"This is a people's victory"  Pam Africa.

Who would ever think that we would see this headline, in our lifetime.  This is the press release up on the Philadelphia District Attorney's website posted minutes ago.

The path to freedom is going to be hard and long, but we are on it.  When We Fight, We Win,
Noelle Hanrahan, P.I. Prison Radio

Mumia Abu-Jamal

See below: 

Statement: Philadelphia District Attorney's Office withdraws appeal in Mumia Abu-Jamal case 

Contact: Ben Waxman
PHILADELPHIA (April 17th, 2019) — Today the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office withdrew its recent appeal of an opinion granting a re-hearing of some previously decided issues in the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. We withdrew the appeal because the opinion we appealed has been modified consistent with our primary concern — -that ruling's effect on many other cases.
By way of background, Mumia Abu-Jamal was convicted of the murder of a young police officer, Daniel Faulkner, that occurred on December 9, 1981. Even after Maureen Faulkner, the wife of the victim, chose not to continue seeking the death penalty several years ago in hopes of closure, the case has evoked polarizing rhetoric and continues to assume a symbolic importance for many that is distinct from the factual and often technical legal issues involved in the case.
The technical issue at stake here is simply whether or not some decided issues need to be re-heard by a Pennsylvania appellate court due to one former judge's having worn two hats — -the hat of an apparently impartial appellate judge deciding Abu-Jamal's case after he earlier wore the hat of a chief prosecutor in the same case. Although the issue is technical, it is also an important cautionary tale on the systemic problems that flow from a judge's failing to recuse where there is an appearance of bias.
Justice Castille did not recuse himself before deciding appeals in the Abu-Jamal case and several others, including the Williams case. In the Williams case, the United States Supreme Court decided that Castille should have recused himself because of the role he took as a chief prosecutor in Mr. Williams's matter. The U.S. Supreme Court ordered that Mr. Williams's appeal be re-heard by the Pennsylvania appeals judges, without the taint of Castille's participation.
A similar question of Castille's role exists in the Abu-Jamal case. In order to help resolve it, our Office exhaustively searched hundreds of file boxes in relation to the Mumia Abu-Jamal matter, including six previously undisclosed boxes (now turned over to the defense, as required by law). While we did not find any document establishing the same level of involvement by Castille in the Abu-Jamal case as in the Williams case, we did find (and turned over) a June, 1990 letter from then-District Attorney Castille to then-Governor Robert Casey, urging that the Governor issue death warrants, especially in cases involving people who have killed police, in order to "send a clear and dramatic message to all police killers that the death penalty actually means something." Although the letter does not mention Mr. Abu-Jamal or his case by name, at the time Justice Castille wrote to Governor Casey, there were only three cases involving people who had been convicted of killing police that were pending. One was Mr. Abu-Jamal's.
In the end, the trial-level judge considering this issue wrote an opinion that agreed with us that these indications of strong feelings on the part of Justice Castille did not rise to the level of the direct and active involvement Justice Castille took in the Williams case but went further, deciding there should be a re-hearing of Abu-Jamal's decided issues anyway, based on more general principles of judges needing to recuse to avoid the appearance of bias.
We appealed, making it extremely clear in our court papers that our primary concern was with the overly broad language of the opinion and its potentially devastating effect on hundreds of long settled cases, decades after their cases were resolved, including its hurtful effect on victims and survivors. We highlighted our concern with the overly broad language of that opinion in five specific respects and specifically noted that we would re-consider appealing if the trial-level court issued another decision addressing the concerns we raised.
Although the judge was not required to do so, on March 27 he issued another decision that addressed the concerns we raised. The judge made clear that his opinion should not be read to mean that several hundreds of cases were disturbed — -it should be applied only to people convicted of killing police officers whose cases were in the District Attorney's Office while Castille was District Attorney (the category of cases Castille highlighted in his June 1990 letter to Casey). Given that the trial-level court has now addressed the concerns that led us to appeal in the first place, we have withdrawn the appeal.
Our decision to withdraw the appeal does not mean Mr. Abu-Jamal will be freed or get a new trial. It means that he will have the appeals that Justice Castille participated in deciding reconsidered by a new group of appellate court judges, untainted by former Chief Justice Castille participating in their decision. The trial-level judge has ordered the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office and the defense to re-submit the legal briefs done in the past (which were written under prior administrations), effectively setting the clock back to where it was in the past.
The result will be that long-settled convictions in other cases will not be disturbed and that decisions made by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on the legal issues raised decades ago in the Abu-Jamal matter will no longer be tainted by the appearance of bias.  ===========end press release====================
Cuando luchamos, ganamos. When We fight, we win. 

Noelle Hanrahan
Director, Prison Radio
To give by check: 
PO Box 411074
San Francisco, CA

Stock or legacy gifts:
Noelle Hanrahan



Funds for Kevin Cooper


For 34 years, an innocent man has been on death row in California. 

Kevin Cooper was wrongfully convicted of the brutal 1983 murders of the Ryen family and houseguest. The case has a long history of police and prosecutorial misconduct, evidence tampering, and numerous constitutional violations including many incidences of the prosecution withholding evidence of innocence from the defense. You can learn more here . 

In December 2018 Gov. Brown ordered  limited DNA testing and in February 2019, Gov. Newsom ordered additional DNA testing. Meanwhile, Kevin remains on Death Row at San Quentin Prison. 

The funds raised will be used to help Kevin purchase art supplies for his paintings . Additionally, being in prison is expensive, and this money would help Kevin pay for stamps, paper, toiletries, supplementary food, and/or phone calls.

Please help ease the daily struggle of an innocent man on death row!



Don't extradite Assange!

To the government of the UK
Julian Assange, through Wikileaks, has done the world a great service in documenting American war crimes, its spying on allies and other dirty secrets of the world's most powerful regimes, organisations and corporations. This has not endeared him to the American deep state. Both Obama, Clinton and Trump have declared that arresting Julian Assange should be a priority. We have recently received confirmation [1] that he has been charged in secret so as to have him extradited to the USA as soon as he can be arrested. 
Assange's persecution, the persecution of a publisher for publishing information [2] that was truthful and clearly in the interest of the public - and which has been republished in major newspapers around the world - is a danger to freedom of the press everywhere, especially as the USA is asserting a right to arrest and try a non-American who neither is nor was then on American soil. The sentence is already clear: if not the death penalty then life in a supermax prison and ill treatment like Chelsea Manning. The very extradition of Julian Assange to the United States would at the same time mean the final death of freedom of the press in the West. 
The courageous nation of Ecuador has offered Assange political asylum within its London embassy for several years until now. However, under pressure by the USA, the new government has made it clear that they want to drive Assange out of the embassy and into the arms of the waiting police as soon as possible. They have already curtailed his internet and his visitors and turned the heating off, leaving him freezing in a desolate state for the past few months and leading to the rapid decline of his health, breaching UK obligations under the European Convention of Human Rights. Therefore, our demand both to the government of Ecuador and the government of the UK is: don't extradite Assange to the US! Guarantee his human rights, make his stay at the embassy as bearable as possible and enable him to leave the embassy towards a secure country as soon as there are guarantees not to arrest and extradite him. Furthermore, we, as EU voters, encourage European nations to take proactive steps to protect a journalist in danger. The world is still watching.
[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/16/us/politics/julian-assange-indictment-wikileaks.html
[2] https://theintercept.com/2018/11/16/as-the-obama-doj-concluded-prosecution-of-julian-assange-for-publishing-documents-poses-grave-threats-to-press-freedom/



Chelsea Manning denied release from jail

chelsea manning
Yesterday, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to keep Chelsea Manning jailed for contempt of court. Chelsea has been jailed since March 8th for refusing to collaborate with the grand jury investigating Julian Assange of WikiLeaks. “While disappointing, we can still raise issues as the government continues to abuse the grand jury process. I don’t have anything to contribute to this, or any other grand jury. While I miss home, they can continue to hold me in jail, with all the harmful consequences that brings. I will not give up. Thank you all so very much for your love and solidarity through letters and contributions,” shared Chelsea. She faces another 16.5 months in jail. Donate to Chelsea's legal defense here. Write her a letter at: Chelsea Elizabeth Manning, A0181426, William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center, 2001 Mill Road, Alexandria, VA 22314.

484 Lake Park Ave #41, Oakland, California 94610 ~ 510-488-3559
www.couragetoresist.org ~ facebook.com/couragetoresist



How to buy a gun in the U.S. and New Zeland:

New Zealand to Ban Military-Style Semiautomatic Guns, Jacinda Ardern Says
By Damien Cave and Charlotte Graham-McLay, March 20, 2019













Courage to Resist
free chelsea manning
Free Chelsea Manning (again)!
U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning has been sent back to jail after refusing to answer questions before a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange. She could be jailed for up to 18 months this time.
As she was being taken back into custody on March 8th, she declared, "I will not participate in a secret process that I morally object to, particularly one that has been historically used to entrap and persecute activists for protected political speech."  Here's how to offer your support.

randy rowland
Podcast: Randy Rowland, GI resister
"I was the reluctant guy who's bit by bit by bit, just had to face the facts that things weren't the way I had been raised to believe that they were. It wasn't like I planned to be a resister or a troublemaker or anything of the sort," explains Randy Rowland, an organizer of the "Presidio 27 Mutiny."
This Courage to Resist podcast is the first in series to be produced in collaboration with the Vietnam Full Disclosure effort of Veterans for Peace — "Towards an honest commemoration of the American war in Vietnam." This year marks 50 years of GI resistance, in and out of uniform, for many of the courageous
individuals featured. Listen to Randy's story here.

ctr video
We shared our new 75 second promotional video on Facebook this week. Yes, FB is kind of evil, but we still reach a lot of folks that way. Please check it out, share with friends, and "like" our FB page.
ctr video
During Sunday's Objector Church online meetup, James Branum discussed the heroism of US Army Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds (1919–1985). MSgt Edmonds was the ranking US NCO at the Stalag IX-A POW Camp when he was captured in Germany during WWII. At the risk of his life, he prevented an estimated 200 Jews from being singled out from the camp for Nazi persecution and likely death. Watch the video here.
484 Lake Park Ave #41, Oakland, California 94610 ~ 510-488-3559
www.couragetoresist.org ~ facebook.com/couragetoresist


Statement: Academic Institutions Must Defend Free Speech

The International Committee for Peace, Justice and Dignity issued the following statement on 23 December, signed by 155 distinguished academics and human rights advocates.

Petition Text

Statement issued by the International Committee for Peace, Justice and Dignity:
We, the undersigned, oppose the coordinated campaign to deny academics their free speech rights due to their defense of Palestinian rights and criticism of the policies and practices of the state of Israel. Temple University in Philadelphia, USA and the University of Sydney, Australia have been under great pressure to fire, respectively, Marc Lamont Hill and Tim Anderson, both senior academics at their institutions, for these reasons. Steven Salaita and Norman Finkelstein have already had their careers destroyed by such attacks. Hatem Bazian, Ahlam Muhtaseb, William Robinson, Rabab Abdulhadi and others have also been threatened.
The ostensible justification for such action is commonly known as the "Palestinian exception" to the principle of free speech. One may freely criticize and disrespect governments – including one's own – religions, political beliefs, personal appearance and nearly everything else except the actions and policies of the state of Israel. Those who dare to do so will become the focus of well-financed and professionally run campaigns to silence and/or destroy them and their careers.
We recognize that much of the free speech that occurs in academic and other environments will offend some individuals and groups. However, as has been said many times before, the answer to free speech that some may find objectionable is more free speech, not less. We therefore call upon all academic institutions, their faculty and students, as well as the public at large, to resist such bullying tactics and defend the free speech principles upon which they and all free societies and their institutions are founded.



Updates from the Committee to Stop FBI Repression

Justice for Rasmea Odeh! Justice for Palestine!

The Committee to Stop FBI Repression strongly supports Rasmea Odeh's right to speak in Berlin about the Palestinian liberation struggle. We stand with the many other organizations who condemn the German, Israeli, and U.S. governments' attacks on Rasmea and their attempts to silence her by revoking her visa and prohibiting her from political activity (see article about the March 15 incident).

The actions of these governments blatantly reflect their racist anti-Palestinian and anti-Muslim views. But we want to draw attention to the underlying reason for their targeting of Rasmea. The attack on her right to speak is deeply tied to U.S. and German support for the Israeli apartheid and settler colonialism in Palestine. Moreover, the attack on Rasmea reflects these countries' imperialist strategies for control of the Middle East. By the same token, these governments are clearly acting out of fear - fear that when Palestinian women and activists like Rasmea speak up, it chips away at such countries' grasp on Palestine and the surrounding region.

The attacks on Rasmea and Palestine also relate to political repression taking place across the globe. Germany, the U.S. and Israel are attempting to silence Rasmea for the same fundamental reasons that the Duterte government has murdered and attacked activists and human rights defenders in the Philippines; that the U.S. government is trying to forcibly install a new government in Venezuela; and that the NYPD's Strategic Response Group is surveilling and harassing leaders and activists in the Black Lives Matter movement. The imperialists who are in power are clearly afraid that people like Rasmea might inspire others to rise up and fight back against the racist and oppressive system in place.

