TIME Guns

American Support of Guns Has Grown in Wake of Shootings, Survey Finds

A convention goer handles a Ruger 1911 model semi-automatic pistol during the142nd annual National Rifle Association convention at the George R. Brown Convention Center on May 4, 2013 in Houston.
A convention goer handles a Ruger 1911 model semi-automatic pistol during the142nd annual National Rifle Association convention at the George R. Brown Convention Center on May 4, 2013 in Houston. Karen Bleier—AFP/Getty Images

52% of Americans consider gun rights more important than gun control

Americans’ opinions on gun rights have shifted further into the “pro” column since the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which is approaching its second anniversary this month, according to new data from the Pew Research Center.

About 52% of Americans said it’s more important to protect gun rights than it is to control who owns them, the survey finds. Just 46% said the latter is most important, marking a significant shift since 1993, when 57% of those surveyed felt controlling gun ownership should be the priority. In January 2013, about a month after the shooting that left 20 students and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School dead, support for gun control was at 51%.

The survey revealed an even greater shift in opinion among surveyed Americans of color. In December 2012, only 29% of black Americans said gun ownership does more to protect people from being victims of crimes, while 53% said it further risks one’s safety. This year, 51% said guns protect and only 41% felt they put safety at risk. The change among white Americans was far less dramatic.

Pew’s survey of 1,507 adults was conducted from Dec. 3-7. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.

TIME justice

Execution Set for Man Whose Drunk Lawyer Botched His Defense

Robert Wayne Holsey
Convicted murderer Robert Wayne Holsey who is scheduled to be executed on Dec. 9, 2014. Georgia Department of Corrections/AP

His attorney drank a quart of vodka a night

In 1997, Andy Prince’s life was in a downward spiral. The Georgia attorney was drinking a quart of vodka a night. He stole $100,000 from a client. He was arrested for disorderly conduct after threatening to shoot his neighbors. But none of that prevented him from representing Robert Wayne Holsey, a Georgia man convicted of shooting a deputy sheriff and scheduled to die this week thanks to what Holsey’s current lawyers describe as unthinkable and almost criminally poor legal representation.

On Dec. 17, 1995, Holsey shot and killed Baldwin County Sheriff’s Deputy Will Robinson in Milledgeville, Ga., after the officer pulled Holsey over for a suspected robbery. At the time, Georgia had no public defender office, leaving it up to judges to appoint a lawyer, often resorting to attorneys they knew personally. In this case, Prince was chosen to defend Holsey.

MORE: Ohio looks to shield lethal injection drugmakers

“When [Prince] took on Holsey’s case, he was in a lot of trouble,” said attorney Brian Kammer, the director of the Georgia Resource Center who is currently representing Holsey. “He was barely able to represent him. He was a chronic heavy drinker, an alcoholic. And it impacted his performance.”

Kammer says that in Holsey’s sentencing phase, Prince barely prepared the basis for why his client should be spared the death sentence. At the time, Holsey’s IQ was about 70, meaning by some standards he was intellectually disabled. Prince provided little evidence in court to bolster that defense and largely failed to provide the jury with information about Holsey’s childhood, which was rife with abuse and could have persuaded jurors to spare his life. A jury sentenced Holsey to death in 1997.

In the months and years following the trial, Prince was disbarred, sentenced to 10 years for stealing client money and later testified that he shouldn’t have been representing Holsey in the first place.

MORE: Missouri just tied its lethal injection record)

Yet the death sentence remains. While Holsey is set to die by lethal injection on Tuesday, his lawyers are working to halt his execution. On Monday, Kammer presented Holsey’s case to Georgia’s five-member clemency board, arguing that Georgia’s standard for determining intellectual disability is unconstitutional, a strict standard that requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court ruled in Hall v. Florida that it was unconstitutional to automatically prohibit anyone with an IQ of 70 or above from being considered mentally disabled. The Florida law initially had a strict cutoff that made those with an IQ of 70 or above eligible for the death penalty.

