Posts Tagged ‘Mississippi’

(AP, Clarion Ledger, and others)

The Mississippi Supreme Court on Tuesday afternoon issued a stay of execution until further notice for Willie Jerome Manning, who had been set to be executed at 6 p.m.

Previously having voted 5-4 in favour of execution as recently as last week, the high court voted eight to one to defer, possibly until new evidence can be examined, with Justice Mike Randolph objecting.

Attorney General Jim Hood had opposed the request for a stay, saying it is just a delay tactic and that there was a “mountain of evidence” against Manning, including a confession to his cousin. (Note, that cousin has since retracted that testimony and specifically said he was lying to curry favour with police.) On Tuesday, he apologized to the victims’ families.

“I am sorry that the victims’ families will have to continue to live with this 20-plus year nightmare,” Hood said. “Out of an abundance of caution, our Court stayed the sentence until it had time to review this flurry of last minute filings.”

(Presumably Mr Hood thinks it would be better to judicially murder the wrong man than try and find the real perpetrator if the DNA and other evidence exonerates Manning? Perhaps he thinks the victim’s families would rather an innocent man was executed than no-one?)

Manning was given two death sentences for the 1992 slayings of Jon Steckler and Tiffany Miller, two college students. His attorneys had asked the state Supreme Court on Monday to stop his execution and allow him to seek DNA testing of evidence.

The U.S. Justice Department had sent letters saying FBI testimony on testing of bullet and hair evidence in the case had been over-reaching for technology at the time.

Manning’s attorney, David Voisin, said: “The order demonstrates that the court is taking our pleading seriously and giving serious consideration to giving us (DNA) testing or a new trial.”

Judge Randolph, in his lonely written objection to the stay, said Manning’s defense has had years to deal with hair and ballistics evidence and that the issues were dealt with “in a long string of litigation in state and federal courts.”

(This, of course, ignores the fact that he had been denied to right to new DNA testing. What’s more, this particular judge then proceeded to make a series of astonishing remarks regarding the Department of Justice.)

Randolph also strongly criticized the DOJ for working with the Innocence Project and National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in their evaluations.

“I should not be surprised,” Randolph wrote, “given that the families of victims of the clandestine ‘Fast and Furious’ gun running operation can’t get the Department of Justice to identify the decision makers (whose actions resulted in the death of a border agent and many others) after years of inquiry, and that this is the same Department of Justice that grants and enforces Miranda warnings to foreign enemy combatants.”

(It seems like “hang ’em high” as a solution to all the world’s problems is still alive and well in some people’s minds. But credit must be given to the court, it has to be said, in reversing its previous decision so emphatically. Still, Manning is not out of the woods yet …)

Mississippi Department of Corrections spokeswoman Tara Booth said the agency is “standing down until we hear from the court.”

Booth said it is unclear at this point how temporary the stay might be. Manning will be immediately moved from the execution unit, where he was placed Sunday, back to death row.

Manning had not requested a last meal Tuesday. Too, none of his family members had planned to attend the execution at Manning’s request. Manning’s brother, Marshon Manning, however, was visiting with Manning Tuesday.

Family members of one of the victims were on route to view the 6 p.m. scheduled execution at Parchman, Miss., where the Mississippi State Penitentiary is located, when victims advocated made them aware Manning had been granted a stay, Booth said.

In a written statement, Hood said: “Yesterday evening our office filed a report with the Court, which I obtained from the district attorney’s office around 6 yesterday afternoon.

The report states that there was no serological evidence from the victims’ fingernail scrapings or semen on the vaginal swabs from the rape test kit for a DNA test to identify.

After having an opportunity to consider this new evidence, the senior attorneys in this office believe our Court will dissolve the stay and the sentence will be carried out. If, however, our Court orders that these items be re-tested, then we will carry out that order.”

Hood continued: “I am in conversations with the DOJ and FBI to determine how these last minute letters came about. After conversing with expert witnesses at our Crime Lab, it is clear that FBI experts and experts in all states used more conclusive language in their testimony up until around the time the 2009 National Academy of Science report was issued on forensics. Since then the policy of many experts has been to qualify their testimony by using the magic words ‘to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty.’

“The FBI agents in this case were simply following the standards used in their fields at the time. The letters sent from the forensic taskforce chairman at DOJ, merely state that the science was not that exact in 1993, not that these agents were not following the standard followed by all of their colleagues at the time, both state and federal, in testifying to the degree of certainty.”

