TIME Pope Francis

Liberal Clergy Lobby Vatican Ahead of Pope’s U.S. Visit

Pope Francis arrives at the Paul VI Hall for an audience with President of Argentina Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner on June 7, 2015 in Vatican City, Vatican.
Franco Origlia—Getty Images Pope Francis arrives at the Paul VI Hall for an audience with President of Argentina Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner on June 7, 2015 in Vatican City, Vatican.

A group of liberal clergy and union leaders headed to the Vatican this week to lobby for Pope Francis to address race relations, income inequality and immigration reform, among other issues, in his upcoming trip to the United States.

During the four-day trip, the group of 14 met with representatives from a host of Catholic organizations, including two key cardinals who work on social justice issues.

Organized by the U.S. faith-based grassroots group PICO and the Service Employees International Union, the trip’s main goal was to get Pope Francis to highlight some liberal causes during his September visit.

“God cares about poor, low-wage workers. God cares about immigrants. God cares deeply about racial justice,” Bishop Dwayne Royster of the Living Water United Church of Christ in Philadelphia, one of Francis’ three major stops, told TIME. “So it’s very important that the faith community continue to lift up a moral voice and also a mirror to those in power.”

Read More: Pope Francis’ Poverty Agenda Draws President Obama

An advocate of the “Fight for 15” movement, Royster hoped to get the Pope’s attention on labor relations in his home city. When Francis arrives, Royster noted, “he will come into an airport where we support poverty wages and people are working in an oppressive environment.”

Participants on the trip also took to social media, tweeting images from the Vatican with captions such as “#TellthePope,” “BlackLivesMatter,” and “IBelieveWeWillWin.”

Overall, the people on the trip said their goal was to advocate for the marginalized.

A former undocumented immigrant from California, Father Jesus Nieto-Ruiz went on the trip to push for Pope Francis to back President Obama’s recent executive actions allowing undocumented immigrants to avoid deportation.

“The Pope and his advisors should listen to the real stories that we have picked up from people who are struggling in this society of exclusion,” he said. “People who have been here for many years, 25 or 30 years, and are now facing deportation because they don’t have documentation—they suffer in the shadows. And that’s not human.”

Read Next: Pope Francis’ Latest Mission: Stopping Nuclear Weapons

For PICO, the trip was also part of an ongoing “Year of Encounter” campaign to tie together various liberal causes, such as universal health care, a path to citizenship and police brutality, into a broader mission.

It succeeded in one respect, with Cardinal Peter Turkson from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace inviting PICO to send a delegation in July to the Bolivian Assembly, where Pope Francis will speak during a Latin American tour.

For clergy members on the trip, the issues are both political and moral.

“The Gospel is political,” said Nieto-Ruiz. “We cannot distinguish and say, ‘Okay, the Gospel must explain theocracy,’ and then let the politicians run our lives with no principles whatsoever. Pope Francis is really incarnating for us the meaning of the Gospel. He’s inviting us to get involved in politics, even when politics is dirty.”

TIME justice

Texas Pool-Party Cop Let ‘Emotions’ Overcome Him, Lawyer Says

Casebolt's attorney spoke to the press on his resignation from the police force this afternoon

The Texas police officer who was caught on video slamming a 14-year-old bikini-clad girl to the ground “allowed his emotions to get the better of him,” his lawyer said Wednesday.

The attorney for Eric Casebolt, whose resignation was announced earlier Wednesday, told the media the police corporal had earlier answered two suicide calls that “took an emotional toll” on him, CNN reports. Jane Bushkin said the officer “regrets that his conduct portrayed him and his department in a negative light,” and relayed his apology to “all who were offended” by his actions.

In a video posted to YouTube on Saturday, Casebolt can be seen swearing and waving his gun at a group of black teenagers, tackling one girl—who is wearing only a bikini—to the ground, and placing his knees on her back.

Casebolt was called to the scene in McKinney, Texas amid reports of fighting among the teenagers. Some at the scene later accused him of racial bias in his reaction; on Monday, hundreds protested outside an elementary school in McKinney. Bushkin denied Wednesday that he had deliberately targeted minorities. “His actions were only in attempt to investigate the reports of violent assaults,” she said.

[CNN]

 

TIME

Rikers Island Guards Charged In Death of Detainee

rikers island new york city
Bebeto Matthews—AP This file photo taken June 11, 2014, shows the main sign for the Rikers Island jail in the Queens borough of New York.

