Black Media Fundraiser
Hi beautiful Bay View fam!
The Bay View crew is emailing from 3rd & Palou to invite you, our beautiful friends and community partners, to our Saturday Dec. 4 Black media Fundraiser to benefit the Bay View and Black New World Media, organized by Nube Brown and JR Valrey and featuring incredible local musicians, performers and comedy🔥🔥🔥!
Come out 'n groove and support the power of Black media
Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, 5:00-9:00 P.M.
926 85th Ave., Oakland, CA at the Compound, owned and operated by D'Wayne Wiggins of Tony! Toni! Toné!
Featuring DJ X1, Melani Diane, Dame Drummer and MORE. Read up here:
Spread the word! Share this flier below and bring a friend!
See you there! If you can't make it, please consider making a recurring donation:
Nube Brown and the Bay View crew
To: U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives
Sign Petition at:
Rashid just called with the news that he has been moved back to Virginia. His property is already there, and he will get to claim the most important items tomorrow. He is at a "medium security" level and is in general population. Basically, good news.
He asked me to convey his appreciation to everyone who wrote or called in his support during the time he was in Ohio.
His new address is:
Kevin Rashid Johnson #1007485
Nottoway Correctional Center
2892 Schutt Road
Burkeville, VA 23922
Freedom for Major Tillery! End his Life Imprisonment!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: Governor's Press Office
Friday, May 28, 2021
Governor Newsom Announces Clemency Actions, Signs Executive Order for Independent Investigation of Kevin Cooper Case
SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom today announced that he has granted 14 pardons, 13 commutations and 8 medical reprieves. In addition, the Governor signed an executive order to launch an independent investigation of death row inmate Kevin Cooper’s case as part of the evaluation of Cooper’s application for clemency.
The investigation will review trial and appellate records in the case, the facts underlying the conviction and all available evidence, including the results of the recently conducted DNA tests previously ordered by the Governor to examine additional evidence in the case using the latest, most scientifically reliable forensic testing.
The text of the Governor’s executive order can be found here:
The California Constitution gives the Governor the authority to grant executive clemency in the form of a pardon, commutation or reprieve. These clemency grants recognize the applicants’ subsequent efforts in self-development or the existence of a medical exigency. They do not forgive or minimize the harm caused.
The Governor regards clemency as an important part of the criminal justice system that can incentivize accountability and rehabilitation, increase public safety by removing counterproductive barriers to successful reentry, correct unjust results in the legal system and address the health needs of incarcerated people with high medical risks.
A pardon may remove counterproductive barriers to employment and public service, restore civic rights and responsibilities and prevent unjust collateral consequences of conviction, such as deportation and permanent family separation. A pardon does not expunge or erase a conviction.
A commutation modifies a sentence, making an incarcerated person eligible for an earlier release or allowing them to go before the Board of Parole Hearings for a hearing at which Parole Commissioners determine whether the individual is suitable for release.
A reprieve allows individuals classified by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation as high medical risk to serve their sentences in appropriate alternative placements in the community consistent with public health and public safety.
The Governor weighs numerous factors in his review of clemency applications, including an applicant’s self-development and conduct since the offense, whether the grant is consistent with public safety and in the interest of justice, and the impact of a grant on the community, including crime victims and survivors.
While in office, Governor Newsom has granted a total of 86 pardons, 92 commutations and 28 reprieves.
The Governor’s Office encourages victims, survivors, and witnesses to register with CDCR’s Office of Victims and Survivors Rights and Services to receive information about an incarcerated person’s status. For general Information about victim services, to learn about victim-offender dialogues, or to register or update a registration confidentially, please visit:
www.cdcr.ca.gov/Victim_Services/ or call 1-877-256-6877 (toll free).
Copies of the gubernatorial clemency certificates announced today can be found here:
Additional information on executive clemency can be found here:
Mumia Abu Jamal Appeal Denied!
We regret to share with you some alarming news on the continued case of Political Prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio)—The Pennsylvania Superior Court has challenged Mumia Abu-Jamal’s latest effort for an overturned conviction and new trial—nearly 40 years after he was convicted of killing Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner.
The high court said Abu-Jamal’s appeal was untimely, adding that the lower court shouldn’t have reinstated any part of his appeal because it lacked jurisdiction.
This fifth appeal attempt—filed in 2016—was based on a federal ruling involving former Philadelphia District Attorney Ron Castille, who later became a state Supreme Court justice and ruled on a death penalty appeal. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Castille had an “unconstitutional risk of bias” as the district attorney.
ABU-JAMAL’S ATTORNEYS ARGUED TO A PHILADELPHIA JUDGE IN 2018 THAT CASTILLE WAS ALSO THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY WHEN ABU-JAMAL WAS CONVICTED, AND A STATE SUPREME COURT JUDGE WHEN HE APPEALED.
And, they pointed to a letter Castille penned to the governor in 1990, urging the death penalty be used to send a “clear and dramatic message to all police killers that the death penalty in Pennsylvania actually means something.”
The Pennsylvania Superior Court concluded that “the 1990 letter cannot create a reasonable inference that Justice Castille had a personal interest in the outcome of the litigation,” court documents say. “There is no evidence that Castille had ever personally participated in the prosecution of Abu-Jamal.
“The 1990 letter is not evidence of prior prosecutorial participation. It is evidence that while acting as an advocate, District Attorney Castille took a policy position to advance completion of the appellate process for convicted murderers: ‘I very strongly urge you immediately to issue death warrants in each and every one of these cases. Only such action by you will cause these cases to move forward in a legally appropriate manner.’ He was not arguing that the law should be changed or should be ignored. Rather, he simply took a position to facilitate collateral review of death sentences which was subscribed to by many prosecutors at the time.” But, the state Superior Court noted, Castille didn’t list Abu-Jamal, and they say Abu-Jamal didn’t file a new petition, using the letter as an argument, in time.
“Further,” the decision reads, “the 1990 letter was dated June 15th. At that time, Abu-Jamal’s direct appeal was still pending before the Supreme Court of the United States. … As such, Abu-Jamal was not even in the class of litigants that District Attorney Castille was referencing in the letter. The 1990 letter therefore cannot create a reasonable inference that Justice Castille was personally biased against Abu-Jamal.”
Pa. Supreme Court denies widow’s appeal to remove Philly DA from Abu-Jamal case
Abu Jamal was convicted by a jury of first-degree murder of Faulkner in 1982. Over the past four decades, five of his appeals have been quashed.
In 1989, the state’s highest court affirmed Abu-Jamal’s death penalty conviction, and in 2012, he was re-sentenced to life in prison.
Abu-Jamal, 66, remains in prison. He can appeal to the state Supreme Court, or he can file a new appeal.
KYW Newsradio reached out to Abu-Jamal’s attorneys for comment. They shared this statement in full:
“Today, the Superior Court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to consider issues raised by Mr. Abu-Jamal in prior appeals. Two years ago, the Court of Common Pleas ordered reconsideration of these appeals finding evidence of an appearance of judicial bias when the appeals were first decided. We are disappointed in the Superior Court’s decision and are considering our next steps.
“While this case was pending in the Superior Court, the Commonwealth revealed, for the first time, previously undisclosed evidence related to Mr. Abu-Jamal’s case. That evidence includes a letter indicating that the Commonwealth promised its principal witness against Mr. Abu-Jamal money in connection with his testimony. In today’s decision, the Superior Court made clear that it was not adjudicating the issues raised by this new evidence. This new evidence is critical to any fair determination of the issues raised in this case, and we look forward to presenting it in court.”
Questions and comments may be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sign our petition urging President Biden to grant clemency to Leonard Peltier.
Address: 116 W. Osborne Ave. Tampa, Florida 33603
Resources for Resisting Federal Repression
Since June of 2020, activists have been subjected to an increasingly aggressive crackdown on protests by federal law enforcement. The federal response to the movement for Black Lives has included federal criminal charges for activists, door knocks by federal law enforcement agents, and increased use of federal troops to violently police protests.
The NLG National Office is releasing this resource page for activists who are resisting federal repression. It includes a link to our emergency hotline numbers, as well as our library of Know-Your-Rights materials, our recent federal repression webinar, and a list of some of our recommended resources for activists. We will continue to update this page.
If you are contacted by federal law enforcement you should exercise all of your rights. It is always advisable to speak to an attorney before responding to federal authorities.
State and Local Hotlines
If you have been contacted by the FBI or other federal law enforcement, in one of the following areas, you may be able to get help or information from one of these local NLG hotlines for:
- Portland, Oregon: (833) 680-1312
- San Francisco, California: (415) 285-1041 or email@example.com
- Seattle, Washington: (206) 658-7963
If you are located in an area with no hotline, you can call the following number:
Know Your Rights Materials
The NLG maintains a library of basic Know-Your-Rights guides.
- Know Your Rights During Covid-19
- You Have The Right To Remain Silent: A Know Your Rights Guide for Encounters with Law Enforcement
- Operation Backfire: For Environmental and Animal Rights Activists
WEBINAR: Federal Repression of Activists & Their Lawyers: Legal & Ethical Strategies to Defend Our Movements: presented by NLG-NYC and NLG National Office
We also recommend the following resources:
- Grand Juries: Slideshow
Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources
By Cybèle C. Greenberg, Nov. 26, 2021
Ms. Greenberg is a fellow with the editorial board and a former active-duty Marine officer.
Illustration by Rebecca Chew/The New York Times; photograph courtesy of the Vassas family
Anne Vassas loved being a Marine.
She was always smiling. Younger members of her unit saw Corporal Vassas, 20, as something like a mother. Stationed in Iwakuni, Japan, she was re-enlisting for a second tour.
