I no longer ask, “Do these people who committed these crimes deserve the death penalty?” I ask, “Does society deserve to kill people, when they’re so unwilling to engage in an honest conversation about the impact of race?”
Bryan Stevenson’s blunt question is at the heart of the provocative documentary Race to Execution. Cincinnati Law’s Center for Race, Gender, and Social Justice and the YWCA of Greater Cincinnati will screen the film and host a panel discussion including filmmaker Rachel Lyon on September 21, 2016.
Lyon’s film tracks the cases of two African American men sentenced to death, Hugh Kite and Madison Hobley. Although their personal circumstances varied—one lived in rural Alabama, the other in Chicago, respectively—both shared the injustice of a criminal system tainted by race from the start of investigations into their alleged crimes and media portrayal of them, to jury selection and, ultimately sentencing.
Lyon had a personal connection to this film, as her sister Andrea Lyon handled Mr. Hobley’s case on appeal. Over the course of her representation, the governor of Illinois at that time, George Ryan, became increasingly aware of racial disparities infecting imposition of the death penalty and used his executive power to address these issues in ways that I won’t spoil the film by specifying.
Interlaced between the stories of Hobley and Kite is rich commentary from such experts as Bryan Stevenson and Steven Bright. We’ll build upon the “honest conversation about the impact of race” the film provokes with a panel discussion featuring our own local authorities: Donald Caster, staff attorney with the Ohio Innocence Project (OIP); Dean Gillespie, an OIP exoneree; Kimberly Rigby, Supervising Attorney at the Ohio Public Defender; and David Singleton, clinical law professor at NKU Chase College of Law and Executive Director of the Ohio Justice and Policy Center.
Register online to attend the event, which starts at 5:30 in room 118 at the College of Law.