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 and others.
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.