(So if they made a mistake back then, the fact that they didn’t know they were making a mistake means it’s OK to execute someone incorrectly? I smell bullshit and arse covering.)

Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps said Manning was being taken from a holding cell back to Building 29, where death row is located.

Epps said Manning had expressed optimism to him earlier that the execution would be stopped.

“He said he had faith in God and all was in His hands,” Epps said.

Epps said the prison was being taken off lockdown — a usual procedure on an execution day and that Tiffany Miller’s family was alerted about the stay. Family members who had planned to witness Tuesday’s scheduled execution were already en route.

(What is certain is that this whole death penalty system is ridiculously cruel on both inmates and victim’s families. The anti death movement in the USA is gaining strength – especially because there is now clear evidence that many people are being executed on inconclusive or blatantly fraudulent evidence. If a country must impose the ultimate penalty, then certainty as regards guilt – and only certainty – must surely be the standard.)

The First Vote

1867 drawing of newly-freed black men voting. Women would not get the vote until 1920. Near-total resistance to blacks voting went on in some areas well into the 1960s. In some states, it appears to persist to this day.

A clutch of vital swing states (run by Republicans) are under the microscope for the efforts they are making to ensure it is so hard as to almost be impossible for hundreds of thousands of EX prisoners to vote in the Presidential election.

Needless to say, the vast majority of these ex inmates are black. They’re likely to favour a black President. You do the math …

Just another example why “the greatest democracy in the world” is actually a democracy basket case.

As UPI report from Washington, civil rights activists stepped up efforts this week to allow more than 1.5 million voting-eligible felons in Florida — and millions more nationwide — access to elections, urging that laws they see as discriminatory need to be changed.

“Keep in mind that two-thirds are not in a prison cell right now,” said Hilary O. Shelton, senior vice president for advocacy at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Nearly 6 million – 6 million, overwhelmingly poor, overwhelmingly black – American felons have no voting rights, says the Sentencing Project, a non-profit group that works on criminal justice reform issues. Florida leads the nation with the highest rate per capita of disenfranchised felons.

In swing states like Florida and Virginia, another state with a large number of disenfranchised felons, those votes could well make the difference in close elections. The deadline to register for the November election is Tuesday in Florida and Oct. 15 in Virginia.

Advocates say they worry the laws are part of larger voter suppression efforts, some designed to keep minorities from casting ballots this fall.

The NAACP launched a national campaign against felon disenfranchisement Tuesday in Tallahassee, Fla. The group is seeking changes in laws that keep felons from voting.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who sits on the state’s executive clemency board, calls the practice fair to law-abiding citizens and victims of crime.

“It is reasonable to ask felons to apply to have their rights restored and to demonstrate rehabilitation by living crime-free during a waiting period after the completion of their sentences,” said an official in Bondi’s office.

But laws governing the restoration of voting rights vary by state, making this an uneven playing field at best. Most U.S. states restore felons’ voting rights automatically after completion of their prison term, parole or probation. Several states allow prisoners with misdemeanor convictions to cast absentee ballots.

But some states with right-wing governors have been rolling back voting rights for felons.

Florida, under Republican Gov. Rick Scott, and Virginia, under Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell, are among 12 states — including Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, Tennessee and Wyoming — where felon voting rights may be permanently withheld.

“The problem is the Florida Constitution,” said Randy Berg, the executive director of the Florida Justice Institute, a public interest law firm in Miami. He cited a provision added in 1865 that hasn’t been repealed.

“Legislators refuse to change the rules on clemency,” Berg said.

Scott’s administration rescinded a more liberal policy for felons in March 2011. Florida now requires felons to wait 5-7 years before they can apply for restoration of civil rights. So much for paying your debt to society.

In a statement from Scott’s office, ex-felons must demonstrate “willingness to request to have their rights restored.”

In 2011, 13,000 ex-felons applied for civil rights restoration.

But since Scott’s administration amended the law, fewer than 300 ex-felons have voting rights restored.

Under the earlier policy introduced in 2007 by Gov. Charlie Crist, who was then also a Republican, 155,000 ex-felons had their voting rights restored.

In Iowa, Republican Gov. Terry Branstad rescinded a law in 2011 to automatically restore voter rights, which was instituted in 2005 by former Gov. Tom Vilsack, a Democrat who is now the U.S. secretary of Agriculture.

