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State of Equality and Justice in America: The Presumption of Guilt

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Africanglobe Louis Taylor photo

Louis Taylor was falsely imprisoned for 42 years by the U.S. justice system

AFRICANGLOBE – After serving 42 years in an Arizona prison for a crime he didn’t commit, a 58-year-old man was finally released this April. When Louis Taylor was just 16, he ventured out of his comfort zone to try a happy hour advertised by an upscale Tucson hotel, a typical foray for an adventurous teenage boy.

Unfortunately, that night a fire broke out that ultimately claimed 29 lives. In that moment, Louis Taylor stopped being typical and became extraordinary. He did not run from the danger as most people would.

Instead he took responsibility. He was spotted during the crisis busily helping people escape the flames, escorting guests to safety and assisting people on stretchers.

Ordinarily, he would have been hailed a teenage hero for demonstrating a civic duty only expected of grown men. Yet eyewitness accounts of his beyond-the-call-of-duty service were not credited as outstanding demonstrations of good character. To police and even some bystanders his very presence made him automatically suspect.

More than the possibility that he could have saved someone’s life, people were consumed by their sense that he “did not belong in a fancy Tucson hotel”.

The forensic evidence suggested faulty electrical wiring or some building defect as the likely cause, not arson, but scientific facts could not derail a hardwired determination that because Louis Taylor was  African-American, he had to be at fault. His youth, his innocence, and even his dramatic work to save and comfort the victims were imperceptible and irrelevant.

No Evidence

Louis Taylor American Justice photo

Louis Taylor was just a 16 when he was subjected the a legal lynching

Outraged citizens wanted the death penalty. A profiler was brought in who swore under oath that the likely perpetrator was “a Black teenager.” Louis Taylor was convicted by an all-White jury and sentenced to multiple life sentences, ensuring he would die in prison. Fortunately, the Arizona Justice Project recently took up the case. New research from the National Academy of Science proved there was no evidence of arson in the fire. Wrongly convicted, Louis Taylor was finally released-42 years later.

It would be hard to call Mr. Louis Taylor lucky, but the truth is thousands just like him, including innocent children, are being victimized by a presumption of guilt that never sees African-American youth as blameless, as engaged in proverbial “good, clean, fun,” as harmless. Instead it attributes to them every violence and vice, even if those suspicions contradict the facts.

For nearly 50 years, starting in the 1920s, America maintained a prison population of close to 200,000 people. Today we have the highest incarceration rate in the world with 2.3 million people in jails or prison. One out of three Black boys born in 2001 is likely to serve time in jail or prison during his lifetime. Half of our incarcerated are imprisoned for non-violent drug crimes.

While African-American teens are less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol than Whites, they are 3-4 times more likely to be arrested, convicted or sent to jail or prison for non-violent drug offenses. The violent crime rate in America is the same as it was in 1968, yet our prison system has grown by over 500 percent.

School to Jail

The presumption of guilt follows too many poor and minority children to school, a place where children should be nurtured and supported, not criminalized and incarcerated. Yet the pipeline from school to jail is so insidious, many parents now fear schools as much as they fear the criminal justice system.

In 2012, the Justice Department sued school officials in Meridian, Mississippi for systematically incarcerating Black and disabled children for days at a time for minor dress code infractions like wearing the wrong color socks or talking back to the teacher.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, children have been expelled for giving Midol to classmates, bringing household goods to school for Goodwill donations and scissors to class for an art project.


Children as young as five years old are being led out of classrooms in handcuffs for acting out or throwing temper tantrums. They have been arrested for throwing an eraser at a teacher, breaking a pencil, and having rap lyrics in a locker. African-American children constitute 18 percent of the nation’s public school population but 40 percent of the children who are suspended or expelled.

Profiling Legalized

In Arizona, Alabama, Georgia and a growing number of states, legally sanctioned racial profiling has been resurrected leading African-Americans particularly, and other ethnic minority U.S citizens, to fear harassment, suspicion and detention.

In New York City between 2002 to 2011, 90 percent of the city’s notorious “stop and frisk’’ victims have been Black and Latino residents. In 88 percent of those stops, ethnic minorities were found to be innocent of any wrongdoing.

In the year when this nation will celebrate the Supreme Court’s historic ruling to create a right to counsel for indigent people accused of crimes, protections for the poor and innocent are almost non-existent.

In a courtroom, where justice should be blind, the presumption of guilt is especially dangerous. Today too many innocent prisoners like Louis Taylor are trapped by systemic pressure to plead guilty in a system where 96 percent of all convictions are rendered by plea bargains.

‘Innocent Defendant’s Dilemma’

The Innocent Defendant’s Dilemma, a recent study, describes how the blameless, particularly those who are poor, find it an onerous, nearly impossible burden to prove their innocence. With few resources for defense, they find themselves trapped by a system that presumes their guilt. Since the odds seem hopelessly stacked against them, many innocent individuals reluctantly plead guilty to avoid the longest prison terms or even death. Innocent victims lose years in prison, face rejection because of criminal records, and many never reach their potential.

