Posts Tagged ‘criminal justice’

Two Powerful Signals of a Major Shift on Crime

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

(NY Times) Two decisions Monday, one by a federal judge in New York and the other by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., were powerful signals that the pendulum has swung away from the tough-on-crime policies of a generation ago.

Critics have long contended that draconian mandatory minimum sentence laws for low-level drug offenses, as well as stop-and-frisk police policies that target higher-crime and minority neighborhoods, have a disproportionate impact on members of minority groups. On Monday, Mr. Holder announced that federal prosecutors would no longer invoke the sentencing laws, and a judge found that stop-and-frisk practices in New York were unconstitutional racial profiling.

While the timing was a coincidence, Barbara Arnwine, the president of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said that the effect was “historic, groundbreaking, and potentially game-changing.”

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Gulf Grows in Black-White Views of U.S. Justice System Bias

Friday, July 26th, 2013

( While 68% of blacks say the American justice system is biased against blacks, 25% of whites agree. Blacks' attitudes about the justice system have remained virtually constant over the past 20 years, but whites have become less likely to perceive bias.

The new results are based on interviews with 2,541 Americans, including 1,841 non-Hispanic whites and 230 non-Hispanic blacks, conducted as part of Gallup Daily tracking July 16-21, after the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial was handed down. Zimmerman was found not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in the shooting death of a young black man, Trayvon Martin.


The Gallup data reveal a continuing divide by race in views of the fairness of the American justice system. This current divergence by race in views of bias in the justice system is broadly similar to attitudes measured in Gallup surveys conducted in 1993 and in 2008, although the percentage of white Americans who say the justice system is biased has dropped by eight percentage points over that time, while the percentage of blacks has stayed constant.

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Justice Sonia Sotomayor slams Texas prosecutor for racial remark

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013


(Los Angeles Times) Sonia Sotomayor, the Supreme Court's first Latina justice, slammed a Texas prosecutor Monday for citing race as grounds for convicting a defendant of a drug deal, saying the government attorney had tried to "substitute racial stereotype for evidence and racial prejudice for reason."

She filed a rare statement commenting on the court's refusal to hear an appeal, not to dissent from the decision but to "dispel any doubt" that the action "should be understood to signal our tolerance of a federal prosecutor's racially charged remark. It should not."

Sotomayor, who began her career as a prosecutor in New York, said she was troubled by what happened.

"By suggesting that race should play a role in establishing a defendant's guilt, the prosecutor here tapped a deep and sorry vein of racial prejudice that has run through the history of criminal justice in our nation," she wrote. "… It is deeply disappointing to see a representative of the United States resort to this base tactic more than a decade into the 21st century."

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Racial Gap in Men’s Sentencing

Saturday, February 16th, 2013

(Wall Street Journal) Prison sentences of black men were nearly 20% longer than those of white men for similar crimes in recent years, an analysis by the U.S. Sentencing Commission found.

That racial gap has widened since the Supreme Court restored judicial discretion in sentencing in 2005, according to the Sentencing Commission's findings, which were submitted to Congress last month and released publicly this week.

In its report, the commission recommended that federal judges give sentencing guidelines more weight, and that appeals courts more closely scrutinize sentences that fall beyond them.

The commission, which is part of the judicial branch, was careful to avoid the implication of racism among federal judges, acknowledging that they "make sentencing decisions based on many legitimate considerations that are not or cannot be measured."

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Mississippi man pleads guilty to hate crimes charge

Saturday, January 5th, 2013


(CNN) – A Mississippi man pleaded guilty Thursday to a federal hate crime charge in connection with a group of young men and teenagers who carried out racial attacks against African-Americans in 2011.

Joseph Dominick, 21, from Brandon, entered a guilty plea in U.S. District Court in Jackson, Mississippi, to one count of conspiracy to commit federal hate crimes.

Dominick and others began in the spring of 2011 to harass and assault black people in Jackson and the surrounding area, according to the FBI.

