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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.

Professors and OIP Attorneys Donald Caster and Brian Howe's article, "Taking a Mulligan: The Special Challenges of Narrative Creation in the Post-Conviction Context" was published in print in 76 Md. L. Rev. 770 (2017).


Evin King Released as OIP Celebrates #25


After maintaining his innocence for 23 years, Evin King was released due to the hard work, dedication and efforts of the Ohio Innocence Project.

Cincinnati, OH—Yesterday, April 19, 2017 the Ohio Innocence Project (OIP) team watched a now-familiar scene playout as its client Evin King was released at the Cuyahoga County Courthouse by Judge Brian Corrigan. In 1995 King was convicted of murdering his girlfriend despite no direct evidence of guilt, such as an eyewitness account or forensic evidence. Now, 23 years later, he is a free man. King and the OIP’s other 24 freed clients have together spent more than 470 years in prison for crimes they did not commit.


Cincinnati Law’s Assistant Clinical Professor Jennifer Bergeron said "Mr. King was wrongfully convicted, and never gave up hope.  It's hard to wrap your mind around how agonizing it must have been the past many years to have proof that you are innocent, but the courts and prosecutors simply refuse to look at the case again.  This victory is a testament to the character and will of Evin King."

Look at more pictures from his exoneration

A Look at His Journey

In 1994 King’s girlfriend, Crystal Hudson, was found in a closet, raped and strangled. King was convicted based on his relationship to the victim and his alleged inconsistent statements surrounding his whereabouts on the day of the crime.  
DNA testing of the semen from the rape kit and skin cells under the victim's fingernails demonstrated that Evin King was not the perpetrator. For years prosecutors did not respond to King’s motions for relief, even though the evidence of King's innocence was clear. And the trial court did not act on King's post-conviction motion for nearly 18 months before denying relief.  The Eighth District Court of Appeals saw it differently, however. In 2016 they reviewed the trial court’s decision, and sent the case back to the trial court for a hearing, while specifically noting that the DNA evidence supported King’s claim of innocence. On Friday, April 14th the OIP learned that Cuyahoga County prosecutor Michael O’Malley had asked new prosecutors to take another look at the case. They did, and when O’Malley learned the details of their findings and reviewed an analysis of the evidence, he ordered King’s conviction be overturned and that he be released.


 “While the initial delay in obtaining justice for Mr. King is disturbing, Michael O’Malley and the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office deserve credit for turning this case around and correcting an injustice,” says Mark Godsey, OIP co-founder and director. “O’Malley’s involvement in the case since his recent election, along with his decision to put new prosecutors on the case, may have been the pivotal factor that secured freedom for an innocent man, and we are thankful for his heroic intervention.”


This exoneration is due to the hard work and dedication of many current and former OIP attorneys and fellows. Professor Bergeron has represented King for many years, along with former OIP staff attorney Carrie Wood (now at the Hamilton County Public Defender’s Office).  OIP fellows on the case include Taylor Freed'16, Katie Wilkin'16, Mallorie Thomas'17(expected), Joe Wambaugh, Bryant Strayer'14, Steve Kelly'17, Morgan Keilholz'18 (expected), Jon Walker'18, Scott Leaman'14, Thomas Styslinger'14, John Markus'15, and Julie Payne'15.  Also, special thanks to the Ohio Public Defenders Office, particularly Kris Haines, who worked on King’s case as well for many years.

Videos:

Watch videos of Evin King learning of his release, being set free by Judge Corrigan, and walking out of the courthouse a free man after 23 years in prison.

 
 

TIME Magazine Special Edition Features the Ohio Innocence Project, an Extraordinary Honor for the Organization


OIP CoverThe Ohio Innocence Project has received an unprecedented honor – a feature in TIME magazine’s special edition examining wrongful convictions. The issue, which is anticipated to sell over a half a million copies, was recently published (Feb 2017) and is available at newsstands across the country.

