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Robert Nelson speaks about wrongful rape conviction and 30 year imprisonment
Lisa Benson Jun-30-2013 1513 0

Robert Nelson sat quietly at sister's table, admittedly nervous about talking to a reporter about the 30 years he spent in prison and the rape conviction that changed his life

"I've never done anything like this before," Nelson said.

Nelson spent more than half of his life in prison after being wrongly convicted of a 1983 rape. He was sentenced to 70 years for the crime, before being exonerated by DNA evidence earlier this month.

That freedom came with a lot of adjustments for Nelson, 49.

"One of the biggest things was learning how to use the phone. I never used a text phone. When I got locked up they didn't have text and cell phones," Nelson said

Decision making is also a skill that Nelson has to work on after spending so much time behind bars.

"It's hard to decide what you want when you walk into a store because you've got the freedom to choose. And inside you don't have the freedom to choose you got to get what every they give you," Nelson added.

On June 12, Nelson was released from prison after DNA testing exonerated him of the 1984 rape conviction. The victim identified Nelson as her attacker on a police line-up, but was wrong.

"I couldn't believe it, a jury found me guilty. There wasn't even no evidence to find me guilty, so I went on to prison and tried to fight it best I could," Nelson said.

Nelson's sister,Sea Dunnell joined his fight, contacting Laura O'Sullivan with the Midwest Innocence Project. Nelson was freed within a year of O'Sullivan taking the case.

"I knew it was being worked on; and they were going to set him free," Dunnell said.

Dunnell has had her Christmas tree up since last Christmas in anticipation of her brother coming home. She plans to keep it up as a constant reminder of the unyielding hope, faith, and love she has for her baby brother.

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Reuters Oct-24-2016 84 0
Leonard "Roscoe" Newton has been in and out of Florida's prisons since before he could vote, starting with a youthful conviction for burglary.

He's been a free man for six years now with an important exception: he still can't vote.

Newton, who is African American, is among nearly 1.5 million former felons who have been stripped of their right to vote in a state with a history of deciding U.S. presidential elections, sometimes by razor-thin margins of just a few hundred votes.

Felons have been disenfranchised in Florida since 1868, although they can seek clemency to restore their voting rights.

Since 2011, however, when Republican state leaders toughened the restrictions on felon voting rights, just 2,339 ex-felons have had that right restored, the lowest annual numbers in nearly two decades, according to state data reviewed by Reuters.

That compares with more than 155,000 in the prior four years under reforms introduced by Governor Rick Scott's predecessor, moderate Republican governor Charlie Crist, the data shows. Crist, who was governor from 2007 to 2011, made it much easier to restore ex-felons' voting rights.

"When I tried to be an effective member of the community, I saw that I was voiceless," said Newton, whose expectations of getting his rights restored were dashed when the rules changed under a new administration. "I'm 45, and I have never voted."

The dramatic slowdown has stoked a racially charged debate over whether political bias taints the process of restoring felon voting rights in the largest battleground state in the Nov. 8 presidential election.

Florida's toughened ban means racial minorities are disproportionately excluded from voting because of higher incarceration rates, data shows. Black voters tend to favor Democrats.

"Republicans oppose the felon vote change because they are concerned about the political implications," said Darryl Paulson, a conservative Republican voting rights expert who sees wide restoration of voting rights as "a huge political advantage for the Democratic Party." Paulson says non-violent ex-felons should have the right to vote.

Almost all U.S. states deny incarcerated felons the right to vote but many restore those rights after they have completed their sentences.

Over the last two decades, more than 20 states have taken action to help people with criminal convictions regain their voting rights. Since July, Virginia's governor has restored voting rights to 67,000 felons.

Florida is the largest of four remaining states that strip all former felons of voting rights, accounting for nearly half of those barred from voting nationally. Along with Virginia, the others are Kentucky and Iowa.

Reforms Dashed
In March 2011, two months after he became governor, Scott reversed Crist's reforms, which had allowed many non-violent felons to automatically get their voting rights reinstated after they had completed their sentences. Crist had also simplified the process for felons convicted of more serious crimes to regain their votes.

Scott, a millionaire former health care executive, put in place new restrictions, requiring ex-felons to wait for five to seven years before applying to regain the right to vote, serve on a jury or hold elected office. He said the new rules ensured ex-felons had proven they were unlikely to offend.

