TIME justice

Execution of ‘Delusional’ Death Row Inmate Scott Panetti Halted

Inmate Scott Panetti is seen in an undated picture release by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in Huntsville, Texas.
Inmate Scott Panetti is seen in an undated picture release by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in Huntsville, Texas. Reuters

Scott Panetti was convicted of killing his in-laws more than two decades ago

A federal appeals court has halted the Wednesday execution of a Texas killer whose lawyers say is too mentally ill to be put to death. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted the stay of execution just hours before Scott Panetti was due to be put to death for murdering his in-laws in 1992. The court said it was granting a temporary reprieve “to allow us to fully consider the late arriving and complex legal questions at issue in this matter.”

“We are really pleased that cooler heads have prevailed,” defense lawyer Kathryn Kase said after the decision..

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME justice

Why It’s Hard to Tell How Many People Are Killed by Police Each Year

The FBI is missing hundreds of homicides from its data

Hundreds of police killings between 2007 and 2012 weren’t included in official records kept by the FBI, making it nearly impossible to tell how many people are killed by the police each year.

According to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data from the 105 largest police agencies around the country, more than 550 police killings were missing from the national FBI tally between 2007 and 2012.

Internal figures at the 105 largest departments show 1,825 police killings in those years, which is 47% more than the FBI’s tally for justifiable homicides. But the total number of police slayings is unquantifiable: though 753 police entities reported 2,400 police killings from 2007 to 2012, the majority of the nation’s 18,000 law-enforcement agencies didn’t report any.

A statistician for the FBI told the Journal that the FBI isn’t concealing information, but that “some places have chosen not to report… for whatever reason.” Many agencies don’t report their homicides to the FBI and in other cases the FBI was missing records, the Journal reports.

There has been widespread demand for data on police killings in the wake of the August shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by police in Ferguson.

[WSJ]

TIME poverty

The Homeless of Fort Lauderdale Can Be Fed For Now, Judge Says

City Of Fort Lauderdale Continues To Issues Tickets For Charities Feeding The Homeless Outdoors
Fort Lauderdale Police Officer, Sgt. Al Lerner (R), speaks with Arnold Abbott, a 90-year-old chef , as he warns him that he will be cited for feeding homeless in violation of a recently passed city law on November 12, 2014 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Joe Raedle — Getty Images

Critics claimed city unfairly targeted the homeless and individuals providing relief

A court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida ordered authorities Tuesday to refrain from enforcing a controversial law that places restrictions on residents who feed the homeless.

Broward County Circuit Judge Thomas Lynch ordered a month-long suspension of the bylaw in order to allow all sides to enter mediation. The decision was a partial win for 90-year-old activist Arnold Abbot, who challenged the ordinance after being arrested twice in November for serving food to the homeless.

“We’re elated the judge has entered the stay,” John David, Abbott’s attorney, told the Sun Sentinel.

Under the regulation, which went into effect late November, outdoor feeding sites must be equipped with portable toilets and servers must have the permission of property owners to distribute food.

However, critics claim the ordinance unfairly targets the homeless and individuals providing relief to them.

[Sun Sentinel]

TIME justice

Transgender Teen Awarded $75,000 in School Restroom Lawsuit

Jonas Maines,  Nicole Maines, Wayne Maines
In this file photo, transgender student Nicole Maines, center, speaks to reporters as her father Wayne Maines, left, and brother Jonas, look on outside the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor, Maine. Robert F. Bukaty — AP

Case was brought when a Maine school district forced the student to use a staff restroom

A court in Maine awarded the family of a transgender teenager $75,000 in a discrimination lawsuit against a school district that forced the student to use a staff restroom rather than a facility reserved for pupils, reports the Associated Press.

Nicole Maines, 17, had won her lawsuit against the Orono school district earlier this year in front of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, which ruled that the school district had violated the state’s Human Rights Act.

The case marked the first time a state’s highest court ruled that a transgender person has the right to use the restroom of the gender with which they identify.

In the wake of the court’s decision, a lower court awarded the financial settlement to the Maines family and the activist organization, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defender, on Nov. 25. In accordance with the order, the Orono school district is prohibited from refusing transgender students access “to school restrooms that are consistent with their gender identity.”

The case stemmed from an incident in 2007 when the grandfather of a fellow fifth grade classmate complained to school administrators that Maines was allowed to use the girls’ restroom. In the wake of the protest, the Orono school district began forcing Maines to use a staff facility — a decision that her parents argued was discriminatory.

[AP]

TIME justice

A Cop Hugs a Tearful Boy in This Powerful Ferguson Protest Photo

Devonte Hart Ferguson
Police Sgt. Bret Barnum hugs 12-year-old Devonte Hart during a demonstration in Portland, Ore., Nov. 25, 2014. Johnny H. Nguyen

Meet the photographer who captured a rare moment of empathy in the Ferguson protests

A demonstration in Portland, Oregon was the scene of an unusual embrace last week.

The November 25 protest was held, along with many across the United States, in solidarity with the family of Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager shot and killed by a white policeman in August, following a grand jury’s decision not to indict the officer.

Photographer Johnny Nguyen brought his camera to the protest and met a 12-year-old black boy named Devonte Hart, who was overcome with emotion.

“I saw tears running down Devonte’s face and a sign that said free hugs around his neck,” Nguyen, 20, recalls. “There was a lot going on, but my gut told right then and there to stay with this kid.”

Nguyen followed Devonte through the crowd and watched as a white Portland police officer named Bret Barnum looked at Devonte’s sign and asked, “Do I get one of those?” The pair hugged.

“It has spread the message of coming together despite our differences,” says Nguyen of the photo, which he put on Instagram. “The message is about love and compassion and finding a common ground.”

