A Jail by Any Other Name...
The personal observation from one law student’s experience at the South Texas Family Residential Center, an ICE Detention Center
The South Texas Family Residential Center, described in one word, is a euphemism. Opened in December of 2014, this “family detention center” looms large in the tiny town of Dilley, Texas, just over 80 miles from the US-Mexico border. Immediately next door is a Texas state prison; from the road, the two are indistinguishable, surrounded by high walls and perimeter lights.
Currently, the “family detention center” houses around 400 women and their children. However, it will soon be expanded to house over 2,400 women, at which point it will be the largest ICE detention center in the country. Many of the women detained in Dilley endured harrowing experiences in their home countries that prompted them to flee to the US in search of a life free from persecution and torture. Despite their status as victims of threats and violence, leading to potentially valid claims for asylum, these women are detained in what is, in actuality, a jail, and are monitored at all times by guards. You see, the “family detention center” is run by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest for-profit prison company in the US.
Perhaps the most ironic aspect of the immigrant jail in Dilley is the facility’s choice and use of terms that make it less obvious that these women and their (often young) children are incarcerated. Trailers used for court, visitation, and dining all feature names reminiscent of cabins at a Girl Scout camp, such as “Purple Pigeon.” The correctional officers perform “counts,” just as would occur normally in a prison, though in the “family detention center,” the count is referred to as the “census.” CCA even took the time to plant palm trees around the outer security perimeter of the jail to make it look a little homier.
Meet the Women of Dilley
So who are the women I encountered in Dilley? The women were young – most I met with were less than 25 years old – and most had young children with them. All of the women were from El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras, and the vast majority of them do not speak any English. They have suffered extreme domestic violence, physical abuse at the hands of gang members, and threats that would make your blood curdle. These women showed me their knife wounds, revealed to me their children’s gunshot wounds, cried as they explained how gang members threatened to cut off their heads and kill their children, related to me stories of abuse so shocking that I have had countless nightmares ever since.
In the face of such persecution and torture, the courage and resilience that these women continue to show is nothing short of astounding. Yet, our country is treating them as if they are criminals who pose a danger to US society. Upon arrival at the border, many undocumented immigrants are taken to temporary detention facilities colloquially known as “hieleras” (iceboxes) for at least a day. When we asked the women to briefly tell us about their experience crossing the border, many voluntarily offered information about the hieleras, and the trauma and dehumanizing conditions they faced there. In addition to the obviously frigid temperatures (which caused many people’s appendages to turn blue), such accounts included descriptions of: overwhelmingly crowded cells with no space to sleep or even sit; damp concrete floors with no chairs, pillows, or blankets; utter lack of privacy; and denial of food and basic hygienic supplies. From the hieleras, immigrants are loaded into the border patrol vans – known colloquially as “perreras” (“dog kennels”) – to be taken to ICE facilities like the one in Dilley.
How the Journey Begins
The hieleras are merely the tip of the iceberg that is a broken immigration system – a system that is failing the women incarcerated in Dilley and countless others like them. For many immigrants, the dangerous journey begins with coyotes, who charge around $5,000 to $7,000 to deliver their passengers to the border – if the passengers are going to be caught by border patrol agents. Immigrants who wish to be taken to the border safely and cross without being caught by border patrol agents must pay around $14,000. So, unsurprisingly, most people pay what they can afford and are caught. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 requires that ICE officers question recently arriving immigrants, within a short time of coming into contact with them, regarding whether they are fearful of returning to their country of origin. If an arriving individual expresses fear of returning to his or her country of origin, the law requires that they be granted an interview with an asylum officer.
The law, and asylum seekers’ rights under it, is often not respected in practice. In Dilley, I discovered that the information on many women’s Notice to Appear forms – issued by ICE – was false. In many instances, women were either not questioned at all pertaining to whether they were fearful of returning; or if questioned, the questions were insufficient to elicit information relevant to an asylum claim (such as why a particular person is fearful). The varying diligence and truthfulness of ICE agents creates a system that is arbitrary in nature. To give one example, I will share a brief part of Alicia’s* story.