The parole panel, however, denied clemency on Monday, and the Georgia Supreme Court decided against a stay of execution in a 5-2 vote on Tuesday. Holsey’s lawyers have presented a last-minute appeal to the Supreme Court to halt the execution, scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday.

TIME justice

Officer Charged in Relation to Rikers Inmate Death in Overheated Cell

A picture of Jerome Murdough, a former homeless Marine who died in a mental observation unit on Rikers Island jail on Feb. 15, 2014 is held by his mother Alma Murdough left, and sister Cheryl Warner at Alma Murdough's home in the Queens borough of New York.
A picture of Jerome Murdough, a former homeless Marine who died in a mental observation unit on Rikers Island jail on Feb. 15, 2014 is held by his mother Alma Murdough left, and sister Cheryl Warner at Alma Murdough's home in the Queens borough of New York. Jason DeCrow—AP

Investigators said Jerome Murdough's cell had reached temperatures over 100 degrees

A Rikers Island correction officer has been charged with allegedly lying on jail records and making false claims that she had checked in on an inmate who died in an overheated cell in February.

Carol Lackner, 35, was indicted Monday on two felony charges — offering a false instrument for filing and falsifying business records — and other misdemeanors, the New York Times reports. Prosecutors say she claimed in her logbook that she had checked on inmates six times during the night, which conflicts with video footage from that evening.

A medical examiner ruled that the death of 56-year-old Jerome Murdough was an accident: Murdough, who was arrested on trespassing charges for seeking relief from the cold in a public housing project, died of hyperthermia when his schizoaffective disorder medication adversely interacted with the heat. Investigators said his cell reached temperatures higher than 100 degrees, and the Correction Department said that the heating system in the mental health observation unit of the prison was had been malfunctioning.

Lackner was suspended for 30 days and put on modified duty, which does not allow interaction with inmates.

[New York Times]

TIME justice

New Federal Racial Profiling Guidelines Worry Civil Rights Groups

Eric Holder
In this Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014, file photo, U. S. Attorney General Eric Holder speaks during a news conference before a roundtable meeting in Cleveland. Tony Dejak—AP

Civil liberties organizations say some groups would still be subject to profiling

While the Department of Justice is set to unveil some major changes to federal racial profiling guidelines on Monday, some civil rights groups worry they don’t go far enough.

The Justice Department is expanding on guidelines released in 2003 that prohibited profiling based on race and ethnicity. Now, anti-profiling protections in federal law enforcement operations include national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender and gender identity. The guidelines also apply to both federal law enforcement agents and state and local agents on federal task forces.

But some carve-outs—such as screenings and inspections by the Transportation Security Administration and U.S. Customs and Border Protection—have raised eyebrows among groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, Muslim Advocates and the Sikh Coalition.

“It’s baffling that even as the government recognizes that bias-based policing is patently unacceptable, it gives a green light for the FBI, TSA, and CBP to profile racial, religious and other minorities at or in the vicinity of the border and in certain national security contexts, and does not apply the Guidance to most state and local law enforcement,” said Laura Murphy, the director of ACLU’s Washington legislative office.

Muslim Advocates, a faith-based legal and educational advocacy organization, echoed those sentiments. “While these changes are welcome,” a statement reads, “it is difficult to see how the guidance will improve the lives of law-abiding American Muslims who are singled out and targeted based on their faith, not evidence of wrongdoing, by the FBI, Customs and Border Protection, and other law enforcement agencies.”

The Department of Justice guidelines do not apply to activities conducted by military, intelligence or diplomatic personnel. Border screening activities are also not covered, which has been of particular concern to civil rights groups.

After 9/11, sweeping counterterrorism efforts were imposed that led Arab and Muslim Americans—and some perceived to be Muslim or Arabic such as South Asians and Sikhs—to feel singled out and profiled by the federal government. A 2009 ACLU and Rights Working Group report found that Arabs, Muslims and South Asians “have been disproportionately victimized through various government initiatives” including FBI surveillance, questioning, airline profiling and no-fly lists.

But the fact that the Department of Homeland Security isn’t covered by the Department of Justice’s guidelines doesn’t mean the agency has free rein to profile.

