On April 11, 1993 I was 26 years old, going into my third year on a 10-25 year sentence for aggravated burglary. I was only at SOCF for about 90 days before the uprising and didn’t really have enough time to understand what was going on or why. However, in just the short time that I was there, violence was the norm.
No one told me that a riot was being planned, so I was just as shocked and off-guard as everyone else.
It was Easter Sunday and I was sitting in my cell drawing and minding my own business when I heard a loud crash. When I looked out my cell door to see what it was, I saw a pack of masked inmates storming the pod, taking over the console and attacking the guard. That was the first sign I’d been given that something serious was going down. Not too long after that, all the cell doors were opened amid shouts that the block was being taken over. It was a real crazy scene.
Having never been in a riot, I did not really understand what my reaction should be. Those who had taken over the pod and who were now in control seemed to believe that everybody should get involved. But again, being someone who only recently arrived, I was more confused than I was eager to join what I knew absolutely nothing about. As I stood there and watched, cells were opened and searched for food, which was then stockpiled in the middle of the range. Everything was happening so fast.
For years, I struggled with trying to figure out how I could be guilty of killing someone I didn’t know and had never seen before. What is even more mind-boggling is how 12 people in society failed to protect my innocence by allowing the state to wrongfully sentence me to the rest of my life in prison. But now, I have come to realize that racism, prejudice, bigotry, corruption and the other evil elements are still prevalent in this world and all these things played a dominant role in my all white jury convicting me. This was more a case about giving the local community the opportunity to exact revenge on somebody. It was not really about my innocence or guilt. If that was the case, I would have never been found guilty and I would be home with my family.
The state alleged that I participated in the murder of Bruce Vitale, allegedly one of the inmates of this so-called “Death Squad.” Because I refused to cooperate with the state investigators in the Dennis Weaver death, now mysteriously, I’m placed with this group who may or may not be the actual killers. According to documentations, statements, and self-confession, the “Gangster Disciples” were the only death squad responsible for murdering numerous inmates and the only guard killed during the uprising. How can you not conclude that, me being charged is about vengeance for me not helping the state implicate Keith Lamar in the Weaver death?
The state openly admitted to the media and everyone in earshot that they had no physical or forensic evidence that could link anyone to a crime, which realistically made it impossible to do a thorough investigation. The state used this as their escape route to apply some of the dirtiest acts known to mankind in order to manufacture a conviction with career enhancing gains. This act also quenched the surrounding community’s thirst for vengeance and simultaneously and conveniently allowed the investigators to close their books on a crime that they were not adequately prepared (or able) to handle.
The main tactic the state investigators employed to assist them in their devious plot was to use informants (inmates), not based on truth but on a first-come, first-serve basis and who was most willing to lie in order to help themselves and more importantly, the state’s hidden agenda. Once this was made known, the investigators had no shortage of potential candidates for informants/liars to choose from and was willing to say whatever, whenever. The whole process was a circus.
After I was indicted, the court appointed me an attorney named John Wolery, from Columbus, Ohio. To say that Mr. Wolery was totally out of his element in representing me in a trial of this magnitude would be an understatement, to say the least. Many of the reasons that he gave for not being able to do basic things such as filing motions and interviewing potential witnesses in preparation for a proper defense was that the state handcuffed him by not allotting him adequate funds.
Two perfect examples of this are: I was given a change of venue to Columbus but after I repeatedly refused to plea bargain with the state, without explanation or reason, the judge re-assigned my trial back to Scioto County (three miles from the Lucasville prison) and with that, the judge allowed at least two local jurors to remain seated for my trial who had previously signed a petition suggesting that law enforcement officials should drop a nuclear bomb on the prison while the inmates were still inside. My attorney challenged neither of these issues as he put it, due to lack of funds/resources.
The degree of corruption and discrimination that existed at my trial should not be news to any open-minded person but unless you are or you know someone who is a victim of it, we would rather choose to pretend that it does not exist in our world. The state knew that I did not kill Bruce Vitale but they never even hesitated to steal my innocent life and in doing so, disregarded it as if it’s nothing. The up-close reality of this is by far the scariest scene in my nightmare, not only for myself but also for the coming generation who are less fortunate, uneducated, poor, black and unable to protect or safeguard their rights as a human being. From the state’s actions, the message is clear; make one mistake and your life is over once we get our hands on your freedom and no-one will care nor raise a single question because to them (society). All you are is a criminal.
To say I was guilty before I went to trial would be stating the obvious. I never stood a chance, the judge knew this and because I still held out some hope that justice existed, I was the only one in the courtroom who did not know that I was already guilty before my trial even started.
Eric Girdy: This inmate gave several detailed statements but never once did he mention my name until the day of my trial. He also plea-bargained with the state on crimes he committed during the uprising.
Donald Cassell: This inmate could not pick me out of a photo line-up and in his statements prior to my trial never mentioned my name but the day of my trial he remembered that I was a part of the “Death Squad” that killed Vitale. Cassell’s testimony was tainted by promises from the state [See document 5]. Also, since my, trial a letter written by Cassell has been discovered, which confesses how he manipulated, lied and used the state to protect his butt and his buddies [See document 6]
Stacey Gordon: This inmate could not pick me out of a photo line-up and failed to mention my name in his statements but remembered at my trial that I helped murder an inmate.
Hiawatha Frezzell: This inmate was given a reduced sentence, immunity and a transfer to a lower security prison for his testimony. Since my trial, Frezzell has recanted his testimony and has given a sworn affidavit admitting that in fear of being charged with a capital case, the state forced/threatened him to lie and commit perjury [See document 7 ].
Louis Jones: This inmate was highly touted by the state as their star witness and crucial to their success in numerous convictions including a death-row conviction. Testifying under complete immunity from the murder of four (4) inmates during the riot, he identified me as the killer of Vitale. However, during at least one other riot related trial, the state prosecutor called Jones a liar [See document 8 ].
Write to Eric please at:
Eric Scales #A223096
Grafton C. I
2500 S. Avon Belden Rd,
Grafton, OH 44044
or use Jpay.com to write to him via online means.
Eric Scales on Lucasville Justice, a site dedicated to support for those convicted wrongfully following the Lucasville prison disturbance of 1993.