Justice Opinion

My thoughts about the justice stories that are hitting the headlines -- with a focus on stories about race, guns, and self-defense. Find out where I stand.

Justice Outreach

This is the platform for our justice advocacy efforts, currently focused on the Talking Race Project, The Hurt Words Project, and Juvenile Outreach. Find out what we’re up to.

Justice Education

I frequently conduct CLEs and seminars for Bar Associations, Criminal Defense Associations, the National Trial Lawyers, and law schools. Find out what I’m talking about.

Justice Stories You May Have Missed This Week

Written by Mark O'Mara on . Posted in Opinion

This week, international stories dominated the news cycle, and that means some justice issues that normally would have received more coverage were buried. Here are a couple stories I think you should know about:

Shanesha Taylor

When Shanesha Taylor’s babysitter fell through, this homeless, single, war veteran mother made a desperate decision: she left her young children alone in a car for 38 minutes in 70 degree temperature while she went to a job interview. When she returned, her children had been taken away, and she found herself charged with two counts of felony child abuse. Last Friday, prosecutors offered a pre-trial diversion plan that will allow Shanesha to avoid prosecution. My team helped Shanesha and her lawyer handle the press in this high-profile case. Yesterday, Shanesha spoke out for the first time on the Today Show.

Ranesha McBride

Last winter, Ranesha McBride, intoxicated, was banging on a stranger’s door in the middle of the night. The resident, Ted Wafer, opened the door and, seconds later, shot McBride in the face after she allegedly tried to push through his screen door. The trial started this week, and while the defense should have a classic self-defense scenario, Wafer confused the issue when he claimed the shotgun went off accidentally. An accidental shooting could be manslaughter. A self-defense shooting is justifiable homicide. It will be interesting to see how the defense deals with this problem.

Here’s a report on the trial from this week.

Here’s my take on the defense’s dilemma from and opinion I wrote last year.

Another Botched Execution

Wednesday, Joseph Wood struggled to breathe for nearly two hours during a botched lethal injection in Arizona. This comes just months after an execution-gone-wrong in Oklahoma convinced the governor to temporarily put a hold on executions while they investigated what went wrong. Last week a Federal Judge in California ruled the death penalty in that state is unconstitutional -- mostly because of the “dysfunctional administration of California’s death penalty system.”

In April, I wrote an op-ed for CNN entitled “Execution, a 19th Century Relic We Still Can’t Get Right.”

Read a report about the most recent botched execution.

Here’s a report about the California decision.

Launching the TalkingRace Project

Written by Mark O'Mara on . Posted in Outreach

talking race stacked

Next week, we’re officially launching the TalkingRace project, and we expect to get some press. For the project, we’re working with sociologist Dr. JeffriAnne Wilder, and were asking four questions: When were you born? Where were you raised? How do you self-identify with race? And what was your first experience with race?

We’re collecting the stories on our TalkingRace.com website, and I hope you’ll consider anonymously sharing your experience. I thinks this project has the potential to get to the heart of the race problem in America, and start a real constructive conversation -- but to do it, I’ll need your help.

You can hear and contribute race stories at TalkingRace.com.

University Legal Services Programs

Written by Mark O'Mara on . Posted in Education

student legal services

I had an opportunity over the weekend to, in effect, go back home. That is -- I gave a talk to a group of about 200 lawyers who run legal services programs at the university level. I say “go back home” because when I was involved in student government at UCF, I started the legal services program there, and I actually hired the woman who is retiring from that position this year.

Waiting for a Verdict

Written by Mark O'Mara on . Posted in Opinion

waiting mark

Sunday marked a year since the Zimmerman verdict.

July 13, 2013 fell on a Saturday. The afternoon before, I made my closing argument and left the matter in the hands of the jury. When the jury chose to recess just after 5:00 PM, I had hoped that they had quickly reached an “not guilty” verdict. Perhaps the court decided to wait until the next day so they could make preparations for an orderly presentation, considering the intense media coverage.

By mid-morning Saturday, those hopes were dashed as it became clear the jury was locked in deliberations.