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Robert Nelson speaks about wrongful rape conviction and 30 year imprisonment
Lisa Benson Jun-30-2013 1383 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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Alexa Ura May-05-2016 31 0
Dorothy Barrera was married to her late husband, Pedro, for more than 40 years before he died in February.

He was Hispanic. She is white. Dorothy expected they would eventually be together again when she was buried beside Pedro in the San Domingo Cemetery in the tiny, rural town of Normanna.

But when she looked to bury his ashes in the cemetery, she allegedly ran into the cemetery’s “whites only” policy — an apparent relic of Jim Crow-era segregation in Texas that’s thrust this small community, located an hour northwest of Corpus Christi, into a modern-day desegregation fight.

That’s what is alleged in a federal lawsuit brought by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund against the Normanna Cemetery Association, which oversees the cemetery. The lawsuit alleges the association is violating the federal Civil Rights Act by enforcing a “whites only” rule at the San Domingo Cemetery, leaving Hispanics and other non-whites to be buried in the nearby Del Bosque Cemetery.

According to the lawsuit, cemetery operator Jimmy Bradford told Barrera that her request to bury her husband at the cemetery had been denied by the Normanna Cemetery Association. When Barrera questioned the vote, Bradford allegedly responded Pedro Barrera couldn’t be buried there “because he’s a Mexican” and directed her to “go up the road and bury him with the n----- and Mexicans,” the federal complaint details.

The cemetery association later backtracked, allowing the burial to move forward. Details about the association's governing board are not public, and it's unclear who makes up the board. A listing with GuideStar shows that the association's tax exempt status was revoked by the IRS.

Barrera has yet to bury her husband’s ashes in the cemetery. Her attorney says she’s planning to file her own lawsuit, and the U.S. Department of Justice is also looking into the issue.

Bradford and the Normanna Cemetery Association could not be reached for comment. Bradford did speak to a local television station reporter in March and said that Barrera’s husband “wasn’t supposed to be buried there because he’s a Mexican or of Spanish descent, or whatever you want to say.”

“That’s what I told her and that’s what we’ve been doing,” he added.

There are no burial sites for Hispanic residents within the chain-link fence enclosure of the cemetery, according to the lawsuit. Just outside the fence is one headstone with a Spanish surname dated 1910.

“We do think that this particular policy is emblematic of racial tensions that still exist in smaller rural communities in Texas,” said Marisa Bono, the lead MALDEF attorney on the case. “Historically, Texas — especially south Texas — was sort of replete with segregated cemeteries and so there’s sort of an open question on whether this is still a problem.”

Segregated cemeteries were “extremely common” in Texas, largely because of Jim Crow laws, said Jenny McWilliams, cemetery preservation program coordinator for the Texas Historical Commission.

“Whites only” cemeteries have been illegal since 1948 when the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed racial covenants on real estate. State law also dictates that cemetery organizations may not “adopt or enforce a rule” that prohibits burials based on “race, color, or national origin of decedent.”

But the tarnished legacies of segregated cemeteries have lived on in many areas of Texas where some local leaders have worked to formally deem such policies defunct.

The burial of a white woman in 2008 highlighted Waller County’s history of segregated cemeteries. In 2014, Waco officials announced plans to remove a chainlink fence that cut through the city-owned cemetery separating burial sites of white and black residents. And in February, the Denton City Council renounced an old deed that restricted burials in the city cemetery to white people.

But experts were unable to recall another instance in which a Texas cemetery was accused of continuing to enforce a “whites only” rule.

“It’s unfortunate because it’s against the law,” said Jim Kennerly, a spokesman for the Texas Cemeteries Association. “I guess there’s still ignorant people out there.”
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Daniel Popper May-05-2016 94 0
Eli Apple's mother has no problem letting her son know what time it is.

Annie Apple wrote a first-person piece for Sports Illustrated on Wednesday about Eli’s journey to the NFL. And naturally, she dropped some knowledge.

