in the same county applied so much pressure they decided to try him.
The state had no witnesses, no weapon, nor motive. To overcome those obstacles they made some up. They informed the jury of a witness who claims to have seen Salaam with a gun around the time of the murder. No witness ever made any such testimony. They invented a rift between the victim and Salaam yet provided not a single witness who could attest to that. Even the date of death was moved a full month to coincide with when Salaam was known to be in the city.
Accordingly the jury didn’t believe that Sa’id killed his friend. They sent a note out during deliberations stating just that. They assumed that he had knowledge of what happened but knew he wasn’t the trigger man. The overzealous prosecutor urged the judge to recharge the jury with the party to crime statute. The judge said that he couldn’t give that charge. He was correct because Salaam didn’t get to defend himself against the new charge. Not to mention that no evidence that he aided or abbeded anyone who did shoot the victim. The charge requires a common criminal intent which was not even alleged at trial. The state’s case was that Salaam was the shooter. The jurors rejection of that was tantamount to acquittal.
The judge went against his own decision and state and federal law and gave the charge. Salaam was convicted as a party to crime of murder even though no murder actually occurred.
According to people familiar with the incident, including an eye witness say that the victim was accidentally shot while he and another man handled his own gun assuming it was unloaded. This is not murder. This begs the question why not cooperate?
“First, I thought it would be snitching. That would have put myself and family in danger. I received a threat from the shooter to just keep quiet. He advised I couldn’t be convicted of something I didn’t do anyway and I believed it. Last he claimed he would step up if I was convicted” Sa’id tells us.
Technically he was right, you shouldn’t be able to be convicted of a crime you did not commit. There were no witnesses, no gun and no motive. There was also several police statements from friends of the victim who saw and spoke with the victim a full month after the state claims he was shot. How did this get past the jury?
“They never heard it! My lawyer never showed the jury the statements! Never even spoke with the witnesses who gave the statement!” Salaam insist. A claim backed up by his trial transcript.
The lead detective in the case testified at an earlier hearing that the victim was last seen alive in March. At trial he switched to February even though he personally took the statements. The court appointed lawyer assigned to Salaam never once challenged him. Never once produced any of the clear evidence to support his client. Never once challenged the charge of malice and premeditation or false statements to the jury.
“He was in on the set up!” Salaam claims. A claim supported by the record. His attorney didn’t even speak with any witnesses, including an eye witness to the shooting.
The appeals process is the time to clear up any discrepancies or errors made at tail. True to his word the accidental shooter stepped up to claim responsibility. As did the only other eye witness. It should have cleared Salaam and been the end of it but his court appointed appeals lawyer wouldn’t speak to them. He by his own admission hung up on shooter when they spoke. He flat out wouldn’t talk to anyone in the case.
Salaam filed an amended motion for new trial when he was without counsel. According to state law 15-6-21(b) it should have been ruled on within 90 days. The trial judge refused to hear but instead assigned another lawyer.
“This dude lied to me the first time we met! Which happened to be a day before the hearing. He hasn’t spoke to me or a single witness but he’s ready to have a hearing! Then he amends my motion and took out all the clearly reversible errors”
Salaam eventually filed a motion to dismiss him and proceed pro-se. This is a federally protected right but the judge refused the motion and forced unwanted counsel on him. To add insult to injury the judge denied his motion for new trial on the same grounds Salaam used to try to remove the lawyer, lack of evidence or witnesses.
The eye witness was set to testify in a habeas corpus hearing but committed suicide a few weeks before.
“He was haunted by the shooting I think” Salaam surmised. “He didn’t leave a note or anything, just died on us”
That makes 3 families devastated by this accidental shooting. The victim of course, the witness and Sa’id Salaam. The shooter now refuses to come forward but there are other people who will say what happened. The problem is that the isn’t interested in the shooter. Odd given that Salaam was convicted as a party. Why wouldn’t they want to prosecute the actual shooter?
This is the question Dekalb County officials need to answer. As well as why Salaam was denied his right to a fair trial and appeal. A movement is growing to free Sa’id Salaam please join us and demand justice.
Sa’id Salaam is also a best selling author of several well received books. Please support him and his family by purchasing his books. And check out the Gorilla Convict exclusive- Sa’id Salaam speaks.
All praise is to Allah, I’m good. Great, considering the circumstances. people are surprised to see how up beat and happy I am despite of all that’s going on. I have a wonderful wife and very supportive readers and that makes all the difference in the world.
Let’s cut to the chase, did you shoot Sean Craven?
Absolutely not but that’s never been an issue.The state knows I didn’t shoot him. The first thing the detectives told me when I was arrested is that we know you didn’t shoot him, but we know you know who did. If you don’t cooperate with us we’re going to put it on you. The state knows full well who shot him but they violated so many laws to convince me that they would have to convince themselves to do the right thing.
