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.
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.
In the 1980s, a young female lawyer and her lawyer husband attended a party hosted by a club only allowing male lawyers. The room was filled with young men celebrating their legal careers. One of the guests at this party handed the woman a name tag. Instead of writing her name, she wrote “discrimantee” and proudly placed it on her chest. “Well, it is true,” she said after getting several questions about it. (I should write “discrimantee” on all my name tags because nothing much has really changed)
Sharon Rowen’s Balancing the Scales, addresses discrimination using women’s narratives to guide the audience. Due to Ohio’s CLE requirements, Ms. Rowen had to pause the film and explain why she directed it this way. Rowen said the film is divided into 3 parts: 1) the oral history of female role models, 2) what keeps women from achieving higher positions, 3) women not making choices from a level playing field.
Over the past weeks, plenty of people have spoken and written in condemnation of the racist, homophobic chants from Elder’s cheering section at a recent basketball game against rival St. Xavier. They have a right to do so. I have no intention of piling on any more judgment, finger-pointing, or shaming. I am offering what I believe is a unique perspective, and an important request.
I am a graduate of Elder High School and a student at the University of Cincinnati College of Law. One of the St. Xavier students who was the target of the vicious chants was the son of Mina Jefferson, Associate Dean and Director of the Center for Professional Development at the law school, and all-around amazing person. In a bizarre way, I felt like one side of my family was hurling slurs at the other side. I read the account of the events with a sense of sadness and shame, but absolutely no surprise.
At a time when many are asking why race remains such a potent force in our society, it’s important to explore the impact of persistent residential segregation. Mark Treskon of the Urban Institute reports that inclusive communities are more economically prosperous. Published in 2017, this article focuses on segregation in Chicago from 1990-2010 and trends seen in Chicago appear in other major cities as well. City actors could break down barriers to local inclusion, the entire region could benefit from the higher incomes and education levels. The Urban Institute investigates how policy can break down these barriers. Click here to learn more.
The Senate Judiciary Committee should reject Sen. Sessions’ nomination for Attorney General.
On Tuesday, January 31, the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on President Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III. If the last few days show anything, it’s that Sessions is the wrong person for the job.
I’ve written previously about how, as the U.S. Attorney for Alabama, Sessions abused his authority to prosecute civil rights advocates seeking to register African American voters. This egregious action takes on even greater importance as President Trump is demanding a federal investigation of unsubstantiated voter fraud and signed an executive order banning refugees and citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries (significantly, excluding nations in which Trump is doing business) from entering the US.
Thus far, executive power in Trump’s hands is a tool for settling scores about who really won the election and stoking fear and discord. To date the legislative branch has stood by mutely, rather than providing a much needed check. And, as Attorney General, Jeff Sessions will make matters worse. Continue reading “Say “No” to Sen. Jeff Sessions”