On March 24, 2018, more than five hundred men and women marched through Memphis Tennessee. Most of them had spent a large part of their lives in prison– a combined 3,501 years among them– for crimes they did not commit.
The march was the closing event for the 2018 Innocence Network conference, a gathering of exonorees and lawyers working on behalf of those wrongfully convicted. Exonorees came from every state in the country and from countries across the globe. They marched with attorneys and advocates and family. They held signs demanding change in the system that had wronged them. Demanding accountability. Demanding, at least, public recognition that innocent men and women were being arrested and convicted by agents acting on the public’s behalf.
Today Ru-El Sailor is a free man, after spending 15 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. Over the years, Sailor continuously maintained and fought to prove his innocence. Then, finally, on March 28, 2018, the Cuyahoga County Court vacated his sentence.
How Sailor got Wrongly Convicted
In November 2002, Sailor was hanging out with his friends at a bar on the East Side of Cleveland. Across town, Nicole and Cordell Hubbard got into a dispute with Omar Clark . The matter got out of hands – threats, guns, and then shots rang out, leaving Clark dead. Cuyahoga County prosecutors roped in Sailor who Cordell Hubbard’s best friend at the time, wrongly believing that Sailor was the second man in this fatal shooting. Sailor testified that he was not the shooter nor was involved in this violent outburst. However, after a trial that included shady eye witness testimony that could not place Sailor at the scene, a jury still convicted Sailor. The court sentenced him to 28 years to life with the possibility of parole.
These are only a few words Professor Janet Moore used to describe the Honorable Shira Scheindlin, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (ret.), this year’s Judge-in Residence at the University of Cincinnati College of Law.
I had the pleasure to attend her lecture on Race and Policing, and have lunch with her the following day. As a law student, I’ve always told myself that I will be the change I want to see to paraphrase Mathama Gandhi. But, like many other law school students, I get bogged down by the environment at the law school. I stress out most of the time. I don’t get enough sleep. I find myself comparing me to other people making me insecure. I constantly fight the urges to lash out because of insecurities. In just two years, I forgot why I wanted to be a lawyer. However, Judge Shira Scheindlin reminded me why I made that choice.
After the recent tragedy in Florida, we need to ask legislatures that if not now, then when? When will our legislature overpower the lobbyists and the NRA and create change in this nation’s gun control policy?
When my British family members came to the United States, their jaws dropped when we mentioned going to a shooting range for fun. In England, shooting ranges , like the ones in the United States, do not exist. In fact, the U.S. is the only industrialized country that has experienced multiple devastating mass shootings and extremely high firearm mortality rates; also, the U.S has passed no major federal legislation addressing this issue. Compared to other industrialized nations, America has a major unaddressed gun violence issue.
By Guest Contributors Francesca Boland(’19), David Wovrosh (’19), and Prof. Janet Moore
On June 19, 2017, Cincinnati Law students saw their work cited in a 5-4 majority opinion of the United States Supreme Court. The case, McWilliams v. Dunn, resolved a lower court split over what the Constitution requires when prosecutors seek to impose the death penalty against defendants who have mental illness, but cannot afford to hire mental health experts to present an effective defense.
OJ Simpson’s parole hearing provides another opportunity to consider race in the criminal justice system.
Nikita Srivastava (’19)
Former football player and Hollywood star, OJ Simpson will have a parole hearing on Thursday, July 20th, 2017. In December 2008, Simpson was convicted of robbery with a deadly weapon. He was sentenced to 33 years in prison with the possibility of parole in 6 years. This, of course, was not Simpson’s first encounter with the law. In 1994, a jury acquitted Simpson of the murders of Nicole Brown-Simpson and Ronald Goldman. His high profile case sparked a division on race relations in this nation.
Simpson’s parole hearing will occur when race remains a highly contested and hotly debated topic in this nation. As a result, it’s fitting to examine Joe’s Feagin concept of the white racial frame (WRF) helps us understand why Simpson and his legal issues embody issues of race. And, to watch the Oscar-winning documentary, OJ: Made in America, which brings these complicated issues to life. Continue reading “OJ Simpson Revisited”
Adam J. Foss shares his vision for prosecutors at the YWCA Racial Justice Breakfast.
In less than ten years, Adam J. Foss has demonstrated how one young lawyer can make a difference. A cum laude graduate from Suffolk Law School in Boston in 2008, Foss became
a prosecuting attorney who quickly realized just how much power he wielded. Choosing solutions over a high conviction rate, Foss worked with criminal defendants to achieve justice, something he said never learned in law school. Foss shares his insights on criminal justice at the YWCA Racial Justice Breakfast on Tuesday, March 21. The Center will livestream his talk in room 118 at 8 a.m.
Foss has since left the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, to work full time at Prosecutor Integrity, which he co-founded with John Legend and his manager Ty Stiklorius. This new organization seeks to broaden prosecutors’ perspectives by training them to see defendants as individuals not defined by their crimes and, in so doing, challenge a mindset that measures success in terms of convictions. In his popular TED talk, Foss said that prosecutors can be the difference between catastrophe and intervention, support, or even love.
To see Foss’s talk at the College of Law, register here. It’s free and breakfast will be provided.