Sunday, December 09, 2018

Deplorable county jail conditions starting to come to light

"If there is a presumption of innocence, what we are doing to the most vulnerable of us is criminal." — Attorney James L. Hardiman

Activists and citizens are beginning to come together amidst revelations about conditions in Cuyahoga County. Read about it here in this week's issue of The Real Deal Press

# # #

Read The Real Deal Press every Sunday for reporting on the interplay of race, class and power in the civic, business and cultural spaces of Northeast Ohio and beyond.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Free showing of Sandra Bland documentary in Shaker Heights tonight

Sandra Bland was a 28-year-old African-American woman who was found hanged in a jail cell in Waller County, Texas, on July 13, 2015, three days after being arrested during a traffic stop. Her death was ruled a suicide

Bland was pulled over for a traffic violation on July 10 by State Trooper Brian Encinia. The exchange escalated, resulting in Bland's arrest and charge for assaulting a police officer. The arrest was partially recorded by Encinia's dashcam and by a bystander's cell phone. After authorities reviewed the dashcam footage, Encinia was placed on administrative leave for failing to follow proper traffic stop procedures.
Texas authorities and the FBI conducted an investigation into Bland's death and determined the Waller County jail did not follow required policies, including time checks on inmates and ensuring that employees had completed required mental health training.
In December 2015, a grand jury declined to indict the county sheriff and jail staff for a felony relating to Bland's death. In January 2016, Encinia was indicted for perjury for making false statements about the circumstances surrounding Bland's arrest and he was subsequently fired by the Texas Department of Public Safety. In September 2016, Bland's mother settled a wrongful death lawsuit against the county jail and police department for $1.9 million and some procedural changes. In June 2017, the perjury charge against Encinia was dropped in return for his agreement to permanently end his law enforcement career. SOURCE.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Repetitive "Disgraced ex-judge" characterization is troubling

I am wrestling with the fact that The Plain Dealer has apparently renamed former judge Lance Mason as the “disgraced former judge”.

I offer no defense for Mason, who is properly being held on $5 million bail, charged with the murder of his estranged wife in brutal fashion, four years after he viciously assaulted her in almost incomprehensible anger in front of their children.

Following that first assault, Mason fell from grace: he pleaded guilty to assault, was sentenced to prison for two years, resigned his judgeship, and lost his law license.

It was a sudden and complete fall from grace. In 2014. What he's accused of doing last month stands alone in its depravity, evidence of a frightening but unfortunately not rare state of mind. I suspect it has little if anything to do with any job or honor Mason ever had.

So, what’s my issue? I have an uncomfortable sense that Mason’s status as a black man may have subconsciously factored into editorial coverage decisions.

Headline, caption, and first sentence each refer to Mason as disgraced. 

I do not recall that former county commissioner and Democratic Party chair Jimmy Dimora was so regularly characterized, although he fell from the county’s top electoral spot in the county for his participation in ongoing public corruption schemes. Likewise for former county treasurer Frank Russo, former judge Bridget McCafferty, and a host of other once-respected public servants turned intentional malfeasants.

Is this over-sensitivity or hyper-vigilance on my part? Some may certainly think so. But when the term "disgraced" is pounded relentlessly via headline, photo caption and lead sentence, it seems more than mere click bait, reportorial laziness or editorial indifference.

Words have power. When repetitively combined with images of a black man in an orange jumpsuit in this highly politicized environment, it seems that intentionally or otherwise, a subliminal message is being sent.

I welcome your comments.
# # #

Read The Real Deal Press every week for reporting on the interplay of race, class and power in the civic, business and cultural spaces of Northeast Ohio and beyond.

Monday, December 03, 2018

"Think of Justice as a Value, not a system"

The actor Michael K. Williams was in Cleveland this past week. He visited the County Detention Center and spoke at Cleveland State University's Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. Shared below is an account of that day written by Dean of the Law School and circulated via his Monday Morning Messages.

• • •

"I want you all to imagine what it was like for me to talk to an 11-year-old dark-skinned boy by the name of Michael, with a scar on his face, who knew to take his pain and suffering of his long eleven years of living - and use it to be a blessing in someone else's life. That broke me down....  It struck a fire in my gut.  And that fire was called:  never again." – Michael K. Williams Actor, Producer, “Raised in the System.”

