Monday, May 12, 2014
Co-editor David Singleton updates his post chronicling recent developments on transgendered, incarcerated women:
Last month I posted about the Ohio Justice & Policy Center’s victory on behalf of Antione “Whitney” Lee, a transgender inmate who brought suit against the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation (“ODRC”) to obtain estrogen hormone therapy. At the time of my last post, OJPC had just won a TRO hearing at which a federal court judge ordered ODRC to place Ms. Lee on hormone therapy pending a preliminary injunction hearing. On May 2, 2014, after a two-day hearing, the judge granted a preliminary injunction requiring ODRC to continue to provide Ms. Lee with hormone therapy pending trial. Ruling from the bench, the court stated that the defendant, Dr. Andrew Eddy, had acted with deliberate indifference – the standard for Eighth Amendment medical claims – in denying estrogen to Ms. Lee. Click here to read the Associated Press’ coverage of the preliminary injunction ruling. At this time it is unclear whether ODRC will appeal, or whether the case will settle or go to trial.
Meanwhile in Massachusetts, Michelle Kosilek’s effort to get the Massachusetts Department of Corrections (“MDOC”) to pay for gender reassignment surgery was back in court last week. Ms. Kosilek, given the birth name Robert, is presently serving a life prison term for killing spouse Cheryl Kosilek in 1990. Earlier this year, a three-judge panel of the federal First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a federal district judge’s order requiring the MDOC had to perform and pay for the surgery. However, the full appeals court voted to reconsider the case and heard arguments on May 8, 2014, as reported by the Associated Press. Stay tuned
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Co-Editor David Singleton writes about the detention of Tyra Patterson for the past 19 years after she fled the scene of a crime which ultimately ended in a killing. Despite having made efforts to stop the crime and despite overwhelming evidence that Tyra was not involved in the killing, Tyra remains incarcerated. Under Article Ten of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing…”. Likewise, the state is obligated not to tolerate rascism under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The author discusses defense counsel’s racism in not permitting Tyra to testify and the police deception that deprived Tyra of a fair hearing. The case raises the issue of the state’s obligation to do justice post-conviction where the state is informed of substantial new evidence including the ineffectiveness of counsel in the lower court..
For the past 19 years, Tyra Patterson has been incarcerated in the Ohio prison system for aggravated murder and robbery, crimes Ohio’s former Attorney General Jim Petro says she likely did not commit. Tyra’s saga began during the early morning hours of September 20, 1994, when she, at age 19, and a friend found themselves at the scene of a robbery in Dayton, Ohio. What began as a robbery of five young women sitting in a car became a murder when one of the robbers shot fifteen-year old Michelle Lai in the head. Tyra did not know three of the robbers and only knew the fourth casually. Playing the role of peacemaker, Tyra actually tried to stop the robbery but left with her friend after the shooter refused. After hearing a shot fired, Tyra and her friend ran back to her apartment where she called 911 to get help for the shooting victim.
Tyra did make a mistake that night. On her way back to her apartment, before the shot was fired, she saw a necklace lying on the ground. Thinking it was pretty she picked it up, even though she knew it had been thrown there by one of the robbers, who had grabbed it from one of the victims.
After hearing that someone had been shot, Tyra panicked and flushed the necklace down the toilet because she worried that it might implicate her in the robbery and shooting.
Because witnesses identified Tyra as one of the people at the scene, the police questioned her later that day. Most of the two-hour interrogation was not recorded. During the un-recorded portion, the lead Detective yelled at Tyra, telling her she was lying when she told the truth about picking the necklace off the ground. Finally, after the detective told Tyra that it would better to go down on robbery by admitting she grabbed the necklace from one of the victims than it would be to get convicted of murder, Tyra confessed to robbery, a crime she did not commit. The detective then charged her with both robbery and murder, under the felony-murder doctrine.
At trial, Tyra’s defense was ineffectual. Her lawyers refused to introduce thea 911 call she had made police to the crime, and discouraged her from testifying because she , in their words, “talked like she was from the ghetto” and would not be understood by the jury. Not surprisingly the jury convicted her.
The Ohio Justice & Policy Center has been handling Tyra’s case for over a year in an effort to get her clemency. In addition to the 911 call, which Tyra made from her home as the actual robbers fled to a motel to smoke crack and have sex, the following evidence points strongly to her actual innocence: (1) one of the victim’s testimony at the trial of one of the co-defendants that it was the co-defendant, not Tyra, who robbed one of the victims of the necklace; (2) the affidavits of three of Tyra’s co-defendants and two witnesses, all of whom corroborate Tyra’s innocence claim; (3) the results of polygraphs taken by Tyra, her four co-defendants and her friend showing that Tyra is telling the truth when she says that she did not participate in the robbery, tried to intervene on the victims’ behalf, and came into possession of a necklace by picking it up from the ground. After hearing the 911 call, six of the trial jurors submitted affidavits stating that they would likely not have convicted Tyra had that evidence come out at trial.
To learn more about this case and how you can help click here, where you can read all of the case documents that have been filed with the Parole Board as well as listen to Tyra’s 911 call. To sign Tyra’s change.org petition click here. You may listen here to Tyra talking about her false confession.