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The Power of Storytelling: The Ohio Innocence Project, Cincinnati Opera Collaboration Brings Exonerees' Stories to Life


The Ohio Innocence Project and Cincinnati Opera’s new venture brings to the stage the experiences of the wrongfully convicted in a unique form—an opera—to debut in 2019.

Cincinnati, OH—The Ohio Innocence Project (OIP) at the University of Cincinnati College of Law, Cincinnati Opera, and the Young Professionals Choral Collective (YPCC) announce the creation of a contemporary opera, Blind Injustice. The opera is based on Cincinnati Law Professor Mark Godsey’s book by same name and interviews with six OIP exonerees.  Blind Injustice will bring to life the grace, perseverance and forgiveness of these incredible men and women.  Premiering during the 2019 opera season, this is the first collaboration of its kind. The opera will be composed by William Menefield to a libretto by David Cote. CCM Professor Robin Guarino will act as stage director and dramaturg.

“The stories of these six exonerees are powerful tales of perseverance and forgiveness after going through an ordeal most of us can’t even imagine,” says Mark Godsey, OIP Director. “Although the stories are inspirational in their own right, the music exponentially magnifies their emotional impact. So we are incredibly excited that the public will get to learn more about Ricky Jackson, Clarence Elkins, Nancy Smith, and the East Cleveland 3 in such a compelling, moving way.  These individuals are heroes, bringing them to stage and sharing them with the public in this medium is the right thing to do.  We feel incredibly lucky to be working with the Opera and YPCC on this important project.”

Blind Injustice is a story about survival and dignity and asks the question: How could our criminal justice system allow six innocent people be wrongfully accused and convicted?” says Robin Guarino, stage director and dramaturg for the opera.  “It is an honor to tell their story and to work with my creative team of David Cote, librettist; William Menefield, composer; Mark Godsey, author; the OIP; the YPCC; and Cincinnati Opera on this groundbreaking project."

Interim Dean of the Cincinnati Law School, Verna Williams, says, “This extraordinary collaboration sheds light on the tragedy of wrongful convictions plaguing our criminal justice system.  Even more, it will demonstrate the grace of the exonerees enduring unimaginable hardship, the steadfastness of OIP working for their freedom, and the transformative power of this project for all involved.  We are thrilled to be part of this creative exercise in social justice.”

“Cincinnati Opera is looking for innovative ways to collaborate with nontraditional partner organizations in an authentic way, to tell current stories of societal importance,” said Marcus Küchle, director of artistic operations and new works development at Cincinnati Opera. “We are keenly interested in breaking through the stereotypes of what opera is in the 21st century, and this project is a perfect example of the type of new works Cincinnati Opera will pursue in future seasons.”

The Birth of Blind Injustice, the Opera
Blind Injustice is the result of a three-part collaboration between the OIP, the Young Professionals Choral Collective (YPCC), and Cincinnati Opera. The OIP’s young professionals group, which focuses on building awareness about the OIP, reached out to the YPCC, an 800-member amateur chorus, in hopes of hosting a joint event. Once the parties started talking, they realized the impact that a joint performance piece could have. Soon thereafter, the Cincinnati Opera team joined the conversations, resulting in the conception of a one-of-a-kind musical performance. This unique artistic team hopes that sharing the real-life case stories of exonerees will bring greater understanding and empathy to the work of the OIP and other innocence organizations, as well as create opportunities for broader conversations about wrongful conviction in the United States.

About the Opera
The opera will focus on the life and experiences of these OIP exonerees:

  • Ricky Jackson: He spent nearly 40 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit—murdering a money-order collector. Mr. Jackson was sentenced to death; it is now known that the conviction was based on a lie of a then-12-year-old boy. At the time of his release, Mr. Jackson set the record for the longest-serving person to be exonerated in U.S. history.
  • East Cleveland 3: Derrick Wheatt, Laurese Glover, and Eugene Johnson were wrongly incarcerated for 20 years. They were released after a key eyewitness recanted her testimony and after the revelation that information from police reports demonstrating their innocence had not been disclosed decades earlier.
  • Clarence Elkins: He spent seven and a half years in prison for a murder and rape he did not commit. Through DNA testing, Mr. Elkins was found innocent and the real perpetrator was caught; and  
  • Nancy Smith: A former bus driver, she served 15 years in prison for allegedly molesting small children in her care.  After being proven innocent and released, Ms. Smith’s case received national attention, including being featured on a one-hour episode of Dateline NBC.