We want to send a message to these imperialist powers, to say that fighting back is exactly what we plan to do. It is imperative that we fight back against this unjust system that tries to silence Palestinian women like Rasmea. We demand that Rasmea Odeh be permitted to speak in Germany, and we demand an end to state repression against all Muslim women, and all Palestinians who have boldly raised their voices against the imperialist and colonialist powers that are oppressing people across the world.

Activists are not terrorists! We stand in solidarity with Rasmea and all Palestinian people in their struggle for liberation.

-- NYC Committee to Stop FBI Repression

Copyright © 2019 Committee to Stop FBI Repression, All rights reserved.
Thanks for your ongoing interest in the fight against FBI repression of anti-war and international solidarity activists!

Our mailing address is:
Committee to Stop FBI Repression
PO Box 14183
MinneapolisMN  55414

Add us to your address book























Courage to Resist
Hi Bonnie. Courage to Resist is working closely with our new fiscal sponsor, the Objector Church, on a couple projects that we're excited to share with you.
objector registry
Objector Registry launches as draft registration of women nears
The first ever Objector Registry (objector.church/register) offers a declaration of conscience for anyone to assert their moral opposition to war, regardless of age, gender, or religious affiliation. This serves to create a protective record of beliefs and actions with which to oppose a later forced draft. Given last week's release of the report by the Congressionally mandated commission on military service, this free registry is coming online just in time. Please sign up yourself and share with friends!
weekly meetup
You're invited to join us online weekly
This is a great way to find out more about the Objector Church and why we might be the religious humanist interfaith peace and justice community you have been looking for! Our live meetups are lead by Minister James Branum from Oklahoma City. This Sunday at 5pm Pacific / 8pm Eastern, if your not excited by the NFL's "big game", pop online and check us out at objector.church/meetup
484 Lake Park Ave #41, Oakland, California 94610 ~ 510-488-3559
www.couragetoresist.org ~ facebook.com/couragetoresist




New "Refuse War" Shirts

We've launched a new shirt store to raise funds to support war resisters.

In addition to the Courage to Resist logo shirts we've offered in the past, we now  have a few fun designs, including a grim reaper, a "Refuse War, Go AWOL" travel theme, and a sporty "AWOL: Support Military War Resisters" shirt.

Shirts are $25 each for small through XL, and bit more for larger sizes. Please allow 9-12 days for delivery within the United States.

50% of each shirt may qualify as a tax-deductible contribution.

Courage to Resist -- Support the Troops who Refuse to Fight!
484 Lake Park Ave. #41, Oakland, CA 94610, 510-488-3559
couragetoresis.org -- facebook.com/couragetoresist







To: Indiana Department of Corrections

Kevin "Rashid" Johnson Should Have Access to His Personal Property

Petition Text

1. IDOC regulation 02-01-101-VIII must be respected! Kevin Johnson (IDOC# 264847) must be allowed to select from his property the items that he most immediately needs. He has been left without any of the material he requires for contacting his loved ones, his writing (this includes books), his pending litigation, and for his artwork. 
2. Kevin Johnson (IDOC# 264847) should be released into General Population. Prolonged solitary confinement is internationally recognized as a form of torture. Moreover, he has not committed any infractions.

Why is this important?

Kevin "Rashid" Johnson (IDOC# 264847) – a Virginia prisoner – was transferred to Indiana on November 4. His transfer was authorized under the Interstate Corrections Compact, commonly used to ship prisoners out of state. Virginia is one of several states that make use of this practice as a tool to repress and isolate prisoners who speak up for their rights.
These transfers are extremely disruptive, and serve as an opportunity for prison officials to violate prisoners' rights, especially regarding their property. This is exactly what has been done to Rashid.
Rashid has 24 boxes of personal property. These are all of his possessions in the world. Much of these 24 boxes consist of legal documents and research materials, including materials directly related to pending or anticipated court cases, and his list of addresses and phone numbers of media contacts, human rights advocates, outside supporters, and friends.
At Pendleton Correctional Facility, where Rashid is now being kept prisoner and in solitary confinement, only one guard is in charge of the property room. This is very unusual, as the property room is where all of the prisoners' belongings that are not in their cells are kept. The guard in charge, Dale Davis, has a dubious reputation. Prisoners complain that property goes missing, and their requests to access their belongings – that by law are supposed to be met within 7 days, or if there are court deadlines within 24 hours – are often ignored, answered improperly, or what they receive does not correspond to what they have asked for.
Despite having a need for legal and research documents for pending and anticipated court cases, his requests to receive his property have not been properly answered. The property officer, Dale Davis, is supposed to inventory the prisoners' property with them (and a witness) present, according to IDOC regulation 02-01-101-VIII; this was never done. When Rashid did receive some property, it was a random selection of items unrelated to what he asked for, brought to the segregation unit in a box and a footlocker and left in an insecure area where things could be stolen or tampered with.
On December 19th, Rashid received notice that Davis had confiscated various documents deemed to be "security threat group" or "gang" related from his property. Rashid has no idea what these might be, as (contrary to the prison regulations) he was not present when his property was gone through. Rashid does not know how much or how little was confiscated, or what the rationale was for its being described as "gang" related. None of Rashid's property should be confiscated or thrown out under any circumstances, but it is worth noting that the way in which this has been done contravenes the prison's own regulations and policies!
Dale Davis has been an IDOC property officer for 8 years. He has boasted about how he does not need any oversight or anyone else working with him, even though it is very unusual for just one person to have this responsibility. Prisoners' property goes "missing" or is tampered with, and prisoners' rights – as laid out by the Indiana Department of Corrections – are not being respected.
Rashid is not asking to have all of his property made available to him in his cell. He is willing to accept only having access to some of it at a time, for instance as he needs it to prepare court documents or for his research and writing. 
After two months in Indiana, he has still not been supplied with his documents containing the phone numbers and addresses of his loved ones and supporters, effectively sabotaging his relationships on the outside. Rashid is not asking for any kind of special treatment, he is only asking for the prison property room to follow the prison's own rules.
We ask that you look into this, and make sure that Mr. Johnson's right to access his property is being respected, and that something be done about the irregularities in the Pendleton property room. We ask that the rules of the Indiana Department of Corrections be respected.

Sign the petition here:

you can also hear a recent interview with Rashid on Final Straw podcast here: https://thefinalstrawradio.noblogs.org/post/tag/kevin-rashid-johnson/
Write to Rashid:
Kevin Rashid Johnson's writings and artwork have been widely circulated. He is the author of a book,Panther Vision: Essential Party Writings and Art of Kevin "Rashid" Johnson, Minister of Defense, New Afrikan Black Panther Party, (Kersplebedeb, 2010).

Kevin Johnson D.O.C. No. 264847
G-20-2C Pendleton Correctional Facility
4490 W. Reformatory Rd.
Pendleton, IN 46064-9001



Get Malik Out of Ad-Seg

Keith "Malik" Washington is an incarcerated activist who has spoken out on conditions of confinement in Texas prison and beyond:  from issues of toxic water and extreme heat, to physical and sexual abuse of imprisoned people, to religious discrimination and more.  Malik has also been a tireless leader in the movement to #EndPrisonSlavery which gained visibility during nationwide prison strikes in 2016 and 2018.  View his work at comrademalik.com or write him at:

Keith H. Washington
TDC# 1487958
McConnell Unit
3001 S. Emily Drive
Beeville, TX 78102
Friends, it's time to get Malik out of solitary confinement.

Malik has experienced intense, targeted harassment ever since he dared to start speaking against brutal conditions faced by incarcerated people in Texas and nationwide--but over the past few months, prison officials have stepped up their retaliation even more.

In Administrative Segregation (solitary confinement) at McConnell Unit, Malik has experienced frequent humiliating strip searches, medical neglect, mail tampering and censorship, confinement 23 hours a day to a cell that often reached 100+ degrees in the summer, and other daily abuses too numerous to name.  It could not be more clear that they are trying to make an example of him because he is a committed freedom fighter.  So we have to step up.

Phone zap on Tuesday, November 13

**Mark your calendars for the 11/13 call in, be on the look out for a call script, and spread the word!!**

- Convene special review of Malik's placement in Ad-Seg and immediately release him back to general population
- Explain why the State Classification Committee's decision to release Malik from Ad-Seg back in June was overturned (specifically, demand to know the nature of the "information" supposedly collected by the Fusion Center, and demand to know how this information was investigated and verified).
- Immediately cease all harassment and retaliation against Malik, especially strip searches and mail censorship!

Who to contact:
TDCJ Executive Director Bryan Collier
Phone: (936)295-6371

Senior Warden Philip Sinfuentes (McConnell Unit)
Phone: (361) 362-2300


Background on Malik's Situation

Malik's continued assignment to Ad-Seg (solitary confinement) in is an overt example of political repression, plain and simple.  Prison officials placed Malik in Ad-Seg two years ago for writing about and endorsing the 2016 nationwide prison strike.  They were able to do this because Texas and U.S. law permits non-violent work refusal to be classified as incitement to riot.

It gets worse.  Malik was cleared for release from Ad-Seg by the State Classification Committee in June--and then, in an unprecedented reversal, immediately re-assigned him back to Ad-Seg.  The reason?  Prison Officials site "information" collected by a shadowy intelligence gathering operation called a Fusion Center, which are known for lack of transparency and accountability, and for being blatant tools of political repression.

Malik remains in horrible conditions, vulnerable to every possible abuse, on the basis of "information" that has NEVER been disclosed or verified.  No court or other independent entity has ever confirmed the existence, let alone authenticity, of this alleged information.  In fact, as recently as October 25, a representative of the State Classification Committee told Malik that he has no clue why Malik was re-assigned to Ad-Seg.  This "information" is pure fiction.   



Listen to 'The Daily': Was Kevin Cooper Framed for Murder?

By Michael Barbaro, May 30, 2018

Listen and subscribe to our podcast from your mobile deviceVia Apple Podcasts | Via RadioPublic | Via Stitcher

The sole survivor of an attack in which four people were murdered identified the perpetrators as three white men. The police ignored suspects who fit the description and arrested a young black man instead. He is now awaiting execution.

On today's episode:
• Kevin Cooper, who has been on death row at San Quentin State Prison in California for three decades.



Last week I met with fellow organizers and members of Mijente to take joint action at the Tornillo Port of Entry, where detention camps have been built and where children and adults are currently being imprisoned. 

I oppose the hyper-criminalization of migrants and asylum seekers. Migration is a human right and every person is worthy of dignity and respect irrespective of whether they have "papers" or not. You shouldn't have to prove "extreme and unusual hardship" to avoid being separated from your family. We, as a country, have a moral responsibility to support and uplift those adversely affected by the US's decades-long role in the economic and military destabilization of the home countries these migrants and asylum seekers have been forced to leave.

While we expected to face resistance and potential trouble from the multiple law enforcement agencies represented at the border, we didn't expect to have a local farm hand pull a pistol on us to demand we deflate our giant balloon banner. Its message to those in detention:

NO ESTÁN SOLOS (You are not alone).

Despite the slight disruption to our plan we were able to support Mijente and United We Dream in blocking the main entrance to the detention camp and letting those locked inside know that there are people here who care for them and want to see them free and reunited with their families. 

We are continuing to stand in solidarity with Mijente as they fight back against unjust immigration practices.Yesterday they took action in San Diego, continuing to lead and escalate resistance to unjust detention, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and to ICE. 

While we were honored to offer on-the-ground support we see the potential to focus the energy of our Drop the MIC campaign into fighting against this injustice, to have an even greater impact. Here's how:
  1. Call out General Dynamics for profiteering of War, Militarization of the Border and Child and Family Detention (look for our social media toolkit this week);
  2. Create speaking forums and produce media that challenges the narrative of ICE and Jeff Sessions, encouraging troops who have served in the borderlands to speak out about that experience;
  3. Continue to show up and demand we demilitarize the border and abolish ICE.

Thank you for your vision and understanding of how militarism, racism, and capitalism are coming together in the most destructive ways. Help keep us in this fight by continuing to support our work.

In Solidarity,
Ramon Mejia
Field Organizer, About Face: Veterans Against the War

P.O. Box 3565, New York, NY 10008. All Right Reserved. | Unsubscribe
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Major George Tillery
April 25, 2018-- The arrest of two young men in Starbucks for the crime of "sitting while black," and the four years prison sentence to rapper Meek Mill for a minor parole violation are racist outrages in Philadelphia, PA that made national news in the past weeks. Yesterday Meek Mills was released on bail after a high profile defense campaign and a Pa Supreme Court decision citing evidence his conviction was based solely on a cop's false testimony.
These events underscore the racism, frame-up, corruption and brutality at the core of the criminal injustice system. Pennsylvania "lifer" Major Tillery's fight for freedom puts a spotlight on the conviction of innocent men with no evidence except the lying testimony of jailhouse snitches who have been coerced and given favors by cops and prosecutors.

Sex for Lies and Manufactured Testimony
For thirty-five years Major Tillery has fought against his 1983 arrest, then conviction and sentence of life imprisonment without parole for an unsolved 1976 pool hall murder and assault. Major Tillery's defense has always been his innocence. The police and prosecution knew Tillery did not commit these crimes. Jailhouse informant Emanuel Claitt gave lying testimony that Tillery was one of the shooters.

