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
OIP Receives Spirit of America Award
Congratulations 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.
US News Ranking Positions Cincinnati Law Within Top 50 Public Law Schools in the Nation
Cincinnati Law’s significant increase in employment and high bar passage earns results in its ranking among the top 50 public law schools by U.S. News & World Report.
Cincinnati, OH —The U.S. News & World Report has ranked Cincinnati Law #60 in the nation, up 22 places from last year.
Jennifer S. Bard, Dean and Nippert Professor of Law, remarked “We are very pleased by all the external recognition we received this year for producing meaningful outcomes. This includes specific programs such as our clinics, centers and other community collaborations. The U.S. News & World Report ranking reflects our high employment and bar passage rates as well as increased score in peer assessment. It is well deserved and due to the hard work of our faculty, staff, students and alumni.”
Mina Jones Jefferson, Senior Assistant Dean and Director of the Center for Professional Development, elaborated on last year’s 13 percent increase in employment. “For the Class of 2014, 88 percent found employment within 10 months of graduation, a placement above both state and national averages and we are on target to do just as well with the Class of 2015.”
Dean Bard further stated “These outcomes, combined with the high quality legal education our faculty and staff offers students, the strength of our first class research university, and the success and commitment of our wonderful alumni explain why Cincinnati Law is consistently recognized as an ‘A’ level ‘Best Value’ law school.”
The U.S. News ranking follows recent recognition by several similar publications that have assessed the strong Cincinnati Law program:
- 3rd in the Nation for Prosecutor and Public Defender Careers. (preLaw magazine, Winter edition)
- Among the Top 20 Schools for Law Students Interested in Prosecutorial/Public Defender Work. (National Jurist magazine)
- Top 30 School for Super Lawyers. The college, which came in at 28* in the nation, had 13.1 percent of its alumni being considered a Super Lawyer. (*The National Jurist Fall 2015 edition).
- 40th in the Nation and 10th in the Midwest for JD-Required Positions. (ChicagoINNO)
- Among the top 50 Law Schools in the Country for Sending Graduates to the top 250 Law Firms. (National Law Journal)
- Top School for Practical Training. Named to the 2016 honor roll for “Best School for Practical Training” (National Jurist magazine). Ranked a top law school for practical training (National Jurist magazine, 2015 and 2014)
- Best Value Law School Ranking. Named a Best Value Law School for the third year and second consecutive year, respectively. (National Jurist and preLaw magazines)
Dinsmore & Shohl LLP elects alumni Thomas M. Connor, Kristin Leinhart and Michael Proctor as partners
CINCINNATI (January 6, 2016) – Dinsmore & Shohl LLP is pleased to announce five Cincinnati attorneys have been named Partner. April L. Besl, Thomas M. Connor, Allison H. Kropp, Kristin M. Lenhart and Faith C. Whittaker were elected to partnership effective January 1, 2016. Fourteen attorneys across the firm have been promoted to Partner this year.
“I am proud to welcome the newest attorneys elected to partnership. They share a passion for the practice of law and a commitment to serving our clients that we value at Dinsmore,” said George H. Vincent, Managing Partner & Chairman. “It has been a pleasure to see them advance in our profession and achieve this accomplishment.”
Thomas M. Connor- Cincinnati, OH
A partner in the Litigation Department, Tom is an experienced litigator, having handled trials, mediations, negotiations, and client counseling in a wide variety of matters. These include product liability and mass tort litigation, toxic tort matters, natural resources and land use disputes, intellectual property litigation, software and information-technology related litigation, contract matters, as well as defense of health care providers and hospitals. Tom has extensive experience practicing in both state and federal courts throughout much of the Midwest, including experience in complex and multi-district litigation.
For nearly a decade prior to his law career, Tom worked in a series of information technology leadership roles at one of the world’s largest and most diverse technology and manufacturing corporations. He worked with business partners to design, develop and implement a wide variety of complex technology and business process reengineering solutions to address business challenges and opportunities. As an attorney, he has leveraged this background to better understand the operations and legal needs of his business clients. Tom also has worked with technical personnel leading sophisticated large-scale e-Discovery efforts involving traditional business documents as well as non-traditional e-Discovery involving structured enterprise systems data, CRM systems, and CAD engineering drawings. p>In the course of his litigation work, Tom has developed a thorough understanding of the Medicare Secondary Payer statute and has advised clients on all aspects of litigating and settling cases that may give rise to Medicare reimbursement or reporting obligations. He is a member of the firm’s Information Systems and e-Discovery committees. He earned his J.D. from the University of Cincinnati College of Law.