In addition, the OIP will be represented through two characters. One will be a composite character representing Mark Godsey earlier in his career as a prosecutor and now as an innocence lawyer; the other will be a fictional OIP law student, representing all of the OIP law students who worked to free these individuals through the years.

“The unique thing about this format is that it allows us to share the story of wrongful conviction and exoneree experiences to a broad audience,” says Godsey. “These may be people whose only experience with wrongful conviction is through a television program. Now, they’ll be able to hear directly from the exonerees. They’ll share their painful stories and how they survived and overcame despite what happened to them. We know that once you hear their stories, your heart will be touched.”

Participants in the project include a variety of individuals:

  • From Cincinnati Opera: Marcus Küchle, Director of Artistic Operation and New Works Development and Co-Artistic Director of Opera Fusion: New Works
  • From the University of Cincinnati: Mark Godsey, the Daniel L. and Judith L. Carmichael Professor of Law and Director, OIP; Professor Robin Guarino, the J. Ralph Corbett Distinguished Chair in Opera, CCM, director and dramaturg for the opera.
  • Others: William Menefield, composer; David Cote, librettist and journalist; KellyAnn Nelson, Artistic Director, YPCC.


In addition to the operatic performance piece, Blind Injustice will include opportunities for community involvement. More information will be shared as plans are completed.

 

Media Hits

Read the story in the Cincinnati Enquirer (12/8): Innocence Project Leader's Book at Heart of Cincinnati Opera's New Work

Ohio Innocence Project Awarded $125K Grant to Support New Criminal Justice Reform Program


Cincinnati, OH— The George Gund Foundation has awarded the Ohio Innocence Project at the University of Cincinnati College of Law, a national leader in exonerating wrongly convicted individuals, a $125,000 grant to support a new criminal justice ethics and education initiative. This two-year grant is the third award the OIP has received this fall to expand and build upon its work.

“The Gund Foundation is a leader in promoting creative solutions to social problems.  This grant will help us establish a national model for innocence education and reform,” said Mark Godsey, Director of the Ohio Innocence Project. “We greatly appreciate the Gund Foundation’s confidence in OIP and the innocence movement.”

The OIP is one of the most well-known and successful innocence organizations in the nation. Through the efforts of OIP attorneys, staff and hundreds of clinic student fellows, 25 individuals have obtained their freedom on grounds of innocence to date.  Cumulatively, they have served more than 471 years in prison. 

Research has shown that there are many reasons for miscarriages of justice and wrongful convictions in our criminal justice system—from contaminated DNA evidence and mistaken eyewitness identification, to ignorance of police best practices. The Gund grant, combined with $75K of existing support, will enable the OIP promote criminal justice reform and educate policymakers, the public, and others about best practices to prevent wrongful convictions.

Thanks to the Gund Foundation grant, the OIP will launch a four-pronged Criminal Justice and Education Project. Specifically, the OIP will:
1) hire an Ethics and Best Practices Educator, an attorney who will raise awareness of “best practices” within the criminal justice system that would help eliminate and remediate wrongful convictions;
2) develop an educational curriculum for the law enforcement community covering issues connected to wrongful convictions, such as false confessions and biases that inform eyewitness identification;
3) conduct a public education campaign in Southwest and Northeast Ohio that includes meeting one-on-one and with groups within the criminal justice system to discuss the OIP’s work and other issues relevant to improving criminal justice practices in Ohio; and,
4) collaborate with law firms in those communities to raise matching funds to keep this important work going long term.

“The Gund Foundation gift allows the OIP to take its work to the next level,” said Verna Williams, Interim Dean of the College of Law. “To increase its impact in the state and beyond, OIP has focused on criminal justice reform.  In so doing, it is teaching our students how to use the law to make substantive change—in addition to addressing injustices.  The Gund Foundation gift enhances the transformative potential of the OIP, not only for its clients, but also for future attorneys.”