Ronald Spear was beaten to death in the early morning of December 19, 2012 during an attempted visit to the on-duty doctor

One former and two current guards at Rikers Island have been charged in the December 2012 death of a pre-trial detainee at New York City’s island prison.

The FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office said former Rikers Island correction officer Brian Coll and current officer Byron Taylor were arrested on Wednesday on charges relating to the untimely death of Ronald Spear. Anthony Torres, another officer, had earlier pleaded guilty to charges on Tuesday.

Spear, 52, died on December 19, 2012 when an early-morning attempt to visit the on-duty doctor at Rikers for ongoing kidney trouble turned into an altercation with Officer Coll. Spear’s autopsy report showed that he had likely been kicked repeatedly in the head while lying on the floor. In the wake of Spear’s death, Coll, Torres, and Taylor claimed Spear had attacked Coll with a cane — a claim prosecutors say was false. Coll has been charged with depriving Spears of his rights, and all three face charges for obstructing justice.

These charges come on the heels of the death of Kalief Browder, 22, who committed suicide on Saturday after spending three years in Rikers Island as a pre-trial detainee, nearly two of them in solitary confinement. Browder told a writer for the New Yorker that he was repeatedly beaten both by corrections officers and fellow inmates while detained. Browder was sent to Rikers Island when he was just 16 years old.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara spoke on the charges at a noon press conference, saying that “Rikers inmates, though walled off from the rest of society, are not walled off from the protections of our Constitution.”

TIME justice

Louisiana Inmate to Be Freed After Four Decades in Solitary

Prison Golf
Judi Bottoni—AP This April 22, 2009 photo shows a view of the front entrance of the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, La.

Amnesty called the ruling "a momentous step toward justice"

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Albert Woodfox, the last of three high-profile Louisiana prisoners known as the “Angola Three,” could walk free within days after a federal judge ordered state officials to release him immediately.

U.S. District Judge James Brady, the judge overseeing the closely watched human rights case, said Monday that the 68-year-old former Black Panther Party prison leader should be granted immediate freedom and not be tried again in the death of a prison guard stabbed to death during prison upheavals in 1972.

Brady, who presided over the case from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, ordered Woodfox’s unconditional release in a strongly worded ruling.

“The only just remedy is an unconditional writ of habeas corpus barring retrial of Mr. Albert Woodfox and releasing Mr. Woodfox from custody immediately,” Brady wrote.

In his ruling, Brady cited doubt that the state could provide a “fair third trial”; the inmate’s age and poor health; the unavailability of witnesses; “the prejudice done onto Mr. Woodfox by spending over forty years in solitary confinement,” and “the very fact that Mr. Woodfox has already been tried twice.”

Woodfox has been in solitary confinement or isolation for 43 years. He was accused, along with three other prisoners, in the stabbing death of Brent Miller, a 23-year-old guard at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. Miller was killed during a period of prison upheaval sparked by Black Panther activism aimed at improving conditions inside Louisiana’s notorious prisons.

Amnesty International and the United Nations have condemned Woodfox’s imprisonment as inhumane. Human rights advocates contend solitary confinement of the kind suffered by Woodfox is a form of torture.

Jasmine Heiss, a senior campaigner with Amnesty International USA, called Brady’s ruling “a momentous step toward justice.”

Heiss said Woodfox has been “trapped in a legal process riddled with flaws.”

Woodfox was convicted twice at trial, but both convictions were overturned on the grounds of racial prejudice and lack of evidence.

“Mr. Woodfox has spent 40 years in solitary confinement under constitutionally invalid convictions,” his lawyers said. “The only just remedy is his immediate release from prison.”

George Kendall and Carine Williams, his lawyers, were on their way to seek his release Monday night from the West Feliciana Parish Detention Center, where he has been placed in isolation awaiting his third trial.

Louisiana Attorney General James “Buddy” Caldwell has vowed to appeal the federal judge’s order.

“With today’s order, the court would see fit to set free a twice-convicted murderer,” said Aaron Sadler, a spokesman for Caldwell. He called Brady’s ruling a “free pass” to freedom “based on faulty procedural issues.”

The state has asked for an emergency stay of Brady’s ruling from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

Woodfox’s lawyers said a third trial would not be in keeping “with the standards of a fair, American trial … We look forward to Mr. Woodfox going home to his family; getting much needed medical attention; and living the remainder of his days in peace.”

Tory Pegram of the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3, who is working with Woodfox’s lawyers on his release, said she spoke with Woodfox late Monday.