Homicide detectives and prosecutors threatened Claitt with a false unrelated murder charge, and induced him to lie with promises of little or no jail time on over twenty pending felonies, and being released from jail despite a parole violation. In addition, homicide detectives arranged for Claitt, while in custody, to have private sexual liaisons with his girlfriends in police interview rooms.
In May and June 2016, Emanuel Claitt gave sworn statements that his testimony was a total lie, and that the homicide cops and the prosecutors told him what to say and coached him before trial. Not only was he coerced to lie that Major Tillery was a shooter, but to lie and claim there were no plea deals made in exchange for his testimony. He provided the information about the specific homicide detectives and prosecutors involved in manufacturing his testimony and details about being allowed "sex for lies". In August 2016, Claitt reaffirmed his sworn statements in a videotape, posted on YouTube and on JusticeforMajorTillery.org.
Without the coerced and false testimony of Claitt there was no evidence against Major Tillery. There were no ballistics or any other physical evidence linking him to the shootings. The surviving victim's statement naming others as the shooters was not allowed into evidence.
The trial took place in May 1985 during the last days of the siege and firebombing of the MOVE family Osage Avenue home in Philadelphia that killed 13 Black people, including 5 children. The prosecution claimed that Major Tillery was part of an organized crime group, and falsely described it as run by the Nation of Islam. This prejudiced and inflamed the majority white jury against Tillery, to make up for the absence of any evidence that Tillery was involved in the shootings.
This was a frame-up conviction from top to bottom. Claitt was the sole or primary witness in five other murder cases in the early 1980s. Coercing and inducing jailhouse informants to falsely testify is a standard routine in criminal prosecutions. It goes hand in hand with prosecutors suppressing favorable evidence from the defense.
Major Tillery has filed a petition based on his actual innocence to the Philadelphia District Attorney's Larry Krasner's Conviction Review Unit. A full review and investigation should lead to reversal of Major Tillery's conviction. He also asks that the DA's office to release the full police and prosecution files on his case under the new  "open files" policy. In the meantime, Major Tillery continues his own investigation. He needs your support.
Major Tillery has Fought his Conviction and Advocated for Other Prisoners for over 30 Years
The Pennsylvania courts have rejected three rounds of appeals challenging Major Tillery's conviction based on his innocence, the prosecution's intentional presentation of false evidence against him and his trial attorney's conflict of interest. On June 15, 2016 Major Tillery filed a new post-conviction petition based on the same evidence now in the petition to the District Attorney's Conviction Review Unit. Despite the written and video-taped statements from Emanuel Claitt that that his testimony against Major Tillery was a lie and the result of police and prosecutorial misconduct, Judge Leon Tucker dismissed Major Tillery's petition as "untimely" without even holding a hearing. Major Tillery appealed that dismissal and the appeal is pending in the Superior Court.
During the decades of imprisonment Tillery has advocated for other prisoners challenging solitary confinement, lack of medical and mental health care and the inhumane conditions of imprisonment. In 1990, he won the lawsuit, Tillery v. Owens, that forced the PA Department of Corrections (DOC) to end double celling (4 men to a small cell) at SCI Pittsburgh, which later resulted in the closing and then "renovation" of that prison.
Three years ago Major Tillery stood up for political prisoner and journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal and demanded prison Superintendent John Kerestes get Mumia to a hospital because "Mumia is dying."  For defending Mumia and advocating for medical treatment for himself and others, prison officials retaliated. Tillery was shipped out of SCI Mahanoy, where Mumia was also held, to maximum security SCI Frackville and then set-up for a prison violation and a disciplinary penalty of months in solitary confinement. See, Messing with Major by Mumia Abu-Jamal. Major Tillery's federal lawsuit against the DOC for that retaliation is being litigated. Major Tillery continues as an advocate for all prisoners. He is fighting to get the DOC to establish a program for elderly prisoners.
Major Tillery Needs Your Help:
Well-known criminal defense attorney Stephen Patrizio represents Major pro bonoin challenging his conviction. More investigation is underway. We can't count on the district attorney's office to make the findings of misconduct against the police detectives and prosecutors who framed Major without continuing to dig up the evidence.
Major Tillery is now 67 years old. He's done hard time, imprisoned for almost 35 years, some 20 years in solitary confinement in max prisons for a crime he did not commit. He recently won hepatitis C treatment, denied to him for a decade by the DOC. He has severe liver problems as well as arthritis and rheumatism, back problems, and a continuing itchy skin rash. Within the past couple of weeks he was diagnosed with an extremely high heartbeat and is getting treatment.
Major Tillery does not want to die in prison. He and his family, daughters, sons and grandchildren are fighting to get him home. The newly filed petition for Conviction Review to the Philadelphia District Attorney's office lays out the evidence Major Tillery has uncovered, evidence suppressed by the prosecution through all these years he has been imprisoned and brought legal challenges into court. It is time for the District Attorney's to act on the fact that Major Tillery is innocent and was framed by police detectives and prosecutors who manufactured the evidence to convict him. Major Tillery's conviction should be vacated and he should be freed.

Major Tillery and family

    Financial Support—Tillery's investigation is ongoing. He badly needs funds to fight for his freedom.
    Go to JPay.com;
    code: Major Tillery AM9786 PADOC

    Tell Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner:
    The Conviction Review Unit should investigate Major Tillery's case. He is innocent. The only evidence at trial was from lying jail house informants who now admit it was false.
    Call: 215-686-8000 or

    Write to:
    Security Processing Center
    Major Tillery AM 9786
    268 Bricker Road
    Bellefonte, PA 16823
    For More Information, Go To: JusticeForMajorTillery.org
    Kamilah Iddeen (717) 379-9009, Kamilah29@yahoo.com
    Rachel Wolkenstein (917) 689-4009, RachelWolkenstein@gmail.com




    On Monday March 4th, 2019 Leonard Peltier was advised that his request for a transfer had been unceremoniously denied by the United States Bureau of Prisons.

    The International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee appreciates and thanks the large number of his supporters who took the time to write, call, email, or fax the BOP in support of Leonard's request for a transfer.
    Those of us who have been supporting Leonard's freedom for a number of years are disappointed but resolute to continue pushing for his freedom and until that day, to continue to push for his transfer to be closer to his relatives and the Indigenous Nations who support him.
    44 years is too damn long for an innocent man to be locked up. How can his co-defendants be innocent on the grounds of self-defense but Leonard remains in prison? The time is now for all of us to dig deep and do what we can and what we must to secure freedom for Leonard Peltier before it's too late.
    We need the support of all of you now, more than ever. The ILPDC plans to appeal this denial of his transfer to be closer to his family. We plan to demand he receive appropriate medical care, and to continue to uncover and utilize every legal mechanism to secure his release. To do these things we need money to support the legal work.
    Land of the Brave postcard-page-0

    Please call the ILPDC National office or email us for a copy of the postcard you can send to the White House. We need your help to ask President Trump for Leonard's freedom.

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    Free Leonard Peltier!

    Art by Leonard Peltier
    Write to:
    Leonard Peltier 89637-132
    USP Coleman 1,  P.O. Box 1033
    Coleman, FL 33521



    Working people are helping to feed the poor hungry corporations! 
    Charity for the Wealthy!





    1) Two Virginia Police Officers Are Fired Amid Allegations of Links to White Nationalists
    By Karen Zraick, April 18, 2019

    Sgt. Robert A. Stamm of the Virginia Division of Capitol Police was fired this week after an investigation into a report that he had ties to white nationalists.CreditCreditVirginia Capital Police

    Two Virginia police officers who worked for different agencies were fired this week after an anti-fascist group linked them to white nationalist organizations.
    The first case involved Sgt. Robert A. Stamm of the Virginia Division of Capitol Police, who had been assigned to protests calling on Gov. Ralph Northam to resign over a racist yearbook photo that surfaced in February.
    Anti-Fascists of the Seven Hills, which said it was based in Richmond, Va., wrote online in February that Sergeant Stamm came to its attention because he had a large Band-Aid covering his neck while patrolling. The group found photos on social media of Sergeant Stamm with tattoos, flags and banners that used white supremacist symbols and images, it said in a blog post.
    It also said he was linked to the Asatru Folk Assembly, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has described as an extremist group that invokes pre-Christian Nordic spirituality. In 2015, the F.B.I. foiled a plotby men it described as followers of an extremist variant of the Asatru faith to attack black churches and synagogues in the Chesterfield area.

    Sergeant Stamm was suspended after the group published its post. On Wednesday, Col. Anthony S. Pike, the Capitol Police chief, announced in a statement that Sergeant Stamm had been "separated from his employment." He did not explain what had led to the firing.
    In Facebook messages on Thursday night, Mr. Stamm said that he was discriminated against for his Asatru religion.
    "My religion is not politics, it is faith," he wrote. "My constitutional rights were violated. Period."
    In the second case, Daniel Morley, a school resource officer with the Chesterfield County Police Department, was fired Thursday following an investigation into allegations that he was affiliated with the group Identity Evropa, also known as the American Identity Movement. Members of that group helped plan the 2017 "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Va., according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
    Antifa Seven Hills had identified Mr. Morley as a "pledge coordinator" for the group, which recruits on college campuses and elsewhere. Antifa said that Mr. Morley was responsible "for guiding new applicants through the vetting process" and had been a member since 2017.

    Mr. Morley was suspended in March while the department investigated the claims. Col. Jeffrey S. Katz, the police chief, wrote on social mediaon Thursday that investigators had authenticated the online postings and activities.
    "The views espoused by and attributed to Mr. Morley violate county and departmental policy and our organizational values; his continued employment is antithetical to the expectations of our personnel and those we serve," he wrote.
    The anti-fascist group also alleged that Mr. Stamm and Mr. Morley knew each other, and in March it posted what it said was a photo of the two together.
    Efforts to Mr. Morley on Thursday night were unsuccessful.

     Jack Begg contributed research.


    2) Black Columbia Student's Confrontation With Security Becomes Flashpoint Over Racism on Campus
    A video of Alexander McNab being pinned down by security officers is adding to a broader conversation about how students of color are treated at one of the nation's most prominent universities.
    By Sharon Ottoman, April 18, 2019

    Alexander McNab, 23, said he hoped that his encounter with campus security officers would start a conversation about racial bias at Barnard College and Columbia University.CreditCreditJosé Alvarado Jr. for The New York Times

    Alexander McNab, a black Columbia University senior, was walking through the gates of Barnard College on his way to the library at about 11:30 p.m. last Thursday. 
    He heard a voice calling out "Hello, Sir," repeatedly, after he had entered the gates. He figured it was a school public safety officer, wanting to see his school ID. 
    Mr. McNab had been stopped several times around campus recently — when students wouldn't normally be asked to show ID, he said — and he thought to himself, "not this time," and kept walking.

    Within a few minutes, Mr. McNab was being forcibly pinned down by public safety officers inside the library. And within 24 hours, a video of the encounter had gone viral, drawing accusations of racial profiling and adding to a broader conversation about how students of color are treated at one of the country's most prominent universities.

    The incident has highlighted growing tensions between students, the administration and public safety officers, and has led to several protests and listening groups over the past week. A petition stating that acts of harassment by Barnard and Columbia public safety officers against people of color are daily occurrences has been signed by dozens of student groups, 15 professors and some 2,000 individuals. 
    In an interview, Mr. McNab said he "intended this to be a communicative act" and he had decided to keep walking to draw attention to how students of color seemed to be asked to show their IDs more often than white students. 
    "What I realized," he added, "is every time I show my ID when I'm asked, the conversation about this remains silent."
    But, he said, he did not intend for the encounter become physical: "Neither my words nor my body at any point connoted any form of threat to them."
    On Friday, the five officers and their supervisor were placed on paid administrative leave by Barnard and the school said it had hired an independent firm to investigate the encounter. Barnard, a women's college that is part of Columbia but has its own administration and public safety department, released a statement, calling the incident "unfortunate." Columbia University's three undergraduate deans sent a note to students decrying racism and calling the incident "disturbing."

    On Sunday, Sian Leah Beilock, Barnard's president, went further, sending a letter to the school's community noting she understood there was "a pervasive sense that racial bias remains pernicious on our campus," and apologizing to Mr. McNab. She has since met with him to apologize in person.
    "The confrontation," she wrote in her letter, "puts into stark relief what some members of the Barnard College community, particularly people of color, have been saying about their relationship with the Office of Public Safety and the lack of trust they have in it to keep them safe."
    Mr. McNab, 23, an anthropology student, said in the interview that he had been asked to show his ID three other times in recent months. Each time, he said, he felt he was stopped because of his race and appearance, but had complied. 
    One time, a group of officers approached him in a hallway at Barnard, while he was taking a break from his Afrobeats dance practice. He was barefoot, because he dances barefoot. They asked to see his ID, he said, and told him there was a problem with homeless people sleeping at the college.

    Several students said black students having to prove their identity more than other students was an ongoing issue at the university. 
    "This is not an isolated incident, and we urge the school to not consider it as such," Robrenisha Williams, 22, a Barnard senior and vice president of the Barnard Organization of Soul Sisters, said on Tuesday.

