Listen closely: you’ve head his name in countless rap lyrics, from Nas’ “Memory Lane” to 50 Cent’s “Ghetto Qu’ran,” but if you were born after 1994, you probably don’t know anything about Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff.
Time for an education.
McGriff, known to the world as Supreme, was one of the biggest drug dealers in the country, then became involved with the ’90s hip-hop scene in New York, particularly as a protégé of Irv Gotti. While on the outside his story was that of a former felon trying to go straight in the music business, rumors swirled that behind the scenes, something much more sinister was going on. In 2007, McGriff was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of murder-for-hire. Many believe he ordered the 2001 killings of Mobb Deep affiliate Eric Smith (known as E-Moneybags) and “Big Nose” Troy Singleton, and also had a hand in the 2002 murder of Run-D.M.C. member Jam Master Jay.
Next year marks McGriff’s tenth year in a federal penitentiary for a crime he claims he didn’t commit, and now he’s looking for a pardon from President Barack Obama. Global Grind has exclusively obtained the poignant letter that McGriff sent to the President, seeking clemency for his alleged crimes. McGriff argues that he was stripped of his constitutional rights when he wasn’t allowed to testify in his own trial, and was possibly sabotaged by his own attorney.
“Frederick Douglass said that power concedes nothing without a demand. I demand only that which is guaranteed by The Constitution. My right to testify, I did everything required by law to exercise my Constitutional rights to testify,” he begins. “I offered my life in exchange for my right to testify and was denied that right by my lawyer David Ruhnke, simply because he didn’t believe what I told him. In doing so, he violated my most basic fundamental Constitutional right.”
He continues, “Mr. President I implore you to correct this gross miscarriage of justice with a stroke of your pen. My true request is to be restored to my proper place in the legal process before my Constitutional right to testify was violated. To restore my guaranteed right to prove my innocence. My testimony is vital to my defense and only I can attest to the truth.”
Section II, Article 2 of the United States Constitution says the president “shall have the power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States.” Thanks to that, Presidents can pardon anyone for any crime that would have been heard in a federal court. It remains as the president’s only absolute power. It’s why pardons are quite rare, and often controversial. Regardless of whether McGriff is granted his wish — highly unlikely, at this point — his story deserves to be heard. Is he another Black man incarcerated by a prejudiced system, or a career criminal with blood on his hands?
Read his letter, and you be the judge:
Dear Mr. President,
Frederick Douglass said that power concedes nothing without a demand. I demand only that which is guaranteed by The Constitution. My right to testify, I did everything required by law to exercise my Constitutional rights to testify. I plead not guilty, I made my lawyer aware I would testify and explained in detail exactly what my testimony would be. That is that it’s impossible to be guilty because the star witness Terence Terrell, who constructed the McGriff Enterprise, is someone I have never met or seen before, not once in my life. My attorney David Ruhnke, by his own admission in a sworn affidavit agrees in his own words, “The outline of what Mr. McGriff’s testimony would have been at trial, sounds very much like the discussions he and I had over many months. In my judgment most of it was he said, she said and virtually none of it was corroborated by other witnesses or evidence). It’s not his right to have a judgment on my right to testify. Only my judgment is guaranteed by the Constitution on this issue. The law is not always clear, but here it is absolutely clear. If a lawyer interferes with a defendant’s right to testify – A NEW TRIAL IS GRANTED. I find it problematic that my attorney gave me no agency to decide my own fate in a Death Penalty Trial. I offered my life in exchange for my right to testify and was denied that right by my lawyer David Ruhnke, simply because he didn’t believe what I told him. In doing so, he violated my most basic fundamental Constitutional right. There is no exception for that, it’s guaranteed! My right to testify is non-negotiable. You can’t put a man who desires to speak on trial for his life and the jury never hears the sound of his voice, because his ineffective court appointed attorney refuses to put him on the stand. The only reason I ended up with this lawyer is because the prosecution tricked my paid private attorney Robert Simels off the case with a false threat of introducing evidence at trial that he was part of the McGriff Enterprise – which they never produced. I would have needed to hire a lawyer for my attorney, which unfortunately there were no more resources to accomplish this. So I ended up with David Ruhnke, who basically facilitated the prosecution’s case and denied me the right to testify.
