TIME tragedy

Ticket Waived for Teen Who Dozed at Wheel in Fatal Car Wreck

Five of his family members were killed in the accident

A ticket will be waived for a teen who dozed off at the wheel, causing a car crash that took the lives of five of his family members.

The Texas teen, whose name has not been released, said he fell asleep at the wheel of his family’s car around 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday. The family was driving through Louisiana at the time, on their way to Disney World in Florida for Thanksgiving.

The car hit the median and ultimately flipped, causing six of the eight people in the car to be ejected from the vehicle. Five of those family members died. They included parents Michael and Trudi Hardman, and kids Dakota Watson, 15, Kaci Hardman, 4, and Adam Hardman, 7.

The driver was initially issued a ticket for the accident, but that was then waived. “This young man has been punished enough,” Louisiana Fourth Judicial District Attorney Jerry Jones said, The News Star reports. “There is no need to add to his pain. The ticket will be dismissed.”

[The News Star]

TIME justice

Anxieties Mount as Ferguson Waits on Grand Jury

Protestors march in front of the Ferguson Police Department in Ferguson, Mo on Nov. 23, 2014.
Protestors march in front of the Ferguson Police Department in Ferguson, Mo on Nov. 23, 2014. Samuel Corum—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

(FERGUSON, Mo.) — Despite preparations for a weekend decision in the Ferguson shooting case, the grand jurors apparently need more time to deliberate, and the uncertainty just seemed to feed the anxiety and speculation Sunday in a city already on edge.

More than 3½ months have passed since police Officer Darren Wilson, who is white, killed unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown after a confrontation in the middle of a street in the St. Louis suburb. The shooting triggered riots and looting, and police responded with armored vehicles and tear gas.

Many in the area thought a grand jury decision on whether to charge Wilson with a crime would be announced Sunday, based partly on a stepped-up police presence in the preceding days, including the setting up of barricades around the building where the panel was meeting.

The grand jurors met Friday but apparently didn’t reach a decision, and they were widely expected to reconvene on Monday, though there was no official confirmation of that.

During church services Sunday, some pastors encouraged their flocks not to fret.

A choir sang, “We need you Lord right now” at the predominantly black Greater Grace Church in Ferguson. The pastor, Bishop L.O. Jones, referred to the pending grand jury decision briefly.

“Everybody stand to your feet and tell somebody, ‘Don’t be afraid. God is still in control,’” Jones said as church members repeated after him.

The Rev. Freddy Clark of Shalom Church in nearby Florissant told the mostly black interdenominational congregation that “justice will be served” whichever way the decision goes, because God will take care of it.

“None of us are pleased about what happened,” said parishioner James Tatum. “Whatever the verdict is, we have to understand that’s the verdict.”

As they wait, some people have continued daily protests, while speculation has grown that the delays are intentional.

“People feel like it’s been engineered, so that the results wouldn’t come out until after the election and until the weather got cold, and it would be more difficult to protest,” said Susan McGraugh, supervisor of the Criminal Defense Clinic at the Saint Louis University School of Law. “It’s really adding fuel to the fire.”

St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch had said he expected a grand jury decision by mid-to-late November. But that’s not ultimately in his control.

The 12-person grand jury deliberates in secret, without McCulloch, and sets its own schedule depending upon when the members are available.

It’s not uncommon for deliberations to take a while in complex cases when, such as in the Brown shooting, self-defense is alleged or there are two widely conflicting versions of events, said Cole County Prosecutor Mark Richardson, who is not involved in the Ferguson case.

Downtown STL Inc., a St. Louis civic group that promotes downtown businesses, told members in an email Saturday that the grand jury will reconvene Monday to continue deliberating. The email did not explain how the group knew that, and McCulloch’s office has not commented on the grand jury’s schedule.

If jurors meet Monday, there is no guarantee they will reach a decision that day, or even this week.

“In the course of their deliberations, if one grand juror convinces the others that ‘Look, we need to hear from an additional witness,’ and they all agree, the prosecutor’s got a duty to bring that witness in,” Richardson said.

When the panel reaches a decision, it will be up to McCulloch to publicize it.

Sunday would have been an opportune time to minimize disruptions from protests, since schools and governments are planning on only a partial work week because of Thanksgiving, said Peter Joy, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis. He said Monday or Tuesday would still make sense.

But “my belief is that with the holiday, releasing it on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday would produce a negative reaction,” Joy said.