I was offered five years for concealing a death if I snitched. Then again offered 12 years before the commencement of my trial. Trust me, if I were guilty I would have taken a deal. Who goes to trial with a public defender if they’re guilty?
Why did you refuse to cooperate with the police?
First of all I was caught up in the whole no snitching woman. I honestly didn’t think I could be convicted of something I did not do it. My indictment claimed that I caused the death of a human being by shooting him with the gun and that did not happen. In retrospect, I had A misunderstanding of the whole notes mission concert. If you would I go commit a crime in only I get court it will be snitchin if I told on you. However, law abiding citizens have a good booty and an obligation to report crimes. Likewise I would not have been an error for defending myself with the truth. I’ve never been in trouble before so my dealings with the criminal justice system were very limited. I was very naive to the fact they would sit there and lie on a person just for a conviction. They are the real criminals.
Where there any witnesses?
At my trial know. There was a witness a friend of mine named auntie can’t who was never called or spoken to by my attorneys. He was going to testify at my motion for new trial what the public defender wouldn’t call her. Then again he was going to testify at my habeas corpus hearing but he committed suicide a week before the hearing. I was convicted of allegedly killing a person on February 12 2003 however several of the friends victim in police statement of seeing him alive In March of 2003.However these facts never made it to court.
Why frame Sa’id Salaam?
I represented the proverbial pound of flesh for the state. My first public defender told me that there was so much pressure from the victim’s family that they would rather lose at trial then to let me go. The first assistant district attorney it was assigned the case actually refused to prosecuted for lack of evidence. Ordinarily the state wouldn’t give a damn about pressure from a family but in this case the victim’s family with law enforcement in the same county. His mom work for the sheriff’s office and his brother was a Dekalb County police officer. I also I feel like my religion played a part in my persecution. Although religion has nothing to do with the death of the victim it was mentioned several times. I have no idea what that has to do with anything except for the try to prejudice to Jury.
Who shot the victim and why?
I’ll have to ask my lawyer if I could answer that question. The state does however know full well who shot the victim. Again it would call for them to admit their wrong doing in my prosecution for them to go back to prosecute him at this time. But if I’m supposed to be a party to a crime why would they not be trying to prosecute the actual shooter in this case? That’s the question that should be on everyone’s mind. Why only prosecute an alleged accomplice and not the principal?
Are you eligible for parole?
Yes I’m eligible for parole in March of 2019. I hope to make it on my first try but the state of Georgia is very funny. I’ve seen model inmates would have stayed out of trouble and taken all the required courses still get set off. The reason used is “due to the nature of the crime”. That is something that will never change so I’m really confused about the whole process. My hope is that they will read the case file and see that I didn’t kill anyone. As well as my outstanding institutional record, my public service and the fact that I have a thriving writing career.
Did you receive a fair trial?
Absolutely not. A total farce, complete railroad job set up by the assistant district attorney, the judge and my lawyer. The lead detective testified that the last time the victim was seeing was on February 13 2003 yet he personally took several statements to the contrary. At my probable cause hearing he said that last time he was seen alive was in March. My attorney said nothing about that or any of the other lies. He refused to call any witnesses on my behalf. He refused to even contact any of the witnesses including an eye witness.I wasn’t even in the state at the time they claim he died. They moved the date of death back over a month dispite witnesses seeing him alive after the date and the medical examiner statement.
The district attorney lied to the jury about a witness Who claims to have seen me with that gun at the time of the shooting. This was a lie and no witness ever testified to it. However the minds of jury was already poison by this lie.
What happened with your appeal?
Same bull shit! First I get stuck with another public pretender who refused to raise reversible errors. The judge dismissed him which left me pro-se. That was fine by me and I submitted an amended motion for new trial. The judge wouldn’t rule on it and assigned another quack lawyer to my case. This man looked me in my eyes and lied the first time I ever met him. His first order of business was to submit an amended motion to remove all of the grounds I raised. The shooter called his office to turn himself in and clear me but he hung up on him! Lied to the judge saying he couldn’t reach any witnesses. Despite the fact that eye witness, shooter, and other witnesses repeatedly called his office.
I filed a motion to dismiss him and proceed pro-se, a federally protected right but the judge refused the motion. Then denied the motion on the exact same grounds as I used to try to remove him, lack of witnesses.
Would you do the same thing if you could do it over?
Hindsight is 20/20. The shooter now w refuses to come forward knowing I’m doing his time. We didn’t think I could be found guilty but he agreed to step up if I was. He tried but my own lawyer blocked it. Since then he’s said fuck me. No contact, nothing on the books. Not looking out for my family. Still, the Bronx don’t raise snitched. I just can’t see myself sitting there telling on anyone. So, who knows.
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