So it came as a shock when Corporal Vassas took her own life in August 2019, a month before her 21st birthday.
Six months after her death, her father was surprised to discover among her belongings pages from a sexual assault report she filed in October 2018. A military investigation into Corporal Vassas’ death later found that she may have been sexually assaulted on three occasions while serving in uniform.
The death of Corporal Vassas, and other deaths like hers, raises questions regarding the military’s ability to care for its service members who experience sexual trauma. In many cases, untreated trauma can have deadly consequences.
There are numerous misconceptions about military suicide. Despite the stereotypes, there is no significant association between combat deployments and the rate of suicide, according to a study in JAMA Psychiatry.
Some experts say that it would be more accurate to blame the problem on the military’s culture of intensity and violence that extends well beyond the battlefield. That includes toxic relationships between service members and continued stigma surrounding those seeking help. It is perhaps no coincidence that the Army and the Marine Corps — the two branches founded on an infantry culture, in which the perception of strength trumps all else — experience the highest suicide rates.
A report by the Defense Department inspector general this month indicates that although the number of sexual assault complaints has doubled in the past decade, the services often cut corners when it comes to investigating and prosecuting them.
Sexual trauma is associated with an increased risk of suicide and is more likely than combat to lead to post-traumatic stress for both men and women. While combat troops get time to recover from their deployments, victims of sexual trauma are often sidelined or forcibly discharged, according to Don Christensen, a retired Air Force officer who is president of Protect Our Defenders, a nonprofit that works to end sexual violence in the military.
Many victims of sexual violence actually experience trauma twice: once, at the hands of the offender, and a second time, at the hands of the institution they serve.
In a July report, the Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military found that many of those who reported sexual violence regretted doing so. The backlash often compounds the trauma of the actual assault.
Worse still, some service members attempt suicide after speaking up and seeking help. Studies show that the perception of betrayal by the military bureaucracy in the aftermath of sexual assault is associated with severe depression and self-inflicted violence. Women who served in the military are at 2.5 times the risk for suicide compared to their counterparts who did not.
According to the investigation into her death, Corporal Vassas tried reporting her sexual assaults several times. But the reporting process was perilous. During her initial training, she said that she had been forcibly kissed by another Marine. But when investigators reminded her that having a relationship with another trainee was prohibited, she withdrew her complaint.
While stationed in California, Corporal Vassas told two of her childhood friends that an officer had interrupted another Marine pushing her up against the wall of his room and taking her pants off without her consent, after both had been drinking. She was disciplined over this incident because she was not supposed to be in the barracks for men.
The inquiry into her death suggests that the officer who reprimanded Corporal Vassas ignored the assault and that a military investigator believed she may have been lying about the incident “to get out of trouble for being in the wrong barracks.”
But her medical record tells a different story. Her heightened depression and anxiety can be traced back to late 2018 and were likely “due to the stress induced by the sexual assault” in the barracks, according to a behavioral health assessment. It was also around this time that Corporal Vassas started voicing suicidal ideations to her friends, including one text message that read, “I can’t live with this pain.”
But in February 2019, she was given a clean bill of health and cleared to deploy to Japan. There, Corporal Vassas may have been sexually assaulted yet again, according to Marines in her unit.
Six months after her arrival in Iwakuni, Corporal Vassas was dead.
The contours of her story are all too similar to those of other servicewomen. In May an Army specialist, Kaylie Harris, 21, who reported she was raped by a man after she came out as gay, died by suicide. In 2018 an Army private, Nicole Burnham, 21, died by suicide after incidents in which male soldiers held her down against her will and photographed and assaulted her. Despite some fellow soldiers calling her a “whore,” “slut” and “deserving of rape” after she reported the attacks, the Army was slow to transfer her out of South Korea, according to an investigation by CBS News. In 2009 a 20-year-old Marine, Carri Leigh Goodwin, died from acute alcohol poisoning after, according to a lawsuit, she was raped twice and bullied by her commander for reporting the second rape.
Many factors have contributed to a recent increase in suicide rates for military personnel, and they’re not entirely well understood. The accessibility of guns certainly plays a role: The most common method of suicide across the military is death by firearm. The White House recently announced regulations that will increase the availability of secure gun storage and safety devices.
More research is also needed on the possible correlations between military suicide, the protracted length of recent wars and the rise in traumatic brain injuries from increased exposure to improvised explosive devices.
Despite years of effort and tens of millions of dollars invested in prevention research and programs, suicide continues to afflict military communities. Last year there was a statistically significant increase in the rate of suicide deaths by active duty troops in all services — the highest rate since 2008, when the Pentagon began keeping detailed records, according to the Defense Department’s latest annual suicide report.
An independent Pentagon commission established this year prefaced its findings on sexual trauma with a letter to service members: “We heard you.”
But in at least some important ways, no one listened to Corporal Vassas, Specialist Harris, Private Burnham or countless other service members who experienced unbearable trauma while serving their country.
Many military units still do not take sexual trauma or mental health as seriously as they should and often treat suicide awareness training as a perfunctory exercise. Few active duty military leaders speak out about their own struggles coping with trauma. Those who do often face derailed careers — something that discourages junior troops from speaking up and seeking help themselves.
Ultimately, it is only genuine, supportive human connections with other service members, leaders and veterans — those who believe and understand them — that will save young American troops from feeling there is no way out.
Iranians couldn’t buy gas. Israelis found their intimate dating details posted online. The Iran-Israel shadow war is now hitting ordinary citizens.
By Farnaz Fassihi and Ronen Bergman, Published Nov. 27, 2021, Updated Nov. 28, 2021
Cars line up for gas in Tehran on Oct. 27, a day after a cyberattack on Iran’s fuel distribution system. Credit...Vahid Salemi/ Associated Press
Millions of ordinary people in Iran and Israel recently found themselves caught in the crossfire of a cyberwar between their countries. In Tehran, a dentist drove around for hours in search of gasoline, waiting in long lines at four gas stations only to come away empty.
In Tel Aviv, a well-known broadcaster panicked as the intimate details of his sex life, and those of hundreds of thousands of others stolen from an L.G.B.T.Q. dating site, were uploaded on social media.
For years, Israel and Iran have engaged in a covert war, by land, sea, air and computer, but the targets have usually been military or government related. Now, the cyberwar has widened to target civilians on a large scale.
In recent weeks, a cyberattack on Iran’s nationwide fuel distribution system paralyzed the country’s 4,300 gas stations, which took 12 days to have service fully restored.
That attack was attributed to Israel by two U.S. defense officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential intelligence assessments. It was followed days later by cyberattacks in Israel against a major medical facility and a popular L.G.B.T.Q. dating site, attacks Israeli officials have attributed to Iran.
The escalation comes as American authorities have warned of Iranian attempts to hack the computer networks of hospitals and other critical infrastructure in the United States. As hopes fade for a diplomatic resurrection of the Iranian nuclear agreement, such attacks are only likely to proliferate.
Hacks have been seeping into civilian arenas for months. Iran’s national railroad was attacked in July, but that relatively unsophisticated hack may not have been Israeli. And Iran is accused of making a failed attack on Israel’s water system last year.
The latest attacks are thought to be the first to do widespread harm to large numbers of civilians. Nondefense computer networks are generally less secure than those tied to state security assets.
No one died in these attacks, but if their goal was to create chaos, anger, and emotional distress on a large scale, they succeeded wildly.
“Perhaps there’s a war going on between Israel and Iran, but from the little civilian’s perspective we are being held as prisoners here in the middle and are helpless,” said Beni Kvodi, 52, an editor at an Israeli radio station.
Mr. Kvodi has been openly gay for years, but the hack on the Israeli dating site threatened to expose thousands of Israelis who had not come out publicly about their sexual orientation. The site collected embarrassing information about users’ sexual habits, as well as explicit photos.
Ali, a 39-year-old driver with the national taxi company in Tehran who, like other Iranians interviewed, asked that his last name not be used out of fear for his security, said he lost a day of work waiting in gas station lines that snaked for miles.
“Every day you wake up in this country and you have a new problem,” he said in a telephone interview. “It isn’t our fault our governments are enemies. It’s already hard enough for us to survive.”
Both countries appear to be striking out at civilians to send messages to their governments.
The hack on Iran’s fuel distribution system took place on Oct. 26, near the two-year anniversary of large antigovernment protests set off by a sudden increase in gasoline prices. The government responded then with a brutal crackdown, which Amnesty International said killed more than 300 people.
The cyberattack appeared aimed at generating another wave of antigovernment unrest.
Gas pumps suddenly stopped working and a digital message directed customers to complain to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, displaying the phone number of his office.
The hackers took control of billboards in cities like Tehran and Isfahan, replacing ads with the message “Khamenei, where is my gasoline?”
“At 11 a.m. suddenly the pumps stopped working,” said Mohsen, the manager of a gas station in northern Tehran. “I have never seen anything like this.”
Rumors spread that the government had engineered the crisis to raise fuel prices. Iran’s app-based taxi companies, Snap and Tapsi, doubled and tripled their normal fares in response to drivers having to purchase expensive unsubsidized fuel, Iranian news media reported.
The antigovernment uprising never materialized but the government scrambled to contain the damage and tamp down the uproar. The Oil Ministry and the National Cyber Council held emergency meetings. The oil minister, Javad Owji, issued a rare public apology on state television, and pledged an extra 10 liters of subsidized fuel to all car owners.
To get pumps back online, the ministry had to send technicians to every gas station in the country. Once the pumps were reset, most stations could still sell only unsubsidized fuel, which is twice the price of subsidized fuel.