    Tirzah Anderson, 18, who is a representative on the Barnard student government, said she hears "pretty often" from students of color that public safety officers asked for ID when they were walking through campus, "even though they just saw other people walk by and they weren't asked."
    Mr. McNab said on Tuesday that he knew there was a rule that students were supposed to show ID entering Barnard's campus after 11 p.m., but he wasn't aware it was being enforced, because it often was not. The college's campus is directly across from Columbia, just south of Harlem.
    Hungry after dance practice, he said he had checked a Facebook pagewhere students posted when there was food leftover from school events. He said had already entered the Millstein Center, which houses the library, greeted some of the students and had started putting Indian food on a plate, when several public safety officers rushed in.
    When asked to show ID by the officers, Mr. McNab said he raised his voice so the other students could hear, and then said no, telling them this was the third time he had been asked recently. When asked to leave the building, he also refused, saying he was a student who had a right to be there; Columbia students are allowed to use Barnard facilities.
    A Barnard spokeswoman said that when Mr. McNab had failed to show his ID at the front gate, the officer had called in a "10-13," meaning he needed immediate assistance. 
    "Coupled with the 10-13 call, Mr. McNab's continued refusal to stop and show his ID once inside a building filled with students was alarming," said Rochelle Ritchie, the Barnard spokeswoman.
    Mr. McNab said he was not asked for ID at the front gate. 
    The video of the encounter begins as the officers start to get physical, holding Mr. McNab down and then pinning him against a counter.

    "You have no right to touch me, take your hands off me," Mr. McNab is heard saying.
    After about 30 seconds, one of the officers relaxes his grip. Mr. McNab, his clothing askew, then agrees to show them his ID and takes it out of his wallet.
    The officer then says he will hold on to his ID to verify if he is an active student. After the filming ends, the ID was returned, and Mr. McNab said he was permitted to stay on campus and get food. 
    Ms. Ritchie said its public safety officers "are trained to not engage in physical contact unless they encounter someone who poses a direct threat to themselves or others." She added that "at the time that physical contact was made, our officers were not aware that Mr. McNab was a Columbia University student." 
    Daria Forde, 21, a junior at Barnard who witnessed the confrontation on Thursday night, questioned the officers' response. "Public Safety should have just approached him with one officer. I don't think it needed to be six, and I don't think he needed to be pinned down at all. The fact that they thought he was actually a threat is very telling."
    "There are people who criticize him and say: He did it on purpose, why didn't he just show his ID?" she added. "But there are students who wouldn't have had that same treatment that he did." 
    Ms. Forde, who appears in a second video where a security officer tells Ms. Forde to "relax" when she objects to his assertion that Mr. McNab had run into the building, said she had black friends who had been asked for ID while sitting at night on the library steps where students often congregate. 
    "I think as black students," she said, "we are heavily racialized and we are not seen as people who are supposed to be here."


    3) Billionaires face 'yellow vest' scorn over Notre-Dame pledges
    By James Rothwell and Henry Samuel, April 18, 2019
    Anti-government protesters at the Place de la Republique Square during yellow-vest protests in Paris.
    Anti-government protesters at the Place de la Republique Square during yellow-vest protests in Paris CREDIT: ARINA LEBEDEVA/TASS

    Billionaire French tycoons faced a mounting backlash on Wednesday over tax breaks on their huge donations to restore Notre-Dame, as Yellow Vest protestors said the hundreds of millions of euros should be spent on tackling France's social problems.
    The contributions to the cathedral's renovation approached €900 million (£780m) on Wednesday as the owners of Chanel and Dior stepped forward with donations along with Disney and the technology giant Apple.
    However, the outpouring of cash has angered supporters of France's Yellow Vest movement, which noted that President Emmanuel Macron's "rich friends" stood to receive major tax breaks linked to donations in support of the public good and restoring national treasures. 

    They also pointed out that the sudden willingness of wealthy businesses to turn out their pockets showed that money was available to boost the French government's coffers.
    French corporations are eligible for a 60-percent tax rebate on cultural donations.  "There is growing anger on social media over the inertia of big corporations over social misery while they are showing themselves capable of mobilising a crazy amount of cash overnight for Notre Dame," said Ingrid Levavasseur, one of the founding members of the Yellow Vests.
    Benjamin Cauchy, a spokesman for the Yellow Vests, added: "It's fine that the oligarchy is paying for Notre Dame. Good consciences do not hide misery and austerity."
    The Yellow Vests say they will be holding more demonstrations against Mr Macron this Saturday despite the Notre-Dame catastrophe. 
    Previous protests have led to violent clashes on the streets of French towns and cities with riot police.
    Stung by such criticism, Francois-Henri Pinault, the billionaire CEO of the Kering luxury goods empire, announced he would forfeit his rebate on the €100m he has pledged.
    "The donation for Notre-Dame of Paris will not be the object of any tax deduction. Indeed, the Pinault family considers that it is out of the question to make French taxpayers shoulder the burden," he said in a statement.
    The government said the 60 per cent tax break would remain unchanged but increased the rebate to 75 percent on individual donations for Notre-Dame of up to €1,000. 
    The French president has called the fire an opportunity for the nation to show unity and that now is "not a time for politics."
    "It is up to us to convert this disaster into an opportunity to come together, having deeply reflected on what we have been and what we have to be and become better than we are. It is up to us to find the thread of our national project," he said in a television address earlier this week.  

    4) Life on Mars Should Not Look This Appealing
    Before we set our sights on other planets, let's take better care of Earth.
    By Maeve Higgins, April 21, 2019

    "Mars Base 1", a project by the company C-Space in China's Gobi Desert, is a Mars base simulator.CreditCreditWang Zhao/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

    A couple of years ago, I was a guest on a comedy and science panel discussion — a combination that works well because when you laugh your mouth opens, allowing information to float freely in to your head. We were talking about the possibility of travel to Mars. The conversation had turned to how moving to Mars would be useful if and when we wreck our own planet.
    James L. Green, a physicist who has since become the chief scientist at NASA, said the reason he wants to send humans to Mars is to colonize it: "As explorers, as Americans, this is what we do." The audience cheered, the atmosphere was jubilant, and that's when something inside me flinched a little.
    I've been trying to work out why. Obviously, there's the whole colonialism thing, which has historically been not that great for many of us. Also, there's the enormous resources we'd need to get to Mars. So far, only Matt Damon has made it safely there. Mainly though, I balked at the thought of us marauding around the solar system instead of simply getting a hold of ourselves back here on Earth and working to prevent our own extinction.

    Ghosting, in modern dating parlance, is when your beloved vanishes without explanation, having taken what he or she needed. Rhiana Gunn-Wright, whose expertise helped shape the Green New Deal, says that humans are ghosting the planet. The joke is a perfect analogy: We're in this fabulous life-giving relationship with Earth, this ideal planet, but we're messing her around. We're using her and we're not answering her calls, and planning on leaving her for a cooler planet as soon as we figure out how.

    The irony is that Earth is probably better off without us, and can certainly carry on long after we are gone. I can see her twirling into the future now, flaunting her revenge body made of lava and poisonous tides, completely inhospitable to us poor clowns. Then we'll be sorry. Well, we'll be dead, but I was raised Irish Catholic, so I believe it's possible to feel guilt well into the afterlife.
    Mars is a fantasy, a faraway and icy mistress beckoning us to leave this mess we've made and take our oxygen-starved chances with her. It is a seductive distraction from what ails us, not a viable solution. Government agencies from countries around the world, as well as billionaires and futurists, say that travel to Mars is an insurance policy, that they're working on a "planet B," but I don't buy that. Not just because I can't afford it. When we break something, we need to fix it, or at least try to fix it. 
    What can any one person do? Scolding does come naturally to my thin lips, and I love to be right. But while I feel good after making someone feel bad — "Oh. Hmm. Is that a single-use plastic bottle?" — nothing is ever that simple. 
    For the past year I've been co-hosting a podcast on the theme of climate justice, and I've learned a lot. Not one of the scientists or farmers or Native American activists I've spoken to has taken me aside and said "Listen — Maeve the Martian has a nice ring to it, get on up there girl!" 
    Rather, I've learned that the way to prevent further climate catastrophe is much closer to home: personal behavior change combined with collective action and political progress. A conversation with Anne Poelina helped teach me that. She is a researcher at the University of Notre Dame Australia, a member of the Nyikina indigenous community, and what is known as a traditional owner from the lower Fitzroy River. Her people and lands have faced enormous threats throughout the years, but she never left to pursue opportunity elsewhere. She has worked consistently and cheerfully to connect traditional ecological knowledge to Western science.

    Perhaps, like me, you've felt terrified and paralyzed by this existential threat, but I've learned that despair is actually a luxury. Most of us can't plan an escape. We're also not willing to accept a dystopian future.
    The trip to Mars will take around nine months, assuming you make it through the meteors and cosmic radiation. You'd then have to figure out how to land, and that's when the work would truly begin: creating entirely new conditions that could allow you to survive. Even thinking about it a tiny bit seriously is an enormous feat of imagination and ingenuity, and such a wasted opportunity to use that same imagination and ingenuity right here on Earth, right now, when we need it so desperately. 
    Ghosting the planet is the worst thing we could do to ourselves. It's difficult to fully love the one you're with, though, if you don't see a future together. So I'm imagining a beautiful future for us and this planet, the happiest of marriages with coral and forests and honeybees all around for eternity. There will be no tut-tutting about where your takeout boxes end up because we'll have all calmed down and traveled back to a time when we sit around for hours and eat from real plates. We'll reminisce about that time we almost ruined everything but we're fine again now and, actually, aren't the butterflies getting to be a little much?
    This Earth Day, if what we are doing to our planet breaks your heart, let it. Just make sure it breaks open wide enough to allow hope in.
    Maeve Higgins is the author of "Maeve in America: Essays by a Girl From Somewhere Else" and a contributing opinion writer.

    5) The Giants at the Heart of the Opioid Crisis
    By Danny HakimWilliam K. Rashbaum and Roni Caryn Rabin, April 22, 2019

    The headquarters of McKesson Corporation, the drug distributing giant, in San Francisco.CreditCreditAnastasiia Sapon for The New York Times
    There are the Sacklers, the family that controls Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin. There are the doctors who ran pill mills, and the rogue pharmacists who churned out opioid orders by the thousands.
    But the daunting financial muscle that has driven the spread of prescription opioids in the United States comes from the distributors — companies that act as middlemen, trucking medications of all kinds from vast warehouses to hospitals, clinics and drugstores.
    The industry's giants, Cardinal Health, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen, are all among the 15 largest American companiesby revenue. Together, they distribute more than 90 percent of the nation's drug and medical supplies.

    New civil suits from the attorneys general in New YorkVermont and Washington State accuse distributors of brazenly devising systems to evade regulators. They allege that the companies warned many pharmacies at risk of being reported to the Drug Enforcement Administration, helped others to increase and circumvent limits on how many opioids they were allowed to buy, and often gave advance notice on the rare occasions they performed audits.

    Three-fourths of prescriptions at a Queens pharmacy supplied by Amerisource were written by doctors who were later indicted or convicted, the New York complaint said. For more than five years, Cardinal shipped to a pharmacy with the highest oxycodone volume in Suffolk County, N.Y., despite continually flagging its orders as suspicious. McKesson kept shipping to two pharmacies six years after learning that they had been filling prescriptions from doctors who were likely engaging in crimes. The shipments stopped only last year, after the doctors were indicted.
    "How do the C.E.O.s of these companies sleep at night?" Bob Ferguson, Washington's attorney general, said at a recent news conference.
    Executives of drug distribution companies testified before a House hearing on the opioid crisis in May 2018. From left, George Barrett of Cardinal Health; Dr. Joseph Mastandrea of Miami-Luken Inc.; John Hammergren of McKesson; J. Christopher Smith of H.D. Smith Wholesale Drug Company; and Steven Collis of AmerisourceBergen Corporation.CreditAlex Brandon/Associated Press

    Now, in what could be a test case, the United States attorney's office for the Southern District of New York and the D.E.A. are wrapping up an investigation that appears likely to result in the first criminal case involving a major opioid distributor, Rochester Drug Cooperative, one of the 10 largest, people familiar with the matter said. The investigation began with an examination of possible crimes including wire and mail fraud and various drug violations, according to three people with knowledge of a federal grand jury subpoena served on Rochester in 2017, but it remains unclear what charges might be brought.
    The state lawsuits also present evidence that government at all levels has been ineffective at policing the distributors. For the first decade of the crisis, the three largest companies did not even have meaningful programs to monitor suspicious orders, despite being required by federal law to track narcotics and to look out for spikes in orders and cash payments. Since then they have promised and failed to build robust systems to prevent widespread opioid abuse.The distributors rebutted the new allegations.
    "We reject the state's suggestion that our employees circumvented safeguards to increase sales," Kristin Chasen, a spokeswoman for McKesson, said in a statement. Cardinal, in its statement, said it had "developed and implemented a constantly adaptive and rigorous system to combat controlled substance diversion."
    Amerisource put the onus on the D.E.A., which it said receives data on all orders shipped and notifications of suspicious ones. "It defies common sense for distributors such as AmerisourceBergen to be singled out," the company said in a statement.
    In the two decades since OxyContin was introduced in 1996, there have been nearly 218,000 overdose deaths related to prescription opioids, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While overdose deaths continue to rise, the number of opioid prescriptions has been falling since 2012.
    But that is mostly because of a classification change that made drugs like Vicodin (which mix opioids with milder drugs) Schedule II narcotics, which placed more restrictions on prescribing them. Oxycodone, the powerful narcotic that is the main ingredient in OxyContin, was already a Schedule II drug and its sales have continued to rise, according to figures compiled by Iqvia, a health data provider.
    The three largest distributors sold 1.6 billion oxycodone pills in New York alone between 2010 and 2018. It was distributors, said the office of Attorney General Letitia James of New York, who "jammed open the floodgates."
    A page from the complaint filed by the New York attorney general's office.
    In 2017, after years of allegedly flouting legal requirements to monitor suspicious orders of opioids, McKesson agreed to a $150 million settlement with the Justice Department, a record for a distributor.

