FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Whistleblower judge can’t get a fair trial in Cincinnati, Ohio
Cincinnati, OH – August 16, 2014 – The first African-American and the first Democrat to ever become a judge in the Hamilton County court’s 109-year history, Tracie Hunter became a whistleblower last year when she began reporting inaccuracies and corruption in the juvenile court system. She has since come under fire as the defendant of over 30 lawsuits and nine felony charges. Hunter spoke out in court Thursday, saying, “It has become clear that I cannot get a fair hearing in Hamilton County.” Hunter’s supporters and several civil rights organizations have requested that the Department of Justice intervene, as they believe that Hunter cannot get a fair trial in Hamilton County. According to these supporters, there has been no word on whether the Department of Justice plans to get involved.
Judge Hunter won her seat after a $2 million heated court battle and numerous appeals by Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph Deters. The Hamilton County Board of Elections rejected provisional ballots for more than 800 voters from majority black precincts when it was found that poll workers were responsible for disqualifying voters by sending them to the wrong booth. The rejection of provisional ballots awarded Judge Hunter’s opponent, John Williams, a 23-point lead, invoking the court battle. Judge Hunter sued the Hamilton County Board of Elections for voter suppression in the U.S. District Court, after it was revealed that poll workers caused the errors. Her landmark case, Hunter v. Hamilton County Board of Elections, later upheld by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, paved the way for all Ohio voters to have their provisional ballots counted when rejected due to poll-workers error.
To date, the defense has only received attendance records from the prosecutor’s office and none of the other documents that were requested in their motion for discovery.
Assistant prosecutor Pamela Sears stated that “The court and Mr. Kissinger and staff have spent about 25 hours searching emails to determine which we viewed as relevant and we are done doing that.” Of the outstanding subpoenas, Sears said “one of which I think we’ve already complied with, the second of which I think we will comply with, and the third of which I have no intention to comply with.” Special prosecutor Crosswell said that he “does not believe that the defense’s request for discovery evidence is a fishing expedition.” Refusing to comply with a motion for discovery is a violation of Rules 16 and 17 of the Ohio Rules for Criminal Procedure.
During the previous pretrial hearing on August 6th, Sears stated that the reason they would not turn over requested discovery evidence is because “there was not enough time.” Bennett objected to this claim, stating, “These documents were requested months ago.” According to the Hamilton County Clerk’s website, discovery evidence was first requested by the defense attorney on February 25th. Special prosecutors filed their motion for discovery on March 20th and the defense attorney turned over documents on that same day.
Special prosecutors Merlyn Shiverdecker and R. Scott Crosswell III, appointed by Prosecutor Joseph Deters, who had to recuse himself due to conflicts of interest, made allegations that Judge Hunter was “trying to manipulate and game the system”, however these allegations are not consistent with Judge Hunter’s 25+ years of service to the Cincinnati community. As a juvenile court judge, Hunter has been an advocate for the children of Hamilton County, ensuring that the Hamilton County Juvenile Court system protected the constitutional rights of juveniles in their custody. She put an end to shackling of children in her courtroom, ordered the juvenile detention center to stop making the children share undergarments, and stopped the media from putting the names and faces of accused children in the newspaper and on television. Prior to coming to the court, in an effort to rebuild community and curb urban violence, Hunter led over 200 prayer walks in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky’s toughest neighborhoods; and has taught over 100 churches how to organize prayer walking missions. Guidepost Magazine documented that in April 2002, a prayer walk Hunter’s team coordinated with over 1000 people was instrumental in squelching a violent uprising during civil unrest in Cincinnati.
Subsequently, Judge Hunter stated in her own defense, “I would like to say very clearly to Mr. Croswell that before I am Judge I am a Pastor of a Church, and I take great exception to your disparagement of my name in this courtroom today. I am not sure about what you meant when you said ‘this defendant is gaming the system’, but let’s be clear here, the only gaming that is going on in Hamilton County is by the Hamilton County Juvenile Court, Judge John Williams, Curt Kissinger, and Connie Murdock….”
Nearly 15 of Hunter’s supporters were not allowed to enter the courtroom for Thursday’s hearing, while half the courtroom remained empty. Supporters say that they were told that there was no more room in the courtroom, and that the empty seats were reserved for media. Only five media outlets signed requests for press passes, however, which is fairly consistent with press pass requests for Hunter’s previous court dates. Hunter returns to court for another pretrial hearing on Tuesday, August 19th, and trial starts on September 8th. For a complete case study, please contact Vanessa Enoch at firstname.lastname@example.org or Cheri Franklin-Scott at email@example.com.
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