It took nearly two weeks to restore the subsidy network, which allots each vehicle 60 liters — about 16 gallons — a month at half price.
But the hack may have been more serious than an inconvenience to motorists.
A senior manager in the Oil Ministry and an oil dealer with knowledge of the investigation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid repercussions, said that officials were alarmed that hackers had also gained control of the ministry’s fuel storage tanks and may have had access to data on international oil sales, a state secret that could expose how Iran evades international sanctions.
Because the ministry’s computer servers contain such sensitive data, the system operates unconnected to the internet, leading to suspicions among Iranian officials that Israel may have had inside help.
Four days after Iran’s pumps stopped working, hackers gained access to the databank of the Israeli dating site Atraf, and medical files at Machon Mor Medical Institute, a network of private clinics in Israel.
Files from both hacks — including the personal information of about 1.5 million Israelis, about 16 percent of the country’s population — were posted to a channel on the Telegram messaging app.
The Israeli government asked Telegram to block the channel, which it did. But the hackers, a little-known group called Black Shadow, immediately reposted the material on a new channel, and continued to do so each time it was blocked.
The group also posted files stolen from the Israeli insurance company Shirbit, which was hacked last December and insured employees of Israel’s Defense Ministry.
Three senior Israeli officials, who asked not to be identified in order to discuss secret cyber issues, said that Black Shadow was either part of the Iranian government or freelance hackers working for the government.
Personal data from the dating site could be disastrous “even for those who are already out of the closet,” Mr. Kvodi said. “Each one of us has a very close and intimate ‘relationship’ with Atraf.”
The site contains not only names and addresses, he said, but also “our sexual preferences, who’s H.I.V. positive, who uses prophylactics or does not, along with the fact that the site makes it possible to upload nude photographs and relevant video footage of us and to send them to other subscribers.”
Many Atraf subscribers soon complained that their Instagram, Facebook or gmail accounts had also been hacked.
Cyber experts said these hacks were not the work of Black Shadow but knock-on hacks by criminals who used the personal data Black Shadow had posted. In some cases, they blocked the accounts, demanding ransom to restore access.
Neither Israel nor Iran has publicly claimed responsibility or laid blame for the latest round of cyberattacks. Israeli officials refused to publicly accuse Iran, and Iranian officials have blamed the gas station attack on a foreign country, stopping short of naming one.
Experts say the cyberattacks on softer civilian targets could be the start of a new phase in the conflict.
Lotem Finkelstein, head of intelligence at Check Point, a cybersecurity company, said that Iranian hackers had “identified a failure in Israeli understanding” about cyber conflict.
They realized that “they do not need to attack a government agency, which is much more protected,” but could easily attack small, private companies, with less sophisticated security, “that control enormous amounts of information, including financial or intimate personal information about many citizens.”
Each side blames the other for the escalation, and even if there were the will to stop it, it’s hard to see how this genie gets recorked.
“We are in a dangerous phase,” Maysam Behravesh, a former chief analyst for Iran’s Intelligence Ministry, said in a Clubhouse chat on Monday. “There will be a next round of widespread cyberattack on our infrastructure. We are a step closer to military confrontation.”
More than 20,000 strangers have donated to an online fund-raiser to help Kevin Strickland’s re-entry to society.
By Christine Chung and Claire Fahy, Nov. 27, 2021
Kevin Strickland after his release from prison on Tuesday. He said he hopes to build a small house with a fishing pond nearby. Credit...Rich Sugg/The Kansas City Star, via Associated Press
Kevin Strickland left a Missouri prison penniless on Tuesday after serving more than 40 years for a triple murder that he did not commit, but more than 20,000 strangers have donated about $1.3 million to an online fund-raiser to help his re-entry to society.
He was exonerated without DNA evidence, which disqualified him from being compensated by the state, despite spending decades behind bars, his lawyers said. Mr. Strickland, 62, said on Friday that the community did not owe him anything for his wrongful imprisonment.
“The courts failed me and that’s who should be trying to make my life a little more comfortable,” he said. “I really do appreciate the donations and contributions they made to try to help me acclimate to society.”
Mr. Strickland said the four days back in Kansas City had been overwhelming.
The sprawl of highways was especially dizzying, he said during a phone call while headed to the Independence Center shopping mall to spend $25 that someone had given him. He said he planned to buy a bag of cough drops and a shower cap — his first purchases outside of prison in more than 40 years.
The online fund-raiser, organized by the Midwest Innocence Project, was set up by Tricia Rojo Bushnell, one of his lawyers and the project’s executive director. Ms. Bushnell said she routinely raises funds for newly released clients but the amount raised for Mr. Strickland was a surprise.
“I think for all of us it’s hopeful, right?” Ms. Bushnell said. “Until the system has changed where the system is failing, the community is stepping in to fix it, to fill the void. It’s pretty amazing.”
Mr. Strickland does not yet have a bank account, a phone or a form of government identification. For now, he is staying at a brother’s house.
Mr. Strickland will receive the full amount of the donations as soon as he has a bank account to transfer it into, Ms. Bushnell said. The Midwest Innocence Project will also set him up with a financial adviser to help him structure the money and determine how he wishes to spend it.
Ms. Bushnell printed out a packet of supportive comments that accompanied the many donations.
“I wish I knew how many pages it is, but it’s very thick,” she said. “He can read them and see them and know that it’s not just monetary. The folks have messages and stories of hope for him.”
Mr. Strickland was convicted in 1979 of killing three people in Kansas City the year before: Sherrie Black, 22; Larry Ingram, 21; and John Walker, 20. The only eyewitness had picked Mr. Strickland from a lineup. Mr. Strickland was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 50 years.
One of the two other men who pleaded guilty to the murders maintained that Mr. Strickland played no part in the killings, and the sole eyewitness later recanted her testimony, Judge James E. Welsh of Missouri’s Western District Court of Appeals noted in his decision to exonerate Mr. Strickland.
The exoneration advanced after the passage this year of a state law allowing prosecutors to hold hearings for potential wrongful convictions for which there was new evidence.
Jean Peters Baker, the prosecutor for Jackson County, said in a statement that she filed a motion in Mr. Strickland’s case as soon as she could in August.
“Mr. Strickland was falsely held for 43 years and he doesn’t have a single cent to support him from the State of Missouri,” she said. “He should be paid for this wrong that happened to him. No one could argue that would not be the right thing, the just thing, to do.”
Barbara O’Brien, the editor of the National Registry of Exonerations, said there is a misconception that a majority of exonerations relied on DNA evidence. Of the registry’s 2,900 exonerations, only 549 involved DNA.
“It’s shortsighted to have a compensation scheme that turns on whether or not there’s DNA evidence of innocence because that has nothing to do with how innocent they are,” she said.
Ann Jacobs, executive director of John Jay College’s Institute for Justice and Opportunity, said that the goal of re-entry into society was to “move from survival” to a plan for long-term stability and self-sufficiency.
“Everybody who, you know, goes away for some period of time has to come back and reconstruct a whole life for themselves, and their ability to do that is different depending on what their lives were like before they went in, how long they’ve been away, and what kind of support exists for them when they get out,” she said.
In many cases, it is very important for those exonerated to receive a formal apology, Ms. O’Brien said. Mr. Strickland said he would have liked to receive apologies from top state officials but that he’s not dwelling on it.
There are other life plans to attend to, he said, like leaving Missouri and pursuing his dream of buying a small piece of land outside of a city.
“I’ll build a small house, a small bedroom, two- to three-bedroom house, have me some chickens and four to five dogs, a fishing pond somewhere close by, a big fence where nobody can get in,” he said. “Just some alone time, some getaway space.”
By Sarah Wildman, Nov. 29, 2021
Ms. Wildman is a staff editor and writer in Opinion.https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/29/opinion/heartbeat-abortion-bans-savita-izabela.html
In 2012, Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old married dentist, appeared at Ireland’s University Hospital Galway in pain. She was 17 weeks pregnant and miscarrying. According to Dr. Halappanavar’s husband, hospital staff said that there was no saving the pregnancy, but they refused to intercede because her fetus still had a heartbeat. She was told her only option was to wait.
Dr. Halappanavar became feverish. By the time the fetal heartbeat faded away, she was in organ failure. Two and a half days later she was dead.
Nearly three decades earlier, Ireland’s leaders created one of the world’s most restrictive abortion laws with an amendment to their nation’s Constitution, cementing Ireland’s near-total ban on abortions. After that, women who were able left the country for the procedure, while those who couldn’t lived with the consequences of the law. The amendment remained in place despite many stories of related brutality during that period, including a suicidal 14-year-old girl who was impregnated through rape. Her family had to plea to the highest court in the nation for her to even travel for a termination. She lost her case at first, but mass protest prompted the court to reconvene, and she was ultimately allowed to travel to Britain for an abortion.
Dr. Halappanavar’s story had an even greater impact. When she died, her husband stepped forward immediately and said Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws were to blame in her death. Her death created a surge of grief and anger that became a focal point of the abortion and women’s rights movement in Ireland, and contributed to the drive to overturn the country’s constitutional amendment.
“People would say, ‘This is for Savita,’ and she came to symbolize all women who had to struggle and suffer because of that ban,” an Irish abortion rights activist, Ailbhe Smyth, told me. In 2018 Irish voters finally overturned the amendment.
In the United States, with Roe v. Wade likely to be largely dismantled, if not overturned, next year, it is time to look again at the women whose lives — and deaths — changed how the public understands what’s at stake when we talk about banning abortion.
“The thing I worry about in the United States is that the rallying cry won’t happen until women die, and that’s so unnecessary and unfortunate,” said Kathryn Kolbert, who in 1992 argued the major abortion case Planned Parenthood v. Casey before the Supreme Court.