Most notably, Annie writes that Eli, the Giants’ first-round pick, received offers to wear Rolex watches and other expensive jewelry to the NFL Draft last week.

Annie’s response: Hell no.

“Dude, you’re an unemployed college dropout,” Annie told Eli. “You will not be on TV with a Rolex.”

“So we decided if he needed to know what time it was,” Annie wrote, “he could just look at his phone. I bought him a portable charger.”

Eli Apple hasn’t even stepped on the field yet — rookie minicamp starts Thursday — and his mom is already a star in New York, largely because of her strong Twitter game.

If Eli can play as well as Annie can joke, Giants fans will be pleased.
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GRAHAM RAYMAN May-03-2016 148 0
A woman once arrested here for abandoning her baby in the subway was found dead in the Mississippi River in St. Louis, police said.

Frankea Dabbs, 22, of Opa Locka, Fla. was found at about 2 p.m. Wednesday near Arsenal St., police said.

There were no apparent signs of trauma on her body, but her death is being investigated as "suspicious," police said. The St. Louis Medical Examiner is trying to determine how she died.

Dabbs earned some measure of infamy in 2014 for pushing a stroller containing her 10-month-old daughter, Mylanea Love, out of a train and onto the platform at the Columbus Circle station and then getting back on the train.

She was arrested on child abandonment charges, pleaded guilty and served jail time.

A woman found the stroller and stayed with it until a transit worker called police.

She told authorities at the time that she was homeless and didn't believe she could take care of the baby.

During her arraignment, she went off on a wild, profanity-laced tirade about the rapper Jay Z.

“Is that thing on?” she asked a TV cameraman at the time.

“Tell Shawn Corey Carter that I said ‘F--- him. Piece of s---,’ ” the young mother said, using the rapper’s real name.

Relatives of the runaway mom said at the time she battled mental health issues, worked as a hooker and was evicted from her stepdad’s home.

Her aunt, Isabelle Dabbs of North Carolina, said she is still trying to learn more about the circumstances of her death.

“I don’t know what happened,” she said. “I don’t know why she was in St. Louis.”

She declined further comment.

Dabbs had a length arrest records in four states, including Florida, North Carolina, California and New York.
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Lindsay Kimble May-03-2016 100 0
Afeni Shakur Davis, the mother of late rapper Tupac Shakur, has died in Sausalto, California, according to the Marin County Sheriff's Office. She was 69.

The Sheriff's Office responded to a report of possible cardiac arrest at Davis' home around 9:30 p.m. on Monday night. She was transferred to a local hospital, where she died around 10:28 p.m.

The Sheriff's Coroners Office will investigate the exact cause and manner of Davis' death, the Sheriff's Office said.

Tupac was famously shot on Sept. 7, 1996 in Las Vegas, Nevada. After six days in the hospital, the then-25-year-old succumbed to his injuries. The shooter was never caught.

Following her son's death, Davis founded the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation, and later helped create Broadway musical Holler If Ya Hear Me in 2014, which featured the rapper's music. She also served as the CEO of Amaru Entertainment, Inc., a record and film production company she founded in Atlanta.

In her youth, Davis – who was born in North Carolina – was an activist and Black Panther.

Earlier this year, she was embroiled in a divorce battle with Gust Davis, her husband of 12 years, TMZ reported. Davis filed legal documents in March asking a North Carolina judge to prevent the minister from receiving alimony from Tupac's estate, which TMZ said generates around $900,000 a year.
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Marvin Hurst May-02-2016 108 0
New witnesses have come forward in the fight to get a San Antonio police officer criminally charged in the shooting death of Marquise Jones. The witnesses claim that Jones was unarmed the night he was killed.

While the SAPD Chief William McManus was being deposed in the lawsuit by Jones’s family against the City of San Antonio and SAPD, new questions arise in this officer-involved shooting case as the new witnesses come forward:

Who are these new witnesses? Where have they been for more than two years? More importantly, will their accounts change anything?

“His life was stolen from him. Stolen from him. He didn’t deserve to die,” said Cheryl Jones as she remembers her son, Marquise.

