Monday, June 30, 2014
When you hear her story it sounds like a nightmare. When she was just 17 years old, Sabrina Butler had a nine-month old son with a heart murmur who stopped breathing in his crib. After a frantic half hour the baby arrived in the emergency room but unfortunately, doctors were unable to revive him.
The following day Butler was arrested for child abuse because of the bruises left by resuscitation attempts, and in March 1990 she was wrongfully convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death. At the age most teenagers are attending college, Sabrina Butler was sequestered in an isolated Mississippi death row ward facing lethal injection for doing nothing more than trying to save her infant son.
"The security guard said to me, you see this place right here? You'll be here for the rest of your life. We tell you when to get up, we tell you when to lay down. We tell you when to eat and when to sleep. You'll never get out." Butler said, tears welling in her eyes,"Every time I talk about it I get emotional because I can't change the past but it's affecting my future."
Five years after her wrongful conviction Butler was granted an appellate trial and was exonerated in 1995 by the state of Mississippi and released from prison. Two years and nine months of Butler's incarceration were spent on death row. The District Attorney who wrongly convicted Butler is still in office.
Exoneration occurs when a convict is proved through a trial of appeal to have been innocent of the crime for which they were convicted. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, an organization devoted to research on capital punishment, since federal reinstitution of the death penalty in 1976 there have been an astonishing 131 death row exonerations nationwide of which Butler is the only woman.
North Carolina is one of 35 states that still utilizes capital punishment.
Recently Butler spoke to UNCG (University of North Carolina at Greensboro) students, the presentation was sponsored by Professor Saundra Westervelt and the Department of Sociology. In 2007 Westervelt began teaching a sociology class called Miscarriages of Justice based on her research of death row exonorees conducted since 2002. Butler is the sixth criminal exonoree hosted by Westervelt to speak on campus.
Westervelt's paper Coping with Innocence After Death Row, written with her colleague Kimberly Cook of UNC-Wilmington, was published last fall in the sociology journal Context.
"Up until really just recently nobody was looking at what life was like when [exonorees] got out." Westervelt said, "Given that wrongful conviction issues didn't come to anybody's attention until the middle part of the 1990s the vast majority of these exonerations have happened between the 1990s and now. That's quite a few in a short amount of time."
Butler said she was convicted under a felonious child abuse statute passed in Mississippi 23 days after her incarceration. She believes her age at the time of her conviction and the nature of the crime she was accused of sealed her fate in the mind's of jurors.
"They already knew what they were going to do before they even saw me. I didn't really have a chance," Butler said.
According to Westervelt many death row exonerations are not a result of DNA evidence, but rather a reassessment of mishandled trials and wrongful assumptions made by the prosecution. Westervelt said that many exonorees live in an empty space of society after gaining freedom, not qualified to receive benefits available to parolees but still suffering the social stigma which plagues former convicts.
Since her exoneration Butler has returned to the Mississippi town she was convicted in, married one of the prison guards she met while on death row, and now focuses on overcoming her lost years and raising her three children. Her baby son is also buried there. "I still beat my self up about leaving my son alone, and I visit him every 4th of July, and bring him a stuffed animal. That's his birthday." Butler went on to say.
"If I want to get a job my conviction hurts because once they run it through the system it's on my record. Even though I was found not guilty it's still on my record," Butler said. "I'm studying to be a criminal investigator. I think that what happened to me, if I can help somebody in some way, can be of some kind of assistance that it won't happen to them."
Westervelt said that student response to visiting exonorees has been overwhelmingly positive.
Senior Robert Noris is a criminal sociology student who attended Butler's presentation Monday night. "When our government gives an individual the ultimate penal sanction we often fail to consider the possibility of innocence, blindly assuming the lawyers, courts, judges, and juries have gotten it right." he said. "Perhaps one day these stories will help to make a positive change to our system, allowing it to be worthy of the term justice."
Recently, due mainly to nationwide budget cuts, many states are reassessing their prison systems including excessively expensive death row programs. According to Westevelt, "Often for men on death row there is a completely different institution. It's extremely expensive to build. The appellate process costs a lot but also death row costs a lot."