Isabel Johnston, Law Student and Dreamer, Shares Her Story


On September 5, 2017 President Trump rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, the immigration policy that allowed minors who illegally entered or remained in the US to receive deferment from deportation, as well as eligibility for work permits. The rescission was delayed six months to allow Congress to work out a resolution.

Isabel JohnstonThe young people affected by DACA are called “Dreamers,” and their fate is uncertain. As they have increasing reason to worry that they may be soon forced out of the country, most keep secret their identities as Dreamers.

Some Dreamers, however, have spoken out with the hope that sharing their stories will dispel the myths surrounding the immigration issue. Isabel Johnston, a first-year law student, is one such Dreamer.

Johnston’s father was the first in her immediate family to travel from Peru to the states. After eight months apart, the rest of the family flew in to join him.

Johnston, who was six at the time, recalls, “There was this long hallway, and my dad’s at the end of it, and I’m with my mom and my siblings. He gets down on one knee and opens his arms for us to run into them.

I looked up to my mom, because I didn’t know who he was. My dad [had been] a big guy. I thought it was my uncle who looks like my dad but is much thinner. My dad had been working three jobs, sleeping two hours, and not actually eating anything. I didn’t recognize him.”

Despite this initial shock, Johnston and her family settled in. They first lived in Florence, Kentucky, but later moved to Texas for two years. When she was 15, Johnston’s parents sat her down and informed her that they were undocumented immigrants and explained the legal implications. Johnston says, “I [already] knew we weren’t citizens and that my parents didn’t vote. I didn't know what being undocumented meant. All I really knew was that it was bad and ugly and shameful.” They instructed her not to share this information with her siblings – or anyone.

Johnston was worried and disheartened. She knew that her family came from Peru, but she had not previously felt like a foreigner. She notes, “we were well integrated, I think. I don’t have an accent.” Johnston recalls classmates, unaware of her immigration status, making occasional green card jokes, but she maintains that she fit in with her peers.

Her first major complication came when she was in high school and wanted to sign up for college courses. She needed to fill out forms that asked for a social security number. Confused, she came to realize that she did not have one. Her instructors did not know what to do. Eventually, she found out that she could use her father’s Tax ID, but the episode stirred her. “I was embarrassed, really.”

Things got worse as friends started getting their first jobs and drivers’ licenses. “I just told people that my parents were strict and wouldn’t let me drive, which was only partially true.” The family’s undocumented status remained a secret to her peers the whole time.

But, notably, not a secret to the government. Like many migrants, the Johnstons came on tourist visas and overstayed them. They have paid taxes from day one. “The government has always known that we’re here,” states Johnston. Of paying taxes she notes, “we don’t get anything from it. We’re never going to see any of that money.”

The situation looked up with DACA’s passage. During her senior year of high school, Johnston got a work permit, a driver's license, and a social security number. She saw doors opening to her that she previously could not have counted on.

She graduated from Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky. There, she completed a self-designed program of study that focused on social justice issues in Latin America and the Caribbean. While in college, johnston began to share her status with her closest friends, feeling safe under the protection of DACA.

After college, she came here to Cincinnati Law. This fall semester, she was in class when she learned about DACA’s rescission. She saw reports on social media and saw she had messages on her family’s group-text. She remembers, “my dad had opened with ‘don’t worry, you guys are safe right now.’” Johnston's immediate reaction was to cry--for herself, her family, and the hundreds of thousands of other young people affected by the decision.  Then she got to work, researching the issue to better understand what the future had in store for Dreamers.

Around this time, an immigration lawyer from Kentucky with whom Johnston had previously worked, contacted her and encouraged her to speak to a local news outlet about DACA. She thought, “no way my parents want me to do that.” They had always kept their identity secret.

But when Johnston mentioned to her father that she had been contacted by the news, he encouraged her to consider it. “My mind was blown,” she said. “We’ve been talking about the situation in a very different way than we would have before. I’ve been sharing my story and doing a lot more publicly.”

Coming out this way was not easy. Her decision initially left her mother worried, and her brother upset. Her father and sister, however, were supportive from the start. Johnston says they want her to “make sure that my message is clear and that there’s no confusion about what DACA is or was and what we’re looking for in the future.”