Jones can rub away the tears, but she can't wipe away the pain of her son's death.

“I look at his pictures and it’s like he says, ‘Mom, don’t let this man get away with this,’ you know? ‘I didn’t do anything wrong but run,’” Jones said.

Marquise Jones was killed in an officer-involved shooting in February of 2014. San Antonio police say that Officer Robert Encina shot the 23-year-old after an incident in the drive-thru at Chacho's on Perrin Beitel Road.

Investigators say Jones had a gun. An autopsy shows he was shot in the back, suggesting he ran from police.

Encina was cleared of any criminal responsibility in the shooting when a grand jury didn't send the case to trial.

Jones family attorney Daryl Washington says the new witnesses (a Chacho's employee at work the night of the shooting and a man standing near the car Jones was in on Feb. 28) saw an unarmed Jones killed.

“We know now there’s new evidence,” Washington said. “Those individuals came forward because the officer was no indicted and, in good conscience, they could not let that happen. They wanted to tell their side of the story.”

One witness claims that he was sent away from the scene and was never interviewed by San Antonio police.

On Friday, SAPD Chief William McManus was deposed in the wrongful death lawsuit against the City of San Antonio and SAPD by Jones' family.

“I would be surprised if there was any revelation that wasn’t previously known in the criminal case,” said Sargent Jesse Salame, an SAPD spokesperson. “I would find that very surprising at this stage of the investigation.”

In the meantime, the Jones family is trapped in the horror of mourning and remembering the worst.

District Attorney Nico Lahood says that he would put the case back before a grand jury if there was critical, new evidence.
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WPDE Apr-29-2016 175 0
WPRay Anthony Lewis, III, 20, of Apopka, Fla., was charged with third degree criminal sexual conduct on Friday after police say he sexually assaulted an 18-year-old woman, according to warrants.

Lewis is the son of former NFL player Ray Lewis, who retired from the Baltimore Ravens in 2013.

Police say the incident happened on Jan. 23 at an apartment on Technology Boulevard. The warrant says Lewis engaged in sexual battery with the woman while she was mentally incapacitated and/or physically helpless from the use of drugs and/or alcohol.

On Jan. 23, police responded to Grand Strand Hospital for a report of a sexual assault. A rape kit was performed, according to the police report.

After compiling medical reports from the hospital, victim statements, witness statements and lab results, the case was presented to the 15th Circuit Solicitor's Office for review.

After review, police were directed to get an arrest warrant for Lewis, according to the police report.

Lewis turned himself into police on Friday, April 29.

Tommy Brittain and Ed Garland, the attorneys for Lewis released the following statement on his arrest:

Ray Lewis III is innocent of all charges and we expect him to be fully vindicated by the end of this matter.

Lewis announced plans to transfer to Coastal Carolina University in January of 2015 and played cornerback on the CCU football team.

Martha Hunn, a spokeswoman for CCU, says Lewis has been suspended from the football team and the university is currently conducting an administrative investigation.

The full statement from CCU says:

Once CCU became aware of an incident, the University immediately began facilitating the administrative investigation, which includes requests to Conway Police Department for the police report and other information pertaining to this case. The University obtained the arrest warrant today. Immediately upon arrest, Ray Lewis III was suspended indefinitely from the football team. The University continues its administrative investigation process.
Lt. Selena Small with the Conway Police Department said this is all the information available at this time because the case is still under investigation.

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Emily Lane, Apr-28-2016 137 0
Cardell Hayes, the accused shooter of former Saints star Will Smith, was indicted by a New Orleans grand jury Thursday (April 28) on a second-degree murder charge, and also for attempted second-degree murder in the shooting of Smith's wife Racquel, among other charges.

Hayes pleaded not guilty at his arraignment shortly after. A judge set his bond at $1.75 million -- $750,000 higher than Hayes' previous bond.

The indictment highlighted a dramatic day in court, with prosecutors racing toward a grand jury vote and getting the formal charges just as Hayes attorneys had started questioning witnesses in a separate hearing aiming to free Hayes.

