United in Action to STOP KILLER DRONES:
SHUT DOWN CREECH!
Spring Action, 2022
March 26 - April 2—Saturday to Saturday
Co-sponsored by CODEPINK and Veterans For Peace
“In His Defense” The People vs. Kevin Cooper
A film by Kenneth A. Carlson
Teaser is now streaming at:
Posted by: Death Penalty Focus Blog, January 10, 2022
“In his Defense,” a documentary on the Kevin Cooper case, is in the works right now, and California filmmaker Kenneth Carlson has released a teaser for it on CarlsonFilms.com
Just over seven months ago, California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered an independent investigation of Cooper’s death penalty case. At the time, he explained that, “In cases where the government seeks to impose the ultimate punishment of death, I need to be satisfied that all relevant evidence is carefully and fairly examined.”
That investigation is ongoing, with no word from any of the parties involved on its progress.
Cooper has been on death row since 1985 for the murder of four people in San Bernardino County in June 1983. Prosecutors said Cooper, who had escaped from a minimum-security prison and had been hiding out near the scene of the murder, killed Douglas and Peggy Ryen, their 10-year-old daughter, Jessica, and 10-year-old Chris Hughes, a friend who was spending the night at the Ryen’s. The lone survivor of the attack, eight-year-old Josh Ryen, was severely injured but survived.
For over 36 years, Cooper has insisted he is innocent, and there are serious questions about evidence that was missing, tampered with, destroyed, possibly planted, or hidden from the defense. There were multiple murder weapons, raising questions about how one man could use all of them, killing four people and seriously wounding one, in the amount of time the coroner estimated the murders took place.
The teaser alone gives a good overview of the case, and helps explain why so many believe Cooper was wrongfully convicted.
To: U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives
End Legal Slavery in U.S. Prisons
Sign Petition at:
On the anniversary of the 26th of July Movement’s founding, Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research launches the online exhibition, Let Cuba Live. 80 artists from 19 countries – including notable cartoonists and designers from Cuba – submitted over 100 works in defense of the Cuban Revolution. Together, the exhibition is a visual call for the end to the decades-long US-imposed blockade, whose effects have only deepened during the pandemic. The intentional blocking of remittances and Cuba’s use of global financial institutions have prevented essential food and medicine from entering the country. Together, the images in this exhibition demand: #UnblockCuba #LetCubaLive
Please contact email@example.com if you are interested in organising a local exhibition of the exhibition.
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!
Wrongful Conviction podcast of Kevin Cooper's case, Jason Flom with Kevin and Norm Hile
Please listen and share!
Kevin Cooper: Important CBS news new report today, and article January 31, 2022
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:
New Legal Filing in Mumia’s Case
The following statement was issued January 4, 2022, regarding new legal filings by attorneys for Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Campaign to Bring Mumia Home
In her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston wrote, “There are years that ask questions, and years that answer.”
With continued pressure from below, 2022 will be the year that forces the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office and the Philly Police Department to answer questions about why they framed imprisoned radio journalist and veteran Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal. Abu-Jamal’s attorneys have filed a Pennsylvania Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) petition focused entirely on the six boxes of case files that were found in a storage room of the DA’s office in late December 2018, after the case being heard before Judge Leon Tucker in the Court of Common Pleas concluded. (tinyurl.com/zkyva464)
The new evidence contained in the boxes is damning, and we need to expose it. It reveals a pattern of misconduct and abuse of authority by the prosecution, including bribery of the state’s two key witnesses, as well as racist exclusion in jury selection—a violation of the landmark Supreme Court decision Batson v. Kentucky. The remedy for each or any of the claims in the petition is a new trial. The court may order a hearing on factual issues raised in the claims. If so, we won’t know for at least a month.
The new evidence includes a handwritten letter penned by Robert Chobert, the prosecution’s star witness. In it, Chobert demands to be paid money promised him by then-Prosecutor Joseph McGill. Other evidence includes notes written by McGill, prominently tracking the race of potential jurors for the purposes of excluding Black people from the jury, and letters and memoranda which reveal that the DA’s office sought to monitor, direct, and intervene in the outstanding prostitution charges against its other key witness Cynthia White.
Mumia Abu-Jamal was framed and convicted 40 years ago in 1982, during one of the most corrupt and racist periods in Philadelphia’s history—the era of cop-turned-mayor Frank Rizzo. It was a moment when the city’s police department, which worked intimately with the DA’s office, routinely engaged in homicidal violence against Black and Latinx detainees, corruption, bribery and tampering with evidence to obtain convictions.
In 1979, under pressure from civil rights activists, the Department of Justice filed an unprecedented lawsuit against the Philadelphia police department and detailed a culture of racist violence, widespread corruption and intimidation that targeted outspoken people like Mumia. Despite concurrent investigations by the FBI and Pennsylvania’s Attorney General and dozens of police convictions, the power and influence of the country’s largest police association, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) prevailed.
Now, more than 40 years later, we’re still living with the failure to uproot these abuses. Philadelphia continues to fear the powerful FOP, even though it endorses cruelty, racism, and multiple injustices. A culture of fear permeates the “city of brotherly love.”
The contents of these boxes shine light on decades of white supremacy and rampant lawlessness in U.S. courts and prisons. They also hold enormous promise for Mumia’s freedom and challenge us to choose Love, Not PHEAR. (lovenotphear.com/) Stay tuned.
—Workers World, January 4, 2022
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
How long will he still be with us? How long will the genocide continue?
By Michael Moore—VIA Email: email@example.com
American Indian Movement leader, Leonard Peltier, at 77 years of age, came down with Covid-19 this weekend. Upon hearing this, I broke down and cried. An innocent man, locked up behind bars for 44 years, Peltier is now America’s longest-held political prisoner. He suffers in prison tonight even though James Reynolds, one of the key federal prosecutors who sent Peltier off to life in prison in 1977, has written to President Biden and confessed to his role in the lies, deceit, racism and fake evidence that together resulted in locking up our country’s most well-known Native American civil rights leader. Just as South Africa imprisoned for more than 27 years its leading voice for freedom, Nelson Mandela, so too have we done the same to a leading voice and freedom fighter for the indigenous people of America. That’s not just me saying this. That’s Amnesty International saying it. They placed him on their political prisoner list years ago and continue to demand his release.
And it’s not just Amnesty leading the way. It’s the Pope who has demanded Leonard Peltier’s release. It’s the Dalai Lama, Jesse Jackson, and the President Pro-Tempore of the US Senate, Sen. Patrick Leahy. Before their deaths, Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa and Bishop Desmond Tutu pleaded with the United States to free Leonard Peltier. A worldwide movement of millions have seen their demands fall on deaf ears.
And now the calls for Peltier to be granted clemency in DC have grown on Capitol Hill. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI), the head of the Senate committee who oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs, has also demanded Peltier be given his freedom. Numerous House Democrats have also written to Biden.
The time has come for our President to act; the same President who appointed the first-ever Native American cabinet member last year and who halted the building of the Keystone pipeline across Native lands. Surely Mr. Biden is capable of an urgent act of compassion for Leonard Peltier — especially considering that the prosecutor who put him away in 1977 now says Peltier is innocent, and that his US Attorney’s office corrupted the evidence to make sure Peltier didn’t get a fair trial. Why is this victim of our judicial system still in prison? And now he is sick with Covid.
For months Peltier has begged to get a Covid booster shot. Prison officials refused. The fact that he now has COVID-19 is a form of torture. A shame hangs over all of us. Should he now die, are we all not complicit in taking his life?
President Biden, let Leonard Peltier go. This is a gross injustice. You can end it. Reach deep into your Catholic faith, read what the Pope has begged you to do, and then do the right thing.
For those of you reading this, will you join me right now in appealing to President Biden to free Leonard Peltier? His health is in deep decline, he is the voice of his people — a people we owe so much to for massacring and imprisoning them for hundreds of years.
The way we do mass incarceration in the US is abominable. And Leonard Peltier is not the only political prisoner we have locked up. We have millions of Black and brown and poor people tonight in prison or on parole and probation — in large part because they are Black and brown and poor. THAT is a political act on our part. Corporate criminals and Trump run free. The damage they have done to so many Americans and people around the world must be dealt with.
This larger issue is one we MUST take on. For today, please join me in contacting the following to show them how many millions of us demand that Leonard Peltier has suffered enough and should be free:
President Joe Biden
E-mail: At this link
Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland
Attorney General Merrick Garland
E-mail: At this link
I’ll end with the final verse from the epic poem “American Names” by Stephen Vincent Benet:
I shall not rest quiet in Montparnasse.
I shall not lie easy at Winchelsea.
You may bury my body in Sussex grass,
You may bury my tongue at Champmedy.
I shall not be there. I shall rise and pass.
Bury my heart at Wounded Knee.
PS. Also — watch the brilliant 1992 documentary by Michael Apted and Robert Redford about the framing of Leonard Peltier— “Incident at Oglala”
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.
Please visit the NLG Mass Defense Program page for general protest-related legal support hotlines run by NLG chapters.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
- 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:
Center for Constitutional Rights
Civil Liberties Defense Center
- Grand Juries: Slideshow
Grand Jury Resistance Project
Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources
Tilted Scales Collective
A video of the fight at a New Jersey mall circulated widely online. Gov. Philip D. Murphy said the appearance of “racially disparate treatment” was “deeply, deeply disturbing.”
By Azi Paybarah, Feb. 17, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/17/nyregion/mall-fight-bridgewater-commons-nj.html
It was a routine scuffle that normally would have gotten little attention: two teenagers taking swings at each other in a New Jersey mall.