Kristen Heffer, a graduate research assistant at UNCG who also attended Butler's presentation, hopes the criminal justice system will be reformed in the future to eliminate wrongful convictions.
In the mean time Butler said she is the first in line at the polls come election time to vote against the Lowndes county District Attorney who falsely convicted her.
There are numerous flaws in the system but the most obvious is the one that is addressed the least. This most obvious flaw is the fact that the Criminal Justice System is void of all humanity.
Sunday, June 29, 2014
Often times we don't realize how precious life is until calamity strikes. We take every breathe for granted, and we live life as if it comes with an unending guarantee. But life is a gift not to be taken lightly, and when you are entrusted with the gift of life in the form of a child we must guard, protect, and love them in appreciation for what God has given us, because tomorrow is not and never will be promised. The following narrative is as heart wrenching as any story that I have ever heard, and I am not blaming the parents by any means. But this should serve as a cautionary tale.
A 3-year-old girl was killed at a Philadelphia Italian Ice shop when a metal gate collapsed on her during a fundraiser Saturday.
Philadelphia police are investigating the incident, which occurred during an afternoon event held by a local chapter of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity.
"It was almost like slow motion," One witness was quoted as saying, "The gate was falling and people were screaming and it hit the ground and the little girl was there."
Loud screams erupted and about two dozen people worked to move the large gate off the child, who was rushed to a local hospital and ultimately pronounced dead.
"You could see the imprint on her face," said a woman who was also at the scene. "I was lifting the gate and I'm looking down at the girl. Clearly she was unconscious. Her eyes were open and there was blood."
Officials with the city's Department of Licenses and Inspections will investigate how the gate fell off the front façade of the popular Rita's Water Ice franchise.
Department Commissioner Carlton Williams said in a statement, there were no open violations at the business and the security gate had no reported issues.
It was a grisly scene Saturday evening as the frame of the gate lay flat in front of the store as police and other officials secured the area. Colorful balloons from the festive event turned tragic, remained blowing in the wind, with several balloons and flyers trapped underneath the gate.
"Our hearts and prayers go out to the child's family," said Linda Duke, a spokeswoman for Rita's. "Due to the current investigation we really cannot comment about the unfortunate incident."
Thursday, June 26, 2014
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Sexy Schoolgirl (two words that should never, ever, ever be in the same sentence). Race organizers told city officials on Thursday they were canceling the race, in part because of the "community controversy" it had created.
Former Raleigh police captain Paula O'Neal, who organizes other races, told the council she questioned the message being sent, especially with the problem of rape and violence against girls in schools and on college campuses.
So naturally she wanted the moment captured forever in a cell phone picture.
In the much gabbed about photo. Elizabeth Neufeld can be seen still stuck inside the car, which is flipped onto its side, while her husband, Ben Neufeld, stands outside the vehicle and a man enters through the top side door.
A passerby apparently took the picture as the couple posed.
According to local news in Los Angeles, Ben Neufeld was in their home when he heard a crash out front and noticed neighbors gathering. He came out to check on the commotion and saw his wife in the tipped over blue Honda.
Neufeld told the station his wife was "calm as a cucumber."
"I was concerned of course, but everyone was just standing around and she was chatting with them, so I just joined the conversation," he said. "I didn't do very much. There wasn't much to do."
Trapped but uninjured, Elizabeth asked him to fish the phone out of her purse to take a photo or two...........
Firefighters eventually freed her, and the couple had themselves some dinner.
5 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
No matter what the "facts" are, we have to trust and believe that mans certainty, or what man believes to be insurmountable is not a hinderance for God.
If we believe each and everything that we see and we walk in the natural, intellectualizing everything, how can we have faith?
11 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
God's word is clear. In order to hope for anything we must believe that God will supply our need when we cannot see a solution.
We must walk by faith and not by sight.
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
The criminal justice system is BROKEN! No if's and's or but's about it. It is in fact, the criminal injustice system. The scales of justice are clearly, and undeniably tipped in the favor of those who are able to manipulate the system economically, and otherwise.
But fortunately Brooklyn's new DA is working to even dilegently to restore some measure of balance to the system.
