- Created on 26 September 2013
Marissa Alexander (pictured), a young lady who invoked Stand Your Ground in her case but was denied, is set to get a new trial. Alexander was convicted and sentenced to 20 years for shooting a bullet in to the ceiling of her home when her husband allegedly attacked her.
Even though there were no injuries from the incident, Alexander was convicted and sentenced to prison for two decades.
While the appellate court did not reverse her conviction because of Stand Your Ground, they reversed the conviction because the trial court did not properly instruct the jury on self-defense, which was Alexander's claim for trial.
If the jury considered self-defense and found that she was defending herself from her husband, she may have been acquitted of the aggravated assault charge.
An outcry came from the public demanding justice in this case, which was prosecuted by Angela Corey, the same prosecutor on the George Zimmerman case. For many, Alexander receiving a two-decade sentence, while Zimmerman eventually received a not-guilty verdict for murdering Black teen Trayvon Martin appeared to reek of a racial double-standard.
In the 12-page order, Judge J. Benton, who sits on the appeals court, detailed the incident that lead to the arrest as well as why he felt it was necessary to overturn the conviction of Alexander. According to Judge Benton's order, the trial court made an error by instructing the jury that Alexander had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she was justified in using self-defense.
That is not proper. The judge should've instructed the jury that when Alexander makes a self-defense claim, then the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it is not self-defense.
According to the order, after reading text messages from her ex-husband, Marissa's husband, Rico Gray(pictured above left), accused her of infidelity, questioning the paternity of their 1-week-old son. Alexander locked herself in the bathroom and demanded Gray leave. She ran from the bathroom to the garage, where her car was parked, but the garage door was down.
Alexander testified that she could not get the garage door open but retrieved a gun from the glove compartment, which she had a permit for, and then walked back in to the house with the gun on her side — not knowing if Gray had left the home or not. When Gray saw the weapon, he reportedly charged her "in a rage," saying, "Bitch, I'll kill you."
Startled, Alexander raised the gun in to the air and fired. Mr. Gray ran.
According to Alexander, she was forced to fire the gun in the air as a warning shot because it was the "lesser of two evils."
While testifying at her original trial, Alexander told the jury of several incidents of domestic violence at the hands of Gray, including him choking her while she almost lost consciousness. In another incident, Gray needed hospitalization.
Several witnesses, including family members, confirmed Alexander's many injuries at the hands of her husband.
In an opposing view of the majority opinion, Judge T. Kent Wetherell, who also sits on the appeals courts, stated in his opinion piece that although the case should be reversed, there are still fundamental problems that should be considered. He wrote that the evidence showed that Marissa Alexander had the option of exiting either the front or back doors, which were unobstructed, and said that there was no evidence that the garage door did not work. According to the judge, Marissa Alexander had ample opportunity to leave the home without harm.
Instead, Marissa returned in to the house with the firearm and pointed it in the direction of Rico Gray. Further, Wetherell mentioned an incident after the shooting in which Marissa Alexander went to Rico Gray's home and physically attacked him, which led to Marissa Alexander's bond being revoked and her being held until trial.
No new trial date has been set yet.
- Created on 23 September 2013
COATESVILLE, Pa. — A prosecutor says officials at a large southeastern Pennsylvania school district exchanged "shockingly racist" text messages on district phones.
Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan told The Associated Press on Monday that his office learned of the messages during an investigation into the Coatesville Area School District.
Read the texts here.
He says the text messages "looked like something from 1813, not 2013."
The Daily Local News of West Chester says Superintendent Richard Como (pictured left) and Director of Athletics and Activities Jim Donato (pictured right) used the district-owned cellphones to exchange a series of racist texts in June. Both resigned abruptly during the first week of school.
Here are a few exchanges between the two school officials, according to The Daily Local News:
In an often unintelligible exchange of messages, the pair repeatedly used well-known and offensive racial slurs while discussing students, faculty, and members of the athletics department.
"All should just have whatever first names they want...then last name is N—-R!," Donato wrote to Como. "Leroy N—-r, Preacher N—-r, Night train n—-r, clarence n—-r, Latoya n—-r, Thelma n—-r and so on."
"Great idea!" Como responded. "Joe n—-r bill n—-r snake n—-r got a nice ring to it."
The conversation did not end there, as Como and Donato continued to use the slur as they appeared to discuss students in the school district.
"Could have whole homerooms of n—-r!" Como wrote.
"Hahahahaha!" Donato responded. "Will N—-r report to the office, pardon the interruption but will n—-r report to nurses office. N—-r to lunch now!"
On June 7, the pair exchanged another round of text messages discussing the then pending layoffs of district teachers and the recent firings of other black employees.
"Man some week for sure but will be topped Tuesday night by Delco vs. Ritter. Campbell fight over Dunn financial claims and sneak attack in wings," Como wrote.
"Jesus christ! Can't get much better (worse)," Donato replied. "Blood in water..."
"Right this could be classic conclusion to board meetings by end of month 23 (teachers) get clipped Tuesday a.m. before committee meeting and prob 6 to 9 more in July if Ritter budget numbers right," Como said.
"How many n—-rs out of 23?" Donato asked. "Not enough!"
"Don't know but think it's only 4-5. At most until last minute rush of firing by Goo of Phoenix and Kamara," Como answered.
"Good hangings there," Donato wrote. The conversation continued with more obscene language.
Phone listings for Como and Donato weren't immediately available.
- Created on 20 September 2013
A Connecticut school is facing backlash from parents following a controversial school trip that took place last year.
James and Sandra Baker, parents of a student at Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy, said that their daughter was forced to participate in an uncomfortable presentation about slavery.
Testifying at a Hartford Board of Education hearing on Tuesday night--as the Hartford Court reported--the Bakers said that during the "Underground Railroad Reenactment" activity on their then-7th-grader's class field trip, students were called the "N-word." They also said that the children had to pretend to be "picking cotton, like a real slave," hold their heads down and "not make eye contact with the white masters."
The Bakers said that the reenactment was incredibly traumatizing for the child, who is black. They've been fighting the school's decision to participate in the program ever since, according to Hartford's WFSB.
The field trip took place at Nature's Classroom, a 40-year-old residential environmental education program.
Sandra Baker testified that reenactment was so realistic that, at some points, her daughter "did not know if the leaders were joking," and said she was particularly troubled because, "as an African American parent, I carefully consider how my children receive messages about racial identity." According to WFSB, the Bakers had previously filed complaints with Connecticut's Department of Education, Commission on Human Rights, and Office for Civil Rights.
The Baker family isn't the first to express concern about Nature's Clasroom. In 2008, a Nature's Classroom field trip sparked a similar debate in western Massachusetts when Jefferson Street School fifth graders participated in the Underground Railroad activity, according to Teaching Tolerance, a magazine published by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Parents of Jefferson student Maya Saakvitne, who is also black, were upset that white facilitators played the role of "masters" and "bounty hunters." At the time, Gwen Agna, principal of Jefferson Street School, told Tolerance that "at least 50 percent of graduating 6th graders cite their Nature's Classroom trip, specifically the Underground Railroad activity, as one of their favorite school experiences."
Nature's Classroom is a longstanding program that has received several educational awards for its programs.
John Santos, the Executive Director of Nature's Classroom, told The Huffington Post that, while he regrets that the Baker's child had such a negative experience, "we are not in the business of creating harm, physically or emotionally but the legitimacy of the activity needs to be judged by individual participants at all grade levels." He also pointed out that the Underground Railroad activity is just one of over 500 programs available; the school chose to participate in it.
- Created on 19 September 2013
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 18: New York CIty Police officers stand near a demonstration against the city's 'stop and frisk' searches in lower Manhattan near Federal Court March 18, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Allison Joyce/Getty Images) | Getty
The New York City Police Department's use of the stop-and-frisk tactic has so badly damaged some communities' trust in police, according to a new study, that many young people won't report violent crimes.
The Vera Institute of Justice conducted a survey of 500 men and women in five "highly patrolled" New York City neighborhoods-- Jamaica in Queens, East Harlem, Bedford-Stuyvesant and East New York in Brooklyn, and the South Bronx--who were between the ages of 18 and 25, and who had been stopped by police at least once.
Forty-five percent of those surveyed, according to the report, encountered "an officer who threatened them, and 46 percent said they had experienced physical force at the hands of an officer." Twenty-five percent said they'd been involved in a stop in which a cop has drawn a weapon.
An alarming 44 percent said they'd been stopped repeatedly by police officers--at least nine times. Some even reported being stopped more than 20 times. (Here's The New York Times video profile of a young Brooklyn man stopped over 60 times.)
Only 29 percent of respondents said they'd been informed of the reason for being stopped.
Eighty-five percent said "illegal items such as weapons, drugs, or open containers of alcohol were never discovered during a stop they had been involved in"-- which matches up with the NYPD's own statistics. Eighty-nine percent of those stopped last year weren't arrested or issued a summons.
All of these factors, the study finds, contribute to a lack of young people's trust in New York's finest. "Our main finding is pretty plain and simple: Stop-and-frisk is compromising the trust needed for public safety," Jennifer Fratello, lead researcher for the study, told The New York Daily News.
Eighty-eight percent of those surveyed said they believed their community did not trust the police. Only 40 percent said they'd be comfortable asking the police for help if they were in trouble.
Sixty percent said they would not talk to police even when they were the victim of violence.
The majority of those surveyed were black or Latino. In 2012, the NYPD stopped 533,042 people, 87 percent of whom were either black or Latino.
A federal judge ruled last month that the NYPD's use of stop and frisk was unconstitutional and amounted to widespread racial profiling. She appointed a federal monitor to oversee the department. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who says stop and frisk keeps guns off the street and saves lives, appealed the ruling.
The New York City Council also passed two bills last month to rein in the NYPD's use of stop and frisk. One bill sets up the office of the inspector general, which will act as a watchdog over the department. The other bill makes it easier for New Yorkers to sue if they've been profiled based on their race, religion, or sexual orientation.