Black Lives Matter-Ugliness of Racism.

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Black child, 10, sentenced to probation and a book report for urinating in public
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Michael Goldberg
Published Dec 14, 2023 • 3 minute read
A 10-year-old Black child, who was arrested by the police after urinating in a parking lot, must serve three months' probation and write a two-page book report on the late NBA star Kobe Bryant, a Tate County Youth Court Judge ruled Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023. (The Tate Record via AP)
A 10-year-old Black child, who was arrested by the police after urinating in a parking lot, must serve three months' probation and write a two-page book report on the late NBA star Kobe Bryant, a Tate County Youth Court Judge ruled Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023. (The Tate Record via AP) THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A 10-year-old Black child who urinated in a parking lot must serve three months’ probation and write a two-page book report on the late NBA star Kobe Bryant, a Mississippi judge has ordered.


Tate County Youth Court Judge Rusty Harlow handed down the sentence Tuesday after the child’s lawyer reached an agreement with a special prosecutor. The prosecution threatened to upgrade the charge of “child in need of supervision” to a more serious charge of disorderly conduct if the boy’s family took the case to trial, said Carlos Moore, the child’s attorney.


“I thought any sensible judge would dismiss the charge completely. It’s just asinine,” Moore said. “There were failures in the criminal justice system all the way around.”

Moore said he doesn’t believe a white child would have been arrested under similar circumstances, and he couldn’t find a similar instance of a child receiving a similar sentence for the same offense.


“I don’t think there is a male in America who has not discreetly urinated in public,” Moore said.

The child’s mother has said her son urinated behind her vehicle while she was visiting a lawyer’s office in Senatobia, Mississippi, on Aug. 10. Police officers in the town of about 8,100 residents, 40 miles (64 kilometers) south of Memphis, Tennessee, saw the child urinating and arrested him. Officers put him in a squad car and took him to the police station.

Senatobia Police Chief Richard Chandler said the child was not handcuffed, but his mother said he was put in a jail cell, according to NBCNews.com.

Days after the episode, Chandler said the officers violated their training on how to deal with children. He said one of the officers who took part in the arrest was ” no longer employed,” and other officers would be disciplined. He didn’t specify whether the former officer was fired or quit, or what type of discipline the others would face.


Chandler did not immediately respond to a voicemail message Thursday. Reached by phone, a staffer for Paige Williams, the Tate County Youth Court prosecutor appointed to handle the case, said the attorney could not comment on cases involving juveniles.

Rashad Robinson, president of the civil rights organization Color Of Change, said the decision to charge the child didn’t make sense.

“Nothing about this case from the decisions by the police, the prosecutor, and the judge makes us safer or is a good use of taxpayer resources,” Robinson said in a statement.

He said there is a “long and unforgivable history in Mississippi and across the country” of a “two-tiered justice system” that offers one path for Black children and another for white.


It was initially unclear whether prosecutors would take up the case. Moore requested a dismissal, but prosecutors declined. He planned on going to trial but shifted strategy after prosecutors threatened to upgrade the charges. The child’s family chose to accept the probation sentence because it would not appear on the boy’s criminal record. The 10-year-old is required to check in with a probation officer once per month.

Williams initially wanted the child to write a report on “public decency,” but the judge changed the subject to Bryant because the boy is a basketball fan, Moore said.

Marie Ndiaye, deputy director of the Justice Project at the Advancement Project, a racial justice organization, said the arrest is emblematic of broader issues in the criminal justice system.

“Sentencing anyone, let alone a young child, to probation under these facts is sure to add to the trauma and denigration this child has suffered since their arrest,” Ndiaye said. “This is all the more proof that we need to severely limit police interactions with civilians, from petty retail theft to traffic stops and even so-called ‘quality of life’ offenses. For Black people in America, it is a matter of life and death.”
 

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Black child, 10, sentenced to probation and a book report for urinating in public
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Michael Goldberg
Published Dec 14, 2023 • 3 minute read
A 10-year-old Black child, who was arrested by the police after urinating in a parking lot, must serve three months' probation and write a two-page book report on the late NBA star Kobe Bryant, a Tate County Youth Court Judge ruled Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023. (The Tate Record via AP)
A 10-year-old Black child, who was arrested by the police after urinating in a parking lot, must serve three months' probation and write a two-page book report on the late NBA star Kobe Bryant, a Tate County Youth Court Judge ruled Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023. (The Tate Record via AP) THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A 10-year-old Black child who urinated in a parking lot must serve three months’ probation and write a two-page book report on the late NBA star Kobe Bryant, a Mississippi judge has ordered.


Tate County Youth Court Judge Rusty Harlow handed down the sentence Tuesday after the child’s lawyer reached an agreement with a special prosecutor. The prosecution threatened to upgrade the charge of “child in need of supervision” to a more serious charge of disorderly conduct if the boy’s family took the case to trial, said Carlos Moore, the child’s attorney.