The danger with executive clemency law is reflected in changes depending on administration.

In Virginia, Shelton said, “If the governor wasn’t so moved, (the) people’s rights could not be restored.”

Restore the right to vote

Natural justice surely demands that EX felons should have their civil rights restored.

Thirty-one percent of all voting-age African-American men in Virginia are disenfranchised because of felony records, Shelton said.

Let’s just run that fact again. Thirty-one per cent of all black men in Virginia cannot vote.

Nearly one in three. So much for the land of the free.

Disenfranchisement after criminal conviction remains the most significant barrier to voting rights.  Nationally, 5.3 million American citizens are not allowed to vote because of a criminal conviction – 4 million of whom live, work, and raise families in their communities.

Two states — Vermont and Maine — don’t disenfranchise felons. Prisoners registered to vote in Vermont, regardless of where they are incarcerated, may submit absentee ballots.

An official in the Vermont Secretary of State’s Office called voting part of the restorative process. Community educators conduct voter registration drives in prisons to ensure that prisoners can participate in elections.

Neither Vermont nor Maine maintain records on how many prisoners register to vote because many use addresses from prior to incarceration.

The NAACP, in cooperation with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, provides former felons with information upon release on how to regain voting rights. Additionally, the organization maintains prison units in Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Mississippi and Missouri for providing absentee ballots.

One can only hope at least some of those disenfranchised by these outrageous tactics can have their rights restored promptly, but time is probably against them. They will stand by and watch the process take place without them.

Rehabilitation? Don’t make me laugh. We are creating a permanent black underclass in parts of America. Don’t be surprised when they bite back. It won’t be pretty.

Chavis Carter, dead in Arkansas: shot himself in the temple, with his hands tied behind his back. In Arkansas. The deep south. Now what do YOU think?

Reproduced from Think Progress, written By Aviva Shen on Aug 1, 2012

Police in Jonesboro, Arkansas have launched an investigation into how 21-year-old Chavis Carter was shot in the back of a patrol car Saturday night.Carter, who died at the hospital, was in the passenger seat of a pickup truck that was pulled over by police just before 10 pm, reports WREG.

According to Officer Keith Baggett who was on the scene, Officer Ron Marsh found “some marijuana” and several new plastic baggies when he searched Carter. When they ran his information through dispatch, they found that he was wanted on a warrant in Mississippi, where he lived.

The cops then handcuffed him, searched him again, and put him in the back of the patrol car. While Baggett searched the vehicle, he claims he heard “a loud thump with a metallic sound” on his trunk and saw Ron Marsh motion to him.

The thumping noise, according to the cops, was Carter shooting himself in the head.

The police report attributed the death to a self-inflicted gunshot, though when the two officers opened the squad car door, they found Carter’s hands were still cuffed behind his back. The gun, they said, was somehow missed in both searches.

“Any given officer has missed something on a search, be it drugs, knife, razor blades, this instance it happened to be a gun,” Jonesboro Police Sergeant Lyle Waterworth said after the bizarre incident. The police believe that Chavez managed to pull out a hidden gun and shot himself in spite of the handcuffs.

Carter’s grieving mother, Teresa, however, suspects foul play: “I think they killed him, my son wasn’t suicidal.”

According to Teresa, Carter called his girlfriend while he was pulled over to tell her he’d call her from jail. She also said her son was shot in his right temple, when he was left-handed.

The two officers involved are now on administrative leave until the investigation concludes.

WARNING: Research shows that carrying a small amount of marijuana in Arkansas can make you commit suicide in the back of police cars. If you’re, you know, a n*****, that is.

Brilliant website, and long overdue. Whatever your political point of view, if you value a reasoned debate running up to November, I urge you to have a look. http://whatthefuckhasobamadonesofar.com/

WTF

Wtf? Obama has a great record? Who knew?

I am not uncritical of Obama – by no means – I think his recent signing of a bill to restrict the right to demonstrate was a disgrace, and he has generally shown himself on occasions to have a poor and rather conservative understanding of the concept of liberty.

However, I feel his rapid and targeted response to America’s financial woes has been widely mis-represented and under-praised. I firmly believe his prompt and thorough response to GFC Mark 1 saved America from a complete financial collapse, and thus the rest of the world’s economy, and including since then under-writing much of the nonsense going on in Europe to prevent GFC Mark 2 really getting up a head of steam. And I believe he will whip either Romney or Santorum in the election.