It should not take a high-profile death to expose just how much is at risk when medicine is hamstrung by politics, religion or culture. And yet, interviewed for The New York Times, women across Ireland described how learning about Savita Halappanavar’s story had woken them up to the reality that their very lives were on the line — not only if they found themselves facing an unwanted pregnancy, but also if a wanted pregnancy went wrong.
When you look at which stories have fueled abortion rights activism in other countries, Ms. Kolbert’s worry seems well founded. In September a 30-year-old mother identified in the press only as Izabela arrived at a Polish county hospital. According to a lawyer for her family, she was 22 weeks pregnant and the prognosis was poor: There was little or no amniotic fluid, and sonograms showed the fetus bore abnormalities. Still, a heartbeat remained.
Last year the Polish high court struck down a provision in the country’s already draconian abortion law that allowed for abortion in cases of fetal abnormality.
Izabela knew that her situation was grim. She sent a text message to her mother from the hospital: “The baby weighs 485 grams. For now, because of the abortion law, I have to lie down. They can’t do anything. They are going to wait until he dies or something else happens. Oh and also, I could die of septic shock.”
In time, the fetus died. Then Izabela died, too.
(“Doctors and midwives did everything in their power, they fought a difficult battle for the patient and her child,” the hospital said in a statement.)
Eventually, Izabela’s mother made her texts public. Days later, in early November, Polish protesters marched with signs that said, “Her heart was beating too” and “Not one more.” In apparent response to the protesters, Poland’s health ministry “clarified” the nation’s abortion law, insisting that the procedure remains available to save the life of the pregnant woman.
Storytelling, Ms. Kolbert pointed out, has always been a tool in the arsenal of the political movement to safeguard abortion rights, or to win them in the first place. In recent years, the focus among activists in the United States has shifted away from telling stories of dangerous back-alley abortions and become one of empowerment, focused on sharing stories that help remove the stigma and shame that still clings to the procedure.
But in the years before Roe, clergy, legislators, media and feminist activists hoped that telling women’s stories of victimization, humiliation and death could humanize the need for universal abortion access and bring about legalization. One such story began with a 1964 police photo of a woman’s bloodied, lifeless body, facedown on a motel carpet. The woman was Geraldine Santoro, known as Gerri, 28 and a mother of two. Ms. Santoro had been fearful of what her estranged and violent husband would do to her if he discovered she was pregnant with a lover’s child. Her boyfriend attempted to perform an abortion on Ms. Santoro, accidentally killing her in the process. (He fled and was later convicted of manslaughter.)
That photo of Ms. Santoro was published in Ms. magazine in 1973, under the words “Never Again.” The image was blown up on placards carried at abortion rights rallies, a visceral illustration of the risks of illegal abortion.
In recent years, the state of abortion rights in America has deteriorated, especially for poor women and women of color. But it may be harder to motivate protesters now, in an era where women of reproductive age have spent their entire lives with the protections of the Roe era. The back-alley abortions that motivated the movement in the past are largely someone else’s memory.
There are other fears now. Today, a person could be charged with a crime after miscarrying or could face legal consequences for ingesting abortion pills ordered on the internet. In states where abortion access has been whittled down, legal provisions promising to safeguard the life of the pregnant woman are left to interpretation by medical personnel. But this is a space without clear answers, and hospital staffs will inevitably factor their own legal and professional risk into what would otherwise be a decision about the patient’s best interest.
Texas’ law banning abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy has been in effect since September, and already, The Lily has reported, a woman in the state who experienced an ectopic pregnancy said she was turned away for care. Ectopic pregnancies, in which a fertilized egg implants outside the uterus, require immediate termination because they endanger the patient’s fertility or, worse, her life. In theory, terminating an ectopic pregnancy is not banned under the Texas law. But in this case, according to the National Abortion Federation’s hotline director, who spoke with The Lily, doctors were afraid to intercede, and the woman ended up driving at least 12 hours to New Mexico for the procedure.
The Texas woman with the ectopic pregnancy survived her ordeal. But as more states consider passing laws like Texas’, the next woman might not. What will happen then? Will we know her name? Will she become a rallying cry? Or will she and other women with tragic stories fade into obscurity, their families fearful of coming forward? No one wants to see this happen, but what are we doing to prevent it?
I called up Lynn Paltrow, the executive director of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women (who happens to be my cousin by marriage), and asked her: Why does tremendous outcry over restrictive abortion laws come after a woman dies, rather than before? Ms. Paltrow was biting in her response. “The primary impact of the anti-abortion movement has not been to stop abortions, it is to dehumanize,” she said. “It is martyrdom and the visible suffering and death of a visible woman that reminds people of their humanity and their right to life.”
In Texas and elsewhere, Americans shouldn’t wait for another woman’s heart to stop beating before they demand change.
On Wednesday, the justices will hear the most important abortion case in decades, one that could undermine or overturn Roe v. Wade.
By Adam Liptak, Nov. 28, 2021
The case that the Supreme Court will hear concerns a Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks. Credit...Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times
WASHINGTON — In 1973, in Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court drew a line. The Constitution, it said, did not allow states to ban abortions before the fetus could survive outside the womb.
On Wednesday, when the court hears the most important abortion case in a generation, a central question will be whether the court’s conservative majority is prepared to erase that line. The case concerns a Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks, long before fetal viability.
The court could overrule Roe entirely, allowing states to ban abortions at any point. But at least some justices may want to find a way to sustain the Mississippi law without overturning Roe in so many words, requiring them to discard the viability line and replace it with another standard that would allow a cutoff at 15 weeks.
Lawyers for Mississippi, who mostly argued that there is no constitutional justification for any line at all, did propose two backup arguments. They said the court could revise another existing standard, one prohibiting an “undue burden” on the right to abortion, to allow the 15-week cutoff by focusing on the fact that a substantial majority of abortions take place by then. Or, the lawyers wrote, the court could simply uphold the Mississippi law and leave for another day the knotty problem of drawing a new line.
Neither argument was serious, lawyers for Mississippi’s only abortion clinic responded. “The state offers no alternative to the viability line that could sustain a stable right to abortion,” they wrote.
Viability is supported by a principle in a way that other cutoffs are not, said David S. Cohen, a law professor at Drexel University.
“That is a point in time at which interests shift, because there is a medical justification for intervention in a way that would be different before viability,” he said. “If the court were to go backward in time without overruling Roe and say 15 weeks is now the new cutoff, I’m not sure what basis there would be for that.”
At the same time, drawing the line at viability has long been the subject of criticism. “The viability framework has always been something of an embarrassment, in large part because viability hinges on medical technology and access to it,” said Julia D. Mahoney, a law professor at the University of Virginia.
When Roe was decided, viability was around 28 weeks. These days, depending on the hospital, fetuses can survive outside the womb after around 23 weeks.
“Viability has come in for criticism from some bioethicists, both pro-choice and pro-life, essentially on the theory that it doesn’t track our moral intuitions of when life takes on value to focus exclusively on dependency, especially if dependency tracks technological development or even technological availability,” said Mary Ziegler, a law professor and historian at Florida State University.
The Supreme Court considered other approaches in Roe itself.
Justice Harry A. Blackmun, who wrote the majority opinion, initially chose another place to draw the line, at around 13 weeks.
“I have concluded that the end of the first trimester is critical,” he wrote to the other justices in 1972. “This is arbitrary, but perhaps any other selected point, such as quickening or viability, is equally arbitrary.” (“Quickening” is when a woman becomes aware of fetal movements, often around 16 weeks.)
Justice Thurgood Marshall helped persuade his colleague to choose viability, around the end of the second trimester. “Given the difficulties which many women may have in believing that they are pregnant and in deciding to seek an abortion,” Justice Marshall wrote to Justice Blackmun, “I fear that the earlier date may not in practice serve the interests of those women, which your opinion does seek to serve.”
The line Roe ultimately drew has been questioned.
Sherry F. Colb, a law professor at Cornell who was a law clerk to Justice Blackmun, recently wrote on a law blog that viability “would appear to have little to recommend it as a border between prohibiting and permitting abortion.” As a practical matter, she wrote, viability is a function of the ability to breathe outside the womb.
“The ability to breathe is essential for life,” she wrote, “but it is not the sort of thing to which we attach moral status, any more than the ability to see or to walk or to speak are such abilities.”
She also questioned the logic of viability as a standard for allowing a pregnant woman to seek an abortion.
“She can take the fetus out when it needs to be in but once it can survive an exit, it must stay in,” Professor Colb wrote. “What kind of a rule is that?”
Professor Mahoney said the approaches of other countries provided another point of comparison. Nominal limits of around 12 weeks are commonplace in other developed nations, though the social context is usually quite different. There are often few obstacles to obtaining abortions abroad, and public insurance is commonplace.
In the United States, the Supreme Court has repeatedly reaffirmed viability as the line required by the Constitution. In 1992, in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which established that states could not place an “undue burden” on women seeking abortions before fetal viability, the court said viability was part of Roe’s “essential holding.”
“The woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy before viability is the most central principle of Roe v. Wade,” the controlling opinion in Casey said.
“We must justify the lines we draw,” the opinion said. “And there is no line other than viability which is more workable.”
Just last year, in providing the fifth vote to strike down a restrictive Louisiana abortion law, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. underscored the point, quoting from the Casey decision.
The two sides in the Mississippi case have taken nearly absolutist positions. Lawyers for the state spent all but the last few pages of their main Supreme Court brief on a frontal attack on Roe and Casey, saying they were “egregiously wrong” and should be overruled, allowing states to ban abortions at any time.