Florida has disenfranchised about one in five voting-age black voters, according to research collected by the Sentencing Project, a Washington-based advocacy group.

That compares with about 8.6 percent of the state's non-black potential voters. Data on the Hispanic voting-age population who can't vote because of the law was unavailable, although Hispanics make up 12.5 percent of Florida's inmates.

The rates reflect racial disparities in criminal convictions. Florida's current prison population is nearly 48 percent black, more than any other racial group, although blacks are only 17 percent of the state's population.

Ion Sancho, supervisor of elections in Leon County, which includes the capital city of Tallahassee, accused the Republican administration of repealing the felon voting reforms "to reduce the number of African Americans who had their rights restored because those voters were perceived to be more Democratic voting and so therefore were targeted for elimination."

Sancho is a former Democrat who is now unaffiliated with either party.

Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi, the Republican officials who drove the 2011 policy changes, did not agree to be interviewed by Reuters or respond directly to questions on the accusations that the law is intended to influence elections. But Bondi has previously denied the policy amounts to racially motivated disenfranchisement.

"For those who may suggest that these rule changes have anything to do with race, these assertions are completely unfounded. Justice has nothing to do with race," Bondi wrote in a 2011 newspaper editorial.

Scott's office, in a statement to Reuters, said former felons need to "demonstrate that they can live a life free of crime, show a willingness to request to have their rights restored and show restitution to the victims of their crimes" in order to have their voting rights restored.

Democrats have seized on the issue as a civil rights concern, regardless of the political impact, said Nell Toensmann, who chairs the Democratic Party of St. Johns County, a north Florida region of about 225,000 people dominated by Republicans.

"Yes, it does disenfranchise a lot of African Americans, but it disenfranchises a lot of white people who would be voting as Republicans, as well," she said.

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Elizabeth Elizalde Oct-23-2016 158 0
A woman who had gone to North Carolina for her sister-in-law’s funeral was killed after a gunman fired more than a dozen bullets from a rifle — hitting her in the head, family and authorities said.

Jacobia Lane, 37, was staying with family in Gastonia, N.C., and was sitting with relatives when a stray bullet struck her in the back of the head early Saturday, family spokesman Christopher Dennis told The Charlotte Observer.

Jacobia Lane was killed by gunfire in Gastonia, N.C. at her brother's house while in town for her sister-in-law's funeral when a gunman fired a dozen bullets, police said. (Facebook)

Lane had traveled to North Carolina with her husband and children to stay at her brother’s house for her sister-in-law’s funeral, which was scheduled for Saturday, The Charlotte Observer reported.

At the time of the incident, Lane’s husband, Willie Lane, was sleeping on the second floor when a bullet hit his pillow, but he was not injured, the newspaper reported.

Police said about 30 bullets were fired from a high-powered rifle and no one has been arrested yet, according to the newspaper.

“This is not someone who goes out and does wrong,” Timothy English, Lane’s brother told WSOC-TV. “She is someone who loves her family.”

Her husband, Willie Lane, told the station he’s not angry with the gunman — but wants them “to come forward and face justice."

Lane’s family said they are offering $1,000 for information that may lead to an arrest. The Gastonia Police Department did not comment on the incident.
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Mark Berman Oct-20-2016 92 0
The Milwaukee Police Department said Thursday that a police officer whose fatal shooting of a man in August set off violent unrest there has been arrested following a report of sexual assault that came in as those demonstrations were still ongoing.

Officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown was arrested on Wednesday night following a police investigation that ended with the Milwaukee County district attorney filing a criminal complaint including multiple charges, the department said in a statement.

The department did not release a summary of the charges and a spokesman for the police did not immediately respond to a request for comment. No complaint was filed in court records Thursday morning; the district attorney’s office said it was expected to be filed sometime later in the day.
According to the statement, a male “victim reported to Milwaukee Police he had been sexually assaulted by Heaggan-Brown” while the officer was off-duty. Officials did not specify the age of this person.

This person came forward on Aug. 15, while the city was still reeling after authorities said Heaggan-Brown fatally shot Sylville K. Smith, 23, following a traffic stop two days earlier.

On the same day that police were contacted about the assault, Milwaukee officials were attempting to tamp down the anger that had erupted, announcing plans for a limited curfew after two nights on which buildings were set on fire, officers injured and one man shot in the area of the demonstrations.
Police were also pushing back against suggestions circulating in the city that Smith was unarmed and shot in the back, saying that he had run from a traffic stop before turning to the officer while holding a gun.

