Thursday, March 21, 2019

Supreme Court to consider Louisiana 's non-unanimous juries.

The Supreme will consider overturning a criminal conviction by 10-2 jury vote in Louisiana.
The justice acted on Monday, four months after Louisiana voters amended the state constitution to prohibit non-unanimous verdicts in criminals cases.

Oregon is the only state still allow them. The high court will consider the case Evangelisto Ramos , who was convicted in 2016 of second degree murder in the killing of a women in New Orleans. Ramos is serving a life sentence with no chance of parole. The change in the state constitution took effected in January, but is of no help to Ramos without court action. The last time the Supreme Court took up the issue was in 1972. when it ruled that nothing in the Constitution bars state from allowing some convictions by non-unanimous verdicts. But even in Oregon and Louisiana, first -degree murder, which could bring the death penalty , has required a unanimous verdict.

The court has held that the six Amendment requires unanimous verdicts in federal criminal cases. The 1972 case turned on the vote of justice Lewis Powell. The court said states were not completed to follow suit and require unanimous juries in all criminal cases.

At the same time , the Supreme Court has determined that most rights guaranteed by the first 10 amendments to the constitution apply to states as well as the federal government.

 Also Monday , the Supreme Court agreed to decide whether states can eliminate the so-called insanity defense for criminal defendants without violating the constitution
The appeal come from a Kansas man who has been sentenced to death for the killing his estranged wife their two daughters and the wife's grandmother. These case will be argued in the fall. mostly likely in October. It was a honor to be part of this wonderful so far successful movement..   

Friday, February 08, 2019

The New Lead PFAS Contamination in Benton Harbor, Michigan

I want to wrestle with you. I want to cry in public. I want to holler out loud. I want to shout out loud and suggest that America needs a revolution. That is right,. A real revolution. A real movement. A national call for a revolution. Where the people take control. Where the people will be housed , fed, clothed, and have clean water,without toxins, without lead and without PFAS. 

In 2015 lead and copper compliance was tested in Benton Harbor by the city. It was not an honest test. It looked good because the Whirlpool Corporation was trying to sell homes around the Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course. The City wanted to please Whirlpool not so in 2018., when my testing results from the University of Michigan Biological Laboratory found water in Multiple homes above the federal compliance standard of 15ppb of lead, even as high as 120ppb in several homes. The Black Autonomy Network Community Organization (Banco) gave out water filters to over 50 homes. One testing as high as 640 ppb, over 40 tomes above the federal regulation.

In addition, Jill Ryan of fresh Water Future and I have had several conversations about the new lead (PFAS) If you followed the drinking water crisis in Flint. Michigan and elsewhere, this story will certainly ring a bell. BUT this time the toxins in question from the testing results of Benton Harbor water is not only lead, but a group of chemicals known as PFAS(Poly-perflurinated alkyl substances) PFAS are plentiful in our homes and workplaces. They are used to make non-stick cookware, stain-resistant carpeting , food packaging, fire retardants and more. Those chemicals are ubiquitous in the environment.

These are three main ways people are exposed to PFAS by food; chemical used in food packaging and cookware getting in food we eat. (2) by air : chemicals applied to furniture and clothing getting into dust air breathe.(3) by water: chemical used in fire fighting or by industries getting toxins into the water we drink.

The corporation that produce these chemicals are poisoning the water. The struggle over the water crisis holds a number of lessons for Benton Harbor and the people of America. The fight is a war over whether people will have clean non-toxic water or live under the heel of open corporate rule. We must confront the corporations and continue to speak truth to power. Never worry about who will be offended :that should be the last thing on your mind if you are speaking truth. Worry about who will be misled or destroyed if you do not speak truth to power.           

Monday, January 28, 2019

Louisiana Votes to Eliminate Jim Crow Jury Law with Amendment 2

The law made Louisiana one of two states that allowed a non-unanimous jury in felony trials. Louisiana voters during the midterm elections approved Amendment 2, eliminating a Jim Crow Law that made Louisiana one of two states allowing non-unanimous juries in felony trials.

In the late 19th century , Louisiana was faces with a new constitutional requirement, after the passage of the U.S Constitution's 14th Amendment , that forced the state to include black people in juries. Since Louisiana required juries to reached unanimous decisions, as is standard, this meant a single black person on the jury would have a lot of power which would weaken white Louisiana' hold over the state, its government and its laws.