Kristin M. Lenhart- Cincinnati, OH
A member of the Corporate Department, Kristin represents a variety of individuals in estate planning and probate and trust administration matters. Focusing largely on the planning side, Kristin leverages a practical, real-world approach to helping clients minimize the complications associated with the transfer of wealth. Understanding that estate planning sometimes involves an emotional component and complex family dynamics, Kristin tailors her approach to each client, quickly discerning their goals and laying out a strategy to help them get there. By building relationships with clients, Kristin is also able to advise them on other matters, including general business needs, business and LLC formation and implementing business succession plans.
Building on her past experience with a large accounting firm, Kristin also advises closely-held businesses, charitable organizations and family foundations on a variety of tax and business matters.
Beyond her practice, Kristin enjoys writing and in 2012 co-authored a children’s book called “The Notre Dame Spirit,” which highlights the picturesque and legendary South Bend campus through the eyes of a first-time visitor. She earned her J.D. from the University of Cincinnati College of Law.
Michael R. Proctor- Morgantown, WV
A member of the Litigation Department, Michael handles business disputes throughout Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Mike also has extensive bankruptcy experience, representing creditors in all phases of bankruptcy, including claim litigation, nondischargeability actions and preferential transfers.
Overall, Mike’s litigation experience is wide-ranging and includes UCC Article 9 litigation, litigation under the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act, deliberate intent and employment litigation, contractual disputes and oil and gas production disputes. Some specific examples of Mike’s experience include: administration of class action funds on behalf of a local governmental entity, immunity of governmental entities in performing administrative duties, litigation of the co-extensive jurisdiction of the bankruptcy courts and district courts, and providing advice to common carriers regarding Federal Transit Administration procurement regulations. He earned his J.D. from the University of Cincinnati College of Law.
About Dinsmore & Shohl
Dinsmore & Shohl is comprised of 625 attorneys with locations in 21 cities throughout California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C. and West Virginia. For more than a century, Dinsmore has provided a broad range of integrated services to meet the needs of both large and small businesses as well as institutions, associations, governments, professional firms and individuals. For more information, please visit www.dinsmore.com.
Tarik Haskins '03 Named Fellow of the American Bar Foundation
Wilmington, DE (August 26, 2015) – Morris, Nichols, Arsht & Tunnell LLP partner Tarik J. Haskins has been named a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation. An honorary organization of attorneys, judges, law faculty, and legal scholars, the Fellows demonstrate outstanding achievements and dedication to the welfare of their communities and to the highest principles of the legal profession.
Established in 1955 to support the research of the American Bar Foundation, membership is limited to less than one percent of lawyers licensed to practice in each jurisdiction. Members are nominated by Fellows in their jurisdiction and elected by the Board of the American Bar Foundation.
As a member of the Morris Nichols Commercial Law Counseling Group, Tarik’s practice covers a range of commercial transactions, including mergers and acquisitions, secured financings, joint ventures, and business counseling.
He serves on the Morris Nichols Executive Committee and chairs the firm’s Diversity Committee. A leader in the local community, Tarik was appointed by Governor Markell as a member of the Delaware Council on Development Finance and serves as a director of the Prestige Academy. He also serves on many committees of the American Bar Association and the Delaware State Bar Association.
About The American Bar Foundation
The American Bar Foundation’s mission is to serve the legal profession, the public, and the academy through empirical research, publications, and programs that advance justice and the understanding of law and its impact on society. Primary funding for the ABF is provided by the Fellows of the American Bar Foundation and the American Bar Endowment. Learn more at www.americanbarfoundation.org.
About Morris, Nichols, Arsht & Tunnell LLP
Morris Nichols combines a broad national practice of corporate, intellectual property, business reorganization and restructuring, commercial law and litigation with a general business, tax, estate planning and real estate practice within the State of Delaware. The firm is regularly involved as lead counsel or co-counsel in matters of national and international significance, as well as those affecting its immediate community.
