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Collinwood High School Student Prosecuted For Protest Over Teacher Layoffs Files Prejudice Affidavit Against McLaughlin Murray
Submitted by JournalistKathy... on Sun, 06/12/2011 - 01:40.
From the Metro Desk of the Kathy Wray Coleman Online News Blog.Com(www.kathywraycolemanonlinenewsblog.com)
A former Cleveland Collinwood High School student facing misdemeanor criminal charges brought by the City of Cleveland in what community activists say is a malicious prosecution in retaliation for participating in a peaceful student organized protest at the school last May over teacher layoffs and school closings has filed an affidavit of prejudice against the presiding judge in the case, seeking her immediate removal.
"The instant affidavit is based upon Affiant's [Destini Bronaugh's] true belief that Judge McLaughlin Murray has acted in a manner that has caused Affiant to question her impartiality and the fairness of the proceedings to warrant her disqualification," wrote Destini Bronaugh, 19, of Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Lynn McLaughlin Murray, the presiding judge in the case.
McLaughlin Murray was appointed to the municipal court bench in Jan. by outgoing Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland to serve out former Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Kathleen Ann Keough's unexpired six- year term and is running in this year's Nov. election in hopes of retaining the seat against popular opponent Pinkey Carr, a Cuyahoga County assistant prosecutor.
Bronaugh is facing misdemeanor charges of obstruction of official business and resisting arrest around the protest. She argues in the affidavit of prejudice, which will be determined by Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Presiding Judge Nancy Fuerst by statute, that McLaughlin Murray was handpicked for the case in violation of her due process right to a neutral arbiter of the law. The affidavit says further that McLaughlin Murray allegedly harassed her in violation of The Ohio Rules of Criminal Procedure in ordering her attendance at a pretrial hearing without an attorney to face the police officers that had brutality arrested her, and that the judge is governed by what Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, who controls the city schools via state law, wants her to do.
"Respondent McLaughlin Murray's bias and prejudice in this celebrated case are undoubtedly rooted in her advocacy of Mayor Jackson, Law Director Robert Triozzi and the prosecution. Her future depends on acceptance by these persons or venues since Jackson and Triozzi have endorsed her for her difficult election in November against Assistant County Prosecutor Pinkey Carr," the affidavit of prejudice reads in relevant part. "McLaughlin Murray was handpicked to preside. Triozzi, per the direction of Jackson, was willing to do anything possible on behalf of the predominantly Black City of Cleveland in an effort to criminalize Black children and to hurt their careers before they even get started with their professional lives, partly because of anger with the teachers union as to the projected teacher layoffs and tension between management and labor leaders over the then renegotiation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between The Cleveland Board of Education and The Cleveland Teachers Union."
The case arose when last spring several students at Collinwood High School protested the announced plans to close 16 city schools, all but one on the predominantly Black East Side of Cleveland, and to lay off approximately 800 teachers and other school employees across the school district. The protest, held on the sidewalk in front of the school, was entirely peaceful, and for most, if not all of the students, marked the first time they exercised their right of peaceful assembly and freedom of speech ensured by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Nonetheless, and in violation of protocol, school officials contacted the Fifth District Cleveland Police to detain and arrest all curfew violators, even though state law requires the issuance of a citation first, and district policy requires that district police handle any such situation.
Bronaugh's younger sister was arrested by Cleveland Fifth District Police for an alleged daytime curfew violation over the school protest, and when Bronaugh peacefully complained about it, she was arrested too. The encounter was captured on video and is on youtube.com under the title "Cleveland Police Brutalize Student Protesters," one that has generated more that 22,000 Internet hits.
All charges against Bronaugh's younger sister, including assault on a peace officer and resisting arrest, were dismissed last year by a Juvenile Court Magistrate as unfounded and because the arrest on a curfew violation without a previous citation violates state law. And though Bronaugh was originally indicted by a Cuyahoga County Grand Jury on a felony charge of assault against a peace officer and resisting arrest a common pleas judge dismissed those charges last year with the approval of County Prosecutor Bill Mason. Triozzi, however, brought back the misdemeanor resisting arrest charge on behalf of The City of Cleveland, and added a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of official business because he wants to "destroy Destini Bronaugh so bad," the affidavit of prejudice reads.
Bronaugh's mother, Tina Bronaugh, 42, says she hopes that McLaughlin Murray will recuse herself from the case on good faith and that the impropriety around the protest is indicative of educational malfeasance and a disrespect for the Black community and Black Cleveland schools students, in addition to a compete disregard of her daughters constitutional guarantees under the free speech clause of the First Amendment.
"School officials and the mayor had a legal responsibility to protect and supervise my daughters and the other students by virtue of In local parentis," said Tina Bronaugh."But instead, they acted incompetently and actually put them at harm because of a thirst to illegally arrest them to get at The Cleveland Teachers Union and in retaliation for the exercise of free speech that is protected under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution."
The elder Bronaugh said also that she believes that the unprovoked arrest of her daughters was motivated by racial animus and sexism since both are Black and female.
McLaughin Murray has 30 days to file a response, if any, to the affidavit of prejudice. If it is granted Fuerst must remove the judge, and by state law, assign a sitting judge from the county to hear the case. A trial date for June 16 must, by state law also, be postponed until Fuerst makes a ruling.
Activist groups such as The Imperial Women and Black on Black Crime, which is led by Community Activist Art McKoy, have staged protests on Destini Bronaugh's behalf and are calling for the dismissal of all charges against her. They say that they welcome McLaughin Murray's removal from the case.
"People have a right to a fair trial and a judiciary that is fair and unbiased," said Roz McAllister, a member of The Imperial Women, the grassroots group that fights on community issues and was founded around the tragic murders of 11 Black women on Cleveland's Imperial Ave, allegedly at the hands of accused serial killer Anthony Sowell, on trial now for the murders and a host of other charges.
Destini Bronaugh graduated last summer from Collinwood High School. The video of her brutal arrest by Cleveland Fifth District Police relative to the peaceful protest, and the arrest of her since vindicated younger sister can be seen at www.kathywraycolemanonlinenewsblog.com