Human Rights Abuses

We have come a great distance in the last 50 years, but we still have not fully escaped the miseducation and distortions created by America’s policies of racial injustice.

These problems demand remedies, and we must admit this nation may require some form of therapy before we can freely reconcile ourselves to a better future informed by the truth surrounding present human rights abuses and those of the past.

Despite progress, in the last 50 years we have retreated from an honest conversation about racial and economic justice, and have opted instead for mass criminalization and incarceration leaving many poor and minority people marginalized and condemned. As Taylor’s story reminds us, out of sight is hardly out of mind. It is an abysmal violation of human dignity.


U.S. Rep. John Lewis has represented the 5th Congressional District of Georgia since 1987. Bryan Stevenson isexecutive director and founder of the Equal Justice.


Louis Taylor On Being Free After 42 Years Behind Bars


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"I'm just trying to make a way out of no way, for my people" -Modejeska Monteith Simpkins









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Jessie Thornton Copyright 2013 Scripps Media, Inc. All  rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or  redistributed.


Posted: 06/04/2013

SURPRISE, AZ - Jessie Thornton sleeps during the day and runs errands and  works out during the night.

"My wife, she's an ER nurse and works three 12-hour shifts, so I adjusted my  schedule to be like her schedule," said Thornton.

The 64-year-old retired firefighter moved to a Surprise retirement community  from Ohio.

Jessie says his late hours have put him in the police spotlight.

"I've been stopped 10 times in Surprise and given four tickets, it's  amazing," said Thornton.

His latest incident with Surprise police officers prompted Thornton to hire a  lawyer with plans to sue the department.

Around 11 p.m. Thornton, according to Surprise Police Department paperwork,  was pulled over for crossing the white line in his lane.

"He (the officer) walked up and he said 'I can tell you're driving DUI by  looking in your eyes,'" said Thornton.

The 64-year-old says his eyes could have been red because he had just left LA  Fitness where he was in the pool swimming.

"I take my glasses off and he says, 'You've got bloodshot eyes.' I said,  'I've been swimming at LA Fitness,' and he says, 'I think you're DUI,'" said  Thornton. "He (the officer) goes, 'Well we're going to do a sobriety test.' I  said, 'OK, but I got bad knees and a bad hip with surgery in two days.'"

Medical documents show Thornton was scheduled to have hip replacement surgery  two days after the incident.

According to the police report, the officer notes that Thornton does have a  hip and knee problem.

Thornton said two other officers arrived and he conducted the sobriety  test.

"At one point, one of the officers shined the light in my eye and said, 'Oh,  sorry,' and asked the other officer if he was doing it right,'" said  Thornton.

Thornton said he was then placed in handcuffs and told to sit on the  curb.

"I couldn't even sit on the ground like that and they knew it and I was like  laying on the ground, then they put me in the back of an SUV and when I asked  the officer to move her seat up 'cause my hip hurt she told me to stop whining,"  said Thornton.

According to documents provided to ABC15 from the City of Surprise, Thornton  was taken to police headquarters where he took a breathalyzer test.

The test, according to the police documents came back with a blood alcohol  level of 0.000.

"Yes, I do the breathalyzer and it comes back zero, zero, zero," said  Thornton.

While in custody, a "DRE" or drug recognition expert is called to test  Thornton.

"After he did all the tests, he says, 'I would never have arrested you, you  show no signs of impairment,'" said Thornton.

The Surprise resident is right. The police documents show the drug  recognition officer wrote, "I conducted an evaluation of Jessie, in my opinion  Jessie was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol."

According the documents from the Surprise Police Department, the blood  analysis showed no drugs were detected in Thornton's blood.

Jessie's car had been impounded and the MVD notified of the DUI charge.

"I then get this message that my license is being suspended and I have to  take some sort of drinking class or something," said Thornton.

According to the police documents, Thornton was later released to his  wife.

"She was at work and had to come get me, it was a mess, I couldn't believe  it," said Thornton. "On top of that my car was impounded on a Friday night and  they said I couldn't get it until Monday.."

Thornton now claims this wasn't DUI.

"It was driving while black," said Thornton.

"This is a case of D-W-B, driving while black," said Thornton's attorney Marc  Victor.

Victor's office has filed a notice of claim against the City of Surprise  seeking $500,000.

"It's not totally about the money, although I'm already out more than $5,000,  that's $5,000 that I don't have," said Thornton.

"This is not the way American citizens ought to be treated by officers or  treated by anybody for that matter," said Victor.

To be clear, ABC15 provided the Surprise Police Department an opportunity to  talk about Thornton's incident, however, due to standard policy, the Department  was unable to comment due to pending legal action.

