Spreading awareness in the community

The main goal of the Tiffin University undergraduate chapter of the Ohio Innocence Project is to spread community awareness — their work will continue with the presentation of The East Cleveland Three on Feb. 19.

The East Cleveland Three are three men — named Eugene Johnson, Derrick Wheatt and Laurese Glover — who were arrested, convicted and sent to prison for a murder they did not commit.

In East Cleveland on Feb. 10, 1995, 19-year old Clifton Hudson Jr. was found murdered, shot multiple times. Witnesses reported seeing a person wearing dark clothing and a dark hat at the scene. Wheatt, Glover and Johnson happened to be near the scene, but they emphasized they left the area when the shooting started. Even after providing police with the description of the shooter, the three juveniles where charged with the crime.

“We have a great legal system, but people are human and mistakes happen,” Steven Hurwitz, professor of psychology and criminal justice at TU, said. “Our mission is to help spread awareness of wrongful convictions. People need to understand the real human costs when someone is imprisoned for a crime they did not commit.”

Through the work of the OIP, they secured the release of the three men in 2015, 20-years after their arrests.

Pierce Reed, program director, policy coordinator and system liaison of the OIP will also join the stage with the East Cleveland Three.

TU was invited to become the eighth college or university in Ohio to host an undergraduate chapter of the OIP. Hurwitz said TU hosted Mark Godsey of the OIP and exonoree Dean Gillespie in 2014. From there, students wanted to find a way to become involved but were unable to, having to be law students.

The OIP recently developed undergraduate chapters as a way to continue to spread community awareness about wrongful convictions.