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Texas inmate must stay in prison, despite conviction being overturned in 1980
Texas inmate with the critical thinking ability of a first-grader has been waiting some 34 years for a new trial. And now he'll wait some more.

In a recent ruling, a judge decided that Jerry Hartfield's constitutional right to a speedy trial had not been violated — despite being imprisoned since 1980 on a murder conviction that had been overturned — because, in essence, Hartfield did not ask for a new trial.

Judge Craig Estlinbaum found the state had been negligent in failing to retry the 56-year-old man, and that his ability to adequately defend himself had diminished over time, but he ultimately ruled Hartfield was responsible for his own incarceration because he failed to seek a new trial.

The decision is the latest in a series of confusing and baffling proceedings that have kept the Bay City man behind bars since his 1976 conviction for robbing and killing a bus station worker in 1976.

Hartfield, whose IQ has been estimated at 51, claims he is innocent and that police used a false confession against him. He was sentenced to death, but his conviction was overturned in 1980 by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeal, which ruled a juror had been improperly dismissed for voicing concerns about capital punishment.

Prosecutors twice tried to persuade the court to reconsider that ruling, but failed.

Mr. Hartfield should have had a new trial. But he didn't get one.

And then things began to legally fall apart for Hartfield.

Then-Gov. Mark White, at the urging of prison officials, commuted Hartfield's sentence from death to life imprisonment in 1983. Whether he had been informed that Hartfield's conviction had been overturned is not known, according to Hartfield's current attorney, Jeffrey Newberry of the Texas Innocence Project.

What is now known, however, is that the governor's commutation was issued in error, Newberry said.

"He couldn't commute the sentence because there was nothing left to commute," Newberry told the Daily News Friday. "Mr. Hartfield should have had a new trial. But he didn't get one."

He didn't get one because he had no legal counsel after his trial.

"So he just sat there," Newberry said.

Fast-forward to 2006, when a fellow inmate told Hartfield that he should have received a new trial after his conviction was overturned.

"Someone helped him write documents on his own saying 'Hey, I never got my new trial,''' Newberry said. Eventually, his handwritten legal filings resulted in him receiving a court-appointed attorney while he fought to be released.

Over the next eight years, his case bounced from federal court to state courts. Meanwhile, the murder weapon, a pick-axe, has been lost and witnesses have died.

In a jailhouse interview last year, Hartfield said he was not angry about what happened to him.

He became a Christian behind bars, he said. “Being a God-fearing person, he doesn’t allow me to be bitter,” Hartfield said. “He allows me to be forgiving.” Newberry said he is appealing last week's most recent ruling in Hartfield's case.

He disputes Judge Estlinbaum assertion that no evidence was submitted of Hartfield's mental incapacity. He also disputes the logic of the decision, saying the judge essentially ruled "Mr. Hartfield's right to a speedy trial had not been violated … because the fact that he waited (to request a new trial) was an indication that he didn't want a new trial," Newberry said.

Separate proceedings to retry the criminal case are also underway, the attorney said. A hearing on that matter is scheduled for next month.


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Deborah Hastings / Apr-18-2014 76 0
Texas inmate with the critical thinking ability of a first-grader has been waiting some 34 years for a new trial. And now he'll wait some more.

In a recent ruling, a judge decided that Jerry Hartfield's constitutional right to a speedy trial had not been violated — despite being imprisoned since 1980 on a murder conviction that had been overturned — because, in essence, Hartfield did not ask for a new trial.

Judge Craig Estlinbaum found the state had been negligent in failing to retry the 56-year-old man, and that his ability to adequately defend himself had diminished over time, but he ultimately ruled Hartfield was responsible for his own incarceration because he failed to seek a new trial.

The decision is the latest in a series of confusing and baffling proceedings that have kept the Bay City man behind bars since his 1976 conviction for robbing and killing a bus station worker in 1976.

Hartfield, whose IQ has been estimated at 51, claims he is innocent and that police used a false confession against him. He was sentenced to death, but his conviction was overturned in 1980 by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeal, which ruled a juror had been improperly dismissed for voicing concerns about capital punishment.

Prosecutors twice tried to persuade the court to reconsider that ruling, but failed.

Mr. Hartfield should have had a new trial. But he didn't get one.

And then things began to legally fall apart for Hartfield.

Then-Gov. Mark White, at the urging of prison officials, commuted Hartfield's sentence from death to life imprisonment in 1983. Whether he had been informed that Hartfield's conviction had been overturned is not known, according to Hartfield's current attorney, Jeffrey Newberry of the Texas Innocence Project.

What is now known, however, is that the governor's commutation was issued in error, Newberry said.

"He couldn't commute the sentence because there was nothing left to commute," Newberry told the Daily News Friday. "Mr. Hartfield should have had a new trial. But he didn't get one."

He didn't get one because he had no legal counsel after his trial.

"So he just sat there," Newberry said.

Fast-forward to 2006, when a fellow inmate told Hartfield that he should have received a new trial after his conviction was overturned.

"Someone helped him write documents on his own saying 'Hey, I never got my new trial,''' Newberry said. Eventually, his handwritten legal filings resulted in him receiving a court-appointed attorney while he fought to be released.

Over the next eight years, his case bounced from federal court to state courts. Meanwhile, the murder weapon, a pick-axe, has been lost and witnesses have died.