Heaggan-Brown, also named as Dominique Heaggan in some media reports, has been described as a young father who had attended the same high school as Smith.
He has been has been suspended by the department and remains in custody, officials said Thursday.
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Dannye Holley, Danielle Holley-Walker, John Pierre, Felecia Epps, Phyliss Craig-Taylor and James Douglass Oct-20-2016 153 0
The proposed changes to the American Bar Association's bar-passage standard, set to be decided this week, have been the subject of great debate. Some, like Daniel Rodriguez and Craig Boise, deans of Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law and Syracuse University College of Law, respectively, have written in support of the proposed changes to Standard 316. But these proposed changes come at a time when bar-passage rates in many states have been declining, and there are many unanswered questions about the impact of the adoption of the Uniform Bar Exam. Furthermore, at a time when the legal profession continues to struggle with a lack of racial and ethnic diversity, many of the schools that will be impacted by this change are schools who enroll large minority student populations.

A drop in rates

There is ample evidence of the recent drop in bar-passage rates across the country. The 2015 bar-passage rates suggest that under the new standard it is very likely that a significant number of law schools accredited for decades by the ABA could be automatically deemed to be out of compliance and at risk of losing their accreditation.

For example, in written comments submitted to the ABA earlier this year, the National Black Law Students Association, citing the ABA 509 law school disclosures, stated that the accreditation of more than 60 schools could be put in jeopardy if this proposal was adopted, including more than 20 law schools at which minorities comprise at least 30 percent of total enrollment.

Next, the proposed changes to Law School Standard 316 will place an undue burden on law schools associated with historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and other law schools committed to admitting a significant number of students of color. As 2014 LSAC Longitudinal Bar Passage Study data reported by LSAC, suggests that there is often a scoring gap between law graduates of color and white law graduates regarding bar examination passage. According to the study, 96.7 percent of white bar passage takers pass over five years, compared with 89 percent of Latino students and 77.6 percent of African-American students. Without resolving why this gap occurs, it is nonetheless true for those law schools with a high concentration of students of color, such as HBCU law schools, that the impact on bar passage rates will often be disproportionately felt.

HBCUs and the law

Currently, all six HBCU law schools meet the current ABA bar standard, which is that 75 percent of a school's bar takers have to pass the bar within five years. But the entire profession should be deeply concerned at the potential adverse impact this standard change would have on law schools associated with HBCUs.

As we well know, diversity in the law remains a challenge. Stanford Law School professor Deborah Rhode has noted that 88 percent of licensed lawyers are white, making the profession less diverse than medicine and engineering, in which 72 percent and 81 percent of licensed professionals are white, respectively.

HBCU law schools have been responsible for a significant and disproportionate percent of the African-American and other new lawyers of color added to the profession annually, according to a 1997 article by Ronald Ehrenberg, "Black Colleges Producing Today's African American Lawyers," published in The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. We have also found, anecdotally, that in those jurisdictions where an ABA-approved HBCU law school is present, that law school produces more African-American graduates who successfully are admitted to the bar than other law schools in that jurisdiction.

Therefore, any proposal that might have an adverse impact on the mission of HBCU law schools in continuing their leadership role in diversifying the profession, should first conduct a detailed analysis of how such a new proposal will impact such institutions. The ABA put forth a study that they claim demonstrates that "almost all" bar outcomes will be determined in the two-year window proposed under the new standard. However, there has been no disparate-impact study conducted by the ABA to assess how the proposed standard will impact law schools with large percentages of minority law students. No new standard should be considered without making this assessment.

"One size fits all?"

In their NLJ piece, Deans Rodriguez and Boise claim that the revised bar-passage standard is needed to hold law schools accountable. But a "one size fits all" standard on bar passage doesn't work when the bar exam is a distinctly different process in the 51 jurisdictions in this country. In each jurisdiction, there are vastly different combinations of the number of accredited law schools, their missions and their contributions to diversity.

A single standard cannot possibly fairly measure law school effectiveness when most states have four or fewer law schools, and some large states have eight or more. For example, in large, highly competitive states like New York and California, first-time bar passage rates will often fall below 75 percent. However, a state with less law schools like South Carolina may have a first-time bar-passage rate of 80 percent. The ABA's proposal is in no way an effective measure for policing the quality of the education offered at any accredited law school.