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North Carolina judge commutes 3 death sentences, citing racial bias Read more: North Carolina judge commutes 3 death sentences, citing racial bias – The Denver Post

Sunday, December 16th, 2012


(Denver Post) A North Carolina judge on Thursday commuted the death sentences of three convicted killers, including two who killed law enforcement officers, to life in prison without the possibility of parole after ruling that race played an unjust role in jury selection at their trials.

Cumberland County Superior Court Judge Gregory A. Weeks based his ruling on evidence presented over four weeks of hearings that he says showed prosecutors in each case made a concerted effort to reduce the number of black jurors.

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Protest erupts after all-white jury acquits ex-Houston cop over teen’s beating

Monday, May 21st, 2012

(MSNBC) The day after an all-white jury acquitted a former Houston police officer for his role in the beating of a 15-year-old African American burglary suspect, community activists rallied a crowd of at least 200 people on the courthouse steps to protest.


Andrew Blomberg was acquitted by a jury in Houston on Wednesday in the alleged beating and stomping of Chad Holley two years ago.

The verdict was criticized by the Houston Police Department on Thursday.

"I understand the jury's verdict, I just have to respectfully disagree," Police Chief Charles McClelland said, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Protesters carrying signs with slogans like, "No justice, no peace. Stop the racist police," and "Justice for Trayvon Martin" circled in front of the Harris County Courthouse and a phalanx of media cameras.

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Another innocent executed?

Saturday, May 19th, 2012


( Death-penalty abolitionists long believed that the execution of an innocent person would turn the public against capital punishment. But that conviction has recently been shaken. First, there was Cameron Todd Willingham, who, after his 2004 execution in Texas, was found to have been likely innocent of killing his three small daughters. Nearly a decade later, Georgia executed Troy Davis despite widespread doubts about his guilt.



A new investigative report by the Columbia Human Rights Law Review reveals that Carlos DeLuna, who was executed by the state of Texas in 1989, was likely innocent as well. The full report, titled “Los Tocayos Carlos: An Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution,” can be viewed at CHRLR’s newly launched interactive website where readers can view all of the evidence cited in the article.

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Drug Czar Says African Americans Are More Affected by the ‘Drug Problem’ — Here’s Why That’s Propaganda

Monday, November 28th, 2011

(AlterNet) Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske held a media briefing Wednesday to discuss the disproportionate impact our nation's "drug problem" has on African-American communities.

It is simply Orwellian for the drug czar to focus on the disproportionate impact of our nation's drug problem on African-American communities without acknowledging the disproportionate racial impact of drug law enforcement. According to the federal government's own yearly research surveys, African Americans use and sell drugs at similar rates at whites — yet African Americans are arrested for drugs at 13 times the rate of whites.

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African American Woman Convicted Of Vehicular Homicide For Crossing The Street To Get Home

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011

(Think Progress) The blog Feministing has flagged a troubling story from Cobb County, Georgia. An Atlanta-area mother attempted to cross the street with her children from a bus stop to her home, and lost her son to a hit and run:

On April 10, she and her three children — Tyler, 9, A.J., 4, and Lauryn, 3 — went shopping because the next day was Nelson’s birthday. They had pizza, went to Wal-Mart and missed a bus, putting them an hour late getting home. Nelson, a student at Kennesaw State University, said she never expected to be out after dark, especially with the children.

When the Cobb County Transit bus finally stopped directly across from Somerpoint Apartments, night had fallen. She and the children crossed two lanes and waited with other passengers on the raised median for a break in traffic. The nearest crosswalks were three-tenths of a mile in either direction, and Nelson wanted to get her children inside as soon as possible. A.J. carried a plastic bag holding a goldfish they’d purchased.

“One girl ran across the street,” Nelson said. “For some odd reason, I guess he saw the girl and decided to run out behind her. I said, ‘Stop, A.J.,’ and he was in the middle of the street so I said keep going. That’s when we all got hit.

An all-white jury has convicted the woman, an African American, of vehicular homicide, even though she was not driving a car. Jerry Guy, the man who struck the boy with his car and fled the scene, pleaded guilty to hit-and-run, and has already served a six-month sentence. As reporter Elise Hitchcock notes, the woman “may serve more time than the driver who hit and killed her 4-year-old son.”

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