TIME justice

FBI Sends 100 Agents to Ferguson Ahead of Grand Jury Decision

Arrests have already been made for firearm charges

The FBI has sent some 100 agents to the St. Louis area to prepare for the grand jury decision on whether to indict the police officer who shot the unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

A decision by the grand jury is expected within days, and there are signs that unrest is brewing. The FBI arrested two men earlier this week near Ferguson on firearms charges as part of the increased law enforcement presence in the St. Louis suburb, CBS reports.

The 100 FBI agents were ordered to mobilize and arrive in Ferguson Friday, and additional personnel have been put on alert so they can be called in as a second emergency wave, ABC reports.

President Obama, Brown’s family, and Attorney General Eric Holder have urged protestors to remain peaceful.

[ABC]

TIME justice

Obama Tells Ferguson to ‘Keep Protests Peaceful’

Woman stops to visit the memorial set up where Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson
A woman stops to visit the memorial set up where Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson, Missouri, Nov. 22, 2014. Jim Young—Reuters

"Using any event as an excuse for violence is contrary to rule of law, contrary to who we are"

President Barack Obama urged protestors in Ferguson to remain peaceful as they await the grand jury’s decision in this summer’s fatal police shooting of an unarmed black man.

“I think first and foremost, keep protests peaceful,” Obama said in an interview, the Associated Press reports. “This is a country that allows everybody to express their views, allows them to peacefully assemble, to protest actions that they think are unjust. But using any event as an excuse for violence is contrary to rule of law, contrary to who we are.”

A grand jury decision on whether to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the Aug. 9 death of 18-year-old Michael Brown is due any day now, and police are preparing for further unrest in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson.

Michael Brown senior, the victim’s father said “Hurting others or destroying property is not the answer. No matter what the grand jury decides, I do not want my son’s death to be in vain.”

[AP]

TIME justice

Michael Brown Sr. Appeals for Calm Ahead of Grand Jury Decision

"I do not want my son's death to be in vain"

The father of Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo. this summer, released a video Thursday asking people not to “hurt others” or “destroy property” ahead of a grand jury decision into whether the officer will be indicted in the killing.

“No matter what the grand jury decides, I do not want my son’s death to be in vain,” Michael Brown, Sr. said in the video. “I want it to lead to incredible change, positive change, change that makes the St. Louis region for everyone…Let’s work together to create change for all people regardless of race.”

The shooting of Brown by Officer Darren Wilson sparked sometimes violent protests in Ferguson this August, exposing simmering racial tensions in the St. Louis suburb.

Protestors gathered again in below freezing temperatures outside the courthouse to await the grand jury’s return on the case in the past week. They have been met by officers in riot gear. Police have already arrested five people and are bracing for the verdict.

TIME justice

Charles Manson Gets Marriage License

Charles Manson and friends
From Left: Afton Elaine Burton and Charles Manson, imprisoned for life for association with a series of murders in the 1960s in Corcoran, Calif. on Aug. 14, 2011. Manson Direct/Polaris

(CORCORAN, Calif.) — Mass murderer Charles Manson has gotten a license to marry a 26-year-old woman who visits him in prison.

The marriage license obtained Monday by The Associated Press was issued Nov. 7 for the 80-year-old Manson and Afton Elaine Burton, who left her Midwestern home nine years ago and moved to Corcoran, California — the site of the prison — to be near Manson.

It does not specify a wedding date and indicates the couple has 90 days to get married or they will have to reapply.

Burton gave an interview a year ago to Rolling Stone magazine in which she said she and Manson planned to marry. But Manson said then it was not true.

Burton, who goes by the name “Star,” told the AP that she loves Manson and they will marry next month. She denied reports that he wasn’t interested in marriage.

 

Read next: Who Is Charles Manson?

TIME Crime

U.S. Cities Brace for Unrest As Ferguson Grand Jury Decision Nears

Demonstrators yell "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" alongside a highway overpass to voice their opinions as the area awaits a grand jury decision near Ferguson, Mo. on Nov. 15, 2014.
Demonstrators yell "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" alongside a highway overpass to voice their opinions as the area awaits a grand jury decision near Ferguson, Mo. on Nov. 15, 2014. Joe Raedle—Getty Images

Jury will decide whether Officer Darren Wilson should be indicted for the killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown

(BOSTON) — From Boston to Los Angeles, police departments are bracing for large demonstrations when a grand jury decides whether to indict a white police officer who killed an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri.

The St. Louis County grand jury, which has been meeting since Aug. 20, is expected to decide this month whether Officer Darren Wilson is charged with a crime for killing 18-year-old Michael Brown after ordering him and a friend to stop walking in the street on Aug. 9.