In summary, we are disappointed that the ABA, without conducting a disparate-impact study, appears to be moving forward with a change to the bar-passage standard that may have an adverse impact on our law schools. Being found to be out of compliance with this new ABA accreditation standard would have seriously negative impacts on our law schools. It would make it difficult for us to recruit students, faculty and the donors that are needed to sustain our academic program —programs that help to promote diversity in the profession and access to justice for underserved communities.

We hope that the ABA will not adopt a bar-passage standard that we know is likely to detrimentally impact diversity.
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Graham Rayman Oct-19-2016 74 0
A cop who shot and killed 66-year-old Deborah Danner in the Bronx was twice sued for assaulting four New Yorkers, court records show.

Sgt. Hugh Barry was sued in 2012 by Gregory Peters, and in 2014 by Jessy Ayala, Gabriel Diaz and Luis Pena.

“Barry's history shows an abuse of authority and a tendency to escalate encounters with civilians rather than de-escalate them,” said Peters’ lawyer Brett Klein.

Peters won a $25,000 settlement stemming from an August 2010 encounter with Barry in which he was doused with pepper spray, and kicked and punched until he was covered with bruises.
Cop should’ve followed these rules before slay of Bronx woman

Peters had just left the B.B. King Blues Club on W. 42nd St. when he saw a cop push his friend.

Barry allegedly accused Peters of not clearing the sidewalk quickly enough and began following him, court records show.

Peters said he was then pepper-sprayed and pummeled by Barry and a second officer. He said the pair knocked him down and kicked him in the back and hit him in the right eye.

Peters was taken to the Midtown South precinct, booked on resisting arrest charges, arraigned and released. The case was dismissed after he was not rearrested for six months.
Cop who fatally shot Bronx woman broke NYPD mental illness rules

Diaz’s lawyer Ken Montgomery said his client suffered cuts and bruises, and had to have a gash in his head stapled shut, during his June 2011 encounter with Barry.

“Barry struck me as someone who did not do a good job of assessing situations and someone who was not exceptionally bright,” Montgomery said.

Diaz and the other two men had just left a hip-hop show at the Tammany Hall nightclub on the Lower East Side, and he says he was attacked after questioning a cop who pushed him.
Barry then spotted the other officer hitting Diaz with a metal baton and ran over and joined in, Montgomery said.

Ayala and Pena suffered lesser injuries in the melee, and settled their case. The city paid out $10,000 to settle the case, a law enforcement official said.
Diaz’s part of the case went to trial, and a jury ruled the officers were not liable.
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Elizabeth Elizalde Oct-19-2016 82 0
A 13-year-old Georgia student who was allegedly “thrown to the floor” by his teacher was scheduled to have his right leg amputated this week after undergoing four surgeries, his attorney said.
“As anyone can anticipate, there was certainly an emotional response,” the boy’s attorney, Renee Tucker, told the Ledger Enquirer.

The student, Montravious Thomas, was in class at the Muscogee County School District’s AIM program -- dedicated for students removed from their schools because of their misconduct -- when behavioral specialist BryantMosleyslammed the student to the floor due to behavioral issues, according to a police report.

Montravious was heading to the main office to call his mother to pick him up, Tucker told the Ledger Enquirer.

Instead, the boy’s teacher followed him as he was exiting the room and slammed him to the ground, she said. Mosley allegedly sent the boy home on a school bus without notifying his family.

Tucker said that the family plans to file a lawsuit because the boy was wrongfully treated without the proper medical attention.

A call to Tucker and the Columbus Police Department were not returned.
Valerie Fuller, a spokesperson for the Muscogee County School District, released a statement confirming that the school district is investigating the matter “to determine all of the facts.”
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Sarah Grochowski Oct-18-2016 114 0
A Minnesota NAACP branch demanded a formal investigation and apology after a black man walking in the road was arrested.

The incident in Edina drew national attention after video of the arrest was posted online. That video has been viewed more than 300,000 times. City officials later announced that the misdemeanor citation will be dismissed, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The seven-minute video shows Officer Tim Olson with a tight grip on Larnie Thomas, 34, after he openly declares Thomas was in the middle of the road.

Olson is then seen walking Thomas back to his police vehicle, admitting to the man that he will take him to jail for the violation.

Thomas — visibly upset by Olson’s tight grip — is heard asking the officer during the incident, “OK, so could you put your hands off me?”