The brief’s final pages did propose two approaches that would allow the Supreme Court to uphold the Mississippi law but avoid overruling Roe.
First, the state’s brief said, “the court could hold that the state’s interests in protecting unborn life, women’s health and the medical profession’s integrity are, at a minimum, compelling at 15 weeks’ gestation” and “leave for another day the question of what standard applies in the absence of a viability rule.”
Second, the brief said, the court could transform Casey’s “undue burden” standard to allow outright bans on abortions before viability if they do not impose a substantial obstacle to a significant number of women seeking abortions. Since most women obtain abortions in the first trimester and the sole abortion clinic in Mississippi performs abortions until 16 weeks, the brief said, the law does not impose an undue burden.
Lawyers for the clinic responded that sustaining the state’s law was impossible to reconcile with Roe and Casey.
“There are no half measures here,” the clinic’s brief said. “Every version of the state’s argument amounts to the same thing: a request that the court scuttle a half-century of precedent and invite states to ban abortion entirely.”
Professor Cohen sounded a note of caution, saying that merely upholding the Mississippi law was not tantamount to overruling Roe v. Wade.
“If people are still able to get 95 percent of the abortions that happen in this country at 15 weeks or before, that’s still very significant,” he said. “That’s not Roe being overturned. Roe being chipped away? Yes. But Roe being overturned means that no abortions are legal in a state.”
Some members of the Supreme Court’s conservative majority may be tempted to look for a half measure, one that would undermine Roe and Casey without expressly overruling them.
Casey itself revised Roe in ways that supporters of abortion rights had said would amount to overruling Roe. When the Casey case was argued, Kathryn Kolbert, a lawyer for a group of abortion clinics challenging a Pennsylvania law, told the justices that abandoning the demanding form of heightened judicial scrutiny required by Roe and replacing it with “a less protective standard such as the undue burden test” would “be the same as overruling Roe.”
The court did abandon such heightened review, and it did replace it with the now familiar undue burden test, under which the court has sustained restrictions on abortion. Yet few people would say that Casey overruled Roe.
Some legal experts wonder if the court can make a similar move in the new case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, No. 19-1392.
“One of the questions many of us will be interested in is whether it’s possible to sever viability from Roe and Casey and have anything left — if the court can pull off the trick it did in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, when it eliminated what many viewed at the time as the core of Roe v. Wade and yet preserved what it deemed to be the essential holding,” Professor Ziegler said.
Professor Mahoney said that at least some of the justices may be inclined to try.
“We draw lines all the time in constitutional adjudication,” she said. “We have no choice. And we recognize that they are not entirely satisfactory.”
LVMH, Zara, Nike and others at risk of contribution to destruction of rainforest based on connections to leather industry
By Laura Pitcher, November 29, 2021
Research has shown that the cattle industry is the single largest driver of deforestation of the Amazon and the fashion industry is a key cog in the leather exportation machine. Photograph: Carl de Souza/AFP/Getty Images
New research into the fashion industry’s complex global supply chains shows that a number of large fashion brands are at risk of contributing to deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, based on their connections to tanneries and other companies involved in the production of leather and leather goods.
The report, released Monday, analyzed nearly 500,000 rows of customs data and found that brands such as Coach, LVMH, Prada, H&M, Zara, Adidas, Nike, New Balance, Teva, UGG and Fendi have multiple connections to an industry that props up Amazon deforestation.
More than 50 brands have multiple supply-chain links to the largest Brazilian leather exporter, JBS, which is known to engage in Amazon deforestation. JBS recently made a commitment to achieve zero deforestation across its global supply chain by 2035, something environmental groups have called insufficient.
The study was conducted by Stand.earth, a supply chain research firm. The findings are surprising, in part because a number of the brands surveyed have recently announced policies to untangle themselves from actors along the supply chain that contribute to deforestation.
“With a third of companies surveyed having some kind of policy in place, [you’d expect] that would have an impact on deforestation,” said Greg Higgs, one of the researchers involved in the report. “The rate of deforestation is increasing, so the policies have no material effect.”
The researchers hope to one day expand to other industries that rely heavily on leather, like the automotive sector.
In 2019 and 2020, Brazil faced criticism from world leaders for not doing more to protect the forest from raging wildfires. Deforestation in the critical ecosystem continues at an alarming rate. Research has shown that the cattle industry is the single largest driver of deforestation of the Amazon rainforest and the fashion industry is animportant cog in the leather exportation machine.
In fact, projections show that in order to keep supplying consumers with wallets, handbags and shoes, the fashion industry must slaughter 430m cows annually by 2025.
Their analysis does not prove a direct link between each fashion brand and Amazon deforestation; instead, researchers found connections that increase the probability of any individual garment coming from cattle ranching in the Amazon, an industry described as the No 1 culprit of deforestation in the area.
The report identified fashion brands that participate in the Leather Working Group or other voluntary commitments, but highlight that the Leather Working Group evaluates tanneries only on their ability to trace leather back to slaughterhouses, not back to farms.
“The goal is to develop a clear plan [for the fashion industry] to close the loopholes,” said Jungwon Kim, vice-president of strategy of Slow Factory, the climate justice non-profit that collaborated on the report.
Of the 84 companies analyzed by the report, 23 had explicit policies on deforestation. The researchers believe those 23 companies are “likely” violating their own policies, based on their findings. The fashion house LVMH, for example, was found to have a high risk of connections to Amazon deforestation – despite the fact that earlier this year the brand pledged to protect the vulnerable region with Unesco.
Sônia Guajajara, executive coordinator of the Brazilian Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance (APIB), said brands have “the moral responsibility, the influence and the economic resources” to stop working with suppliers contributing to deforestation in the Amazon today, “not in 10 years, not in 2025”.
The effect of recent wildfires in the Amazon has had devastating consequences for Indigenous groups, who say president Jair Bolsonaro forcibly removed Indigenous peoples to make way for agriculture, mining and other development activities.
Angeline Robertson, an investigative researcher who worked on the study, told the Guardian she hopes the fashion industry will take cues from their analysis and “work in their own self-interest”.
“In this time of climate emergency, if the fashion industry wants to be relevant, this is the opportunity,” she said.
Céline Semaan, chief executive and co-founder of Slow Factory, said brands should not use this as an opportunity to contribute to deforestation elsewhere, such as Guatemala or Mexico, but invest in and explore alternatives that are not extractive.
With lab-grown alternatives on the rise, a future where your favorite bag or sneakers don’t come at the expense of the Amazon rainforest is possible.
“At the end of the day, we have to find other solutions and other alternative leathers that are not animal-based and that are not plastic-based,” said Semaan. “With the resources that fashion companies have, there’s really no excuse.”
November 24, 2021
My prison experience is getting even tougher: yesterday, the Danbury prison went on a total lockdown due to a COVID breakout. That means we cannot get out except for two hours per week. About 80 men are crammed into our unit, where two people occupy cells meant for one. Social distancing is impossible, few wear masks, there is no COVID testing, people are sick, nobody knows who has COVID, and word on the prison street is that the rate of vaccination among the guards is less than 50%. Medical staff appears so overwhelmed it often takes ten days or more to see a doctor, even when exhibiting severe symptoms.
I'm not going to lie: I actually feel if I get seriously ill inside this place, I could die.
I'm not alone in that feeling among my new friends inside. To know you are so at the mercy of others if an emergency were to arise is a heavy and awful emotional burden. Worse, it is sometimes hard to get the professionals here to acknowledge the validity of how your body feels to you. Most of my fellow residents ("inmates") say staff here often accuse them of faking symptoms when they ask to see a doctor.
That said, it is Thanksgiving which is my favorite holiday of the year in the United States. I think of Native Americans who had their territory overrun by a conquering government that manufactured laws to steal land and distribute it to white settlers. I think of the Cherokee, the Cheyenne, the Choctaw, and so many others. The bravery and the courage. Survivors all. And I think of my family, friends, and all those I love -- and all of those who stand behind the Ecuadorian Indigenous peoples who, against all odds, won the historic pollution judgment against Chevron.
It helps to both give thanks to our triumphs and to remember the unpleasant truths.
It is almost unfathomable to me what people are going through here and how they still keep going. The human spirit is really hard to snuff out. Some have spent 30 consecutive Thanksgivings in the federal prison system. When I came, there were three frail men with walkers in my unit (one has since been released). Some inside have not had a visit in years. Others get no mail. Many mark the years by remembering Thanksgiving when the cookies were baked fresh, when they were from a box, and when there were no cookies at all.
The food supposedly will be better on Thursday, but the mess hall has closed because of the lockdown. We will be eating turkey out of styrofoam boxes in our tiny cells, looking at an open-air toilet. That said, I can't tell you how positive I feel about getting through this and back to the other side to continue our important work.
I am asking again for everybody who can step up and donate to this extraordinary and paradigm-shifting campaign to please do so during the holiday season. We need resources to keep our legal team working full steam and our broader global advocacy operating on all cylinders, especially while I am locked up. And, of course, we need resources to get me out of here as soon as possible.
Specifically, several human rights groups are organizing a global drive to demand the Biden Administration pardon me both because it is the just thing to do and to comply with the United Nations decision ordering my immediate and unconditional release. You will be hearing more about this in the coming days. We also need funds to continue to build a legal infrastructure needed to take on new and similar cases to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable and ultimately to save our planet.
Please donate whatever you can: $2500, $1000, $500, $200, $50, $25, $10 or even $1 will be greatly appreciated.