The DUI charge was recently dropped, but Victor's office claims it's not  enough.

"Here he (Jessie) is being harassed for no other reason than the color of his  skin," said Attorney Charity Clark. "It's frustrating that somebody had to go  through this type of experience, they poke and prod him and arrest him for  nothing."

Thornton said his daughter, who is in law enforcement, has filed an official  complaint with the City of Surprise.

"Listen, I was a firefighter and firefighters work hand in hand with police  officers, I have nothing against police officers, this just wasn't right."

As for Jessie's hip, medical documents show he did have hip replacement  surgery days after the arrest.

"I just don't want any of this to happen to somebody else," said  Thornton. 

Copyright 2013 Scripps Media,  Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast,  rewritten, or redistributed.


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Diabetic, asthmatic Ashlynn Avery sues after being beaten  and arrested for classroom nap  

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Ashlynn Avery  

Ashlynn Avery, a diabetic  asthmatic with sleep apnoea, was allegedly bashed before being arrested by a  school cop for dozing in class. Source: Facebook


A DIABETIC, asthmatic student with a sleeping disorder was allegedly bashed  then arrested by a school police officer after being caught napping at her desk.    


Ashlynn Avery alleges Officer Christopher Bryant slapped her backpack before  shoving her face-first into a filing cabinet and handcuffing her.

Shortly afterwards, the teen vomited in a police car and had to be taken to  hospital. She had to wear a cast on her arm for a month as a result of her  injuries.

Ms Avery is now suing the city of Alabama, its police department and several  employees at Hoover High School for civil rights violation, battery and  negligent supervision and hiring.

According to her complaint , Ms Avery fell asleep while in a  room reserved for "in-school suspensions" after getting in trouble for cutting  class.

The student, who suffers from diabetes, asthma and sleep apnoea fell asleep  while reading Mark Twain classic Huckleberry Finn.

In response, the school's suspension supervisor, Joshua Whited, allegedly  walked over to Ms Avery's cubicle and struck it, causing the partition to hit  her head, the lawsuit states.

She woke up but soon drifted off again. Whited allegedly then took the book  and threw it back onto her desk - hitting Ms Avery's chest in the process - and  ordered her to leave the room.

It is alleged that Officer Bryant followed Ms Avery, slapped her backpack,  and then "proceeded to shove Ashlynn face first into a file cabinet and handcuff  her".

"Ashlynn required follow-up care to her shoulder, arm, and wrist. Ashlynn  also required extended mental counselling for trauma caused by the defendants,"  the lawsuit stated.

The Averys are seeking "compensatory and punitive damages for civil rights  violations, battery and negligent supervision and hiring".

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Police interaction with community needs work

Angelique Gerald-Porter shows where she was grabbed on her arm by a policeman in front of her Overbrook house on Memorial Day 2011. The cop also punched her in the stomach, she says. STEVEN M. FALK / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Angelique Gerald-Porter shows where she was grabbed on her arm by a policeman in front of her Overbrook house on Memorial Day 2011. The cop also punched her in the stomach, she says. STEVEN M. FALK / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Posted: May 30, 2012

THE WHITE SHEET covering Denzel Stephens’ body soaked up his blood from the pavement, as Fairhill neighbors craned their necks to catch a glimpse of the 21-year-old who lay facedown between parked cars.

Philadelphia Police investigators scoured the area for evidence, and an officer joked with neighbors while he tried to disperse the crowd. But when he turned to a young boy, his pleasant attitude changed.

"I’ll probably be seeing you in about six years," Officer Arthur Anderson, a nine-year department veteran, said to the wide-eyed youth watching cops step carefully around the bloody, bullet-ridden corpse on 2nd Street near Allegheny Avenue.

A man standing next to the boy spoke out against Anderson’s statement, and Anderson turned to him. "I’ll probably see you tomorrow," the 25th District officer said. Then he addressed the neighbors: "If you don’t like it, file a complaint."

This exchange on a night in late March, witnessed by a Daily News reporter, exemplified an "us-versus-them mentality" that residents say persists between some cops and civilians in certain areas, limiting officers’ ability to build the relationships needed to solve the city’s raging violence.

Cpt. Frank Vanore, Anderson’s commanding officer, said he was unaware of any complaint after the incident. He said that he’d look into the matter and that officials are still interviewing witnesses, other officers and supervisors who were there.

But the sting of the officer’s statement is an offense that Vanore said he takes personally.

"You gotta talk to people, you gotta listen to information, but the last thing you want to do is promote a poor attitude toward police or say something derogatory," he said.

Similar incidents occur relatively regularly in Philadelphia, residents say, eroding faith in the department and counteracting its effort to use neighborhood-based policing to build bonds in areas where citizens are distrustful — or hostile — toward law enforcement.