Alicia crossed the border within a few hours of her sister; she and her sister are the same age, each was accompanied by her only child, and each fled their home county for the same reason. Alicia and her sister encountered different ICE agents. The agent who interviewed the sister was able to determine that she was fearful of returning to her home country and should be allowed to apply for asylum; as a result, that agent allowed Alicia’s sister to leave ICE custody on parole and join her family. Alicia’s experience has been the opposite of her sister’s: the ICE agent she encountered did not question her about any fear of returning she may have and sent her to the jail in Dilley to be detained with her child. Once in the Dilley jail, Alicia met with an asylum officer, who determined that she most likely has a “credible fear” of persecution if deported, and her detention officer set a bond of $10,000 for her that was required to be paid in full before she was allowed to leave the jail and join her family.
Not only is it shocking that two individuals in the exact same situation were dealt with in a completely different manner, but it is also shocking that our government is setting such exorbitant bonds for women like Alicia. $10,000 is the average bond for the women of Dilley and can only be lowered to $7,500 in very select circumstances when the asylum seeker has the requisite number and type of supporting documents (such as identification cards and “letters of support” from friends/family in the US). This document requirement is occasionally made more difficult by the fact that possessions are easily lost during the dangerous one-month trip through Mexico to reach the US, and by the fact that family members are often separated at the border. While one woman I met – Lupe – was lucky because she had brought and retained a large number of supporting documents, she was beside herself because she had crossed the border with her cousin, who was taken to an ICE jail for men. The ICE officers had not allowed her cousin to bring anything with him, so she held on to all of his documents. She does not know where he was taken and has no way to get that information. ICE has an online locator for people in detention, but repeated searches – with his name spelled many different ways – uncovered no information about him. Thus, he is either in detention, held under an extremely high bond because he has no documents and no way to be reached by Lupe, or he has been deported to his home country, where his life is in imminent danger. Moreover, even if I had been able to find his location online, Lupe would not have been able to call and speak with her cousin, as individuals who are detained by ICE are not allowed to receive phone calls.
Barriers and the Court
The communication barriers and the isolation of asylum seekers who are detained continue throughout the asylum process. The situation becomes increasingly dire when the asylum seeker does not speak a common language, such as English or Spanish. In the Dilley jail, many of the women have escaped persecution in Guatemala; as a result, quite a few of them speak Quiche and do not understand enough Spanish to have a conversation or to be engaged in judicial proceedings in Spanish. For one particular young woman – Magdalena – this linguistic restriction has resulted in asylum hearings that are consistently continued whenever the Quiche interpreter is unavailable, which is an unpredictable and all-too-common occurrence.
The prevailing arbitrariness in how asylum seekers are treated is accompanied by other difficulties they encounter upon arriving in the US. Countless asylum seekers, especially the women I met in Dilley, are treated with disdain and outright hostility. One detention officer expressly told Graciela – a woman who had knife wounds and recounted chilling accounts of abuse – that she was fabricating her entire story, and that she would be deported because the asylum officer would not believe her “lies”. Such callousness was not only exuded by certain detention officers, but also by some immigration judges. For instance, Liliana, a mother of two children had enough money to bring one child to the US with her. So, she brought her son—mainly because a gang was actively trying to recruit him and his life was in danger. During a hearing, a judge berated Liliana for only bringing one of her children to the US and strongly implied that she must be a terrible mother for leaving her other child behind if the situation was “so dangerous.”
In light of emotional mistreatment and the lack of legal or community support for these women, it is obvious that they are in serious need of people willing to advocate for them. That is where I, and the CARA Pro Bono Project**, come in. The team leader of our volunteer group in Dilley aptly described our experience there as “guerrilla lawyering”: many moments, I felt like our group was fighting a battle simply to be allowed to help the women there. Our workweek consisted of assisting women at the jail from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. every day, with several more hours of work every evening. Yet, the long hours were arguably the easiest part of the week. We had to work in a “court” where the guards yelled at us any time we attempted to speak to our clients. We could not take phones into the facility and, thus, had to make many calls to women’s family members in the evenings. We did not have access to a printer or copier, which was crucial for purposes of completing paperwork, so we eventually bought one and hauled it into the facility daily. The week after we left, not surprisingly, the supervisors banned the Pro Bono Project from bringing the printer into the facility at all.
