Alumna Helps Free Innocent Man From Prison
Kimberly Corral, JD ’12, was a new attorney, working as a solo practitioner on criminal justice cases.
Then a phone call began a five-year legal process culminating in the exoneration of a man who had spent 15 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.
The man, Ru-El Sailor, reached out to Corral 10 years into his sentence for a 2003 murder conviction. The circumstances surrounding his conviction were troubling from the start. No physical evidence tied him to the murder. Only one of three witnesses identified him as being at the scene. And the other person convicted in the murder said that Sailor was innocent and named his accomplice.
Through the years, Sailor tried in vain to get a new day in court. When he called Corral, he had just lost an appeal and was procedurally exhausted. Despite being an “impossible case” which many other lawyers had turned down, Corral took up Sailor’s defense.
“When Ru-El told me that someone else has admitted to these murders, I naively thought there had to be something we could do without knowing how difficult the post-conviction process really is,” she says.
Corral turned to the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Office’s Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU), designed to review cases of those who maintain their innocence. She applied to the unit on two separate occasions and was denied both times. Finally, on the third try, the case was accepted. A 15-month investigation led to Sailor’s exoneration and release in March 2018. It was the first case the CIU had overturned stemming from a convict’s application.
“Having heard ‘Learn Law. Live Justice.’ repeatedly at C|M|LAW, I realized what was happening in this case was not justice,” Corral says. “The court’s constant inability to address its own mistakes was an ongoing injustice. So, at every point when it seemed like there was nothing else to do, we tried something else, because I was unwilling to call my client who deserved justice and say, ‘there’s nothing else I can do.’”
Corral continues to fight injustices and in October was at the White House to advocate for a client seeking clemency.
She is active in the C|M|LAW community and has returned to the law school on several occasions to talk with students. “I would choose C|M|LAW again,” she notes. “It means a lot to me that the law school is educating students en masse but is very much providing an individualized education.”
Corral was inspired to pursue law school during a cross-country bicycle trip. The Cleveland Institute of Art graduate was an industrial designer “making things that were going to go into a landfill” when she joined the nine-week Bike Across America trip which included stops in urban and rural communities experiencing various social hardships.
“That trip introduced me to this sort of emboldened way of thinking, ‘I can fix this, I can solve this,’”
Also in this Issue...
CSU’s Cleveland-Marshall College of Law had the highest passage rate for first-time takers of the July Ohio Bar Exam. The school’s 93 percent passage rate was well above the state average of 79 percent.
This is the second consecutive Ohio Bar Exam in which C|M|LAW had the top passage rate, following its 82 percent pass rate for the February 2018 exam. Read more >>
Cleveland-Marshall College of Law has launched an innovative new tech lab in partnership with Technology Concepts & Design, Inc. (TCDI), a pioneer in legal technology. The learning space introduces law students, alumni and lawyers to practical technology, prepares them to succeed in the new legal landscape and provides cutting-edge legal services to TCDI clients. Read more >>