Says Professor Mark Godsey, Director of the Ohio Innocence Project, “I’m thrilled that Time has dedicated an entire issue to the Innocence Movement, which demonstrates the enormous impact it has had on our criminal justice system.  We at OIP are honored to have been highlighted as a central player in what is now becoming a global human rights movement.  And we are thankful to the University of Cincinnati and our many donors for making it all possible.

The issue, “Innocent: The Fight Against Wrongful Convictions,” takes a look at 25 years of the innocence movement. The Ohio Innocence Project (OIP) is highlighted with a multi-page spread. In a ten-page feature, the edition shares the stories of

  • Ricky Jackson, the OIP exoneree who holds the record for the most years an exonerated American has served in prison, taking a “behind the scenes” look at his case, beginning in 1975 to today. 
  • Clarence Elkins, the OIP’s first successful exoneration, his battle for freedom, and the lengths he and the OIP students went through to help secure his release. 
  • Roger Dean Gillispie, the first case for the fledgling OIP in 2003, and the continuing obstacles in his case.
  • OIP Director Mark Godsey’s unique career as an award-winning prosecutor turned champion for the innocent, and his emergence as a global leader in the movement.  It also features his forthcoming book Blind Injustice:  A Former Prosecutor Exposes the Psychology and Politics of Wrongful Convictions.

Dean Jennifer S. Bard, Nippert Professor of Law at the law school, also comments “It’s an honor to have the Rosenthal Institute for Justice/ Ohio Innocence Project at the University of Cincinnati College of Law.  The work Mark Godsey, Jennifer Bergeron, Donald Caster, and Brian Howe do is absolutely remarkable as are the opportunities the students involved have to learn how much influence lawyers have in changing the lives of both individuals and society.   The work OIP does in making sure the legal system continues to work hard to avoid error infuses our entire law school and makes every student we graduate a better lawyer.”

The Ohio Innocence Project Honors International Wrongful Conviction Day


Tonight, October 4, 2016, the Duke Energy Building will be lit in the colors yellow and white in honor of International Wrongful Conviction Day.

Cincinnati, OH—The Ohio Innocence Project/Rosenthal Institute for Justice at the University of Cincinnati College of Law is celebrating International Wrongful Conviction Day by lighting up the city’s Duke Energy Building this evening in yellow and white—the colors symbolic of the wrongful conviction movement.  

In addition to the lighting event, OIP-u chapters throughout the state have hosted activities over the last few weeks to commemorate the day. Events included:

  • The John Carroll University chapter welcomed members of the Exoneree Band, a touring group of former prisoners-turned musicians, to participate in a panel discussion about wrongful conviction. Participants included Raymond Towler, an OIP exoneree, as well as exonerees from across the country.  
  • The University of Day chapter led a discussion by Dr. Melissa Berry about the causes of wrongful conviction, incorporating examples from the Netflix series “Making a Murderer” and the personal experiences of Ohio’s exonerees.
  • The Ohio State University chapter hosted an information table to promote awareness among students about wrongful conviction and the OIP.
  • And, the University of Cincinnati chapter assisted with the inaugural Bearcat Dash & Bash event.

OIP-u is a college network of innocence advocates that provides an avenue for Ohio undergraduate and graduate students to get more involved in the fight for freedom of wrongfully incarcerated people. Launched just last year, six OIP-u chapters have been created: John Carroll University, Ohio University, University of Dayton, the Ohio State University, Xavier University and the University of Cincinnati.

Today’s celebration and event comes on the heels of the successful inaugural Bearcat Dash & Bash, the OIP’s walk/run event to raise awareness and funds for the organization and for the university’s Athletics Department. The event, held Sunday, October 2, involved more than 1800 participants—with nearly 1400 in the 5K walk and nearly 500 in the 18.19K run. The 5K walk, which also included nine exonerees walking in the Freedom Walk, took participants through the university’s award-winning campus. The 18.19K run, which represents the average time that the OIP’s 24 clients spent in prison for crimes they didn’t commit, as well as the year of the University of Cincinnati’s founding, took participants through campus and the historic Clifton community.