Mr. President, I implore you to correct this gross miscarriage of justice with a stroke of your pen. My true request is to be restored to my proper place in the legal process before my Constitutional right to testify was violated. To restore my guaranteed right to prove my innocence. My testimony is vital to my defense and only I can attest to the truth. Not my lawyer! It is incumbent upon you to explore your options and employ your Executive Powers, for a reclamation of my Constitutional Rights. If a man is prepared to die in exchange for his right to testify, his ersatz lawyer has no right to refuse to put him on the stand. This cannot stand! The enormity cannot be overstated! Terence Terrell gave mesmerizing and riveting testimony about clandestine meetings at restaurants, drugs, and money transactions. He built an elaborate hierarchy chart of the members of the McGriff Enterprise, 6 people with McGriff at the top, including pictures. He crafted an entire enterprise having worked with McGriff intimately for 2 years, collecting money, cutting and preparing drugs, he describes me down to the color of my eyes (which is common public knowledge). What is most important – during his sworn testimony, he identified and names 4 individuals that were present and witnessed all of this activity. Now there are 4 more witnesses provided by the prosecution’s own star witness. How is all of this even possible and I don’t even know who this person is? I have never seen him before, not one day in my life. My truth has never changed from the inception of this case. It is 10 years later and I was never allowed to speak one word on the record in court. While the optics of the prosecution’s case may appear to be impressive and visually stunning, upon closer inspection given the slightest challenge, it crumbles into dust. All of it is impossible, it is perjured testimony, he made the whole story up. If I am who they say I am, why would they need to have someone I have never seen before concoct this story? (It would have been more plausible if at least they used someone I knew or met). There is a systemic breakdown in the legal process when the most powerful person in the courtroom is the informant, when he is given free rein to conjure up anything without the slightest challenge. Do they think that I am a fool, that I don’t know who I know? The impropriety that they would prosecute me in a Death Penalty trial using perjured testimony. This is not rocket science!
The simple question is do I know or have I ever met Terence Terrell? If I ever met him or ever saw him, just once. I’m guilty. You don’t have to even prove I was involved in any criminal activity, just that I knew or met him. How much easier or absolute can I make this to prove that it’s impossible for me to be guilty? My Lawyer Ruhnke never investigated Terrell, nor did he ever cross-examine him at the trial. Ruhnke also never investigated the 4 other eyewitnesses Terence Terrell named in his sworn testimony, to see if I even knew Terrell. Does anyone believe that the prosecution didn’t investigate nor interview the 4 eyewitnesses identified by their own star witness? These 4 witnesses (not my witnesses) can prove I never met or knew Terence Terrell. Terence Terrell is the key to the truth in this case. In other words, he is my DNA evidence, but if the court refuses to test it, how can I prove my innocence? Look, I get it, I understand what they think about me, the dominant theme that has been consistent here is that I am a bad man. But that is exactly why it is the duty of the court to try the case and not the man – because a very bad man may have a righteous case. This prosecution was never about what I did or did not do, it was about who I was in my past. Remember the initial premise was I was the true owner of a record label, which I started with drug money, until that theory was completely debunked. Then the theory started to vacillate wildly, until they settled on Terence Terrell, who constructed the entire McGriff Enterprise to make the case. Nobody’s intellectual curiosity has ever been slightly piqued by evidence so absolute (Terence Terrell). You must look into this. This was a goal-oriented prosecution, where the goal became more important than the truth or the Constitution. You cannot have a Capital Punishment/ Death Penalty Trial without the person you intend to kill being allowed to be heard or review critical evidence. Through no fault of my own, my lawyer refused to let me testify. I am not saying they cannot sentence me to do time in prison. I am not even saying they can’t kill me. I am just saying NOT WITH PERJURED TESTIMONY or my Right To Be Heard! “Because my Constitutional Rights were violated, I am being held in violation of the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America. My detention is unconstitutional!” Innocence, that’s where we have to start. If the trial was not fair, the conviction is unconstitutional. The jury never heard key evidence about Terence Terrell, who created the entire Rico.
Ruhnke and McGriff had vast discrepancies in their stories outside of the records which may require an evidentiary hearing, under oath to determine the facts and the truth. No matter how you parse it. The District Judge was derelict in his duty and abandoned his oath by not conducting an evidentiary hearing on the most serious issues. It was a less than ethical sleight of hand to dispose of my 2255 appeal without a hearing, by simply choosing one affidavit over another – where the greater weight of evidence was on the McGriff side. McGriff presented 3 witnesses and 2 sworn affidavits to support his claims. Ruhnke presented a Donald Trump affidavit (No details, no facts). They spared no expense as they sought to extinguish my life, they must at least be willing to expend a one day hearing to ensure justice and the truth. Look at Judge Frederick J. Block’s decision, “McGriff fails to show prejudice.” That is false and wrong. Not only does McGriff show prejudice, McGriff shows actual innocence – it is impossible to be guilty if I do not even know the star witness. Then Judge Block cites erroneous case-law to support his claim. People v. Castellano. In Castellano, he failed to explain how his testimony would have changed the outcome. Unlike Castellano, not only does McGriff explain in detail, in a 9 page affidavit, exactly how his testimony would have changed the outcome, but the affidavit that Block relies on to deny the hearings (Ruhnke’s) actually proves that I show prejudice. In Ruhnke’s affidavit he admits to what my testimony would have been at trial (that it is impossible for me to be guilty). Therefore prejudice was shown. And my sworn affidavit is irrefutable proof, if they would just look into it. Judge Frederick J. Block put his foot on the scales of justice and unlawfully denied an evidentiary hearing on important claims that were never addressed:
- Was I ever released back into general population?