Johnston continues to be open about her status as a Dreamer. "Not only have I been open about my status, but I have been actively trying to make change," she said. (She plans to focus on human rights and immigration law as a career.) "I was interviewed on Fox19, I have spoken on immigration and Dreamer panels, and I have become more involved in the UC community. In October, I travelled to DC with fwd.us and over 100 other DACA recipients from 25 states to meet with our members of Congress. I shared my story with Senator Portman, KY Representatives Barr and Yarmuth, and staff of other members. I was empowered through this experience by making connections with so many other people in the same situation—something I have never been able to do before.

"I am continuously educating my peers and fighting for immigrants. Next summer, I will be returning to DC for an internship at an immigration firm which focuses on asylum work. In addition to working with HRQ, I am the 1L rep for Latino Law Student Association and have helped to create informative material to share with others at the law school, so they too can participate in this fight."

 

Writer: Pete Mills

Working Abroad: Law Alum Mark Whittenburg’s Shanghai Experience


Mark Whittenburg ’92 has had an impressive career since graduating Cincinnati Law. Though he now works for Core & Main in St. Louis, Missouri, he spent the several preceding years in Shanghai, China.

Mark WhittenburgIt all started while he was working for General Electric here in the states. After moving back to Cincinnati for several months, he was contacted by a recruiter from Autoliv, a Fortune 500 company. Autliv is the world’s largest automotive safety supplier with sales to all the leading car manufacturers in the world. They develop, manufacture and market protective systems such as airbags, seatbelts, steering wheels, passive safety electronics and active safety systems including brake control systems, radar, night vision and camera vision systems. They also produce pedestrian protection systems.

He successfully navigated the interview process and was hired for the Vice President of Legal position. Whittenburg jumped at the opportunity, moving from Cincinnati to Shanghai, where he worked from 2011 to 2013.

When asked about the professional and cultural challenges of working abroad, Whittenburg makes it clear that those challenges are inseparable. “I had to do some cultural learning [because] what motivates people is a little bit different, so trying to lead a team in China isn’t the same as leading a team in Charlottesville, Virginia,” he said. While a handful of his coworkers were fellow foreigners, the overwhelming majority were Chinese natives.

Whittenburg also shared that “cultural awareness was my greatest learning curve—even more than, well . . . the law.”

Chinese law and the Chinese legal system differ radically from their American counterparts. In Whittenburg’s case, he had to learn them on the job and without mastery of Mandarin.

His studies at the law school proved helpful, however. He emphasizes that Cincinnati Law taught him that “it’s not really knowing all the answers but knowing how to find the answers and how to think through problems.”

Autliv’s Shanghai branch covers all Asian markets. Whittenburg’s work there gave him opportunities to travel to Japan, Korea, India, and Thailand.

What’s it Like Living in Shanghai?
His personal life in Shanghai was interesting. He lived in a rented house in a compound that was home to as many fellow expats as it was to native Shanghainese.Whittenburg recalls that seeing a man riding a bicycle with a tower of Styrofoam above and behind him was “one of [his] very first shocks.” Even with such surprises, his transition was smooth, and his memories of coworkers and neighbors are fond.

He experienced the local culinary culture in full. What did he eat? “I ate incredibly strange stuff . . . snake, turtle, intestines, and blood, and all kinds of stuff,” he chuckled. “I definitely prefer it to the China Kitchen.” [The China Kitchen is a United States Chinese restaurant.]

While Whittenburg warns against eating sautéed snakeskin (he likens it to “chewing on a tire”), he does strongly encourages lawyers take up opportunities to live and work abroad. “Do it in a heart beat,” he says. “It will change [you and your practice] in ways that nobody could ever explain.”

Urban Morgan Fellow Returns from US Embassy in Rabat


2L Kathleen Norris worked at the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Bureau section of the US Embassy in Rabat, Morocco during her 2017 Summer externship with the Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights.

Cincinnati, OH- “I’ve always been interested in law, since I was five,” said Norris. “I’ve always been one of those kids who wanted to be a lawyer.”

