For Angela McCullough (the Angela McCullough referenced at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-judges-misconduct-specialreport/special-report-thousands-of-u-s-judges-who-broke-laws-oaths-remained-on-the-bench-idUSKBN2411WG?utm_source=JP+Morning+Read+List+2018&utm_campaign=462255539c-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_4_25_2018_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_9b20a09eef-462255539c-125085925&fbclid=IwAR2DMTo9oBWO06uYRT18KCnwzkYvzSRXSsAt69jvFN-q5uDeyog90hceUJQ)
As I mention in my bio, I was a lawyer for all of a minute. Before that, I was a mediocre law school student. But I do recall one or two things from the basic contracts class I took, including that, under the right circumstances, a public announcement can create a binding contract. Angela McCullough: I am trying to create a binding contract that will entitle you to hold me accountable -- so that I HAVE A LEGAL DUTY TO YOU to make good on my words here and in my video (episode 5 of Doomsday Happy Hour)....
A contract doesn't need to be a written document signed by two people/companies. All you need is what's called 'offer' and 'acceptance.' So if I wrote up a contract offering Bob Smith $20 for doing something and Bob signed the contract, you'd have 'offer' (from me, because I prepared the contract) and 'acceptance' (from Bob, because he signed it) -- even if I forgot to countersign the contract after Bob returned it to me with his signature.
But let's say I were a company that made chewing gum and I put out an ad promising a new BMW to anyone who filmed him or herself blowing bubbles with my brand of gum while hopping on one foot for 60 minutes. I really meant for this to be a publicity stunt because I figured no one would have the stamina to hop on one foot for an hour, and even if someone was strong enough, how would he/she be able to breathe and blow bubbles while hopping around for so long? And even if someone could do all of this at once, how would this amazing bubble-blowing athlete also be able to record in selfie mode for an hour? So what I, the gum manufacturer, expected would happen was: people would run in record numbers to buy my product (making me a small fortune), and on top of that, I'd probably get a ton of free press -- based on news of the nationwide rush to buy my gum, the crazy number of people trying to film themselves hopping on one foot for so long, and perhaps even some funny candid-camera videos of people falling over while attempting my challenge. But what I never counted on were freestanding tripods that allowed a bunch of people (presumably all folks with amazing stamina and super strong leg muscles) to pass the challenge and claim the BMWs I'd offered. In this case, I would owe these people BMWs because I'd promised in the ad that if they did X, I'd give them Y and based on my promise, they did X. (For all you future lawyers out there, this is called acceptance through 'performance.')
Ms. McCullough, this is what I am trying to do with you. I am trying to give you contractual rights to $1,350 from me. I want you to understand that my offer is sincere, and the best way I know of to do this is to give you legally enforceable rights against me, so you can hold my feet to the fire, so to speak. So here are the conditions:
1) You need to show me, somehow, that you are the Angela McCullough mentioned in the recent Reuters article about miscarriages of justice across the U.S. (The article, linked above, is entitled Special Report: Thousands of U.S. judges who broke laws, oaths remained on the bench, and its co-authors are Michael Berens and John Shiffman.)
I expect that there are multiple individuals with your first and last name. Also, given how rampant ID theft is, I expect that some people may come forward trying to impersonate you to claim the money that I would like to give you to replace the sum you were forced to pay to buy back your freedom. So I need you to provide some sort of proof that you really are Angela McCullough and specifically the Angela McCullough referenced in this Reuters article. A photo ID might be a good starting point, but these can be faked. (College kids do it all the time.) So I'd need something additional. Perhaps one or both of the article's authors could vouch for you (but I'd also need to know that they are who they say they are). I am open to any other clear proof you'd like to provide.
Later edit/addition: I just reopened the article and clicked on the photos to the side of it. I see that three of the seven pics in the slideshow are recent photos of you. So another option would be just to confirm your ID through some documentation (please nothing with your social security number or the like -- that would not be safe for you) and maybe then we can set up a brief video call so I can see for myself that you are the person in those three photos and you can tell me where to send the check. Whatever is safe for you (so again, no SSN info or anything someone could later use to hurt you) and confirms that you are, well, you.
2) I also ask for some verification of the information presented about you in the article. They write that you were sentenced to 100 days behind bars but served 20 because you cleaned other inmates' cells (including the blood-stained cell of a woman who'd slit her own wrists) and because you gave up all of your education savings -- the $1,350 I seek to replace -- to pay off a jail sentence issued for outstanding traffic tickets. The only facts I seek to confirm are that the sentence was the gross miscarriage of justice described (again, jail for unpaid traffic tickets -- omg!!!) and that you paid $1,350 to get out of jail early. If you don't have this documentation readily available, perhaps the article authors do.