Authorities in New York City say they’ve arrested six people and charged them with selling 155 guns transported from Georgia to an undercover officer in Brooklyn. But most of those charged if convicted, stand a chance of being exonerated because Kings County is leading New York State in inmate exonerations for 2014 thus far.
Of the 11 inmates cleared of criminal wrongdoing this year, eight of them occurred in Brooklyn, all spearheaded by new boro D.A. Kenneth Thompson’s 13-person team. Thompson has made exonerations one of his offce’s key focuses.
“I am determined to get to the bottom of these cases,” said Thompson, who defeated longtime D.A. Charles Hynes in last year’s city elections. Each of the men wrongfully convicted have spent two decades behind bars.
To that end, he has made great use of his Conviction Review Unit, which is currently looking at 57 dubious homicide prosecutions. The unit has cleared four defendants so far, Thompson added.
D.A.’s in the other boros say they don’t plan on launching widescale exoneration units. Though his predecessor started the unit, Thompson has expanded it. He allocated $1.1 million for the unit and plans to broaden its focus once its caseload decreases. Legal authorities say they are impressed by his work.
“It’s absolutely unprecedented,” said Rob Warren, director at the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University. “I hope it lives up to the expectations and becomes a model to the nation.”
“We hope that by the end of this review, we can learn some lessons and shed some light on how these cases come about,” Thompson added.
According to experts, the state’s high number of wrongful convictions stems from the mass homicides from the crack epidemic of the 1980s. A result of vigerous over prosecution in the wake of then First Lady Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" campaign which resulted in urban areas under siege, and many of its residents incarcerated because of "creative" drug legislation.
Sunday, June 22, 2014
Saturday, June 21, 2014
As I've said previously 1989 was a pivitol year for me. It was sort of a coming of age year. I turned 18 twelve days into the new year so I was legal but not quite an adult. I had my whole life ahead of me and all of the time in the world, with absolutely no idea that 43 was only 2 or 3 days away. It was also a pivitol year for Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Yusef Salaam and Kharey Wise but for a much different reasons. Their lives stopped that year as if they were frozen in some sort of nightmarish time capsule. Accused of assault and rape one year and then convicted the following the next, these young men, now known as the Central Park Five, have finally gotten some measure of justice. While justice delayed is not justice denied, can a monetary amount be put on the damage that false incarceration can do to the human spirit or psyche? I would venture to say no, but at least these young men have an opportunity to support themselves and their families and add closure to this decades long struggle.
Today I am pleased to report that The Central Park Five has finally gotten some measure of justice.
These 5 black and Latino men who were wrongfully convicted 24 years ago in the sensational Central Park jogger case that whipped New York into a racial frenzy, have reached a paltry $40 million settlement with the City of New York.
Now middle-aged, the men were teens when they were arrested in 1989 amid a wave of corrosive and polarizing outrage over the savage rape of a 28-year-old woman.
Convicted in 1990, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana and Yusef Salaam were in prison just shy of seven years, while Kharey Wise served nearly 13.
The men, known as the Central Park Five, had been locked in a bitter battle with the city since filing civil rights lawsuits following their exoneration in 2002. Their convictions were vacated after career criminal Matias Reyes confessed to the brutal crime and DNA evidence backed up his claim.
The Bloomberg administration fought to get their lawsuits dismissed, arguing the city had acted with probable cause even though they were convicted with no evidence, and wrongfully imprisoned as a result of a botched investigation.
Then-candidate Bill De Blasio made a campaign promise last year to put the divisive issue to rest if elected. Neither the Mayor’s office nor the city's Law Department would comment on the deal, first reported by The New York Times.
But many others expressed their delight.
“Tonight I see 5 young boys resting proudly on the shoulders of 5 grown men. A long time coming my friends,” tweeted Ken Burns, who co-directed a 2012 documentary about their case.
The Rev. Al Sharpton, who was sharply criticized, along with many other community activists for standing by the boys during their trials, hailed the settlement.
“We took a lot of abuse. The toll on these men and their supporters was terrible. I want to know we have things in place so that this doesn't happen again,” he said.
