When Claude Got Shot

Marquette Law School’s Andrew Center for Restorative Justice hosted a viewing of the Emmy award winning documentary When Claude Got Shot on February 1, 2023. The next day, February 2, the Center hosted a “talk back event” with Andrew Center Director Janine Geske moderating a discussion with co-producer and impact campaign advisor Santana Wilson Cole, and Claude Motley.

Claude discussed his experiences of being shot by Nathan King and his journey after the shooting which led to his restorative justice advocacy. Santana shared her experience filming the documentary, her relationship with Claude, and empathy towards Claude’s shooter, Nathan. Claude’s friend, Brad Lichtenstein directed and produced When Claude Got Shot. Santana joined the documentary team as an intern. The film highlights Claude’s journey and Nathan’s criminal justice proceedings.

Claude’s journey began when Claude returned to his hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for a high school reunion only to become a victim of gun violence. When two cars pulled up, Nathan, a 15-year-old, attempted to carjack Claude. Nathan got out of his car and while attempting to carjack Claude, shot Claude in the jaw. Claude fled in his vehicle, not realizing he was shot. The next day another victim shot Nathan while he was attempting yet another carjacking. As a result of those injuries, Nathan ended up being paralyzed from the waist down. Nathan and Claude ended up being treated at the same hospital, at the same time.

Claude and Santana described how the film follows Nathan’s juvenile court proceedings, which resulted in Nathan’s eventual transfer to be tried as an adult. Claude discussed how he was torn between his empathy and his anger. Nathan was given numerous chances to avoid being tried as an adult but absconded twice which resulted in his transfer to adult court.

Claude gave an impact statement asking the court to give Nathan a lighter sentence; however, despite that, the Judge gave him 12 years. Claude recalled conflicting emotions at Nathan’s sentencing. Most impactful for Claude was when Nathan was taken into the custody of the State and Nathan’s mother was prohibited from giving Nathan a hug because he now belonged to the State.

Claude eventually realized he wanted to sit down and talk to Nathan to express his forgiveness so; he reached out to Professor Geske. Claude was inspired by going through the restorative justice process with Nathan and, since the documentary, Claude opened his own non-profit for restorative justice reform in Charlotte, North Carolina. He wants to be a father figure for those struggling and wants to help others find peace. Despite push back from the community, Claude maintains his resilience in trying to advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves.

Despite Santana’s anger toward Nathan for hurting Claude, she empathized with Nathan during the victim offender meeting. Santana reasoned that Nathan was only a kid, a kid who truly struggled, who likely felt alone, who did not have positive role models in his life, and who was lost. She has been inspired to advocate and assist juveniles as much as she can.  Santana advocates and helps educate communities on the impacts of gun violence.

Professor Geske ended the talk-back session with discussing Santana’s new projects all involving racial impact themes. Santana is currently managing and advising for multiple impact campaigns, filming, and directing her own short film, and writing a comedy series.

In 2021, Marquette University Law School established the Andrew Center for Restorative Justice, recognizing the generosity of Louis J. Andrew, Jr., and Suzanne Bouquet Andrew. The Andrew Center is intended to continue into the future the work of the Hon. Janine P. Geske, former justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, who led the Law School in establishing its former Restorative Justice Initiative in 2004. Restorative justice seeks particularly to help support victims and communities in the process of healing from the effects of crime.

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Restorative Justice Week

Restorative Justice Week, running from November 20 to November 26, seeks to highlight the significance of access to restorative approaches to address harm. This week is for celebrating, raising awareness, organizing events, for restorative justice.

Too many people affected by harm do not have access to restorative practices which can lead to healing. These processes seek to bring survivors, perpetrators, and community members together for facilitated conversations to promote accountability and transformation. Restorative justice approaches are ingrained in many indigenous cultures in numerous kinds of conflicts. Restorative Justice focuses on the harm and ripple effects of harm created by wrongful acts by encouraging victims to share the trauma they have suffered, for perpetrators to take responsibility for what they have done and for communities to work on safety and healing.

Family survivors of homicide victims, like Dr. Mary Kay Balchunas, who recently held a public conversation with Professor Janine Geske at Marquette University Law School, reflected on the positive impact Restorative Justice had for her. Mary Kay, the mother of a murdered law enforcement officer, has not yet met with the perpetrators who killed her son. However, Mary Kay did participate in restorative justice circles with other serious offenders at Green Bay Correctional Institute with Professor Geske and her students. In those circles, Mary Kay shared her story with a group of inmates, victims, and other community members. It was through that process of sharing her story and experiences that Mary Kay was able to find her path to healing. Professor Geske and her law students have worked with other victims, ranging from mothers to fathers, daughters to sons, brothers to sisters, community members to perpetrators. Those participants have all expressed similar experiences as they felt the positive impact that Restorative Justice seeks to promote.