3) This site and the related email account, firstname.lastname@example.org, are associated with, and meant to support, the YouTube show that I've just started (Doomsday Happy Hour). The show is an experiment that I hope will be successful and helpful to others in many ways. But the content is not free to me to produce, and as I mention in the video, I have been unemployed for over three months now. Again, I hope the show will be successful. If it turns out not to be, at some point I will have to stop producing it. If that were to happen, I would probably stop tending to this site and stop checking the associated email address. So my hope is that you will come forward within the next 3-4 months, so that no matter what ultimately happens with my show, I can see your claim and honor it.
Lastly, as I make clear in the video I've produced in an attempt to reach you, I cannot afford to pay this $1,350 multiple times because someone pretending to be you manages to convince me that they are you and you come to me second (or third, or anytime after that). So my hope is that there will be no one else who comes forward to take what is for you, or if there is such a poser (or posers), that you will come forward first and the money will thus be safely delivered to you.
Besides the above, I want to note that the video was also made for Marquita Johnson, another single Black mom who suffered a gross miscarriage of justice at the hands of the same judge who sentenced Ms. McCullough. Though Ms. Johnson unquestionably suffered terribly in her own right, two of her three daughters were abused in foster care while she was in jail. The article makes clear that Ms. Johnson felt tremendous heartbreak while in jail because she couldn't be there for her kids. However, that heartbreak is ongoing based on the permanent scars her two daughters carry with them as a result of the abuse they suffered while in foster care.
It's not a contest, but I actually felt even more pain for Marquita Johnson than for Angela McCullough, in particular because one of Ms. Johnson's daughters was molested during the 10 months her mom spent behind bars. I don't believe that kind of pain ever goes away -- maybe it fades a bit with time, like a scar, but it's never erased. The offer above is directed at Angela McCullough because she explicitly said that her savings were wiped out and that meant an end to her education and, I sensed, to some of her hopes for a brighter future for herself and her family. If those savings -- that $1,350 -- could make the difference between hope and no hope, I saw that as something I could clearly and obviously do something about. That's why I focus on Ms. McCullough.
I do not know how to help Marquita Johnson and her children. I asked a friend who was sexually assaulted as a child how she moved on, and the answer I got confirmed what I'd already assumed -- that the pain doesn't go away. That it's something she's carried with her every moment of her life since then. The Reuters article clearly suggests that, certainly in Montgomery, Alabama but likely more widely, there is a racial component to many of the miscarriages of justice described....
I don't imagine that giving Angela McCullough $1,350 will erase the harm done to her and her family. I seek to lessen their pain somewhat and give her the means to continue pursuing her education and restore some of their hope for the future. But it won't undo the scars already suffered. And so the question becomes, how do we, collectively, help Marquita Johnson and her kids? (Per the video, I think that if the judge who sentenced her is truly remorseful, he might wish to put aside some money to help pay for her kids' education so they can have a future that's brighter than their now-grim past.) But no matter what, if the best-intentioned of us just focus on how to help people who've already been grievously hurt, we're just putting band-aids on top of deep, gushing wounds. It's like trying to reattach a severed limb with a freaking band-aid: impossible!
We need to do better as a society. We need to work for justice and equality in any and every way possible. The problem runs deep -- and it's not just police or judges; it's all of us.... We need to educate ourselves. George Floyd's murder was a wakeup call for many, myself included. (See Arick Wierson's opinion piece on CNN's website, White dad with Black kids: George Floyd was my wake-up call. https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/19/opinions/white-dad-black-kids-george-floyd-wake-up-call-wierson/index.html) We need to educate our kids, and begin when they're young just by making sure the heroes (and heroines) of their children's books -- and the dolls and/or combat figures they play with -- don't just look like them. And very importantly, as we're all tightening our belts in these tough financial times, companies are competing more and more for our dollars. This gives YOU power -- the power of the purse. Let companies know that if they have unjust policies, you'll vote with your feet and take your money elsewhere. Make them earn every cent you give them.
**Correction: At about 1:05 in my video I say that the sentences these two women received were for "unpaid parking tickets" in one case and for "outstanding traffic tickets" in the other. I was mistaken -- they were both sentenced for unpaid traffic tickets (that is, moving violations rather than parking violations). To anyone reading this post, please accept this correction to the video (I cannot afford to reshoot it) -- although I believe that the inaccuracy ("parking tickets" vs. "traffic tickets") is irrelevant to the point when the sentence issued was greater than the maximum sentence allowed under state (Alabama) law for negligent homicide.