Obstacles that arose were exacerbated by the fact that the Dilley immigrant jail is a place where the rules always change. One day, the lawyers are allowed to enter without being required to show a Bar card; the next, it is required. One day, we can bring Internet hotspots into the facility; the next, this is an issue. One day, we are allowed to begin setting up makeshift offices in the visitation trailer beginning at 7:00 a.m.; the next, not until 8:00 a.m. One day, we are allowed to pass through security if we take off our belts and shoes; the next, we are informed that women will no longer be able to enter with underwire bras! One day, the women can turn in a particular request form to obtain documents; the next, the detention offices require their own, new form and do not allow the lawyers to have a copy of the new form to provide to our clients. Every single day, some additional hurdle was placed in front of us that made it more difficult to effectively communicate with, and represent, the women.
What made this struggle worthwhile? The women I have described above, and all of the other women in the exact same situation as them. Words cannot describe the happiness I felt when a woman I had helped was released on bond so that she could pursue her asylum claim as a free woman. Words cannot describe the relief I felt when I was able to look Graciela in the face and tell her that I believed her story, that I understood her pain, and that the asylum officer would believe her, too. Moments like these made the week that I spent in Dilley worth everything that I invested in it. But the fight is far from over. These courageous women are victims – not criminals – and our government’s reliance on family detention of immigrants needs to end right now. Family detention, especially detention of asylum seekers, is a travesty of justice and a dark stain on our nation’s already broken immigration system.
* All names provided herein are pseudonyms for confidentiality purposes.
** The CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project and its mandate are described here: http://www.aila.org/practice/pro-bono/find-your-opportunity/cara-family-detention-pro-bono-project.
Erin Welch is a 3L from Florida, drawn to the College of Law because of the Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights. Duing the 2014/15 school year, she served as editor of the Human Rights Quarterly. After law school Erin plans to focus her career in the area of human rights
University of Cincinnati College of Law Alumni Association Announces Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients
The 2015 Distinguished Alumni Award, which celebrates outstanding alumni, will be held at 12:00 noon on May 15 at the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza, Hall of Mirrors. To rsvp: contact Peggy Ruwe at 513-556-0071 or email@example.com.
Cincinnati, OH—The University of Cincinnati College of Law Alumni Association will celebrate three alumni at its 35th Distinguished Alumni Award Program on Friday, May 15, 2015. Award recipients include an alumnus whose career focuses on white collar and other major economic crimes; a former member of the US Air Force who served many years as a judge; and a trial attorney whose practice and firm concentrates on civil litigation.
"UC succeeds at producing large numbers of alumni who excel in their profession and in the surrounding community,” said Dan Startsman, Assistant Public Defender, Clermont County Public Defender’s Office, and President, Law Alumni Association. “I can think of no better example than this year's award winners. They are three alums who have not only risen to the top of their profession, but also have been recognized as leaders and have given back to the law school."
Each year the award recipient nominations come from the ranks of the school’s almost 5,000 alumni. Recipients exemplify excellence and achievement in the individual’s chosen field of practice or profession. Previous winners have included Professor Stanley Harper, Jr. ’48, well-known College of Law professor; the Hon. William S. Richardson ’43, Chief Justice of the Hawaii Supreme Court; and the Hon. William Howard Taft’1880, President of the United States and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.
Meet 2015 Award Recipient Kathleen Brinkman’75
Kathleen Brinkman’75, Of Counsel at Porter Wright, focuses her practice on representing corporations and individuals facing investigation or charges by federal or state authorities, or whose property the government seeks to forfeit. A former Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Brinkman’s prosecution specialties were complex white collar and other major economic crimes, public corruption, and environmental crimes. In addition, she investigated and prosecuted healthcare fraud matters, including False Claims Act cases. A recognized authority in asset forfeiture, she has taught the subject throughout the country and around the world.
