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ATLANTA — More than 80 years after they were falsely accused and wrongly convicted in the rapes of a pair of white women in north Alabama, three black men received posthumous pardons on Thursday, essentially absolving the last of the “Scottsboro Boys” of criminal misconduct and closing one of the most notorious chapters of the South’s racial history.
The Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles voted unanimously during a hearing in Montgomery to issue the pardons to Haywood Patterson, Charles Weems and Andy Wright, all of whom were repeatedly convicted of the rapes in the 1930s.
“The Scottsboro Boys have finally received justice,” Gov. Robert J. Bentley said in a statement.
Thursday’s vote brought to an end to a case that yielded two landmark Supreme Court opinions — one about the inclusion of blacks on juries and another about the need for adequate legal representation at trial — but continued to hang over Alabama as an enduring mark of its tainted past.(…)
The men were among the group of nine teenagers who were first tried in April 1931 after a fight between blacks and whites aboard a train passing through Jackson County, in Alabama’s northeastern corner, led to allegations of sexual assault. Within weeks of the reported rapes, an Alabama judge had sentenced eight of them to death following their convictions by all-white juries. The trial of the youngest defendant, Roy Wright, ended in a hung jury amid a dispute about whether he should be executed, and he was never retried.
The United States Supreme Court intervened the following year, setting off a long stretch of additional appeals and trials, including one in 1933 where Ruby Bates, one of the accusers, recanted her story.
Prosecutors dropped the rape charges against five of the men in July 1937, but four others — including those pardoned on Thursday — were convicted again and initially sentenced to death or decades in prison.
State officials ultimately agreed to release three of them on parole, including Clarence Norris, who was pardoned by Gov. George Wallace in 1976. Mr. Patterson escaped from prison and fled to Michigan.
But Sheila Washington’s interest in the Scottsboro Boys was born of a less prominent moment: She came across a copy of Mr. Patterson’s memoir in a bedroom when she was 17 years old and vowed to help the men get justice. She later founded the Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center and, in 2009, began a campaign to seek pardons for the men, with the backing of researchers and lawyers throughout the state.
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No one knows exactly how many atrocities Joseph Paul Franklin committed as he crossed the country more than three decades ago, fueled by hatred of blacks and Jews. Along the way he bombed a synagogue, robbed banks, shot and wounded a porn icon — and killed, by his own account, nearly two dozen people.
Even among the hard-core criminals on Missouri’s death row, Franklin is perhaps the most notorious, a cunning killer who picked out victims at random, using marksman skills to murder and maim from a hidden spot in a vacant building, a grassy field and a highway overpass.
“All of his acts were kind of cowardly,” said St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch, whose prosecution sent Franklin to death row. “He just hid in the weeds and shot people.”
Franklin, 63, is scheduled to be put to death at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, the first execution in nearly three years in Missouri and the first in the state to use a single drug, pentobarbital. His attorney, Jennifer Herndon, said he is a paranoid schizophrenic who was badly abused as a child. (. . . )
“He’s done a complete 180 as far as his views,” Herndon said. “He believes he should be kept alive so he could help other people overcome their racist views.” (. . .)
Franklin had a particular dislike for interracial couples. In addition to the killings in Wisconsin, he was convicted of shooting a black man and a white woman in Chattanooga in 1978. The man died and the woman was paralyzed. He reportedly killed a couple in Oklahoma City in 1979, and another couple in Johnstown, Pa., in 1980. He confessed to killing a 15-year-old prostitute because the girl had black customers.
Other victims were more random. He was convicted of killing two black cousins, ages 13 and 14, in 1980 in Cincinnati, shooting from a highway overpass as the boys walked to a convenience store. He reportedly killed three female hitchhikers — one in Wisconsin, two in West Virginia. (. . .)
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After Theodore “Ted” Wafer was charged on Friday with shooting a teen girl to death through his screen door in Dearborn Heights, Mich., a tape of his 911 call was released.