In a jailhouse interview last year, Hartfield said he was not angry about what happened to him.

He became a Christian behind bars, he said. “Being a God-fearing person, he doesn’t allow me to be bitter,” Hartfield said. “He allows me to be forgiving.” Newberry said he is appealing last week's most recent ruling in Hartfield's case.

He disputes Judge Estlinbaum assertion that no evidence was submitted of Hartfield's mental incapacity. He also disputes the logic of the decision, saying the judge essentially ruled "Mr. Hartfield's right to a speedy trial had not been violated … because the fact that he waited (to request a new trial) was an indication that he didn't want a new trial," Newberry said.

Separate proceedings to retry the criminal case are also underway, the attorney said. A hearing on that matter is scheduled for next month.



Apr-18-2014 48 0
More than a half-dozen African-American pastors and about 70 supporters gathered outside City Hall Thursday to protest what they described as a lack of diversity in Mayor de Blasio’s top appointments.

“This is an insult to us,” said the Rev. Dennis Dillon, pastor of the Brooklyn Christian Center, unveiling a study that claimed only 10% of de Blasio’s high-level appointees are black.

“The mayor made promises; we gave him our votes. . . . There is probably some regret with all of us. We want to believe his heart is in the right place; his actions are obviously all wrong.”

The mayor made promises; we gave him our votes.

However, the study had flaws.

For example, it counted officials who were appointed by then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg and had left office.

And it included in its count holdover commissioners heading agencies where de Blasio has yet to make his own appointments.

A Daily News tally found that 24% of the deputy mayors and agency commissioners appointed by de Blasio are African-American.

A study cited by Dillon, which claimed only 10% of de Blasio’s high-level appointees are black, counted officials who were appointed by then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg and had left office.

“Mayor de Blasio has kept his promise to build an effective administration that looks like New York City,” said spokeswoman Marti Adams.

“By any measure, Mayor de Blasio’s appointments have made this, by far, the most diverse administration that the city has seen in decades.”



TMZ Apr-17-2014 85 0
Mike Epps may have gotten a real life fright at the after party of “Haunted House 2” on Wednesday night.

According to TMZ, the actor was accused of punching a woman in the face at the party, held at Lucky Strike in Downtown L.A.

The gossip site reports that LAPD sources said a woman filed a report after claiming that the 43-year-old comedian punched her in the face.

The police, TMZ reports, saw no sign of injury on the woman and Epps denied assaulting her. She supposedly claimed to have been previously romantically entangled with him.

Epps, according to the site’s sources, insists that the woman was a fan who became hostile after he asked her for privacy.

The police, TMZ reports, are referring the case to the domestic violence division.

A representative for Epps did not immediately respond to the Daily News’ request for comment.



Apr-17-2014 55 0
The New York Times unleashed Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Walt Bogdanich on the Tallahassee police department’s investigation of a rape allegation against star Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston and the results are what you might expect.

The NYT “found that there was virtually no investigation at all, either by the police or the university.”

Winston, who will be a sophomore this upcoming season, is one of college football’s most famous and talented players. As a freshman he became the youngest Heisman Trophy ever and led the Seminoles to a national championship.

Winston’s fame may have affected investigators’ zeal during their investigation. The chief investigator in the rape case, who also does private security work for the Seminole Boosters, the primary financier of Florida State athletics, allegedly said testing the star quarterback’s DNA “might generate [unwanted] publicity.”

The New York Times story uncovers more disturbing facts:
•FSU knew about the rape allegation in January of 2013, about a month after the Dec. 6, 2012, incident and a full year before the Seminoles won the national championship, but did not question Winston.
•After the championship game in 2014, FSU asked Winston to answer questions about the allegations but he declined.
•Police did not follow “obvious leads that would have quickly identified the suspect as well as witnesses, one of whom videotaped part of the sexual encounter.”
•Police did not ask for security video from a bar where the alleged victim said she met Winston.
•Police said they had “no lead” on the rape suspect for about a month, but the accuser called a detective and identified her alleged attacker by name Jan. 10, saying she saw him on campus.
•Once Winston was identified as a suspect, police did not attempt to interview him for two weeks and never obtained a DNA sample.
•Police contacted Winston by phone, which is highly unusual, and Winston said he could not talk to them because of baseball practice. He hired a lawyer and never spoke to police.
•The detective handling the case suspended his inquiry without informing the accuser.
•Winston’s accuser filed an internal-affairs complaint, saying Tallahassee police investigated her instead of the football player and prematurely dropped the case. That complaint was dropped.
•When the prosecutor eventually got the case, important evidence, including the video of the sexual act, had disappeared.
•Prosecutors were forced to conduct much of the investigation that police failed to accomplish, including getting a DNA test, which indicated sperm found in the bruised woman’s underwear was from Winston.

Sexual assault charges were eventually dropped because prosecutors did not believe a trial would result in a conviction.

Florida Chief Assistant Attorney Georgia Cappleman told the Times, “I believe that Mr. Winston cannot be convicted. I don’t necessarily believe that he’s innocent.”

Winston’s Atlanta-based attorney, David Cornwell, told the Times, “We don’t need an investigation … to know that Jameis did not sexually assault this young lady.”

How about a third quote by a person who died thousands of years ago?

