Pre-Conference Institute: The Brain on Trial

7th annual FASD matters conference

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Pre-Conference Institute: FASD & the Brain on Trial

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) have major implications for just about every aspect of our legal system including our civil, juvenile, and criminal justice systems. In 2012, the American Bar Association collaborated with stakeholders including MOFAS to pass a unanimous resolution urging all attorneys, judges, and related professionals to receive training on FASD so the courts can better identify and respond more effectively to FASD.

This pre-conference session will focus on the intersection of FASD, the criminal justice system, and the courts. Presenters will cover a diverse range of topics designed to educate attendees on implications for the courts when working with people on the fetal alcohol spectrum. Through a series of panel discussions, a review of high-profile case studies, and discussion of lessons learned in the field, attendees will leave this session with a deeper understanding of the implications for courts and practical tools and strategies.

Moderated Sessions

Not Only the Guilty Confess: Understanding the Complexity of False Confessions

Every year, innocent people sit in prison and some on death row. A surprising number are there because they confessed to crimes that they did not commit. False confessions seem to go against common sense, yet they happen regularly. This session will explore why people confess to crimes they did not commit. We will delve into real-life high-profile false confessions. We will also explore how the brain injury associated with FASD and other related neurodevelopmental disabilities can increase vulnerability to false confessions.

Panelists:

Steve Kaplan: Steve is a litigator with the Fredrikson & Byron Law Firm in Minneapolis. For over 11 years he worked with a team of lawyers with the Innocence Project, the American Civil Liberties Union Capital Punishment project on the Damon Thibodeaux case. Damon was 22 years old when he falsely confessed to a crime that the did not commit and spent 16 years in prison and 15 years on death row before being exonerated.

Jonathan Krebs: Jonathan is a Hawkes Bay barrister in New Zealand. He is well known for his work in convincing the Privy Council to quash the murder conviction of Teina Pora. Teina is on the fetal alcohol spectrum and falsely confessed to a crime he did not commit when he was 17 years old and served more than 20 years in prison before he was paroled and the conviction was quashed.

Andrew Horne: Andrew is an attorney in New York and he worked with a team of lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union. Max was also on the fetal alcohol spectrum and confessed to a crime where he spent 35 years on death row for a crime he is widely thought to be innocent of. He died in prison just three days before a hearing may have cleared his name.


Sixteen to a Life Sentence: A Case Study of Cyntoia Brown

Cyntoia Brown was convicted as a child for murdering a Nashville man, Johnny Allen, who picked her up for sex. She was convicted more than a decade ago, and advocates for Brown say she was caught up in a sexual abuse and exploitation-to-prison pipeline. At 16 years old at the time of the crime, Brown has an FASD was the victim of sex trafficking. This session will be an in-depth case study and will explore the case with a lens towards intersectionality between issues of race, substance use disorders, disability, human trafficking, and the criminal justice system.

Panelists:

The Honorable Sheila Calloway: Judge Calloway was elected Juvenile Court Judge in August 2014. She also serves as Adjunct Professor at Vanderbilt University in the Undergraduate and Law School. Judge Calloway has highlighted Cyntoia’s case as one that demonstrates the need for reform.

Kathryn Sinback: Kathryn currently serves as the Court Administrator for the Juvenile Court in Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County. For nine years she worked as an attorney with the Metropolitan Public Defender’s Office, where she represented juveniles in delinquency cases and specialized in juvenile transfer litigations. She served as Cyntoia’s lawyer in Juvenile Court and has been in close contact with Cyntoia for over a decade.

Thomas Castelli: Thomas is Legal Director for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Tennessee. Prior to joining ACLU, he provided litigation counsel to individuals and businesses in a variety of areas of the law. He has is one of the authors of the ACLU Amicus Brief developed in support of Cyntoia Brown.


The Color of FASD: From Historical Trauma to Healing Justice and Beyond

This session will use an equity lens and will focus on how issues of race, disability, historical trauma, and the courts can intersect for youth and young adults coming into contact with the criminal justice system. This session will explore the root causes and consequences of historical trauma, how we treat youth in our justice system, what are the alternatives, and why healing on the individual and collective level are so important.

Panelists:

Shakti Butler: Shakti is a filmmaker and founder and President of World Trust Educational Services. Most recently, she has served as a diversity consultant and advisor on the Disney animated film, Zootopia, which focuses on the challenging bias and systemic inequity. Her current film project, Healing Justice: Cultivating a World of Belonging, is intended to popularize a national conversation about justice, responsibility, and healing.

Samuel Simmons: Samuel is a nationally renowned speaker on issues of historical trauma, systemic racism, and adverse childhood experiences. He has worked for over 27 years as a behavioral consultant specializing in practical culturally sensitive trauma-informed work with African American males and their families. For over a decade he has developed a culturally-specific trauma-informed curriculum that engages African American males to promote healthy relationships to end violence against women and girls and community violence.


The Building Blocks of Developing FASD Informed Courts

The Honorable Michael Jeffery: Judge Jeffery is a retired Superior Court Judge in the Second Judicial District in Barrow Alaska. He spent decades in Alaska’s courts working to find solutions that worked for individuals, including those with an FASD. He has been recognized for his years of experience and the ability to meet people where they are and treat them fairly.

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