Graydon Head & Ritchey LLP hires Maria Moyer '12
Maria K. Moyer has joined Graydon Head & Ritchey LLP as an Associate attorney. Maria will be working primarily in the Estate Planning and Administration group. Most recently, Maria was an associate practicing in estate and trust planning and administration with Vorys Sater, Seymour and Pease. Previously, she practiced in that area with the law firm of Ritter and Randolph.
Maria is a 2012 graduate of the University of Cincinnati College of Law, where she earned her J.D., and a 2009 graduate of the University of Cincinnati College of Business, where she earned her BA of Business Administration in Marketing and Entrepreneurship. Visit our website for more information about Maria
Graydon Head attorneys serve clients in a variety of industries with particular experience working with clients in: banking and financial services; commercial real estate; media, communications and information; construction; health, education and human services; and manufacturing. The Firm’s personal planning group provides legal counsel to many local business owners and their executives and families in the estate planning and administration area. With offices Downtown on Fountain Square, in Northern Kentucky at the Chamber Center, and in the Butler/Warren area at University Pointe, the Firm provides convenient accessibility to clients in key areas of the growing Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky region.
Law Firm Strauss Troy Adds Attorney Christopher "Kit" Houston
CINCINNATI, OH--(Marketwired - October 27, 2015) - Strauss Troy, a leading law firm with offices in Ohio and Kentucky, announces that Attorney Christopher Houston has joined the firm. Houston has significant first-chair trial experience and strives to obtain fast and efficient results for his clients, whether at trial, through motions practice, mediation, arbitration -- or even avoiding the judicial process all together.
"Kit brings valuable expertise to our Litigation Practice Group," said Marshall Dosker, Strauss Troy president. "His diverse experience in aviation; construction; financial services; healthcare; natural resources, and oil and gas makes him an excellent addition to our firm."
Houston focuses his practice in federal and state court, primarily in the areas of business, real estate and commercial litigation. He has represented clients in a vast-range of legal disputes including: breach of contract; collections; construction; personal injury; prosecuting and defending consumer claims, and many other areas where his clients encounter legal challenges in either their personal lives or business activities. He has spent substantial time working with local banks to protect their interests in distressed loans, both in state court and bankruptcy court.
Houston's experience isn't limited to the courtroom. He also serves many clients in the acquisition and sale of real estate. This work has included representing a commercial developer responsible for the purchase and development of more than 100 parcels throughout an eight-state region. Additionally, he has advised oil and gas exploration companies on issues related to development of the Utica Shale.
An experienced pilot, Houston holds his multi-engine commercial certificate, as well as various flight instructor ratings. His Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) 121 certificate gives him significant experience in the operating requirements for domestic, flag and supplemental operations. This makes him the ideal attorney for any aviation issue.
Houston is licensed to practice in Ohio; Kentucky; U.S. District Court - Southern District of Ohio; U.S. District Court -- Eastern District of Kentucky, and U.S. District Court -- Western District of Kentucky. He holds a J.D. from the University of Cincinnati, Taft College of Law and a bachelor's degree from the University of Tennessee.
About Strauss Troy
As a full-service law firm founded in 1953, Strauss Troy has diverse expertise and a history of proven success. No matter what issue you face, the firm has the right professionals, working together as a team, to get you the answers you need quickly and affordably. Strauss Troy's Practice Groups include: Corporate | Business, Criminal | White Collar Defense, Domestic Relations | Family Law, Labor | Employment, Litigation, Municipal | Government, Real Estate | Finance, Tax Planning | Compliance and Trust | Estate Planning.
Strauss Troy, a leading law firm in the Greater Cincinnati | Northern Kentucky region, is a Martindale-Hubbell Top Ranked Law Firm™ in Fortune Magazine and a U.S. News & World Report Best® Law Firm. Many of its attorneys are honored as peer-rated Martindale-Hubbell AV® Preeminent™ Attorneys, Best Lawyers® in America, Super Lawyers® and Rising Stars.
Donald J. Mooney, Jr. '75 Receives Award from the Society of Professional Journalists, Greater Cincinnati Pro Chapter
Cincinnati-based attorney Donald J. Mooney, Jr. will receive the 2015 Excellence in Journalism in Written Communication “Editorial” award from the Society of Professional Journalists, Greater Cincinnati Pro Chapter. The award is in recognition for Mr. Mooney’s bi-monthly commentaries titled “Another View” written for Cincy Magazine. He will receive the award on June 18, 2015 at the Annual Excellence in Journalism Awards Program held in downtown Cincinnati.