Wafer, 54, was arraigned on charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter Friday for allegedly shooting 19-year-old Renisha McBride on his porch with a shotgun Nov. 2. After she was in a car accident earlier that evening, McBride may have been seeking help when she knocked on Wafer’s door. Exactly what she was doing in the time between the accident and the shooting remains unclear.
In the audio obtained by the Detroit Free Press, he says, “I just shot somebody on my front porch with a shotgun, banging on my door.” He gives the 911 operator his street address but hangs up before stating the city.
At an arraignment hearing in Dearborn Heights’ 20th District Court Friday afternoon, Judge Mark Plawecki set Wafer’s bail at $250,000 with a 10 percent surety, noting the seriousness of the case.
Mack Carpenter, one of Wafer’s lawyers, told the judge his client was not a flight risk.
Listen to Wafer’s 911 call and get the full story.
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George Zimmerman was arrested in Seminole County, Fla., at about 1:30 p.m. Monday and charged with assault, after a dispute at his girlfriend’s home, the Associated Press reports. The arrest occurred shortly after a domestic disturbance involving Zimmerman’s girlfriend. (. . .) TMZ reports that the girlfriend says she is pregnant.
George Zimmerman was charged Monday with assault after deputies were called to the home where he lived with his girlfriend, who claimed he pointed a shotgun at her during an argument, authorities said. Zimmerman pushed the woman out of the house and barricaded the door with furniture, Chief Deputy Dennis Lemma said at a news conference hours after the arrest. The girlfriend, Samantha Scheibe, provided deputies with a key to the home and they were able to push the door that had been barricaded. Lemma says Zimmerman was compliant when deputies came to the house.
“The easiest way to describe it is rather passive. He’s had the opportunity to encounter this before,” he said. Zimmerman was charged with aggravated assault with a weapon, battery and criminal mischief.
“Just when you thought you heard the last of George Zimmerman,” said neighbor Catherine Cantrell.(. . .)
Zimmerman has had other brushes with the law since his acquittal (in the Trayvon Martin case). Zimmerman and his estranged wife were involved in a domestic dispute in September just days after Shellie Zimmerman filed divorce papers, but police later said no charges were filed against either of them because of a lack of evidence.
Zimmerman has also been pulled over three times for traffic stops since his acquittal. He was ticketed for doing 60 mph in a 45 mph zone in Lake Mary in September and was given a warning by a state trooper along Interstate 95 for having a tag cover and windows that were too darkly tinted. He was also stopped near Dallas in July and was given a warning for speeding.
In 2005, Zimmerman had to take anger management courses after he was accused of attacking an undercover officer who was trying to arrest Zimmerman’s friend. Later that year, Zimmerman’s former fiancee filed for a restraining order against him, alleging domestic violence. Zimmerman responded by requesting a restraining order against her. Both requests were granted. No criminal charges were filed.
DEARBORN HEIGHTS, Mich. (AP) — The parents of a 19-year-old woman who was shot in the face on the porch of a suburban Detroit home say they find it hard to believe their daughter posed a threat to the man charged in her death.
Walter Ray Simmons and Monica McBride spoke publicly Friday after Theodore Wafer was charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter in the death of Renisha McBride on his Dearborn Heights porch.
“I can’t imagine what that man feared from her. I would like to know why,” Monica McBride said.
Police say Renisha McBride was shot a couple of hours after being involved in a nearby car accident on Nov. 2. Family members say the former high school cheerleader likely approached Wafer’s home for help. Wafer’s lawyer, Matt Carpenter, said the pre-dawn hour and McBride’s condition — a toxicology report found she had alcohol and marijuana in her system — contribute to his client’s “very strong defense.”
McBride’s parents are relieved to see the wheels of justice turning but can’t accept any claim to self-defense.
“I couldn’t accept no apology because my daughter don’t breathe no more,” said her father, Walter Ray Simmons. “I believe this man took my daughter’s life for no reason. We just want justice done.”
Wafer, 54, was arraigned Friday afternoon on the murder and manslaughter charges as well as a felony weapons charge. A probable cause hearing was set for Dec. 18.