“He’s excited and nervous,” she said.

Other prisoners in the Angola Three were Robert King and Herman Wallace. All three became members of the Black Panther Party while in prison, Pegram said. She said they were active in hunger strikes and work stoppages to protest conditions at the infamous prison. Pegram said their activism spurred changes that improved prison conditions.

Woodfox and Wallace were both serving armed robbery sentences and contended they were singled out for harsh treatment because of their political activism.

Woodfox and Wallace helped establish a prison chapter of the Black Panther Party at the Angola prison in 1971 and King helped establish a Black Panther chapter in the New Orleans prison, Pegram said.

Wallace died last fall, days after a judge freed him and granted him a new trial. King was released in 2001 after his conviction in the death of a fellow inmate in 1973 was reversed. He has become a public speaker.

Woodfox is in solitary confinement at a prison in St. Francisville, Louisiana, awaiting trial or his release. The 5th Circuit was expected to rule soon — perhaps as early as Tuesday.

Pegram said Woodfox gets to exercise for one hour three times a week during his confinement at the West Feliciana Parish Detention Center. He has a television to watch and a shower in his cell, she added.

TIME justice

Federal Judge Orders Last ‘Angola 3′ Inmate Released

The ruling would free 68-year-old Albert Woodfox after more than 40 years in solitary

(NEW ORLEANS) — The last of the “Angola Three” inmates, whose decades in solitary confinement in connection with the death of a prison guard drew international condemnation and became the subject of two documentaries, was ordered released Monday.

The ruling would free 68-year-old Albert Woodfox after more than 40 years in solitary, which human rights experts have said constitutes torture.

U.S. District Judge James Brady of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, ordered the release of Woodfox and took the extraordinary step of barring Louisiana prosecutors from trying him for a third time.

A spokesman for the Louisiana attorney general said the state would appeal Brady’s ruling to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals “to make sure this murderer stays in prison and remains fully accountable for his actions.”

Woodfox was placed in solitary confinement in 1972 after being charged in the death of a Louisiana State Penitentiary guard in April of that year.

Woodfox has been tried twice in the guard’s death, but both convictions were overturned. The state is seeking to bring him to trial a third time. But Brady said a third trial could not be fair.

In making his rare ruling, Brady said the “exceptional circumstances” of the case had led him to bar the state from seeking a third trial. In his ruling, he cited a “lack of confidence” that Louisiana “to provide a fair third trial”; the inmate’s age and poor health; the unavailability of witnesses; “the prejudice done onto Mr. Woodfox by spending over forty-years in solitary confinement,” and “the very fact that Mr. Woodfox has already been tried twice.”

Woodfox is in solitary confinement at a prison in St. Francisville, Louisiana, awaiting trial.

His lawyers were headed there Monday to seek his release.

“We are thrilled that justice has come for our innocent friend,” said Tory Pegram of the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3, who is working with Woodfox’s lawyers on his release.

At the same time, though, state prosecutors were working to keep Woodfox in prison.

Aaron Sadler, a spokesman for Louisiana’s Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, said the state was seeking an emergency stay of Brady’s ruling from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

“With today’s order, the court would see fit to set free a twice-convicted murderer,” said Sadler. “This order arbitrarily sets aside jury decisions and gives a free pass to a murderer based on faulty procedural issues.”

Woodfox and two other state prisoners became known as the Angola Three due to their long stretches in solitary confinement at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola.

Other members of the Angola Three were prisoners Robert King and Herman Wallace. Woodfox and Wallace had said they were singled out for harsh treatment, including isolation, because of their political activism.

Wallace, convicted with Woodfox of murder in the death of guard Brent Miller, died last fall only days after a judge freed him and granted him a new trial. King was released in 2001 after his conviction in the death of a fellow inmate in 1973 was reversed.

TIME Crime

What to Know About the 2 Killers Who Escaped a Maximum Security Prison

Richard Matt and David Sweat have long criminal records

Two convicted murderers with grisly pasts escaped from a maximum security in upstate New York on Saturday morning, spurring a dragnet hunt for the escaped felons.

They two escapees—David Sweat, 34, and Richard Matt, 48—both have a gruesome criminal history. Sweat had been at the prison since 2003, and Matt had arrived in 2008, and both had “satisfactory” disciplinary records in prison, the New York Times reports.

“This is a crisis situation for the state,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said over the weekend. “These are dangerous men capable of committing grave crimes again.”

Here’s what you should know about the escapees, pictured below.