In addition to her litigation work, she spent many years back in the classroom as an adjunct professor at the College of Law, teaching many generations of attorneys the nuances of trial practice. Brinkman authored the book “Federal Criminal Procedure Litigation Manual” and co-authored “Sixth Circuit Practice Manual”. Finally, she is the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2011 John P. Kiely Professionalism Award from the Cincinnati Bar Association, the 2005 Nettie Cronise Lutes Award from the Ohio State Bar Association, recognition by Ohio Super Lawyers® for Criminal Defense: White Collar, “Top 50 Women Attorneys in Ohio” by Ohio Super Lawyers® for 2015, and “Leader in Their Field” (Ohio) in the area of Litigation: White Collar Crime & Government Investigations by Chambers USA. Brinkman is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers.
Meet 2015 Award Recipient the Hon. Robert H. Gorman ‘60
Judge Robert H. Gorman, a native Cincinnatian, followed the path of several family members into the field of law. His father, Robert N. Gorman, served on the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas and was later appointed to a seat on the Supreme Court of Ohio. His brother also attended law school.
After graduating from Brown University, Gorman returned to Cincinnati to the College of Law, graduating in 1960. Immediately thereafter, he was inducted into the US Air Force, where he served as a judge advocate general for three years. He returned to Cincinnati to develop a career in private practice. To prepare, he worked at Legal Aid of Greater Cincinnati and in Juvenile Court, gaining additional experience. It was at this time that he was elected to the Ohio House of Representatives.
Soon, Gorman began his private practice career in earnest. Then, in December 1972, he joined the bench, where he remained until his retirement. Judge Gorman served on the Hamilton County Municipal Court, the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas, and the Hamilton County Court of Appeals: First Appellate District of Ohio.
In addition to his work on the bench, he served as an adjunct professor at the College of Law, teaching appellate practice and procedure. Judge Gorman retired from the bench in 2006, but returned the next year as a visiting judge, a position he held until 2012.
Meet 2015 Award Recipient David P. Kamp’81
David P. Kamp is the President and Managing Partner of White, Getgey & Meyer Co., L.P.A., a firm specializing in civil trial practice. Having gravitated to courtroom trial practice while in law school (Dave clerked for a number of top rated litigation firms in Washington, Cleveland and Cincinnati), the transition from law school to private practice at Dinsmore & Shohl was relatively seamless. While at Dinsmore, Dave worked with the firm’s top litigators and participated as second chair in several major jury trials including a case tried before Chief Judge Carl Rubin in which Dinsmore and its client obtained a $7.3 milion verdict.
In 1987, Dave was recruited to White, Getgey & Meyer as the heir apparent to the firm’s then managing partner, Alvin White. He successfully tried major cases for the firm including the wrongful death case of John Getgey, one of the founding fathers of the firm.
Since becoming managing partner of White, Getgey & Meyer in 1989, Dave has continued to spearhead the firm’s litigation efforts on behalf of plaintiffs, defendants, large corporations, small businesses, individuals and not-for-profit institutions. He is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, has been named by Outstanding Lawyers of America, Chambers List and Best Lawyers in America, and has been ranked by SuperLawyers as one of the top three lawyers in the state every year since 2009.
Realizing the largess of his law degree and the scholarship money that permitted him to go to law school full time and not co-op, Dave contributes his time to teaching young trial lawyers in the National Institute for Trial Advocacy, and contributes financially to a vast array of law school-related funds, projects and other outside charities. When he is not in the office, which is infrequently, his spare time is devoted to family: his wife, Eileen, who has gracefully put up with Dave’s tireless work ethic; his three children, Jenny, Jeff and Evan; as well as his grandson, Corran. Regardless of his workload, Dave never misses a volleyball or lacrosse game.
College of Law Announces the 2015 Goldman Prize for Excellence in Teaching Awards
Professors Michele Bradley, A. Christopher Bryant, and Janet Moore received the annual award for teaching excellence, which was announced on Wednesday, April 22, 2015.
Cincinnati, OH—The recipients of the 2015 Goldman Prize for Excellence in Teaching share a central characteristic: they enjoy laying a foundation of knowledge that students will use throughout their legal careers. All willingly pass on their knowledge and experience to others, demonstrated by their commitment to teaching and the impact they’ve made at the College of Law. Congratulations to this year’s recipients: Professors Michele Bradley, A. Christopher Bryant, and Janet Moore.