“I thought any sensible judge would dismiss the charge completely. It’s just asinine,” Moore said. “There were failures in the criminal justice system all the way around.”

Moore said he doesn’t believe a white child would have been arrested under similar circumstances, and he couldn’t find a similar instance of a child receiving a similar sentence for the same offense.


“I don’t think there is a male in America who has not discreetly urinated in public,” Moore said.

The child’s mother has said her son urinated behind her vehicle while she was visiting a lawyer’s office in Senatobia, Mississippi, on Aug. 10. Police officers in the town of about 8,100 residents, 40 miles (64 kilometers) south of Memphis, Tennessee, saw the child urinating and arrested him. Officers put him in a squad car and took him to the police station.

Senatobia Police Chief Richard Chandler said the child was not handcuffed, but his mother said he was put in a jail cell, according to NBCNews.com.

Days after the episode, Chandler said the officers violated their training on how to deal with children. He said one of the officers who took part in the arrest was ” no longer employed,” and other officers would be disciplined. He didn’t specify whether the former officer was fired or quit, or what type of discipline the others would face.


Chandler did not immediately respond to a voicemail message Thursday. Reached by phone, a staffer for Paige Williams, the Tate County Youth Court prosecutor appointed to handle the case, said the attorney could not comment on cases involving juveniles.

Rashad Robinson, president of the civil rights organization Color Of Change, said the decision to charge the child didn’t make sense.

“Nothing about this case from the decisions by the police, the prosecutor, and the judge makes us safer or is a good use of taxpayer resources,” Robinson said in a statement.

He said there is a “long and unforgivable history in Mississippi and across the country” of a “two-tiered justice system” that offers one path for Black children and another for white.


It was initially unclear whether prosecutors would take up the case. Moore requested a dismissal, but prosecutors declined. He planned on going to trial but shifted strategy after prosecutors threatened to upgrade the charges. The child’s family chose to accept the probation sentence because it would not appear on the boy’s criminal record. The 10-year-old is required to check in with a probation officer once per month.

Williams initially wanted the child to write a report on “public decency,” but the judge changed the subject to Bryant because the boy is a basketball fan, Moore said.

Marie Ndiaye, deputy director of the Justice Project at the Advancement Project, a racial justice organization, said the arrest is emblematic of broader issues in the criminal justice system.

“Sentencing anyone, let alone a young child, to probation under these facts is sure to add to the trauma and denigration this child has suffered since their arrest,” Ndiaye said. “This is all the more proof that we need to severely limit police interactions with civilians, from petty retail theft to traffic stops and even so-called ‘quality of life’ offenses. For Black people in America, it is a matter of life and death.”
The death of common sense is really obvious in this case!!
 

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Confederate memorial to be removed in coming days from Arlington National Cemetery
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Published Dec 17, 2023 • 2 minute read
A Confederate memorial is to be removed from Arlington National Cemetery in northern Virginia in the coming days, part of the push to remove symbols that commemorate the Confederacy from military-related facilities, a cemetery official said Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023.
A Confederate memorial is to be removed from Arlington National Cemetery in northern Virginia in the coming days, part of the push to remove symbols that commemorate the Confederacy from military-related facilities, a cemetery official said Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023.
ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — A Confederate memorial is to be removed from Arlington National Cemetery in northern Virginia in the coming days, part of the push to remove symbols that commemorate the Confederacy from military-related facilities, a cemetery official said Saturday.


The decision ignores a recent demand from more than 40 Republican congressmen that the Pentagon suspend efforts to dismantle and remove the monument from Arlington cemetery.


Safety fencing has been installed around the memorial, and officials anticipate completing the removal by Dec. 22, the Arlington National Cemetery said in an email. During the removal, the surrounding landscape, graves and headstones will be protected, the Arlington National Cemetery said.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin disagrees with the decision and plans to move the monument to the New Market Battlefield State Historical Park in the Shenandoah Valley, Youngkin spokeswoman Macaulay Porter said.

In 2022, an independent commission recommended that the memorial be taken down, as part of its final report to Congress on renaming of military bases and assets that commemorate the Confederacy.


The statue, unveiled in 1914, features a bronze woman, crowned with olive leaves, standing on a 32-foot pedestal, and was designed to represent the American South. According to Arlington, the woman holds a laurel wreath, a plow stock and a pruning hook, with a Biblical inscription at her feet that says: “They have beat their swords into plough-shares and their spears into pruning hooks.”

Some of the figures also on the statue include a Black woman depicted as “Mammy” holding what is said to be the child of a white officer, and an enslaved man following his owner to war.