    For most businesses, $150 million would be a lot of money. At McKesson, it was less than the $159 million retirement package the company granted its longtime chief executive, John H. Hammergren, in 2013. (After a public backlash — a Forbes headline asked if it was "The World's Most Outrageous Pension Deal?" — the company later reducedthe package to $114 million.)
    It was among a string of settlements, and others came far cheaper.
    In 2008, McKesson, which supplies Walmart, paid $13.25 million and Cardinal, the main CVS supplier, paid $34 million to settle federal claims that they had been filling suspicious orders.
    Before 2007, only two of Cardinal's roughly 40,000 employees were dedicated to addressing the problem, according to court filings. One McKesson compliance officer complained that asking for resources was like "asking for a Ferrari," according to New York's lawsuit.
    More settlements followed, but little changed. Cardinal paid a total of $64 million in settlements with the Justice Department in 2012, 2016 and 2017, with similar agreements struck by its rivals. The policing of opioid sales continued to be largely delegated by law to the distributors.
    The companies created order volume thresholds for different drugs that would trigger reporting to the D.E.A., but some were so lofty that they resulted in relatively few such reports, the complaints said.
    Or they worked around them. In one industry practice, known as "cutting," Cardinal canceled pharmacy orders "that exceeded a threshold" and allowed "a subsequent, often smaller order," Vermont's complaint said.

    Brandi Martin, a Cardinal spokeswoman, said that "cut orders are reported to the D.E.A." and were not "a tactic to avoid reporting."

    Egregious moves spurred limited responses, according to the complaints. McKesson allowed one pharmacy a fivefold oxycodone increase over six months, then refused another request for an 80 percent increase. The company continued shipping to the pharmacy anyway, even after a rival stopped.
    McKesson, in its statement, said it was continuing "to enhance and evolve" its compliance efforts.
    By last year, executives were summoned by Congress. Both Mr. Hammergren, of McKesson, and George Barrett, the executive chairman of Cardinal at the time and its former chief executive, played down their roles in the supply chain.
    During the hearings, Representative Kathy Castor, a Florida Democrat, picked out a single drugstore in rural West Virginia that had been swamped with opioids — 4,000 pills a day at one point from Cardinal, 5,000 from McKesson.
    "Don't you take responsibility?" she asked, adding, "You saw that paying the penalties on your settlement agreements was a cost worth paying because you were making so much money?"
    "I wish we had moved earlier to stop shipping to that pharmacy," Mr. Barrett said at the hearing. Mr. Hammergren echoed that, saying, "I would have liked to have made a decision faster."
    Ms. Castor was not satisfied. "This was the opposite of due diligence," she said.
    There was little enthusiasm for policing opioids at Rochester Drug Cooperative, New York's complaint alleges.

    For years, only two people at Rochester were assigned to compliance, and one had other responsibilities. Amid discussions about hiring a compliance consultant, Laurence F. Doud III wrote in an email when he was the company's chief executive that it was "making me ill as to how much this is going to cost."
    Mr. Doud is now suing Rochester, claiming wrongful termination and contending it conspired to blame him for conduct that the D.E.A. and federal prosecutors in New York are investigating in the criminal inquiry. (His suit was previously reported by The Democrat and Chronicle of the city of Rochester.) The current chief executive, Joseph Brennan, is on leave.
    Rochester is a cooperative of pharmacies, so monitoring suspicious orders meant monitoring its own members. But it had practices that were similar to those of its larger rivals. Rochester's upper limits on how many pills pharmacies could buy were "invariably so high that customers could not reach them unless their order volumes tripled from their historical purchasing patterns, rendering the system virtually useless," New York alleges.
    Sales were brisk. Between 2010 and 2018, Rochester sold 143 million oxycodone pills in New York.
    The company added a Queens pharmacy with numerous cash buyers as a customer in 2016. The pharmacy was also filling prescriptions from out-of-state doctors and one who had been arrested over oxycodone prescribing practices, the complaint says.
    In 2013, Rochester continued shipping to a pharmacy run by a pediatrician who had surfaced in headlines as running a pill mill, according to the complaint. In an email, one Rochester consultant called the situation "a stick of dynamite waiting for the D.E.A. to light the fuse." The shipments continued.
    In a $360,000 settlement in 2015, Rochester admitted that it had failed to report thousands of opioid transactions over five years. The subsequent criminal inquiry sought records including loans and lines of credit that Rochester had extended to its customers, according to people with knowledge of the 2017 subpoena.

    Criminal charges are soon expected, with the company and current and former executives under scrutiny, the three people familiar with the matter said. They, like those with knowledge of the subpoena, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the developing investigation. Such a prosecution would appear to be the first time a major distributor has been held criminally responsible in connection with opioids.

    The D.E.A. and the office of Geoffrey S. Berman, United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, declined to comment on the inquiry.
    Jeff Eller, a Rochester spokesman, declined to answer specific questions, citing the investigation, but he said that Rochester's compliance department is more than six times larger than it was in 2013 and that the company "will continue to make a significant investment."
    Louis Crisafi's opioid of choice was Actiq, a powerful fentanyl lollipop.
    He allegedly left wrappers around the office, which was a bad idea, since he was a senior investigator for the Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, a branch of the New York State Department of Health that monitors opioid sales.
    Mr. Crisafi's fentanyl use was noticed at work by several other investigators and was among the topics of a 2008 report issued by the state inspector general that raised concerns about the bureau, where many investigators reported to a pharmacist. (Mr. Crisafi, who left the bureau at the time, said he had a legal prescription and never used opioids on the job.)
    States have had trouble policing opioid use — even among their own. Like similar agencies elsewhere, the New York narcotics bureau was ill-equipped, with fewer than 20 investigators overseeing distributors and manufacturers, along with the state's 5,586 pharmacies and more than 120,000 prescribers.

    Kenneth Post, a former director of the bureau, said it does not belong in the Health Department, which has close ties with health care providers.
    "They're policing their own, and it doesn't work," said Mr. Post, who left the agency in 2010. The Health Department called him a "disgruntled former employee."
    A 2012 audit by the state Comptroller's Office found that the bureau had overlooked hundreds of thousands of flawed opioid prescriptions over two years.
    The Health Department said in a statement that the bureau had only "limited investigatory" power, deflecting responsibility "to federal, state and local law enforcement."
    At the federal level, the D.E.A. does not closely monitor the millions of transactions involving controlled substances, said Paul T. Farrell, a lawyer who represents municipalities in lawsuits against drugmakers.
    "The D.E.A. is not the T.S.A., which is responsible for looking at every passenger going through and screening out those who are threats," he said, referring to the Transportation Security Administration. Instead, he said that "once a tip is made," the D.E.A. will "reconstruct what actually happened."

    In a statement, the D.E.A. said investigations are presented to federal prosecutors, who choose "the appropriate litigation strategy."
    Distributors have marshaled lobbyists, contributing $1.5 million to sponsors and co-sponsors of a 2016 law thwarting the D.E.A.'s efforts to freeze suspicious drug shipments.
    Distributors have also lined up lobbyists with ties to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, where lawmakers included $100 million in opioid taxes or surcharges in two consecutive budgets, though last year's measure is tied up in court. They have hired two firms founded or co-founded by onetime aides to former Gov. Mario M. Cuomo as well as Mercury Group, whose executives include former advisers to the current governor.
    For now, distributors remain largely in control.
    "It's not a good system," said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, an addiction expert. "It's the fox guarding the henhouse."


    6) A Leading Cause for Wrongful Convictions: Experts Overstating Forensic Results
    These three men spent decades in prison as a result of statistical exaggerations. They were among 150 men and women released from prison after their wrongful convictions were overturned in 2018.
    By Heather Murphy, April 20, 2019

    In 1987, a forensic expert testified that there was a less than one in 10,000 chance that these hairs came from the same person. The problem? Those odds were plucked from thin air.CreditCreditVirginia Journal of Criminal Law

    More than 150 men and women in American prisons were exonerated in 2018, according to a recent report by a registry that tracks wrongful convictions. Combined, these individuals spent more than 1,600 years in prison, a record for the database, which has data back to 1989. 
    The leading culprit in convicting innocent people was official misconduct, according to the report by the National Registry of Exonerations. Nearly one third of these cases involved a police corruption scheme in Chicago through which a police officer framed individuals on drug charges. 
    Another prominent factor in wrongful convictions across the country was misleading forensic evidence. A close look at these cases reveals how experts in fields like hair analysis, bite marks and DNA analysis have used exaggerated statistical claims to bolster unscientific assertions. 

    Once experts meet the qualifications to take the stand in a courtroom, there are few limits on the words that come out of their mouths.

    "An expert can say whatever they want," said Simon Cole, the director of the registry and a professor of Criminology, Law and Society at UC -Irvine.
    That includes offering up invented odds like "one in a million" or "1 in 129,600," the registry says. 
    "A lot of the problem with forensic testimony is that the diagnosticity is overstated," said Barbara O'Brien, a professor at the Michigan State University College of Law and author of the report. A hair sample at the crime scene that resembles a suspect's hair "gets dressed up with this scientific certainty that isn't justified," she said.
    Here are three examples from the study's case files. 
    In 2013, the F.B.I. reported that testimony asserting that microscopic hair comparison could produce a "match" between two hairs was scientifically invalid.
    Four years later, a man named Glenn Payne was still grappling with the consequences of three sets of misleading odds. In 1990, when he was 28, he was charged with sexually abusing his 2-year-old neighbor. Upon arrest, Mr. Payne was asked to disrobe. A hair was left behind on a sheet of butcher paper. Investigators located a second hair on a tablecloth draped over the girl.

    In court, a lab analyst testified that the hair on the butcher paper had a 1 in 2,700 chance of matching someone other than the victim, and the hair on the tablecloth had a 1 in 48 chance of belonging to someone other than Mr. Payne. He then multiplied these figures together to get a "1 in 129,600" chance of anything other than a random occurrence. 
    In 2017, lawyers who were reinvestigating the case reached out to the analyst. He acknowledged that the statistical evidence was invalid. He said he should have indicated "that the hair sample found on the defendant could have come from the victim, and the hair sample found on the tablecloth used to cover the victim could have come from the defendant." 
    A new medical report also suggested that the charges were a product of a misunderstanding. The little girl wasn't suffering from abuse, it concluded: She had a strep infection.
    Ms. O'Brien said bite mark analysis was even more bogus than hair comparisons. Often you can't even tell if a wound is a bite mark, she said. "It doesn't even get past the barest suggestion of scientific reality."
    This pseudoscience cost Steven Chaney decades of his life. In 1987, Mr. Chaney was charged with murdering a couple who sold him drugs. 
    At trial, a medical consultant testified that he'd compared a wax model of Mr. Chaney's mouth to a mark on the male victim's arm. Mr. Chaney's upper and lower arches "matched" the bite, he said, adding that "only one in a million" people could have made that impression.
    In 2018, an appeals judge concluded that "scientific knowledge underlying the field of bite mark comparisons has evolved" since Chaney's trial "in a way that contradicts the scientific evidence relied on by the State at trial."

    Though this was an extreme example, Mr. Cole said, exaggerated odds are common. "Often they are just saying this person is the source of the bite mark or it's practically impossible that they are not the source of the bite mark," he said. 
    He remains concerned that, even though this type of analysis has been widely disavowed by forensic scientists, "not one court in the entire United States has said that bite mark evidence shouldn't be admissible in court."
    DNA evidence analysis continues to be far more scientifically respected than the older methods of matching hair samples and bite marks, but the case of Mayer Herskovic is a reminder of how testimony about genetic odds can be misleading in court.
    In 2013, as a group of men was attacking a victim, an assailant grabbed the victim's shoe and flung it onto a nearby roof. The genetic sample collected from the shoe was too small to be useful. 
    But the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in New York had developed software that it claimed could amplify samples. At trial, an expert testified that the probability that the shoe sample contained Mr. Herskovic's DNA was 133 times greater than the likelihood that it came from an unknown person.
    He was convicted. Two years later, a higher court concluded that the expert witness had oversold this newfangled technique. Mr. Herskovic was exonerated. And the medical examiner's office abandoned the amplification tool.

    Heather Murphy is a science reporter. She writes about the intersection of technology and our genes and how bio-tech innovations affect the way we live.