But when the police arrived and pulled them apart, one teenager, who is Black, was placed in handcuffs. The other one, who is white, was allowed to sit unrestrained on a couch.
The fight, which took place at the Bridgewater Commons mall on Saturday, was captured in a video that has been viewed more than 1.8 million times on Twitter.
“The appearance of what is racially disparate treatment,” Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey said at a news conference on Wednesday, “is deeply, deeply disturbing.”
On Monday, the Bridgewater Police Department wrote on Facebook, “We recognize that this video has made members of our community upset and are calling for an internal affairs investigation.”
In a letter to residents on Tuesday, the mayor of Bridgewater said that the township’s police chief had asked the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office to look into the matter. The New Jersey State Conference of the NAACP is calling for the officers involved in the episode to be immediately removed from the force pending an investigation.
The family of the Black teenager, Z’Kye Husain, 14, is working with Benjamin Crump, the civil rights lawyer who represented the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other high-profile victims of police brutality against Black people.
In a brief telephone interview on Thursday, Z’Kye’s mother, who asked that she be identified only by her first name, Eboné, said her son remained in handcuffs for about 20 to 30 minutes. The white teenager, who Mr. Crump said was in the 11th grade, was not handcuffed, Eboné said. No charges were filed against either teenager, she said.
“The cops said it was just protocol for a situation like that for them to put the kids in handcuffs,” she said. “It just so happens my son was the only one with the handcuffs on.”
A spokesman for the Bridgewater Police Department referred questions to the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office, which did not respond to requests for comment.
Z’Kye’s mother said her son was at the mall with friends around 7:30 p.m. on Saturday when the white teenager started harassing one of Z’Kye’s friends, who is in the seventh grade. Z’Kye defended his friend, she said, as other teenagers at the mall began recording the encounter with their phones.
In the video, the white teenager, who is wearing a dark sweatshirt, jabs a finger near Z’Kye’s face. Z’Kye pushes his hand away. Then the white teenager shoves Z’Kye in the chest with both hands. Z’Kye stumbles back. Then, both teens start throwing punches as the crowd around them backs away.
The older teenager tackles Z’Kye onto a couch. More punches are thrown. The white teenager tackles Z’Kye and is above him when two uniformed officers, who appear to be white, arrive.
The officers throw the white teenager toward the couch and one briefly stays with him as the other officer tackles Z’Kye to the floor and begins to handcuff him.
The officer who was with the white teenager on the couch leaves him there to help restrain Z’Kye, both officers placing their knees on his back.
The white teenager stands up and appears to take a few small steps toward the officers and Z’Kye.
The video ends as one officer picks Z’Kye off the ground and the other walks over to the white teenager and puts a hand on his chest as if to guide him back to the couch.
“Yo, it’s because he’s Black,” one bystander says before the video ends. “Racially motivated.”
A Bridgewater Commons spokeswoman said both teenagers had been banned from the mall for three years. She declined further comment, citing the developing investigation.
Mr. Crump said other videos of the fight could surface showing more of the encounter and the officers’ response to it. He also said the episode was important because “too many of us do get killed when we’re wrongfully accused and falsely accused.”
Mayor Matthew Moench of Bridgewater Township, which is about 30 miles north of Trenton, told residents in his letter that it was “not appropriate for me or any other Township official to comment any further” because an investigation was underway. Mr. Moench did not respond to telephone calls and email messages seeking comment.
Township officials also canceled a previously scheduled town hall meeting on Wednesday, citing “the volume and nature of communications that have been received by our Township staff and Police Department,” according to a letter posted on the township’s website.
During demonstrations after George Floyd’s murder, several people in the Texas capital were taken to hospitals after being struck with beanbag rounds that officers fired from shotguns.
By David Montgomery, Published Feb. 17, 2022, Updated Feb. 18, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/17/us/austin-police-indictments-protests.html?searchResultPosition=2
AUSTIN, Texas — A Texas district attorney said on Thursday it was very likely that several Austin police officers would be indicted on criminal charges for their treatment of protesters who were denouncing police violence and racial injustice after George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis law enforcement in 2020.
Grand juries meet in secret, and many details of the investigation by Travis County have not yet been publicly released. But District Attorney José Garza said at a news conference that a special grand jury had concluded its work, and Joseph Chacon, the city’s police chief, separately declared that he was “extremely disappointed” in the news that charges against his officers were forthcoming.
Ken Casaday, president of the Austin Police Association, said several lawyers representing officers told the union that 19 officers had been indicted.
The discussion of charges could begin to rekindle divisions that gripped the state capital during days of violent confrontations. Several protesters were injured as officers armed with “less-lethal” weapons, such as rubber bullets and beanbag rounds, confronted large crowds that intermittently blocked traffic on Interstate 35 through downtown Austin.
Mr. Garza, who made investigating the officers’ actions a priority after he was elected in 2020, said the county’s review uncovered disturbing facts.
“We believe many protesters injured by officers during the protests were innocent bystanders,” he said. “We also believe that the overwhelming majority of victims in the incidents that were investigated suffered significant and lasting injuries.”
At least 11 people were taken to hospitals after being struck with the beanbag rounds, which are filled with lead and fired from shotguns. Brad Levi Ayala was shot in the forehead while watching a peaceful protest.
“It created this huge gaping hole in his head — a huge wound,” said his brother Edwin Sanchez, who said Mr. Ayala required seven hours of surgery.
The police chief at the time announced that the department would no longer use beanbag rounds in crowds, and on Thursday, the city approved settlements with two demonstrators who were injured during the protests. The lawsuits said Justin Howell and Anthony Evans were severely injured when officers used “less-lethal” ammunition as a form of crowd control.
“Something went wrong here because no one should be injured merely exercising their constitutional rights,” Mayor Steve Adler said in a statement about the settlements.
At his news conference on Tuesday, Chief Chacon defended the response of his officers, who he said were often targeted by rocks, frozen water bottles and fireworks. The chief said officers were asked “to work under the most chaotic of circumstances” in crowds that escalated into the thousands.
“I believe in many instances the officers were simply attempting to protect themselves and other protest participants,” he said. “I am not aware of any conduct that, given the circumstances that the officers were working under, would rise to the level of a criminal violation.”
Mr. Garza, the prosecutor, disagreed with that assessment. He said there had been a thorough investigation, and said he anticipated that several indictments would be announced in the coming days.
Ms. Potter fatally shot Mr. Wright after drawing her gun instead of her Taser during a traffic stop near Minneapolis.
By Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Feb. 18, 2022
The former police officer who fatally shot Daunte Wright during a traffic stop was sentenced to two years in prison on Friday, far less than the standard of about seven years for manslaughter, after a judge said leniency was warranted because the officer had meant to fire her Taser and not her gun.
Jurors convicted the former officer, Kimberly Potter, on two counts of manslaughter in December. They found that she had acted recklessly when she fired a bullet into Mr. Wright’s chest after warning that she was going to stun him and yelling: “Taser! Taser! Taser!”
Ms. Potter, a 49-year-old white woman who served on the police force in Brooklyn Center, Minn., resigned two days after the shooting in April, during a time of chaotic protests over the killing of Mr. Wright, a 20-year-old Black man. She has been imprisoned since the guilty verdict on Dec. 23.
Judge Regina M. Chu sentenced Ms. Potter on only the most serious count, first-degree manslaughter, in accordance with Minnesota law. The state’s sentencing guidelines list the felony count as having a presumptive punishment of a little more than seven years in prison, though the maximum penalty is 15 years. Judge Chu said the case was far different from most manslaughter cases, as well as from other high-profile police killings.
“This is not a cop found guilty of murder for using his knee to pin down a person for nine and a half minutes as he gasped for air,” the judge said, referring to Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis officer who was convicted of murdering George Floyd. She added: “This is a cop who made a tragic mistake. She drew her firearm, thinking it was a Taser, and ended up killing a young man.”
Judge Chu handed down the sentence shortly after Ms. Potter sobbed while apologizing to Mr. Wright’s family in court on Friday.
“I am so sorry that I brought the death of your son,” Ms. Potter said. Speaking directly to Mr. Wright’s mother, she said: “Katie, I understand a mother’s love and I am sorry I broke your heart. My heart is broken for all of you.”
Mr. Wright’s relatives said they were outraged by the leniency of the two-year sentence Ms. Potter received.
Daunte Wright’s father, Arbuey Wright, fought back tears as he described feeling cheated and hurt. He said the judge had seemed to care more about Ms. Potter than about Mr. Wright and his family.
“They were so tied up into her feelings and what’s going on with her that they forgot about my son being killed,” he said. “We actually thought we were going to get a little justice.”
Ben Crump, a lawyer representing Mr. Wright’s family, said many people have been sentenced to longer terms in prison for selling marijuana.
One of Ms. Potter’s lawyers, Paul Engh, said he was grateful that Ms. Potter was “shown mercy.”
It is rare that police officers are convicted and sentenced to prison for killing people. And prosecutions are unusual in the few situations in which officers have claimed they thought they were firing their Tasers.
In 15 previous cases over the past two decades in which officers said they confused their weapons, three were convicted of a crime, including two officers who fired fatal shots. Johannes Mehserle, a transit officer who shot and killed Oscar Grant III at a train station in Oakland, Calif., in 2009, was sentenced to two years in prison. Robert Bates, a volunteer sheriff’s deputy in Tulsa, Okla., was sentenced to four years in prison after he shot and killed a man while meaning to fire his Taser.