International Wrongful Conviction Day recognizes the personal, social and legal costs associated with wrongful conviction. Launched by Win Wahren of the Association in Defense of the Wrongfully Convicted and a small group of like-minded individuals, the day is dedicated to recognizing those whose lives have been adversely impacted by wrongful conviction as well as educating the broader community on its causes, consequences and complications. Recognizing that wrongful convictions are not limited to one jurisdiction or nation, the group sought to unite individuals and organizations around the world in the effort to eradicate wrongful convictions. 

Record-Breaking $15M Gift to Benefit the Ohio Innocence Project at Cincinnati Law


Richard Rosenthal’s $15M Gift is the Largest for the College and Any Innocence Program

Dick Rosenthal_Ricky JacksonCINCINNATI - September 13, 2016 – A $15 million gift from long-time Cincinnati benefactor Richard “Dick” Rosenthal to the University of Cincinnati College of Law will help free countless wrongfully convicted individuals. The Ohio Innocence Project (OIP) at UC’s Lois and Richard Rosenthal Institute for Justice at the College of Law will use the generous gift – the largest ever for the college and any innocence program – to provide for the program in perpetuity.

“The Ohio Innocence Project has a laudable mission: to free every innocent person in Ohio. I’m proud to help ensure its life-saving work continues now and forever,” Rosenthal said. “Thank you to everyone who has helped make the OIP so successful in its mission – I’m inspired daily by the students, faculty and staff who work tirelessly in the pursuit of justice.”

“The University of Cincinnati is proud to be home to the world-class Ohio Innocence Project, where students work side-by-side with professionals to help free the innocent. Donors like Dick Rosenthal make this life-changing work possible, and we can’t thank him enough,” said UC Interim President Beverly J. Davenport.

Rosenthal’s investment will boost recruitment of top students and faculty, both nationally and internationally, and support vital programming at the OIP. In recognition of the monumental gift, the law school will add three Lois and Richard Rosenthal Clinical Professors of Law. Students will be identified as Rosenthal Student Fellows. Finally, the OIP will occupy custom-designed, named space in the new building with upgraded work spaces, offices and technology.

“The University of Cincinnati College of Law is deeply grateful to Mr. Rosenthal for his longstanding support of our faculty, staff and students who do such wonderful work addressing the injustice of wrongful convictions. This gift is the largest the law school has ever received,” said Jennifer S. Bard, Dean and Nippert Professor of Law at the UC College of Law. “The Ohio Innocence Project is an important component of our experiential, ‘learn by doing’ curriculum and by training the next generation of prosecutors, defense attorneys, legislators, and judges is already advancing one of our nation’s core Constitutional protections: the right to a fair trial.”

Founded in 2003, the OIP is Ohio’s only law school-based innocence organization dedicated to freeing innocent people in prison and preventing wrongful convictions. To date, the program has freed 24 people who combined served nearly 450 years in prison for crimes they did not commit.

“Student idealism and passion is the lifeblood of the OIP. The energy of our students gives us an advantage over other legal organizations, but it’s our generous donors who make their work possible,” said OIP Director Mark Godsey. “Thank you Dick Rosenthal for providing much more than financial support of the OIP. When John Cranley and I founded the organization, we were just a couple of young lawyers, but Lois and Dick knew how to build institutions. They had a vision, and helped teach John and me how to take our ideas and passion to the next level. From event planning, to public awareness, to fundraising, Lois and Dick taught us how to build a top-notch organization.”

“The Ohio Innocence Project has quickly become a national model for innocence organizations, and it has taken a leading role in expanding the movement internationally, assisting the startup of new programs across the globe,” said Barry Scheck, co-founder and director of the New York City-based Innocence Project. “Thank you to Dick Rosenthal for your incredible support of the innocent.”

Each year, about 20 students spend a full year working on cases, digging through files, interviewing witnesses, writing case briefs and applying their knowledge of forensic techniques like DNA testing. Through hands-on learning, they discover how to build a case and what can make a case go wrong, resulting in a tragic injustice.