In a recent letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, more than 40 House Republicans said the commission overstepped its authority when it recommended that the monument be removed. The congressmen contended that the monument “does not honor nor commemorate the Confederacy; the memorial commemorates reconciliation and national unity.”


“The Department of Defense must respect Congress’ clear legislative intentions regarding the Naming Commission’s legislative authority” the letter said.

U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde, a Georgia Republican, has led the push to block the memorial’s removal. Clyde’s office did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Saturday.

A process to prepare for the memorial’s removal and relocation has been completed, the cemetery said. The memorial’s bronze elements will be relocated, while the granite base and foundation will remain in place to avoid disturbing surrounding graves, it said.

Earlier this year, Fort Bragg shed its Confederate namesake to become Fort Liberty, part of the broad Department of Defense initiative, motivated by the 2020 George Floyd protests, to rename military installations that had been named after confederate soldiers.

The North Carolina base was originally named in 1918 for Gen. Braxton Bragg, a Confederate general from Warrenton, North Carolina, who was known for owning slaves and losing key Civil War battles that contributed to the Confederacy’s downfall.

The Black Lives Matter demonstrations that erupted nationwide after Floyd’s killing by a white police officer, coupled with ongoing efforts to remove Confederate monuments, turned the spotlight on the Army installations. The naming commission created by Congress visited the bases and met with members of the surrounding communities for input.
 

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Louisiana State Police reinstate trooper accused of withholding video in Black man’s deadly arrest
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Jim Mustian
Published Dec 18, 2023 • 3 minute read
This image taken from video from Louisiana state trooper Lt. John Clary
This image taken from video from Louisiana state trooper Lt. John Clary's body-worn camera shows trooper Kory York standing over Ronald Greene on his stomach on May 10, 2019, outside of Monroe, La. PHOTO BY LT. JOHN CLARY /THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The Louisiana State Police have reinstated a veteran trooper who had been accused of withholding graphic body-camera video showing another officer dragging Black motorist Ronald Greene by his ankle shackles during his deadly 2019 arrest.


Lt. John Clary, the ranking trooper at the scene of Greene’s arrest, will return to active duty this week, state police spokesman Capt. Nick Manale said in an email to The Associated Press on Monday.


The development comes weeks after state prosecutors dismissed an obstruction of justice charge against Clary after he agreed to testify in the negligent homicide trial of Kory York, a trooper accused of forcing Greene to lie facedown and handcuffed on a northeast Louisiana roadside for more than nine minutes. Use-of-force experts have said that tactic likely restricted Greene’s breathing.

Clary, 59, had been among five officers indicted a year ago in the May 10, 2019, death that authorities initially blamed on a car crash. An AP investigation revealed long suppressed body-camera video showing white officers beating, stunning and dragging Greene as he pleaded for mercy and wailed, “I’m your brother! I’m scared!”


The prosecution has suffered several setbacks in recent months and only two of the five officers still face charges. The dismissals have prompted new calls for the U.S. Justice Department to bring its own indictment against the troopers following a yearslong civil rights investigation that examined whether state police bosses obstructed justice to protect the troopers in Greene’s arrest.

Greene’s mother, Mona Hardin, told the AP she was surprised and disgusted that Clary was restored to duty.

“It’s really like he never took the uniform off,” Hardin said. “These guys have been protected from the beginning. They know the brass have their back.”

Clary and his attorney did not respond to requests for comment.


York is expected to stand trial next year. He asked an appellate court to throw out his indictment after prosecutors acknowledged a mistake in allowing a use-of-force expert to review protected statements York made during an internal affairs inquiry. Such compelled interviews may be used to discipline officers administratively but are specifically prohibited from being used in criminal cases.

Clary’s video is the only clip of the arrest that shows the moment a handcuffed, bloody Greene moans under the weight of two troopers, twitches and then goes still. The footage was withheld from prosecutors, detectives and even medical examiners for months amid a cloak of secrecy that surrounded Greene’s death.

Clary, who had been suspended without pay, is the first of the officers to return to the job. He faced no internal discipline after Col. Lamar Davis said the agency “could not say for sure whether” the lieutenant “purposefully withheld” the footage in question.


Davis said Monday there were no grounds for Clary’s termination after he was cleared in the state case.

“We can’t just terminate someone like other organizations. We have to operate by the law and our state police rules,” Davis told AP. “As a superintendent, I have to put my personal feelings aside. Our job is to operate under the color of the law.”

Former Detective Albert Paxton wrote in an internal report that, on the morning of Greene’s death, “Clary told me he did not have body camera video of the incident.” Clary also greatly exaggerated Greene’s resistance, saying he was “still trying to get away and was not cooperating.” Those statements were contradicted by Clary’s body camera footage and were apparently intended to justify force against Greene while he was prone. He had already been hit in the head with a flashlight, punched and repeatedly stunned.