“It’s important to remember that DOJ is one agency and DHS is another,” says Margo Schlanger, a University of Michigan law professor and former DHS officer for civil rights and civil liberties.

In fact, the Department of Homeland Security issued its own guidelines on profiling in 2013. Under that policy, DHS personnel are only permitted to use race or ethnicity as a factor “when a compelling governmental interest is present, and only in a way narrowly tailored to meet that compelling interest.” Still, the DOJ’s new anti-profiling requirements apply to some DHS activities including civil immigration enforcement, Coast Guard, air marshal, and border patrol activities away from the border.

Border and transportation security screenings and inspections, however, remain among the few activities that are excluded. The Department says they will be reviewing the activities not covered by the guidance “to ensure we are including every appropriate safe guard and civil rights protection in the execution of those important security activities,” according to a fact sheet.

“The DHS policy is a little different, but it’s not unregulated,” Schlanger says. “The challenge for both DHS and DOJ going forward is going to be implementation.”

Implementation will be key, too, for both agencies in the ongoing effort to restore faith between law enforcement and minority communities. The nation is at a critical moment in terms of race relations, particularly as it relates to interactions with law enforcement. As protests to grand jury decisions not to indict two white police officers involved in the deaths of unarmed black men in New York and Ferguson, Mo., continue, the Obama Administration has made a point to draw attention to the issue of community policing. Attorney General Holder, who hopes the new guidelines represent one of his signature accomplishments.

“Our police officers cannot be seen as an occupying force disconnected from the communities they serve. Bonds that have been broken must be restored. Bonds that never existed must now be created,” Holder said during a recent trip to Atlanta.

TIME justice

Federal Law Enforcement Banned From Religious Profiling

Eric Holder
U. S. Attorney General Eric Holder speaks during a news conference before a roundtable meeting in Cleveland, Ohio on Dec. 4, 2014. Tony Dejak—AP

"Profiling by law enforcement is not only wrong, it is profoundly misguided and ineffective," Eric Holder said

Profiling on the basis of religion, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, and gender identity by federal law-enforcement agencies will be banned, the Justice Department announced Monday.

The draft changes have been under review for months and Attorney General Eric Holder was eager to issue them before he steps down.

The new policy means that federal law-enforcement officers cannot use these characteristics as the basis for making routine or spontaneous law-enforcement decisions like traffic stops. The older rules, in effect since 2003, barred making those stops on the basis of race or ethnicity …
TIME justice

Chokehold Case Stirs Debate on Special Prosecutors

Letitia James, Dasani Coates
New York public advocate Letitia James speaks after taking the oath of office on the steps of City Hall in New York on Jan. 1, 2014 Frank Franklin II—AP

"It's clear that the system is broken and an independent prosecutor is needed"

(NEW YORK) — After a police officer wasn’t indicted in a fatal chokehold caught on video, some officials are reviving calls to entrust such cases to special prosecutors, rather than local district attorneys.

The city’s elected public advocate and some state lawmakers are pressing for appointing special state prosecutors for police killings, saying Eric Garner’s death has bared problems with having DAs lead investigations and prosecutions of the police who help them build cases. Similar legislation has been proposed in Missouri since the police shooting of an unarmed teenager in Ferguson.

“This is a watershed moment,” New York Public Advocate Letitia James said by phone. “It’s clear that the system is broken and an independent prosecutor is needed.”

She’s advocating appointing such prosecutors whenever police kill or seriously injure someone. Assemblymen Karim Camara and Marcos Crespo are proposing special prosecutors for police killings of unarmed people.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said last week on CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer” that the state should examine whether DAs should bring such cases and “potential roles for special prosecutors,” as part of a broad look at the criminal justice system.

After Garner died July 17, the Staten Island district attorney’s office took the case to a grand jury that spent two months hearing from 50 witnesses and scrutinizing evidence including police policy manuals, medical records and four videos, according to the few details released.

Medical examiners had found that a police chokehold — a maneuver banned by police policy — caused Garner’s death. Officer Daniel Pantaleo’s lawyer argued the officer used a permissible takedown. Grand jurors decided Wednesday that no criminal charges were warranted.