Dan Kennedy of South Philadelphia, who witnessed Anderson’s comment to the boy in Fairhill, said that most Philadelphians in high-crime and poor areas seem resigned to shrugging off negative encounters with police because they’re used to them.

"It’s almost an understanding. You almost give up all your rights," Kennedy said, adding that the police "need to not consider each person in neighborhoods a criminal before they’ve done anything wrong. I think that that sort of outlook on things is just counterproductive to what they should be doing."

Working with the neighborhood

The police department adopted a neighborhood-based policing model in 2009, splitting the city’s 21 police districts into 64 Police Service Areas — smaller clusters of neighborhoods.

Police usually patrol the same neighborhoods to forge relationships and familiarize themselves with criminal elements and quality-of-life issues.

With cops spending an average of about 70 percent of their time patrolling their PSAs, according to Commissioner Charles Ramsey, strained relationships could be costly.

"We carry baggage as police ... where we don’t always treat people the best," Ramsey said. "We’ve had some people, unfortunately, who violate their role and don’t have the highest level of integrity. So, I mean, some of it we bring on ourselves. Some is real, some is perceived."

A study by Wesley Skogan, a professor at Northwestern University’s Institute for Policy Research, suggests that negative encounters with police are as much as 14 times more influential than positive ones in shaping the way a civilian perceives police.

Skogan found that these types of questionable exchanges happen more often in poorer, higher-crime areas where police and civilians would likely benefit most from having solid relationships.

"Positive interactions can help you a little bit, but one negative interaction can do a lot of harm. It’s always difficult, this is a very complicated, dynamic kind of environment," said Jerry Ratcliffe, chairman of the criminal-justice department at Temple University. "When people have a bad impression of the police, it’s very hard for police to recover from that."

Deputy Commissioner Patricia Giorgio-Fox, who oversees the Office of Organizational Accountability, said negative encounters are likely to happen regardless of patrol strategy.

"It is a work in progress, and some officers and some community members are much more comfortable with the interpersonal aspect of what we’re asking them to do," Giorgio-Fox said. "That takes time."

"We’ve got to make sure, when we bring people into the workforce, [that we] don’t make assumptions that they are comfortable interacting with folks," Ramsey said.

"Don’t make assumptions that they’re comfortable interacting with people who may not be like them," said the commissioner, adding that young officers — like nearly everyone else — seem to be losing interpersonal skills as communication becomes increasingly technology-based.

That’s why assigning younger officers to patrol high-crime areas and having them work regularly with neighbors is essential to the community-based policing model, Ramsey said.

"It changes your attitude, so later on in your career you realize everybody’s not out to get you, everyone doesn’t hate you, everybody’s not a crook or a criminal," Ramsey said. Although relations may be strained in some neighborhoods, he said, cops walking the streets and talking to people in nonthreatening situations is the only way to start building trust in the city’s roughest areas.

"There are more decent, law-abiding citizens living there than criminals — and you don’t know that if you’re driving up and down the street in a Crown Vic at 40 miles an hour," Ramsey said.

A traumatic experience

It will take time to change public perceptions of police and to change cops’ attitudes toward citizens through the neighborhood-policing model, Ratcliffe said. "The principles under which it’s set up are sound," he said, "But I think we have to be realistic."

For Angelique Gerald-Porter and her family, being realistic about the way cops interact with civilians meant moving to a different neighborhood in a different district after she was beaten by a 19th District officer in front of her Overbrook house on Memorial Day 2011.

Police responded to Gerald-Porter’s block on Simpson Street near Vine to question a group of teenage boys. Gerald-Porter, her 2-year-old son and a friend were watching from the steps of her house. She didn’t agree with the way officers were behaving, and her friend recorded the encounter and took down badge numbers.

A cop told Gerald-Porter to go to the end of the block, even though she repeatedly told him that she lived in the house.

"This is our property right now," the officer said shortly before he was recorded on video grabbing Gerald-Porter by her arm. From there, the iPhone video dissolves into a whirlwind of screams while the officer wrestles Gerald-Porter to the ground. She said that the cop punched her in her stomach, and that her son was pinned beneath them and was kicked in his head during the scuffle.

Both were treated and released from Lankenau Hospital.

In an incident report, cops said Gerald-Porter’s argument with the officer incited neighbors to crowd the block and hamper their investigation. But the video tells a different story, with four squad cars crammed onto the street and more police than civilians.

Although charges of disorderly conduct were thrown out against her, the incident had a lingering impact. After years of donating to the families of fallen police and firefighters, she considers her family’s relationship with the department broken.

"My children were scared to go outside, my children were traumatized," Gerald-Porter said. A call to the 19th District to check whether the officer was still patrolling her neighborhood left her feeling that the incident had been disregarded by the department.

"And I said, ‘So he’s still walking around my neighborhood with a gun?’ He said, ‘Yeah, that’s exactly right,’" Gerald-Porter said. "I never called back after that. I was scared to death."