“I'm happy for them, but you know… money doesn't give them those years back. It doesn't give them their youth back," Sharpton added.
The CP5’s 1989 arrests occurred amid an economically strapped New York simmering with class tensions and racial unrest and gave rise to new and scary language fueled by billionaire idiot Donald Trump, who sharply criticized the city for agreeing to the $40 million settlement with the CP5.
“The recipients must be laughing out loud at the stupidity of the city,” Donald Trump, who is worth about $4 billion, wrote in an exclusive piece for the News. “Speak to the detectives on the case and try listening to the facts. These young men do not exactly have the pasts of angels.”
He also described it as “the heist of the century,” expressing no remorse for fueling racial tensions against the five black and Latino teens after the sensationalized 1989 attack, taking out full-page ads demanding the death penalty after their arrests.
In the wake of The Central Park Five's victory trump had this to say,
On April 19, as cops heard reports of “wolf packs” of black and Latino teens “wilding” through Central Park, the jogger was viciously attacked.
Trisha Meili was bashed in the head with a rock nearly ripping her left eye from its socket and raped and left with skull fractures so severe she was in a coma for six weeks.
As the newspapers howled for arrests of the marauding teens and then-mayor Ed Koch called it “the crime of the century,” real-estate mogul Donald Trump took out ads calling for the return of the death penalty. Trump wanted “criminals of every age” involved in the Central Park jogger case “to be afraid.”
The Central Park Five say they never attacked Meili. They and their lawyers maintain police railroaded them into making incriminating statements against themselves and each other.
Sen. Bill Perkins, who was president of the tenants association of Schomburg Plaza, where three of the Central Park Five members lived, said the settlement brought tears to his eyes.
"This chapter of our racist history needs to be closed and never repeated again," said Perkins. "Hopefully this will never happen to anybody ever again."
Friday, June 20, 2014
Meeks is a repeat offender, and he's currently charged with six felony counts of street terrorism and weapons charges in Stockton. But that doesn't seem to faze his admirers on Facebook.
More than 13,000 lonely women, or maybe even men, who knows, with no good sense, no morals, and bad judgement, commented on the mugshot posted on the Stockton Police Department .
Someone even created a fan page.
We know this because Deshandre Billups and Kirk Cartwright know this. The two Florida inmates, along with five others, were arrested Tuesday in what authorities describe as a plot to sue the Florida Department of Corrections.
The department began its investigation in March after Billups and Cartwright were shot with a .25-caliber Beretta inside the Columbia Correction Institution in Lake City. Cartwright, 33, and Billups, 26, told guards that they were shot by an unknown assailant while they were praying in their cell.
With the help of friends and family members and a third inmate the suspects allegedly smuggled the semi-automatic pistol into the prison through the mail, according to The Florida Times-Union. They allegedly had plans to shoot themselves and sue the prison system in an effort to settle for reduced sentences.
Authorities say they regularly snuck cellphones and drugs into the prison. They face five new felony charges, including firearm possession and several counts of contraband possession for the cellphones. Cartwright was already serving a life sentence for murder and Billups was serving 20 years for armed robbery and burglary, so they apparently thought that they had nothing to lose. But they'll have plenty more time to think about it.
The third inmate who allegedly helped them, 21-year-old Tony Underwood, is charged with introducing contraband into the prison. He's serving a six-year sentence for burglary and grand theft. Cartwright's girlfriend and Billups' mother were arrested Tuesday on charges stemming from the investigation. Arrest warrants have also been issued for Cartwright's sister and Underwood's girlfriend.
According to state police Trooper Toby Baker, Sunday's throw in Jackson came up short with the football landing between two fences and not in the yard where prisoners exercise.
An officer at the G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility saw the man throw the football, and he was taken into custody.
The ball contained heroin, marijuana, tobacco, three cellphones and chargers.
Baker says the man is facing possession of illegal drugs with intent to deliver, smuggling and trespassing on prison property charges.
Thursday, June 19, 2014
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Agatwe Wanjuki was sexually assaulted by another student while attending Tufts University. But instead of punishing her attacker, the school asked her to leave.