Kathleen Norris was born in the suburban town of Centerville, OH about 50 miles north of Cincinnati. Prior to her start at UC, she traveled often, sparking her interest in International Law, women’s rights, and democracy. After graduating high school, she made a “spur of the moment” decision to try something new for her undergraduate studies. Her desire for adventure took her to Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee. Norris studied political science and history. She fell in love with Africa, and knew she wanted to return.

After graduating from Rhodes, Norris chose UC Law for The Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights. Not only would this decision allow her to be closer to her home in Centerville, but also gave her the opportunity to continue studying abroad. Norris was awarded the Arthur Russell Morgan Fellowship, granting her a stipend for a summer externship.

Fellows work hand in hand with professors and other faculty at UC Law to find the correct placement for their externships. Particular issues, foreign language abilities, and geographic preferences are all taken into account when choosing the correct location. In Norris’s case, two individuals provided mentorship during her study abroad.

“There’s great mentorship from Nancy Ent and Professor Bert Lockwood who are very supportive and creative in the way they use their knowledge to ‘cherry pick’ experiences that would emphasize or refine student’s skills. It’s important to have someone in law school that is rooting for you.”

Norris worked at the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Bureau at the US Embassy. Police reform, prison reform, and judicial reform are all responsibilities of the section. However, Norris also took on side work in the political section as well as the economic section, where she would do her best to communicate in French.

“I took on a little side work. I assisted in the economic section that deals with trade, IP issues, stuff like that. I worked on a report for the political section, that’s specifically within the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. That was interesting, I really liked working there because I was abke to use my French skills. It was kind of an untraditional environment, compared to legal experiences in law school generally. I went to meetings where everyone was speaking French. I’d have to retain the information and use it in a productive way. I liked that because I was practicing more than just researching and writing.”

Norris gained real-world experience and learned valuable lessons. However, she made sure she embraced the culture. When she wasn’t working at the Embassy, she was getting more acquainted with the customs and traditions of Morocco.

“We had cultural events at the State Department, so I went to an Iftar, which was essentially the breaking of the fast during Ramadan,” said Norris. “Being invited into people’s homes and experiencing home-cooked meals was really important to me. That was not in my job description, but I got to do things outside that realm.”

The externship to Rabat changed her way of thinking about legal issues in the human rights field. Outside of the classroom, her participation in the experience helped her identify what issues are important to her, developing a passion for her future career.

“My Urban Morgan experience has really challenged me to think about what I believe in,” said Norris. “It forced me to not only use legal arguments and the legal skills I’ve learned through analysis and research, but also why it is all important; why anyone should care about specific issues. In a broader sense, I think it is important to learn more than case-by-case, not that those aren’t important, but how I can invest myself through this process in the future. That’s one of the things I’m grateful for.”

Writer: Kyler Davis, communication intern

 

Dean’s Statement


Welcome to the University of Cincinnati College of Law!

As one of the nation’s oldest law schools, Cincinnati Law has a proven track record and history of producing leaders who pursue justice and advance the role of law in society. Our faculty are thought leaders, for whom bridging theory and practice is second nature. Our curriculum includes path-breaking programs, such as the Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights and the JD/MA in Law and Women’s Studies, the first of their kind in the nation. Students have countless opportunities to connect classroom learning to real-life experiences in our home city. These attributes and more help explain why, as we approach our 200th birthday, Cincinnati Law remains a nationally recognized institution. For example:

  • We’ve been named as a top school for public interest law, criminal law, corporate law, business law, and trial advocacy, as well as
  • A “Best School for Practical Training” – for the third year in a row (by preLaw magazine); and
  • A Best Value Law School – for the fifth consecutive year (by the National Jurist and preLaw magazines)

As you explore the website, you will see that pursuing a legal education at Cincinnati Law will equip you with the necessary skills and training to take you wherever you’d like to go.

Cincinnati Law offers a broad variety of courses—from the required criminal or constitutional law, to counterterrorism law and neuroscience and the law—taught by award-winning professors. In addition, we offer a diverse array of experiential opportunities, such as the Ohio Innocence Project (OIP), through which students work to free wrongly convicted individuals. Our OIP is one of the most successful such projects in the country, having exonerated 25 people since its founding in 2003. Students participating in the Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic provide assistance to small business people in the community; so far, they’ve helped local entrepreneurs to the tune of $1.2 million. Externships round out our experiential offerings—we have literally hundreds of such opportunities. Enough for every single student. Our many journals—such as the Intellectual Property and Computer Law Journal--allow students to burnish their research and writing skills, working in many instances with leading scholars. And the Center for Race, Gender, and Social Justice enables students to work directly with local community members to develop strategies for addressing such issues as domestic violence or predatory lending.