Ramsey said the community-based-policing model may not be as effective in some neighborhoods as in others. But whether tense situations are instigated by police or by civilians, Ramsey said, officers are expected to hold themselves to a higher standard.

"We have some police officers who don’t perform their job the way I’d like to see them perform their job — either they don’t have the social skills or the kind of caring that I would like to see in police officers," he said.

"This is not pro-bono work. They get paid to do this stuff and there is an expectation that I have — that the community ought to have — that they be professional at all times. There’s no excuse to treat people poorly."

Contact Phillip Lucas at 215-854-5914,, or follow @UnPhiltered on Twitter. Read his blog at

NAN To Protest Brutality In Front Of Natchez-Adams County Miss. Sheriff’s Dept. [VIDEO]

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Rev. Charles Williams II, President of NAN's Detroit Chapter<noscript>&amp;lt;img class="size-large wp-image-2558640" alt="Rev. Charles Williams II, President of NAN's Detroit Chapter" src=";amp;#038;h=363" width="646" height="363" /&amp;gt;</noscript>

Rev. Charles Williams II (center), President of NAN’s Detroit Chapter, speaking to reporters about the Tasering of Debra Pernell-Simmons, Vice-President of the Mississippi Chapter of NAN, by the Adams County Sheriff’s Department.

The Mississippi Chapter of the National Action Network (NAN), community leaders and local clergy in Natchez, Mississippi have joined forces to protest the vicious Tasering of Debra Pernell-Simmons, Vice-President of the Mississippi Chapter of NAN and a retired Detroit Public School teacher, by the Adams County Sheriff’s Department, as well as their larger culture of brutality, said Rev. Charles Williams II, President of NAN’s Detroit Chapter, in a press release.

RELATED: NewsOne EXCLUSIVE: Debra Pernell-Simmons: NAN Vice-President Tasered At Miss. Civil Rights Rally [VIDEO]

In addition to the “Rally for Justice,” the coalition is calling on the Adams County District Attorney’s office to investigate and charge deputies with excessive force.

“I’ve been in the City of Natchez for a complete weekend and as I’ve talked to Natchez residents and community leaders in churches, barbershops and even the Zydeco Festival,” said Rev. Williams in an exclusive statement to NewsOne. “It’s evident that the community at large feels that the Adams County Sheriff’s department has a history and reputation for performing rogue and brutal actions on residents and inmates. Therefore we will also set up meetings with the United States Department of Justice and Mississippi State Attorney General calling for intervention and investigation.”

As previously reported exclusively by NewsOne, Pernell-Simmons and members of NAN, the civil rights organization founded by Rev. Al Sharpton, traveled to Natchez on June 3, 2013, to throw full support behind Glennese Smith Scott, 33, a social worker and author of the book, “Surviving A Thousand Deaths,” who is in the midst of an uphill court battle against the Sheriff’s Department for abuse — and negligence — she allegedly suffered at their hands that caused her to miscarry twins.

While protesting on the sidewalk in front of the Adams County Courthouse, in compliance with a city permit, Pernell-Simmons was told to move. When she refused, she was violently pushed to the ground and held down by two Black deputies, Charles Sims and Walter Mackel, while being Tasered by White deputy, Danny Barber.

“Don’t forget that some Africans sold us into slavery,” said Williams. “They use our own against us.”

Watch exclusive video recorded by NAN member, Crystal Jackson, below [Trigger: Police Brutality]:

“It is truly a disgrace how the Adams County Sheriff’s department turned a peaceful rally into something ugly and utterly violent,” said Jackson, to NewsOne. “This was the point of the rally, to address [Scott's] mistreatment by this department and they did not fail to prove themselves worthy of their allegations.”

At an organizational meeting at King Solomon Baptist Church in Natchez on June 8, former Justice Court Judge Mary Lee Toles said that the charge brought against Simmons picketing that interferes with government buildings, property, streets and sidewalks” — was a remnant of the Civil Rights Movement when police tried to intimidate African-Americans into not protesting.

“There have been protests and marches since then, and that law has never been invoked,” said Toles. “My question is, ‘Why now?’ Because [NAN] was protesting misconduct by the Sheriff’s department.

“I want to know why,” Toles continued. ” And they need to answer to why.”

Phillip West, a civil rights activist and the city’s first Black mayor since Reconstruction, gave visiting NAN members a glimpse into Natchez history, and explained that this type of racist, corrupt behavior is not new to the oldest town in Mississippi:

“Natchez is the birthplace of Mississippi,” said West. “The Forks-in-the-Road was the second largest slave trading post in the South. We have more millionaires per capita than any city in the United States. This [kind of behavior] is not new… but coming together as a community we can end it.”

Community members interrupted the speakers at times to call for the firing of Sheriff Chuck Mayfield and for an overhaul of the entire Sheriff’s department.

