It is no surprise that media and our society can sensationalize crime,
especially when cases involve interesting concepts or characters. While
widespread coverage can impact a case and lead to unfair assessments by
the public based on limited facts, it can also help raise support and
inspire new movements. That is precisely what has happened with an Ohio
murder case being handled by Attorney Ian N. Friedman.
The case in question, which was recently profiled by
Vice News, involves our client Bresha Meadows, who as a 14-year-old allegedly shot
and killed her father while he was sleeping. Following the shooting, Bresha
was taken into custody and charged with aggravated murder. However, according
to Bresha’s mother, her father had been assaulting and threatening
Bresha and her two older siblings for years.
In 2011, Bresha’s mother filed a police report for protection against
her now-deceased husband for both herself and her children. She also stated
that due to the family violence, Bresha suffered from depression, suicidal
thoughts, and other emotional issues, and was hospitalized last year.
According to her, Bresha was acting to protect herself and her siblings.
Justification in murder cases is a difficult legal concept, and it takes
on a new tone when viewed through the filter of a young child who has
been accused of committing the murder. There is also the added fact that
Bresha was detained for over 6 months, despite the fact that the average
length of pretrial detention in Ohio is under two weeks. In January, our
Cleveland Criminal Defense Attorney Ian N. Friedman was successful in
having the Trumball County Court
transfer our client to a treatment facility where she can receive assessment and care in the
months leading up to our trial date.
As Bresha’s story spread across the media and online, advocates have
begun to speak out on her behalf, often citing that pretrial detention
of a minor constitutes a human rights violations, especially given the
allegations of abuse. According to the Journal for Juvenile Justice, 30%
of the more than 20,000 youth detained for crimes each day in America
are female, and 84% of those young girls are victims of domestic violence.
What’s more, the Ohio Juvenile Justice Coalition reports that every
minor female in the state’s correctional system has been diagnosed
with a mental health disorder.
While Attorney Ian Friedman will be preparing Bresha’s case for trial,
the online community is continuing to show their support for the new mass
movement, often through the use of the #FreeBresha hashtag, which has
been a rallying cry of support appropriated by a number of social efforts
and causes. Social media accounts dedicated to the case have also gained
tens of thousands of followers.
The concept of criminal cases igniting mass social movements is not new,
but it has become more and more apparent in recent years, especially with
the progression of the mass media machine and social media platforms.
While such attention can complicate cases by tainting jury pools, they
can also raise important and profound questions about how we as a society
choose to charge and penalize individuals, including children, for crimes,
and how we may create exceptions or justifications based on unique circumstances.
Often, these types of movements can be helpful in pointing out failures
in our justice system, injustices, and issues that need attention, including
the Bresha’s lengthy pretrial detention and her years of being a
victim of abuse. If anything, the #FreeBresha movement is helping raise
awareness about mental health, family violence, and how our criminal justice
system handles cases involving victims who attempt to protect themselves
In the sensationalism surrounding these types of movements, it can be easy
to forget that there is a real case and a real person involved, in this
particular case a child who was victimized by her abusive father. While
the use of #FreeBresha can help illustrate similar issues of fairness
in related matters, those who become part of the mass movement should
be careful of misappropriation, and losing site of the fact that the movement
is rooted in a real life situation for which Attorney Ian Friedman and
our legal team are working tirelessly to right.
Continue following Ian Friedman’s
criminal defense blog for more updates on the case.