Wrongfully convicted man discusses ordeal

Students and community members gathered Wednesday night on the Youngstown State University campus to hear a man exonerated from a life sentence speak about his experiences in the legal system.

In 1995, 19-year-old Clifton Hudson was gunned down in East Cleveland. The police had few clues to go on except for a handful of eyewitnesses, according to the National Registry of Exonerations. According to Laurese Glover, one witness, a 14-year-old girl at the time, was pressured into identifying a suspect who lived in the neighborhood.

Glover, who had no criminal record, and three other men, all teenagers, were arrested. All three maintained their innocence and refused to accept plea deals by testifying against each other. All three received harsh sentences of 15 years to life.

In 2016, after the witness recanted, and proof that police and prosecutors had buried exonerating evidence surfaced, Glover and his co-defendants were released from prison, according to the Registry.

The YSU event began with a short YouTube documentary that included interviews with all three exonerated men. The audience sat in silence.

Glover then walked to the head of the room and was introduced by Pierce Reed, director of policy and engagement for the University of Cincinnati College of Law.

Reed also is involved in the Ohio Innocence Project, which sponsored the evening’s talk, a nonprofit legal organization that works to exonerate wrongly convicted persons currently in the legal system and to spearhead legal reform.

It has been nine years since Glover was exonerated.

Rather than a hardened, rage-filled man, he was soft-spoken and smiling as he described the trials of being wrongly convicted.

“If you hold onto hate or animosity for everyone that played a part in your going to prison,” Glover asked, “Then how will you ever find your own sense of peace? You can’t be happy if you go on hardening your heart, it takes too much energy.”

Twenty years had elapsed since Glover was first arrested, and he found much had changed since he was last a free man.

“The first 72 hours (after release) is great,” Glover said. “Then reality sets in.” Technology was different, entertainment was different.”

He did not have many job skills after his time in prison. But Glover refused to let these new trials defeat him.

He said, “Every time I got frustrated, I just remembered where I came from.”

In 2017, all three wrongly convicted men won lawsuits against Cuyahoga County and East Cleveland. Cuyahoga settled for an award of $1.5 million each, and East Cleveland was ordered to pay $5 million to each man in a jury trial, according to the registry.

What might seem like a lot of money is actually limited by the realities of the civil system, Glover explained. “We won against these people, we won $5 million,” Glover said, “but the judge ordered it was just against the officers and not the city of Cleveland, so we’re probably not going to see a dime of that $5 million,” he continued. “If we hadn’t taken that $1.5 million from the county, we wouldn’t have seen a dime.”

Then lawyers take 40% of any award, he further explained. Glover and his co-defendants had to wait for years for these judgments to be awarded.

While taking questions, several people asked Glover about polygraph tests and testifying in his own defense.

“We just did whatever our lawyers told us,” Glover responded. “We were just kids. We did not know anything about anything.”

Reed, who is a lawyer himself, explained that false convictions are not always the result of corrupt law enforcement or inadequate counsel. Often false convictions are simply mistakes.

This is the reason for the Innocence Project, he said, but they are hampered by money and lack of staff.

During the questions portion of the program, Glover said his Christian faith helped him get through his prison time. “Faith is the only thing you hold onto.”

When asked by an audience member, “What is your strength and motivation?” Glover smiled and responded, “It’s the little things you take for granted, like being able to just go and open the refrigerator anytime I want.”

Jada Judy, a YSU freshman in the prelaw program who attended the event, said she was pleased to learn there are organizations out there doing real work for people who need it.

“As an aspiring attorney myself. I think it is very inspiring that there are good people out there who I can hopefully reach out and spread awareness about to other people and hopefully help more people,” she said.

At YSU, professor of Criminal Justice Christopher Bellas is helping to found a student club devoted to the Innocence Project.

“The Innocence Project in Ohio has done great work and our goal at Youngstown State is to spread awareness about those who have experienced a miscarriage of justice,” Bellas wrote in an email. “Our student organization is new, but growing every day, and we are excited to have students not just from criminal justice, but social work, prelaw, forensic science and more. We are grateful that Mr. Glover came to YSU to share his story.”

Along with educating others by sharing his experience, Glover says now, “I just try to live every day and enjoy every day to the fullest.”


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