“The video evidence in this case does not show Greene screaming, resisting or trying to get away,” Paxton wrote. “Lt. Clary’s video clearly shows Greene to be suffering.”
louisiana-police-death-federal-probe[1].jpg
 

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Mom of child punished by court for peeing in public refuses to sign probation terms
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Michael Goldberg
Published Dec 19, 2023 • 2 minute read

JACKSON, Miss. — The mother of a 10-year-old child who was sentenced by a Mississippi judge to three months of probation and a book report for urinating in public has refused to sign his probation agreement and has asked for the charge against her son to be dismissed, the family’s attorney announced Tuesday.


The child’s mother had initially planned on signing the agreement to avoid the risk of prosecutors upgrading her son’s charge, as they threatened, but she changed her mind after reading the full agreement Tuesday, attorney Carlos Moore said.


“We cannot in good conscience accept a probation agreement that treats a 10-year-old child as a criminal,” Moore said. “The terms proposed are not in the best interest of our client, and we will take all necessary steps to challenge them.”

The terms for the 10-year-old’s probation were similar to those prosecutors would demand of an adult, including sections that prohibited the use of weapons and demanded he submit to drug tests at a probation officer’s discretion, Moore said.


“It’s just a regular probation. I thought it was something informed for a juvenile. But it’s the same terms an adult criminal would have,” Moore said.

The agreement also imposed an 8 p.m. curfew for the child, which would have taken effect during the Christmas holiday.

The terms of the agreement stem from a sentence ordered on Dec. 12 by Tate County Youth Court Judge Rusty Harlow. The judge said the child, who is Black, must serve three months of probation and write a two-page book report on the late NBA star Kobe Bryant.

The child’s mother has said her son urinated behind her vehicle while she was visiting a lawyer’s office in Senatobia, Mississippi, on Aug. 10. Police officers in the town of about 8,100 residents, 40 miles (64 kilometers) south of Memphis, Tennessee, saw the child urinating and arrested him. Officers put him in a squad car and took him to the police station.


Senatobia Police Chief Richard Chandler said the child was not handcuffed, but his mother has said he was put in a jail cell.

Days after the episode, Chandler said the officers violated their training on how to deal with children. He said one of the officers who took part in the arrest was ” no longer employed,” and other officers would be disciplined. He didn’t specify whether the former officer was fired or quit, or what type of discipline the others would face.

The prosecution threatened to upgrade the charge of “child in need of supervision” to a more serious charge of disorderly conduct if the boy’s family took the case to trial, Moore said.

A voicemail message left for Paige Williams, the Tate County Youth Court prosecutor appointed to handle the case, was not immediately returned. A staffer for Williams has said the attorney could not comment on cases involving juveniles.

After advising the boy’s mother not to sign the probation agreement, Moore filed a motion requesting the Tate County Youth Court either dismiss the case or set a trial. A hearing on that motion has been scheduled for Jan. 16.
 

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Mom of child punished by court for peeing in public refuses to sign probation terms
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Michael Goldberg
Published Dec 19, 2023 • 2 minute read

JACKSON, Miss. — The mother of a 10-year-old child who was sentenced by a Mississippi judge to three months of probation and a book report for urinating in public has refused to sign his probation agreement and has asked for the charge against her son to be dismissed, the family’s attorney announced Tuesday.


The child’s mother had initially planned on signing the agreement to avoid the risk of prosecutors upgrading her son’s charge, as they threatened, but she changed her mind after reading the full agreement Tuesday, attorney Carlos Moore said.


“We cannot in good conscience accept a probation agreement that treats a 10-year-old child as a criminal,” Moore said. “The terms proposed are not in the best interest of our client, and we will take all necessary steps to challenge them.”

The terms for the 10-year-old’s probation were similar to those prosecutors would demand of an adult, including sections that prohibited the use of weapons and demanded he submit to drug tests at a probation officer’s discretion, Moore said.


“It’s just a regular probation. I thought it was something informed for a juvenile. But it’s the same terms an adult criminal would have,” Moore said.

The agreement also imposed an 8 p.m. curfew for the child, which would have taken effect during the Christmas holiday.

The terms of the agreement stem from a sentence ordered on Dec. 12 by Tate County Youth Court Judge Rusty Harlow. The judge said the child, who is Black, must serve three months of probation and write a two-page book report on the late NBA star Kobe Bryant.

The child’s mother has said her son urinated behind her vehicle while she was visiting a lawyer’s office in Senatobia, Mississippi, on Aug. 10. Police officers in the town of about 8,100 residents, 40 miles (64 kilometers) south of Memphis, Tennessee, saw the child urinating and arrested him. Officers put him in a squad car and took him to the police station.