The shooting has led to tension with police and a string of unruly protests there and brought worldwide attention to the formerly obscure St. Louis suburb, where more than half the population is black but few police officers are.

For some cities, a decision in the racially charged case will, inevitably, reignite long-simmering debates over local police relations with minority communities.

“It’s definitely on our radar,” said Lt. Michael McCarthy, police spokesman in Boston, where police leaders met privately Wednesday to discuss preparations. “Common sense tells you the timeline is getting close. We’re just trying to prepare in case something does step off, so we are ready to go with it.”

In Los Angeles, rocked by riots in 1992 after the acquittal of police officers in the videotaped beating of Rodney King, police officials say they’ve been in touch with their counterparts in Missouri, where Gov. Jay Nixon and St. Louis-area law enforcement held a news conference this week on their own preparations.

“Naturally, we always pay attention,” said Cmdr. Andrew Smith, a police spokesman. “We saw what happened when there were protests over there and how oftentimes protests spill from one part of the country to another.”

In Las Vegas, police joined pastors and other community leaders this week to call for restraint at a rally tentatively planned northwest of the casino strip when a decision comes.

Activists in Ferguson met Saturday to map out their protest plans. Meeting organizers encouraged group members to provide their names upon arrest as Darren Wilson or Michael Brown to make it more difficult for police to process them.

In a neighboring town, Berkeley, officials this week passed out fliers urging residents to be prepared for unrest just as they would a major storm — with plenty of food, water and medicine in case they’re unable to leave home for several days.

In Boston, a group called Black Lives Matter, which has chapters in other major cities, is organizing a rally in front of the police district office in the Roxbury neighborhood the day after an indictment decision.

In Albuquerque, New Mexico, police are expecting demonstrations after having dealt with a string of angry protests following a March police shooting of a homeless camper and more than 40 police shootings since 2010.

Philadelphia police spokesman Lt. John Stanford said he anticipated his city will see demonstrations, regardless of what the grand jury returns.

But big-city police departments stressed they’re well-equipped to handle crowds. Many saw large but mostly peaceful demonstrations following the 2013 not-guilty verdict in the slaying of Florida teen Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch coordinator George Zimmerman. In New York, hundreds of protesters marched from Union Square north to Times Square, where a sit-in caused gridlock.

The New York Police Department, the largest in the nation, is “trained to move swiftly and handle events as they come up,” spokesman Stephen Davis said.

In Boston, McCarthy said the city’s 2,200 sworn police officers have dealt with the range of public actions, from sports fans spontaneously streaming into the streets following championship victories to protest movements like Occupy.

“The good thing is that our relationships here with the community are much better than they are around the world,” he said. “People look to us as a model. Boston is not Ferguson.”

TIME justice

Officer Darren Wilson Can Remain a Ferguson Cop if Not Indicted

The grand jury decision is expected as early as this weekend

The cop who fatally shot unarmed teen Michael Brown can return to active duty if he isn’t indicted by a grand jury, Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said.

Jackson said that Officer Darren Wilson would likely be fired if the grand jury does return an indictment, NBC reported Friday. Wilson is now on paid leave.

It’s unclear whether Wilson would want to return to the police force if he avoids an indictment, Chief Jackson said.

After Brown was killed on August 9, violence flared in periodic skirmishes between protestors and police, who deployed smoke bombs, tear gas and even armored tanks. The unrest sparked a national debate about racism and excessive police force.

[NBC News]

TIME Crime

School District: Student Is Partly to Blame for Sex with Teacher

Teacher-Sexual Consent Elkis Hermida
This undated photo provided by the California Department of Correction shows Los Angeles school district teacher Elkis Hermida, who was sentenced in 2011 to three years in prison for lewd acts against a child. California Department of Correction/AP

A 14-year-old's sexual past and willingness to engage in sex with a 28-year-old teacher was fair game in a Los Angeles civil trial

Correction appended, Nov. 17, 2014

An underage girl can consent to sex with a teacher and her sexual history is relevant when considering who is liable for damages in such a case. That’s the argument a lawyer for the Los Angeles Unified School District made in court after the family of a 14-year-old girl sued the district after it was revealed that a teacher had sex with her.

The teacher, Elkis Hermida, was sentenced in criminal court in 2011 to three years in state prison for lewd acts against a child. Hermida, a middle-school math teacher, had sex with the underage girl for a period of six months. But in civil court, where the lawsuit was brought and decided in the district’s favor in late 2013, responsibility for sex between a teacher and an underage student is less clear, the school district argued.

The district said that the underage girl knew it was wrong to have sex with her teacher and the district had no knowledge of what occurred and was therefore not liable, according to public radio station KPCC, which reported details of the trial for the first time on Nov 12. The district also said, according to KPCC, that the girl was partially responsible for the sexual relationship, even though she was younger than 18, the age of legal consent in California. Liability in the case hinged on whether the district knew anything about the teacher or his relationship with the student that made it negligent in the case. A jury found the district was not negligent, but the legal strategy of placing blame on the underage girl has rocked Los Angeles and victims’ advocates who say it could set a dangerous precedent.

“The blame the victim strategy that they adopted is very dangerous for the public at large,” says John Dion, an attorney and deputy executive director of the National Center for Victims of Crime. “It creates a real chilling effect of people coming forward. When they don’t come forward, child sex abuse is allowed to continue. This is a crime that flourishes in secrecy.” In criminal cases in California, defendants are typically not allowed to bring up the sexual pasts of alleged victims, but in the civil case involving the district, the girl’s sexual history was revealed at the trial.

“She lied to her mother so she could have sex with her teacher…She went to a motel in which she engaged in voluntary consensual sex with her teacher. Why shouldn’t she be responsible for that?” attorney Keith Wyatt, who represented the L.A. school district in the civil trial, told KPCC in an interview. After KPCC aired its interview with Wyatt, he apologized in a statement, saying his remarks were “ill thought out and poorly articulated.”

Still, Cynthia Godsoe, a law professor at Brooklyn Law School who specializes in children and the law, says the legal strategy itself is shocking. “Given that the state legislature has said people below 18 years old are not mature enough to consent, I think for an attorney representing a public entity to argue that it’s her fault is not ok,” says Godsoe. “He’s arguing flat out that she’s not a victim and there’s already been a finding in criminal court that she is. I find it kind of amazing.”

The girl’s family is appealing the court ruling. Holly Boyer, the attorney now representing the girl, said she expects to file an opening brief with the appeals court within a month.

Correction: The original version of this article misstated the name of Cynthia Godsoe’s employer. It is Brooklyn Law School.

TIME justice

Trooper Ambush Suspect Charged With Terrorism

The man accused of opening fire on a Pennsylvania State Police barracks admitted killing a trooper because he was dissatisfied with government and wanted to “wake people up,” according to court documents filed Thursday that provided the first indication of a possible motive.

Eric Frein spoke of wanting to start a revolution in a letter to his parents and called the slaying of Cpl. Bryon Dickson an “assassination” in a police interview after his Oct. 30 capture, the documents said.

State police charged Frein on Thursday with two counts of terrorism. He already faced first-degree murder and other counts in the Sept. 12 ambush, which killed Dickson, seriously wounded another trooper and sparked a 48-day manhunt in the Pocono Mountains.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Frein, who appeared by video at a brief hearing at which state police filed the additional charges. He has not entered a plea.

On the night of his capture, Frein waived his right to remain silent and told police in an interview at the barracks that he had shot the troopers “because he wanted to make a change (in government) and that voting was inefficient to do so, because there was no one worth voting for,” according to a criminal complaint. “The defendant further acknowledged taking action (shooting the troopers) to wake people up because it was all he could do.”

Court documents filed Thursday also included a letter, which authorities say was written by Frein and was addressed to “Mom and Dad,” that said revolution “can get us back the liberties we once had.”

“Tension is high at the moment and the time seems right for a spark to ignite a fire in the hearts of men. What I have done has not been done before and it felt like it was worth a try,” said the letter.

Frein, 31, also apologized to his parents, writing, “I am just not a good son,” according to documents.

Police found the letter on a storage drive inside an abandoned airplane hangar that authorities believe Frein used as a shelter. The letter was created on Dec. 29, 2013, and was last accessed on Oct. 6, 2014, while Frein was on the run, the documents said. Police have said Frein had a laptop with him.

Authorities, meanwhile, say they’re not worried that Frein’s confession could conceivably be challenged by defense attorneys.

Police refused to tell Frein that his family had hired an attorney for him the night he was captured, according to defense attorney James Swetz, who said he was prevented from seeing Frein at the barracks.

“I was told, ‘He’s an adult and has not asked for a lawyer,’” Swetz recounted earlier this week.

District Attorney Ray Tonkin has cited Pennsylvania Supreme Court precedent that says police aren’t required to tell a suspect that an attorney is seeking to speak with him or her. A more recent state court decision, however, said the Supreme Court had not “eliminated the possibility” that a defendant’s due-process rights could be violated under similar circumstances.

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