ATTORNEY AT LAW
For nearly twenty years, I have been committed to providing my clients the best defense.
College Disciplinary Proceedings
"Your real job is that if you are free,
you need to free somebody else."
"Each of us is more than the worst thing we've ever done"
The Art Horne Case
When I found out that my dear friend and colleague, Art Horne, was charged with aggravated rape, my heart dropped. For years he'd joked that if he ever "caught a charge," I would be his lawyer. I never imagined that day would come.
Representing my friend was one of the hardest
things I've ever done. When the judge started to
repeat "not guilty" as he read off each count of the indictment, I dropped my head and smiled.
It was a good day.
The Marshun Newell Case
Almost ten years ago, a 19 year old Marshun Newell faced life in prison. I was his lawyer. I always believed he was innocent.
Word soon spread throughout the courthouse that an innocent young man was being vigorously prosecuted (I told everyone). Defense lawyers rushed to help, creating a village, because that's what it surely took.
Marshun told me he couldn't spend his life in prison because he had plans; he wanted to go to college, graduate, play professional basketball, and have a family.
I promised him I would fight, but warmed him that our justice system isn't always fair. He trusted me. His trial lasted six days. While the jury deliberated, I decided that if he was convicted, I would change professions; why bother?
On a warm Saturday morning in July, the clerk called me to the courtroom to hear the verdict; Not Guilty.
Marshun graduated from the University of Tennessee at Martin, played overseas, and worked out with the Memphis Grizzlies. He now runs a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide mentorship to boys who may lack positive male role models.
To my family I'm "Mena", "Mela", or "Mena Meen". At work, I'm "Ms. Turner" or just "Kamilah".
To all the young basketball players in Memphis, I'm "Marshun's lawyer".
And that's quite alright with me.
The O'Shay Sims Case
It's still hard for people to believe that a child would confess to a crime he didn't commit.
In June of 2018, 17 year old O'Shay Sims had just finished his junior year at Fairley High School, where he was an honor student and band member.
On his first day of work at the Rock and Soul Cafe' near Graceland, detectives from the Memphis Police Department rolled up and asked him to ride with them to 201 Poplar (the Shelby County Criminal Justice Center). They wanted to talk to him about a homicide that happened a few days before near Lamar and Airways.
For nearly seven hours, O'Shay told them he had no knowledge of the homicide. Sometime during the eighth hour, without a parent, guardian, or lawyer present, O'Shay made an admission. His statement was neither audio nor video recorded.
Nadra Stevenson, the assistant principal at Fairley High School, was relentless. She told anyone who would listen that she had an innocent student in jail. When Attorney Janika White called me, I was largely unmoved, "Folks always talking 'bout they're innocent", I warned, but I promised to look into it.
When I reviewed the evidence (discovery), I was floored. Nothing added up. I was convinced they had the wrong person.
We worked extremely hard, and I finally convinced the prosecutor to agree to his release, and after thirteen months in jail, he went home.
I don't want this to happen to another child. We need a Tennessee state law that mandates that a parent or lawyer be present when children are interrogated regarding serious offenses. We also need a law that demands these statements be recorded. Let's work together to save our children.
An Activist Legacy
My parents met as students at LeMoyne Owen college, where they both participated in the sit in movement to end racial segregation in Memphis. When my mother graduated, she learned that she had been blacklisted for her many juvenile arrests, and therefore unable to find a teaching job in Memphis. After my parents married, they moved to St. Louis so that my mother could work as a teacher. When my mother learned that municipalities neighboring Memphis did not have the black list, my parents moved back to Memphis and my mother taught English at Germantown High School before starting Heritage Tours, the first African American History tour company in the state of Tennessee. In 2017, she and my aunts were honored with a historical marker for their steadfast work to move our nation forward.
My father's journey to becoming one of the best criminal defense attorneys in Memphis started in the LeMoyne Gardens housing project, where he was raised by a single mother. After graduating high school, he enrolled in the United States Army, used his GI bill to attend college, then went on to law school at Texas Southern (now Thurgood Marshall).
In the courtroom, his trial skills were unmatched; he gained a reputation for holding juries "in the palm of his hands" with his wit and charm. He was also known for demanding the respect of "Old South" judges; sometimes being held in contempt of court for not backing down
"...I've never looked back"
"Growing up, most of my summers and school breaks were spent at my father's law office. I did everything from answer the telephone and make copies to help him with murder cases. One day, he told me he was going to the jail to visit clients and invited me to tag along. I couldn't have been more than twelve years old. That was my first jail visit, and I've never looked back. After almost fifteen years as a Shelby County Public Defender, I started my own law practice. I have handled hundreds of felony and misdemeanor cases, and have gained a reputation for being a fierce advocate. "
Whenever there was a Civil Rights protest in Memphis, the
Lee sisters were likely there in numbers.