Senatobia Police Chief Richard Chandler said the child was not handcuffed, but his mother has said he was put in a jail cell.

Days after the episode, Chandler said the officers violated their training on how to deal with children. He said one of the officers who took part in the arrest was ” no longer employed,” and other officers would be disciplined. He didn’t specify whether the former officer was fired or quit, or what type of discipline the others would face.

The prosecution threatened to upgrade the charge of “child in need of supervision” to a more serious charge of disorderly conduct if the boy’s family took the case to trial, Moore said.

A voicemail message left for Paige Williams, the Tate County Youth Court prosecutor appointed to handle the case, was not immediately returned. A staffer for Williams has said the attorney could not comment on cases involving juveniles.

After advising the boy’s mother not to sign the probation agreement, Moore filed a motion requesting the Tate County Youth Court either dismiss the case or set a trial. A hearing on that motion has been scheduled for Jan. 16.
I don't get it. So he's caught peeing & gets this and someone who had assaulted another person, or has robbed a store or even murdered someone gets no bail and is back on the street almost immediately yet this kid has to jump through hoops. What happened to a "slap on the wrist" and a "warning?" Things have gone upside down, that's for sure.
 

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New York man imprisoned 37 years for killing 2 men released after conviction overturned
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Published Dec 19, 2023 • 1 minute read
Michael Rhynes is released from Attica Correctional Facility
Michael Rhynes is released from Attica Correctional Facility in Attica, N.Y., Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023.
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — A New York man who served 37 years in prison for the shooting deaths of two people in the 1980s has been released from prison after his conviction was overturned.


The Democrat and Chronicle reports Michael Rhynes left the Attica Correctional Facility on Tuesday afternoon following a court appearance in Rochester.


His daughter, Michelle Miller, who was born three months after Rhynes was arrested, told the newspaper she’d never seen her father outside the confines of prison.

“This will be my first birthday, my first Christmas, my first New Year’s with my father on the outside,” she said. “I think today is the first day I’ve experienced joy. I mean, ever. It’s like a dream.”

Acting state Supreme Court Justice Stephen Miller tossed Rhynes’ 1986 murder conviction last week after two key witnesses, who previously had been in jail with Rhynes, recanted their testimony.

The now-62-year-old was charged in connection with the killing of two people during a botched robbery in 1984 at Rico’s Restaurant in Rochester.


Police had said Rhynes was one of three masked gunmen who entered the restaurant demanding money from the safe. A scuffle ensued, and the owner and a customer were shot and killed before the suspects fled empty-handed.

But the evidence against Rhynes was slim: no DNA, fingerprints or witnesses ever placed him at the scene, the newspaper reported. Prosecutors at the time were prepared to drop the charges before the trial judge urged them to forge ahead.

“We can’t get those years back, those hours, those minutes,” Miller, Rhynes’ daughter, told the newspaper. “The journey has not been easy. But today I’m grateful.”
 

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Boston mayor apologizes to Black men wrongly accused in 1989 murder that shone spotlight on racism
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Steve Leblanc
Published Dec 20, 2023 • 2 minute read

BOSTON — Boston Mayor Michelle Wu issued a formal apology Wednesday to two Black men who were wrongly accused in a 1989 murder of a white woman, a case that coarsened divisions in a city long split along racial lines and renewed suspicion and anger directed at the police department by the city’s Black community.


“I am so sorry for what you endured,” the mayor said during a news conference. “I am so sorry for the pain that you have carried for so many years.”


Alan Swanson and Willie Bennett were wrongly named as suspects in the Oct. 23, 1989, death of Carol Stuart, whose husband, Charles Stuart, had orchestrated her killing.

Stuart, who was also white, blamed his wife’s killing — and his own shooting during what he portrayed as an attempted carjacking — on an unidentified Black gunman, leading to a crackdown by police in one of the city’s traditionally Black neighbourhoods in pursuit of a phantom assailant.

Charles Stuart said a Black man forced his way into their car as the couple left a birthing class at a city hospital on Oct. 23. The man ordered them to drive to the city’s Mission Hill neighbourhood and robbed them before shooting Carol Stuart in the head and Charles in the chest, according to Charles.


Carol Stuart, 29, died the following morning at the same hospital where the couple had attended birthing classes. The baby, delivered by cesarean section, survived just 17 days.

Charles Stuart survived the shooting, with his description of a Black attacker eventually sparking a widespread Boston police “stop and frisk” crackdown of Black men in the neighbourhood, even as some investigators had already come to doubt his story.

“What was done you was unjust, unfair, racist and wrong,” Wu said Wednesday.

During the crackdown, police first arrested Swanson before ruling him out, and then took Bennett into custody. Stuart would later identify Bennett in late December. But by then, Stuart’s story had already begun to fall apart.