The decision spurred protests and questions about how prosecutors conducted the secret process. And it has prompted debate over whether special prosecutors would build public trust or undermine a system set up to put tough decisions in elected prosecutors’ hands.

“There has to be a permanent special prosecutor for police misconduct because of the inherent conflict” in tasking local prosecutors with exploring allegations against the police who are often their partners, said civil rights lawyer Norman Siegel.

But DAs bristle at the implication that they’re too close to police for public comfort.

“Why would the people’s choice to be their elected law enforcement officer be disqualified in favor of some political appointment?” says Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick, the Syracuse prosecutor who is president-elect of the National District Attorneys Association.

Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson said Friday he expects to take a recent deadly police shooting of an unarmed man in a public housing stairwell to a grand jury, rejecting suggestions that a special prosecutor take over.

“I was elected by the people of Brooklyn to do this job without fear or favor, and that is exactly what I intend to do,” Thompson said.

Special prosecutors sometimes have been tapped for cases involving police, including allegations that a former Chicago police commander oversaw the torture of dozens of suspects to coerce confessions. He was never charged with abuse but was convicted of perjury.

Some states have established permanent special prosecutors’ offices for various types of cases. Maryland’s handles everything from election law violations to misconduct by public employees, including police.

But the idea of a special prosecutor specifically for police has a particular history in New York. The state created a state special prosecutor’s office in 1972 to explore police corruption in New York City, responding to the allegations later chronicled in the 1973 film “Serpico.”

The office was sometimes accused of overreaching — unfairly, says Pace University law professor Bennett Gershman, who worked in the office in its early years.

“There was some pressure not necessarily to charge, but to look closely at these cases and try hard to see whether or not there is an innocent explanation or whether or not the officer really did break the law,” he recalls.

Then-Gov. Mario Cuomo, the current governor’s father, disbanded the special prosecutor’s office in 1990, citing budget constraints. Calls to reinstate and extend it to police misconduct and brutality allegations have arisen over the years, including after three officers were acquitted in the fatal shooting of an unarmed man on his wedding day in 2006.

Some DAs have set up their own separate units for allegations against police. But prosecutors say in any event, they have enough distance from police to investigate them.

“We view ourselves as an independent agency that is called upon, on a daily basis, to review the work of the police,” says Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita, the Buffalo prosecutor who heads the state DA’s association. While they work closely together, “in my office, there’s not a week that goes by that there’s not some disagreement between prosecutors and police.”

TIME Crime

Violence Erupts for 2nd Night in California Protest

Protesters tried to light a patrol vehicle on fire and threw rocks, bottles and an explosive at officers

(BERKELEY, CALIF.) — A second night of protest against police killings in Missouri and New York turned violent again in Berkeley as some demonstrators threw explosives at officers, assaulted each other and shut down a freeway, police said.

Sunday’s protest began peacefully on the University of California, Berkeley campus. But as protesters marched through downtown Berkeley toward the neighboring city of Oakland, someone smashed the window of a Radio Shack. When a protester tried to stop the vandalism, he was hit with a hammer, Officer Jennifer Coats said.

Some of the protesters made their way to a freeway in Oakland and blocked traffic. The California Highway Patrol said some tried to light a patrol vehicle on fire and threw rocks, bottles and an explosive at officers. Highway patrol officers responded with tear gas.

The highway patrol said it was making arrests but no figures were available.

The demonstrations were the latest of several in Oakland, where activism is strong, and elsewhere in the Bay Area in recent days to protest grand jury decisions in Missouri and New York not to indict while police officers in the deaths of two black men.

On Saturday night, three officers and a technician were hurt and six people were arrested when a similar protest turned unruly. The most serious injury was a dislocated shoulder, Berkeley police said.

The demonstrations were the latest of several in the Bay Area — and the nation — in recent days to protest grand jury decisions in Missouri and New York not to indict while police officers in the deaths of two black men.

Seven people were arrested in Seattle Saturday night after protesters threw rocks at police and attempted to block a highway. Politicians on both sides of the aisle have been calling for calm while activists push for police reforms. NAACP president Cornell William Brooks, appearing on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” called for outfitting police with body-worn cameras and changing law enforcement policy.

