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.
Hamilton County, Ohio, home of Cincinnati, is seeking to ban homeless camps from its county. Its District Attorney argues that the homeless must go into shelters or leave the county.
I spent about twenty months as a live-in, full-time volunteer in a homeless shelter, which was an opportunity that brought me to Cincinnati in the summer of 2014. During that time, I lived as a Catholic Worker, a movement founded by Dorothy Day in the 1930s whose proponents devote their lives to fighting injustice, poverty, and violence. My time there informed my understanding of the plight of those living in homelessness and who it is that makes up that population.
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.