Swanson and Bennett denied having any involvement in Carol Stuart’s death. Charles Stuart’s brother, Matthew, eventually confessed to helping him hide the gun.

Willie Bennett’s nephew Joey Bennett accepted Wu’s apology Wednesday on behalf of his uncle and family.

“We are truly humbled to finally be receiving this apology,” he said.

On Jan. 4, 1990, Charles Stuart parked his car on the Tobin Bridge that leads in and out of Boston and jumped, plunging to his death. His body was recovered later that day.

The Boston Globe and an HBO documentary series has cast a new spotlight on the case.
 

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Oklahoma judge rules man who wrongfully spent nearly 50 years in prison for murder is innocent
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Ken Miller
Published Dec 20, 2023 • 2 minute read

OKLAHOMA CITY — An Oklahoma judge has exonerated a man who spent nearly 50 years in prison for murder, the longest serving inmate to be declared innocent of a crime.


Glynn Simmons, 71, who was released in July after prosecutors agreed that key evidence in his case was not turned over to his defence lawyers, was ruled innocent Tuesday.


“This court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the offence for which Mr. Simmons was convicted, sentenced and imprisoned… was not committed by Mr. Simmons,” according to the ruling by Oklahoma County District Judge Amy Palumbo.

Simmons served 48 years, one month and 18 days since his conviction, making him the longest imprisoned U.S. inmate to be exonerated, according to data kept by The National Registry of Exonerations.

Simmons said afterward that he feels vindicated after his time in prison that included initially being sentenced to death row.


“It’s a lesson in resilience and tenacity,” Simmons said during a brief news conference following the ruling. “Don’t let nobody tell you that it (exoneration) can’t happen, because it really can.”

Simmons has maintained his innocence, saying he was in Louisiana at the time of the 1974 slaying of Carolyn Sue Rogers inside an Edmond liquor store.

He and co-defendant Don Roberts were both convicted in 1975 of the murder and initially sentenced to death. Their sentences were reduced to life in prison in 1977 after U.S. Supreme Court rulings related to capital punishment. Roberts was released on parole in 2008.

Palumbo in July ordered a new trial for Simmons after District Attorney Vicki Behenna said prosecutors had failed to turn over evidence in the case, including a police report that showed an eyewitness might have identified other suspects in the case.


Behenna in September said there is no longer physical evidence in the case against Simmons and announced she would not retry him, though she opposed declaring him actually innocent.

A spokesperson for Behenna declined immediate comment on Wednesday.

The ruling makes Simmons eligible for up to $175,000 in compensation from the state for wrongful conviction and opens the door for a federal lawsuit against Oklahoma City and law enforcement involved in Simmons’ arrest and conviction, defence attorney Joe Norwood said Wednesday.

Compensation, though, is likely years away, Norwood said and Simmons is currently living on donations while undergoing treatment for cancer that was detected after his release from prison.

“Glynn is having to live off of GoFundMe, that’s literally how the man is surviving right now, paying rent, buying food,” Norwood said. “Getting him compensation, and getting compensation is not for sure, is in the future and he has to sustain himself now.”
 

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White couple who burned cross in yard facing Black neighbours’ home investigated by FBI
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
James Pollard
Published Dec 20, 2023 • Last updated 21 hours ago • 2 minute read

The FBI is investigating a white South Carolina couple for racial discrimination after they set a cross on fire in their yard last month facing toward their Black neighbors’ home.


Federal civil rights investigators searched the white couple’s home in Conway on Wednesday, according to FBI spokesperson Kevin Wheeler. The retired Black couple also recorded video of the cross being burned on Thanksgiving weekend and described days of repeated threats from their neighbors. The next week, Worden Evander Butler, 28, and Alexis Paige Hartnett, 27, were arrested on state charges of harassment and later released on bond.


Cross burnings in the U.S. are “symbols of hate” that are “inextricably intertwined with the history of the Ku Klux Klan,” according to a 2003 U.S. Supreme Court decision written by the late Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. The justices ruled that the First Amendment allows bans on cross burnings only when they are intended to intimidate because the action “is a particularly virulent form of intimidation.”


The cross wasn’t on fire by the time local police officers arrived, but was still “facing and in full view of the victims’ home,” according to a Horry County Police Department report. Shawn and Monica Williams, the Black neighbors, told WMBF-TV that the burning cross was about 8 feet (2.4 meters) from their fence. They said they’re reconsidering their decision to move to the neighborhood two years ago in light of this experience.

“So now, what are we to do? Still live next to a cross-burning racist who’s threatened to cause us bodily harm?” Monica Williams told the Myrtle Beach-area broadcaster.