I have always been troubled by the demonization of any victim, especially victims of rape. It is perhaps one of the most heinous crimes on earth. Not just because of the depraved indifference involved in the crime but also because the victim of robbed of their security and their temple is violated.
Wanjuki took to Twitter shortly after the June 6 publication of George Will's Washington Post editorial in which he decried the Obama administration's focus on campus sexual assault and suggested that being a survivor of sexual assault has become "coveted status that confers privileges."
Mr. Will has sank to a new low, and in his attempt to lambast President Obama he has not only trampled upon women's rights, but human rights as well. No sane person with a working brain would covet being sexually violated. In fact being an American as opposed to some other nationalities confers a certain expectation or level of safety.
Annoyed by Will's disregard for the reality of sexual assault survivors, Wanjuki responded with these tweets:
"It was mind-boggling that someone would think there's anything to gain by coming forward as a survivor," Wanjuki tweeted.
Wanjuki first came forward about her assault in 2009. In 2008, she says, she was repeatedly assaulted by a fellow student she was in a relationship with. When she tried to report him to the administration, Tufts responded by telling her that their legal counsel said they didn't have to take action. This occurred before the U.S. Department of Educationmade it clear that universities are obligated under Title IX to respond to reported sexual violence in an expedient manner.
Wanjuki became a courageous and outspoken advocate for survivors of sexual assault and worked with organizations such as Students Active for Ending Rape to push for reforms. During that time, her grades began to slip, though they were not low enough for her to be put on academic probation. Wanjuki believes that her grades were negatively affected by her assault and the lack of support she received from the Tufts administration.
In summer 2009, the Dean of Undergraduate Education at Tufts, who Wanjuki said happened to be her assailant's academic adviser, told Wanjuki she would have to withdraw from the university due to academic concerns. At the time, she was less than a year from graduating.”
Tufts has not responded to inquiries about Wanjuki's case.
But they will have to answer for victimizing Agatwe twice.
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
The first recognised cases of AIDS occurred in the USA in the early 1980s. I say recognized cases because gay men were dying of a mysterious, nameless illness long before there was an official diagnosis. A number of gay men in New York and California suddenly began to develop rare opportunistic infections and cancers that seemed stubbornly resistant to any treatment. At this time, AIDS did not yet have a name, but it quickly became obvious that all the men were suffering from a common syndrome.
The discovery of HIV, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, was made soon after. While some were initially resistant to acknowledge the connection, there is clear evidence to prove that HIV causes AIDS.
Over the years speculation in reference to this deadly virus have run rampant. Some think of it as a gay disease, others believe that it is a drug addicts disease due to the fact that it can be easily spread through intravenous drug use, and it has been even said that Haitian immigrants brought the disease here from their home land. All of these half baked, ridiculous theories are utter nonsense. The fact of the matter is that HIV, and AIDS are not bias, and they don't discriminate.
Race, color, drug use, gender, age, sexual orientation or proclivity mean absolutely nothing, and the very notion that they do is dangerous because ignorance dramatically increases susceptibility by allowing the believer to think that they are some how immune because they do not fit the "criteria".
Basketball great Magic Johnson is a prime example of someone who defied these once prevailant stereotypes. A world famous, world class athelete who is neither gay, a drug addict, or Haitian. But was still diagnosed with the HIV in 1992. I remember being filled with dread when I heard the news. Not only because I thought that one of my heroes was dying, but also because at the time it was thought to be a death sentence. It was a poignant moment for me because I realized that if this virus could touch a superstar, then it I wasn't careful it could also touch me.
Today, the CDC estimates that 1,144,500 persons aged 13 years and older are living with HIV infection, including 180,900 (15.8%) who are unaware of their infection. Over the past decade, the number of people living with HIV has increased, while the annual number of new HIV infections has remained relatively stable. Still, the pace of new infections continues at far too high a level particularly among certain groups.