“The incredible success of UC’s Ohio Innocence Project has been made possible through the vision and generosity of Dick Rosenthal,” said UC Foundation President Rodney Grabowski. “He has helped provide a life-changing service to our community and freed 24 individuals from wrongful imprisonment. We are forever grateful.”

In 2004, Dick and his late wife, Lois, gave $1 million to create and endow the Lois and Richard Rosenthal Institute for Justice. The primary component of the Institute is the OIP, which ultimately aims to free every innocent person in Ohio.

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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 of educating and inspiring leaders who pursue justice and advance the role of law in society. Its ranks include many distinguished alumni including a U.S. president, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and six governors. The college cultivates an intimate learning experience with an 8.6:1 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 law.uc.edu.

About the University of Cincinnati Foundation

Established in 1975, the University of Cincinnati Foundation is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation and is the private sector fundraising entity for the University of Cincinnati and UC Health. The foundation supports UC’s aspirations through philanthropic collaboration with the colleges, the Academic Health Center, UC Health and other units to maximize private support. The foundation’s advancement efforts promote the development of productive, enduring relationships with alumni, friends, colleagues, students, foundations, corporations and the Greater Cincinnati community. For more information, please visit uc.edu/foundation.

Center for Race, Gender, and Social Justice Receives University’s Marian Spencer Diversity Award


Cincinnati Law’s Center for Race, Gender, and Social Justice was honored for its programming and efforts to prepare students to take the lead in advancing justice.
Spencer Diversity AwardCincinnati, OH—The university awarded the College’s Center for Race, Gender, and Social Justice the 2016 University of Cincinnati Marian Spencer Diversity Ambassador Award at the 8th Annual Diversity & Inclusion Conference. The Center, identified as an ambassador for diversity and inclusion, was honored for its impactful programming and efforts to prepare the next generation of attorneys to thrive in a diverse, global workforce.

The Center, formed six years ago, is co-directed by Emily Houh, the Gustavus Henry Wald Professor of the Law and Contracts; Kristin Kalsem, the Charles Hartsock Professor of Law; and Verna Williams, the Judge Joseph P. Kinneary Professor of Law.

“Receiving the Marian Spencer Award is humbling, given its namesake’s heroic efforts for social justice in Cincinnati. It inspires us to work even hard,” Professor Williams said. Center co-director Professor Kalsem concurred. "It was wonderful to receive this recognition for just doing the everyday work of the Center. The Marian Spencer Diversity Ambassador Award honors the kind of programming and initiatives that are the very mission of our Center."

The Center’s mission is to cultivate scholars, leaders, and activists for social change. To that end, it has three pillars: the Joint Degree JD/MA in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, the first of its kind in the nation; the Freedom Center Journal, a joint scholarly publication of the College and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, which examines issues of gender, sexuality, race, and class; the Domestic Violence and Civil Protection Order Clinic, a legal laboratory where students receive extensive training in the laws surrounding domestic violence and trial advocacy, while assisting battered women and their families; and its new community-based research arm. Through these program areas, the Center has been able to make an impact on a broad and long-lasting scale. An example of their efforts was advocating for Cincinnati City Council to pass a resolution declaring freedom from domestic violence a fundamental human right, the first such resolution passed in the country. In addition, it has hosted a variety of programming exploring a range of cutting edge issues: economic justice, domestic violence, civil rights and policing, hate crimes, philanthropy and women’s movements, same-sex marriage, fair housing, and social justice feminism, among many others.

About the Award
The Marian Spencer Diversity Ambassador Award, sponsored by the university’s Diversity Council, showcases current campus affiliated individuals and groups whose diversity initiatives have positively impacted the university. Recipients must meet one of several criteria: showing an awareness for diversity, exhibiting sensitivity to people of various cultures, helping colleagues/peers grow in the area of diversity, and preparing others to thrive in a diverse, global workforce. The award was named after UC alumna and activist Marian Spencer.