Michele Bradley, Professor of Practice
Professor Michele Bradley, a College of Law graduate, has distinguished herself as a professor who demonstrates excellence in the classroom, as well as a great advisor outside of the classroom. She teaches courses in Legal Research and Writing and works closely with the Judicial Extern Program. In the classroom, Professor Bradley creates a learning environment that allows each of her students to feel more comfortable while exploring a new way of writing that can be very difficult to comprehend. Wrote one student in a letter nominating her, “Professor Bradley provides an atmosphere that is conducive to student participation and the ability for us to bounce ideas off of each other.” Such a trait is especially important for Professor Bradley’s courses as they are filled with 1Ls attempting to adjust to the rigors of law school.
Outside of the classroom, Professor Bradley is committed to students’ success. She makes herself available to help not only with writing required for class, but also with writing samples students may want to use in applying for jobs. She seeks out individual students for opportunities she thinks they would find rewarding or that would benefit them by their involvement. Professor Bradley has shown that she not only wants her students to become successful attorneys, but that she is willing to help them reach that goal.
A. Christopher Bryant, Rufus King Professor of Constitutional Law
Professor A. Christopher Bryant demonstrates excellence in teaching both inside and outside the classroom. Inside the classroom he distinguishes himself by fostering discussions among students who often have very polarized opinions. One of the biggest challenges that he has to overcome is addressing controversial topics in a room of twenty-something-year-old students with differing perspectives. His ability to harness students’ passions and convert them into worthwhile discussion topics is unrivaled.
Outside the classroom, Professor Bryant excels as well. He is often a featured participant in law school sponsored debates, a keynote speaker on current events with legal implications, and a facilitator of CLE events open to the broader legal community. Indeed, attending any of these forums will enlighten students as to why Professor Bryant is a wonderful teacher and a great ambassador for the law school.
Finally, Professor Bryant’s dedication to teaching and educational reform also is exemplified by a recent scholarly undertaking. He is hard at work on a new Constitutional Law casebook that will introduce new and more effective ways of teaching constitutional law to students.
Professor Janet Moore, Assistant Professor of Law
Professor Janet Moore’s ability to offer personal insight and perspective inside and outside of the classroom sets her apart from others. She is well-known for her unique teaching style that introduces legal concepts in a fun and engaging manner. Indeed, lessons are filled with nursery rhymes, comedic pictures, pop culture, and anecdotal stories that seamlessly tie into the key points of every lecture. These points stick with students well beyond the exam and turn every lesson into meaningful informative sessions that will help them in their career. She is masterful in not just ensuring that students understand the key points of each lesson, but also that each student recognizes the real world applications and many shades of gray that come with interpreting the law.
Professor Moore has a natural talent for communicating with the student body that has earned her the respect of both the students and the administration. In addition, she engages outside the classroom, speaking about her experiences as a defense attorney for death row inmates and her past experiences as a litigator. Her knowledge and experience serve as indispensable tools to be passed on to others; and the care and concern she shows to each student makes her feel like everyone’s personal mentor.
About the Goldman Prize for Excellence in Teaching Award
Each year, students have an opportunity to recognize excellence in teaching at the College of Law by nominating a professor(s) for the Goldman Prize. Awarded annually, the Prize recognizes professors who distinguish themselves in the classroom and whose accomplishments in research and/or public service contribute to excellence in teaching.
College of Law Prepares to Celebrate 182nd Hooding
On Saturday, May 16, 2015 the College of Law will celebrate the accomplishments of its graduates at its 182nd Hooding Ceremony. The event will be held at the Aronoff Center for the Arts. For the last time Dean Louis D. Bilionis will lead the ceremonies, where 109 degrees will be conferred. This includes 98 juris doctor degrees, and 11 LLM degrees.
College of Law alumnus the Hon. Michael R. Barrett ’77, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, will be the keynote speaker. Judge Barrett, a Cincinnati native, is a double Bearcat, receiving both his undergraduate and law degrees from the university. He later served as a member of the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees, including one term as chairperson.