    7) Judge Upholds Conviction in Karina Vetrano's Murder, Despite Lone Juror's Claim It Was Tainted
    One juror accused other jurors of misconduct in the trial of the man convicted of killing Ms. Vetrano, whose body was found in a Queens park.
    By Jan Ransom, April 21, 2019

    The sentencing of Chanel Lewis, 22, who faces life without parole, is scheduled for Tuesday after his conviction was upheld.CreditCreditPool photo by Charles Eckert/EPA, via Shutterstock

    It took only five hours for a jury to convict a Brooklyn man this month in the high-profile slaying of Karina Vetrano, whose badly beaten body was found partially clothed in a Queens park after she had gone out for a late-afternoon jog.
    Then one of the jurors in the case came forward to say he was improperly pressured to convict the defendant, Chanel Lewis, of first-degree murder and sexual abuse. Based on the juror's sworn statement, Mr. Lewis's defense lawyers accused other jurors of misconduct and asked the judge to throw out the verdict.
    On Monday, the judge rejected the request for a new trial after a highly unusual two-hour hearing in which three jurors testified about their deliberations. "Motion denied," Justice Michael B. Aloise said, without explaining his reasoning.

    Mr. Lewis is scheduled to be sentenced on Tuesday morning. He faces life in prison without parole. He confessed to beating Ms. Vetrano, and traces of his DNA were found on her body. The defense argued his confession was coerced and the DNA evidence was unreliable.

    Christopher Gooley, the juror who had come forward, said he was the final holdout against finding Mr. Lewis guilty and had accused other jurors of violating the judge's orders not to discuss the case before deliberations. He said that on the second day of the trial, after Ms. Vetrano's parents had testified, the foreman told him that his mind was made up.
    In an interview, Mr. Gooley said he had deep misgivings about the verdict and still harbors doubts about Mr. Lewis's guilt. He spoke to The New York Times on Saturday, and the newspaper granted him anonymity until his name was revealed in open court.

    "This is bigger than Chanel Lewis," he said on Saturday. "I'm standing up to the system. Showing people what the inside of a jury room is really like."
    The allegations were an unexpected coda in a case that had already become embroiled in a broader debate over police conduct in the investigation into the killing of Ms. Vetrano, 30, in August 2016.

    The first trial of Mr. Lewis ended in a hung jury in November, after some jurors agreed with the defense theory that the confession was false and the DNA evidence unreliable. 
    Some of Mr. Lewis's supporters have gone so far as to assert, without proof, that DNA evidence was planted in order to convict him. Mr. Lewis's mother, Veta Lewis, has said her son was framed. She has vowed to appeal the verdict.
    In court papers filed by the Queens district attorney's officer, six jurors either denied Mr. Gooley's claims or said they did not recall the incidents he described. 
    Two of them testified in court on Monday and said they did not see other jurors pressure Mr. Gooley. 
    The lead prosecutor, Brad A. Leventhal, argued that the defense "had not made out any claim to disturb this good and valid and fair verdict." Mr. Leventhal also suggested that Mr. Gooley was lying and that he was seeking "15 minutes of fame." 
    But Jenny Cheung, one of Mr. Lewis's lawyers, argued that Mr. Gooley did not have a reason to lie. Most of his allegations had not been denied, she said, and his accounts to the news media were made anonymously, a move that is inconsistent with someone interested in fame, she said.
    Ms. Vetrano's family have said they have no doubt of Mr. Lewis's guilt. On Monday, her father, Philip Vetrano, called the defense's request for a new trial "a joke."

    "Nothing but fools," he said. "All fools."
    After the jury received the case on April 1, deliberations became contentious, Mr. Gooley said. He said he had doubts about Mr. Lewis's guilt, but gave in to the other jurors because he believed that the judge was going to keep the jurors there well into the night until they delivered a guilty verdict. 
    He said he was also dismayed about technical difficulties that prevented the jury from viewing Mr. Lewis's videotaped confession. The two jurors said in court, however, that Mr. Gooley had decided after dinner that he did not need to see the confession again. 
    When the jurors voted to convict Mr. Lewis, it was after 9 p.m. and they had been in the courthouse for about 12 hours. 
    "I was getting flustered, having migraines, and they were serving food from a pizza joint — not the healthiest," Mr. Gooley said. "I felt I needed to get out of there."
    Mr. Gooley said he also felt subtly pressured by Justice Aloise to reach a guilty verdict.

    He said he noticed during the trial that the judge was wearing purple, which he learned was Ms. Vetrano's favorite color, and he believed it was a deliberate show of solidarity with the victim's family. 
    The judge did not respond to requests for comment. 
    Mr. Gooley said he tried to send a note to the judge to find out how long the jury would have to stay that evening, but Brian Morrissey, the foreman, ripped up the message.

    Mr. Morrissey, in an affidavit, said he did not recall making any statements to Mr. Gooley about his opinion before deliberations, nor did he remember ripping up a note. Mr. Morrissey was not called to testify on Monday.
    Mr. Gooley said he told his fellow jurors that he did not believe prosecutors had proven Ms. Vetrano had been sexually abused, and noted the absence of DNA establishing that there had been such an attack. The jurors could convict on the first-degree murder charge only if they also found Mr. Lewis guilty of sexual abuse.
    Mr. Lewis's lawyers said two jurors offered expert opinions about the sexual-abuse evidence based on their own experiences, including with other rape cases, which would have violated the judge's instructions.
    But one of those jurors denied those claims on Monday, while the other acknowledged drawing a comparison between evidence in Mr. Lewis's trial and another case, but said he dropped the subject at another juror's request.
    On Aug. 2, 2016, Ms. Vetrano was killed as she was jogging in Spring Creek Park in the Howard Beach section of Queens. 
    When investigators learned the DNA found on her body belonged to a black man, they sought samples from hundreds of black men who had been arrested in nearby parts of Queens and Brooklyn.
    Detectives focused on Mr. Lewis on the recommendation of a police lieutenant who had seen him on two occasions "acting suspiciously" in Howard Beach, a predominantly white neighborhood.

    Mr. Lewis lived three miles away in East New York, Brooklyn, with his mother and had graduated from a school for students with learning disabilities. 
    The DNA taken from Mr. Lewis matched traces found on Ms. Vetrano's neck and cellphone, and a mixture sample from two of her fingernails. 
    Mr. Lewis initially denied killing Ms. Vetrano, but after 11 hours in police custody, he confessed in a videotaped interview to beating her. At times during the confession, he appeared confused and mumbled through some of his responses.


    8) She Was Fired After Raising Questions About a DNA Test. Now She’s Getting $1 Million.
    Marina Stajic, an official at the Office of Chief Medical Examiner in New York City, raised concerns that the test could lead to wrongful convictions. Her bosses were livid.

    Until her firing in 2015, Marina Stajic had been director of the toxicology laboratory at the city’s Office of Chief Medical Examiner since 1986.CreditCreditRamsay de Give for The New York Times

    Officials from the chief medical examiner’s office in New York City were furious when they heard that Marina Stajic, one of their longest-serving laboratory directors, had openly questioned whether they had sufficiently verified the reliability of a novel form of DNA testing being used in criminal cases.
    Ms. Stajic was concerned that incorrect use of the DNA testing technique could lead to wrongful convictions, she said. But her bosses took her questioning in a different light.
    “Hold me down,” Dr. Barbara Sampson, the city’s medical examiner, wrote in an internal email to a colleague in 2014, when she found out that Ms. Stajic had voted on a state panel to compel the office to release a study proving the technique’s validity. “She sucks,” a lawyer for the office wrote about Ms. Stajic, in another internal email.

    Ms. Stajic, who was fired from the medical examiner’s office about six months later, sued in 2016, claiming she was pushed out in part because she had challenged the controversial DNA testing technique. On Monday, the city agreed to settle her case for $1 million.

    Ms. Stajic, 69, said she felt vindicated. “As a forensic scientist, I am fully aware of the importance of validating each study,” she said in an interview. “My concern was if that study was not done, there could be wrongful convictions. And if the wrong people were convicted, that would mean the wrong person would be walking free.”
    The city and the Office of Chief Medical Examiner said Monday that the settlement did not mean that Ms. Stajic was treated inappropriately. In pretrial papers, its directors had argued that there had been some unrelated concerns over how she managed her laboratory. 
    “The chief medical examiner’s decision was justified and appropriate,” said Nicholas Paolucci, the spokesman for the city’s Law Department. “However, based upon our legal assessment of the case, we determined that a settlement was in the best interest of the city.” 
    Ms. Stajic’s case, even without going to trial, shed light on the inner workings of a city agency that is often assumed to be untouched by political pressure. But the case’s bigger legacy may be one bit of information that her attorneys say came out in the lawsuit: They said it proved the city had never performed the study of the DNA technique as it had claimed. 
    The city argued it had conducted sufficient testing of the technique, known as Low Copy Number DNA testing. “OCME stands behinds its science,” Aja Worthy-Davis, a spokeswoman for the office of the chief medical examiner, said.

    Low Copy Number testing involves very minute amounts of DNA — often lifted from crime scene surfaces, such as weapon handles or bicycle handlebars, that multiple people have touched. The city first adopted this technique in 2006, and it is estimated to have been used in thousands of cases before it was phased out in January 2017. New York was the only crime lab in the country believed to have used the method.
    Barry Scheck, a member of the state forensic panel and a criminal defense attorney known for his litigation on DNA technology, said that at a meeting of the State Commission on Forensic Science in October 2014, he had asked for a study proving that the method had been validated for use on extremely small genetic samples that contained DNA from more than one person, in conditions typical of a crime scene. Such samples were showing up in courtrooms as evidence, he said. 
    The medical examiner’s office had claimed it had done such a study, but refused to release it.
    Ms. Stajic voted with Mr. Scheck and another panel member, also a defense attorney, to compel the release of the study. Even though the measure failed to pass, internal emails among her bosses showed how upset they were by her decision to side against her own agency and with the defense attorneys.
    Ms. Stajic had been director of the toxicology laboratory at the city’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner since 1986. She had served as a governor-appointed commissioner on the state forensics panel since 2004. 
    As a commissioner, she oversaw some of the operations of her own agency, which at times led to tension with her bosses when she spoke her mind. She had also clashed with Dr. Sampson in 2013, when, in her role as commissioner, she had questioned whether the director of another lab at the city medical examiner’s office, Dr. Mechthild Prinz, had been forced out unfairly, her lawsuit said.
    But her vote on the panel in 2014 seemed to be a tipping point. 
    Kevin Mintzer, one of Ms. Stajic’s attorneys, said that scientific data released in pretrial discovery in Ms. Stajic’s case showed that the study voted on during the panel meeting had never actually been done, proving her suspicions right.
    Mr. Scheck said: “Not only is it wrong as a matter of science and good public policy to retaliate against someone who is just voting to disclose a validation study, but now it turns out they never did the study.”

    Timothy Kupferschmid, the chief of laboratories for the medical examiner’s office, wrote in a 2016 memo to his colleagues that Low Copy Number DNA testing was being replaced with a newer technique, without mentioning the controversy over its use or concerns over its reliability. 
    Jessica Goldthwaite, a staff attorney with the DNA Unit of the Legal Aid Society in New York City, said that she believed the city actually stopped using the technique because “the risk of unreliable results was too high.” She noted that there may still be old cases that are using evidence analyzed with the technique.
    “Dr. Stajic did the right thing,” she said. “She stood up for transparency, accountability and science as a member of the commission, but that’s what a good scientist would do. She said look, you are making a claim, show us the data to back it up.”


    9) Is Sex by Deception a Form of Rape?
    Laws are seeking to elucidate the problem of “rape by fraud.”
    By Abby Ellin, April 23, 2019

    Abigail Finney was in her freshman year at Purdue University in Indiana in February 2017 when she fell asleep in her boyfriend’s dorm room. During the night he snuggled up to her in bed in the pitch black, his hand grazing her breast, and they began having sex.
    She soon stopped to go to the bathroom and, when she returned, discovered, to her horror, that it wasn’t her boyfriend who was in bed with her.
    Was it rape?
    Ms. Finney thought so and went to the police, who arrested Donald Grant Ward, the 19-year-old impostor. Mr. Ward, a friend of her boyfriend’s, admitted that he knew he was tricking Ms. Finney; he was charged with two counts of rape, which carries a sentence of three to 16 years.
    The Finney family connected with Joyce Short, an activist and sexual assault survivor who runs ConsentAwareness.net. Ms. Short, 70, wants a universal law stating that consent is “freely given, knowledgeable, and informed agreement.” This may sound obvious, but it’s actually not, because there’s no universal definition of consent in the United States. Each state defines it differently, if it defines it at all.

    “Most people think all types of agreement are consent,” said Ms. Short, who has written three books and done a TedX Talk on the subject. “They’re not.” While Ms. Short does not equate trickery to obtain sex with violent rape, she does believe it should be a Class D or E felony, with jail sentences of one to four years and a fine of $10,000.
    Ms. Short says there is a clear distinction between consent and assent. “Consent means ‘freely given, knowledgeable and informed agreement.’ Assent means ‘agreement on the face of it.’ So, when someone tells you a lie, you can be agreeing on the face of it but you’re not knowledgeable or informed. You can assent and agree, but that doesn’t mean you’re consenting.”
    In Missouri, for example, “Assent does not constitute consent if it is induced by force, duress or deception.” In Tennessee, it’s considered rape if there’s “sexual penetration ... accomplished by fraud.” In Alabama, it’s a misdemeanor, classified as “sexual misconduct,” if consent was obtained by the use of any fraud or artifice.
    In some states — but not Indiana — it’s considered rape by deception if you impersonate a spouse or partner. The same is true for those who abuse medical privilege, like Larry Nassar, the doctor for the American women’s gymnastics team, who had told his patients that touching their genitals was medically necessary. He was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison.
    Failure to disclose being H.I.V. positive is also a criminal offense nationwide, although states vary about not revealing other sexually transmitted diseases, such as herpes.