The state found a work around. As part of a constitutional convention in 1898 meant to perpetuate the white supremacy of the Anglo-Saxon race in Louisiana , it enacted a stew of Jim Crow measures. One of them allowed split juries for felony trials, so the few blacks jurors could be easily overruled by white majority.

This was part of the 1898 constitutional convention , which is famous for disenfranchising black voters, Lawrence Powell a historian at Tulane University in New Orleans, told me. It was also around the time of the Plessy v Ferguson case that just got sanction from the U. S Supreme Court for racial segregation. It's all part of that mix.

Louisiana was one of two states that allow split -jury decisions in criminal cases, requiring just 10 of 12 jurors to agree to a verdict in serious felony trials. Oregon is the only other state that allows split juries, but even it requires unanimous verdicts for murder trials.

Amendment 2 requires unanimous decisions for felony trials. It isn't retroactive, instead taking effect only for cases after January 1, 2019. The state legislature passed a bill with bipartisan support , to put the issue on the ballot. The state Democratic Party and Republican Party backed the measure, as well as organizations all over the political spectrum, from the American Civil Liberties Union to the Koch
backed Americans for Prosperity of Louisiana.

There isn't much data on how non-unanimous juries actually work in Louisiana , but the data we do have suggests a disproportionate racial impact.

The New Orleans Advocate summarized its review of nearly 1000 jury convictions over six years. The newspaper's analysis found that 40% of trials convictions came over the objections of one or two holdouts. When the defendant was black, the proportion went up 43% , versus 33 % for white defendants.

So how did this law  a blatant leftover of the Jim Crow era remain on the books?

For one, the Supreme has allowed non-unanimous juries , most notable in 1972'Ss Johnson V Louisiana and Apodaca V Oregon. The ruling remain in place today.  

The other issue is that Louisiana's law could be spun to be not race , but about making the court system more efficient.

They didn't use raw racist language in the debates to justify the non-unanimous jury,  Powell said even though the whole constitutional convention was marinating in this kind of racist fluid.

This is emblematic of how system racism works in America, Because seem racially neutral at face value , they slide under the radar even if in reality they result in racially disparate outcomes. There are all sorts of policies that we know have racially uneven outcomes. drug laws, traffic rules , voter ID, but because they don't explicitly invoke race , their supporters can argue that racism isn't their intent.

The same applies to the non-unanimous jury rule. Louisiana's law , in and of itself, did not mention race, it was just a law about how juries are structured and reach decisions. Even if it had a racially disproportionate impact, supporters of the law could say that anything related to race wasn't their intent regardless of the law's history. So it remained the law of the state.

Eventually though, the reality of how laws work on the ground catches up the laws themselves. We have seen that over the past few years, as criminal justice reformers have called for an end to the war on drugs , mass incarceration, and police brutality , citing racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Even in a very conservative state like Louisiana , the reality of systemic racism now seems harder to avoid  and that may have led voters to eliminate a remnant of Jim Crow      

Sunday, January 20, 2019

GM robs public treasury while workers suffer (People Tribune) Editorial

In the face of record profits, General Motors (GM) announced on November 26, during the start of the Christmas Holiday, plans to end production at five plants in the U.S. and Canada, cutting almost 15.000 jobs . GM blamed the cuts on declining sales of small cars, the need to stay ahead of the curve, and an anticipated economic crisis, Ford recently said it was also cutting its salaried workforce for roughly the same reasons. GM,CEO Barra said she wanted to act now to sustain profits when the economic crisis comes , and so GM can keep investing in new technology.

With the advent of the Trump initiated tariffs, and the 2019 auto negotiations fast approaching , GM will use this announcement as a battering ram against the unions, governments tariffs, and state and local government that are affected by this action. These layoffs and plant closings will be used to further drive down GM's cost of production and will devastate communities across the country. But this is nothing new.One of the plants to be closed, the Pole Town assembly plant in Detroit home of UAW local 22, came into existence as a result of the whole neighborhoods and people being uprooted and destroyed. At one point in that 1981 struggle, SWAT teams were called out against a church to carry out the decision. Implicit in that decision was the understanding that this plant would not close. GM's 2018 third -quarter profit rose 37%. And yet we are.

