In the 2019 – 2020 term, the local Inn of Court chapter tackled social issues that the world is finally discussing. Before all the protests and demonstrations, the chapter organized programs for its members addressing social issues such as detrimental implicit bias in policing, explicit racism, and challenges within the criminal justice system. The chapter planned other socially relevant programs, but unfortunately, the coronavirus intervened and caused programs scheduled toward the end of the term to be postponed.
On November 12, 2019, Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings addressed the Inn and discussed how the Memphis Police Department recruits officers and polices the community. He also discussed how the department combats implicit bias within its ranks, as it strives to better serve Memphis’s residents. Officer Lance Wright, a lead trainer for the department, accompanied Director Rallings and presented on methods to recognize and alleviate harmful implicit bias in police departments.
On January 14, 2020, Dr. Peter Simi, Chapman University professor of sociology and leading expert on extremist groups, educated the chapter on the rise and cause of hate groups and hate crimes in America. Dr. Simi has studied hate groups for over 20 years and has interviewed extremists and immersed himself in their habitat. He shared his extensive experiences with the chapter members to help them understand and combat racist ideology.
On February 11, 2020, the Director and Lead Counsel for the Tennessee chapter of the Innocence Project, Jessica Van Dyke, educated the chapter on the Innocence Project’s work, which led to over 362 wrongfully convicted people being released from prison. She also discussed challenges within the criminal justice system that led to individuals being wrongfully convicted. Sabrina Butler, a wrongfully convicted mother who was exonerated through the Innocence Project, also presented at this program and discussed her experience navigating the criminal justice system.
Recently, a lot of attention has been paid to the 1921 Tulsa Massacre, but few people know about the 1919 Elaine Massacre, in which over 100 black residents of Elaine, Arkansas were murdered by white mobs and vigilante militias, aided by federal troops. United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Arkansas, Brian Miller, is a member of the Elaine Massacre Memorial Committee who had several relatives slain in this massacre. Judge Miller was scheduled to present on this topic at the March 18, 2020 meeting, but the program was cancelled because of the pandemic.
The chapter was going to further address issues within the criminal justice system by having Cyntoia Brown and her attorney, Houston Gordon (who is an Inn chapter member), present at its April 14, 2020 meeting, but that meeting also got cancelled. Ms. Brown was a sex trafficking victim granted clemency while serving a life sentence for killing a “John” who she alleges was trying to kill her when she was 16 years old. Ms. Brown and her attorney will discuss their experiences with the criminal justice system at a postponed program in the next term.