At Cincinnati Law, learning extends beyond the boundaries of our campus; opportunities to make a difference are plenty. It’s that combination that translates into our students being ready to hit the ground running upon graduation.

In addition, because of our small size, our focus on student success starts on Day One and doesn’t stop until you reach your professional goals. Students easily can forge connections with faculty and staff, as well as our vibrant and active network of alums, who are eager to help with jobs for the summer and beyond. Our alums land in a wide variety of fields and locations: Cincinnati Law grads are public servants, trial attorneys, corporate lawyers, and academics, among others. They have served in the highest reaches of government and private industry, working in locations such as New York City; Kodiak, Alaska; or Cameroon.

At Cincinnati Law, our tradition is strong and our future is bright. I’m proud to be the dean of this storied institution and invite you to be part of this legacy. Please visit our campus, explore the website, or follow us on social media to get a feel for what it means to be a law student here.

I look forward to welcoming you in person!

UC Law's Alumni Celebration a Big Hit!


Guest speakers. Great music. Amazing food. Lots of memories. Saturday, November 4, 2017 was the big day: Cincinnati Law’s "All Alumni Reunion". With sold-out events in the morning and a jammin' party atmosphere in the evening, UC Law was “the place” to be last weekend!

ICYMI: A Recap

 Alumni began the day with breakfast and the familiar faces of their peers and former professors. After the meet-and-greet, Dean Verna Williams commenced UC Next, a series of mini-lectures in the style of TedX talks.

Williams described the class of 2020 and the changes coming to Cincinnati Law. Of the latest class of JD candidates, she noted, “It’s 97 students strong, and for the first time in many years, we have more women than men. They’re diverse coming from as close as Indiana and Kentucky, and as far away as Utah and California.” Williams also shared the story of the successful LLM program, which brings in students from around the world and features a special partnership between UC Law and Javeriana University in Bogotå, Colombia.

The guest lectures were presented by distinguished alumni. In order of appearance, these were: Kathy Woeber Gardner, Sally Young, Chris Chapman, and William “Billy” Martin.

Gardner’s talk covered her professional path, in which she overcame career speed-bumps but ultimately landed her dream career. She even followed her husband out West and took the California bar exam, after years of practice in Ohio. Gardner now practices International Law and works with large companies in Silicon Valley and around the world.

Sally Young cracked up the alumni crowd, largely because her current line of work is atypical for someone with a law degree—or anyone else, for that matter. She writes romance novels, using the penname, Ann Christopher. Young referred to retiring from private practice after the birth of her second child, noting that she has “been in legal recovery for 18 years now.” Some time passed before she took up writing romance novels, but Young made it clear that reflection led her to do the things she enjoyed most in life.

Chris Chapman discussed the “image problem” the legal community faces. He noted that the stereotype of the greedy, heartless lawyer is entrenched in our culture, reaching as far back as Shakespeare’s joke, “First thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” Chapman noted, however, that lawyers can and often do give back to their communities, and that civilizations with many lawyers have historically been the most able to provide justice to all.

Billy Martin’s talk dealt with his rise to professional success as an attorney with a UC Law degree. He maintains that his education at UC Law prepared him for these heights within the legal profession. He shared that the pinnacle of his career was representing a witness in the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton. Martin also shared an anecdote in which he represented movie star Wesley Snipes, when he was wanted by the Federal government for tax evasion. Snipes was at the time filming in Namibia, and would have faced immediate arrest if he went to any airport, because he had ignored an arraignment in order to continue filming. Martin smilingly recalled, “So what does an actor with unlimited resources do? We rent our own jet.” Snipes was able to surrender on US soil.

The alumni were then treated to a delicious, full barbecue meal provided by Cincinnati’s own Sweets and Meats, a client of our Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic. At lunch, Cincinnati Law alumnus and Hamilton County Clerk of Courts, Aftab Pureval addressed the crowd.