Though West voiced the opinion that Mississippi law does not allow for a recall of elected officials, there is a seldom used recall law that has rarely been put to use:

The DJ Journal reports:

In Mississippi, statewide elected officials can be removed from office only if they are convicted of a felony – with some few exceptions. County officials, on the other hand, can be removed by the voters under a law the Legislature passed in 1956.

“I’ve never heard of it being used,” said Bubba Neely, a longtime Mississippi Senate attorney. “It’s so convoluted, I don’t know how it could be used.”

Under the provision, laid out across three dozen code subsections, the governor may remove a county official after a multi-phase process, which begins with the reasons for that person’s removal:

“Knowingly or willfully failing, neglecting or refusing to perform any of the duties required of such officer by law.” (Miss. Code ’72, Sect. 25-5-5.)

Constance Malcolm, Supporters Speak Out For Cop-Slain Ramarley Graham After Failed Indictment

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ramarley family speaks out at house

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It’s been almost a month since a Bronx judge threw out an indictment against NYPD officer Richard Haste, the man who shot and killed 18-year-old Ramarley Graham (pictured below), on a technicality. Thursday afternoon, Graham’s family, friends, and supporters met at the house where the teen was gunned down.

RELATED: Bronx Judge Throws Out Ramarley Graham Case, Family Vows To Keep Fighting For Slain Son

Due to a small turnout and inclement weather, original plans for a rally to the 47th Precinct turned into a public speakout against the judge’s decision and the system that encouraged it.

“It’s low numbers, but the number doesn’t make a difference, you know,” Constance Malcolm (pictured far right), Ramarley’s mother, told the crowd. “Even if we have two people, we [will] still be out here, fighting for justice for Ramarley.”

“It’s hard enough to get an indictment, and for them to do that [throw it out], I look at it like, it’s a detour. We’[re] [going to] find some way to go around it, and we’[re] gonna get justice. No matter how long it takes, we’re gonna get justice.”

Yul-san Liem, a member of anti-police violence movement the Justice Committee, saw the smaller crowd as another hurdle in the fight for an indictment.

ramarley-graham picture

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“We have to keep the pressure on,” she said. “We’ve been doing actions, telling folks to call, fax, e-mail the D.A., telling them they have to convene a grand jury to indict Richard Haste. The only way they’re gonna do it is if they feel they have no other choice.”

“Going through this struggle, and knowing about other victims of police brutality and racism that we’re dealing with — this system is not made for us,” said Sneferu Boatwright, a Bronx resident who was in the neighborhood when Graham was shot. ”This system is just made for the few to thrive [off] the many, which means the many must suffer in this system.”

Watch Constance and others speak out:

“The most important thing we can do is unite with each other and just realize that we’re in this together and that this is not gonna end until we decide that it’s over, until we decide that the next victim is the last one.”

As NewsOne previously reported:

Graham was shot and killed in his bathroom by Officer Haste on February 2, 2012, after he was pursued by Haste and his narcotics unit.

Haste and his fellow officers were reportedly monitoring a local bodega for drug activity, when they allegedly spotted Graham in a drug deal.

Police claim that Graham gave chase once he saw police officers and then refused to put his hands up when commanded to, causing Haste to pull the trigger and end the teen’s life. Graham was allegedly attempting to flush the small purchase of marijuana down the toilet.

But what can be clearly seen on a surveillance tape tells a different story.

If Graham was indeed running from a drug deal gone bad, why is he seen on video calmly entering his home? And while officers are seen running up to the residence and immediately kicking the door down, why did they refuse to follow protocol and announce themselves and then enter Graham’s residence WITHOUT  a search warrant?

The Graham family will be holding 14 marches every two weeks throughout the city, a reference to the 14 months it took them to receive charges against Haste. The first official march will take place on June 27th at 125th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard  at 5 p.m.

RELATED: We Must Get Justice For Ramarley Graham

Bizarre! Man Arrested During BMW Test Drive

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<noscript>&amp;lt;img class="alignnone size-full wp-image-2510298" alt="sowell" src=";amp;#038;h=407" width="725" height="407" /&amp;gt;</noscript>

Jon-Christopher Sowells (pictured) took a test drive that he’ll never forget!

The Gwinnett County, Ga., man went shopping for a BMW and decided to take the car for a test drive. What happened next was disturbing. The cops pulled him over and cuffed him for obstruction, according to the GA Daily News.

SEE ALSO: Tayloni Mazyck: 11-Year-Old New York Girl Paralyzed After Being Shot By Stray Bullet

It all started when Sowells drove a BMW out of Philips Motors in Snellville for a test run. He drove onto a highway and was stopped by police officers soon after. According to Sowells, the officer said he didn’t have any tags on the car.