I am on record as being very critical of the left and centre’s inability to present the achievements of the Administration with any verve or impact. This website starts to address that – so if you value the facts getting out there, so the free world can have an intelligent debate about who leads what is still the world’s most important economy, then pass it on!

This interesting website also goes to how much more effective Obama will be when he gets a chance to present his record in debate and on “the stump”.

That’s when you will see genuine popular enthusiasm begin to return to his position.

The other factor that we should focus on is the very poor turnout – again – in tonight’s Republican primaries – whatever else can be said, what is certain is that the GOP grassroots have no real enthusiasm for any of the candidates on offer. This will play very badly for them come November, wheoever they choose.

As Mississippi and Alabama reveal that the GOP is hopelessly split between the evangelical religious right and the more moderate business-focussed centre, those who think Santorum or Romney – or anyone else – can beat Obama have conveniently forgotten just how inspirational Obama can be in front of an audience.

And the fact that in a true sense America is a deeply conservative nation. It tends to vote for incumbents, of both parties. And I confidently expect it to do so again.

obama in church

Obviously a Muslim. You can tell. Aren't his eyes a bit too close together?

More than half – you heard that right, more than HALF – of likely Republican voters in Mississippi say they think President Barack Obama is a Muslim, according to a survey conducted by Public Policy Polling.

Fifty-two percent said that Obama practiced Islam, while just 12 percent said he was a Christian. Thirty-six percent said they were not – really – not sure.

Obama, whose father and stepfather both came from Muslim backgrounds, is, however, a practicing Christian and was a member of Trinity United Church in Chicago before he was president. Indeed, his membership of that Church was frequently criticised by – yes – Republicans, because of the nature of the sermons preached there.

The poll, conducted by telephone of 656 likely Republican voters in Mississippi on March 10 and 11, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.

In Alabama, the same poll found that 45 percent of likely Republican voters believed Obama to be a Muslim and 14 percent said they considered him a Christian.

The group conducted the polling in advance of the Republican presidential primaries in Alabama and Mississippi, which will be held on Tuesday.

On the left, an apparently typical southern Republican voter. On the right, an alien captured yesterday in Jackson, Mississippi. You be the judge.

Well, thinking about it, I think more than half of intending Republican voters in the deep south are obviously aliens.

I have no reason for believing this whatsoever, of course, just bigoted blind opinion, but I ask you to look at the evidence. I just think they clearly bear no relation to what I understand as even minimally educated adult humans.

Accordingly, I demand that they should all produce birth certificates before being allowed to vote. Before being allowed to leave home, unattended, actually. And those certificates should need to be stamped “tested: human”, not just identify where they’re from.

I repeat: I have no evidence for this point of view, but if I say it often enough, and with enough faux indignation, then obviously people will come to believe it.

Next week: your fearless reporter reveals the truth. “Rick Santorum is actually the anti-Christ”.*

*We have no evidence for this whatsoever, either, it’s just a really fun thought. Spread it around.

Meanwhile, in case any Republicans care to argue that Obama really is a Muslim, they might like to consider his words from 2007, regarding his enthusiasm for Christianity.

“Around this time that some pastors I was working with came up to me and asked if I was a member of a church. “If you’re organizing churches,” they said, “it might be helpful if you went to church once in a while.” And I thought, “Well, I guess that makes sense.”  

So one Sunday, I put on one of the few clean jackets I had, and went over to Trinity United Church of Christ on 95th Street on the South Side of Chicago. And I heard Reverend Jeremiah A. Wright deliver a sermon called “The Audacity of Hope.” And during the course of that sermon, he introduced me to someone named Jesus Christ. I learned that my sins could be redeemed. I learned that those things I was too weak to accomplish myself, He would accomplish with me if I placed my trust in Him. And in time, I came to see faith as more than just a comfort to the weary or a hedge against death, but rather as an active, palpable agent in the world and in my own life.  

It was because of these newfound understandings that I was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity one day and affirm my Christian faith. It came about as a choice, and not an epiphany. I didn’t fall out in church, as folks sometimes do. The questions I had didn’t magically disappear. The skeptical bent of my mind didn’t suddenly vanish. But kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side, I felt I heard God’s spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth and carrying out His works.”

Barack Obama, June 23rd, 2007