As advanced technology transforms the global economy with labor-less means of production , markets everywhere of all types are glutted . giving rise to a global crisis of overproduction and permanent unemployment. In auto, the number of people working today is hundreds of thousands less than 2000. More job cuts, plant closings, deprivations, and dis possessions are on the way. By cutting jobs and closing plants , GM will save 10 billion by 2021, supposedly to invest in electric and autonomous vehicles.GM already received subsidies and tax breaks , in addition to a $7500 income credit for the purchase of its electric cars. The taxpayer bailout of GM during 2008-09 helped GM boost its production in China. The permanent corporate tax cuts championed by Trump that Congress enacted last year saved GM $157 million in federal taxes just in the first nine months of 2018. GM also got a one - time tax break, that will likely amount to hundreds of millions , on profit it had held off- shores. In 2018, GM spent at least $ 100 million of its tax cut windfall buying back its own shares a move that enriches the shareholders, not the workers. In fact, without tax breaks, subsidies, grants and credits along with out and out thievery and exploitation, all of which is perfectly legit, these private corporations couldn't exist.

Public property in the form of government help is used to enrich the billionaires and prop up the corporations and the failing capitalist system. They get away with it because they have political power to do it. Government is in their hands. The only way out of this is a new society of , by and for the people , and where the production of everything ,  we the people need to survive and thrive is run and owned society , and not corporations like GM.            

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Cop who killed security Guard Jemel Roberson ( People Tribune)

Jemel Roberson was 26 year - old father. He was a talented musician who belong to a gospel
 singing group and played organ in Chicago area churches. He was an armed security guard at Manny's Blue Lounge in suburban Robbins and his ambition was to become a police officer.

In November after Jemel heroically captured a gunman who shot three people at Manny's a policeman arrived on the scene and shot him to death. That officer was from another suburb, Midlothian. Across the country , people reacted to the news with anger and suspicion. Jemel
 was African American and the officer is white.

The People 's Tribune went to Robbins and spoke to two of the gunman victims and to other
witnesses at Manny's as well as to a longtime customer and nearby neighbors.

We learned that around 4am on Sunday , November 11, there was a disturbance at Manny's.  Jemel intervened and removed two men from the premises. One of the men soon came back with a gun and began shooting. A bullet grazed a female bartender's neck and the DJ was hit in his left hand and arm.
A third customer also was hit.

In the parking lot, Jemel shot the gunman in the him on the ground, put his knee on his back and pointed his gun at him. Robbins police soon arrived.

What happen next when the Midlothian cop shot and killed Jemel? The Illinois State Police (ISP) said on November 13 that the Midlothian cop who came to Manny's was responding to gun fire there and arrived while the action was still underway.

ISP said Jemel had a gun and was not wearing clothes "readily" identifying him as a security guard. The ISP said the cop repeatedly command him to drop his gun and get on the ground.

However , the ISP did not say the cop saw Jemel committing a crime.

Two gunshot victims and other witnesses told the people's Tribune something very different.

They said the Midlothian cop came after the situation was under control, and than the cop had an automatic rifle. Jemel wore a guard's black uniform with the word security in large white letters on his shirt, vest and cap, they said. They also said other police officers and by standers shouted that Jemel was a security guard.

Most importantly , they said Jemel had no time to comply. Some said the cop only shouted Freeze and than fired. Others said the cop said nothing and fired.

Also witnesses said the cop jumped onto the bar and pointed his rifle at several people in the club. The wounded bartender said he pointed the barrel at her face.

Who is he? Midlothian police would not identify him by name. A federal judge in Chicago refused to let the cop's name be disclosed. Midlothian police did say he belonged to the South Suburban Emergency Response Team, a SWAT group of cops from several departments.

A recent study found that police in the U.S. kill an average of three adult men a day. As capitalism sinks deeper into crisis. the ruling elite unleashes systemic police murder to keep control. No one is safe.      

Friday, December 28, 2018

Contaminated water in Benton Harbor destroys families. People Tribune by Rev Edward Pinkney

Let the truth be told. This was a very bad year for the residents of Benton Harbor, Michigan. Whirlpool Corporation has completely taken over the city of Benton Harbor, which includes the elected officials and the city manager, who cannot make any decisions without the approval of Whirlpool. The elected officials are working with ,Whirlpool against the people to remove the Black reseidents, completely out of the city.

First , on the water crisis. We have tested 40 homes in Benton Harbor and 33 of those homes had leads levels extremely high above 25 ppb. The normal is less than 15ppb. We even had two homes with over 100ppb. One school tested 640ppb, over 40 times above the normal level.

Elevated levels of lead cause serious health problems especially for pregnant women and young children. Lead in the drinking water is primarily from materials that have been dumped in the water by factories and the industrial waste water run off. Also lead can enter drinking water when pipes solder , or fixtures containing lead corrode, releasing the lead into the water.

