Blog for the Center for Race, Gender, and Social Justice at University of Cincinnati
Nikita Srivastava graduated from University of Cincinnati College of Law in May 2019. Nikita's goals include fighting for indigent people by becoming a public defender and working hard to promote positive change. Through her research and writing, Nikita hopes to provide insightful thoughts on issues pertaining to race, gender, and social justice.
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.
“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?”
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.)
We’re all told at some point the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf. A young boy would repeatedly and continuously cry wolf when no wolf was present. His village would panic and run to his rescue but found the boy with no wolf. The villagers always ran to his rescue when no wolf was present. Eventually, the villagers collectively decided that when the boy cried wolf, they would not come to the boy’s rescue. One day, the boy saw a wolf. Scared and alone, he cried wolf – no one showed up. The boy died, eaten by a wolf.
The moral of the story: don’t lie or you’ll die. Women were treated like the boy who cried wolf. When women scream “sexual assault,” they were met with disbelief. However, after the confirmation hearing for Justice Brett Kavanaugh, that narrative changed significantly. Women are no longer met with disbelief, but rather ignorance of their experience. John Oliver said it best on his show Last Week Tonight: “it is not that women aren’t believed, [society] simply does not care.” The narrative now changed to not caring about a woman’s harassment/abuse/assault. Ultimately, this dangerous new narrative will cause more harm to women. By not caring, society will accept that women face sexual harassment, or have been assaulted, but won’t take action against it. By taking this stance, we are basically saying to women, “hey, you got harassed/assaulted/abused? Well, you’re going have to deal with that because you’re a woman. No one is going to help you. Your abuser won’t get punished or reprimanded for it.”
Honest, kind, and passionate. These are only a few words I can use to describe Karl Willis and Wayne Braddy. Karl is a spiritual man who started a mentoring program called “Leave the Streets Behind.” The goal of this program is to help misguided young adults become healthy and productive citizens. Wayne, on the other hand, is a creative man who performs live music whenever he gets the chance. Both of these men jump at any opportunities to expand their education and help others. Karl and Wayne are warm, humble men who care about their families and communities. They share their joy with their loved ones; they want to help others; but, more importantly, they care about making a difference in their community. Where are they today?
Karl is currently housed at Allen Correctional Institution in Lima, Ohio, and Wayne is housed at North Central Correctional Complex in Marion, Ohio. Both are serving 23 years to life sentence for a murder they did not commit.
The #metoo movement has increased the focus on sexual harassment cases and how courts analyze them. One way to increase the reach of harassment law is hidden in plain sight: the text of Title VII itself.
Title VII, the federal law that prohibits harassment based on race, sex, and other protected traits, has two main provisions. Under Title VII’s first provision, it is an unlawful employment practice for an employer to do the following:
(1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.