The indictment, which halted that questioning, was followed by a scuffle outside the courtroom that left two women in handcuffs, and by the unusual relocation of the hearing -- and the corresponding media entourage -- to a different judge's courtroom.

Cardell Hayes pleaded not guilty Thursday (April 28) to murdering former Saints player Will Smith and shooting Smith's wife Racquel.

The indictment also started the clock on what is likely to be months, and possibly years, of legal wrangling over what evidence and witnesses would be admitted in an eventual trial.

Hayes, who attended the hearing Thursday and blew kisses to his relatives in the courtroom, has been in jail since first arrested after police said he fatally shot Will Smith and wounded Racquel Smith following a traffic collision late April 9 in the Lower Garden District.

Indictment handed down for Cardell Hayes in Will Smith case, defense attorney speaks

Cardell Hayes' attorney John Fuller talks about his client's indictment from the Grand Jury at criminal court over the shooting death of former New Orleans Saints player Will Smith.

There was no indication Thursday that Hayes plans to post bond, but his attorneys immediately requested a bond-reduction hearing.

Peter Thomson, an attorney representing the Smith family, said they were "please, though not surprised" by the grand jury indictment.

"Although nothing can ease the pain this family is feeling, today was a step towards ensuring this cold-blooded murderer is held responsible for the actions that took the life of their husband, father and friend," Thomson said of Racquel Smith.

Defense: witness saw gun being removed; ex-cop denies it

A big development in the case was expected one way or another Thursday. Hayes' attorneys John Fuller and Jay Daniels, who have criticized the investigation, had subpoenaed 24 witnesses for a hearing to determine whether there was probably cause to continue to hold Hayes in jail.

But the dramatic sequence in which the charges were delivered was notable.

A prosecutor rushed into the courtroom to bring the indictment in the middle of the probable cause hearing, which was convened at Hayes' request. The charges were delivered as David Olasky, a private investigator for Hayes' attorneys, was testifying about a witness who claimed to have seen a retired NOPD captain remove a gun from Smith's SUV the night of the shooting. Hayes' attorneys have previously suggested someone may have tampered with the crime scene after the shooting.

But Tanya Picou Faia, an attorney for former officer Billy Ceravolo, flat out denied the allegation that her client removed a gun from Smith's vehicle.

"It's Mr. Fuller's script," said Faia, referring to Fuller's previous allusions to crime scene tampering. "I expected that allegation would be made."

Ceravolo had been subpoenaed to testify Thursday, but he was among the witnesses who never were put on the stand once the indictment came in.

By opting to charge Hayes in an indictment, District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro's office was able to stop the hearing and prevent almost all of those witnesses from testifying -- keeping most evidence in their case under wraps. Many of the witnesses Hayes' attorneys planned to call were also subpoenaed for the grand jury proceedings.

The indictment answers why New Orleans police had not yet charged Hayes in the shooting of Racquel Smith. Days after the shooting, NOPD spokesman Tyler Gamble said charges were pending against Hayes in connection to Racquel Smith's shooting. She was shot once in each leg and attended her husband's funeral in a wheelchair. But nearly three weeks after the high profile incident, prosecutors had yet to charge Hayes in her shooting, choosing instead to allow the grand jury to determine whether to charge him.

Will Smith was fatally shot shortly before 11:30 p.m. April 9 following a traffic crash in the Lower Garden District, police say. According to the department, Hayes' Hummer H2 rear-ended Smith's Mercedes SUV. An argument followed, then gunfire. The former defensive lineman was shot seven times in the back and once in the chest, according to Orleans Parish Coroner Dr. Jeffrey Rouse.

Questions remains about whether Smith was in possession of a gun when Hayes opened fire. An attorney for the Smith family, Peter Thomson, has said a gun police said was found in Smith's SUV remained in a compartment of the vehicle the night of the shooting. Fuller has suggested, however, that he can produce a witness who will dispute that. Police have not said where in the vehicle Smith's gun was located.