“Laws are like spider webs, which catch the little flies, but cannot hold the big ones,” the philosopher Anacharsis allegedly said circa 600 B.C.

Michael Walsh Apr-16-2014 125 0
An Arizona man admitted to shooting his son-in-law with a flare gun and trying to stab him with a folding pocket knife, authorities said.

George Brown, 66, who allegedly confessed he was "fixin to kill him," was arrested Saturday morning and charged with attempted murder, assault, aggravated assault and disorderly conduct, according to local media.

A domestic spat escalated to a brawl earlier that day outside the victim's home in the city of Chandler near Phoenix, reported KNXV-TV.

Brown punched his son-in-law in the face three times before reaching for the flare gun.

Witnesses say they heard Brown, from nearby Mesa, yell that he wanted to shoot the victim and watch him burn to death, according to court documents.

The shot stuck the victim's abdomen and left him with an open wound and burns, said KTVK. His wounds were treated at the scene.

Police say there is a history of violence between Brown's son-in-law and the rest of his family.

Brown is being held in lieu of $20,000.



Guillermo Contreras Apr-16-2014 163 0
SAN ANTONIO — Three years before shooting a black man to death outside a Northeast Side restaurant, a San Antonio police officer was suspended for 45 days for reportedly trying to fight African-American patrons of another eatery where he worked security.

Robert Encina was off duty and appeared drunk when he targeted black customers and yelled obscenities at others during the April 2010 incident at a Mama Margie's on the Northwest Side, a San Antonio Police Department internal affairs report states.

That incident, together with allegations that Encina harassed African-Americans at Chacho's and Chalucci's on Perrin Beitel Road while working a side security job there, shows he had an animus toward minorities and raises questions about his credibility, according to Attorney Daryl K. Washington, a lawyer suing the city on behalf of the family of Marquise Jones.

Encina shot Jones, 23, in the back while in the drive-through area of Chacho's on Feb. 28, according to a federal lawsuit filed Friday. The suit, which also names Encina and Chacho's as defendants, gives an account that is far different from the official version provided by SAPD.

The family's attorney, Daryl K. Washington of Dallas, said the shooting is a result of an institutional problem — because of the city's refusal to make sweeping changes recommended by outside review bodies that have knocked SAPD's policies and practices.

A Police Department spokeswoman referred all questions Tuesday to the city attorney's office, which did not respond to a message seeking comment. Chacho's employees referred questions to corporate managers, who could not be reached.

Encina, who has been with SAPD for six years, said Jones was armed and that he shot him in the torso because he feared for his life, according to what police Chief William McManus told reporters at the time. Police said a gun was recovered near Jones.

“Marquise Jones did not point a weapon at the police officer,” Washington said. “The way this has been reported in San Antonio is not accurate at all.... This officer has a history of targeting minorities, particularly African-American males.”

The shooting occurred at about 1:30 a.m. after a car Jones was a passenger in a car that bumped another car in the drive-through. According to a preliminary SAPD report, that resulted in an argument between the drivers, and Encina — working for the restaurant but in full uniform — was summoned to the area and began speaking with one of the drivers.

“He sees the passenger in the vehicle fidgeting around reaching for something toward his waistband, orders him to stop,” McManus said at the time. “He gets out of the car and pulls a gun on the officer. The officer fires multiple times. The suspect runs.”

It appeared that Jones had been drinking, the preliminary report states. Encina was placed on paid administrative leave for several days, standard procedure for all officer shootings. He has since returned to duty.

But the official account indicating that there was an altercation between the drivers is false, the lawsuit and Washington said, citing other witnesses. The drivers agreed with each other that nothing had happened to either vehicle, according to the lawsuit. And, Washington added, Jones was trying to walk away because Encina had harassed him days earlier and was afraid of the officer.

“He was simply trying to get away from the situation,” Washington said. “This officer had no reason to use deadly force.”

After the shooting, Jones' younger sister, Whitney Jones, told WOAI-TV that she was in the car's backseat and tried to calm him down so he would stay in the car.

“He had no gun in his hand. No gun in his hand,” Whitney Jones insisted. “He opened the car door with two hands. He closed it with two hands.”

At about 2 a.m. on April 12, 2010, at Mama Margie's in the 9900 block of Interstate 10, Encina's alleged animus was out for the public to see. As on-duty colleagues investigated a “large disturbance” outside, Encina was with other off-duty officers and picked a fight with black customers, an internal affairs report states.

“During this confrontation, Encina threw down a bag of food and began identifying himself as a 'baller' and 'from the East Side,'” Sgt. Javier Salazar, who now is the SAPD's chief spokesman, wrote in the internal affairs report.

“Once inside the restaurant, Encina was captured on video as he apparently interfered with a drive-(through) employee ... returned to the kitchen several times after being asked to leave the area, directed several obscenities at a drive-(through) customer of the restaurant, was asked to leave the establishment altogether, and had to be forcibly removed from the restaurant by members of his own party,” the report continued.

He was never charged criminally. Instead, the restaurant's employees filed an internal affairs complaint against Encina, who served as a security guard there from time to time. One employee refused to give a statement because she feared retaliation, the report states.

After McManus proposed an indefinite suspension, Encina agreed to a 45-day suspension. He was allowed to give up vacation and holiday leave instead, which is permitted under the police union's bargaining agreement with the city.