“We have to change the model of policing,” Brooks said.

Ohio’s Republican governor said the unrest underscores the need for political leaders to be inclusive and to unite, not divide.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich said on ABC’s “This Week” that a “significant percentage” of the country believes the system’s not working for them and can be working against them.

“They need to be listened to and they need to be responded to,” Kasich said. “In our country today, there’s too much division, too much polarization — black, white; rich, poor; Democrat, Republican. America does best when we’re united.”

The unrest in Berkeley follows violent disruptions of demonstrations in San Francisco and Oakland in recent days. Five San Francisco police officers sought medical treatment after sustaining injuries during a protest in downtown San Francisco on Black Friday.

On Saturday night, protesters broke away from a peaceful demonstration and began throwing rocks, bottles and pipes at officers.

Scores of law officers from several surrounding agencies joined the Berkeley Police Department in trying to quell unrest that went on for hours.

Coats said several businesses on University Avenue were vandalized, including Trader Joe’s, Radio Shack and a Wells Fargo Bank branch. She said demonstrators threw wrenches, smoke grenades and other objects at officers, and some squad cars were damaged.

She said officers attempting to get the crowd to depart used tear gas.

“Several dispersal orders have been given, and the crowd has ignored the orders. In response to the violence, officers have utilized tear gas and smoke in an effort to disperse the crowd,” she said.

Local media reports said about 300 to 400 people participated in the relatively peaceful demonstration before splinter groups broke off.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that at one point, the marchers were face to face with a line of about 100 police in riot gear who turned the crowd back.

The newspaper said that it wasn’t just protesters who were hit by tear gas.

Several concerts had let out from downtown sites and concertgoers waiting to pay in a nearby garage were enveloped in a cloud of stinging gas, sending them running into elevators.

KCBS reported that police closed two Bay Area Rapid Transit commuter train stations along the protestroute.

Protesters had planned to march from the University of California, Berkeley, campus to Oakland’s Civic Center.

TIME justice

NYPD Chief: A Black Man in NYC ‘Doesn’t Have Anything to Fear From Us’

Mayor De Blasio And Police Chief Bratton Discuss Police Training
New York Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Bill Bratton attends a press conference on Dec. 4, 2014 in the College Point neighborhood of the Queens borough of in New York. Andrew Burton—Getty Images

NYPD internal probe into chokehold-related death will take three to four months

NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton addressed on Sunday the nationwide protests sparked by a grand jury’s decision not to indict a white cop in the chokehold-related death of an unarmed black man, Eric Garner.

“Actually, [a black man in New York City] doesn’t have anything to fear from us,” Bratton said in response to a question on CBS’s Face the Nation. “But [protesters] do feel that. And it’s a result of, unfortunately, the stop, question and frisk controversy that overshadows so much of the success in reducing crime in the city for so many years.”

Bratton said the NYPD’s administrative investigation is underway, and it will determine if there were any violations of policies and procedures. The NYPD’s internal probe into Garner’s death will take as many as three to four months to complete, which means it’ll likely conclude before the Justice Department’s civil rights investigation.

“Part of the [NYPD investigation] will be to determine what everybody has seen on the video — is that, in fact, within the framework of what we teach our officers in terms of, ‘How do you take down the person you’re attempting to arrest?'” Bratton explained. “Chokehold is not illegal. It’s not against [New York] law. It’s against department policy and protocol.”

The New York City medical examiner’s office ruled weeks after the incident that Garner’s death was a homicide resulting from the “compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police.”

TIME justice

Chokehold-Death Protest Gets Violent in California

A protester flees as police officers try to disperse a crowd comprised largely of student demonstrators during a protest against police violence in the U.S., in Berkeley
A protester flees as police officers try to disperse a crowd comprised largely of student demonstrators during a protest against police violence in in Berkeley, Calif. Dec. 7, 2014. Noah Berger—Reuters

Across the nation, overwhelmingly peaceful demonstrations in solidarity with Eric Garner continued

(NEW YORK) — Mostly peaceful protests of a grand jury’s decision not to indict a white police officer in the chokehold death of an unarmed black man continued around the country, but authorities said a march in California turned violent when a splinter group smashed windows and threw objects at police.