Judge Barrett has a long and distinguished career in law. After taking the bar, he served as an Administrative Hearing Officer for the State of Ohio. Then, he joined the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office as an Assistant Prosecutor and later was named Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, Felony Trial Division. Following the Prosecutor’s Office, he joined Graydon, Head & Ritchey, first as an associate and then as a partner, concentrating in general litigation. Later, he joined Barrett & Weber as a shareholder, where he remained until 2006. It was on May 25, 2006 that he was sworn in as a Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, a position he maintains today.
This year’s event will also include the presentation of the 2015 Nicholas J. Longworth III Alumni Achievement Award to Robert E. Richardson Jr. ’05, Of Counsel at Branstetter, Stranch and Jennings, PLLC and the current vice chairperson of the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees. Richardson received both his BSE in electrical engineering and JD from the university. While at UC, he established the first college chapter of the NAACP in the tristate and was elected student body president. In 2002, he was awarded the university’s highest honor for undergraduates – the UC Presidential Leadership Medal of Excellence.
At his law firm, Richardson’s practice areas include labor and employment, securities, and class action litigation. He serves as a construction marker representative for the Laborers-Employers Cooperation and Education Trust for the states of Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Louisiana and Florida. Three years ago Richardson made history when he was elected secretary of the Board of Trustees at the University of Cincinnati, the youngest person to ever be elected as an officer.
Also being honored will be this year’s winners of the Goldman Prize for Excellence in Teaching, which will be announced soon. Additional Hooding participants include Professor Sean Mangan, Faculty Reader; Professor Janet Moore, Faculty Hooder; and Professor A. Christopher Bryant, Faculty Assistant Hooder.
Wendy Calaway ’98 Wins Landmark Case in Ohio Supreme Court
UC Blue Ash College professor Wendy Calaway took an appeal in a murder trial all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court and won, setting a new precedent for criminal cases across the state.
Calaway, who is a practicing attorney and professor in the Behavioral Science Department at UC Blue Ash, appeared before the justices last spring to argue that they should overturn Joseph Harris’ murder conviction and award a new trial. She stated that by allowing the testimony of a court-appointed clinical psychologist after Harris abandoned his insanity defense, the defendant’s constitutional rights were violated. In a recent ruling, the justices voted unanimously to overturn the conviction and award a new trial. (Read full article)
Professor Vazquez Organizes Race/Border Control Event
Professor Yolanda Vazquez organized a themed week on race and border control at Border Criminologies, based at the Centre for Criminology at the University of Oxford. She also provided the first installment. Read her piece and more about the event.
OIP Nets Another Triple Win; Defendants To Be Set Free After 18 Years in Prison
Legal advocacy from the Ohio Innocence Project at the University of Cincinnati has helped set three men wrongfully imprisoned for murder on the path to freedom.
Cincinnati — Today three men are one step closer to freedom after being wrongly incarcerated for 18 years. Derrick Wheatt, Laurese Glover and Eugene Johnson had their convictions for the 1995 murder of Clifton Hudson Jr. thrown out after nearly a decade of legal advocacy from the Ohio Innocence Project (OIP).
Judge Nancy Margaret Russo, Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, threw out the conviction, granted a new trial and set bond. The OIP expects bond to be met today, which will result in their clients' immediate release.
Their impending freedom came after a key eyewitness recanted her testimony and the revelation that information from police reports that cast doubt on the defendants’ guilt had not been disclosed to the trial team years earlier. Today’s win marks the second triple exoneration for the Ohio Innocence Project (OIP), which operates out of the University of Cincinnati’s Rosenthal Institute for Justice in the College of Law. To date, the OIP has freed 23 people on grounds of innocence, who together served more than 500 years in prison for crimes they did not commit.
“We’re excited about today’s event, but even more excited for our clients,” said Mark Godsey, the Daniel P. and Judith L. Carmichael Professor of Law and Director, Lois and Richard Rosenthal Institute for Justice/Ohio Innocence Project. “They have been fighting to prove their innocence for nearly 20 years. They had tried for exoneration twice before, and had come close in the past. OIP has worked on the case since 2006, and are happy to be with them as they finally taste their long-sought freedom.”