Pureval mentioned his own success story. On entering politics, he recalled, “people would say, ‘are you crazy? You’re running for this office that no one cares about, against an opponent who cannot be beat in conservative Hamilton County. And to do all that, you have to leave Proctor and Gamble. What are you thinking?’” He added, “and that was just my mom” to tremendous laughs.

Pureval’s run ended up being a successful, of course. His speech took a serious turn when he talked about the new Hamilton County Help Center. Pureval implored everyone in the room to put themselves in the shoes of those who are facing evictions and now have to deal with the legal system. He said there is cause to be optimistic, however, as the Help Center, which started only two months ago, has already aided over 800 people.

After an afternoon touring campus and the city of Cincinnati, alumni and friends gathered at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center for the Red and Black Gala. This was an opportunity to continue catching up with old friends (and new ones), eat some good food, and enjoy the music of The Exoneree Band.

The band is comprised of musicians from around the country who were wrongfully imprisoned for a combined 100 years. One band member, Raymond Towler (who is also the manager), was freed through the work of our own Ohio Innocence Project.

Throughout the concert, the band members shared their stories and their music borne from their incarceration experience. They even covered great singers like Stevie Wonder. The crowd was literally on their feet, dancing the night away. In the end, they didn’t want to leave… and the crowd didn’t either.

Thanks for everyone who came and we’ll see you next year for #Celebration2018!

Here's a peek at the day! (More pics and video to come soon!): Celebration2017

Writers: Pete Mills, Sherry English

College of Law Announces $183,800 Gift for Student Scholarships


Cincinnati, OH—Thanks to an anonymous donor, student scholarships will be more plentiful at the University of Cincinnati College of Law. October’s $183,800 planned gift is the second significant contribution to student scholarships in as many months, enabling the law school to continue to attract and support a diverse student body.

“This funder from the Class of 1977 joins countless others in demonstrating their commitment to the continued success of the College of Law,” said Verna Williams, Interim Dean and Nippert Professor of Law. “Such support is essential to fulfilling our mission to educate and inspire the next generation of leaders. This gift will make a substantial impact on the lives of students,” Williams said. The scholarship will be awarded to a student who plans to practice criminal law upon graduation.

“This latest gift represents a deep appreciation for the College of Law and is the result of a long and illustrious legal career,” explained Thomas Giffin, senior director of development at the law school. “The work of the College continues, thanks in large part, to alumni and friends who provide support in their wills, trusts, life income gifts, retirement plans, life insurance designations, and other planned gifts. We are forever thankful for their generosity.”

This Class of 1977 donor becomes a part of the Herman Schneider Legacy Society, founded to recognize University of Cincinnati benefactors whose contributions to educational excellence are realized through gift plans. The Society was named for University of Cincinnati educator Herman Schneider, founder of the university’s cooperative education program, whose vision propelled UC to the forefront of higher education early in the 20th century.

About the University of Cincinnati College of Law
As the fourth oldest continuously operating law school in the country, UC’s College of Law has a rich history. Its distinguished alumni include a U.S. president, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and six governors. The College cultivates an intimate learning experience with a 9:1 student to faculty ratio and offers a wealth of resources, such as more than 40 student organizations, five journals and seven centers and institutes. For more information, please visit www.law.uc.edu .

Date: October 30, 2017

Ohio Innocence Project Awarded Grants Totaling $265,000 to Fund Forensic Research Project and Expand its Efforts


Cincinnati, OH—The University of Cincinnati College of Law’s Ohio Innocence Project (OIP) has received two grants that will enhance its important work in the state. Together, the grants total $265,051.

The Department of Justice awarded the OIP $205, 051 for its proposed Forensic Review Project, which will examine 300-400 cases of retired Ohio forensic scientist Michelle Yezzo to determine whether she manufactured bogus or exaggerated test results to obtain convictions. If OIP identifies problematic cases, it will litigate them jointly with the Ohio Public Defenders office in hopes of freeing additional wrongfully-convicted persons. The grant enables OIP to hire a forensic science review attorney to analyze decades of case work; all work will be supervised by Assistant Clinical Professor Donald Caster, and OIP Director Mark Godsey.

