Brady Violations in the Story of Michael Sutton’s Wrongful Conviction.
Nikita Srivastava (’19)
Do you remember the day you finished high school? I want you to go back to that time. Imagine, you’re 17 years old again: You’re hanging out with your friends; you’re excited about the end of high school and the start of a new beginning. Days before your graduation, you go out with your closest friends and stay out all night. You dance, laugh, and celebrate the first steps to a bright new future. For most of us, that celebration night ends with hugging good-bye, quietly sneaking into our houses without waking up our parents, and sleeping in the next day. For most of us, it’s a great night. And, for most us, the night does not end with us being arrested for an attempted murder we did not commit. Unfortunately, that is what happened to Michael Sutton.
On the night he celebrated finishing high school, Michael found himself with three of his closest friends being arrested. Instead of hugging their friends goodnight and returning to the comforts of their home, Michael and his best friends spent the night in jail for a crime they did not commit. Instead of going off to college and getting his degree in business, Michael was sentenced to 41 years to life in prison.
It appears that the Ohio legislature’s 8-year wish will finally come true. The controversial “heartbeat bill” is poised to go into full effect in Ohio after both chambers of the Ohio legislature passed the resolution for the third time since it was first taken to the Ohio General Assembly floor. First introduced in Ohio in 2011, the bill was twice vetoed by former Ohio governor John Kasich, and failed to garner enough votes to override the veto both times. Now, with first-term governor Mike DeWine at the helm, the bill is sure to survive.
Passed as Ohio House Bill 68 and Senate Bill 23, the “heartbeat bill” makes abortion illegal once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which could be as early as 5-6 weeks after pregnancy. The bill only permits abortion after a heartbeat is detected if a woman is experiencing a medical emergency. The bill does not provide an exception for rape or incest.
The controversial legislation was authored by Janet Porter, a pro-life activist who lobbied for the passage of the country’s first partial-birth abortion ban, and secured passage of the Woman’s Right to Know Law. Porter says she and others “literally crafted [the] legislation to be the arrow in the heart of Roe v. Wade. It is made to come before the United States Supreme Court.” Anticipating the retirement (or worse) of the Court’s aging, liberal justices, Porter is hopeful that challenges to the bill will arrive at the Supreme Court when there are additional conservative justices that will uphold the bill once it is Ohio law and, perhaps, overturn Roe v. Wade.
“You can’t play your race card when discussing this issue. Bringing race into this matter will not get us anywhere. I am telling you now, it won’t be a constructive conversation.” John Doe said this to a woman of color while we were discussing the socio-economic effects of government programs in one of my undergraduate classes. He angrily slammed his hands on the table and began chugging his water. I imagined that he grabbed his water to cool himself down as if there was a fire inside of him that he needed to put out. Another classmate stated that our country was founded on racism and I stated, “these policies are supposedly ‘race-neutral,’ but are not. By not considering race, we are disregarding more than half the people in this country.” (I thought to myself: race is a part of everything in this country, ignoring it only makes it worse.) As silence ensued, my professor quickly turned to another portion of our assigned reading. However, I could not focus on anything else. I called my mother after the class and recalled the event to her. She said, “With each generation, things get better, but then you hear someone say something like that. It makes you think: are we better now?”
Recently, Florida Secretary of State Mike Ertel resigned after photos of him dressed in blackface as a Hurricane Katrina victim surfaced. Ertel was appointed as Florida Secretary of State by first-term governor Ron DeSantis. Governor DeSantis, a Republican, defeated Andrew Gillum – the first African American democratic gubernatorial candidate in Florida – last November in the election. Ironically, (perhaps not), DeSantis is the same man who told Floridians just days before the election: “the last thing we need to do is monkey this up…” This was a clear reference to Mr. Gillum’s race, and a message to Floridians not to elect the state’s first Black governor. Apparently, Governor DeSantis’s Secretary of State shared some of the same racial sentiments as the man who appointed him.
Blackface was one of the most notable features of minstrelsy. What, ironically, started off as African American slaves mimicking slave masters and owners turned into white people putting burnt cork or shoe polish on their faces and acting as Black caricatures.
Throughout my time working with the Center for Race, Gender and Social Justice, I’ve been exposed to amazing concepts that reflect on issues affecting our society.
I personally love researching for fun, but not everyone shares that love … or the same views I do. If you want to engage your mind, then I recommend the following books:
Becoming by Michelle Obama
In her memoir, the former First Lady takes us on a journey to the White House. Mrs. Obama debunks many false rumors by sharing her life story. She elegantly describes every hurdle, obstacle, failure, mistake, and success she has encountered thus far. And, while describing her White House years, Mrs. Obama gives special thanks to our very own Interim Dean, Verna L. Williams. Check it out!
Intimate partner abuse is a fact of life in too many homes. The statistics are staggering. Domestic violence hotlines nationwide receive more than 20,000 calls on a typical day. Intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime and one in three female murder victims are killed by intimate partners. The cost of domestic violence to the U.S. economy is between $5.8 and $12.6 billion each year. (Stats provided by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence). In Ohio, between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018, there were ninety-one domestic-violence related fatalities. In 22 percent of those cases, children were involved at the scene and in more than 46 percent of the cases, the victim had ended or was in the process of ending the relationship. (Ohio stats provided by the Ohio Domestic Violence Network.)
“The Hate UG[a]ve Little Infants F**ks Everybody, meaning What you feed us as seeds grows and blows up in your face”
– Tupac Shakur
The Hate U Give is a powerful, must-see-drama/thriller. While the film is heart-wrenching, its message leaves its viewers with much optimism. The film was inspired by a phrase coined by the late, iconic rapper Tupac Shakur: “T.H.U.G. L.I.F.E.” Throughout his 25-year life, Tupac revolutionized the music industry with hits like “Dear Mama,” “Keep Ya Head Up,” “Changes,” and dozens more that would inspire generations to come. ‘Pac also used his platform to shed light on how racism was the catalyst for social and political issues facing the Black community, such as poverty and police brutality. These are constant themes present in The Hate U Give.
In The Hate U Give, director George Tillman, Jr. highlights one of American society’s most sensitive topics: racism. Particularly, it examines racism manifested through police brutality, microaggressions, implicit bias, and cultural appropriation. The plot emanates from the shooting death of an unarmed Black teen, Khalil, at the hands of a white policer officer. Starr Carter, the main character in the movie and Khalil’s lifelong best friend, witnesses the shooting.