Apr-15-2014 115 0
Radio host Tom Joyner announced this morning that his annual full-ride scholarship will go to Atlanta student Titus Zeigler, who tutors younger children, participates in Junior ROTC and volunteers at the city food bank.

Zeigler, a senior at Grady High School in Midtown, will receive a scholarship to attend a historically black college covering full tuition, books for 10 semesters and room and board.

He plans to attend Florida A&M University as he works to become a trauma surgeon. He’s a battalion commander in Grady’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, and he joined the National Guard when he turned 17 last June.

“My job is as a medical specialist, so my job is not killing people, but to save them,” Zeigler said.

Joyner, whose morning show airs in 115 markets and reaches more than 8 million listeners each week, said he was impressed by Zeigler’s focus and determination.

Hundreds of students applied for the scholarship. Applicants had to have a minimum grade point average of 3.5 and an SAT score of 2100 on the math and verbal sections or an ACT score of 30.

Joe Kemp Apr-15-2014 153 0
A jilted Virginia woman was arrested after she drove the wrong way down a one-way street to cut down her husband and tried to kick him to death as he crawled away, police said.

The wild ordeal unfolded after Quaneisha Torres, 21, steered her Chrysler van off into oncoming traffic on Dixon St. and struck the 31-year-old man walking on the side of the road about 10:30 p.m. Sunday, WJLA-TV reported.

The van stopped when it struck a guardrail.

The bleeding man crawled from under the wrecked vehicle to get away, but the enraged Torres allegedly stopped him and began to kick him on the ground.

Several motorists witnessed the shocking attack and called police.

Officers said they arrived moments later and found Torres standing over her husband’s battered body.

Emergency workers rushed the man to Mary Washington Hospital, where he was being treated for serious injuries that included head trauma.


Torres was charged with attempted first-degree homicide and booked at the Rappahannock Regional Jail.



Apr-14-2014 923 0
The body of a Grambling State University student was found in a drainage ditch in Lafayette early Sunday.

Lafayette police found the body of Alexandria Shelton, 21, in a ditch in Girard Park after friends reported her missing Saturday night.

“The Grambling State University community is in shock. It's heartbreaking. We've been dealing with this all day Sunday, cooperating with Lafayette police and talking with each other about this bright young lady. Alex was a senior criminal justice major and a member of our honors college scheduled to graduate next month,” said Grambling spokesman Will Sutton.

Shelton, a 3.5 GPA student, was going to graduate May 9.

“We’ve just been in shock since we first heard early Sunday that the body of a young woman found in a Lafayette city park was likely one of our own,” said GSU President Frank G. Pogue. “We immediately reached out to the family and we’ve been cooperating with Lafayette police. We know how important the first 24 to 48 hours of a police investigation can be. Now we encourage our students, faculty, staff and others to contact Lafayette city police, or our own campus police, if they think they have even a small bit of information that might be helpful. We need to assist police with this investigation and bring closure to this situation for the sake of Alex’s family and close friends.”

Shelton had a 3.54 cumulative GPA and was a member of the Lester Cole Honors College at Grambling State University.

GSU Provost Connie Walton is completing the necessary paperwork to seek approval of awarding Shelton's degree posthumously. In addition, Stacey Duhon, vice president for student affairs and interim vice president for institutional advancement, is working with the Foster-Johnson Counseling Center to make sure grief counselors are available.

Interested students can call the Foster-Johnson Counseling Center at 318-274-3277 to talk with someone.

According to a story by The Advertiser, friends told police Shelton had planned on meeting them Saturday night, but after three hours passed, they called her cell phone and an unknown man answered. He told Shelton’s friends he found the phone in Girard Park.

Those friends went to Girard Park to meet up with that man and a second man to retrieve the cell phone. Both men left after handing over the cell phone, police spokesman Cpl. Paul Mouton said.

The friends found Shelton’s vehicle nearby shortly after they arrived at the park Saturday night and called police for assistance.

Police located and removed Shelton’s body from a drainage ditch attached to the park's pond near the north side park entrance at around 12:10 a.m. Sunday.

Her cause of death remained unclear, Mouton said. The coroner will determine the cause of death, Mouton said, but it is uncertain when he will make his report.

Police talked with the two men who gave them specific identification about where they found the phone. The men are not suspects, Mouton said.

Apr-14-2014 191 0
A 4-year-old Pennsylvania boy died in a car accident hours after returning from his father's funeral.

Carder Brown was killed by a passing van that struck him as soon as he got out of his car in Chester, Pa., police told MyFoxPhilly.com.

Neighbors for the family told the outlet the boy had just returned from his father Derrick’s funeral after the man was killed by a gunshot last week. The family set up a GoFundMe site in his memory. They said he was killed while on his way home from work and got caught in the crossfire.

The driver of the van is being questioned by police. No charges have been announced, the website reported.

No other information was immediately available.



Chris Boyette Apr-12-2014 189 0
A New York judge Tuesday vacated the conviction of a man who spent nearly a quarter of a century behind bars for a Brooklyn slaying that occurred while he was vacationing in Florida.

Jonathan Fleming, 51, was found guilty in 1989 in the death of Darryl Rush in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn and served the next 24 years and 8 months in prison, according to the Kings County district attorney's office. He was released Tuesday afternoon.