Fuller and Daniels have not disputed that Hayes pulled the trigger. They have continued to assert, however, they can prove Hayes is "legally not guilty" of murder, suggesting -- but not expressly saying -- the shots might have been fired in self-defense.

Thomson told reporters Hayes killed Will Smith, a father of three, in "cold blood," yelling has he stood over Smith's body after shooting him.




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Jeff Truesdell Apr-28-2016 677 0
The godmother of a 16-year-old Louisiana girl found dead in a ditch with her hair in pink rollers Sunday spoke with PEOPLE about her grief.

"Our lives will be forever changed with this," says Katrice Reid, 36, the godmother of Jorion White, of Kenner, Louisiana. "I am truly heartbroken. We don't know how to comprehend how to go on without her."

Authorities in St. Charles Parish suspect foul play and tell PEOPLE they still are investigating what happened to White. She was last seen by her family at home on Thursday night as she prepared for bed; her family reported her missing on Friday evening. Sunday evening, a body later identified as White's was found in a drainage ditch.

Results from an autopsy have not been released, and police have not revealed a manner of death.

Those left behind recall White as an ambitious, grounded, smiling high school junior at Bonnabel Magnet Academy High School whose life ended too soon.

White Wanted to Be a Nurse, 'Loved to Help and Take Care of People'

"She just lit up the room when she came in," says Reid. "We were very blessed to have her for the 16 years we had."

"She had a goal of being a nurse. She loved to help people and take care of people," adds Reid. "She just impacted more people that I think she even thought she did. It was just her personality – just such a sweet person."

That was made clear by an impromptu memorial gathering on Monday night.

"We had at least 200 people out there," says Reid. "They had buses – they were busing kids in. It was so beautiful, so beautiful. And it wasn't anything that was organized. Somebody put it out there, and everybody just showed up."

"It just tells me that she was a wonderful soul. So many people loved her."

? Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.

'No Matter How Good We Are, There's Just so Much Evil'

White was the youngest in a family of six kids – three boys, three girls. In her bedroom, there were self-help and inspirational books such as Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul on her shelf.

"Her mother was big with her in setting goals and how to improve yourself," says Reid, who was a classmate and friend of White's mother, Michelle Price, since the age of 13. "Her mom always encouraged her to look ahead and how to prepare herself for life as a grownup."

Although White's parents were divorced, White stayed close to both her mother and father, and looked ahead to spending time this summer with her dad and stepmom at their home in Dallas.

"She had a lot of people around her that she could look to as far as guidance for her," says Reid. "That's why it's hard. There was so much positive. This just kind of blind-sided us."

"It just touches you to your soul, because it shows that no matter how good we are, there's just so much evil at any given time, and we don't know when the evil will take the good out."

Reid did not speculate on what may have happened to her goddaughter, only that White would not have left home on her own with her hair in curlers. "She was a person who made sure she was pretty when she walked out the door," she says.

"We don't know – that's the hardest part, we really don't know. We're just confused."

As authorities continue to search for answers, Reid has set up a GoFundMe page to raise money toward White's burial, "because you're just never prepared to bury a 16-year-old," she says.

"I believe that she's looking down on us right now," says Reid, who created the hashtag #JusticeforJorion. "She just has to be smiling even more than I know she can, just to know she was loved so much."
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AP Apr-27-2016 188 0
Former LAPD Chief Willie Williams has died. He was 72.

Williams was appointed as the chief of the Los Angeles Police Department in the wake of Chief Daryl Gates' resignation following the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

He became the first African-American to lead the LAPD.

During his tenure in L.A., Williams worked to bolster the image of the LAPD, and heal the rift that opened between police and Los Angeles communities following the violent arrest in 1991 of motorist Rodney King.

He served as police chief in L.A. until 1997.

Williams also served as the police commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department from 1988 to 1992.

He was appointed federal security director for Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta in 2002. Williams was living in Atlanta, Georgia at the time of his death.
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