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For those who celebrate it, please enjoy Thanksgiving and say a prayer for the peoples of Ecuador who are still battling to clean up Chevron's Amazon Chernobyl disaster. Thanks to all those who have written me letters and postcards and sent books; I hope to publish the letters someday as they are incredible. Everybody in here helps me open them, read them, and sort them. Please keep writing!
Steven Donziger is a U.S. human rights attorney who helped communities in Ecuador's Amazon win a historic multibillion-dollar pollution judgment against Chevron for the dumping of billions of gallons of cancer-causing oil waste onto Indigenous ancestral lands. Since the judgment issued in 2013, Chevron has used dozens of law firms and 2000 lawyers to carry out a demonization campaign targeting Steven to send a message of intimidation to all environmental advocates.
Donate NOW to help support Steven as he and the Ecuadorian communities continue their fight for corporate accountability, environmental justice, Indigenous rights, and Free Speech.
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A mainstay of the internet is regularly used to build audiences for people and organizations pushing false and misleading information.
By Davey Alba, Dec. 1, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/01/technology/misinformation-cute-cats-online.html
On Oct. 2, New Tang Dynasty Television, a station linked to the Chinese spiritual movement Falun Gong, posted a Facebook video of a woman saving a baby shark stranded on a shore. Next to the video was a link to subscribe to The Epoch Times, a newspaper that is tied to Falun Gong and that spreads anti-China and right-wing conspiracies. The post collected 33,000 likes, comments and shares.
The website of Dr. Joseph Mercola, an osteopathic physician who researchers say is a chief spreader of coronavirus misinformation online, regularly posts about cute animals that generate tens or even hundreds of thousands of interactions on Facebook. The stories include “Kitten and Chick Nap So Sweetly Together” and “Why Orange Cats May Be Different From Other Cats,” written by Dr. Karen Becker, a veterinarian.
And Western Journal, a right-wing publication that has published unproven claims about the benefits of using hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19, and spread falsehoods about fraud in the 2020 presidential election, owns Liftable Animals, a popular Facebook page. Liftable Animals posts stories from Western Journal’s main website alongside stories about golden retrievers and giraffes.
Videos and GIFs of cute animals — usually cats — have gone viral online for almost as long as the internet has been around. Many of the animals became famous: There’s Keyboard Cat, Grumpy Cat, Lil Bub and Nyan Cat, just to name a few.
Now, it is becoming increasingly clear how widely the old-school internet trick is being used by people and organizations peddling false information online, misinformation researchers say.
The posts with the animals do not directly spread false information. But they can draw a huge audience that can be redirected to a publication or site spreading false information about election fraud, unproven coronavirus cures and other baseless conspiracy theories entirely unrelated to the videos. Sometimes, following a feed of cute animals on Facebook unknowingly signs users up as subscribers to misleading posts from the same publisher.
Melissa Ryan, chief executive of Card Strategies, a consulting firm that researches disinformation, said this kind of “engagement bait” helped misinformation actors generate clicks on their pages, which can make them more prominent in users’ feeds in the future. That prominence can drive a broader audience to content with inaccurate or misleading information, she said.
“The strategy works because the platforms continue to reward engagement over everything else,” Ms. Ryan said, “even when that engagement comes from” publications that also publish false or misleading content.
Perhaps no organization deploys the tactic as forcefully as Epoch Media, parent company of The Epoch Times. Epoch Media has published videos of cute animals in 12,062 posts on its 103 Facebook pages in the past year, according to an analysis by The New York Times. Those posts, which include links to other Epoch Media websites, racked up nearly four billion views. Trending World, one of Epoch’s Facebook pages, was the 15th most popular page on the platform in the United States between July and September.
One video, posted last month by The Epoch Times’s Taiwan page, shows a close-up of a golden retriever while a woman tries in vain to pry an apple from its mouth. It has over 20,000 likes, shares and comments on Facebook. Another post, on Trending World’s Facebook page, features a seal grinning widely with a family posing for a picture at a Sea World resort. The video has 12 million views.
Epoch Media did not respond to a request for comment.
“Dr. Becker is a veterinarian, her articles are about pets,” said an email from Dr. Mercola’s public relations team. “We reject any New York Times accusations of misleading any visitors, but are not surprised by it.”
The viral animal videos often come from places like Jukin Media and ViralHog. The companies identify extremely shareable videos and reach licensing deals with the people who made them. After securing the rights to the videos, Jukin Media and ViralHog license the clips to other media companies, giving a cut of the profits to the original creator.
Mike Skogmo, Jukin Media’s senior vice president for marketing and communications, said his company had a licensing deal with New Tang Dynasty Television, the station tied to Falun Gong.
“Jukin has licensing deals with hundreds of publishers worldwide, across the political spectrum and with a range of subject matters, under guidelines that protect the creators of the works in our library,” he said in a statement.
Asked whether the company evaluated whether their clips were used as engagement bait for misinformation in striking the license deals, Mr. Skogmo said Jukin had nothing else to add.
“Once someone licenses our raw content, what they do with it is up to them,” said Ryan Bartholomew, founder of ViralHog. “ViralHog is not supporting or opposing any cause or objective — that would be outside of our scope of business.”
The use of animal videos presents a conundrum for the tech platforms like Facebook, because the animal posts themselves do not contain misinformation. Facebook has banned ads from Epoch Media when the network violated its political advertising policy, and it took down several hundred Epoch Media-affiliated accounts last year when it determined that the accounts had violated its “coordinated inauthentic behavior” policies.
“We’ve taken enforcement actions against Epoch Media and related groups several times already,” said Drew Pusateri, a Facebook spokesman. “If we discover that they’re engaging in deceptive actions in the future we will continue enforcing against them.” The company did not comment on the tactic of using cute animals to spread misinformation.
Rachel E. Moran, a researcher at the University of Washington who studies online misinformation, said it was unclear how often the animal videos led people to misinformation. But posting them continues to be a popular tactic because they run such a low risk of breaking a platform’s rules.
“Pictures of cute animals and videos of wholesome moments are the bread and butter of social media, and definitely won’t run afoul of any algorithmic content moderation detection,” Ms. Moran said.
“People are still using it every day,” she said.
Jacob Silver contributed research.
One argument in the abortion case before the Supreme Court is that balancing work and family is now less of a challenge, but research shows becoming a mother still has a large economic impact on women.
By Claire Cain Miller, Dec. 1, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/01/upshot/mississippi-abortion-case-roe.html
The case that could lead to the end of Roe v. Wade includes a novel argument: that the right to an abortion is no longer necessary because it has become much easier for women to combine work and family.
In Roe, the Supreme Court said that an unwanted pregnancy could lead women to “a distressful life and future,” and in a 1992 case, Casey v. Planned Parenthood, that abortion rights were necessary for “women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the nation.”
On Wednesday, the court is hearing a case from Mississippi regarding a law banning most abortions after 15 weeks. In a brief to the court, lawyers for the state argued that those ideas about women’s lives had been obviated by “the march of progress.”
“In these last 50 years,” Mississippi’s attorney general, Lynn Fitch, said in a statement, “women have carved their own ways to achieving a better balance for success in their professional and personal lives.”
Mississippi makes other arguments that are likely to be more pivotal to the case, including that abortion law should be up to the states, and that because of scientific advances, fetuses can survive outside the womb earlier. The argument about economic opportunity is novel, though, because it focuses on the effects on women.
“The argument is: You can have it all,” said Mary Ziegler, a professor at the Florida State University College of Law. “They’re saying there’s no need because people like Amy Coney Barrett exist. Women can have big families and successful professional lives and there’s no need to choose.” (Justice Barrett, who joined the court under President Trump last year, has seven children.)
The argument serves another legal purpose, she said: If the need for abortion rights is “decades out of date,” there is a justification for overturning precedent.
A large body of social science and policy research tells a more complex story. While women receive more education than men, are increasingly likely to be primary breadwinners and have made significant gains in public and professional life, becoming a mother still has a significant economic impact. So does being denied an abortion. The people most affected by abortion restrictions are poor women — who also have the hardest time combining paid work and child rearing.
In its argument, Mississippi’s lawyers wrote that “numerous laws enacted since Roe — addressing pregnancy discrimination, requiring leave time, assisting with child care and more — facilitate the ability of women to pursue both career success and a rich family life.”
These policies don’t exist or are weak, on a federal level or in Mississippi.
The United States stands out for its absence of national paid leave — it is one of six countries in the world, and the only rich country, without it. It provides 12 weeks of unpaid leave, yet nearly half of workers don’t qualify, and many more can’t afford to take unpaid leave. Some states have paid family leave, but Mississippi does not.
On child care assistance, the United States again stands out. While rich countries spend an average of $14,000 a year on child care subsidies for toddlers, most families in the United States receive several hundred dollars in the form of a tax credit. Child care is unaffordable for nearly half of American families, according to the Treasury Department, and 71 percent of Mississippi families. Democrats are currently considering a bill that would provide four weeks of paid leave, subsidized child care for most families and universal pre-K.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 said employers could not treat pregnant women differently, and a 2015 Supreme Court ruling required them to make accommodations for pregnant women in some circumstances. But federal protections are weak in many cases, and a large analysis this year, of complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and survey data, found that pregnancy discrimination remains rampant.
Anti-abortion scholars made another point: There might be more public policies supporting mothers if there weren’t strong abortion rights. Without Roe, they said, there could be more of a recognition of the differences between women’s and men’s reproductive lives, and more policies to accommodate pregnancy and child rearing.
Correlation or causation?
Another argument made by Mississippi and those supporting the state’s case is that there is no way to prove a causal link between abortion rights and women’s ability to play an equal role in society.