“I said, ‘No problem.’ I don’t have any tags on this car because it’s not my car,” Sowells said he told one of the officers. “The dealer is right there. We can get it all clarified.”

When Sowells asked the officers repeatedly to call and confirm his test drive with the dealership, they allegedly refused. Sowells said the officers asked to view a document that was strewn across the vehicle’s back seat. Not knowing what it was, he refused.

Bad move!

The officers then resorted to using bully tactics, Sowells claims. “They asked me to get out of the car. I said ‘I don’t feel comfortable.’ They commenced to open up the car door and they tried to drag me out of the door by my left arm,” he contends.

It was at this point that the officers called for backup.

SEE ALSO: ‘Family Values’: Trina Braxton Files For Divorce [VIDEO]

The police report states that Sowells tried pulling away from the policemen. When the lawmen pulled out their tasers, Sowells then acquiesced and was arrested on the spot.

Sowells is upset by the incident because, “they’re treating me like I’m a criminal and I hadn’t done anything.”

Here’s what the Snellville police department had to say about the matter:

The officer observed a paper on the rear seat that appeared to be of the type dealers use when placing a vehicle for sale. He asked if he could retrieve it and Mr. Sowells refused. Based on his refusal to provide information and his passive and then active resistance, Mr. Sowells was charged with obstruction.

Police officials also state that when the dealership was contacted, no one answered the call. When Sowells and the officer drove to the dealership, “The dealer comes out to pick the car up and at this point I’m thinking we can all go home,” Sowells figured. “Everything is OK now. No, it’s not OK. I’m going to jail.”

But he is not taking the ruffian treatment that he claims to have endured by the officers lightly. The Georgia resident, who has never been arrested, plans on fighting his case to the hilt.

BTW, Sowells ended up purchasing the BMW after all!

Victim’s mother spends 20 years fighting police brutality
Victim’s mother spends 20 years fighting police brutality The mother of a man who was shot 14 times by police while in handcuffs 20 years ago has spent years of her life fighting police brutality. >>>
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James D. Laboard: Baltimore Cop Found Not Guilty Of Choking Teen To Death [VIDEO]

Christopher Brown, James Laboard

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Baltimore County police officer James D. Laboard, 33 (pictured right),

was found not guilty of choking unarmed teen, Christopher Brown,

17 (pictured left), to death on June 12 while allegedly trying to

arrest him, reports the Baltimore Sun.

Brown was with a group of boys who allegedly threw a rock

at the door to Laboard’s home. The officer gave chase, and

without cuffs or a gun, felt that putting the teen in a chokehold

was the only way to restrain him.


It killed him instead.


“There is no evidence that Laboard intended to kill,”

attorney Ezra S. Gollogly, said in court. “What the state is

doing in this case is 20/20 hindsight.”

Brown’s mother and sister wept in the courtroom,

while Laboard was “visibly relieved.”

Read more from the Baltimore Sun:

State’s Attorney Scott D. Shellenberger

said the state agreed with Brown’s family that

Laboard had used excessive force, but the jury

had the ultimate decision.

“This was an incredibly tragic case,” Shellenberger

said. “Obviously we in the state’s attorney’s office

felt a crime had been committed.”

Brown’s attorney, Russell A. Neverdon, said

he has notified the Baltimore County Police

Department that he intends a civil suit over

the incident, an action he said would also

target Laboard.

Neverdon said he felt the state did

not emphasize to jurors that Laboard gave

chase and then confronted the teen. He

said Brown ran from Laboard and then hid

 in some bushes, and thus was not an

aggressive suspect.

In closing arguments, Deputy State’s Attorney

Robin Coffin told jurors that Laboard had been

enraged when he went after Brown, and

 had used a neck restraint that was inappropriate

for police action. Baltimore County does not train officers

in neck restraints, a police academy instructor testified.

“These are not the actions of a well-trained police

officer,” Coffin said, noting that he had nine years of

police training in which he would have been faced

with similar, high-stress situations. “He has a right

to be angry but not to kill.”

Though Laboard claimed to responding officers that

Brown attempted to hit him, the medical examiner’s

officer does not agree. According to them, scratches

on Brown’s arms were consistent with the teen struggling

to pull Laboard’s arms from around his throat.

Brown’s death by asphyxiation was officially ruled

a homocide. Laboard, who was charged with manslaughter,

was facing up to 10 years in prison.

Read more at the Sun.

Last edited by sunnubian

Jury Recommends Death Sentence For Ex-Marines Convicted In Brutal 2008 Slayings

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Quiana Jenkins-Pietrzak

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Earlier this month, two separate Riverside County, Calif., juries found three ex-Marines guilty of first-degree murder in the 2008 slayings of Marine Sgt. Jan Pietrzak (pictured), 24, and his wife, Quiana Jenkins-Pietrzak (pictured), 26.