The OIP represented defendants Wheatt and Glover; Johnson was represented by attorneys Brett Murner and Jim Valentine. Additionally, co-counsel on this case was Carmen Naso, Senior Instructor of Law, and the law students at the Milton A. Kramer Law Clinic, Case Western Reserve School of Law in Cleveland, OH. The OIP and Kramer Law Clinic partnered on this case and plan to work together on additional cases in the future.
“UC donors who contributed to the UC OIP’s tremendous success provided case workers with the funds needed to facilitate their pursuit of justice,” said UC Foundation President Rodney M. Grabowski. “Since its founding in 2003, more than 600 donors have contributed more than $5.3 million toward the OIP’s efforts. We are forever grateful for their generosity.”
A Murder Many Years Ago
On February 10, 1995, in East Cleveland, Ohio, 19-year-old Clifton Hudson Jr. was found murdered, shot multiple times. At the time, witnesses reported seeing a person wearing dark clothing and a dark hat at the scene. Three juveniles—Wheatt, Glover and Johnson—happened to be near the scene. But, they emphasized, when the shooting started, they sped off. All three later provided the police with descriptions of the shooter that matched the basic descriptions given by other witnesses. But in a twist of events, they were charged with the crime.
A year later in 1996, the three were convicted of Hudson’s murder, based on their presence at the scene and identification by Tamika Harris, then a 14-year-old. Harris originally reported to police that she saw the shooter get in and out of the defendants’ truck; but, she insisted, she never saw the shooter’s face. It was this tip, though, that led to the group’s initial arrest.
At the trial, Harris changed her story, admitting that she never saw the shooter actually get in or out of the truck. She testified, however, that she could positively identify Eugene Johnson as the shooter. Additionally, the prosecution found what it alleged to be gunshot residue on Wheatt and Johnson. They offered to completely drop charges against Glover if he testified against his friends and also offered Wheatt probation for his testimony. Both refused and continued to assert their innocence. Unfortunately, they were convicted; Wheatt and Johnson were sentenced to 18 years to life in prison; Glover was sentenced to 15 years to life.
Finding Grounds for a New Trial
Through the years the three men continued to maintain their innocence. Then in 2004, Johnson’s attorneys, Murner and Valentine, filed a motion for a new trial on the grounds that Harris had recanted her testimony. Now an adult and in nursing school, she admitted she could not see the shooter’s face from where she stood and that she never saw anyone get in or out of the truck.
She relayed that when she went to the police station years earlier, the officers told her they had found the people responsible, showed her photos of the three defendants, and asked which of the three was the shooter. Harris said she picked the one whose jacket was closest to the one she saw: Johnson’s. Though the trial court granted a new trial on this basis, it was overturned on appeal, in part because of the alleged gunshot residue evidence.
Two years later in 2006, the OIP accepted the case. Attorneys and fellows spent hundreds of hours reviewing evidence, interviewing potential witnesses and filing motions. In fact, Brian Howe, now the attorney of record, previously worked on this case as an OIP fellow.
In 2009, OIP attorney David Laing filed another new trial motion based on advancements in knowledge about gunshot residue. Specifically, the type of testing used in 1995 is known to be particularly prone to false positives from other items, and is no longer used by the FBI. Further, recent studies showed the high likelihood of gunshot residue contamination from police sources, especially when the tests are not performed on scene or immediately upon arrest. This motion, however, was denied.
Late in 2013 a break in the case came when the OIP received the police reports. The reports included information that was not raised at the original trial, including the existence of two witnesses who confirmed that the shooter came from a nearby post office lot, not the defendants’ truck. One of those witnesses even claimed he recognized the shooter as a sibling of one of his classmates. The reports also showed that unknown people in a different car had shot at the victim's brother just days before the crime, and that someone had threatened the victim himself the day before the murder. There was no known connection between any of those threats and the defendants.
The OIP, on behalf of the defendants, filed another new trial motion on the basis that this information was never disclosed to the defense. A hearing on the motion was held on Jan. 29, 2015, led by OIP attorney Brian Howe and the Kramer Clinic’s Carmen Naso. “The evidence at the hearing was overwhelming,” said Howe. “None of these men should have ever been convicted."