Edina city officials released a statement saying that the incident “started several minutes” before the video begins, and claiming that Thomas was walking in traffic and was “defiant,” with alcohol on his breath.

The Minneapolis NAACP released a statement of its own Saturday, calling the arrest “degrading” and “dehumanizing.”

“The response by Edina Police is unacceptable and warrants that further steps be taken to ensure accountability for police misconduct and a repairing of the harm that was caused to the individual and to the broader community,” Jason Sole, Chair of the Criminal Justice Reform Committee of Minneapolis NAACP, said in the statement.

Janet Rowes, who recorded the video, was quoted in the NAACP release saying there was “absolutely no reason” for the officer to stop Thomas from walking.

“I easily passed him in my vehicle because he was hugging the right side next to the construction, literally walking on the white line that marks the shoulder,” she said.

The Minneapolis man was cited for disorderly conduct and pedestrian failure to obey a traffic signal but was later released.
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Jason Silverstein Oct-16-2016 104 0
A stray bullet struck down the teen daughter of American Olympic sprinter Tyson Gay Sunday in Kentucky— ending the girl’s early path to following her father’s footsteps.

Trinity Gay, herself a rising running star, died from a neck wound after a seemingly random shooting, police said.

“She was so innocent, she was so innocent,” her mother, Shoshana Boyd, told the Daily News in a tearful interview.

“I just want people to stop shooting and realize who they’re hurting. It’s just random. They don’t understand, they don’t understand who they’re hurting.”

She said her daughter wanted to become a surgeon — but also hoped to match the Olympic glory of her famous father.

"I should never have to bury my child," Boyd said.

“She wanted to be the fastest woman in the world, and they took that away from her.”

Gay took the fatal shot around 4 a.m. outside the Lexington barbecue restaurant Cook Out. She was pronounced dead within an hour.

Gay appeared to reference the restaurant in her final tweet, writing right before 3 a.m., “Why is cookout fat.”

Less than an hour before, she tweeted, “Of course they start shootin."

Police said people in two cars exchanged gunfire outside the restaurant. Gay was not in either car, and her mother said she was out with friends.

No suspects for the shooting have been identified or arrested, but two people have been held for question, the Herald-Leader reported. Police also found a Dodge Charger that witnesses said was involved the shooting. A search for the second car is ongoing.

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin — a pro-gun leader who has spoken at National Rifle Association events — called the shooting on a "crumbling culture."

"A 15 year old is dead...This senseless tragedy is one more sad example of a crumbling culture..Truly heartbreaking!" the Republican governor tweeted.

The NRA did not return requests for comment.

Gay was a top sprinter at Lafayette High School, coming in fourth in last year's girls' 100-meter dash state.

Her father, Tyson Gay, grew up in Lexington before going on to gold medal glory at the Olympics.

His career was stained after his tested positive for steroids in 2013, and had to forfeit a silver medal from the 2012 London Games.

But his daughter vowed to make for it with her own honors.

“When her dad got disqualified, her text to him was, ‘Daddy, it’s okay, I’m gonna get the gold for you,” her grandmother Daisy Lowe told The News.

“There was no doubt in our minds that was gonna happen...Not only did we get cheated, the world got cheated.”

Lowe said Trinity visited her father in Florida just last week, on her fall break.

Tyson Gay rushed from his suburban Orlando home to Lexington after hearing the heartbreaking news.

“"She didn't make it," he told WLEX soon after her death.

“It's so crazy. I have no idea what happened.”

His daughter's death sparked an online outcry that was fit for an all-star athlete.

"Heavy heart today for Tyson Gay and his family," Olympic hurdler Lolo Jones wrote.

"Lord please ease their pain and give them strength during this time."
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Chris Bahr Oct-15-2016 116 0
Wisconsin Badgers hoops star Nigel Hayes was easy to spot prior to the football team’s much-anticipated matchup against Ohio State on Saturday. And he made quite a statement.
While most of the signs featured on “College Gameday” are humorous in nature, Hayes brought one with a much more serious message:

Hayes spent his Friday evening on social media, lamenting the plight of the college athlete and making his case for why college athletes should be paid:
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Hayes led the Badgers in scoring (15.7 PPG) and assists (3.0 APG) last season, and was second in rebounding (5.8 RPG). He was voted Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year this week in what will be his senior season.
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