What happened between when McBride crashed into a parked vehicle several blocks north of Wafer’s neighborhood and the shooting remains unclear. Police received a 911 call from Wafer about 4:42 a.m., in which he tells the dispatcher: “I just shot somebody on my front porch with a shotgun, banging on my door.”
They found McBride’s body on the porch.
Under a 2006 Michigan self-defense law, a homeowner has the right to use force during a break-in. Otherwise, a person must show that his or her life was in danger.
Prosecutors say evidence shows McBride knocked on a locked screen door and did not try to force her way in. The interior front door was open, and Wafer fired through “the closed and locked screen door,” said prosecutor Kym Worthy, who declined to discuss details about the investigation.
“We do not believe he acted in lawful self-defense,” she added.
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France’s justice minister has been publicly subjected to racist taunts for the third time in barely a month, triggering a wave of outrage Tuesday over the hounding of the country’s top black politician.
In the wake of two highly publicized incidents in which the minister, Christiane Taubira, was compared to a monkey, far right weekly magazine Minute published a cover page with the headline “Crafty as a monkey, Taubira gets her banana back”.
Amid an outcry over the magazine’s contents, Interior Minister Manuel Valls announced he was examining whether it was legally possible to block the distribution of the magazine.
“We cannot let this pass,” he said. (. . .) Harlem Desir, the First Secretary of the ruling Socialist Party and one of the founders of SOS Racisme, said all copies of the magazine should be seized by police.
Sports Minister Valerie Fourneyron called the cover “Unacceptable and nauseating” and there was also widespread condemnation from members of the centre-right UMP opposition party. Taubira is a hate figure for some on the right in French politics as she was the minister responsible for the legislation of gay marriage earlier this year. (. . .)
Last week, she spoke publicly of her dismay over the attacks she has been subjected to and implicitly criticised her government colleagues for not coming to her defence. Warning of a threat to France’s social cohesion, Taubira told the Liberation daily that, “Inhibitions are disappearing, dykes have been breached.” (. . .)
The treatment of Taubira has sparked much soul-searching among liberal commentators over whether racism has become widely acceptable in parts of French society.
The clot thickens. We now have a clearer idea of why black Americans are twice as likely as white Americans to develop heart disease. It seems that fragments circulating in the blood, known as platelets, can form blood clots more easily in African Americans. Clotting is a classic element of heart disease and heart attack.
“Unexpectedly, we found that platelets from black donors clotted faster and to a greater extent in response to the naturally occurring clotting agent, thrombin,” says Paul Bray of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who led the work. “This provides a new understanding of the effects of race on heart disease and other blood-clot related illnesses.”
Bray and his colleagues took blood samples from 70 black and 84 white healthy volunteers and found that a protein known as PC-TP, short for phosphatidylcholine transfer protein, is one of the main culprits. PC-TP activates a clotting factor called PAR4.
The gene that produces the protein is four times more active in the platelets of black Americans than it is in white Americans. (. . .) “Compared with white patients, black people have a twofold increased incidence of heart disease and a lower long-term survival,” he says. “The reasons for this disparity are complex, but even when socioeconomic and environmental factors are considered, the survival of black heart attack patients is two-and-a-half times lower than in white patients.”
An important implication, says Bray, is that we need to develop a wider array of treatments to make sure that there are drugs that work for everyone.
“Black people are very poorly represented in most clinical studies on heart disease,” he says. “Our findings suggest doctors cannot therefore assume that heart disease treatment studies on whites will hold true for everyone.”
Family members of Malcolm X have filed suit to prevent the publication of the slain leader’s diary.
At issue is the diary Malcolm X kept during the year before his assassination, as he traveled through the Middle East and Africa. The diary has been reproduced for publication and lists the daughter of Malcolm X, Ilyasah Shabazz, as an editor. Other family members, however, are filing suit, alleging that the publisher, Third World Press, does not own the rights to the diary.