Prosecutors in the office of Keith Ellison, the Minnesota attorney general, had suggested that they would ask Judge Chu to sentence Ms. Potter to a prison term beyond the standard sentencing range of 6.2 to 8.6 years, but in a new court filing this week they instead said that a sentence within that range would be appropriate.
Ms. Potter’s lawyers asked the judge to sentence Ms. Potter to probation, arguing that she would be a “walking target” in prison and that the prosecution’s sentencing request was “a political statement.”
Mr. Engh said at the sentencing hearing on Friday that Ms. Potter had suffered a “decline in mental and physical health” in the nearly two months that she has been imprisoned in solitary confinement because of fears that she would be attacked.
Mr. Wright’s parents and siblings had asked Judge Chu to sentence Ms. Potter to the maximum possible prison term.
“Daunte meant the world to me,” Arbuey Wright said in court before the sentence. “He was handsome, he was my son, he was my prince. Daunte was my reason. He was my reason to do better.”
Chyna Whitaker, the mother of Daunte Wright’s 2-year-old son, Daunte Jr., said she had become a single mother “not by choice, but by force,” and that Ms. Potter had taken Daunte Jr.’s “best friend away from him.”
It is quite likely that Ms. Potter will be released from prison after about 14 months, in April 2023. Under Minnesota law, prisoners are generally freed on a supervised release term after they serve two-thirds of their sentence, and Ms. Potter will be credited for the 58 days she has spent in custody since she was convicted.
Prosecutors in Ms. Potter’s case conceded that the shooting on April 11 was a mistake, and in the moments after she fired, body camera videos showed her shouting that she had grabbed the wrong weapon and falling to the ground in tears.
Mr. Wright had been driving with a friend to a carwash in a Minneapolis suburb when Officer Anthony Luckey, who was being trained by Ms. Potter, noticed that Mr. Wright had used the wrong turn signal. Officer Luckey followed Mr. Wright’s white Buick and noticed that the car had an air freshener dangling from the rearview mirror, which is against the law in many states, and that his license plate had an expired registration sticker.
Officers ran Mr. Wright’s name through a police database and determined that a judge had recently issued a warrant for his arrest because he had missed a court date on charges that he had illegally possessed a gun and had run away from police officers. He stepped out of the car at Officer Luckey’s request, but when the officer went to handcuff him, Mr. Wright twisted away from his grip and got back into the driver’s seat.
As Officer Luckey struggled with Mr. Wright, trying to keep him from driving away, Ms. Potter shouted “I’ll Tase you!” while drawing her department-issued Glock instead. Moments later, she fatally shot Mr. Wright, whose car traveled shortly down the street before crashing into an oncoming car.
Daunte Demetrius Wright had played basketball in high school and later worked at Taco Bell and a shoe store with his father. His mother testified at Ms. Potter’s trial that Mr. Wright had recently enrolled in a vocational school and was considering becoming a carpenter.
Five other people were wounded in the shooting, which the police said “appeared to be a confrontation between armed protesters and an armed homeowner.”
By Sergio Olmos, Austin Ramzy and Melina Delkic, Published Feb. 20, 2022, Updated Feb. 21, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/20/us/portland-shooting-protest.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=US%20News
PORTLAND, Ore. — A deadly weekend shooting in Portland at a protest against police killings left one person dead and five others wounded, raising tensions once again among the city’s social justice activists.
The Portland Police Bureau said a woman was dead when officers arrived on Saturday night at the scene in the neighborhood of Rose City Park. Two men and three other women were taken to a nearby hospital, the police said.
The shooting, which occurred at the start of a protest, appeared to be “a confrontation between armed protesters and an armed homeowner,” Lt. Nathan Sheppard said by phone on Sunday. “That’s what the preliminary investigation is indicating.”
He declined to provide details about the people hospitalized and declined to say whether anyone was in custody.
The crime scene “was extremely chaotic,” the police said in a statement on Sunday, “and a number of witnesses were uncooperative with responding officers. Most people on scene left without talking to police.”
The statement added that detectives believe a large number of people either witnessed what happened or recorded the incident. “This is a very complicated incident, and investigators are trying to put this puzzle together without having all the pieces,” the statement said.
One of the victims, Dajah Beck, who turns 39 on Monday and who was contacted through her attorney, said she was shot twice. One bullet went through her side, and the other grazed her knee. Ms. Beck said she was part of a volunteer motorcade group that was working to set up a safety plan and reroute traffic ahead of the march. “We’re not part of the protest,” she said, adding that no one in the motorcade group was armed.
As Ms. Beck and the group were working, with one woman riding in the back of a truck because she walked slower and with the aid of a cane, a man approached a small group of women, screaming that they were “violent terrorists” and repeatedly calling them a misogynist vulgarity. The man said they were the people responsible for violence in the city, Beck recounted, adding that he said: “If I see you come past my house, I’ll shoot you.”
People in the group tried to calm him down. But as Ms. Beck looked away from him toward one of her friends, “that’s when he started shooting,” she said. She fell to the ground after she was shot and crawled behind a truck tire for cover. Moments later, she said, “the first thing that I saw was my two friends on the ground covered in blood.” One of them was the woman who died. Ms. Beck said that at that point, the shooter had been subdued and people were on top of him.
A tense atmosphere in the city lingered on Sunday. Before midday, a news conference about the shooting was disrupted almost immediately by several protesters, one of whom denounced white nationalism.
In a statement on Twitter on Sunday night, Mayor Ted Wheeler asked the community to cooperate with the investigation.
“While many of the details of last night’s shooting near Normandale Park are unclear, we do know one thing for sure: Our community is dealing with the sadness of another senseless act of gun violence,” he said.
The shooting took place near a park in Portland that has been the staging ground for a number of protests against police killings in recent years. Neighbors said several shots were fired.
“I was sitting in the room talking to my wife, and all of a sudden you hear repeated gunshots,” said Jeff Pry, who lives in the area.
Protesters were to meet around 7 p.m. and begin to march around 8 p.m. local time from the area around Normandale Park, according to fliers shared online ahead of the event. Many activists did not respond to requests for comment. Some activist groups warned protesters to limit the sharing of firsthand accounts on social media, whether through photo or text.
Protesters have been demonstrating in Portland against police killings for years, some since before George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer in 2020.
The march on Saturday night was partly led by Letha Winston, whose son Patrick Kimmons was fatally shot in 2018 by police officers in Portland who were responding to an altercation. A grand jury determined that deadly force was justified. Ms. Winston has held sometimes weekly marches to protest for racial justice.
Information on social media indicated the protest on Saturday was in response to the death of Amir Locke, 22, who was fatally shot by the police in Minneapolis when they were carrying out a search warrant early on Feb. 2. The killing of Mr. Locke, who was Black, stirred anger in Portland.
Mr. Locke was not the target of the police raid, which was carried out with a so-called no-knock warrant that does not require notifying residents. Minneapolis has since suspended the use of such warrants.
In an image that promoted the protest on social media, organizers sought “Justice for Amir Locke” and “Justice for Patrick Kimmons,” in addition to others involved in cases of police killings.
In Portland, demonstrations over racial justice have sometimes spiraled into violence between protesters and counterprotesters, but initial reports did not indicate that counterprotesters were present on Saturday night.
While the police in Portland have been criticized for overreacting to the demonstrations — the police have acknowledged using force more than 6,000 times during protests in 2020, prompting a reprimand from the Department of Justice — the constant clashes, especially the ones that have devolved into vandalism, have exasperated many Portland residents, including the mayor.
Eric Ward, executive director of the Western States Center, a nonprofit focused on countering white nationalism, issued a statement denouncing the violence on Saturday night.
Political violence, regardless of where it originates, only undermines social movements that seek a more inclusive society, he said in the statement. “Whether it’s police brutality, paramilitaries, vigilantes or misguided actions in support of police reform, there’s simply no more room for political violence in the Portland we’re working to build,” he said.
Giulia Heyward contributed reporting.
High energy prices in Europe are upending people’s lives. While some are installing solar panels, others are stoking their wood-burning stoves.
By Melissa Eddy and Liz Alderman, Feb. 21, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/21/business/europe-power-gas-bill.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=Business
A German retiree facing sky-high energy bills is turning to a wood-burning stove. The owner of a dry cleaning business in Spain adjusted her employees’ work shifts to cut electric bills and installed solar panels. A mayor in France said he ordered a hiring freeze because rising electrical bills threaten a financial “catastrophe.”
Europeans have long paid some of the world’s highest prices for energy, but no one can remember a winter like this one. Lives and livelihoods across the continent are being upended by a series of factors, including pandemic-induced supply shortages and now geopolitical tensions that are driving some energy prices up fivefold.
Matters could get worse if tensions between Russia and Ukraine escalate further, potentially interrupting the flow of gas. Russia provides more than a third of Europe’s natural gas, which heats homes, generates electricity and powers factories. Even as politicians and leaders in capitals across Europe are freezing prices, slashing taxes on energy and issuing checks to households hardest hit by the price increases, concerns are growing about what the persistently high prices could mean for people’s jobs and their ability to pay their bills.
“People are very upset and very distressed,” said Stefanie Siegert, who counsels consumers in the eastern German state of Saxony who find themselves struggling to pay their gas and power bills.
Germany has so far not seen protests over exorbitant energy bills like those that filled streets in Spain last year, or an explosive outcry over inequality on the level of the so-called Yellow Vest movement that rocked France in 2018. But Ms. Siegert, whose agency counseled more than 300 customers in January — three times its monthly average — said she wouldn’t be surprised if the anger currently directed at the prospect of a vaccine mandate shifted its sights to energy prices.
“When you talk with people, you feel their anger,” she said. “It is very depressing.”
Charged in one month what he used to pay in a year
Henry Backhaus, 65, is among tens of thousands of Germans who were dropped by private energy companies that could not afford to buy wholesale electricity and gas at soaring rates. Under German law, the local utility was then required to step in, but it sent him a bill for 747 euros (nearly $850) a month — more than he had been paying for an entire year.
“I am a retiree,” he said, looking over the stack of paperwork spread out on his dining room table. “That is more than what I can afford.”
But Mr. Backhaus, who lives in a three-story house in Saxony, has an alternative that might make him the envy of the millions of other Germans stuck with high energy bills: He has a large wood stove in his living room and, in his basement next to his gas-fired furnace, a furnace that burns coal or wood.
The stove and furnace, installed before the house was connected to a gas main, allow him to turn down the dial on his radiators to just 18 degrees Celsius, or 64 Fahrenheit, essentially cutting his gas bill in half.
“I still have a reserve of coal briquettes and stacks of dried wood,” he said, poking another log into the stove. “But this is only temporary. It is not a long-term solution.”
Most people don’t have the option of burning wood or coal, relying instead of piling on layers of clothing. In Britain, the government’s price cap on energy bills was recently raised 54 percent, increasing annual charges to 1,971 pounds. That increase will affect 22 million households beginning in April, contributing to broadening worries in Britain about the rising cost of living.
Similar concerns can be found throughout the continent.
Athina Sirogianni, 46, a freelance translator in Athens, said she remembered fondly the day about a decade ago when her building switched from oil to natural gas. The move cut her utility bill in half.
Most people don’t have the option of burning wood or coal, relying instead of piling on layers of clothing. In Britain, the government’s price cap on energy bills was recently raised 54 percent, increasing annual charges to 1,971 pounds. That increase will affect 22 million households beginning in April, contributing to broadening worries in Britain about the rising cost of living.
Similar concerns can be found throughout the continent.
Athina Sirogianni, 46, a freelance translator in Athens, said she remembered fondly the day about a decade ago when her building switched from oil to natural gas. The move cut her utility bill in half.
‘The more we produce the more we lose’
The price of energy is also forcing shutdowns or slowing production at manufacturers across Europe, even as they are eager to fill a backlog of orders and resume levels of business from before the pandemic.
The smelting industry has been especially hit hard. Nyrstar, the world’s second-largest zinc processor, produces nearly 500 tons of the metal each day at a sprawling factory in Auby, in northern France, a complex that consumes as much energy as the French city of Lyon.
When its electrical rates surged from €35 to €50 per megawatt-hour to €400 last December, it made no sense to keep the factory running, said Xavier Constant, Nyrstar France’s general manager. At that rate, he said, “the more we produce the more we lose,” and so the plant shut down last month for three weeks.
Nyrstar temporarily halved production at its other European plants in October when the energy crisis set in, prompting a brief spike in the global price of zinc.
Last fall, fertilizer plants in Britain were forced to close because of gas prices. And several German companies that produce glass, steel and fertilizer have also scaled back production in recent months.
To ease the burden of the high prices, the government in Berlin reduced by half an energy surcharge on bills aimed at funding the country’s transition to renewable sources of power, and plans to phase it out by the end of next year.
But industry leaders say that is not soon enough. Almost two-thirds of the 28,000 companies surveyed by the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry this month rated energy prices as one of their biggest business risks. For those in the industrial sector, the figure was as high as 85 percent.
Small businesses, too, are scrambling for ways to cut costs.
Pilar Ballesteros Parra, who co-owns Ronsel, a dry cleaning business in Madrid that employs 10 people, said that her company’s electricity rates had risen about 20 percent from the previous year. In reaction, she has reorganized her employees’ work schedule, starting the early shift earlier and pushing the late shift further into the evening so the dry-cleaning equipment can run when rates are lowest.
She is also installing solar panels on the company’s building, outside of the Spanish capital, so that Ronsel can generate at least 60 percent of its own energy. The government is helping her with a 35 percent subsidy of the $45,000 investment.
“Our building faces southwest and gets a lot of sun, so that means that we should be almost self-sustainable during the coming months of spring and summer, which will be a big relief,” she said.
Still, she said, the energy crunch and overall price inflation meant that she saw little chance of sparing her customers some of the burden.
“There’s clearly this electricity headache, but there’s also now wage inflation and much higher gas bills for our vans,” she said. “In a few months, it’s clear that some of these costs will have to be passed on to our clients if we want to keep going.”
For public budgets, ‘like riding a roller coaster’
A broad range of public institutions are facing strains from higher power bills. In Poland, hospitals that have already been financially stretched by the coronavirus pandemic now question if they can keep their doors open.
“Managing a hospital in Poland is more and more like riding a roller coaster,” Robert Suroweic, who manages the Provincial Hospital in Gorzow, said on Twitter. He said the facility’s electricity prices had increased 100 percent.
He and other hospital directors have appealed to the government in Warsaw to intervene, saying the recent cuts to taxes on energy and gasoline were not enough.
In Germany, there is rising tension in municipally owned utilities that must accept customers, like Mr. Backhaus in Saxony, whose relatively low-cost contracts have been dropped by private energy companies because the companies can’t pay ballooning energy rates.
The municipal utilities are forced to increase the rates for these new customers, often almost astronomically high, to cover the cost of buying extra energy on the spot market at record prices. That leads to tensions in communities, and can threaten municipal finances.
“Anyone who wants to will be supplied with energy by the municipal utilities,” said Markus Lewe, president of the German Association of Cities and Towns. “But it must not lead to the municipal utilities and their loyal customers being asked to pay for questionable business models of other providers and having to answer for their shortsighted financing.”
He called on the federal government to intervene, to protect cities from the price instability.
In France, local leaders are also looking to the federal government to help ease the sting of skyrocketing energy bills.
Boris Ravignon, the mayor of Charleville-Mézières, said his city is facing “a catastrophe” after its January energy bill more than tripled, wiping out the region’s budget surplus for infrastructure and public services in a single month. The city is trying to cut costs by switching streetlights to LED bulbs, which use less electricity, and has proposed a new hydroelectric project.
The mayor has already frozen planned hirings and said the city may have no choice but to raise the cost of public services like water, transportation, fees to use sports halls like the city’s public pool, and cultural events.
“We really want to protect citizens from these increases,” Mr. Ravignon said. “But when prices reach such crazy heights, it’s impossible.”
Reporting contributed by Adèle Cordonnier in France, Raphael Minder in Spain and Niki Kitsantonis in Greece.
The two Jefferson Parish officers each face one count of manslaughter after police officials said they shot an unarmed man in a parked car. The use of force was “not justified,” the sheriff said.
By Azi Paybarah, Feb. 22, 2022
Sheriff Joseph P. Lopinto III of Jefferson Parish spoke at a news conference on Monday and described the events leading up to last week’s shooting. Credit...Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office
Two sheriff’s deputies in Louisiana have been arrested on a count of manslaughter and fired after police officials said they fatally shot an unarmed man inside a parked vehicle last week.
Sheriff Joseph P. Lopinto III of Jefferson Parish said the officers’ use of force “was not justified” after they shot the man, Daniel Vallee, during a standoff with the police early Wednesday in Marrero, La., just south of New Orleans.
The shooting happened around 2 a.m., when the police, responding to a noise complaint in the area, found Mr. Vallee inside a vehicle parked in front of a “known crack house,” the sheriff said during a news conference Monday night.
Officers repeatedly ordered Mr. Vallee, 34, to exit the vehicle, but he refused, the sheriff said. During the standoff, which lasted about 12 minutes, Mr. Vallee locked the doors and eventually started the vehicle’s engine, according to Sheriff Lopinto.
“That, of course, escalated the situation,” he said. “Numerous of my deputies drew their weapons at that point in time, expecting him to try to take off.”
During the encounter, Mr. Vallee had raised his hands, but at one point dropped them, hitting the vehicle’s horn, Sheriff Lopinto said.
“My opinion, that horn, whether it scares my deputy or whether my deputy reacts to the shot of the horn, ends up firing his weapon,” the sheriff said. “The second deputy fired his weapons reacting to that gunfire.”
Both officers fired multiple times, Sheriff Lopinto said. The three other officers on the scene did not fire their weapons.
The sheriff identified the fired officers as Isaac Hughes, 29, and Johnathan Louis, 35. Mr. Hughes had been employed with the department since 2013, and Mr. Louis since 2020. Each faces one count of manslaughter.
“Unfortunately, the use of force in this situation was not justified,” Sheriff Lopinto said, while adding that he thought the shooting was “certainly not intentional.”
The officers cooperated with an investigation, and body-camera video of the standoff, which has not yet been released, “backed up” what the officers told investigators about the shooting, Sheriff Lopinto said.
Sheriff Lopinto said the shooting was the first to be recorded by police body cameras since the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office started using them last year. The office adopted the technology after a video showing one of its deputies assaulting a woman attracted national news attention.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana has filed several lawsuits in the past two years against the sheriff’s office, stemming from what the A.C.L.U. says are incidents of violent beatings and racial profiling.
Last week, Glenn McGovern, a civil rights lawyer hired by Mr. Vallee’s family, told a New Orleans news station, WWL-TV, that Mr. Vallee’s constitutional rights had been violated and questioned why the police did not use other tactics to get him out of the vehicle.
Mr. McGovern did not immediately return a request for comment on Tuesday.
In an interview last week with NOLA.com, relatives of Mr. Vallee said he had long struggled with drug addiction but that he was not a violent person.
“He’s a struggling addict. That doesn’t mean he should have been shot and killed in the manner that he was,” his aunt, Tara Phillips, told the news outlet.
Derrick Bryson Taylor contributed reporting.
With testimony concluded in the trial of three former officers for their role in George Floyd’s death, the jury is set to hear closing arguments.
By Tim Arango, Feb. 21, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/21/us/george-floyd-murder-trial-defense.html
ST. PAUL, Minn. — The defense cases in the federal trial of three former Minneapolis police officers accused of crimes in the death of George Floyd concluded on Monday with a common theme: that they were not guilty because their training led them to trust the senior officer at the scene, Derek Chauvin, who pressed his knee to the neck of Mr. Floyd for more than nine minutes until he stopped breathing.
The three former officers — Tou Thao, 36; J. Alexander Kueng, 28; and Thomas Lane, 38 — are accused of violating Mr. Floyd’s constitutional rights by not intervening against Mr. Chauvin and by failing to provide Mr. Floyd with medical care. All three testified in their own defense.
With the completion of testimony on Monday, the jury will hear closing arguments from the prosecution and each of the defense lawyers on Tuesday, and then begin its deliberations.
During his murder trial last year, Mr. Chauvin called on a paramedic, police officers, an eyewitness and a former medical examiner to testify on his behalf, but he did not take the stand. He was convicted in state court of murder and was sentenced to 22 and a half years in prison.
The three other officers at the scene that day, until now largely peripheral characters in a long national trauma set off by the killing of Mr. Floyd in 2020, relied almost entirely on telling their own stories to defend themselves at trial.
One after the other, starting last week, the three former officers took the witness stand in the federal courthouse in St. Paul, Minn., and explained what they were doing and thinking when they responded to a call from a convenience store clerk who said that Mr. Floyd had used a fake $20 bill to buy cigarettes.
The first two officers on the scene — Mr. Kueng and Mr. Lane, who were both in their first week on the job as full officers — struggled to arrest Mr. Floyd, who repeatedly said he was claustrophobic and did not want to be placed in the back of a police car.
The officers testified that they were worried Mr. Floyd was exhibiting symptoms of a drug overdose and was in a highly agitated state. They said that keeping him restrained face down, even though he said over and over that he couldn’t breathe, was necessary, in part to protect Mr. Floyd from hurting himself. The scene was far more chaotic, and possibly more dangerous to the officers, than the video footage in evidence suggested, they said.
But most of all, they said, they trusted that Mr. Chauvin, the senior officer present, had things under control.
“I think I would trust a 19-year veteran to figure it out,” Mr. Thao testified.
The officers’ testimony came at the end of a monthlong trial that represented a rare example of a civil rights case being pursued by the Justice Department against officers for failing to intervene against a fellow officer who was using excessive force.
Such cases have been rare, partly because it is difficult to prove “willfulness,” which implies some form of intent, or at least the knowledge that what officers were witnessing was unlawful. For a jury to decide the three officers are guilty, it would need to determine that the officers knew in the moment that Mr. Chauvin was using excessive force, and that Mr. Floyd was in a serious medical crisis.
And so the officers, in their testimony, walked a fine line as they tried to blame Mr. Chauvin — saying, in effect, that they trusted in Mr. Chauvin’s actions because of his experience — without acknowledging that they were aware that Mr. Chauvin was acting unlawfully.
Officers have an obligation to intervene against other officers who are committing crimes. But that obligation is often ignored, experts say, because of a culture of policing that emphasizes loyalty and discourages officers from speaking out against one of their own.
Mr. Thao and Mr. Kueng are charged with two counts — for failing to intervene against Mr. Chauvin and for not providing medical care to Mr. Floyd. Mr. Lane, who twice asked Mr. Chauvin during the episode if they should roll Mr. Floyd on his side, is charged with one count of failing to render medical aid.
From the start, the trial focused on the way police culture prizes loyalty to other officers above all else — the so-called blue wall of silence. Prosecutors sought to portray the defendants as ignoring their constitutional duties out of deference to a senior officer.
But the defense tried to seize the issue of culture in policing to its own advantage, arguing that the Minneapolis Police Department’s training procedures were rife with paramilitary aspects, with recruits being taught to march in formation and with obedience to superiors being seen as a guiding principle.
Mr. Kueng testified that instruction on the duty to intervene had been brief and perfunctory.
The three officers still face a trial in state court on charges of aiding and abetting murder that is scheduled for June.
The jurors decided that the three men previously convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery were motivated by racism.
By Tariro Mzezewa and Richard Fausset
The defendants, from left: William Bryan, Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael. Credit...Elijah Nouvelage/Associated Press, Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press, Octavio Jones/Getty Images
BRUNSWICK, Ga. — A jury on Tuesday determined that the three white Georgia men who murdered Ahmaud Arbery violated a federal hate-crime statute by depriving Mr. Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, of his right to use a public street because of the color of his skin.
The jury also found the three men — Travis McMichael, 36, his father, Gregory McMichael, 66, and their neighbor William Bryan, 52 — guilty of attempted kidnapping and found the McMichaels guilty of one count each of brandishing or discharging a firearm during a violent crime.
The men now face up to life in prison for the federal crimes, on top of the life sentences they received earlier this year in state court after being convicted of Mr. Arbery’s murder, with only Mr. Bryan eligible for parole. The federal convictions ensure that the defendants will receive significant prison time even if their state convictions are overturned or their sentences reduced on appeal.
The victory will also be important, symbolically and emotionally, for Mr. Arbery’s family, as well as other observers who believed that the pursuit and fatal shooting of Mr. Arbery on a Sunday afternoon in February 2020 amounted to what the Rev. Al Sharpton called “a lynching in the 21st Century.”
During the federal trial, lawyers for the three defendants argued that the men had not been motivated by racial animus, but rather because Mr. Arbery seemed to them like a potential crime suspect. Prosecutors, however, presented copious evidence that showed that the men harbored coarse racist views about Black people.
After a graphic video of his fatal shooting went viral in 2020, Mr. Arbery joined a grim list of African American victims of recent violence that has triggered a broader conversation about the treatment of Black people at the hands of law enforcement and in everyday situations. This week’s verdict offered another example of the judicial system’s varied responses to these incidents, coming 10 months after a jury found Derek Chauvin, a white former Minneapolis police officer, guilty of murdering a Black man, George Floyd, and a few days after another white former police officer, Kimberly Potter, was sentenced to two years in prison for shooting Daunte Wright, a Black motorist, at a traffic stop.
Social justice advocates were generally pleased with the outcome of Mr. Chauvin’s trial, but some have expressed frustration that the sentence given to Ms. Potter, who was found guilty of manslaughter, seemed too lenient.
The Georgia hate-crimes trial followed a dramatic murder trial in state court concerning the Arbery killing. Key aspects of that trial were televised and the case attracted scores of demonstrators, including well-known Black activists like Mr. Sharpton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, to the small coastal city of Brunswick. A large group of activists chanted and cheered outside the Glynn County courthouse on the day before Thanksgiving, when a nearly all-white jury issued the guilty verdicts.
In the murder case, prosecutors treaded lightly on the topics of race and racism, focusing instead on the rash and dangerous decisions the men made when they decided to jump into a pair of trucks and chase the unarmed Mr. Arbery, who was on foot, through their quiet South Georgia neighborhood.
Even before the federal trial began, it was expected to be different because the men’s racist views — evidence of which was divulged or hinted at in pre-trial state hearings and court filings — would take center stage, with jurors forced to determine whether racism had been a motive in the actions of the defendants that day.
Earlier this month, the McMichaels appeared to be heading off the possibility of going through a federal trial, having reached plea deals with the U.S. Department of Justice in which they would have been sentenced to 30-year sentences to run concurrent with their state sentences. However, Mr. Arbery’s parents came to court and pleaded for U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood to reject the deals, in part because they would have allowed the men to spend the bulk of their sentences in the federal prison system, which is generally thought to be a less harsh environment than the Georgia state system. Judge Wood ended up rejecting the pleas.
When the evidence of the defendants’ racism was finally laid out in court, it proved to be both voluminous and harsh, including numerous uses of racist epithets and racial insults. Along with video of Mr. Arbery gasping for his final breaths on the pavement and testimony that the defendants did not render aid to him, the government’s case seemed to take an emotional toll on jurors, some of whom could be seen crying. Last week, one of the jurors asked court officials if counseling was available.
Even the defense lawyers acknowledged to the jury — made up of eight white members, three Black members and a Hispanic member — that their clients’ views were reprehensible. J. Pete Theodocion, a lawyer for Mr. Bryan, referred to racism as “among the lowest of human emotions.”
Text messages recovered from Mr. Bryan’s cellphone showed that he opposed his daughter’s relationship with a Black man, using a racist slur to describe the boyfriend in a text exchange four days before Mr. Arbery’s killing. A witness said Gregory McMichael made disparaging comments about a Black tenant who rented from him and about the civil rights leader Julian Bond.
Travis McMichael, the man who used his Remington shotgun to fatally shoot Mr. Arbery three times at close range, was revealed to have repeatedly used racist slurs, and expressed the desire to see violence and death visited upon Black people.
The government introduced no evidence to show that the men directed their racist language toward Mr. Arbery specifically. But prosecutors noted that some of the racist language had been used a few days or months before the killing. They also seemed to bet on the jury being revolted by how much evidence of racism there was, with the quantity of insults showing that these were more than accidental slips of the tongue.
“At the end of the day, the evidence in this case will prove that if Ahmaud Arbery had been white, he would have gone for a jog, checked out a house under construction and been home in time for Sunday supper,” Bobbi Bernstein, a Justice Department lawyer, told the jury. “Instead he went out for a jog, and he ended up running for his life. Instead he ended up bleeding to death, alone and scared, in the middle of the street.”
Gregory McMichael’s lawyer, A.J. Balbo, told the jury that Mr. McMichael had not been out to hunt down a Black person that day, but rather to go after Mr. Arbery specifically, after a police officer showed security camera images of Mr. Arbery entering a nearby house that was under construction.
Mr. Arbery had entered the house numerous times in the weeks before the shooting, including the moments before the chase began, though there is no evidence he stole or disturbed the property inside. Twelve days before the shooting, Travis McMichael had also seen Mr. Arbery outside the house and had called 911, claiming he saw Mr. Arbery reach toward his waistband, a gesture, Mr. McMichael said, that made it seem like he could have been reaching for a gun.
Travis McMichael’s lawyer, Amy Lee Copeland, noted that her client had been shocked, rather than “gleeful” after the shooting, which occurred after Mr. Arbery, pinned in by the two trucks, clashed with the younger Mr. McMichael, who had by that point stepped out of his truck with his shotgun in his hands.
Mr. Theodocion noted that his client, Mr. Bryan, did not know anything about Mr. Arbery’s history with the McMichaels, or his visits to the house, when he saw Mr. Arbery run by his house, with the McMichaels in full pursuit. Mr. Bryan joined the chase assuming that Mr. Arbery had done something wrong enough to warrant the pursuit, Mr. Balbo said.
The death of Mr. Arbery was met with revulsion from both conservative and liberal lawmakers in Georgia. It prompted state legislators to significantly weaken a citizen’s arrest law that one local prosecutor had cited soon after the shooting to argue that the three men should not be arrested. It also prompted them to pass a state hate-crime law.
This month, the legislature also passed a resolution declaring Wednesday, the two-year anniversary of the killing, “Ahmaud Arbery Day.”
The court’s decision follows years of organizing by women across Latin America for greater protections and more rights, and significant shifts in the region’s legal landscape.
By Julie Turkewitz, Feb. 22, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/22/world/americas/colombia-abortion.html
BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Having an abortion is no longer a crime under Colombian law, the country’s top court ruled on Monday, in a decision that paves the way for the procedure to become widely available across this historically conservative, Catholic country.
The ruling by Colombia’s Constitutional Court follows years of organizing by women across Latin America for greater protections and more rights, including access to abortion, and significant shifts in the region’s legal landscape.
Mexico’s Supreme Court decriminalized abortion in a similar decision in September and Argentina’s Congress legalized the procedure in late 2020. Colombia’s decision means that three of the four most populous countries in Latin America have now opened the door to more widespread access to abortion.
It also comes as the United States has been moving in the opposite direction, with abortion restrictions multiplying across the country, and the U.S. Supreme Court considering a case that could overrule Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that established a constitutional right to abortion.
“This puts Colombia on the vanguard in Latin America,” said Mariana Ardila, a Colombian lawyer with Women’s Link Worldwide, part of the coalition that brought one of two cases challenging the criminalization of abortion. “This is historic.”
The court’s decision decriminalizes abortions in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy, and means that any woman should be able to seek the procedure from a health professional without fear of criminal prosecution. It also sets the stage for the Colombian government to regulate the process further.
The move is part of a cultural sea change across Latin America, spurred by grass-roots feminist movements and a younger, more secular generation.
In a region historically known for its Catholic faith and social conservatism, a growing push for women’s rights and abortion access gained prominence a little more than a year ago when Argentina became the largest nation in Latin America to legalize abortion.
Soon, abortion rights supporters across the region, from Mexico to Paraguay, Brazil to Colombia, were wearing or brandishing green handkerchiefs — the symbol of Argentina’s abortion rights movement — to show their solidarity with women’s sexual and reproductive rights. The handkerchiefs became symbols of the work that women’s rights lawyers and activists had been doing more quietly for years.
The Argentina decision reverberated across Latin America, showing that it was possible to legalize abortion in countries with strong Catholic and evangelical Protestant beliefs and a history of patriarchal ideals.
In September, Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to make abortion a crime, helping to clear the way for the legalization of the procedure in the country of about 130 million people.
The Constitutional Court magistrates in Colombia considered over the past few months two petitions that challenged the portion of the penal code that made abortion a crime.
In one, a lawyer named Andrés Mateo Sánchez Molina said the measure violated rights protected by the Constitution, including the right to human dignity, freedom and equality.
In another, brought by Causa Justa, a coalition of abortion rights groups, lawyers argued that criminalization had cast abortion in such a negative light that it prevented even women with a legal right to an abortion from getting one.
In some cases, the coalition said, the existence of the criminal penalty led health professionals to deny the procedure to women who qualified for it. In others, women avoided seeking abortions in legal health centers out of fear they would be jailed, instead seeking risky alternatives in underground clinics.
“These barriers affect mainly women living in rural and remote areas, low-income women, adolescent girls, women and girls living in situations of armed conflict and victims of gender violence, including physical and sexual violence,” representatives of Causa Justa wrote in a summary of their petition. Making the procedure a crime in most circumstances, they argued, was therefore unconstitutional.
Ultimately, the court decided to hear the Causa Justa case first. The second case will be heard at a later date, but the first decision cannot be reversed.
Hundreds of abortion rights supporters and dozens of their opponents stood outside the courthouse in Bogotá awaiting a decision on Monday afternoon.
In recent months, both sides have carried out dueling public campaigns to try to sway the decision, and their rallies came to symbolize the country’s cultural divide on the issue.
Women in the crowd danced with green handkerchiefs over their head as the news moved through the crowd, prompting Jonathan Silva, 32, to walk away angrily. An evangelical Christian who works for Unidos Por La Vida, an anti-abortion organization, Mr. Silva said the court had overstepped its power and it was a decision that should be made by elected officials.
“What they’re decriminalizing is the killing of human beings,” he said.
Until now, abortions had been legal only in limited circumstances, laid out by a 2006 Constitutional Court decision: when a woman’s health was at risk, when a fetus had serious health problems or when a pregnancy resulted from rape. Anyone else who had an abortion — or who helped a woman obtain one — could be sentenced to 16 to 54 months in prison.
Abortion rights activists often said that this legal landscape created a two-tier system: Wealthier women in cities could get an abortion because they knew how to use one of the exceptions laid out in the law, while poorer women with less education had limited knowledge or means to do so.
Prosecutors in Colombia open about 400 cases each year against women who have abortions or people who help them, according to the attorney general’s office. At least 346 people have been convicted in such cases since 2006.
Nearly all of these abortion-related investigations have been in rural areas, involving girls as young as 11, according to researchers with Causa Justa.
Illegal abortions can be unsafe and cause about 70 deaths a year in Colombia, according to the country’s health ministry.
A recent survey by the nonpartisan firm Ipsos found that while 82 percent of Colombian respondents supported abortion in some circumstances, just 26 percent supported it in all cases — and the court’s decision is likely to cause friction as abortion rights activists, policymakers, health care providers and others determine how it should be carried out.
The decision cannot be altered by other legal bodies.
Colombia’s Constitutional Court is considered by many legal experts to be more liberal than the country at large, and many recent liberal shifts, including the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2016, resulted from the court’s decisions.
The court is also considered a legal trendsetter in the region, said Francisco Bernate, a law professor at the University of Rosario in Bogotá, and the decision is likely to attract the attention of judges across Latin America.
Activists in the United States are also following the changes in the region.
“These struggles are connected,” said Serra Sippel, the chief global advocacy officer at Fos Feminista, an alliance of reproductive rights groups that works around the world, including in the United States. “We in the U.S. can really learn a lot.”
Sofía Villamil and Megan Janetsky contributed reporting from Bogotá.
Port land grab and racist school closings!’
By Dave Welsh posted on February 21, 2022
Linda Adams of Local 10, ILWU, at Oakland rally, Feb. 17. WW Photo: Dave Welsh
A crowd of Oakland longshore workers and teachers rallied Feb. 17 at City Hall to raise two demands: “Save Our Port,” which is under attack, and “Save Our Schools,” many of which are threatened with closure. The main organizer of the rally was Local 10 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.
Trent Willis, immediate-past president of Local 10, denounced the plans of John Fisher, owner of the Gap Stores and the Oakland Athletics baseball team, to build a new ballpark in West Oakland. The chosen site is Howard Terminal, part of the Port of Oakland.
“This is industrial land,” said Willis, “providing jobs since the 1930s, supporting Black and Brown people. The Port is an artery that keeps Oakland and surrounding counties going. So don’t be complacent: Fisher’s plan to wipe out Howard Terminal is a real threat to longshore jobs in Oakland!
“These billionaires think they can come into your city, take your land, take your jobs, while they live high on the hog on a hill somewhere,” said Willis. “These decisions affect all of our families. Every generation of longshore workers has had to fight a battle. Now it’s our turn to stand and fight. When it’s time to throw down, you’ve got to show up. It’s hard to beat the system if you’re standing at a distance.”
Linda Adams, a Local 10 member, said, “For them, this is not about the ballpark. It’s about making money off prime real estate. But for us, it’s about preserving jobs in the Port. We’ve been at this port since the 1930s. This port belongs to us! This fight is really for the kids who are coming behind us.”
Jack Heyman, retired longshore worker, said the Port of Oakland “is an economic engine for northern California. Why give it away to John Fisher and his cronies?
These are good jobs we are fighting for. The Oakland mayor is in the pocket of the billionaires. This is a defining moment for Oakland. The ‘powers that be’ want to gentrify, without providing the jobs people need . . . without providing housing for the homeless people who are sleeping under the freeways going into the Port!”
The threat to Oakland schools
A Feb. 22 article in the Oakland Post newspaper posed this question: “How does real estate development at the Port connect to closing schools? Some political observers say an ongoing attempt to displace residents and ‘whiten’ Oakland has two component parts: One is the snatching of public funds and property to build luxury housing, as Fisher is doing at the Port. The other part is removing neighborhood schools attended by generations of Oakland residents and replacing them with charter schools and private schools designed to appeal to more affluent newcomers.”
Adding that the stadium/real estate project “seeks to take over public land at the Port of Oakland, potentially fatally disrupting the Port’s functioning,” the article pointed out that Fisher is not only a baseball team owner. “He is also a charter school tycoon,” sitting on the board of KIPP Schools, which has a large network of charter schools across the country. Fisher is tight with Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, another supporter of privatized charter schools.
“I originally came from Detroit, where they’ve been closing public schools to bring in charter schools,” said Linda Adams at the rally. “As an Oakland ILWU-strong woman who supports unions and supports our public schools, I’m not standing for any of it.”
Ismael Armendariz, speaking for the Oakland Education Association, said “Privatization has taken hold, and the worst effects are on Black and Brown students, especially affecting the Black community. California is the wealthiest state. How can they allow schools to close? How can they allow the Oakland Port to be degraded?”
Trent Willis recalled a popular 1970s song, 'Waiting for the world to change'. “Well, we’re not waiting,” he said. “Don’t we have a right to jobs and schools?
If a union can go on strike over wages and conditions, then why not have a general strike for the jobs and schools that the people really need?”
Worsening heat and dryness could lead to a 50 percent rise in off-the-charts fires, according to a United Nations report.
By Raymond Zhong, Feb. 23, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/23/climate/climate-change-un-wildfire-report.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=Climate%20and%20Environment
A landmark United Nations report has concluded that the risk of devastating wildfires around the world will surge in coming decades as climate change further intensifies what the report described as a “global wildfire crisis.”
The scientific assessment is the first by the organization’s environmental authority to evaluate wildfire risks worldwide. It was inspired by a string of deadly blazes around the globe in recent years, burning the American West, vast stretches of Australia and even the Arctic.
The images from those fires — cities glowing under orange skies, smoke billowing around tourist havens and heritage sites, woodland animals badly injured and killed — have become grim icons of this era of unsettled relations between humankind and nature.
“The heating of the planet is turning landscapes into tinderboxes,” said the report, which was published on Wednesday by the United Nations Environment Program.
The report, produced by more than 50 researchers from six continents, estimated that the risk worldwide of highly devastating fires could increase by up to 57 percent by the end of the century, primarily because of climate change. The risks will not be distributed equally: Some regions are likely to see more fire activity, while others may experience less.
It is a stark warning about the increased heat and dryness that human-caused global warming is bringing about. Nations and localities need to prepare better for the dangers, the report’s authors said.
“There isn’t the right attention to fire from governments,” said Glynis Humphrey, a fire expert at the University of Cape Town and an author of the new report. More societies worldwide are learning the value of prescribed burns and other methods of preventing wildfires from raging out of control, she said. Yet public spending in developed nations is still heavily skewed toward firefighting instead of forest management.
In some regions with long histories of brush fires, such as eastern Australia and the western United States and Canada, they have become more intense over the last decade and are ravaging larger areas, the report found. But uncontrolled burning is also starting to occur in places where it had not been common before, such as Russia, northern India and Tibet. In parts of the savannas of sub-Saharan Africa, by contrast, fire activity has declined over the past two decades, partly because drought has killed off more grass.
While climate change is giving rise to more of the record warmth and dryness that have contributed to recent episodes of severe burning, the overall effect on fire risks is complex and can vary from place to place.
Researchers have determined that the extreme heat wave in the Pacific Northwest last year almost certainly would not have occurred without planetary warming caused by greenhouse-gas emissions. Scientists have also found the fingerprints of climate change on brush fires in Australia and extreme heat and burning in Siberia.
But hot weather and weak rainfall can also decrease the amount of vegetation that is available to feed fires. In other places, the decreased humidity can make vegetation more flammable, helping fires spread more easily.
After taking all these factors into account, the report still forecasts a significant increase in the global risk of extraordinary wildfires, even if nations manage to limit emissions of heat-trapping gases.
In a moderate scenario for global warming, the likelihood of extreme, catastrophic fires could increase by up to a third by 2050 and up to 52 percent by 2100, the report estimates. If emissions are not curbed and the planet heats up more, wildfire risks could rise by up to 57 percent by the end of the century.
The increase in burning is projected to be especially large in places including the Arctic, said Douglas I. Kelley, a researcher at the U.K. Center for Ecology & Hydrology who conducted the data analysis for the report. The northern reaches of Russia and North America are already warming much more quickly than the rest of the globe. The intense Arctic fires of 2020 released more polluting gases into the atmosphere that June than in any other month in 18 years of data collection.
In more temperate regions of the United States and Asia, Dr. Kelley said, wildfires could increase as emissions rise because the higher amount of carbon dioxide in the air helps plants grow, resulting in more vegetation to fuel blazes.
The prolonged drought in the American West — the region’s worst, scientists say, in at least 1,200 years — has been helping to spark wildfires earlier in the year. Forecasters are expecting the warmth and dryness to continue into this spring and beyond.
The U.N. report urges governments to become more proactive about fire hazards. Of every dollar spent in the United States on managing wildfires, almost 60 cents goes toward immediate firefighting responses, according to research cited in the report. Much less is spent on reducing fire risks in advance and helping communities recover in ways that could make them more resilient.
Peter Moore, a fire management consultant with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and an author of the report, said more countries could learn from Portugal, which drew up an ambitious national fire plan after two blazes killed more than 100 people in 2017. Decades of economic development there had caused a decrease in farmland and an expansion of poorly managed forests, making the landscape highly flammable.
“So when the wrong weather turned up, and then a series of ignitions happened, they had a series of dramatic and catastrophic fire events,” Dr. Moore said. In eastern Australia, western North America, Chile and elsewhere, he said, “those same conditions are starting to occur.”
Not all human development adds to fire risks. In the tropical grasslands of Africa, population density has increased, and farmers have converted more of the area into cropland and pasture. That has fragmented the savannas, making it harder for wildfires to spread. Researchers have used satellite data to estimate that, despite global warming, large decreases in Africa helped the total amount of burned land worldwide fall by a quarter between 1998 and 2015.
Many fires in Africa are set deliberately to clear away vegetation and avert wildfires that would be more severe and less controllable, said Dr. Humphrey of the University of Cape Town. Communities in many places have been managing the land this way for centuries, and the U.N. report calls for such traditional knowledge to be better integrated into fire policies.
Dr. Humphrey said more governments needed to discover, or rediscover, what fire actually is: “something really critical for our planet, but that also needs to be managed.”
While it’s unclear whether the order could be enforced, medical providers and child welfare advocates condemned the move as dangerous.
By Azeen Ghorayshi, Feb. 23, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/23/science/texas-abbott-transgender-child-abuse.html
Gov. Greg Abbott told state health agencies in Texas on Tuesday that medical treatments provided to transgender adolescents, widely considered to be the standard of care in medicine, should be classified as “child abuse” under existing state law.
His statements, made in a letter to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, followed an opinion on Friday by Attorney General Ken Paxton that said providing medical treatments like puberty-suppressing drugs and hormones to transgender teenagers should be investigated as child abuse.
Governor Abbott specified that the reporting requirements applied to “all licensed professionals who have direct contact with children who may be subject to such abuse, including doctors, nurses, and teachers, and provides criminal penalties for failure to report such child abuse.”
It is still unclear how and whether the orders, which do not change Texas law, would be enforced. While the state’s child welfare agency has said that it will investigate such claims, some county and district attorneys have stated that they will not enforce the opinion.
“This is a complete misrepresentation of the definition of abuse in the family code,” Christian Menefee, the Harris County attorney, said in an interview. Mr. Menefee said that any such investigations in Harris County, the state’s most populous county, will not be prosecuted. “We don’t believe that allowing someone to take puberty suppressants constitutes abuse,” he said.
Governor Abbott’s effort to criminalize medical care for transgender youth is a new front in a broadening political drive to deny treatments that help align the adolescents’ bodies with their gender identities and that have been endorsed by major medical groups. Twenty-one states introduced such bills last year, according to the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law. Arkansas passed a law making it illegal for clinicians to offer puberty blockers and hormones to adolescents and banning insurers from covering care. But the law was temporarily blocked by a federal judge in July after the American Civil Liberties Union sued on behalf of four families and two doctors.
Several such bills were also introduced in Texas. None passed. Facing political pressure, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Children’s Medical Center Dallas closed the state’s only multidisciplinary clinic for transgender youth in November.
The letter from the Texas governor comes as early voting has begun in primary elections across the state. Election Day is March 1. Mr. Abbott and Mr. Paxton, both Republicans, face challengers who have questioned whether they have been sufficiently conservative. Mr. Paxton, a two-term incumbent who has been indicted on securities fraud charges, is seen as particularly vulnerable. Political strategists say he is unlikely to receive more than 50 percent of the vote and is heading for a runoff.