Men who have sex with other men continue to bear the greatest burden of HIV infection, and among races/ethnicities, African Americans continue to be disproportionately affected. The reasons are two fold. The first is closely related to the African-American males who have become free labor within the prison industrial complex. While African-American's in this country make up only 12% of the overall population, we make up 42% percent of the prison population. The vast majority of this 42% are men. Many of whom engage in homosexual activity while incarcerated, contract HIV, and then spread the disease through heterosexual activity once they are released from prison. The second reason for this disproportionate affect is the fact that quality health care and sexual education are not often accessible in many of the urban areas where African-American's live.
Before we judge the lives of others. We must realize that these people are somebody's mother, father, sister, brother, child, son, daughter, aunt, uncle etc. Somebody loves them as much as somebody loves you.
Since the beginning of the epidemic close to 30 mlllion people world wide have succumbed to AIDS, and while research and breakthrough medicine have allowed Magic Johnson to live 20 years with the HIV virus, he will live the rest of his life being sustained by his medication. Although he seems like a happy Billionaire every time he poses for a photo opportunity or appears on a TV program, he still bares the burden of HIV.
There is no cure!
With that being said there are evil sexual predator's out there who use the fact that they have AIDS or their HIV positive status as a weapon.
Remember. There is no cure!
The only full proof way to protect yourself from HIV and AIDS is abstinence. But if you absolutely cannot abstain, condoms are the best method of protection. Not one time. Not two times. But each, and every time.
Sex is not worth dying for.
Monday, June 16, 2014
Saturday, June 14, 2014
The White House acknowledged recently that some children are not being processed within that time as required by law, which is driving their opening of a third facility at Fort Sill Army post in Lawton, Okla.
“At the moment we are not succeeding in getting every child transferred within 72 hours. Our goal is to do it at least that quickly if not more quickly, which is why we are putting these large facilities online as quickly as possible,” an administration official who the White House would not allow to be named said in a conference call with reporters.
The administration has asked for about $2.3 billion, about $140 million more than President Barack Obama requested in the annual budget he sends Congress, to cover costs of the program for unaccompanied children based at Health and Human Services.
The senior administration official said another $160 million has been requested for the Department of Homeland Security, which includes the Border Patrol.
Funds that could be allocated and dedicated to feeding, housing, and clothing poverty stricken children here.
Despite the bump up in money requests, the official dismissed suggestions that the administration was caught unprepared for the influx of unaccompanied children whose arrivals President Barack Obama declared to bea humanitarian crisis.
“The federal government did prepare for this trend. We prepared for an increase compared to previous years. The increase that we saw this year was much larger than anticipated, which is why we are just undertaking this major effort across the federal government,” the official said.
In previous years, 6,000 to 8,000 children a year crossed the border without an adult or guardian. But the numbers jumped in 2011 to about 13,525, then to 25,000 in 2012 and about 47,000 in 2013. This year they were expected to number 60,000 but may be as much as 90,000.
White House officials blame violence, gangs and other problems in Central America and say they are working with the officials of those countries to try to stem the influx.
Marc Rosenblum, deputy director of the Migtation Policy Institute's immigration program, said it's likely a combination of factors, including a law signed by former President George W. Bush that set up different treatments for children from Mexico versus children from countries not contiguous to the United States. Many Mexican children are simply sent back across the border, the 2008 law known as the Trafficing Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, guaranteed certain protections for unaccompanied children from children not from Mexico or Canada. That law was implemented in 2009. It took a little time for word to get back to Central America and other countries about those protections, as well as for criminal organizations to develop smuggling infrastructure around them.
Add to the mix the deterioration of conditions in those countries, especially the rising violence. In addition, large populations of people legally present in the U.S. are from Central America but do not have a right to petition for their families to join them. Family members then come illegally.
There also are anecdotes that smuggling networks have been using a tactic in Central America they have used previously on the southwest border - the would-be crosser pays the smuggler and gets three tries, according to Rosenblum.
"It's sort of a perfect storm of immigration pushes and pulls," said Rosenblum, whose institute is researching the issues and has an upcoming report.
Meanwhile families who have been trying to enter the U.S. illegally have been sent to Border Patrol stations in Nogales, Arizona, which angered Gov. Jan Brewer. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said they were sent there because the facility has more capacity and was not related to the influx of unaccompanied children.