The water testing included testing for Microbial contaminants such as salt and metal which was found in the water Pesticide and Herbicides, which come from a variety of sources, such as agriculture and other uses was also in the water. The number one cause of contaminats in the water are products of factories or industrial processes.

We must teach our community all about water and how important clean water really is. Water is a human right. Clean water is a moral issue, you can not live without clean water. Lead in your water, Microbial, Inorganic, Pesticides, Herbicides, Radioactive and organic Chemical in your water will shorten your life.

We must stand up to Whirlpool Corporation and city elected official to demand clean water for our children, our families and our community. We must confront the enemy or the enemy will continue to destroy us. No more bad water. Tell your elected official and Whirlpool Corporation. You are not going to kill me....

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Rash Spreads at women's prison part 3

Gautz said the prison paints the restrooms as needed , but it is simply not true that prisoners were told to paint over black mold with white paint.

He said bleach was taken away as a cleaning agent in the last year, because it was considered a possible source of the rash, but it is still used in the prison laundry.

He said officials have ruled out a number of possible causes, including black mold, after testing the water and air and searching for signs of mold. Scabies was also suspected early on and ruled out, he said.

He said Corizon , the correction Department's health care contractor, recently agreed to provide a doctor who would focus almost exclusively on addressing the rash problem.The prison has also asked for volunteers who have the rash to move into the health care unit, where they can be closely monitored and treated with topical creams, he said.

We 're definitively doing our best to get this to a conclusion, Gautz said.

It's all hands on deck.

Brooke Taylor, a traverse City resident whose mother. Carolyn Taylor, is an inmate at Women's Huron Valley, said her mother has the painful rash from head to toe and volunteered to move to the infirmary eight days ago. Taylor said she spoke to her mother Tuesday and she told her the rash has not improved and may have worsened since she moved to the infirmary.

Carolyn Taylor lives in the filmore unity , her daughter said. She doesn't work as a porter and sends all her garments to the prison laundry, she said. She too, believes the rash is is the result of mold , which she said was cleaned from the prison restrooms not long ago and has already come back.

Gautz said he doesn't intend to blame prisoners for the rash, but after eliminating many others possibilities, the improper use of cleaning agents is our best working theory.

Gautz said that when 115 prisoners had been diagnosed with the rash, 55 percent of them were porters. but he said he doesn't have an update porter number to go with the current number for rash cases which is 190.

He said officials also noticed a high proportion of rash incidents among prisoners who were mixing dental tablets, prison soap and shampoo to launder their own bras and underwear, rather than send it to the prison laundry, but he couldn't say what percentage of prisoners experiencing the rash had not done that.     

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Rash spreads at Women's Prison part 2

It is obscene to blame the women for the horrible rash that has now spread throughout the women's prison. Jacobsen said It is the fault of the Michigan Department of Corrections.

Jacobsen said she and others have complained for years that the prison was unsafe, toxic and filthy with feces on the walls and urine in the vents. When the department removed men from the facility in 2009, she said female inmates have begged for proper cleaning materials, but been refused and unhealthy black mold has spread throughout the prison.

The Free Press has reported on a history of leaking roofs at the prison, confirmed by inmates , correctional officers , and prison officials, and prison officials. Prisoners brought a class -action suit , alleging inhumane conditions, in 2016 but a federal judge in Detroit declined to certify the suit this year.

Gaulz denied there is black mold at the prison. He said what have happened at the prison. He said what might have happened at the prison a decade ago couldn't possibly have a causal relationship with rashes happening today. Gautz providing the Free Press with copies of recent inspections by Corrections Department employees that say the institution continues to be maintained in excellent sanitary condition.

But Machelle Pearson 52, who served more than 30 years behind bars, after her conviction for a 1983 homicide when she was a juvenile, said she saw black mold in the Galdwin unit, where the rash began , when she worked as a porter who cleaned the restrooms prior to her August parole.

In the shower area , an entire corner of the tile ceiling was eaten away by mold , and because of lack of a ventilation, condensation would drip on the prisoners and their clothes while they showered , Pearson said.

The prison stopped allowing the porters to use bleach to clean, and instead provided diluted cleaning agents that don't clean properly , she said

During the brief period early this year, when the Galdwin housing unit was under quarantine because of the rash, inmate were to directed paint over the black mold with white paint. Pearson told Free Press.

Pearson said she contracted the rash and still has scars around her ankles and feet, which she said an outside doctor told her , after her release , was because of  exposure to fungus and mold.

Part.3 next