A Day Worth Waiting For
“This has been a long day coming for Mr. Johnson, Mr. Wheatt and Mr. Glover,” said Howe. “I know it must be an incredible feeling. It is particularly important and gratifying for me because I worked on the gunshot residue motions as an OIP fellow. It’s incredible to see all of our hard work come to fruition.”
Special thanks to the many individuals who spent hundreds of hours working on this case over the years. The list includes attorneys: Brian Howe, David Laing, and Carrie Wood; and student fellows: Shabnam Allen, Nicole Billec, Amanda Bleiler, Scott Brenner, Chris Brinkman, Chris Brown, Eric Gooding, John Hill, Matt Katz, Eric Kmetz, Amanda Rieger, Bryant Strayer, Queenie Takougang, and Brandon Brown, Amanda Sanders and Shaun McPherron, who spent significant time in East Cleveland last summer canvassing the neighborhood speaking to witnesses.
Profs. Bettman and Moore Discuss Ohio v. Clark (podcast)
Professors Marianna Bettman and Janet Moore discussed Ohio v. Clark on March 2, 2015 for Bloomberg News. Listen to the podcast. (view podcast)
Director Ken Hirsh’s Article Accepted for Publication
Congratulations to Ken Hirsh, Director of the Law Library and Information Technology and Professor of Practice, who recently received notice that his article has been accepted for publication. Like Mark Twain: The Death of Academic Law Libraries Is An Exaggeration, will be published in Volume 106 of the Law Library Journal (Number 4).
2015 Judge in Residence Program featuring the Hon. Solomon Oliver, Jr.
Event Dates: March 25-27, 2015
All School Talk: Thank God for Life Tenure
Date: March 26, 2015 at 12:15 p.m.
(View schedule) (pdf)
About Solomon Oliver, Jr., Chief Judge, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio
Judge Solomon Oliver, Jr. was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio by President William Clinton on May 9, 1994. He has served as Chief Judge of that court since June 1, 2010.
Judge Oliver was born in Bessemer, Alabama, the fourth of ten children of Reverend Solomon Oliver and Mrs. Willie Lee Oliver. He attended the segregated public schools of Bessemer, graduating from J. S. Abrams High School in 1965.
Oliver graduated from the College of Wooster with honors in 1969, majoring in philosophy and political science. He received a J.D. degree from New York University in 1972, and a master’s degree in political science from Case Western Reserve University in 1974.
Oliver served as Assistant Professor of Political Science at the College of Wooster from 1972 to 1975. From 1975 to 1976, he served as a law clerk to the late Judge William H. Hastie of the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Hastie was the first African American to serve as an Article Ill judge. From 1976 to 1982, Oliver served with the U.S. Justice Department as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Cleveland. From July, 1978 to March, 1982, he was Chief of the Civil Section of the United States Attorney's Office. In March of 1982, he became Chief of Appellate Litigation in that office. Oliver joined Cleveland-Marshall College of Law of Cleveland State University as a faculty member in the fall of 1982. From May, 1991 to May, 1994, he served as Associate Dean of Faculty and Administration at the Law School.
Judge Oliver has written articles and lectured on a wide range of topics at colleges and universities, at continuing legal education seminars and at judicial conferences. Judge Oliver was especially gratified to deliver a keynote address entitled, "The Role of Judicial Review in a Democracy" in March, 1995 at a conference of East African judges in Arusha, Tanzania. His most recent publications include an article on educating law students for the practice of law, an article on alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and a chapter on summary judgment.
Oliver has received various awards, including the Distinguished Alumni Award from the College of Wooster and the Distinguished Alumni Award from New York University Black, Latino, Asian Pacific American Law Alumni Association. He has also received an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from the University of Akron and an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from New England School of Law-Boston.
Judge Oliver previously served as a member of the Judicial Conference of the United States, the policy-making body of the federa1judiciary, and currently serves on its Advisory Committee on Civil Rules. He is a member of the American Law Institute, the American Bar Foundation and the Board of Trustees of the College of Wooster. He previously served as Chair of the Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar and is its Immediate Past Chair. He has also co-chaired the ABA Litigation Section's Minority Trial Lawyer Committee.