Awarding such a significant grant for reviewing convictions is not standard practice for the Department of Justice. According to Godsey, DOJ funded only two additional grants of this nature this year, making OIP’s selection even more noteworthy. “We are honored that the Department of Justice demonstrated this level of faith in our organization. It is a testament to the hard work of so many students, staff, lawyers, donors--everyone who has made OIP what it is today,” said Godsey.

Studies of the incarceration of innocent individuals estimate that between 2.3% and 5% of all prisoners in the United States are innocent. Amazingly, if just 1% of all prisoners are innocent, then over 20,000 innocent people are in prison.

OIP is one of the most well-known, recognized and successful innocence organizations in the nation. Through the efforts of OIP attorneys, staff and hundreds of clinic student fellows, 25 individuals have obtained their freedom on grounds of innocence to date. Cumulatively, they have served more than 471 years in prison.

The Forensic Review Project has a disturbing background, resulting from OIP’s work on the James Parsons case. Parsons, an exoneree, spent 22 years in prison for the murder of his wife. In the midst of the investigation, the OIP discovered that Yezzo, a lab technician with Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), had produced very questionable, if not false, lab results which led to Parsons’s wrongful conviction.

The OIP will be working in conjunction with the OPD and the BCI to review these cases. “It is wonderful that Ohio’s BCI, where Yezzo worked, has been open in sharing her case files with us. Attorney General Mike DeWine should be credited, too,” said Godsey. “After something like this happens, the last thing you want is government officials trying to hide things and prevent further examination. The citizens of Ohio should appreciate the reactions of BCI and the Attorney General’s office in this matter.”

OIP Continues to Expand Efforts with Estabrook Charitable Trust Pledge
In addition to the DOJ grant, the OIP recognizes and thanks the Hubert A. & Gladys C. Estabrook Trust, long-time supporters of the OIP. Since 2001, the Hubert A. & Gladys C. Estabrook Trust has given or pledged $265,000 to the organization. This includes their most recent pledge of $60,000. “I want to thank the Estabrook Charitable Trust through Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLC for their tremendous generosity over the years,” said Godsey. “It is because of the continued support of donors like you that the OIP can continue to expand its efforts to help the wrongfully convicted.” These funds have been underwritten in part by Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLC by means of a grant from the Estabrook Charitable Trust.

College of Law Announces $183,800 Gift for Student Scholarships


Cincinnati, OH—Thanks to an anonymous donor, student scholarships will be more plentiful at the University of Cincinnati College of Law. October’s $183,800 planned gift is the second significant contribution to student scholarships in as many months, enabling the law school to continue to attract and support a diverse student body.

“This funder from the Class of 1977 joins countless others in demonstrating their commitment to the continued success of the College of Law,” said Verna Williams, Interim Dean and Nippert Professor of Law.   “Such support is essential to fulfilling our mission to educate and inspire the next generation of leaders.  This gift will make a substantial impact on the lives of students,” Williams said.  

The scholarship will be awarded to a student who plans to practice criminal law upon graduation.

“This latest gift represents a deep appreciation for the College of Law and is the result of a long and illustrious legal career,” explained Thomas Giffin, senior director of development at the law school. “The work of the College continues, thanks in large part, to alumni and friends who provide support in their wills, trusts, life income gifts, retirement plans, life insurance designations, and other planned gifts. We are forever thankful for their generosity.”

This Class of 1977 donor becomes a part of the Herman Schneider Legacy Society, founded to recognize University of Cincinnati benefactors whose contributions to educational excellence are realized through gift plans. The Society was named for University of Cincinnati educator Herman Schneider, founder of the university’s cooperative education program, whose vision propelled UC to the forefront of higher education early in the 20th century.

 

About the University of Cincinnati College of Law

As the fourth oldest continuously operating law school in the country, UC’s College of Law has a rich history. Its distinguished alumni include a U.S. president, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and six governors. The College cultivates an intimate learning experience with a 9:1 student to faculty ratio and offers a wealth of resources, such as more than 40 student organizations, five journals and seven centers and institutes. For more information, please visit www.law.uc.edu .

Date: October 30, 2017