Man Regains Freedom After 23 Years Thanks to OIP


In February 1981, the Parsons family suffered a tragic loss. Barbara Parsons, the 41-year-old wife of Jim Parsons, was found dead inside her bedroom, having been beaten 15 times in the head by someone using a large, heavy object. No suspect was found at first. Then, 12 years later, Jim Parsons was arrested for the murder. Parsons was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. After 23 years incarcerated, however, his conviction was overturned thanks to the Ohio Innocence Program (OIP).

"The Ohio Innocence Project plays an important role in the legal education of all of our students. Not only do the students who directly represent the clients with Professor Mark Godsey and the staff attorneys learn valuable litigation skills, all of our students benefit from its commitment to justice and the rule of law that are at the heart of the U.S. Legal system,” says Cincinnati Law’s Dean Jennifer S. Bard, Nippert Professor of Law.

Parsons was recently released and is now living with family. His story, however, is a frightening one.

An Unfair Advantage
Immediately after Barbara Parsons’ murder, an investigation began. A just hour after the body was found at their Norwalk, OH home, Jim Parsons was with the police; he showed no signs of a struggle and his alibi was solid. The case went cold after it became obvious that he was not the criminal.

Years later, a new detective was assigned to the case and sent the suspected murder weapon and bed sheets to forensic scientist Michele Yezzo, who worked on the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, asking her to look for any matching patterns of blood.

While running these tests, Yezzo failed to fully document her procedures. She used a chemical on the sheets which she claimed makes blood stains easier to see. However, it fades after several hours and she neglected to photograph each piece of evidence. Yezzo said she found matching patterns between the weapon and the sheets, but due to lack of documentation, she is the only one who ever saw it.

Even so, the court ruled against Parsons. He was found guilty and was sent to jail.

What the defense did not know at the time was that the State was withholding information. Around the same time that she was testifying, Yezzo was under severe job pressure. A few months prior to her testimony against Mr. Parsons, she was suspended from work for making threats against co-workers. She also displayed other signs that called her mental stability into question.

“About three years before she testified against Parsons,” said Parsons’ OIP attorney Donald Caster, ’03, “there was a memo that was written by her supervisor that said the consensus in the lab is that her mental health issues are affecting her work in the lab and that she would stretch the truth to satisfy a law enforcement agency.”

When Caster found that information, he placed a call to Dr. Scott Bresler, Clinical Director of Forensic Psychiatry at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

Bresler, who routinely conducts fitness-for-duty evaluations, evaluated Yezzo’s likely mental state at the time of the trial and through this determined her ability to work should have been called into question long before the Parsons trial.

The law requires that the State must turn over everything that could help a defendant before trial. Withholding this information about Yezzo was breaking the law, resulting in an unfair trial. Twenty-three years later, Jim Parsons finally got the hearing he deserved.

“Our star witness, whose subjective judgements are entirely what the case is about, is perhaps mentally unstable. And not only that, when we brought her in and she testified at the hearing in the Parsons’ case, she agreed that every day she was coming in thinking that she was going to be disciplined for her erratic conduct,” Caster said. “So what better way for a forensic scientist to help save their job than to solve a cold murder case?”

Alex Barengo, ’17, an OIP Fellow who worked on the case, seconded this reasoning. He stated that the prosecution was “riddled with reasonable doubts” due to the late arrest of Mr. Parsons and Yezzo’s precarious position with her employer.

Fighting for Freedom
OIP investigations can take years to complete, and often the fellows working on the cases pass them down to others. In fact, Parsons’ case spanned ten years, 21 law students, and predated Caster’s time with the OIP.

Former OIP Fellow Jackie Welp, ’16, said this was the most frustrating aspect. “He is and was very sick and growing older as the process continued,” she said, recalling how slow the procedure sometimes moved. “It was very challenging to stay upbeat when it seemed like the testing would never be done.”

Barengo gave credit to the previous fellows, saying that the investigation of the case was already completed and he and his partner, Miranda Anandappa, ’17, had the responsibility of making sure everything was in place so nothing would go wrong in court.