The Associated Press did not immediately receive responses to messages seeking comment Wednesday from a publicly available email address for Butler and a Facebook account for Hartnett. AP also called several phone numbers listed for Butler and Hartnett and received no response.


One of the white defendants was heard on police body camera footage repeatedly using a racial slur toward the Black couple, according to the police report. Butler also shared the Black couple’s address on Facebook, and posted that he was “summoning the devil’s army” and “about to make them pay,” the report said. According to an arrest warrant, Hartnett also threatened to hurt the couple.

South Carolina is one of two states in the country that does not impose additional penalties for hate crimes committed because of a victim’s race or other aspects of their identity. Monica Williams told the AP on Wednesday she hopes the episode highlights the need for hate crimes laws. In the meantime, she and her husband will “patiently wait for justice to be served.”

“The laws are needed to protect everyone against any form of hate,” she said.

The Ku Klux Klan began using “cross-lightings” in the early 20th century as part of the hate group’s rituals and as an intimidating act of terror, according to the Anti-Defamation League. The image is so synonymous with racist ideologies that tattoos of burning crosses behind klansmen are found among European white supremacists, the ADL notes.
 

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Jury acquits Washington cops in death of Black man who told them he couldn’t breathe
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Martha Bellisle And Maddy Grassy
Published Dec 21, 2023 • 4 minute read
The Tacoma Link Light Rail is blocked
The Tacoma Link Light Rail is blocked during a rally after the verdict is read during the trial of three Tacoma Police officers in the killing of Manny Ellis, at Pierce County Superior Court, Thursday, Dec. 21, 2023, in Tacoma, Wash.
TACOMA, Wash. — A jury cleared three Washington state police officers of all criminal charges Thursday in the 2020 death of Manuel Ellis, a Black man who was shocked, beaten and restrained face-down on a Tacoma sidewalk as he pleaded for breath.


Two of the officers — Matthew Collins, 40, and Christopher Burbank, 38 — had been charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter, while Timothy Rankine, 34, was charged with manslaughter. Their attorneys argued that Ellis died from a lethal amount of methamphetamine that was in his system as well as a preexisting heart condition, not from the officers’ actions, and the jury found the three not guilty on all counts.


There was a gasp from the gallery when the first not-guilty verdict was read. Rankine sat forward in his seat and wiped his eyes, while Collins hugged his lawyer.

Matthew Ericksen, a lawyer representing the Ellis family, said it was hard to convey how devastating the verdict was for the family and community.


“The biggest reason why I personally think this jury found reasonable doubt is because the defense was essentially allowed to put Manny Ellis on trial,” Ericksen said via email. “The defense attorneys were allowed to dredge up Manny’s past and repeat to the jury again and again Manny’s prior arrests in 2015 and 2019. That unfairly prejudiced jurors against Manny.”

Ellis was walking home with doughnuts from a 7-Eleven in Tacoma, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of Seattle, late on March 3, 2020, when he passed a patrol car stopped at a red light, with Collins and Burbank inside.

The officers claimed they saw Ellis try to open the door of a passing car at the intersection and he became aggressive when they tried to question him about it. Collins testified that Ellis demonstrated “superhuman strength” by lifting him off the ground and throwing him through the air.


But three witnesses who testified said they saw no such thing, reporting that they did not see Ellis try to strike or do anything that would provoke the officers. After what appeared to be a brief conversation between Ellis and the officers, who are both white, Burbank, in the passenger seat, threw open his door, knocking Ellis down, they said.

The witnesses — one of whom yelled for the officers to stop attacking Ellis — and a doorbell surveillance camera captured video of parts of the encounter. The video showed Ellis with his hands up in a surrender position as Burbank shot a Taser at his chest and Collins wrapped an arm around his neck from behind.

Among the many other officers who responded was Rankine, who arrived after Ellis was already handcuffed face-down and knelt on his upper back.


Video captured Ellis addressing the officers as “sir” while telling them he couldn’t breathe. One officer is heard responding, “Shut the (expletive) up, man.”

“When I saw Manuel not doing anything, and him get attacked like that, it wasn’t right,” witness Sara McDowell, 26, said at the trial. “I’d never seen police do anything like that. It was the worst thing I’ve ever seen. It was scary. It wasn’t OK.”

Ellis’ death became a touchstone for racial justice demonstrators in the Pacific Northwest, but it also coincided with the first U.S. outbreak of COVID-19 at a nursing home in nearby Kirkland and did not garner the attention that the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis did nearly three months later.

The trial, which lasted more than two months, was the first under a 5-year-old state law designed to make it easier to prosecute police accused of wrongfully using deadly force.


As the sun went down Thursday, about 30 people including family members of Ellis gathered near the Manuel Ellis mural in Tacoma, closing an intersection. “No justice, no peace,” they chanted.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, whose office prosecuted the case, said in a statement that he was grateful for the jury, the court and his legal team “for their extraordinary hard work and dedication.”