The Society of Professional Journalists promotes and protects a free press and the highest standard of professional ethics, providing a climate in which journalism can be practiced freely and to unite Cincinnati journalists behind those goals. The Greater Cincinnati Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists works with community partners in the region to host events and recognize the best of Cincinnati journalism.
Mr. Mooney is a certified specialist in employment labor and law. With over 35 years of experience, his practice concentrates on civil trials and appeals; employment and labor relations; antitrust, trade secrets, securities and business litigation; and land use law. He represents employers in federal and state litigation involving noncompete agreements and discrimination. In SEC investigations and related securities litigation, he represents officers of companies.
In addition to his roles as a practicing attorney and columnist in Cincy Magazine, Mr. Mooney is a frequent writer and speaker. He has received the highest rating, AV Preeminent®, from Martindale-Hubbell® and has been named an Ohio Super Lawyer. He earned his B.A., cum laude, from University of Notre Dame and his J.D. from the University of Cincinnati.
About Ulmer & Berne LLP
Ulmer & Berne, established in 1908, is a full-service law firm focused on exceeding client expectations and delivering superior, customized legal solutions for an exceptional value. Its more than 180 attorneys, located in Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus, serve as counselors and partners to a wide range of clients to help them solve their business challenges and achieve their goals. The firm represents publicly traded and privately held companies, financial institutions, hedge funds, private equity funds, pharmaceutical companies, international joint ventures and affiliations, investor groups, family offices, start-ups and emerging businesses, public bodies and nonprofit organizations. For more information, please visit ulmer.com.
Patricia Kirkwood Burgess '94 returns to Northern Kentucky as a member of Frost Brown Todd in Florence
June 15, 2015 (Florence, KY) – Frost Brown Todd (FBT) is pleased to announce the relocation of Patricia (Trish) Kirkwood Burgess to the firm’s Florence office, after nine years of serving as a member in the Lexington, Kentucky, location. Burgess is a native of Northern Kentucky with strong ties in the region.
“It’s very exciting to be back in this area where I grew up, was educated all the way from grade school through law school, and still have many close connections. I look forward to serving this community the same way I have served clients and the wider community in Lexington,” she says.
As a trusted legal adviser for more than 20 years, Burgess places great emphasis on understanding all aspects of her clients’ businesses to focus not only on legal issues, but also the practical implications of those issues on their businesses and lives. She practices in business and commercial litigation, and bankruptcy and reorganization law, and helps individuals and companies of all sizes navigate financial difficulties and legal issues to reach innovative, cost-effective and efficient solutions. She is a member of the Kentucky, Ohio and American Bar Associations, and of the American Bankruptcy Institute. She received a bachelor’s degree from Thomas More College in 1991, and her law degree from the University of Cincinnati in 1994.
Burgess joins 12 other legal professionals as the only female member in FBT’s Florence office. The team is led by member-in-charge Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III, who served as the 135th President of the American Bar Association. The attorneys in the office serve in community leadership roles throughout the region for companies and organizations such as the Kenton County Airport, Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, Redwood School and Rehabilitation Center and The Kentucky Symphony Orchestra.
About Frost Brown Todd
Frost Brown Todd is a full-service law firm serving some of America’s top corporations and emerging companies. With attorneys regularly identified by clients, peers and industry organizations as leaders in their practice areas, the firm advises and protects clients in business transactions and litigation in industries including insurance, banking, financial services, manufacturing, transportation, real estate, construction, energy and healthcare. Its over 475 attorneys in ten offices throughout Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia provide unparalleled service to meet clients’ needs; deliver the insights and solutions available only from a diverse group of professionals; and support the communities in which they operate. To learn more, visit www.frostbrowntodd.com.
Professor Chris Bryant to Speak at Taft National Historic Site Program
A. Christopher Bryant, Rufus King Professor of Constitutional Law at the College, will be the keynote speaker this week at the William Howard Taft National Historic Site Summer Tea Program. Professor Bryant will speak about President Taft (a College of Law graduate!) and his relationship with the law school. The program will be held tomorrow, July 29th , beginning at 1:00 p.m.
The program is free and open to the public; reservations and additional information can be made by calling 513-684-3262.