"When I had difficult times in prison ….where I was housed with 2200 men for every crime you could probably think of …. I said to myself that I want to be a light in this dark place. I understood that I couldn't get over this, I couldn't get under it, I had to go through it." – Dominic Dupont, whose 25 year-to-life sentence was commuted by Governor Andrew Cuomo

"A long time my kids asked me, ‘How can you believe in the criminal justice system that did that to you?’  I said, ‘it wasn't the criminal justice system, it was individuals.... If I didn't believe in the criminal justice system, I wouldn't be able to help people get out of prison who don't belong there’." – Derrick Hamilton, exonerated after 20 years in prison

"I'm asking all of you in this room - be it judges, or prosecutors, or defense attorneys, legal aid society, or service providers - to think of justice as a value and not as a system."  - Dana Rachlin, Founder, NYC Together

"We, as judges, those of us involved in the criminal justice system, we've got to get off the bench. I have a hashtag that I use and I call it #beyondthefourwalls. And so I come off the bench, I come out of my robe, I go into the schools." – Judge Michael Ryan ‘96

“I feel indebted to C|M|LAW and the alumni community for giving me a chance to join this profession, for giving me the skills and the support to do the work I care about, and for joining me in my mission. I look forward to carrying these efforts upward and onward with you!”  -Kim Corral ‘12

We are a law school without walls. Every week throughout the year, we foster a culture where our students learn not only in the classroom but also through forums that inspire honest engagement and respectful discourse and dialogue on society’s most challenging legal issues.

Thanks to the impressive efforts of Kim Corral '12, on Thursday, November 29, the C|M|LAW Alumni Association, led by Judge Michelle Paris ’84, partnered with our C|M|LAW Criminal Justice Center and the ACLU of Ohio to bring HBO star Michael K. Williams (The Wire/ Boardwalk Empire) for a packed day of social justice programing. See Cleveland-Marshall Alumni Association Hosts Documentary Screening and Panel Discussion.

The day started when Williams screened his documentary, Raised in the System, with a small group of boys age 9-17 at the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center. See HBO Star Visits Cuyahoga Juvenile Detention CenterJoining Williams were Derrick Hamilton and Dominic DupontHamilton was exonerated in 2015 after serving over 20 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. Dupont, Director of the Youth Assistance Programwas recently released from prison after serving 20 years of a 25-to-life sentence. His sentence was commuted by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in recognition of his leadership in anti-violence programs for youth.

Each of these men gave a heartfelt talk to the boys about their own experiences. The response by the young boys was remarkable; they responded by talking about the pain they have experienced throughout their lives. It was a revealing and compelling experience.

On his way to the law school, Michael Williams met with CSU President Harlan Sands. At noon, Williams, Hamilton, and Dupont, joined by Victor Seltzer and Dana Rachlin, spoke to a group of our students about police reform and community development. Seltzer is the CEO of Making Kids Win. Rachlin is the founder of NYC Together.

In the afternoon, the Moot Courtroom was packed for a screening of Michael K. William’s Raised in the System HBO Documentary. After the screening, Kim Corral '12 introduced Williams. Together they announced the creation of the C|M|LAW Alumni Association Live Justice Scholarship which will go to a first year C|M|LAW student who has demonstrated a strong commitment to social justice. Over $19,000 was raised for the new scholarship in just one day, including a contribution from Michael K. Williams.

Professor Jonathan Witmer-Rich then moderated an inspiring panel discussion with Williams, Seltzer, HamiltonDupont, and Rachlin. All of the panelists volunteered their time, woke up at 4 a.m. to fly to Cleveland, and spent a full ten hour day inspiring, educating, and challenging their audiences to engage in the important, collaborative work of justice reform. See Photos from C|MLAW Event with Michael K. Williams.

• • •

THE REAL DEAL PRESS is now ​a digital weekly​,​reporting on the interplay of race, class and power in the civic, business and cultural spaces of Northeast Ohio and beyond.​

Read the current issue.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Monday, November 05, 2018

The Power of ONE Vote

There are numerous examples of the importance of every single vote. We like this reminder, courtesy of today's Monday Morning Message, a weekly missive from Lee Fisher, Dean of the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law at Cleveland State University.

Fisher was elected Ohio Attorney General in 1990 in the closest statewide election in Ohio history. The margin is easy to remember, 1,234 votes out of 3.4 million votes cast. That was less than one vote per precinct, earning him the dubious moniker of "Landslide Lee".

If you haven't voted early, vote tomorrow. If you don't care to vote for yourself, vote for someone you love, whose freedom, finances, education, health, or security depends on the outcome. Be her hero.

And make sure you vote all the way to the end of the ballot. Some of the most important races are there. If you haven't researched all the contests and issues, check our our endorsements in the current  issue of  The Real Deal Press. You can even access it on your smart phone or tablet inside the voting booth, so there is no reason to skip a race because you don't have a clue.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Big News from The Real Deal Press!

The Real Deal Press that you knew as a print monthly is now a digital only weekly! Check out the premiere edition here and see our endorsement for Cuyahoga County Executive.

Our 2018 Election Special Issue will be out this weekend. Visit here on Friday for the link or sign up here with your mobile number to receive notice of publication instantly.

Weekly Wednesday publication begins November 7, 2018!