15 new cases presented at students’ Spring Clinic Grand Rounds

The Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project (CRRJ) at Northeastern University School of Law, held their annual Spring Clinic Grand Rounds on April 23, 24 and 25, 2024.

These afternoon sessions, held in Dockser Hall and online, gave the clinic’s 15 participating students the opportunity to showcase case investigations, carefully and thoroughly undertaken during the semester, before a panel of scholars and experts. Some of the descendants of victims discussed by students were also in attendance, sharing in a retelling of their family history that had before then been unknown to them.

This year, the clinic was taught by Professor Margaret Burnham, CRRJ’s founder and director, and Professor Olivia Strange, one of CRRJ’s Elizabeth Zitrin Justice Fellows.

“This semester, our students were working in some really challenging jurisdictions across Louisiana and Tennessee and the cases covered a wide range of years, types of geography, and subject matter,” said Strange.

This work is always difficult, and to do this semester’s cases justice required a lot of creativity and collaboration. All of that was on display during the three days of Grand Rounds this year.

The 15 students each took 15 minutes to present their findings, followed by 15 minutes of questions and commentary from the panel.

“The students uncovered stories that touch on everything from labor justice to community organizing to police violence, reporting bias and more, and I thought that their presentations really deepened and helped solidify those findings,” said Strange.

On Tuesday, April 23, Charlotte Weiss, Dylan Morris, Kayla Fox, Michael Allen, and Angela Arzu each presented the following cases:

  1. George Brooks, Shelby County, Tennessee, 1938
  2. Robert Cotton, Shelby County, Tennessee, 1940
  3. Frizelle Reedus, Davidson County, Tennessee, 1953
  4. Archie Lee Harris, Davidson County, Tennessee, 1947
  5. William Henry Scruggs, Davidson County, Tennessee, 1937

Panelists for this session were Professor Darcelle Lahr, Mills College at Northeastern University; Vanderbilt University Law Professor Daniel Sharfstein, who is also Director of the George Barrett Social Justice Program; Postdoctoral Research Associate Korey Tillman, from Northeastern University’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice; Rose Zoltek-Jick, Northeastern Law Professor and CRRJ’s Associate Director; and Dr. Deborah A. Jackson, Director of Northeastern Law’s Center for Law, Equity, and Race (CLEAR).

Students present their investigations at the Spring Clinic Grand Rounds. Left to right: Dylan Morris, Charlotte Weiss, and Angela Arzu.
Students present their investigations at the Spring Clinic Grand Rounds. Left to right: Dylan Morris, Charlotte Weiss, and Angela Arzu.

The next afternoon, Elena Kuran, Annie Probert, Katrina Makayan, Sophia Sheng, and Nicholas Hill presented the following cases, respectively:

  1. Phillip Hatley, Shelby County, Tennessee, 1939
  2. Albert Gooden, Tipton County, Tennessee,1937
  3. John E. Davis, Caddo Parish, Louisiana, 1955
  4. Albert Reed, Caddo Parish, Louisiana, 1941
  5. Man Hall West, Bossier Parish, Louisiana, 1954

Panelists for this session were Dr. Jay Driskell, CRRJ historian; Professor Gary Joiner, Louisiana State University Shreveport; Kiana Pierre-Louis, Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Northeastern University School of Law; Northeastern Law Professor Hilary Robinson; and Director of Northeastern Law’s Community Business Clinic, Darryl Walton.

Students Anna Kennedy, Heather Atherton, Isabella Ulm, Morgan Heithcock, and Brianne Ortiz presented their work during the final session on Thursday afternoon.

Correspondingly, the five cases they presented were:

Find more cases on the Burnham-Nobles Digital Archive

About the Archive

The Burnham-Nobles Digital Archive houses case files and documents for more than 1,000 cases of racial homicides in the Jim Crow South. Co-founded by Melissa Nobles, professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Margaret Burnham, CRRJ director and professor of law at Northeastern, these uncovered stories highlight how violence affected lives, defined legal rights and shaped politics between 1930 and 1954.

  1. Alex Magill & Albert Collins, DeSoto Parish, Louisiana,1933
  2. George Simmons, Orleans Parish, Louisiana, 1930
  3. Sidney Batiste, Orleans Parish, Louisiana, 1953
  4. Joseph Bernard Hutchison, Orleans Parish, Louisiana, 1950
  5. Edward Smith, St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, 1953

Panelists for this session were Dr. Jackson; Professor Charles McKinney, Rhodes College; Gina Nortonsmith, Archivist for African American History at Northeastern University; Northeastern University Professor Emerita Emily Spieler, who is also a senior advisor to CRRJ; and Professor Zoltek-Jick.

During the spring semester, these clinic students, selected from across Northeastern’s Law and Journalism schools, were each assigned three or more cases. Only a rudimentary amount of material was available on each case, and in some instances, all that was known came from a single line in a long-forgotten news report.

Students then spent 15 weeks compiling files on each case. They searched for any official documents — death certificates, court records, coroners’ reports – pertaining to the cases. Once the basic facts were established, many of them were able to contact surviving relatives and community members who were willing to share their stories about the killings.

The CRRJ Clinic, founded in 2007 and headquartered at Northeastern Law School, offers opportunities for graduate students in law, journalism, media studies, and public history to work in two primary domains: the expanding field of historical redress, and contemporary criminal justice reform. The clinic’s mission is to help communities in the US engage with historical injustices in order to deepen the inquiry into structural racism and inequality.

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