“I know the Ellis family is hurting, and my heart goes out to them,” he said.

The Ellis family immediately left the courtroom and planned to speak at a news conference later. The Washington Coalition for Police Accountability said in a statement that “the not guilty verdict is further proof the system is broken, failing the very people it should be serving.”


Roger Rogoff, director of the state’s recently created Office of Independent Investigations, which is tasked with investigating police shootings, said he did not want to comment directly on the verdict but expressed sympathy for the Ellis family and said he is “glad that the trial lis over for all people involved.”

The City of Tacoma said in a statement that the verdicts will not affect an internal police department investigation and once its findings are approved by Chief Avery Moore, he’ll make any decisions about possible discipline, “up to and including termination.” That is expected to happen within the next two weeks.

“No criminal trial will bring Mr. Ellis back to his loved ones,” the city said. “The City of Tacoma acknowledges this and the widespread pain this incident caused.”


The Ellis family settled a federal wrongful death lawsuit against Pierce County, which is home to Tacoma, for $4 million last year.

At trial, Collins testified that he lamented Ellis’ death but wouldn’t have done anything differently. He said he never heard Ellis say, repeatedly, that he couldn’t breathe, and he maintained that Ellis started the confrontation by lifting Collins off the ground and throwing him onto his back, something no other witness reported seeing.

Rankine also testified, calling Ellis’ death a tragedy. He was pressing his knees into Ellis’ back when Ellis pleaded for breath.

“The only response at that point that I could think of is, ‘If you can talk to me, you can still breathe,”‘ Rankine said.
 

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Chicago man exonerated in 2011 murder case where legally blind eyewitness gave testimony
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Corey Williams
Published Dec 22, 2023 • 2 minute read
Darien Harris speaks to reporters outside Cook County Jail after prosecutors dropped charges on Harris for a fatal shooting in 2011 in a Woodlawn gas station he was convicted for and was serving a 76 year long sentence, Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023, Cook County, Ill.
Darien Harris speaks to reporters outside Cook County Jail after prosecutors dropped charges on Harris for a fatal shooting in 2011 in a Woodlawn gas station he was convicted for and was serving a 76 year long sentence, Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023, Cook County, Ill.
Darien Harris spent more than 12 years in an Illinois prison, convicted of murder in part on the testimony of an eyewitness who was legally blind.


Harris, who was released from prison on Tuesday, was convicted in 2014 for the 2011 fatal shooting of a man at a gas station on Chicago’s South Side.


His case is the latest in a dozen exonerations this year in Chicago’s Cook County, where defendants have been represented by attorneys with The Exoneration Project.

“It does seem in the past few months there have been a larger number than usual,” said Lauren Myerscough-Mueller, a lecturer in law and staff attorney for The Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago Law School.

Since 2009, more than 200 people have been exonerated through the group’s work, according to data from the organization.

About 150 of the convictions were tied to former Chicago police Sgt. Ronald Watts, who regularly framed people for drug crimes they didn’t commit. Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said in December 2022 that 237 convictions vacated in recent years were linked to Watts and his unit.


Harris is one of four Chicago men who have been exonerated over the past few weeks.

On Dec. 14, James Soto and his cousin, David Ayala, had their murder convictions vacated after spending more than 40 years each in Illinois’ prisons. Each had been sentenced to life in prison. Soto also was represented by The Exoneration Project.

Brian Beals, 57, was freed two days earlier after a judge dismissed murder and other charges and vacated his conviction. Beals had spent 35 years behind bars.

Harris was sentenced to 76 years in prison.

“But I fought, and now I’m here,” Harris, now 30, said after his release. “I fought. Keep on fighting, everybody. Just keep on fighting. Never give up.”

Myerscough-Mueller said evidence showed the eyewitness had advanced glaucoma and lied about his eyesight issues at Harris’ trial. Evidence also included testimony from a gas station attendant who said Harris wasn’t the shooter.


“It always was a very thin case. Darien never should have been convicted in the first place,” she said.

Judges and prosecutors are giving such cases “more serious looks,” added Josh Tepfer, another attorney with The Exoneration Project, which is among a number of organizations across the United States seeking justice for the wrongfully imprisoned.

“They see repeat problems,” Tepfer said.

Also this week, an Oklahoma judge exonerated 71-year-old Glynn Simmons who spent 48 years in prison for a 1974 murder. Simmons was released in July after prosecutors agreed that key evidence in his case was not turned over to his defense lawyers.

Two men who served decades in prison for separate murders in New York City were exonerated last month after reinvestigations found they had been convicted based on unreliable witness testimony. The Legal Aid Society and the Innocence Project were involved in those cases.