Fleming has always maintained he was on a family trip to Disney World in Florida when Rush was shot to death early on the morning of August 15, 1989, in a dispute over stolen money. After years of reviewing documents and re-interviewing witnesses as part of a joint investigation between his attorneys and the Brooklyn district attorney's Conviction Review Unit, it was determined that the only evidence tying him to the crime was an alleged witness who later recanted her statement.

"As you can imagine, after sitting in jail for 25 years for a crime he didn't commit, he can't help but feel vindicated," said one of Fleming's lawyers, Anthony Mayol. "On the flip side, that's 25 years that have been stolen, that he'll never get back."

At his trial, defense lawyers provided family photos and home videos of Fleming in Florida around the time of Rush's killing. But according to Taylor Koss, another of Fleming's lawyers, they did not have evidence he was in Florida on the day of the slaying. The prosecution persuaded jurors to ignore the alibi.

Fleming told his attorneys he had paid a bill for phone calls made from his Florida hotel room the night before Rush was killed, and he believed the receipt was in his pocket when police arrested him. But authorities told the defense he had no such receipt, according to Koss.

In the course of the investigation, the Conviction Review Unit found the receipt in police records, time stamped and dated -- solidifying Fleming's claim that he was in Florida at the time of the killing, according to the district attorney's office.

"This is proof of alibi that was basically purposely withheld," Koss said.

The review unit also interviewed Fleming's former girlfriend, who said she called Fleming the night of the killing while he was still at his hotel in Florida. The investigation found her story to be credible, with phone records to support it.

The prosecution also produced a witness who said she saw Fleming commit the crime.

According to Koss, the woman recanted her testimony weeks after Fleming's conviction. She later testified in front of a judge that she was on parole and had been arrested with another woman for being in a stolen van the night of the killing. She said police persuaded her to give a statement against Fleming to avoid going back to jail.

Koss said the judge threw out her later testimony because she could not provide enough facts to back up her story.

A review unit search of police records years later came up with a timeline. The woman on probation was arrested with another woman on grand larceny charges and brought to the Brooklyn district attorney's office, where she gave a statement. Within the hour, the investigation found, charges against her were dropped.

Koss said defense investigators even found a witness in South Carolina who claims to have been the getaway driver during Rush's killing and who even identified someone they say is the real killer.

Judge Matthew D'Emic Tuesday vacated the conviction after a "careful and thorough review of this case, and based on key alibi facts that place Fleming in Florida at the time of the murder," said District Attorney Ken Thompson.

Koss and Mayol say the next step is ensuring that Fleming has a way to support himself after he is released.

"He has no job, no career, no prospects," Koss said.

"We're suing everybody, let's be honest," Koss added, saying Fleming's legal team intends to bring a civil rights lawsuit against the city and seek reparations from the state under a provision set up to redress wrongful convictions.

Thompson, who became district attorney at the beginning of the year, has already released two men who had been in prison for more than half their lives in connection with three killings after DNA evidence tore holes in their convictions in February.

Antonio Yarbough and Sharrif Wilson were teenagers when they were imprisoned. But after reviewing DNA evidence, Thompson said the previous convictions for the 1992 murders in Brooklyn would most likely not stand up in court and agreed the two men should be freed.

Those cases, as well as Fleming's, are not connected to investigations into Detective Louis Scarcella, whose questionable tactics have led to a review of some 50 other cases, the district attorney's office said.

On Monday, Thompson named Harvard law professor Ronald S. Sullivan, Jr. as special counsel to the district attorney for the Conviction Review Unit. Sullivan, who heads Harvard's Criminal Justice Institute, will guide the group in future cases brought for review, according to the District Attorney's office.


Apr-12-2014 262 0
Investigators were focusing on Saturday on what caused a FedEx tractor-trailer to collide with a bus in a fiery crash in northern California that killed 10 people, five of them teenage students en route to a college recruitment event.

It remained unclear whether the FedEx driver was somehow distracted or lost consciousness, or whether a mechanical failure occurred when his truck swerved across the median of Interstate 5 and slammed head-on into the motor coach full of students from the Los Angeles area on Thursday.

The California Highway Patrol also raised the possibility that a separate collision on the truck's side of the highway might have been a factor in Thursday evening's fatal crash.

According to early highway patrol accounts of the accident, the truck side-swiped a car after crossing the center divider but before hitting the bus.

Two witnesses, Bonnie and Joe Duran, who were reported to be in the clipped car, told California media outlets that the truck was on fire before the collision.

"I was heading along in the outside lane and I looked over and saw the FedEx truck coming straight for me and he was in flames already," Bonnie Duran told a local CBS-affiliate.

I looked over and saw the FedEx truck coming straight for me and he was in flames already.

Reuters could not immediately contact the Durans and a California Highway Patrol spokeswoman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A powerful explosion unleashed by the impact was so loud it was heard throughout the nearby community of Orland, about 90 miles north of Sacramento, said Glenn County Sheriff Larry Jones.

Among the dead were the two drivers, as well as five high school students and a college recruiter on their way north to visit Humboldt State University in Arcata, California, as part of a program to help disadvantaged college hopefuls.

More than 30 others were injured in the wreck.

"We don't know whether the FedEx driver had fallen asleep, whether he experienced a mechanical failure with his vehicle or whether there was a separate collision on the southbound side that caused him to lose control," said Lieutenant Scott Fredrick, the lead Highway Patrol investigator.

