The Department of Mass Media at Southeast Missouri State University is hosting “The Past is Never Dead” documentary film screening and discussion at 6 p.m. on Oct. 15 in the Forrest H. Rose Theatre in Grauel Building.
The evening will include a screening of “The Past is Never Dead,” an emotional and meditative story of David Robinson’s wrongful conviction and his 17-year, nine-month and one-week struggle to prove his innocence. This will be the first time Robinson will speak publicly about his experience.
The public is invited to attend, and admission is free.
Robinson was arrested for murder in the fall of 2000, and with testimony from two suspect criminal informants, he was sentenced to life in prison without parole. There was no evidence, DNA or confession, and he had multiple alibis. The true killer confessed on audiotape in 2004 and committed suicide in 2009, and as the years passed, the informants recanted under oath, claiming police coercion. The film presents the judicial system through the lens of Sikeston, Missouri.
Following the film, a discussion will focus on Robinson’s case. Panelists will include Robinson and his attorneys, James Wyrsch, partner at Khazaeli Wyrsch; and Charles A. Weiss, partner, and Stephen Snodgrass, and Jonathan Potts, all of Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner. Panelists will also include Bob Miller, editor of the Southeast Missourian and its exclusive investigative report “Life Without” about Robinson, and Steve Turner, producer and director of “The Past is Never Dead.” Dr. Tamara Buck, associate professor and multimedia journalism option coordinator in Southeast’s Department of Mass Media, will moderate the evening’s discussion. *See below for a full list of panelists’ biographies.
“We are very excited to host this event because we think it is important to hear David Robinson tell his story,” said Dr. Pam Parry, chair of Southeast’s Department of Mass Media. “His story has a state and national significance for our justice system, and we are proud to host an event that helps bring the University, the southeast Missouri community and local media professionals together.”
This event is also an opportunity for Southeast students and the community to examine and discuss the role and importance of journalism and local media.
“This story speaks volumes about the significance and relevance of our industry today,” Parry said. “We welcome the opportunity to expose our students to the value of the mass media — the David Robinson case demonstrates that today’s journalism is a high form of public service, and we hope our students and the community learn how media professionals can and do contribute to American democracy.”
David Robinson is described by many as a jokester and the life of the party, especially around kids. He was born and raised in Sikeston, Missouri, and is the second of six children to Jennette McCaster. He attended Sikeston Public Schools through the ninth grade and later obtained his GED diploma. Robinson has always admitted that he is not a saint with past convictions of burglary, drug possession and assault, but in August 2000, he was falsely arrested and wrongfully convicted of the murder of Shelia Box. Throughout his sentence of life-without-parole, he always maintained his innocence, and on May 1, 2018, the Missouri Supreme Court agreed. He was exonerated and released from prison on May 14, 2018. A month after his release, Robinson married his longtime fiancée, Patricia Jackson-Robinson. Their blended family now includes seven children, 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Robinson is now active in the community, visiting the elderly, mentoring young men and women through various church events, and cleaning vacant lots in his community. He faithfully attends the Faith Temple Complex COGIC Church as well as The New Direction Outreach Ministries Church. His mission now is to be the voice of other wrongfully convicted inmates that remain behind bars.
Dr. Tamara Zellars Buck is an associate professor and multimedia journalism option coordinator in Southeast’s Department of Mass Media, where she has taught since 2001. In addition to her teaching duties, Buck serves as faculty adviser to the National Association of Black Journalists, the Society of Professional Journalists, and the Arrow, the University’s award-winning student newspaper. She also is a member of Faculty Senate and the faculty co-chair of the Black Faculty and Staff Alliance. The Charleston, Missouri, native attended the University of Missouri-Columbia and later transferred to Southeast, where she became the first black editor of the student newspaper formerly known as The Capaha Arrow. She graduated from Southeast with a bachelor’s degree in mass communication-journalism. She holds a Master of Science in public administration from Southeast, as well as a Juris Doctorate with an emphasis in intellectual property law from The University of Memphis. Buck formerly worked as public relations director of the Missouri Association for Retarded Citizens for two years before joining the staff of the Southeast Missourian as an education reporter in 1995. During her five years at the newspaper, she also wrote a weekly human interest column called “Bucking the System.” In 2001, she left the industry to become an instructor at Southeast Missouri State University.
Bob Miller has been editor at the Southeast Missourian since 2008. He has worked at the Southeast Missourian since 1997, minus a year when he worked at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and has served as sports and news reporter, news editor and managing editor. He was also the editor of the Banner Press in Marble Hill in 1996 and 1997. He attended Southeast Missouri State University.