“It may be possible to claim anecdotally that a particular woman’s abortion seemed to preserve her opportunity to pursue a particular job or degree,” wrote 240 female scholars and members of anti-abortion groups in a brief to the Court. “But it is impossible to claim that abortion access is specially responsible for the progress that American women have made.”
A group of 154 economists also wrote to the court, saying the idea that children no longer affect women’s trajectories is “premature and false.” Also, the group said, sophisticated economic methods have demonstrated causal effects of abortion access. Researchers were able to compare similar people who either could or couldn’t get an abortion based on a policy change, as Caitlin Knowles Myers, an economist at Middlebury and an author of the brief, has described.
Studies found, for example, that access to abortion for young women with unplanned pregnancies led to higher earnings, more education and a higher chance of being a professional or manager than seen in women denied access to abortion. The effects were greatest among Black women.
One of the best-known examples of the effect of abortion access is the Turnaway Study. It included women who went to 30 clinics in 21 states, and compared those who were just under or over the gestational cutoff for an abortion. In follow-up research, scientists looked at their credit reports for several years before and after the unwanted pregnancy. Being denied an abortion increased the chance that women were living in poverty, were unemployed, had overdue debt or had experienced bankruptcies or evictions.
“There is long-lasting economic impact of being denied an abortion,” said Diana Greene Foster, a demographer at the University of California, San Francisco, who led the study. “The thing I learned most from my study is that they’re making rational decisions taking into account their life circumstances. If somehow magically every pregnancy was supported and all lives would be rosy, people would be taking that into account. Instead, people are looking at their circumstances and thinking things are going to be really hard. And all the things they think are right, because we see those outcomes among the people who are denied abortions.”
Other recent research finds that having a child has continued to affect women’s economic outcomes. Around the world, gender gaps in pay and promotions widen when children are born. In the United States, the employment rate of women relative to men drops 20 to 25 percentage points when children are born, and their earnings drop 35 points, according to Henrik Kleven, a professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton.
“We have so much evidence that the impact of parenthood is highly unequal for men and women,” he said. “There is still some gender inequality on average between men and women without children, but the impact solely of parenthood explains most of it.”
The declining abortion rate
A third argument in support of the idea that abortion access is unnecessary is that the expansion of women’s rights predated Roe, and women’s progress has continued even as abortion rates have fallen.
“Women’s motivation, determination and talent, plus state laws supporting that, is what has led to women’s advancement in society, not abortion,” said Teresa Stanton Collett, a professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law and one of the authors of the anti-abortion brief.
People in favor of abortion rights say women are planning their educations and careers knowing that abortion access exists, should they need it. This is an argument known as reliance — that people make choices based on existing rules.
The court used it in deciding Casey v. Planned Parenthood: “For two decades of economic and social developments, people have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail.”
Whatever decision the court makes about the Mississippi law, the case, along with other recent state restrictions on abortion, has cast doubt on whether women can still make plans based on that reliance, Professor Ziegler said.
“Mississippi is trying to redefine whether they can reasonably do that,” she said. “It’s a combination of saying women don’t need this anymore, and even if they do, they can’t reasonably expect it to be there.”
By Michele Goodwin, November 30, 2021
Ms. Goodwin is a professor of law at the University of California, Irvine, and the author of “Policing the Womb: Invisible Women and the Criminalization of Motherhood.”https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/30/opinion/abortion-texas-mississippi-rape.html
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the constitutionality of a 15-week abortion ban in Mississippi that provides no exceptions in cases of rape or incest. What’s at stake in this case matters to the countless girls and women who have been raped — including those who, like me, were raped by a father, an uncle or another family member.
It was the early morning of my 10th birthday the first time that I was raped by my father. It would not be the last. The shock was so severe that I temporarily went blind before I began the fifth grade a few weeks later. By the time the school year began, my father had taken me to see a battery of doctors — a medical explanation would paper over the fact that the trauma caused by his sexual violence had caused my body to shut down.
The physiological suffering that I endured included severe migraines, hair loss and even gray hair — at 10 years old. While other girls may have longed for puberty, I loathed the idea of it. My body became a vessel that was not mine. It had been taken from me. I lived in fear of the night, and the footsteps outside my bedroom door.
I gravitated to closets — I would find the deepest corner, sit with a flashlight, read and rock myself. Only years later, while in therapy at 16, would I understand that my involuntary rocking when relating to these experiences was the manifestation of my stress and anxiety.
My father’s predations were hidden behind wealth, social status and his acting the part of a committed and attentive parent. I attended elite schools in New York City, studied ballet at a renowned academy and took private violin and tennis lessons. My father never missed a parent-teacher conference. However, that veneer of normalcy belied intimate family violence that began years before with his physical abuse of my mother. At times he was so violent that she was hospitalized.
At age 12, I was pregnant by my father, and I had an abortion. Before we got to the doctor’s office, I had no idea that I was pregnant. My father lied about my age and the circumstance of my pregnancy, informing the doctor that I was 15 and that I had been reckless with a boyfriend. My father shook his head, explaining to the doctor that he was doing all that he could as a single parent — my parents had divorced by this time — but that I was out of control. Both men seemed to convey contempt toward me. For many years, the shame of my father’s lie lingered with me — the stereotype embedded in the narrative of the risky, hypersexualized Black girl.
My shame was never about the abortion. I will forever be grateful that my pregnancy was terminated. I am fortunate that my body was spared an additional trauma imposed by my father — one that today would be forced by some state legislatures and courts. No child should be pressured or expected to carry a pregnancy and give birth or to feel remorse, guilt, doubt or unease about an abortion under any circumstances, let alone rape or incest.
As Justice Harry Blackmun recognized in his majority opinion in Roe v. Wade in 1973, the barriers to a decent life are enormous when there is an unwanted pregnancy; for many, they are insurmountable.
In the end, my way out was to leave the economic security of home at age 15. That, too, is a decision that I will never regret. But it was not easy. When I left, I had $10 and no access to the savings account my father held for me. I enrolled myself in a public school on Staten Island. To support myself, I cleaned the house of a very kind couple. I lived in an unfinished attic and survived on a modest diet that mostly consisted of beans, rice and cans of tuna. To win my freedom from my parents, I went to court, where I endured interrogation from ill-prepared and insensitive lawyers about being raped as a child.
As a survivor of childhood rape and pregnancy — and today a law professor who teaches constitutional law and bioethics — I recognize the grave dangers of the current crop of abortion bans.
In Texas, the right to an abortion is virtually meaningless under Senate Bill 8, which bans most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, when many people will not know they are pregnant. Like the Mississippi ban, it provides no exceptions for rape or incest.
Given the importance of the Supreme Court’s deliberations this week and the naïve bravado of Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas suggesting that rape will disappear in his state with a tough-on-crime approach, I felt compelled to speak out.
The governor imagines that he can “eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas,” but like many abusers, my father was respected in the community, a successful businessman who was adored by family, friends and colleagues. I, on the other hand, felt alone and in fear. I was not only sexually abused but physically harmed as well. I was threatened to keep quiet and told by my father to “grit your teeth and bear it.”
Nobody ever wants to write about such experiences, exposing intimate aspects of one’s life, revisiting traumatic aspects of childhood. That is probably a big reason survivors of incest do not come forward. Even as our society becomes more enlightened about sexual assaults and abuse, often survivors pay a cost. While in college, a prominent professor warned me to never speak or write of my experiences. He believed that I had a bright future and that I could be personally and professionally harmed by sharing my story.
Yet the lack of compassion and the hubris that underlie the Mississippi and Texas legislation deserve a response.
With those laws, the state has in effect forced girls to carry the burden of its desires, forcing many of them to risk their health — and even risk death — by remaining pregnant. Like a military draft, the state has coercively conscripted rape and incest survivors to endure one more tremendous burden. To take another devastating physical and mental hit. To tie their lives to those of their rapists. This time it is state lawmakers who strong-arm their bodies into service.
This draft — the pregnancy draft — is warfare at home, and the state leaves its girls on the battlefield to fend for themselves. Rather than provide aid and care, states often punish girls who have run away from home after experiencing sexual violence. More than 80 percent of the girls in juvenile justice systems in some states are victims of sexual or physical violence. For so many of these girls, their pipelines are not from youth to college and graduate school but to juvenile detention and possibly prison. Their lives are treated as expendable and not worth saving.
Abortion bans represent more than isolated state lawmaking or states’ rights — they represent an attack on the fundamental principles of liberty, freedom and autonomy. As Justice Blackmun noted in a 1986 majority opinion that reaffirmed Roe, “few decisions are more personal and intimate, more properly private or more basic to individual dignity and autonomy” than the decision to terminate a pregnancy. Abortion bans that provide no exceptions for rape and incest are a particularly cruel and immoral type of lawmaking.
For these reasons, this is a pivotal moment for the Supreme Court to issue a corrective and show that here, too, the arc of the moral universe may be long, but as foretold by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it bends toward justice — and that includes the protection of girls.
District attorneys around the country are investigating officers in cases their predecessors had handled, raising the ire of police unions that say it undermines public safety.
By Steve Eder and David D. Kirkpatrick, Nov. 30, 2021
"A recent New York Times investigation found that since the fall of 2016, officers have killed more than 400 drivers or passengers who were not wielding a gun or a knife, or under pursuit for a violent crime. In about 250 of the cases, officers later claimed a driver used a vehicle as a weapon, and most officers killed with impunity: Only five have been convicted of crimes. (About two dozen cases are pending.)"
Protesters address the Torrance City Council after Christopher De’Andre Mitchell was killed by police. A prosecutor is reopening an investigation into whether the shooting was justified. Credit...Axel Koester
The attorney general of Maine declined 14 years ago to prosecute the police officer who had killed Gregori Jackson, 18, a drunk passenger who fled on foot from a routine traffic stop in the town of Waldoboro. (“Legally justified,” the attorney general ruled.)