- Was I ever allowed to review evidence used against me at trial (surveillance tape)?
- Did David Ruhnke deny McGriff his right to testify?
Based on the specific and detailed factual assertions of the defendant, if the allegations are true, then the petitioner is clearly entitled to relief.
Judge Block’s exact words on the record state, “When I see a Constitutional violation, from what I see in front of me, I am duly bound to do something. I just cannot ignore the Constitution – especially when at the end of the trial you are asking to put him to death. It is not exactly an inconsequential situation. The court also pointed out that there are due process concerns if in fact the connotation becomes so severe that it could arguably impact his ability to participate in his own trial.” That is exactly what happened and I was never allowed to see any of the evidence used against me at trial. But Block ignored all of that. After that noble and soaring speech about rights and the Constitution, it was nothing but empty words. A recalcitrant Block never followed up or enforced his own court order at my expense. And it is all proven by the record, but they refuse to just look into it. You must read Seth Ginsburg’s Appeal Brief, it sets forth all the facts and details to the case with the Constitutional law to support it all. For 3 years, Block stalled and dithered with my appeal – knowing he was going to deny everything without a hearing to avoid getting to the truth. Justice delayed is justice denied! My family and friends exhausted $300,000.00, 3 law firms, 10 years of work, 3 witnesses, and 2 sworn affidavits and Block never allowed me to present my proof in a fair hearing. Not One Word on Record. After a herculean effort, Block just swept it all under the rug without a second look. Deprivation of the opportunity to testify is indeed a miscarriage of justice, requiring the granting of a new trial. The court cannot truly judge the effect of the defendant being denied the right to take the stand. The court should be concerned with protecting both the right to choose whether to testify and the substance of the testimony. To apply an outcome-determination analysis at worst denigrates the position of the individual with respect to his own defense and trial, and at best exhibits an unthinking paternalism toward criminal defendants.
President Obama, my petition to you is not without consequence. If I am granted a new trial, it will be with the Death Penalty. If what I say is not true, then I should be put to death. I will waive all of my rights. If I ever saw, met, or even heard of Terence Terrell just once in my life, I am guilty and I die.
BUT if I never met, saw, or spoke to him ever, just once in my life, then it is impossible for me to be guilty. That means everything he testified to is a lie and perjured testimony. I’ve stood on this from the inception, I didn’t just make this up after my unwelcome outcome at trial. David Ruhnke’s own admission in his sworn affidavit proves it. What more is needed? For 10 years I have never wavered. I would not deign to mislead YOU. My word is my bond. This truth will never change! It will be proven! Mr. President, it would be a disservice to the authority of your office not to intervene and rectify a glaring injustice to my inalienable right to testify. It is hard to imagine any justification for denying a Capital Punishment Death Penalty defendant his right to testify. It is a vain thing to imagine a right without a remedy. Winston Churchill speaks of something called the 13th chime of the clock. When you hear it, you must fix it or get rid of the clock. If I lay out my case as I have done for the courts, you become obligated when you learn of an injustice, when you witness a wrong. You must look into it. The facts don’t lie. No one including the jury has ever heard these facts. Because of the AEDPA, there is no further remedy for Constitutional violations. You can’t prove anything if those in power won’t allow a record to be made in court. No one has to believe me. But the courts can’t deny my right to prove it, even it if means death. When a man knows the truth he should never be silenced, by Block or Ruhnke. The truth beckons you to look. When people are opposed to injustice they should be opposed to all injustice, not just the ones that offend their own personal sensibilities. No matter what happens, the truth will be preserved for posterity. Terence Terrell is someone I have never met or seen before not once in my life. That’s absolute.
Now I have provided the key to the truth. I’m adamant. It can be used for truth and justice, or it can be ignored and discarded for injustice. My truth is etched in stone. I will never stop fighting – you fight injustice until you die.
With all due respect,
PHOTO CREDIT: Kenneth McGriff / Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff