TIME White House

President Obama on Loretta Lynch Delay: ‘This is Embarrassing’

Barack Obama, Loretta Lynch, Eric Holder
Susan Walsh—AP The top U.S. prosecutor for the Eastern District of New York, in Brooklyn, Lynch was one of the few names on President Obama’s short list without close ties to the White House. If confirmed, she would be the first ­female African-American Attorney General.

"It's gone too far," Obama said Friday. "Enough."

President Obama got impatient as he expressed his disappointment with Senate Republicans’ delay of Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch’s confirmation.

“It’s gone too far,” Obama said during a press conference with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. “Enough. Enough.”

Obama blasted the Senate’s “dysfunction” in failing to confirm Lynch, who is set to become the first black female Attorney General in the nation’s history. A career prosecutor from New York, Lynch has now waited twice as long for her confirmation as the last seven attorney general nominees combined.

Though Lynch received bipartisan support following her confirmation hearings earlier this year, the Senate has failed to bring a vote on her new position. In recent weeks, Senate Republicans have delayed a vote over an unrelated fight on abortion provisions in a bill aimed at providing aid to survivors of human trafficking.

On Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid threatened to force a vote on the Lynch nomination.

On Friday, the President said he was outraged. “Call Loretta Lynch for a vote. Get her confirmed. Let her do her job,” Obama said. “This is embarrassing, a process like this.”

TIME jeb bush

Jeb Bush Says Senate Should Confirm Loretta Lynch

Jeb Bush
Mark Humphrey—AP Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks at the National Rifle Association convention in Nashville on April 10, 2015.

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush weighed in Thursday on the delayed confirmation of Loretta Lynch, President Obama’s nominee to be Attorney General, urging the Senate to move along with its consideration.

Answering questions at a town hall with New Hampshire primary voters at the Snowshoe Club, Bush, an all-but-announced Republican presidential candidate, stopped short of explicitly calling for Lynch’s confirmation. Her nomination to replace Attorney General Eric Holder has been stalled for an unusually long 160 days over a Senate showdown on an unrelated sex-trafficking bill that includes a controversial abortion provision.

“I think that Presidents have the right to pick their team,” Bush told a crowd of about 95 voters and a horde of media.

Bush said he had reservations about Lynch’s positions on gun control, but said presidential nominees deserve swift consideration.

“The longer it takes to confirm her, the longer Eric Holder stays as Attorney General,” Bush added, sending a signal to Republicans to lift their opposition to Lynch was only elongating the tenure of someone they like even less. “Look at it that way.”

Bush criticized Holder for having “politicized” his office, adding, “there should be some humbleness inside the Department of Justice.”

During the 60-minute Politics and Pie event, Bush was questioned about Obama’s rapprochement with Cuba and was challenged over his support of comprehensive immigration reform, telling one vocal critic, “I respect your view, but I don’t have to agree with it.”

He also addressed the dynasty question, joking that he’s not running for President to try to “break the tie between the Adams family and the Bush family,” referencing the second and sixth, and the 41st the 43rd Presidents, respectively.

Afterward, Bush, who brought a pair of key lime pies of south Florida’s famed Joe’s Stone Crab, sampled a blueberry pie, breaking his months-long paleo diet to sample some blueberry pie. “To hell with the diet … where are the french fries,” he quipped.

TIME Crime

Video Shows Cop Fatally Shooting Schizophrenic Man, Family Says

Catherine Daniels, the mother of Lavall Hall, 25, who was shot and killed by Miami Gardens police on Feb. 15, 2015,
Joe Raedle—Getty Images Catherine Daniels, the mother of Lavall Hall, 25, who was shot and killed by Miami Gardens police on Feb. 15, 2015,

Police can be heard telling Lavall Hall, 25, to “get the f--- on the ground or you’re dead"

The family of a 25-year-old mentally ill man who was shot dead by police in Miami Gardens, Fla. earlier this year released a 19-minute video on Wednesday showing the fatal shooting.

Lavall Hall’s mother called police on Feb. 15 for help with her son, who she said has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, and when police arrived they found Hall outside the home in only his underwear, carrying a broomstick, attorneys for the family said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Hall’s mother had hoped police would take her son to a hospital. The family’s attorneys say police officers then approached Hall with excessive force.

In the dash-cam video, posted below, police can be heard telling Hall to “get the f— on the ground or you’re dead.” One officer then backs into the frame, firing five shots at Hall.

Police say Hall attacked them with deadly force, which is why they shot him. The family has filed a lawsuit against the police department and local authorities are investigating.

The Florida State Attorney’s office told ABC News they feared the video would hurt the ongoing investigation into the shooting, but they could not stop the family from releasing the footage.

TIME States

Colorado Says Baker Didn’t Discriminate in Refusing to Make Anti-Gay Cake

Bakery owner Marjorie Silva, who refused to write hateful words about gays on a cake for a customer, stands inside her own Azucar Bakery, in Denver, on Jan. 20, 2015.
Ivan Moreno—AP Bakery owner Marjorie Silva, who refused to write hateful words about gays on a cake for a customer, stands inside her own Azucar Bakery, in Denver, on Jan. 20, 2015.

Colorado Civil Rights Division said she was within legal rights to deny cake orders featuring "derogatory language and imagery"

A Colorado government agency has ruled that a baker who refused to make cakes featuring anti-gay messages did not discriminate against the man who requested them.

Last year, William Jack asked Denver’s Azucar Bakery for two bible-shaped cakes featuring images of groomsmen crossed out with a red “X” and phrases like “Homosexuality is a detestable sin. Leviticus 18.2,” local ABC station NEWS7 Denver reports. The bakery’s owner, Marjorie Silva, told Jack she would make the bible-shaped cakes and provide icing for him to add his own message, but she wouldn’t apply such “hateful and offensive” messages because her bakery “does not discriminate.”

Jack complained to the Colorado Civil Rights Division, accusing Silva of denying him goods or services based on his religion. But the agency recently ruled that Silva’s refusal to make the cakes was motivated by the “derogatory language and imagery,” and not because of religious discrimination. “In the same manner [she] would not accept [an order from] anyone wanting to make a discriminatory cake against Christians, [she] will not make one that discriminates against gays,” the ruling stated. Last year, the agency ruled that another bakery in the state could not refuse a gay couple’s request for a wedding cake.

Silva, who is Catholic and whose bakery in the past has made cakes for Christian holidays that featured religious imagery, said she was pleased to learn she was “not [only] morally right but also legally right.”

Jack told 7NEWS that he plans to appeal the decision. “I find it offensive that the Colorado Civil Rights Division considers the baker’s claims that Bible verses were discriminatory as the reason for denying my claim,” he said.

[ABC 7NEWS]

TIME justice

Fraternity Plans to Sue Rolling Stone Over Campus-Rape Article

The university's chapter of Phi Kappa Psi plans to "pursue all available legal action against the magazine"

The University of Virginia chapter of Phi Kappa Psi said Monday it plans to sue Rolling Stone magazine, one day after the publication retracted a controversial story about a gang rape allegedly committed by some of the fraternity’s members.

“After 130 days of living under a cloud of suspicion as a result of reckless reporting by Rolling Stone Magazine, today the Virginia Alpha Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi announced plans to pursue all available legal action against the magazine,” it said.

The announcement follows the release of a lengthy investigation into Rolling Stone’s handling of the story by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. That report, issued Sunday, found significant problems at every stage of the reporting, editing and fact-checking process and called the piece “a story of journalistic failure that was avoidable.”

Rolling Stone has apologized for the discredited story, although publisher Jann Wenner has reportedly chosen not to fire anyone as a result.

“The report by Columbia University’s School of Journalism demonstrates the reckless nature in which Rolling Stone researched and failed to verify facts in its article that erroneously accused Phi Kappa Psi of crimes its members did not commit,” Stephen Scipione, president of the Virginia Alpha Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi, said in the statement. “This type of reporting serves as a sad example of a serious decline of journalistic standards.”

The Nov. 19 publication of the Rolling Stone story upended the idyllic campus, turning it into the heated center of the national debate over campus sexual assault. The fraternity’s house was vandalized as outrage over the allegations in the story spread. But questions were soon raised about the credibility of the story. And in March, Charlottesville police said investigators were “not able to conclude to any substantive degree” that the incident had occurred.

“Clearly our fraternity and its members have been defamed, but more importantly we fear this entire episode may prompt some victims to remain in the shadows, fearful to confront their attackers,” Scipione said. “If Rolling Stone wants to play a real role in addressing this problem, it’s time to get serious.”

Students say the unraveling of Rolling Stone’s story has helped redeem the fraternity’s reputation on campus. “I think people have a great deal of remorse about how they spoke about Phi Psi in the fall,” says Abraham Axler, UVA’s student-council president.

The national Phi Kappa Psi fraternity has not yet decided whether it will join any legal action filed by the UVA chapter.

“We could do any array of things between us supporting them, partnering with them, or standing on the sidelines. We have not made those decisions on a national organization level yet. We plan on a release later today at some point ” said Chad Stegemiller, Phi Kappa Psi’s national assistant executive director.

Timothy Burke, a lawyer who represents fraternities and sororities, believes the detailed examination of Rolling Stone’s missteps in the Columbia report will help Phi Kappa Psi’s case.

“The potential for punitive damages are great in this case because Rolling Stone so badly blew every ethical journalistic obligation, according to what the Columbia school of journalism has to say,” says Burke, a partner at Fraternal Law Partners.

Any lawsuit would open the fraternity to potentially damaging information unearthed during the discovery process, such as evidence of underage drinking or drug use, but Burke says it’s unlikely to be enough to outweigh the benefits of bringing the case in the face of such shocking allegations.

“Any plaintiff’s council is going to advise his clients about the risks of litigation and what can happen in terms of discovery,” he says. “I would not be shocked to find out that underage students had a drink or two in the fraternity house. But that’s very different than saying that multiple members of that chapter engaged in gang rape.”

Read next: Rolling Stone Apologizes, Retracts Discredited Rape Story

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME justice

Alabama Man Freed After Nearly 30 Years on Death Row

Anthony Ray Hinton
Alabama Department of Corrections—AP Anthony Ray Hinton. Hinton, who spent nearly 30 years on death row was released April 3, 2015, after prosecutors told a court that there is not enough evidence to link him to the 1985 murders he was convicted of committing.

Hinton was convicted of the 1985 murders of two Birmingham fast-food restaurant managers

(BIRMINGHAM, Ala.) — A man who spent nearly 30 years on Alabama’s death row has been freed following a decades-long fight to prove his innocence.

Fifty-eight-year-old Anthony Ray Hinton was released Friday morning from an Alabama prison. He hugged tearful family members and friends after walking out, with one woman repeatedly saying “Thank you Jesus.”

Hinton says he shouldn’t have had to sit on death row for nearly 30 years because “all they had to do was test the gun.”

Hinton was convicted of the 1985 murders of two Birmingham fast-food restaurant managers. Crime scene bullets were the only evidence linking Hinton to the slayings.

However, prosecutors said new testing failed to show any of the bullets came from a revolver found in Hinton’s home, or even the same gun.

TIME justice

Jury Orders Chrysler to Pay $150 Million in Jeep Fire Death

(NEW YORK) — A jury in Georgia has awarded $150 million to the family of a 4-year-old boy killed when a Jeep Grand Cherokee caught fire after a crash.

Jurors in Decatur County ruled Thursday that Chrysler acted with reckless disregard for human life in selling the boy’s family a 1999 Jeep with a gas tank mounted behind the rear axle.

Remington Walden, of Bainbridge, Georgia, was killed when the Jeep driven by his aunt was hit from behind by a pickup truck in March 2012. The fuel tank leaked, engulfing the Jeep in flames and killing the boy.

Jurors ruled after a seven-day trial that Chrysler was 99 percent at fault for the crash and the pickup driver was 1 percent at fault.

Chrysler, which makes Jeeps, recalled 1.56 million of them in June 2013 under pressure from U.S. safety regulators. The rear-mounted tanks have little structure to protect them if struck from behind, making them susceptible to punctures and fires.

Mike Palese, spokesman for Chrysler parent company FCA US, said the company is disappointed with the verdict and would appeal it. Chrysler, he said, was prevented from presenting data submitted to federal safety regulators showing that the vehicles did not pose an unreasonable safety risk.

“The vehicles are not defective,” Palese said.

TIME Supreme Court

The Robert Menendez Corruption Charges Undermine the Supreme Court

Ranking member Sen. Bob Menendez listens to testimony during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, in Washington on March 11, 2015.
Mark Wilson–Getty Images Ranking member Sen. Bob Menendez listens to testimony during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, in Washington on March 11, 2015.

The Supreme Court said super PACs aren't prone to corruption. Prosecutors are alleging otherwise in a case against Sen. Robert Menendez.

Correction appended, April 2

In his 2010 State of the Union, President Obama famously criticized the Supreme Court’s logic on a campaign finance decision even as several justices sat in the audience.

Now, prosecutors at the U.S. Justice Department have found an even better way to make the case.

In their indictment of New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, prosecutors have called foul on one of the central arguments for the court’s interpretation of campaign finance law in the Citizens United decision.

The indictment alleges that Florida opthamologist Solomon Melgen corruptly showered Menedez with gifts intended to influence official acts, from procuring visas for his foreign girlfriends to intervening in a dispute over Medicare billing. Among those things of value, according to prosecutors, was $600,000 in donations from Melgen’s company, Vitreo-Retinal Consultants, earmarked to help Menedez’s reelection through a super PAC called Majority PAC.

Those donations came two years after Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for a majority of the court in Citizens United v. FEC, ruled that such contributions to outside groups not directly controlled by candidates presented no risk of corruption or the appearance of corruption.

“This Court now concludes that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption,” Kennedy wrote. “That speakers may have influence over or access to elected officials does not mean that those officials are corrupt. And the appearance of influence or access will not cause the electorate to lose faith in this democracy.”

This argument was central to the Supreme Court’s decision to allow outside groups to collect and spend unlimited amounts of money to explicitly call for the election and defeat of a candidate for federal office. Since the money technically went to an organization not controlled by the candidate, the court reasoned, there was no sufficient government interest to stop it.

The indictment of Menendez, however, reveals in great detail the extent to which “independent” groups like Majority PAC have found ways to operate in close coordination with the candidate. And if Menendez is convicted, the case will prove that corruption can still be facilitated through these outside groups.

“The Citizens United court majority was obviously wrong in 2010 when it declared that independent expenditures can’t corrupt,” says Paul Ryan, an attorney for the Campaign Legal Center, who has long been critical of the decision. “Now we have concrete alleged evidence of how independent expenditures do corrupt.”

The indictment alleges that Melgen gave the money to support Menendez in two checks of $300,000. The first check was given on June 1, 2012, the very day when Melgen served on the host committee of Menendez’s annual fundraising event in New Jersey. Melgen allegedly gave the check to “a close personal friend” of the Senator at the fundraiser, who sent the check by FedEx to a person working to raise money for Majority PAC with a note saying “earmarked for New Jersey.” (That clearly meant Menendez. Majority PAC focused its spending on Democratic Senate races, and he was the only Democratic Senate candidate that year from New Jersey.)

Melgen issued a second check on October 12, 2012, less than a month before the election, prosecutors allege. An email from a fundraiser that accompanied the second check also read “earmarked for New Jersey.”

About six days after Melgen issued the first check, Menendez allegedly advocated on Melgen’s behalf in a Medicare billing dispute with the acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. About a month later, Menendez sought a meeting with the Secretary of Health and Human Services to discuss Melgen’s concerns.

“During Menendez’s meeting with the Secretary of HHS, Menendez advocated on behalf of Melgen’s position in his Medicare billing dispute, focusing on Melgen’s specific case and asserting that Melgen was being treated unfairly,” the indictment reads. “The Secretary of HHS disagreed with Menendez’s position.”

After Melgen gave the second $300,000 check, Melgen separately emailed Menendez and a fundraiser for Senate Majority PAC a document asking again for Health and Human Services to intervene on his behalf in the Medicare billing dispute, the indictment claims. The fundraiser for the Senate Majority PAC wrote back by email that he would pass the information on to another senator, identified in the legal documents as Senator 3. “Dear Sal, I’m going to see him on Tuesday. I will give this to him directly. Is that ok?”

Menendez has maintained this innocence, and says he plans to fight the charges.

Correction: This post initially misidentified the senator that a fundraiser for Senate Majority PAC promised to communicate with on Melgen’s behalf.

Read next: New Jersey Senator Faces Corruption Charges

TIME Crime

America’s Largest Death Row Has Run Out of Room

San Quentin Prison shown on July 10, 2013, in Larkspur, Califo.
George Rose—Getty Images San Quentin Prison shown on July 10, 2013, in Larkspur, Califo.

708 out of 715 death row cells at San Quentin are occupied

California has not seen an execution for nearly a decade and, with an anticipated 20 new arrivals per year, the largest execution system in the U.S. has run out of room.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Governor Jerry Brown has requested $3.2 million in special funding to expand death row at San Quentin State Prison by 97 cells — utilizing facilities that have become free thanks to an overall drop in the state’s inmates following voter approval last fall of Proposition 47 (which reclassified most nonviolent drug crimes as misdemeanors).

Official documents obtained by the Times say “it is not feasible to delay the approval and implementation of this proposal.”

But because California’s death row has been embroiled in litigation for years, the expansion plans for San Quentin could be a stopgap solution at best.

On July 16, 2014, Orange County federal Judge Cormac J. Carney deemed the state’s death penalty to be unconstitutional. The last California inmate to be executed was Clarence Ray Allen in 2006 and since then 49 inmates have died from other causes.

“Until the litigation is resolved, this cost-effective proposal allows [the state corrections department] to safely house condemned inmates going forward,” corrections-department spokeswoman Terry Thornton told the Times.

San Quentin, just north of San Francisco, can house 715 condemned inmates and currently 708 prisoners reside in the cells. Twenty women are housed in the Central California Women’s Facility (near Chowchilla, Calif.) and another 23 prisoners are held at locations throughout the state due to various extenuating circumstances.

Governor Brown’s proposal is scheduled for a hearing in late April.

TIME justice

Will Congress Reform the Criminal Justice System?

Civil rights activist Van Jones speaks onstage at '#YesWeCode: From The 'Hood To Silicon Valley' during the 2015 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival at Austin Convention Center in Austin on March 16, 2015.
Robert A Tobiansky–Getty Images Civil rights activist Van Jones speaks onstage at '#YesWeCode: From The 'Hood To Silicon Valley' during the 2015 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival at Austin Convention Center in Austin on March 16, 2015.

There's bipartisan backing, but that doesn't mean a bill will pass

Correction appended, March 27

Van Jones likes to call his Republican buddies “brother.” As in Brother Mark (Holden, the general counsel at Koch Industries), or Brother Matt (Kibbe, the CEO of the conservative group FreedomWorks). Jones, a Democratic activist and former Obama adviser, beamed as he strolled the halls of a cavernous Washington hotel Thursday, clasping shoulders and squeezing hands with one unlikely conservative ally after the next. And Jones wasn’t the only one basking in the warm vibes of bipartisanship.

If you mistakenly wandered into the Bipartisan Summit on Criminal Justice Reform, you might have thought you had fallen into an alternate universe. Scores of liberal and conservative activists, policy wonks and lawmakers gathered for an all-day conference that seemed to defy all the old saws about Washington gridlock. Former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich lauded Democratic Senator Cory Booker, who volleyed back praise for his Republican partners. Even Attorney General Eric Holder drew warm applause in a ballroom dotted with conservatives.

But as unusual as that may be in Washington, it’s becoming a routine sight when it comes to criminal justice reform. In recent months, a growing bipartisan alliance has formed around the need to change a prison system that critics say is broken and bloated. Thursday’s crowd was the clearest sign yet of the coalition’s breadth. “When you have an idea whose time has come,” said Jones, one of the hosts of the summit, “it winds up being an unstoppable force.”

Maybe. But it’s never easy in Washington to channel a cause into actual change. A show of force is not a strategy. Despite general agreement about the problems riddling the justice system, it remains unclear how a collection of interest groups with divergent ideologies can marshal their money and organizing muscle to move bills through a fractious Congress—all before the 2016 presidential election puts the legislative process on pause.

The good news is the array of powerful figures who have united behind the idea. Activists and policy groups on the left (such as the Center for American Progress and the American Civil Liberties Union) are working with traditional foes on the right (such as the Kochs, the American Conservative Union and Right on Crime) as well as nonpartisan groups like Families Against Mandatory Minimums. In Congress, the cadre of lawmakers who have teamed up on criminal-justice reform legislation run the ideological gamut, from Democratic Senators Booker, Pat Leahy and Sheldon Whitehouse to Republicans counterparts Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Rob Portman and John Cornyn.

The unlikely alliances have formed in part because the problem is so obvious. The percentage of incarcerated Americans has ballooned 500% over the past three decades; the nation’s prison population, at 2.2 million people, surpasses that of any other developed nation. The one-in-three Americans with a criminal record struggle to reintegrate into society because of restrictions on housing, voting and employment—which in turn promotes recidivism. Liberals deplore a system that disproportionately punishes minorities and the poor for petty crimes, while many conservatives have long been appalled by the moral and fiscal issues associated with the soaring U.S. incarceration rate.

Whether the legislative branch has the ability to tackle these sprawling issues remains an open question. “The way Congress moves is at a glacial pace,” said Booker, a freshman Senator from New Jersey. “This is not going to change unless we push and fight and work together.”

A big part of the battle is figuring out the best place to start. In the Senate, one option is a bill sponsored by Whitehouse and Cornyn, the chamber’s No. 2 Republican, which is designed to reduce recidivism and help nonviolent prisoners transition back into society after serving time. An earlier version of the bill sailed through the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2014 with the support of Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, who now serves as the committee’s chairman. As chairman, Grassley’s support for the legislation is crucial. His reticence to reforming mandatory minimum sentencing is one reason why the Cornyn-Whitehouse bill is thought to have a better chance of success than a popular mandatory-minimum bill sponsored by Booker, Paul and others.

Grassley’s counterpart in the House, Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, is another Republican steeped in the tough-on-crime ethos that long reigned in the party. But the House GOP has a host of respected leaders who are on board with criminal justice reforms, from Ways and Means Committee chairman Paul Ryan to fellow Wisconsin conservative Jim Sensenbrenner, who advocates identify as a key player in any deal to get a bill through the House.

Gingrich, a co-host of Thursday’s summit, said the key would be to gather support in the Senate first. “If you build a big enough bipartisan majority in the Senate, it’s going to pass,” said Gingrich, who argued that as a cause, criminal justice had little in common with comprehensive immigration-reform, another recent bipartisan issue with plenty of hype and heavy hitters behind it, but which ultimately stalled in Congress.

Unlike immigration reform, “there’s no massive opposition to rethinking how we’ve been incarcerating people,” Gingrich argued, predicting that each 2016 Republican presidential contender would support some form of justice reform. “There’s a much, much bigger consensus.”

There’s also an urgency to capitalize before presidential politics grinds the legislative machinery of the capital to a halt. On a panel Thursday morning, Democratic commentator Donna Brazile predicted a comprehensive criminal justice bill could pass by the end of the year. “I think we’ve got to get it done in 2015,” said Kibbe of the Tea Party-aligned group FreedomWorks, “before we get back in our corners and start fighting again.”

Correction: The original version of this story identified Families Against Mandatory Minimums as a left-leaning group. It is nonpartisan.

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