Vice President of Third World Press, Bennett Johnson, contradicts the family’s claim and says the publisher has a contract signed by one of Malcolm X’s daughters.
A video promoting the publication of the diary shows the daughter of Malcolm X discussing the importance of the diary been added to the body of work already produced by Malcolm X.
“It’s really beautiful that we get to see Malcolm in his own voice – without scholars, historians or observers saying what he was thinking or what he was doing or what he meant” Shabazz says.
Third World Press says the memoir “described deep emotional connections [Malcolm X] developed during a period that was constantly colored by his prophetic sense of impending tragedy”. They also promote the diary as having a “unique” blueprint for African-Americans.
The diary is scheduled to be published on November 14, but court papers filed by the heirs of Malcolm X in Manhattan court could delay or even prevent publication.
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Everyone feels an emotional tie to how a name can signify identity, but some names speak to the direct impact of the stereotypes promoted in society. For African-Americans, the conversation around the impact of having a “black” name is a highly charged one. For 19-year-old Keisha Austin, of Kansas City, MO., the stereotypes associated with her name and the racist jokes from her peers pushed her to ultimately change her name given at birth.
Keisha’s mother, Cristy Austin, was adamant about the name even before the teen was born. As a white woman raising a biracial daughter by herself in a neighborhood that wasn’t very diverse, she said she gave her daughter the name to give her confidence and a connection to her culture. She thought the name represented a “strong, feminine, beautiful black woman.” (. . .)
But classmates constantly taunted her daughter who recalled experiences where her name was associated with video vixens. Kids would joke around asking if she had “La” or a “Sha” in her name. Even a teacher once joked about her name asking if there was a dollar sign in it.
“It’s like they assumed that I must be a certain kind of girl,” she says. “Like, my name is Keisha so they think they know something about me, and it always felt negative.” (. . .)
Does it impact the course of your life to have a name that’s “black”? A study from the Cambridge-based National Bureau of Economic Research on the effect of black names looked at 16 million births in California between 1960 and 2000. The research found no significant effect on how someone’s life turns out.
However, another study cited in a report by CBS news found having a “black-sounding” name lessened the chances of the candidate getting a callback when searching for a job. Applicants with “black names” were 50 percent less likely to get a call back compared to Anglo-Saxon names, despite similar resumes. Several other studies have found similar outcomes.
As for Austin, she no longer has to defend a name she said she never felt connected to. Last week, the teen officially changed her name to Kylie Austin, as an early Christmas gift from her mother.
“It’s not something I take lightly. I put a lot of thought into it. I don’t believe you should just change your name or your face or anything like that on a whim,” she told the paper. “I didn’t want to change my name because I didn’t like it. I wanted to change my name because it didn’t feel comfortable. I don’t connect to it. I didn’t feel like myself, but I never want any girls named Keisha, or any name like that, to feel hurt or sad by it.”
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Jessica Black of Craigsville, Va., let her son, Jackson, dress as a Klansman with a floor-length white robe and full-faced white hood, according to local ABC affiliate WHSV. The outfit garnered media attention after a photo of the boy dressed in the KKK regalia was posted to the WHSV Facebook page. When Black was confronted by the news network, she defended her decision. “My brother has [worn it] when he was in Kindergarten and when he was 13,” Black said. She went on to claim there is nothing wrong with the costume or with the White Supremacist group, which she says still exists in their Virginia town. “It’s supposed to be white with white, black with black, man with woman and all of that. That’s what the KKK stands for.” (. . .) Another defended the child on the station’s “Daybreak” Facebook page, saying he probably thought it was a ghost costume. Some users were angry that the town was being criticized for the act of one individual, but others criticized these people for missing the larger point. “The fact of the matter is that this event could have happened anywhere in the US and you all being more outraged that your town has a bad name than the actual issue at hand is extremely disappointing,” wrote one woman. “A few of you have missed the point completely. Just because we are in a new century does not mean that racism is a thing of the past. Racism is alive and well and if you opened your eyes, you’d see it clearly.”