A Berkeley police officer received hospital treatment for a dislocated shoulder after being hit with a sandbag, while another sustained minor injuries, police spokeswoman Jenn Coats said.

She said several businesses were looted and damaged when a splinter group broke off from the peaceful demonstration Saturday night, and officers attempting to get the crowd to disperse used smoke and tear gas. Protesters threw rocks, bricks, bottles, pipes and other objects at officers, and some squad cars were damaged.

At least six people had been arrested by the time the unrest ended early Sunday morning, Coats said.

Thousands of demonstrators have protested peacefully in New York and elsewhere since the announcement Wednesday that a grand jury declined to indict a white officer in the death of Eric Garner, a black man who gasped “I can’t breathe!” while being placed in a chokehold as he was being arrested for selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. The decision closely followed a Ferguson, Missouri, grand jury’s choice not to indict a white officer in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old.

The scope of the demonstrations and the lack of violence were moving to Garner’s mother and widow, they said Saturday.

“It is just so awesome to see how the crowds are out there,” said Eric Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, who added that she ended up stuck in her car after protests shut down traffic.

“I was just so proud of that crowd,” Carr said. “It just warmed my heart.”

Garner’s widow, Esaw Garner, said she saw demonstrators from her apartment window and told her son, “Look at all the love that your father’s getting.”

Officers have said the outcry over the grand jury decision has left them feeling betrayed and demonized by everyone from the president and the mayor to throngs of protesters who scream at them on the street.

“Police officers feel like they are being thrown under the bus,” said Patrick Lynch, president of the police union.

Garner’s family members joined the Rev. Al Sharpton later Saturday as Sharpton laid a wreath at the site on Staten Island where Garner died July 17 in a confrontation that started when police tried to arrest him.

An amateur video seen by millions showed Garner gasping, “I can’t breathe” during the fatal encounter.

“All we’re concerned about is justice from the police,” said Garner’s stepfather, Benjamin Carr, who wore a T-shirt with the words, “Enough is enough.”

Protests continued in New York City for a fourth day with several dozen people lying down on the floor of Grand Central Terminal and marching into stores in Times Square. There were no reports of arrests.

Protests have also been held in Philadelphia, Chicago, Miami, Las Vegas and a number of other cities.

In Seattle, several hundred people marched downtown to police headquarters Saturday. Authorities said a group then split off from the main protest and tried to get onto a roadway. Police say some protesters threw rocks at officers who blocked them from entering it. Seven were arrested.

Sharpton announced plans this week for a march in Washington, D.C., next Saturday to protest the killings of Garner, Brown and others and to press for change at the federal level.

 

TIME justice

Prominent Ferguson Protester Charged With Assault

Obama Holds Meeting On Building Trust In Communities After Ferguson Unrest
Rasheen Aldridge, second left, listens to President Barack Obama at the conclusion of a meeting with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, Philadelphia Police Department Commissioner Charles Ramsey and other elected officials, community and faith leaders and law enforcement officials on Dec. 1, 2014 in Washington D.C. Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images

The youngest member of the Ferguson Commission has been charged with assault for allegedly pushing a city marshal during a demonstration

A young Ferguson protester who has been tapped to help study the issues afflicting the city was charged with assault on Thursday over an incident outside St. Louis’s city hall last week.

Rasheen Aldridge is accused of pushing a city marshal during a demonstration in which protesters squared off against law enforcement as they tried to enter the building, the St. Louis Dispatch reports. Aldridge has said that he didn’t see the marshal get pushed by any of the protesters.

Aldridge, 20, faces a misdemeanor charge for the incident, which was caught on video. He’s the youngest member of the Ferguson Commission, a group of community members assembled by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon to study the social issues in the city that have contributed to the protests. The members of the commission, including Aldridge, visited Washington Monday to meet President Obama.

[St. Louis Dispatch]

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser