Thursday, April 25, 2019

Texas man executed for 1998 'lynching' of James Byrd, Jr.

The 4th Execution of 2019
John William King, 44, convicted two decades ago for killing James Byrd Jr. in an act of unfathomable racist brutality in the small town of Jasper, was executed on April 24, 2019 by the State of Texas on with a dose of pentobarbital, reported the New York Times.
The execution, carried out at the state’s death chamber in Huntsville, came after the United States Supreme Court turned down Mr. King’s last petition for a stay. He was pronounced dead at 7:08 p.m., said Jeremy Desel, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
Mr. King kept his eyes closed as witnesses arrived to the execution chamber on Wednesday, The Associated Press reported. When the prison warden, Bill Lewis, asked him if he had any final words, Mr. King said, “No.”
Mr. King made a final statement issued in writing, Mr. Desel said. “Capital Punishment: Them without the capital get the punishment,” it said.
Early on a Sunday morning in 1998, Mr. King and two other white men attacked Mr. Byrd, a 49-year-old black man who had been offered a ride home in a sinister gesture of neighborliness. The men beat him, spray-painted his face, chained him to the back of a pickup truck and dragged him to his death on an isolated back road. The motive seemed shockingly clear-cut: Mr. King, who had come out of a stint in prison, was a committed white supremacist, his body a billboard of racist tattoos, including one depicting a black man hanged in a noose.
Louvon Harris, a sister of Mr. Byrd’s who planned to attend the execution, said on Tuesday that Mr. King’s death by lethal injection would not compare to the way he had tortured her brother. “He’s not going through any pain,” she said. “He’s not chained and bound and dragged on a concrete road, swinging back and forth like a sack of potatoes, with an arm coming off and being decapitated or nothing like that.”
“When you look at it at that angle,” she continued, “I don’t have sympathy.”
Less than a year after the killing, Mr. King became the first white man in modern Texas history to be sentenced to death for killing a black person. This was a troubling milestone given that, according to the Equal Justice Initiative, 344 black people were lynched in the 73 years after Reconstruction, a tally that included only documented lynchings and that stopped in 1950.
To read more CLICK HERE


Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Navy seal charged with atrocities amid claim of cover-up

Special Operation Chief Edward Gallagher was arrested in September on more than a dozen charges, including premeditated murder and attempted murder. If convicted, he could face life in prison. He has pleaded not guilty and denies all the charges. He is charged with stabbing a defenseless teenage captive to death. Picking off a school-age girl and an old man from a sniper’s roost. Indiscriminately spraying neighborhoods with rockets and machine-gun fire.
Navy SEAL commandos from Team 7’s Alpha Platoon said they had seen their highly decorated platoon chief commit shocking acts in Iraq. And they had spoken up, repeatedly. But their frustration grew as months passed and they saw no sign of official action.
Tired of being brushed off, seven members of the platoon called a private meeting with their troop commander in March 2018 at Naval Base Coronado near San Diego. According to a confidential Navy criminal investigation report obtained by The New York Times, they gave him the bloody details and asked for a formal investigation.
But instead of launching an investigation that day, the troop commander and his senior enlisted aide — both longtime comrades of the accused platoon leader, Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher — warned the seven platoon members that speaking out could cost them and others their careers, according to the report. 
The clear message, one of the seven told investigators, was “Stop talking about it.”
The platoon members eventually forced the referral of their concerns to authorities outside the SEALs, and Chief Gallagher now faces a court-martial, with his trial set to begin May 28.
But the account of the March 2018 meeting and myriad other details in the 439-page report paint a disturbing picture of a subculture within the SEALs that prized aggression, even when it crossed the line, and that protected wrongdoers.
According to the investigation report, the troop commander, Lt. Cmdr. Robert Breisch, said in the meeting that while the SEALs were free to report the killings, the Navy might not look kindly on rank-and-file team members making allegations against a chief. Their careers could be sidetracked, he said, and their elite status revoked; referring to the eagle-and-trident badges worn by SEALs, he said the Navy “will pull your birds.”
To read more CLICK HERE


Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Named Plaintiff in landmark SCOTUS decision denied parole

IN 1963, WHEN Henry Montgomery was 17 years old, he killed a sheriff’s deputy in East Baton Rouge, Louisiana, reported The Marshall Project. Montgomery was sentenced to life without parole for his crime. Now 71 years old, he has been incarcerated for 54 years. Montgomery is also the named plaintiff in a 2016 landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that applied retroactively the Court’s 2012 precedent banning mandatory life without parole sentences for youth who committed their offense under the age of 18. The decision was the third in a series that required states to give Montgomery and 2,000 other people serving life without parole a “meaningful opportunity for release.”
Despite being newly eligible for parole because of his resentencing, last week the Louisiana Board of Parole turned down Montgomery’s application for release. As justification, members of the board cited Montgomery’s short list of official classes completed during his time in prison. It didn’t acknowledge, however, that he was excluded from such programming for the first 30 years of his sentence because of his life sentence.
 To read more CLICK HERE

Monday, April 22, 2019

Slate: DOJ 'an institution compromised by rank partisanship'

Peter M. Shane writes at Slate:
In no small part because of the performance of Attorney General William Barr, history will treat his Justice Department as it treats the Justice Department under Richard Nixon’s one-time attorney general, John Mitchell—an institution compromised by rank partisanship and more committed to ideology than the rule of law. Barr’s spin on special counsel Robert S. Mueller’s report all but ignored the report’s damning findings, misrepresented significant parts of Mueller’s reasoning, and described President Donald Trump’s motivations and supposed cooperation in terms straight out of White House talking points. Barr engaged in word-splitting pettifoggery that would make even Bill Clinton blush. Barr is clearly compromised by the partisan goals of this White House to the point where he cannot be trusted in the job. He should resign immediately.
To read more CLICK HERE

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Lawmakers consider banning death penalty for seriously mentally ill

Lawmakers around the country are considering bans on death sentences for people with certain serious mental illnesses, reported The Marshall Project. Earlier this year, the South Dakota state legislature rejected a proposal to ban death sentences for people with serious mental illnesses, though it had passed such a proposal through one chamber last year
The Virginia state senate approved a similar bill three months ago. Other bills are gaining traction in TexasOhioTennessee and Missouri. Some include post-traumatic stress disorder, while others are limited to schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder and bipolar disorder. Many require active psychosis at the time of the crime. Some would let a judge decide who should be exempted, before the trial begins. The Texas bill would let a jury decide during the trial. The Tennessee bill requires a documented medical history before the crime, which might exclude someone like Otto.
Supporters of these bills, with the backing of the American Bar Association, argue that the “insanity defense” tends to be very narrowly defined, and juries are skeptical of it. The Supreme Court has already banned the death penalty for people with intellectual disabilities and those who committed their crimes before the age of 18. Both bans were based on the idea that society views these murderers as “categorically less culpable than the average criminal.” The high court has ruled that death row prisoners must be “competent” to be executed, though lower courts are still debating exactly what that means.
“Defendants who have a mental illness are particularly vulnerable in our criminal justice system,” Amanda Marzullo, director of the Texas Defender Service, told a panel of legislators in her state last month. “They are very likely to fire their defense lawyers, or not cooperate with them, or even try to represent themselves.”
Prosecutors have been wary. “The version of this legislation that is pending in Ohio would effectively end the death penalty,” said Louis Tobin, executive director of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association. He predicted that everyone facing the punishment would be able to obtain a diagnosis. A defendant can already mount an insanity defense, he pointed out, and then tell the jury about mental illness as a way of persuading them to vote for life without parole instead of death. Ohio’s bill, as of now, would apply retroactively, potentially setting up lengthy legal fights over old cases.
To read more CLICK HERE


Friday, April 19, 2019

NRA seeks injunction to stop Pittsburgh gun laws

The National Rifle Association has joined two other groups in seeking a preliminary court injunction in an attempt to stop Pittsburgh from enforcing a gun ban until the conclusion of lawsuits filed against the city by all three organizations.
Four city residents with assistance from the NRA, along with Firearm Owners Against Crime and The Allegheny County Sportsmen’s League, filed suit last week in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court following Pittsburgh’s passage of three bills regulating the use of guns within city limits.
They contend the legislation violates Pennsylvania law prohibiting municipalities from regulating firearms and the constitutional rights of gun owners.
The NRA lawsuit sought a permanent injunction, which would prevent Pittsburgh from enforcing the ban after the court cases are settled. On Wednesday, the NRA filed a court motion for a preliminary injunction.
All three lawsuits ask the court to declare the ban illegal. Firearm Owners Against Crime and the sportsmen’s league also sought preliminary injunctions.
The nonprofit gun control organization Everytown for Gun Safety, founded and funded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, is representing the city in civil court at no charge, according to Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto.
To read more CLICK HERE