A team of investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) began arriving on Friday morning to gather evidence for that agency's independent review of the accident.

NTSB member Mark Rosekind told a news conference late in the day he expected his team to remain on-site for about two weeks and would not speculate on the probable cause of the crash.

He said the NTSB probe would examine human factors as well as "the machine and the environment," including highway design elements, vehicle inspection records and driver training and medical records.

The FedEx truck, which was hauling two semi-trailers, was mostly consumed in the fire, but Rosekind said there were sufficient remains of both drivers for authorities to have collected samples for blood and toxicology analysis.

"So right now, one of the things we're in the process of doing is seeing whether or not those required samples were actually collected," he added.


The fire was so intense that it could be days or weeks before some of the bodies can be identified, and investigators will have to rely on dental records or in some cases DNA testing, he said.

Bonnie Kourvelas, a spokeswoman for FedEx Corp, said the company was aware that one of its trucks was involved in the crash and is "cooperating fully with authorities."

The stricken motor coach was one of three buses of students traveling from Southern California to participate in a spring break recruitment program at Humboldt State. The two other buses had arrived safely at the campus before the third bus crashed, Rosekind said.

Nestled near the redwoods about 100 miles south of the Oregon border, the university every year invites high school seniors from disadvantaged backgrounds or who may be the first in their families to attend college to tour the campus.

The Los Angeles Unified School District, the largest in Southern California, said some of the 19 students from its high schools who were on the tour rode on the ill-fated bus, but it could not say whether any of them were among the victims.

Apart from the driver, the bus was carrying 44 to 48 students and several chaperones, highway patrol spokeswoman Lacey Heitman said. About 34 people were taken by air and land ambulances to hospitals with a variety of injuries, police said.

"They are traumatized, absolutely," another patrol spokeswoman, Tracy Hoover, said. "Most of them have scratches, cuts, burns, contusions and lacerations."

Among those killed was Humboldt State recruiter Arthur Arzola, 26, who worked for the university out of the Southern California community of Rancho Cucamonga, the Sacramento County coroner said on Friday morning.

In a biography on the school's website, Arzola characterized himself as hard-working, compassionate and friendly, and described the university as offering "incredible opportunities that change the world for the better."

A recently engaged couple serving as chaperones were also among the dead, local media reported.

Michael Myvett, who graduated from Humboldt State with a psychology degree in 2007 and worked with autistic children, and Mattison Haywood were killed just three months after Myvett proposed to Haywood outside the Louvre Museum in Paris.

High school student Marisa Serrato was also killed in the fiery crash.

The Serrato family, whose identical twin 17-year-old daughters set off on the adventure on separate buses Thursday, had a panicked, sleepless night. Marisol made it to their destination, Humboldt State University, but the family had no word on Marisa, who had been aboard the now-gutted bus, for nearly 24 hours.

They received the official word Friday evening when dental records confirmed Marisa was among the dead.


Apr-11-2014 169 0
Reflecting on the unique power of the office he holds, Obama honored Lyndon B. Johnson as a leader who seized the presidency’s opportunity to bend the currents of history and fulfill America’s founding promises of equality – despite his advisers warnings against it.

“I reject such cynicism because I have lived out the promise of those efforts,” Obama said.

The cynicism President Obama alluded to was the push-back President Johnson experienced while trying to pass civil rights legislation. Obama took the opportunity to draw similarities to the push-back he’s currently experiencing on the Affordable Care Act.

He drew on a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. to underscore the importance of not losing faith in politics during troubled times.

“It may be true that the law can’t make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me,” Obama said.

Amid the celebrations of the law, Obama cautioned that work remains in order to fulfill the goals of the legislation Johnson championed.

“President Johnson understood that equality requires more than the absence of oppression, it requires the presence of economic opportunity,” Obama said. “If this sounds familiar, it’s because today we remain locked in this same great debate about equality and opportunity.”

After 30 minutes of reflecting and reminiscing on the 50 years that have brought us to this moment, Obama concluded his speech with an answer to the question that opened it.

“Making [people's] lives better is what the hell the presidency is for,” he said.

President Obama is the third of four presidents to speak this week with President Jimmy Carter and President Clinton preceding him. President George W. Bush will speak at the library on Thursday evening.

Before taking the stage, the Obamas took a tour of the Cornerstones of Civil Rights exhibit at the LBJ Library. He jokingly told the crowd Michelle’s favorite part of the exhibit was a clip of Lady Bird Johnson offering “constructive criticism” to Lyndon.

“Some things never change,” he said.

>>--More Black Legal News

Daryl K. Washington Feb-16-2014 397 0
After the Michael Dunn verdict was read many voice their displeasure with the judicial system, rightfully so. However, the killing of our young black men is nothing new. Each time something bad happens we come together as a group for a month or so and then the energy dies down. When the Zimmerman verdict came back there were those who demanded that we stop supporting the state of Florida yet what happened to the follow-up to let us know how effective the efforts were? It reminds me of whenever someone dies. When we run into people we have not seen in years we all make a vow to do better and to make time for each other but after two or three months has past by we are all back to doing the same things.