Professional medical groups and transgender health experts have overwhelmingly condemned legal attempts to limit “gender-affirming” care and contend that they would greatly harm transgender young people.
“Gender-affirming care for transgender youth is essential and can be lifesaving,” Adm. Rachel Levine, assistant secretary for health for the Department of Health and Human Services and the Biden administration’s highest-ranking pediatrician, said in an emailed statement. “Our nation’s leading pediatricians support evidence-based, gender-affirming care for transgender young people.”
A growing number of transgender adolescents have sought medical treatments in recent years. Transgender teenagers are at high risk for attempting suicide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Preliminary research has suggested that adolescents who receive such medical treatments have improved mental health. Long-term studies are ongoing.
Marissa Gonzales, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, said that there were no pending investigations of child abuse involving the procedures described, but that the agency would investigate cases that were reported.
Whether children can be taken from their parents for allowing them to receive such medical care will ultimately be at the discretion of the courts.
“At this moment, it’s unclear what child protective services, prosecutors and judges are going to do with this nonbinding opinion from the attorney general,” Kate Murphy, senior policy associate for child protection at Texans Care for Children, a nonprofit children’s policy group, said in an emailed statement. “What is clear is that politicians should not be tearing apart loving families — and sending their kids into the foster care system — when parents provide recommended medical care that they believe is in the best interest of their child.”
If local attorneys do not pursue cases, the state attorney general’s office could do it, Mr. Menefee, the Harris County attorney, said, adding that the position taken by the governor and the attorney general could have a chilling effect. “It’s designed to make parents scared,” he said. “It’s designed to make doctors scared for even facilitating gender-affirming health care.”
Some treatments used in gender-related care carry medical risks. Puberty-blocking drugs, which suppress the production of testosterone and estrogen, can weaken bone development, though evidence suggests it recovers once puberty starts. If blockers are used at an early stage of puberty and a teenager pursues hormone therapy, the drug regimens can lead to fertility loss. The standards of care for transgender health therefore recommend that patients and their families be counseled on how to preserve fertility by delaying the use of blockers if having children is important to them. The standards also recommend that doctors and families wait until the teenager has reached the age of majority, which is 18 in Texas, before pursuing irreversible genital surgeries.
Some political groups who oppose gender-related treatments for young people say the stakes are simply too high.
“Minors are prohibited from purchasing paint, cigarettes, alcohol, or even getting a tattoo,” Jonathan Covey, director of policy for the group Texas Values, said in an emailed statement. “We cannot allow minors or their parents to make life-altering decisions on body-mutilating procedures and irreversible hormonal treatments.”
Experts who work with transgender patients, like Dr. Alex Keuroghlian, a clinical psychiatrist at Fenway Health in Boston and the director of the Psychiatry Gender Identity Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, say decisions about treatments for young people should be weighed only by a patient, their parents and their physicians. Dr. Keuroghlian denounced Governor Abbott’s letter: “It’s legislating in a manner that is entirely divorced from medical evidence, consensus and mainstream practice.”
Though some doctors have debated how much time should be spent on psychological assessments for adolescents before starting treatment, medical groups broadly agree that puberty suppression and hormones benefit transgender teens.
Erica Anderson, a clinical psychologist and the former president of the United States Professional Association of Transgender Health, has pushed for more assessment for such teenagers before initiating medical treatments. She said that blocking gender-affirming care and forcing teenagers to go through the physical changes of puberty for a gender they don’t identify with was “inhumane.”
“For legislators or politicians to weigh in on an area of medicine for which they have no background is preposterous,” Dr. Anderson said. “People in Texas should be outraged.”
Adri Pérez, a policy and advocacy strategist at the A.C.L.U. of Texas who uses gender-neutral pronouns, called the governor and attorney general’s stance politically motivated and said it could prevent young trans people from getting the medical care they urgently need.
“Gender-affirming care saved my life,” they said in a statement. “Trans kids today deserve the same opportunity by receiving the highest standard of care.”
J. David Goodman contributed reporting.
Brett Hankison, a former Louisville police detective, is facing three charges of wanton endangerment after the authorities said he fired “blindly” into Ms. Taylor’s apartment.
By Giulia Heyward and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Feb. 23, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/23/us/breonna-taylor-brett-hankison-trial.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=US%20News
The only trial to emerge from the nighttime police raid that killed Breonna Taylor began on Wednesday, but the case centers not on an officer who shot her, but rather on a former police detective accused of recklessly endangering her neighbors with a hail of bullets that inadvertently hit their apartment in Louisville, Ky.
The detective, Brett Hankison, was dismissed several months after the March 2020 raid and is facing three charges of wanton endangerment after firing 10 shots during the operation. The former chief of the Louisville Metro Police Department said that when Mr. Hankison fired “blindly” into Ms. Taylor’s apartment, several bullets entered a neighbor’s apartment, endangering the three people who were sleeping there: a pregnant woman, her husband and their 5-year-old child.
“This is not a case to decide who is responsible for the death of Breonna Taylor,” the state’s assistant attorney general, Barbara Maines Whaley, said during opening statements of a trial that is expected to take about two weeks.
Ms. Whaley said the prosecution’s case would show that the former police detective acted that night with “extreme indifference to human life” and that he made several missteps that endangered the lives of Ms. Taylor’s neighbors, Chelsey Napper and Cody Etherton, as well as their son.
The defense, in its own opening statement, described Mr. Hankison as a veteran police officer who responded appropriately to what he perceived as a threat.
“You are going to discover that this scene was total chaos,” Mr. Hankison’s lawyer, Stew Matthews, told the jury.
When officers broke down the door during the raid that began after midnight, Ms. Taylor’s boyfriend shot one officer in the leg. The boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, later said that he had not heard them announce themselves and believed that they were intruders. Officers returned fire, killing Ms. Taylor.
Mr. Hankison fired 10 bullets into a patio door and window of Ms. Taylor’s apartment without a clear line of sight, and some of them entered the neighboring unit.
While none of Mr. Hankison’s bullets hit anybody, two other officers fired bullets that struck Ms. Taylor, who bled to death after being shot five or six times.
One of her neighbors, Mr. Etherton, described a terrifying barrage of gunfire that hit his apartment.
“To me, a professional, a well-trained officer, should have had the floor plans, the blueprints — they didn’t even know whose back door it was, they didn’t know who lived there,” said Mr. Etherton, the first witness to testify. “That kind of upset me. It was just reckless to me.”
Mr. Etherton said he awoke that night to the sounds of the police ramming Ms. Taylor’s door open. Moments later, bullets pierced their shared wall. As Mr. Etherton walked toward the door, he said, debris pelted him in the face, forcing him to crawl back to the bedroom.
The bullets, he said, were just short of hitting him and his son.
After the shooting stopped, Mr. Etherton moved to the back patio door, where he encountered police officers, guns raised.
During cross-examination, Mr. Matthews questioned the sincerity of Mr. Etherton’s claims of fear, noting that he and other neighbors had filed a lawsuit against the Police Department.
“That hasn’t influenced your testimony here today, correct?” Mr. Matthews asked. “The fact that you’re trying to get some money out of this?”
Both the defense and the prosecution grilled the next witnesses, police officers who had played some part in the nighttime raid, on the details of what happened. This included an officer who had obtained the search warrant for Ms. Taylor’s home and others who had not participated in the raid but were present at the scene, or who had surveilled the apartment beforehand.
One of them, Sgt. Jason Vance, a member of the unit that investigates police shootings, said he met with Ms. Taylor’s family members when they arrived outside the apartment complex.
“There was no doubt — it was clear — that Breonna was still in that apartment, deceased,” he said. “It was a very hard conversation.”
The killing of Ms. Taylor brought renewed scrutiny to no-knock warrants as competing accounts emerged about whether the police had identified themselves before knocking down her door. Officers had initially received a judge’s approval to serve a “no-knock” warrant, but the orders were changed before the raid, requiring them to announce their presence before entering the apartment.
Critics also questioned the justification the police used to obtain a warrant to conduct the raid. The police had told the court they believed they might find evidence of drug trafficking connected to Ms. Taylor’s former boyfriend, saying they believed that he had used her apartment to receive packages linked to drug dealing.
But Ms. Taylor had recently severed ties with him, according to her family’s lawyer, and her ex-boyfriend was already in custody by the time officers raided her apartment. The police also did not have an ambulance stationed in the area, though it was the department’s standard practice to have one nearby.
Since Ms. Taylor’s death, several cities, including Houston and Minneapolis, have restricted the use of no-knock warrants. This month, a Minneapolis police officer shot and killed Amir Locke, a 22-year-old Black man, while serving a no-knock warrant on an apartment downtown.
There were protests in Louisville for more than 100 days by people upset that no officers were charged in Ms. Taylor’s death. After the Kentucky attorney general, Daniel Cameron, announced that his office would not charge either of the two officers who shot Ms. Taylor, the grand jurors who indicted Mr. Hankison said Mr. Cameron had never presented them with that option.
Under Kentucky law, a person commits the crime of wanton endangerment when he or she “wantonly engages in conduct which creates a substantial danger of death or serious physical injury to another person,” and does so “under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life.” Other states may use terms like “reckless endangerment” for an equivalent offense.
The crime is a felony and can bring a sentence of up to five years in prison and a fine for each count. Someone can be guilty of wanton endangerment even if the person did not intend to harm anyone or to commit a crime.