The defendants who took part in the brutal murders are 25-year-old Kevin Cox, 25-year-old Tyrone Miller and 23-year-old Emrys John. A fourth man charged with the murders, 21-year-old Kesaun Sykes, will stand trial in August.

The penalty phase of the trial began on Monday for Cox, Miller and John. Four days later, the jury handed down a death sentence recommendation for John and Miller who were convicted of first-degree murder and a life sentence without the possibility of parole for Cox, reports the New York Daily News.

The Pietrzaks, who had been only married three months at the time of their murders, were an interracial couple. According to court documents, the four suspects stormed the couple’s Riverside, Calif., home at about 1 a.m. on Oct. 15, 2008 and proceeded to terrorize them for nearly two hours before fatally shooting them.

Police investigators discovered Pietrzak’s body hog-tied, bloodied and badly beaten. Quiana, who had been studying to become a doctor, had been savagely raped by the men with a pink vibrator while her husband was forced to watch. According to authorities the racist phrase “N—-r Lover” was scrawled on the walls of the couple’s home.

The four former Marines then attempted to destroy any evidence by setting the couple’s five bedroom home ablaze, as they fled the premises with jewelry, bank cards and even juice from the refrigerator.

Ironically, John, Miller and Cox had worked with Pietrzak at one time while stationed at Camp Pendleton.

Lawyers for the defendants, John, Miller and Cox, have requested a new trial; all three will formally be sentenced by a Riverside County judge later this  summer.

The black/white marijuana arrest gap, in nine charts



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As you’re probably aware, black Americans are arrested for marijuana possession far more frequently than whites. You may also know that there’s not much evidence that black people consume marijuana with greater regularity than whites do.

But the extent of the disparity between the rate of arrest and the rate of use for white and black Americans may surprise you. The ACLU has an absurdly comprehensive new report tracking marijuana possession arrests for blacks and whites at the national, state and county level. Sure enough, they find that black and white people use marijuana at roughly the same rates:

marijuana_use_rate_by_race_yearIn at least one year, the white usage rate was higher. The others, the black usage rate was higher, but in no year were results for the two races that different. For young people ages 18-25, the rates of use are higher for whites:



And more blacks say they’ve never used marijuana:

neverused_marijuana_by_raceOf course, this doesn’t translate to roughly equal arrest rates. Not even close:

marijuana_arrest_rates_by_race_yearAnd this is a uniform phenomenon. It’s not that some states treat the races equally and others treat them really unequally. Only in Hawaii are the rates even close to equal, and that’s biased by the fact that blacks make up only 1.6 percent of the population. In the state with the second-lowest disparity, Alaska, blacks are 1.6 times more likely to be arrested. In the state with the biggest, Iowa, blacks are 8.34 times more likely to be arrested. D.C. has the second biggest; in the District, blacks are 8.05 times more likely to be arrested.

Similarly, the vast majority of counties arrest blacks at a higher rate than whites, with some having a disparity of greater than 10 to 1:


And this includes a lot of urban areas that are highly populated and liberal-leaning. Cook County, Illinois, which includes Chicago, has one of the largest disparities of any county. So does New York County (Manhattan) and Kings County, N.Y. (Brooklyn):


How important is this? Well, while making up a quite small share of our prison population, marijuana possession charges make up nearly half of total drug arrests:

percent_drug_arrests_marijuana_possessionObviously, being arrested without going to jail is a lot better than getting arrested and going to jail. But it’s still a major nuisance, leading to fines, long hours of community service and thousands of dollars in legal fees.

The report does suggest that legal reforms, in particular decriminalization, is effective at reducing overall arrest rates. Massachusetts decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana in 2009, and arrests dropped an enormous amount:

massachusetts_decriminalization_effectBut interestingly, the racial disparity in arrests did not fall at all:

massachusetts_disparity_year_by_yearIn 2008, the black arrest rate in Massachusetts was 3.41 times the white arrest rate. In 2009, it was 5.4 times the white arrest rate. Now, the importance of the disparity diminishes when overall arrests are falling that dramatically, and there’s no reason to think that decriminalization caused the disparity to increase; in 2010, it fell back down to 3.81.

But it’s hard to make the case that decriminalization made enforcement more equitable. Indeed, as Stanford med school Professor Keith Humphreys notes, the states that have legalized or decriminalized marijuana to date all have smaller-than-average black populations. That suggests that whatever benefits casual marijuana users have received from those policies have mainly accrued to white smokers.

Earlier this month, two separate Riverside County, Calif., juries found three ex-Marines guilty of first-degree murder in the 2008 slayings of Marine Sgt. Jan Pietrzak (pictured), 24, and his wife, Quiana Jenkins-Pietrzak (pictured), 26.


  Here I live in Cali and I do not recall these murders!  This is my first time ever hearing about this.   Man!  What a focking waste.  These white monsters are getting worse by the minute.  But!

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