    “Gender fraud” — when people misrepresent their birth gender to potential sexual mates — likewise remains a gray area. Sean O’Neill was convicted of gender fraud in Colorado in 1996, and five people have been convicted in the United Kingdom since 2012.
    While there are laws to protect against “catfishing,” or online impersonation, they typically focus on identity theft for financial gain or fraud, said Brad Shear, a lawyer in Bethesda, Md., who specializes in sexual privacy and cybersecurity law.
    But what happens when there’s no financial gain? That depends on where you live. In some states, “If you pretend to be a particular person such as Tom Brady and the other person is relying on that claim to consent to sex, that may be deemed a sexual assault,” said Mr. Shear.
    In Iowa in April 2015, Michael Kelso-Christy, who was 23 at the time, created a fake Facebook account under the name of a man who had attended his high school. He messaged several women under this name, and one woman actually met him at her home, where she was waiting for him blindfolded, per his request. They had sex, and he left. Soon after, his Facebook account disappeared and he stopped messaging her. That’s when the woman realized he was an impostor, and called the police.
    After an appeal by Mr. Kelso-Christy, Chief Justice Mark Cady ultimately ruled in the woman’s favor, noting that Mr. Kelso-Christy had denied her the “‘freedom of choice’ that breathes life into our sexual abuse statutes.” He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
    But the law remains fuzzy in many locales.
    Some worry that legislating deception is a slippery slope, because where do you draw the line? Is it deception if a woman dates two men concurrently and they don’t know about each other? Or what if you inject Botox into your crow’s feet and say you are younger than you are, or say “I love you” in order to have sex, but don’t mean it? In 2014, a sexual assault by fraud bill was introduced in New Jersey after a woman was impregnated by a man who falsely claimed to be a British spy. The bill went nowhere.
    In February 2018, Donald Ward was acquitted in the Indiana case and his record expunged. Kirk Freeman, his lawyer, argued that lying and deceit didn’t count as rape. In January of this year, legislators introduced two bills that added a definition of deception to Indiana’s rape law, and also defined any sexual activity as rape if there was no consent. Neither bill was heard.

    That hasn’t stopped other legislators, in other states, from trying to address the issue. As a result of Ms. Finney’s case in Indiana, Representative Mandy Powers Norrell, Democrat of South Carolina, introduced her own rape by fraud bill, which is supposed to be introduced in the next few months.
    “Most states have ‘kidnapping by force’ and ‘kidnapping by fraud’ laws,” said Colin Miller, a professor of law at the University of South Carolina School of Law, in Columbia, who helped draft the bill. “The former is abduction. Kidnapping by fraud is if I tell them a lie to get them to accompany me to a location. It’s the same thing with rape by deception. If someone is pretending to be someone’s boyfriend or spouse and they think they’re consenting to a sexual act with that person, that seems to be rape by fraud in the same way as kidnapping by fraud.”
    Ms. Short is hopeful that the bill will pass. “No one should be tricked, deceived, coerced, violently overwhelmed, drugged or intoxicated into sexual conduct,” she said. “Everyone has the right to determine who they engage with sexually based on both knowledge of the action and clear and informed knowledge of the actor.”
    Abby Ellin is the author of “Duped: Double Lives, False Identities and the Con Man I Almost Married.”

    10) Navy SEALs Were Warned Against Reporting Their Chief for War Crimes
    By Dave Phillipps, April 23, 2019

    Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher during a deployment in Iraq in 2017, in a photo provided by his lawyer.

    Stabbing a defenseless teenage captive to death. Picking off a school-age girl and an old man from a sniper’s roost. Indiscriminately spraying neighborhoods with rockets and machine-gun fire.
    Navy SEAL commandos from Team 7’s Alpha Platoon said they had seen their highly decorated platoon chief commit shocking acts in Iraq. And they had spoken up, repeatedly. But their frustration grew as months passed and they saw no sign of official action.
    Tired of being brushed off, seven members of the platoon called a private meeting with their troop commander in March 2018 at Naval Base Coronado near San Diego. According to a confidential Navy criminal investigation report obtained by The New York Times, they gave him the bloody details and asked for a formal investigation.
    But instead of launching an investigation that day, the troop commander and his senior enlisted aide — both longtime comrades of the accused platoon leader, Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher— warned the seven platoon members that speaking out could cost them and others their careers, according to the report.

    The clear message, one of the seven told investigators, was “Stop talking about it.”
    The platoon members eventually forced the referral of their concerns to authorities outside the SEALs, and Chief Gallagher now faces a court-martial, with his trial set to begin May 28.
    But the account of the March 2018 meeting and myriad other details in the 439-page report paint a disturbing picture of a subculture within the SEALs that prized aggression, even when it crossed the line, and that protected wrongdoers.
    According to the investigation report, the troop commander, Lt. Cmdr. Robert Breisch, said in the meeting that while the SEALs were free to report the killings, the Navy might not look kindly on rank-and-file team members making allegations against a chief. Their careers could be sidetracked, he said, and their elite status revoked; referring to the eagle-and-trident badges worn by SEALs, he said the Navy “will pull your birds.”
    The enlisted aide, Master Chief Petty Officer Brian Alazzawi, warned them that the “frag radius” — the area damaged by an explosion — from a war-crime investigation of Chief Gallagher could be wide enough to take down a lot of other SEALs as well, the report said.
    [For more stories about the changing nature of warfare, sign up for the weekly At War newsletter.]
    Navy SEALs are regarded as the most elite commando force in the American military. But that reputation has been blotted repeatedly in recent years by investigations of illegal beatings, killings and theft, and reports of drug use in the ranks. In January, the top commander of the SEALs, Rear Adm. Collin Green, ordered a 90-day review of the force’s culture and training; the results have not yet been made public.

    As Chief Gallagher’s men were sounding an alarm about killings in Iraq, his superiors were lavishing praise on him. An evaluation quoted in the investigation report called Chief Gallagher the best chief of the 12 in the team, and said, “This is the man I want leading SEALs in combat.”
    A few days after the March 2018 meeting, the chief was awarded a Bronze Star for valor under fire in Iraq.
    A month later, the seven platoon members finally succeeded in spurring their commanders to formally report the killings of the three Iraqis to the Navy Criminal Investigation Service, by threatening to go directly to top Navy brass and to the news media.
    Chief Gallagher was arrested in September on more than a dozen charges, including premeditated murder and attempted murder. If convicted, he could face life in prison. He has pleaded not guilty and denies all the charges.

    The chief’s lawyer, Timothy Parlatore, said the Navy investigation report, which was first reported by Navy Times, does not offer an accurate account of what happened in Iraq. He said that hundreds of additional pages of evidence, sealed by the court, included interviews with platoon members who said the chief never murdered anyone.
    At the same time, some conservatives have rallied to Chief Gallagher’s defense, raising money and pressing publicly for his release.

    Chief Gallagher, through Mr. Parlatore, declined to be interviewed for this article.
    The Navy has charged Chief Gallagher’s immediate superior, Lt. Jacob Portier, with failing to report the chief’s possibly criminal actions and with destroying evidence. Lieutenant Portier has pleaded not guilty. Through his lawyer, he, too, declined to be interviewed.
    The investigation report indicates that a number of other high-ranking SEALs also knew of the allegations against the chief, and did not report them. But no one else has been charged in the case.
    Chief Gallagher learned of the March 2018 meeting soon after it happened, the report indicates, and he began working to turn other SEALs against the accusers.
    “I just got word these guys went crying to the wrong person,” Chief Gallagher wrote to a fellow chief in one of hundreds of text messages included in the report. To another, he wrote: “The only thing we can do as good team guys is pass the word on those traitors. They are not brothers at all.”
    Citing his texts, the Navy kept the chief in the brig to await trial, saying it believed he had been trying to intimidate witnesses and undermine the investigation. He denies that accusation as well.
    The chief’s wife, Andrea Gallagher, and his brother, Sean Gallagher, have appeared repeatedly on Fox News and other news outlets, calling the chief a hero and demanding his release. They say the allegations against Chief Gallagher were concocted by disgruntled subordinates who could not meet his demanding standards and wanted to get rid of him.
    A website soliciting donations for his defense says it has raised $375,000, and a prominent veterans’ apparel maker is selling “Free Eddie” T-shirts.

    Spurred by the Gallagher family, 40 Republican members of Congress signed a letter in March calling for the Navy to free the chief pending trial, and soon after, President Trump said on Twitter that he would be moved to “less restrictive confinement.” Chief Gallagher was released from the brig and is now restricted to the Navy Medical Center in San Diego, according to a Navy spokeswoman.
    Ms. Gallagher did not respond to requests for comment.
    Chief Gallagher, who is 39 and goes by the nickname Blade, is known as a standout even among the elite SEALs. Over the course of five deployments with the SEALs, he was repeatedly recognized for valor and coolheaded leadership under fire. He is qualified as a medic, a sniper and an explosives expert, and has been an instructor at BUDS, the force’s grueling training program. To hundreds of sailors he trained, he was a battle-tested veteran who fed them war stories while pushing them through punishing workouts in the surf.
    Investigators’ interviews with more than a dozen members of Alpha Platoon, included in the Navy’s criminal investigation report, as well as other interviews with SEALs, offer a more troubling portrait of the chief.
    When Chief Gallagher took over leadership of the platoon in 2015, SEALs said, he already had a reputation as a “pirate” — an operator more interested in fighting terrorists than in adhering to the rules and making rank.
    A number of platoon members told investigators that at first they were excited to be led by a battle-hardened “legend,” but their opinion quickly shifted after they were deployed to Iraq in February 2017 to help retake Mosul from Islamic State fighters.

    The SEALs in the platoon did not respond to requests for interviews for this article. Their names and those of others who have not been identified publicly in court have been withheld from this article at the request of the Navy, because of the covert nature of their work.

    A spokeswoman for Naval Special Warfare, Cmdr. Tamara Lawrence, said that while they are commandos, SEALs are still expected to follow the same laws as all other troops, adding, “It’s called special operations, not different operations.”
    The investigation report said several members of the platoon told investigators that Chief Gallagher showed little regard for the safety of team members or the lives of civilians. Their mission was to advise Iraqi forces and provide assistance with snipers and drones, but they said the chief wanted instead to clear houses and start firefights.
    He would order them to take what seemed to be needless risks, and to fire rockets at houses for no apparent reason, they said. He routinely parked an armored truck on a Tigris River bridge and emptied the truck’s heavy machine gun into neighborhoods on the other side with no discernible targets, according to one senior SEAL.
    Chief Gallagher’s job was to plan and oversee missions for the platoon, but platoon members said he spent much of his time in a hidden perch with a sniper rifle, firing three or four times as often as other platoon snipers. They said he boasted about the number of people he had killed, including women.
    Photos from the deployment that were stored on a hard drive seized by the Navy show the chief aiming sniper rifles and rocket launchers from rooftops in the city.
    Two SEAL snipers told investigators that one day, from his sniper nest, Chief Gallagher shot a girl in a flower-print hijab who was walking with other girls on the riverbank. One of those snipers said he watched through his scope as she dropped, clutching her stomach, and the other girls dragged her away.
    Another day, two other snipers said, the chief shot an unarmed man in a white robe with a wispy white beard. They said the man fell, a red blotch spreading on his back.

    Before the 2017 deployment, Chief Gallagher ordered a hatchet and a hunting knife, both handmade by a SEAL veteran named Andrew Arrabito with whom he had served, text messages show. Hatchets have become an unofficial SEAL symbol, and some operators carry and use them on deployments. Chief Gallagher told Mr. Arrabito in a text message shortly after arriving in Iraq, “I’ll try and dig that knife or hatchet on someone’s skull!”
    On the morning of May 4, 2017, Iraqi troops brought in an Islamic State fighter who had been wounded in the leg in battle, SEALs told investigators, and Chief Gallagher responded over the radio with words to the effect of “he’s mine.” The SEALs estimated that the captive was about 15 years old. A video clip shows the youth struggling to speak, but SEAL medics told investigators that his wounds had not appeared life-threatening.
    A medic was treating the youth on the ground when Chief Gallagher walked up without a word and stabbed the wounded teenager several times in the neck and once in the chest with his hunting knife, killing him, two SEAL witnesses said.
    Iraqi officers who were at the scene told Navy investigators that they did not see the captive die, but disputed the stabbing account, saying it seemed out of character for the chief.
    Minutes after the death, Chief Gallagher and his commanding officer, Lieutenant Portier, gathered some nearby SEALs for a re-enlistment ceremony, snapping photos of the platoon standing over the body.
    In recent years, photos of re-enlistment ceremonies in unusual circumstances — while scuba diving or skydiving, for instance — have gone viral on social media. The chief’s variation would have reinforced his image as a hard-charging pirate, one SEAL said.

    A week later, records show, Chief Gallagher texted a picture of the dead captive to a fellow SEAL in California, saying, “Good story behind this, got him with my hunting knife.”