As a country, we came together after 9/11 but soon thereafter the unity went away. There's so much happening in our communities. I thought the Zimmerman verdict would be our wake up call to do more but our young black men continue to be gunned down at a high rate by Men who don't look anything close to their fathers and most of them get away with it. Just in case you mention the black on black crime, remember that the killer normally ends up in prison.

Just recently, the grand jury failed to indict a North Carolina police officer for the killing of Jonathan Ferrell, a young black male, but after there was a public outcry about the injustice that took place he was eventually indicted. Right here in Dallas, Texas we have black men being killed by white police officers and in a great majority of the cases, the police officers are not indicted and judged by a jury of their peers. Instead, the victim is placed on trial and society has become conditioned to believe that it's okay to kill someone if they have a prior criminal record or considered a menace to society. Well, it's not and it's time that it stops.

We need to be proactive and make sure laws that don't benefit us are changed. I will continue to say this until I can't say this anymore; we have to get out and VOTE during the mid-term elections. We need to make sure the right people are elected and the wrong people are removed from office, irrespective of their race. If the same people are in office (local officials) yet we are having some of the same problems, it's time for change. Vote for someone who wants to make a change. Don't just vote based on race or political affiliation; that's what has gotten us to this point where we are today. We have to be proactive or the next Jordan Davis might be our brother, our son, our nephew, our father or our friend. Let's do it. Get involved or get out of the way!!!!!



Daryl K. Washington is an attorney located in Dallas, Texas. His practice includes Sports and Entertainment, Civil Rights, Litigation and Business Transactions. You can reach Daryl at dwashington@dwashlawfirm.com or you can visit his website at www.dwashlawfirm.com. To receive updates, go to the Black Legal Issues page on Facebook and check the like button.


















Daryl K. Washington Nov-26-2013 710 0
ARE WE DOING ENOUGH FOR THE BLACK COMMUNITIES?: I just finished talking to a mother who lost her son as a result of a police shooting. Hearing this mother talk about her son and how much he loved the holidays was simply heart wrenching. She went on to tell me that she's pleaded for help from our local politicians, pastors, leaders, etc. but no one wants to take her call, especially if the cameras are not rolling. To worsen matters, many of the leaders have put her son on trial and he's dead.

On last week they staged a protest in Dallas and sadly, 95% of the protestors were white. That made me wonder why do people make it in life and fail to reach back to help others? Why do people hear about injustices yet fail to say anything about it other than to say "that's sad!" During the 60's the leaders were individuals (black and white) who had college degrees, had bright futures ahead of them but they risk it all for us to be in the positions we are in today. The sad thing is that many of us believe it's all about us.

We must do more. We have to do more. We have to demand that our politicians and pastors step up to help us fight this battle. It truly takes a team effort. We must hold all of our community leaders accountable. When they ask for your vote, ask them to list ten things they did for the community in the last four years. Ask them how many times have they've attended a rally to show support to a grieving mother or father. We have serious issues and it takes all of us to stop this mess. I'm tired of seeing people who have never fought against a single injustice accept the Martin Luther King drum major for justice award. It's time for change.

Daryl K. Washington is an attorney located in Dallas, Texas. His practice includes Sports and Entertainment, Civil Rights, Litigation and Business Transactions. You can reach Daryl at dwashington@dwashlawfirm.com or you can visit his website at www.dwashlawfirm.com. To receive updates, go to the Black Legal Issues page on Facebook and check the like button.
Daryl K. Washington Oct-25-2013 1041 0
I have not said much about this situation because I was hoping it would not get to this point. I will keep this very short because I hope the talks of going forward with a lawsuit is short lived.

For the record, I will say that I was not happy that things transpired the way they did but because it did needed attention was given to the inequities in financial support received by HBCU's. I was initially upset because the thought of canceling a college football game is unheard of. However, if what the players said is true, it's not just about football. If there's proper follow-up to what happened at Grambling, it could benefit all HBCU's and perhaps provide an example for college athletes to follow in their attempts to receive a share of the billion dollar revenue received from college sports.

I understand this may not make sense to everyone but Jackson State suing Grambling is like a Black Greek Letter Organization suing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. because he failed to show up at a fundraiser because an emergency required him to be at a last minute boycott where individuals were seeking equal treatment that would have the potential of benefiting everyone. As much as Grambling has done to benefit the SWAC I'm surprised that Jackson State would consider such drastic means. As a graduate of Grambling State University and a former member of the football team, I feel it's about time that Grambling do what Texas A&M and other schools have done in the past few years; change conferences. There's nothing but upside to it.

Daryl K. Washington is an attorney located in Dallas, Texas. His practice includes Sports and Entertainment, Civil Rights, Litigation and Business Transactions. You can reach Daryl at dwashington@dwashlawfirm.com or you can visit his website at www.dwashlawfirm.com. To receive updates, go to the Black Legal Issues page on Facebook and check the like button.
Daryl K. Washington Oct-19-2013 3145 0
I don't know all of the specifics and I most certainly will not respond to all of the comments, especially some of the racists comments I've read because if it continues I will personally make a National Call for all of the black athletes, especially the ones who attend the large institutions like LSU, Penn State, USC, etc., to stand in unity with the players at Grambling so that a true change can be made in college athletics. If you want to see changes made and need to bring attention to problems, you can learn from the athletes at Grambling. Let's see how many people will comment about this when their teams are not playing because the athletes are tired of not receiving a share of the billion dollars. The funniest thing I've read were the comments from some black people who did not attend a HBCU acting like it was not their problem but ours.

When Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis he was there to help the Black garbage collectors, not the Black Preachers. I'm glad he did not see it as their problems. Do we turn our backs on people just because it does not personally impact us? I personally wish things could have been handled differently but now that the ball is in motion, it's time for SOLUTIONS.

I will not let Grambling State University take all of the blame for this. First, we have to look at the leadership of the State of La. and what he has done. A lot of the problems start with him, although a lot of his supporters will beg to differ. Had he not played the politics and did what was in the best interest of the state of La., things may be different. Second, we have to look at the NCAA. For years the NCAA has turned its back to the cheating in recruiting because it does not want to penalize the large schools that help bring billions of dollars to the bottom line. Demand needs to be made to institute a revenue sharing program similar to what's in the NFL so that the small schools that play by the rules receive a share of the revenue made by the big schools who use an unfair advantage to recruit.

Finally, now that this problem has been brought to light, I hope some of the wealthy people in our country remember that but for Grambling and other HBCU's there would be no RG3, Russell Wilson, Michael Vick, Kap, etc. so start giving to the HBCU's. Let's not turn our backs on the HBCUs because you did not attend. Remember, if our President is not able to nominate one or two individuals to the Supreme Court before his term is up, Affirmative Action will be under attack and if some decisions are reversed, where will our kids go if there are no HBCUs? Will it be only our problems then? It's time to wake up.

Daryl K. Washington is an attorney located in Dallas, Texas. His practice includes Sports and Entertainment, Civil Rights, Litigation and Business Transactions. You can reach Daryl at dwashington@dwashlawfirm.com or you can visit his website at www.dwashlawfirm.com. To receive updates, go to the Black Legal Issues page on Facebook and check the like button.
Daryl K. Washington Sep-19-2013 979 0
I just read a story about a 26 year old man who was killed during a shootout with Durham Police officers only one day after writing a Facebook post in which he stated that he was giving up on life because he was unable to spend time with his son. In Tuesday's Facebook post, Derek Deandre Walker wrote that he had no reason to live after learning that his 5-year-old child's mother wanted full custody. "I hope if there is a god that he allows the devil to kill me right now bc there is no reason for me to live right now!" He wrote in the post. "I’m ready to die.I"

I actually read his Facebook post before learning of his death. The first thing that crossed my mind after reading it was that I had to reach out to him. I felt I needed to tell him about the stories of other men who had gone through the exact same thing he was dealing with but in time it all got better. He needed to know that he did not have to fight his battles alone. Unfortunately, it's too late. If only he could have held only just a little longer. Derek’s story is a sad ending to what many people are currently dealing with. So many people have spent years trying to spend time with their kids only to have doors slammed in their face. It’s time that the judicial system is revamped and procedures are put into place to assure that each parent has equal rights. I know there are situations that require strict rules but I never could understand how someone could have the authority to tell a good parent when he or she could spend time with their kids. It simply gives too much power to one person and when the wrong person is given too much power the results can sometimes be deadly.

In today's society, there are so many men who simply refuse to take care of their children so when I hear about a 26 year old man, who wanted to be a father to his son, but for some unknown reason felt like he could not, end his life, it hurts. It hurts not only because his life is now gone but a huge part of his son's life is now gone. The sad part about this story is that it appears it could have been prevented.

As an attorney, I see couples use their kids to get back at each other FAR TOO OFTEN for something that went wrong in their relationships. You should never do this because the only individuals harmed are the kids. Parents have an obligation to work together for the best interest of their children. The “only reasons” a kid should ever be kept away from his/her parent is due to some documented proof of violence against the kid or allowing visitation would place the kid in an unsafe environment and there is a court order to support those claims. A kid should never be placed in a dangerous situation or environment.

As much as I think the judicial system has to step in and make sure both parents are allowed to be a part of their kids' lives, it's equally important that parents stop the fighting and bickering and do what's best for their children. There's simply no reason why two grown individuals should have to run to the courthouse to allow someone who has never met their kid tell them how to raise their kid(s). This has to stop immediately.

There is nothing more upsetting to a kid than not having both parents at a birthday party or a major event because their parents can’t get along. Individuals must do better when it comes to co-parenting. Both parents have equal rights and as such each should play an active role in their kids’ lives. Stop running each other away because you can’t get over the past or you believe you have superior rights because you carried the kid. God designed it that way. It was not the other person’s decision or your decision for you to carry your kid during the pregnancy stage so that should not be used as an excuse. We must do better. The kids did not ask to come here. Our kids are suffering due to grown folks fighting. Kids need and require the attention of both parents. You should not depend on a judge to tell you how to raise your kids. Get over the past so that your kids can better deal with the present. Unfortunately, a young kid is now left without a father and friends and family are mourning the death of yet another young black man. It’s time to stop the fighting now!!!! Kids are better off receiving love from both parents.

Daryl K. Washington is an attorney located in Dallas, Texas. His practice includes Sports and Entertainment, Civil Rights, Litigation and Business Transactions. You can reach Daryl at dwashington@dwashlawfirm.com or you can visit his website at www.dwashlawfirm.com. To receive updates, go to the Black Legal Issues page on Facebook and check the like button.
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