Charles Weiss, a fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers and the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, has more than 35 years of experience in business and complex litigation, representing numerous Fortune 500 companies and other clients in significant litigation matters involving class action, intellectual property, federal and state securities law, antitrust and unfair competition, product liability, fraud, False Claims Act, employment discrimination, trade secrets and non-compete agreements, insurance coverage, state and federal constitutional law, Lanham Act and false and misleading advertising, software development, legal and accounting malpractice and breach of commercial and government contracts. He has handled cases at both the trial and appellate levels, having appeared in more than 30 federal district courts around the country and in seven circuits of the Federal Courts of Appeals, the Federal Court of Claims and the U.S. Supreme Court. He has represented clients in matters where the amounts in issue have exceeded $1 billion.
He also has more than 35 years of experience in government contract matters including preparation of proposals, negotiations of contracts, bid protests, government audits and investigations, defective cost claims, complex litigation and arbitrations, grand jury investigations and subpoenas, internal investigations, teaming agreements, licensing and rights in data agreements and disputes, qui tam suits, terminations for convenience and default and claims before Boards of Contract Appeals, Claims Court and state and federal courts.
In addition, he has counseled clients in connection with negotiating and drafting construction contracts, bidding on and proposing contracts, preparing and defending claims, mechanic’s liens and construction bonds and title insurance. He has represented clients in resolving disputes on numerous construction projects, both domestic and foreign, including the world’s three tallest buildings, highway projects, energy generation plants, ethanol plants, major school district renovations, military base housing, hotels, hospitals, residential developments, mining facilities, manufacturing facilities, secondary wastewater treatment plants and parking garages. Weiss chaired the Annual St. Louis Conference on Construction Law for several years and has written and lectured frequently on topics related to construction and government contract law.
James Wyrsch practices in the area of commercial litigation, employment advice and litigation, and commercial transactions. Prior to founding Khazaeli Wyrsch Law, he spent eight years at a large, international law firm, specializing in commercial litigation of various types, including contract and complex tort claims, class and collective actions, labor and employment, and white-collar defense and investigations. Wyrsch has also represented numerous clients pro bono, including David Robinson.
In the beginning of his career, Wyrsch served as a judicial clerk to the Honorable William R. Price, Jr. of the Missouri Supreme Court, held a two-year clinical graduate fellowship at Georgetown University Law Center in the Criminal Justice Clinic, and served as an assistant public defender with the Missouri State Public Defender’s office in St. Louis, Missouri.
Wyrsch has a deep appreciation for social justice, technology, history, music and sports. He lives with his wife, son Teddy and two dogs in the Shaw neighborhood of the City of St. Louis.
Stephen Snodgrass, of Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, has represented government contractors in audits and civil and criminal investigations relating to progress billing, material management, time charging, defective pricing and estimating fraud; represented contractors in negotiations and litigation relating to terminations, both for convenience and for default; represented protestors and interveners in bid protests of federal, state, and local government procurements; advised government contractors on compliance with the Federal Acquisition Regulation and executive orders applicable to government contracts; and advised regarding novation and other government contracting requirements applicable in mergers and acquisitions in which a party to the transaction is a government contractor. Snodgrass also has extensive experience representing banks, telecommunications manufacturers, and government contractors in complex commercial litigation.
Jonathan Potts, of Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, has extensive experience in the field of complex litigation, particularly in the areas of class action defense, financial services litigation, shareholder litigation, and sports litigation. He has defended various commercial clients across the country in a wide array of federal and state class action lawsuits arising under various consumer fraud statutes, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), Telephone Consumer Protection Act, Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and state law. In addition, Potts has represented commercial clients on both sides of large-scale contractual disputes and defended high-value lawsuits brought under the False Claims Act, Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), and Labor Management Relations Act. His practice also includes securities litigation, derivative litigation, and advising clients on corporate governance issues. Potts has served as lead counsel in two federal civil jury trials and has argued before the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. He has extensive experience guiding cases through every stage of litigation, including discovery, opposing class certification, dispositive motions, trial and appeal. Potts is a member of the Class and Derivative Actions and Commercial Litigation Client Service Groups.
Potts’ pro bono practice is committed to representing individuals wrongfully convicted of violent crimes. In 2018, he successfully represented Robinson, and he currently represents three other wrongfully convicted clients.
In addition to his Juris Doctorate, Potts holds degrees in law and economic globalization from Sorbonne Law School and economic law from Sciences Po Law School. Before joining Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, he interned for the Honorable Mary Ann L. Medler, Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.
Steve Turner spent years as a freelance cinematographer and then started directing commercials and corporate docs for clients such as AB/Inbev, AT&T, Maxwell House, Pella Windows, New Balance, Smithfield, NBC, Alzheimers USA, Kraft, among many others. Before becoming a freelance producer and director, he had a long corporate career with Barnes & Noble Inc., and a short career as an ad agency creative director with Rustmedia.