David Sweat Richard Matt Murderer Escaped Prison New York
New York State Police/Getty ImagesConvicted murderers David Sweat (L) and Richard Matt are shown in this composite image.

David Sweat was convicted of murdering a sheriff’s deputy in central New York in July 2002. The cop approached Sweat, then 22, and two accomplices, shortly after they stole a cache of weapons from a store in Pennsylvania. After the robbery, the went to a park near the deputy’s home in the early morning to split the stolen rifles and handguns between them. When the deputy approached, Sweat and an accomplice shot the deputy 15 times and drove over him with a car, according to court records.

As a 16-year old in 1996, Sweat was charged with attempted second-degree burglary, and in 1997 he was charged with burglary after entering a home and stealing jewelry and cash, PoliceOne.com reported in 2002.

Sweat is 5 feet 11 inches, 165 pounds, has brown hair and a tattoo on his left bicep. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Richard Matt was convicted of kidnapping, dismembering and killing his former boss in 1997. According to the testimony of an accomplice, Matt abducted a 76-year-old food broker and his former boss, William Rickerson, first entering his home and hitting him with a knife sharpener. About an hour later, Matt bound up Rickerson with duct tape and threw him into the trunk of a car. According to the accomplice, Matt repeatedly beat and assaulted him before killing Rickerson by twisting his neck. The entire episode lasted 27 hours.

After the murder, Matt fled to Mexico. In the city of Matamoros, across the Rio Grande River from Brownsville, Texas, Matt fatally stabbed a man outside a bar. He was sentenced to prison for 20 years and eventually extradited to the United States in 2007. But his rap sheet goes back further than that: Matt was sentenced to 2-4 years for a 1989 rape in Buffalo and stabbing a nurse in 1991. He served time for those crimes until 1997, the same year he abducted and killed Rickerson.

And Matt has escaped from prison before. In 1986, he made a four-day getaway from Erie County Jail in Alden, where he was serving for assault. “He was the highest threat of security we ever had in our jail,” said the Niagara County Sheriff’s chief deputy, shortly after rushing Matt from his county jail to a higher security prison in June 2008.

Matt is 210 pounds, about 6 feet tall, has black hair and a tattoo that says “Mexico Forever.” He was serving 25 years to life.

 

TIME Crime

New Jersey Concert Turns Chaotic With Arrests

Concertgoers clashed with police outside Summer Jam concert

Officers clashed with concertgoers in New Jersey on Sunday night when attendees reportedly made attempts to jump a gate at MetLife Stadium.

Several people were arrested outside of the Hot 97 Summer Jam concert, according to the North Jersey News website, following a melee that led police in riot gear to shoot pepper spray at the angry crowd. Attendees reportedly threw bottles at police officers and officers responded with force.

The Hot 97 Summer Jam concert, an annual hip hop and R&B show, drew huge crowds with artists including Kendrick Lamar, Chris Brown and Big Sean headlining. The attractive line-up led the show to sell out early, according to a spokesperson, which angered some attendees standing in line for box-office tickets.

“When fans realized tickets were not available at the box office, a small number of people created an unsafe environment, and for the safety of all guests, the New Jersey State Police were on scene to disperse the crowd,” a spokesperson for Emmis New York, which owns Hot 97, told NorthJerseynews.com. “The gates were closed at that time. No further entry was permitted into the event.”

Concertgoers told CNN slow security lines also angered patrons, many of whom had tickets. The creeping lines reportedly blocked many from entering the show.

Despite the scene outside of the stadium, the concert carried on.

TIME Crime

Watch: NYPD Official Explains When Body Cameras Will Be Recording

The NYPD is testing body cameras and figuring out how they should—and shouldn't—be used

As communities across the country wrestle with questions over police misconduct, law enforcement agencies are increasingly turning to body cameras, which supporters say provide transparency for police actions and de-escalate potentially dangerous situations. At least 5,000 of the country’s 18,000 departments are now using or testing them, including the biggest agency of them all: the New York Police Department.

Launched six months ago by the NYPD, the department’s body camera pilot program is providing direction for police officials in determining when officers should be recording, when they shouldn’t and the times recording should be left to the officer’s discretion.

In an interview with TIME, Jessica Tisch, the NYPD’s deputy commissioner of information technology, discussed the department’s plans for cameras and said it’s possible that the entire force of 35,000 officers could eventually carry them.

“I don’t see body cameras at the NYPD as a quick fix,” Tisch said. “I see it as part of a long-term, big picture strategy for how policing should work in the 21st century.”

TIME Courts

Boston Bomber’s Friend Jailed for 6 Years for Concealing Evidence

Dias Kadyrbayev
Jane Flavell Collins—AP Dias Kadyrbayev, center, a college friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, is depicted in federal court in Boston on Aug. 21, 2014.

Prosecutor said Dias Kadyrbayev's actions displayed "callous disregard" for bombing victims

Nearly three weeks after a federal jury condemned Boston Marathon bomber Dzokhar Tsarnaev to death, the first of three friends currently on trial in connection with the bombing has been sentenced to six years in jail.

Dias Kadyrbayev, a 21-year-old Kazakhstan native, pled guilty last year to charges of conspiracy and obstruction of justice, the Associated Press reports, after admitting that he removed key evidence from Tsarnaev’s dorm room when he recognized his friend in images released by the FBI on April 18, 2013, three days after the bombing.

The evidence included Tsarnaev’s computer and a backpack of fireworks emptied of their explosive powder—which, prosecutors argued, could have helped prevent additional violence that ensued in the days following the April 15th bombing. MIT police Officer Sean Collier was killed in an April 18 shooting, leading to a firefight in the early morning of the 19th in which Tsarnaev’s brother and alleged co-conspirator Tamerlan was killed. The bombing also killed three and injured more than 260 runners and spectators situated near the race’s finish line.

Kadyrbayev, who had faced up to seven years in prison, apologized to these victims and their families before his sentencing on Tuesday, saying, “I can’t believe that I acted so stupidly.” He will be deported to Kazakhstan at the end of his prison sentence.

Two other college friends of Tsarnaev who accompanied Kadyrbayev to the suspect’s dormroom are expected to be sentenced on Friday.

[AP]

TIME justice

Attorney General Loretta Lynch Makes a Big Splash in Her First Month

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch appears before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 7, 2015.
Mark Wilson—Getty Images U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch appears before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 7, 2015.

After months of delay

Attorney General Loretta Lynch hit the ground running. After a months-long delay of her confirmation, the nation’s top cop faced a crowded docket of some of the most difficult issues the Department of Justice can face, from domestic police misconduct to a complex international investigation.

The first African-American woman to hold the post, Lynch has gotten high marks so far, though she still faces some major challenges seeing those cases to the end.

On the home front, Lynch announced a review into the Baltimore police department following unrest sparked by the death of a black man in police custody. She then met with civil rights leaders and law enforcement in the city as well as on a separate trip to Cincinnati designed to highlight its success on restoring trust with the black community. For now, she’s managed to keep both sides happy.

“I haven’t seen or heard any place where anything she’s said should be broadly offensive to police,” Ron Hosko, president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund and a vocal critic of Attorney General Eric Holder, tells TIME. “That’s a plus.”

On the international side, she spearheaded the arrest of international soccer executives on corruption charges, garnering positive attention from the international press. “It was interesting, from this side, that there’s a woman calling the shots for the U.S., and a black woman at that. In particular, going up against football, which is such a boys’ club,” South African sports reporter Thabiso Sithole told the New York Times.

While police misconduct was an issue thrust upon the new attorney general, the charges against FIFA executives were just the latest step in a long-brewing investigation that Lynch began when she served as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

For Lynch’s longtime supporters, the success of her first few weeks has not been surprising.

While working as a federal prosecutor, Lynch brought successful convictions against members of the mafia, terrorists, public officials, gang members and shady bankers. When Obama announced her nomination he said she “might be the only lawyer in America who battles mobsters and drug lords and terrorists, and still has the reputation for being a charming ‘people person.’”

“She’s eminently well qualified for this position so doesn’t surprise me that she would do the job as well as she has done it,” says Ronald Weich, the dean of the University of Baltimore law school and former assistant attorney general in the Obama Administration. “These are challenging times and she seems especially well-suited to take on the demands of the office.”

Still, Lynch faces some tough decisions down the road. She still has to decide whether to bring charges against the New York police officers involved in the death of Eric Garner. Her office is closely involved in many of the Patriot Act investigations that have become a point of controversy in Congress. And as her predecessors learned, there will be issues that no one has even heard of yet to deal with in the future.

“She’s going to get big wins but it’s not the wins that sustain you,” Hosko says. “It’s what you do in the face of conflict. What do you do when things turn bad? How does she navigate those waters? It’s navigating the whitewater that will tell the tale at the end of the day.”

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