After all the information was gathered, Caster filed for post-conviction relief and a new trial motion, telling the judge that Mr. Parsons was actually innocent and his trial was made unfair by the withholding of evidence by the state of Ohio.

The hearing, which lasted about a day, included testimony from witnesses, scientists, one of Mr. Parsons’ daughters, and several people from the State. A week later, Caster learned that the judge had ruled to overturn the verdict.

“The most rewarding part came a few weeks after the hearing up in Huron County,” Barengo expressed. “One of Mr. Parsons’ daughters sent us a picture of him at home with his family.”

Author: Michelle Flanagan ’18, Communication Intern

Center for Race, Gender, and Social Justice Receives University’s Marian Spencer Diversity Award


Cincinnati, OH—The University awarded the College of Law’s Center for Race, Gender, and Social Justice at Cincinnati Law the 2016 University of Cincinnati Marian Spencer Diversity Ambassador Award at the 8th Annual Diversity & Inclusion Conference.

Members of the Center

The Center, identified as an ambassador for diversity and inclusion, was honored for its impactful programming and efforts to prepare the next generation of attorneys to thrive in a diverse, global workforce. Co-directed by Emily Houh, Gustavus Henry Wald Professor of the Law and Contracts; Kristin Kalsem, Charles Hartsock Professor of Law; and Verna Williams, Judge Joseph P. Kinneary Professor of Law, the Center was formed six years ago.“Receiving the Spencer Award is humbling, given its namesake’s heroic efforts for social justice in Cincinnati. It inspires us to work even hard,” said Co-Director Williams.

The Center’s mission is to cultivate scholars, leaders, and activists for social change. To that end, it has three pillars: the Joint Degree JD/MA in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, the first of its kind in the nation; the Freedom Center Journal, a joint scholarly publication of the College and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, which examines issues of gender, sexuality, race, and class; the Domestic Violence and Civil Protection Order Clinic, a legal laboratory where students receive extensive training in the laws surrounding domestic violence and trial advocacy, while assisting battered women and their families; and its new community-based research arm. Through these program areas, the Center has been able to make an impact on a broad and long-lasting scale. An example of their efforts was advocating for Cincinnati City Council to pass a resolution declaring freedom from domestic violence a fundamental human right, the first such resolution passed in the country. In addition, it has hosted a variety of programming exploring a range of cutting edge issues: economic justice, domestic violence, civil rights and policing, hate crimes, philanthropy and women’s movements, same-sex marriage, fair housing, and social justice feminism, among many others.

About the Award
The Marian Spencer Diversity Ambassador Award, sponsored by the university’s Diversity Council, showcases current campus affiliated individuals and groups whose diversity initiatives have positively impacted the university. Recipients must meet one of several criteria: showing an awareness for diversity, exhibiting sensitivity to people of various cultures, helping colleagues/peers grow in the area of diversity, and preparing others to thrive in a diverse, global workforce. The award was named after UC alumna and activist Marian Spencer.

OIP Receives Spirit of America Award


OIP AwardCongratulations to the Ohio Innocence Project (OIP), honored with the Donald and Marian Spencer Spirit of America Award on Tuesday, May 10, 2016. The award, which was presented by the Cincinnatus Association, recognizes the OIP’s contributions to creating greater inclusion and prompting diversity in the community.

The OIP was honored for its work in freeing more innocent people than any other state-based innocence organization in the country, as well as its work in drafting and helping to pass groundbreaking reform legislation to decrease the chance that innocence Ohioans will be wrongfully convicted in the future.

The Spirit of America award was named for Donald and Marian Spencer, called the “first couple of civil rights in Cincinnati.” Donald Spencer, who died several years ago, was the first African American to serve on the Cincinnati Park Board, the first African American broker on the Cincinnati Board of Realtors, and the first African American trustee of Ohio University. Marian Spencer integrated Coney Island many years ago, was the first African American president of the Woman’s City Club, and was the first African American woman to serve on Cincinnati City Council.