It was nearly 11 years ago that the district attorney in Westchester County, N.Y., found no crime when an officer, claiming he was about to be run over, had fired at Danroy Henry Jr., 20. He had bumped his Nissan Altima into the officer outside a bar while police responded to an unrelated scuffle inside. (“No reasonable cause” to indict, the grand jury concluded.)
And it was two years ago that the Los Angeles County prosecutor cleared the officers who had shot Christopher De’Andre Mitchell, 23. He had been in the driver’s seat of a stolen vehicle with an air rifle between his knees. (“Acted lawfully in self-defense,” the district attorney wrote.)
Now, in the aftermath of protests over racial justice and police abuse, new prosecutors are taking a previously rare step: They are reopening investigations into all three deadly car stops, asking whether the use of force was justified or if the officers should face criminal charges. Mr. Henry and Mr. Mitchell were Black, and Mr. Jackson was white.
District attorneys in Democratic precincts around the country have been re-examining other old use-of-force cases, too — including 340 killings in Los Angeles County alone. They are promising a sharp break from the traditionally close relationship between the police and prosecutors that critics say has long shielded officers from accountability.
“For 200 years in this country we have been electing one kind of prosecutor,” said José Garza, who last fall was elected district attorney of Travis County, Texas, which includes Austin. But since the killing of George Floyd, he added, “People across the country have spoken up loudly and clearly to say they want a new way of being policed.”
So far, Mr. Garza’s team has persuaded grand juries to hand down 11 indictments against officers — including at least six for use-of-force incidents in 2019 and 2020 for which his predecessor had not sought charges.
The reviews are arousing furious resistance from police unions and conservative district attorneys, who call them political stunts that demoralize officers and are unlikely to sway trial court juries. Unions in Austin, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Philadelphia have backed campaigns to oust the top prosecutors.
At the same time, rising crime rates across the country are provoking a backlash against calls from last year’s protests to rein in the police.
“To go back and open up all the cases, because you have an absolute grudge against police officers and you’re trying to carry a badge of honor — ‘Look at me, look at me, I’m going to prosecute police officers, I’m going to hold them accountable’ — is turning the table completely upside down,” said Todd Spitzer, the district attorney of Orange County, Calif. A Republican, he is an outspoken supporter of the union-backed campaign to recall his Democratic counterpart in nearby Los Angeles.
“These counties where the ‘woke D.A.s’ are elected,” Mr. Spitzer said, “they are utterly destroying police morale. They are making it impossible to recruit police.”
The number of progressive district attorneys vowing new accountability for police has grown from a first wave of 14 in 2016 to more than 70, representing one-fifth of the U.S. population, according to Fair and Just Prosecution, a group that supports criminal justice reforms. Nearly half of the prosecutors are women, and nearly half are people of color.
Bringing charges against police officers for old use-of-force cases — especially those formally closed by their predecessors — is among the boldest of a range of changes many are seeking. Other policies have included compiling lists of officers deemed discredited as witnesses, requiring a search for corroboration to bring charges of resisting arrest, or reassessing past convictions for potential exonerations or sentence reductions.
Legal scholars say the efforts amount to a decisive test of the criminal justice system. “The stakes are enormous,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of the University of California, Berkeley School of Law and a member of a panel advising the Los Angeles district attorney on the review of past use-of-force cases. Noting the election of the progressive prosecutors coincides with increased awareness about officer misconduct, he asked, “Will these combine to reform policing, or will we just revert to where we were?”
The progressive prosecutors reflect “the anti-cop political moment,” said Hannah E. Meyers, director of policing research at the conservative Manhattan Institute. “But if we are serious about reform,” she asked, “is this endeavor really the way to have a system for putting the best cops in those positions and for justice when police act badly?”
Legal codes and court precedents generally allow police to use lethal force if they reasonably believe it necessary to defend themselves or others from imminent harm. Persuading a jury that an officer’s professed fear was unreasonable can be a high hurdle, prosecutors often say, especially in the context of vehicle stops, where police training and culture typically overstate the dangers to officers.
A recent New York Times investigation found that since the fall of 2016, officers have killed more than 400 drivers or passengers who were not wielding a gun or a knife, or under pursuit for a violent crime. In about 250 of the cases, officers later claimed a driver used a vehicle as a weapon, and most officers killed with impunity: Only five have been convicted of crimes. (About two dozen cases are pending.)
One of those rare convictions came this fall in the 2018 police shooting in Danville, Calif., of a driver, Laudemer Arboleda, who was 33 and mentally ill. He had ignored an attempted traffic stop and continued to drive slowly when he was fatally shot by Officer Andrew Hall. Mr. Hall claimed Mr. Arboleda was attempting to use his vehicle as a weapon. The officer returned to duty, and in March, he fatally shot a homeless man who was holding a folding knife during an encounter in the street.
District Attorney Diana Becton of Contra Costa County charged Mr. Hall in April for the death of Mr. Arboleda. He was convicted in October of felony assault with a semiautomatic firearm. (The jury deadlocked on a manslaughter charge; Ms. Becton’s office is still investigating the killing of the homeless man.)
“Vehicle cases can be difficult,” she said. “But we also know that we now have a conviction on one of the charges.”
In a review of more than 150 formal statements or public comments from prosecutors declining to bring charges for the deadly use of force against unarmed motorists, The Times found that almost all either characterized the motorist as a potential menace or emphasized that the legal standards left prosecutors few options.
But the new prosecutors say they were elected on promises to hold law enforcement officers accountable. In several districts — including Los Angeles and San Francisco — they pledged not to accept campaign contributions from police unions.
In a striking departure, several of the new district attorneys have little experience as prosecutors. Mr. Garza, of Travis County, Texas, was a former public defender who led a community organization for migrant workers before running for district attorney. Others were defense attorneys or civil rights lawyers, like Larry Krasner, the Philadelphia district attorney, who as a candidate was known for having sued the police 75 times.
Some district attorneys have responded to the urging of families to reopen cases of relatives killed by police years ago. “A loss can be even harder when the killer is law enforcement — you know, the entity that’s there to protect and serve,” said Rachael Rollins, the district attorney in Suffolk County, Mass., which includes Boston, who agreed to revisit three such cases.
But a review does not necessarily produce a new result: A prosecutor’s re-investigation of the 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., ended last year without charging the officer.
Dozens of staff lawyers who object to the new approach have departed from several of the offices. At the same time, several district attorneys have brought in new staff lawyers, investigators or special prosecutors to carry out the reviews.
In Los Angeles, District Attorney George Gascón has enlisted a panel of legal experts and community advisers as well as a clinic at the University of California, Irvine law school to review as many as 340 killings going back to 2012 that his predecessor deemed justified. (Statutes of limitations can bar prosecutors from seeking certain charges in older cases, although generally not for murder.)
He promised during his campaign to reopen at least four specific cases, including the 2018 killing of Mr. Mitchell, who had the air rifle between his knees. To bring any charges, he has recruited the former federal prosecutor Lawrence Middleton, who handled the infamous Rodney King beating case in 1992.
Mr. Garza, in Travis County, promised to bring every officer-involved shooting to a grand jury, and his staff discontinued the past practice of working with officers to prepare them for the process.
He has already secured four indictments this year of officers for a killing and a beating from 2019 that the police department’s special investigations and internal affairs units had deemed justified and his predecessor never took up. His office has also won indictments against officers for the 2019 killing of Javier Ambler II, who was repeatedly stunned with a Taser after he fled a traffic stop, as well as the 2020 shooting of Mike Ramos, who officers said had driven his car at them. Both men were unarmed.
Police advocates argue that re-examining old police use-of-force cases without new evidence is like putting an officer on trial twice for the same actions. In Maine, where the prosecutor Natasha Irving prodded the attorney general to reopen the passenger killing case from 2007, officers are wondering who might be next, said Mike Edes, executive director of the Maine chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police and a retired officer.
“I was involved in a shooting in 2004. If she doesn’t like the outcome, is she going to go back 17 years and reinvestigate it?” he asked. “Where’s this going to stop with her?”
Others say that the prosecution of old cases is diminishing public safety by making officers hesitate. “Every interaction you have with a citizen is a chance for something to go wrong and a chance for you to be indicted by Garza,” said Ken Ervin, a lawyer who represents the police officers in Austin facing criminal charges. “You have some officers who are checked out and they just sit in the cars and they do nothing.”
In a public letter to the Austin city manager released in July, District Attorney Garza also complained of “increasing incidents of some Austin Police Department officers declining to investigate suspected criminal activity and suggesting to community members it is because our office will not prosecute the cases.”
The president of the police union had urged officers to stop “active enforcement,” Mr. Garza noted, asserting that “rogue” officers had answered that call.
Yet some prosecutors reviewing old cases were elected with the support of the police unions.
“I don’t define myself as a progressive prosecutor,” said Fani T. Willis, a Democrat who was elected district attorney in Fulton County, Ga., last year with police union backing. “I just define myself as doing what’s right.”
Since taking office in January, she has begun reviewing 50 use-of-force cases and seven death-in-custody cases going back to 2016 that her predecessor had not addressed; she has so far landed indictments in 13 of them. Six officers were indicted in November for a jailhouse death in 2018. They had allegedly shouted that it was “Taser Tuesday” as they tortured and killed Antonio May, 32, arrested for throwing rocks at a building.
“There were too many cases where nothing had been done,” said Ms. Willis, noting her office had also cleared more than 20 officers. “Where there is no courage, nothing happens.”