Access to restorative processes provide an efficient and effective way of promoting understanding and healing for the wounds associated with crime and other harms. These approaches also positively impact the greater community. When victims, offenders, and community members come together with a trained facilitator to share their experiences and stories, each person feels heard. We learn that communities are also harmed by crime even if each resident is not a direct victim of a crime. For example, when a university sends out the safety warning texts – which usually notifies students and the university community that an armed robbery occurred nearby, it invokes fear throughout the campus. That fear harms the greater community. For instance, some people may not feel safe leaving their residence hall or begin avoiding certain areas of the city out of fear that they could be the next victim. Restorative Justice seeks to bring everyone affected together to come to a common understanding and agreement on how that harm can be best repaired. Every step taken towards healing is a step in the right direction.

With the opening of the Andrew Center for Restorative Justice about a year ago, Marquette Law School has promoted the efficacy, availability, and access to Restorative Justice. The Andrew Center for Restorative Justice recently appointed a new director for 2023 – Milwaukee County Chief Judge Mary Triggiano. In addition to celebrating Restorative Justice Week, the Andrew Center is planning events for 2023. One program is a conference to be held March 9 and March 10, 2023. That conference will focus on Native Americans and their significant influence on the development of Restorative Justice.

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The Healing Impact of Restorative Justice

RJI ConferenceOn October 11, 2022, the Marquette Law Andrew Center for Restorative Justice held a public conversation with Mary Kay Balchunas, a mother whose son, a police officer, was murdered in 2004. Professor Janine Geske focused on the positive impact restorative justice can have for surviving victims. She asked Mary Kay to introduce her son to the audience and describe what happened to him. Mary Kay’s son, Jay, was covering an undercover shift for a colleague. Jay stopped to get a cup of coffee before starting his shift around 3 a.m. when two boys came up to him, intending to rob him. Anthony Bolden, stood behind Jay while Dionne Renolds stood in front of Jay, pointing a gun towards him. Anthony Bolden went to search Jay for his wallet and felt Jay’s gun. Immediately Anthony alerted his accomplice. At that point, Dionne shot Jay, which resulted in Jay’s death. Jay’s bullet proof vest, which he promised his mother he would always wear on duty, was sitting in the front seat of his undercover car. His vest was still on Jay’s front seat as his shift had not started.

During the conversation, Mary Kay reflected on her son’s funeral, at which she talked to those present (many police officers) about the importance of forgiveness for the boys who were involved. She also shared the emotions she felt during the trials of the boys who took her son’s life. She recalled experiencing empathy towards the boys. Members of their families generally failed to show up or support them during the criminal court proceedings. One of the boy’s mothers was subpoenaed to testify but showed up late. When she eventually testified, her testimony only hurt her son’s case. In addition, Mary Kay recalls hearing how Dionne never knew his dad, how his brother is also in prison for murder, and how his mother has no photos of either of her sons.

Jay had always encouraged his mother to go back to school and obtain her Ph.D. About a year after Jay’s death, Mary Kay went back to Cardinal Stritch University to obtain her Ph.D. by focusing her dissertation on violent crimes. During the time Mary Kay was working towards her Ph.D., she felt the need to visit Green Bay Correctional Institution, the prison where Anthony Bolden was serving his sentence for taking Jay’s life. Mary Kay met Janine Geske and attended a three-day restorative justice program at Green Bay. Mary Kay also wrote Anthony Bolden a letter and received a lengthy response. While Anthony Bolden maintains his innocence and denies his involvement with Jay’s death, Anthony expressed his empathy towards Mary Kay.

Marquette University Law School’s Andrew Center for Restorative Justice was established in December 2021. The Andrew Center’s focus is to provide support for victims and communities in the process of healing from the effects of crime. The motivation for the center is the overwhelming positive impacts restorative justice has. The center’s future is promising, as Janine P. Geske wants to develop a relationship with the Milwaukee Police Department to provide officers with training on restorative justice. In addition, Marquette Law students will be placed in the community to conduct restorative justice circles. Finally, on March 9-10 there will be a restorative justice conference focusing on the substantial restorative practices of Native Americans and Indigenous persons.

Written by Janine P. Geske, Distinguished Professor of Law and Director of the Andrew Center for Restorative Justice and Madison Bedder, 3L, Andrew Center Research Assistant.

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