    But his platoon did not see it as a good story, according to the investigation report: The SEALs called a platoon meeting and discussed how to keep the chief away from anyone he could harm.
    When senior platoon members confronted Chief Gallagher about the captive’s death, they said, he told them, “Stop worrying about it, they do a lot worse to us.”
    The SEALs told investigators they reported the killing to Lieutenant Portier that night and at other times during the deployment, but the lieutenant took no action. They said the lieutenant had trained under Chief Gallagher at BUDS and “idolized” him.
    Members of the platoon hoped the chief would be reprimanded when they returned home from Iraq in August 2017, according to the report. It didn’t happen. The report said they spoke repeatedly to the lieutenant’s superior, Commander Breisch, and to Chief Alazzawi and another Team 7 master chief, but were told to “decompress” and “let it go.”
    Commander Breisch and Chief Alazzawi disputed that account. They told investigators that they had no knowledge of the alleged war crimes until the March 2018 meeting, and that they had encouraged anyone in the platoon who had witnessed anything criminal to report it to Navy investigators.
    The Navy declined to make Commander Breisch or Chief Alazzawi available for interviews, citing the continuing investigation.

    Each member of the SEAL team had a duty to report wrongdoing as soon as possible, said Lawrence Brennan, a retired Navy captain and military lawyer who now teaches law at Fordham University. But he added, “The willingness of an institution to turn a blind eye is common.”
    “It’s especially true in warfare communities,” he said. “And in the SEALs, you don’t just keep it in the family, you keep it in the immediate family.”
    Chief Gallagher had been accused of serious misconduct before. According to the investigation report, Army Special Forces troops serving with him in Afghanistan in 2010 reported that, as a sniper, he had shot through an Afghan girl to hit the man who was carrying her, killing them both. Commander Breisch told investigators in 2018 that the 2010 report had been investigated and no wrongdoing had been found.
    In 2014, the report says, Mr. Gallagher was detained at a traffic stop, where he allegedly tried to run over a Navy police officer; he was released to his commander, and there is no record of punishment in the report. Soon after, he was promoted to chief.
    Among the text messages included in the investigation report are some between Chief Gallagher and another SEAL chief, David Swarts, who is being prosecuted for the beating of detainees in a separate case dating from 2012.
    Chief Gallagher told Chief Swarts about his looming investigation and said he felt he could not trust anyone any more. When Chief Swarts responded that he never thought SEALs would report one another, Chief Gallagher replied, “Me either, those days are gone.”

    11) Texas to Execute White Supremacist for 1998 Dragging Death of James Byrd Jr.
    By Campbell Robertson, April 24, 2019

    Louvon Harris with a photo of her brother James Byrd Jr., who was murdered by white supremacists in 1998.CreditCreditWilliam Widmer for The New York Times

    On Wednesday evening around 6 p.m., Louvon Harris will be in Huntsville, Tex., about 70 miles north of Houston, for an appointment. She will sit and listen to the words, if any, from the man who tortured and killed her oldest brother over two decades ago in an act of unfathomable racist brutality. Then she will watch the State of Texas put him to death.
    “He’s not going through any pain,” Ms. Harris said of the man she is to watch die. “He’s not chained and bound and dragged on a concrete road, swinging back and forth like a sack of potatoes, with an arm coming off and being decapitated or nothing like that.”
    “When you look at it at that angle,” she continued, “I don’t have sympathy.”

    The man set to be executed is John William King, 44, sentenced to die for his role in the 1998 murder of James Byrd Jr. in the East Texas town of Jasper.

    Mr. King and two other white men attacked Mr. Byrd, a 49-year-old black man who had been offered a late-night ride home in a perverted gesture of neighborliness. The men beat him, spray-painted his face, chained him to the back of a pickup truck and dragged him to his death on an isolated back road. The motive seemed shockingly clear-cut: Mr. King had come out of a stint in prison a committed white supremacist, his body a billboard of racist tattoos, including one depicting a black man hanged in a noose.

    Less than a year after the killing, Mr. King became the first white man in modern Texas history to be sentenced to death for killing a black person. This was a troubling milestone given that, according to the Equal Justice Initiative, 344 black people were lynched in the 73 years after Reconstruction, a tally that includes only documented lynchings and stops in 1950.
    There have been several other such death sentences in Texas since, including one handed down to an accomplice in the killing, Lawrence Russell Brewer, who was executed in 2011. But Mr. King was the first.
    This has been on Ms. Harris’s mind.
    “When you think about so many others that had to bury a loved one because of hate and didn’t get justice at all,” she said, talking of calls she has received from people with their own stories of racial mistreatment that were never addressed. “It’s heartbreaking.”

    The murder of Mr. Byrd led Texas to pass the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act in 2001, strengthening punishments for crimes motivated by bigotry. In 2009, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was passed into federal law, broadening the ability of the federal government to prosecute hate crimes. The legacies of the murder also include the Byrd Foundation, begun by Mr. Byrd’s siblings to “promote racial healing and cultural diversity through education.”
    But there is the broad campaign for racial justice, and there is justice in this specific case.
    The execution on Wednesday will be the last discrete punitive act by the state in response to Mr. Byrd’s murder, beyond the day to day incarceration of Shawn Allen Berry, the third man involved in the killing, who is not up for parole until 2038.
    For some in Jasper, the execution is a resolution long sought, most likely the last time journalists will pour into town for interviews. The past 21 years have been painful for the town.
    “The majority of the people have been doing everything they can to forget it already,” said Billy Rowles, who was sheriff of Jasper County when the killing happened. He is now the sheriff of neighboring Newton County, though he remains close to members of the Byrd family. It is clearly harder for someone like Mr. Rowles to move on than it is for some others. He believes the execution will be good for him and others close to the investigation, particularly the family members. Like Ms. Harris, he is planning on going to Huntsville, where the state’s execution chamber is. But, he said, he wasn’t going inside.

    “I’ve seen people die before,” he said. “I’ve had that opportunity and I’m not going to do that. But I am going to go over and make sure it gets done. And even drink an adult beverage.”
    But closure, a word as easy to say as it is difficult to realize, is not something Ms. Harris is expecting. She did not find it when she attended the execution of Mr. Brewer, who, after a last meal so plentiful that it put an end to last meal requests in Texas, made no statement of remorse, even telling a journalist beforehand that he would “do it all over again.”

    The execution “doesn’t change the fact that hate still exists in society,” Ms. Harris said.
    It will not give the last 21 years back to Mr. Byrd, she said. It will not take away the 21 years Mr. King has been “still alive and breathing,” corresponding with fans and pushing appeals in court.
    “It’s not completely healing,” she said. “It’s just finding justice.”
    And so she and two of her sisters are going.
    Another sister, Betty Boatner, who still lives in Jasper and takes care of their aging father, will not be joining them. She was scheduled to speak at a vigil in town on Wednesday, as she had in 2011 when Mr. Brewer was executed. But she has a sore throat, she said. She’ll probably just stay in that night and get some rest.
    “I really haven’t sat and thought about it, how it would make me feel,” she said on Tuesday morning. She had forgiven her brother’s killers a long time ago, she said. It still hurts, of course. And she does not object to the execution on Wednesday. It is what the jury decided, and that is the law. But what the justice system decides and what she seeks, these are two separate things.
    “I’ve been moving on by the grace of God, and whatever the state says that he deserves, the state has a right to make that decision,” she said. “It is what it is.”


    12) Karina Vetrano’s Killer Is Sentenced to Life, but Maintains ‘I Didn’t Do This’
    Chanel Lewis had confessed to beating Ms. Vetrano, and traces of his DNA were found on her body.
    By Sean Piccoli, April 23, 2019

    Chanel Lewis, center, was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for the murder of a Queens jogger, Karina Vetrano.CreditCreditPool photo by Charles Eckert

    A Brooklyn man was sentenced on Tuesday to life in prison without chance of parole for the sexual assault and murder of Karina Vetrano, who was attacked as she jogged through a park near her home in Queens in 2016.
    Chanel Lewis, 22, was found guilty this month after a second trial. His first trial ended in a hung jury
    Justice Michael B. Aloise told Mr. Lewis that if he ever planned to atone for his crime, “You’re going to do it inside a cage.”

    Before he was sentenced, Mr. Lewis listened to a series of wrenching statements from Ms. Vetrano’s father, mother and two siblings. When his turn to speak came, he said: “I’m innocent. I’m sorry for the family’s loss, but I didn’t do this.”

    Mr. Lewis had confessed to beating Ms. Vetrano, and traces of his DNA were discovered on her neck and cellphone when her body was found on an overgrown path in Spring Creek Park in Howard Beach. His lawyers argued that the confession had been coerced and that the DNA evidence was unreliable.

    The killing of Ms. Vetrano, 30, was one of the highest-profile cases in the city in recent years, and it set in motion a huge police manhunt. 
    The prosecution of Mr. Lewis also prompted a fierce debate on social media and in the courtroom, as some observers said the confession and DNA evidence were proof enough of his guilt, while others argued that prosecutors had the wrong person. 
    The two trials also dredged up questions about coerced confessions, racial profiling and the fallibility of the police — issues that have hung over New York City’s criminal justice system for decades. During the investigation, the police sought DNA samples from 380 black men before they found a match in Mr. Lewis. 
    Mr. Lewis’s lawyers intend to appeal, they said. His supporters said they plan to hold protests in Howard Beach, where they predicted Ms. Vetrano’s true killer would be found.
    Two of Mr. Lewis’s supporters, Kevin McCall and Chris Banks — who were arrested outside the Queens courthouse for deliberately blocking traffic — portrayed the conviction and sentence as another injustice against a wrongfully accused black man. 
    They shouted “Justice for Chanel!” in the courtroom as spectators filed out at the end of the sentencing, and afterward, Mr. McCall said Mr. Lewis had been “lynched” in a sentence imposed by a “racist” judge. 
    When the case’s lead prosecutor, Brad Leventhal, walked out of the courthouse, Mr. Lewis’s supporters jeered and chanted, “Shame on you.”

    “I know that my son is innocent,” Mr. Lewis’s mother, Veta Lewis, said on the courthouse steps. 
    She also said, without evidence, that investigators “planted Chanel’s DNA on that girl.”
    In their statements to the judge, Ms. Vetrano’s father, mother and two siblings remembered Karina Vetrano as a “light” in their lives and spoke of the terror she must have felt in her last moments alive. They asked Justice Aloise to impose the maximum sentence, and they savaged Mr. Lewis and his defense team.

    “You are unremarkable, insignificant,” Ms. Vetrano’s older sister, Tana Vetrano, told Mr. Lewis. “May you live a long life in darkness and in fear.” 
    Ms. Vetrano’s father, Philip Vetrano, said his own life effectively ended with the death of his daughter, whose body he discovered in tall weeds near a jogging trail on Aug. 2, 2016. He said that he, his wife and children “walk the earth as zombies, just waiting to die so we can be with Karina again.”
    “Only my faith in God and belief in heaven keeps me from killing myself,” Mr. Vetrano said.
    Ms. Vetrano’s mother said Mr. Lewis was a clever and remorseless criminal, not the emotionally challenged young man portrayed by his defense team.
    “The vacant expression you show is mostly a reflection of your empty soul,” she said.
    Justice Aloise, echoing the religious tone of some of the Vetrano family’s remarks, said he believed that Ms. Vetrano now sat beside God and urged Mr. Lewis to “put into practice” the research into redemption and second chances that the police found on his cellphone’s search history.
    He rejected the defense team’s appeal for a lighter sentence in light of Mr. Lewis’s mental and emotional difficulties. 
    After Tuesday’s sentencing, the Legal Aid Society said in a statement announcing an appeal that while Ms. Vetrano’s death was tragic, “every aspect of this case — from the police investigation to jury deliberations — was propelled by a desire to convict at all costs.”

    One of Mr. Lewis’s defense lawyers, Julia Burke, said she wasn’t surprised by the Vetrano family’s criticism. “This case was emotionally charged,” Ms. Burke said. “I agree with the judge that this was a loss for both families.”
    At his second trial this month, a different jury took only five hours of deliberation to find Mr. Lewis guilty of first-degree murder, two second-degree murder counts and first-degree sexual abuse. 
    But one juror, Christopher Gooley, afterward accused others on the panel of misconduct in their rush to convict Mr. Lewis, leading to an extraordinary post-trial hearing on Monday in which jurors themselves took the stand and defense lawyers asked for a retrial. Justice Aloise denied the request.
    The case has fanned old tensions in a part of the city that was once the scene of racial violence. It also linked two families living a few miles away from one another but worlds apart. 
    Mr. Lewis, a son of Jamaican immigrants, graduated from a high school for students with learning disabilities, and lived in East New York with his mother, a nursing home aide. In court on Tuesday, Ms. Burke, the defense lawyer, said Mr. Lewis’s father, a retired schoolteacher, was now living in a nursing home and suffering from dementia.
    Ms. Vetrano, whose father is a retired firefighter, worked as a speech pathologist for autistic children, and lived with her parents in Howard Beach, a predominantly white neighborhood that is home to many city police and fire department employees. 
    During closing arguments, both mothers could be seen with articles of religious faith, Ms. Vetrano holding a small cross while Ms. Lewis sat on the opposite side quietly reading a Bible. Ms. Vetrano’s family said Mr. Lewis would face God’s vengeance; his supporters also cited their faith in divine intervention.
    “God is going to vindicate my son,” Ms. Lewis said.






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