After the hug, the two went their separate ways: the 12-year-old Hart to go protest, and Barnum to do police work.

Nguyen says that Americans have been waiting for a sign of togetherness after the vitriol and anger of the past week. “I think people deep down have been clambering for a glimmer of hope amidst all the negativity going on,” Nguyen said. “I’m just glad I was there, in the right place and the right time.”

TIME justice

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Released From Hospital

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is photographed in the West conference room at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Friday, August 30, 2013. Nikki Kahn—The Washington Post/Getty Images

After undergoing a procedure to clear a blocked artery

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was discharged and sent home from a hospital on Thanksgiving Day after undergoing a procedure to clear a blocked artery, a spokeswoman said.

The feisty 81-year-old was admitted to MedStar Washington Hospital Center on Tuesday night following discomfort while exercising, the Associated Press reports. A heart stent was inserted to clear the blockage in her right coronary artery.

She was released before noon Thursday and expected to return to work on Monday.

Ginsburg, the oldest member of the nine-justice court, has repeatedly said she has no plans to retire until she can no longer do her job. “I think I’ll recognize when the time comes that I can’t any longer,” she told Elle in an interview in October. “But now I can.”

[AP]

TIME justice

Federal Judge Overturns Arkansas’ Marriage Ban

Could pave the way for county clerks to resume issuing licenses

(LITTLE ROCK, Ark.) — A federal judge struck down Arkansas’ gay marriage ban on Tuesday, which could pave the way for county clerks to resume issuing licenses.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker ruled in favor of two same-sex couples who had challenged a 2004 constitutional amendment and earlier state law defining marriage as between a man and a woman, arguing that the ban violated the U.S. Constitution and discriminated based on sexual orientation.

But Baker put her ruling on hold, and the state is expected to appeal it to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in St. Louis.

Baker wrote in her ruling that the state’s marriage laws violate the U.S. Constitution by “precluding same-sex couples from exercising their fundamental right to marry in Arkansas, by not recognizing valid same-sex marriages from other states, and by discriminating on the basis of gender.”

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel could not immediately be reached.

The ruling comes as the state Supreme Court weighs a separate case challenging the ban. Justices are weighing whether to uphold Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza’s decision in May striking down the 2004 amendment and earlier state law as unconstitutional. Piazza’s decision led to 541 same sex couples getting married in the week before the state Supreme Court suspended his ruling.

Justices have not indicated when they will rule in that case. The lawsuit before the state Supreme Court also argues the ban violates Arkansas’ constitution.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s office had argued in federal court that same-sex marriage was not a fundamental right guaranteed by the constitution. McDaniel, a Democrat who is leaving office in January due to term limits, has said he personally supports allowing gay couples to marry but will continue defending the ban — approved by voters by a 3-1 margin — in court.

Judges across the country have ruled against bans similar to Arkansas’ since the U.S. Supreme Court struck part of a federal anti-gay marriage law in June 2013, and gay marriage is legal in more than half of the U.S.

TIME Opinion

What History Books Should Say About Ferguson

Michael Brown's mother Lesley McSpadden cries outside the police station in Ferguson, Mo. on Nov. 24, 2014 after hearing the grand jury decision on her son's fatal shooting.
Michael Brown's mother Lesley McSpadden cries outside the police station in Ferguson, Mo. on Nov. 24, 2014 after hearing the grand jury decision on her son's fatal shooting. Jewel Samad—AFP/Getty Images

How we tell the story of what happened in Missouri matters

When the grand jury decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of Mike Brown was announced late Monday evening in Ferguson, Mo., the world was watching. After hours of delay, misleading “Breaking News” banners, and a preemptive build-up of riot management forces on Ferguson streets, we were more than ready to hear the verdict. But the lengthy remarks delivered by St. Louis County prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch were far less welcome.

McCulloch padded his announcement with nearly 30 minutes of narrative, detailing his own particular version of events in Ferguson since August 9, 2014, when Brown, an unarmed black teenager was fatally shot in the street. He complimented local authorities, conveniently choosing not to mention their internationally panned militarized assault on citizens in the days following Brown’s death. He praised his own management of the process, conveniently ignoring the fact that Attorney General Eric Holder had to step in for oversight and ultimately, to launch a federal investigation because of a lack of trust in the local “process”. And while no indictment came for Darren Wilson, in McCulloch’s tale, the media, twitter, eyewitnesses and even Mike Brown himself were tried and found guilty.

Why would McCulloch feel compelled to use his time on the national stage to recount the previous three months and tell his story? Because as a public official and an attorney, he understands the importance of the record: what account is written, what story is told, and, most of all what remains in our collective memory. What matters most as the chaos of cultural moments and social movements unfold is the history – or, more accurately, the telling of the history for generations to come.

As the late Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe tells us: Until lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter. This history, an account of these past months, matters because as much as we want to believe that the problem upon which these events were built – violent, systemic racism – will be a distant memory by the time our children are themselves adults, the arc of the moral universe is long…very long. It is quite possible (read: highly likely) that the struggle to make a more perfect union will continue and that our grandchildren will turn to the history books for context for their own fight. There they will read about our turning point moments – and about us: the activists, the officials, the media, the mothers and fathers, the sons and daughters, the heroes and villains of these perilous times.

VOTE: Should the Ferguson protestors be TIME’s Person of the Year?

So, for future generations, let us write some history:

Let the record show that after Mike Brown’s death, Ferguson became ground zero for a movement that had been building in cities all across America. It was not the isolated reaction of a group of disgruntled residents. Thanks to the fearlessness and raw emotion of the Ferguson community, it was the strike of the match that finally lit the flame for people nationwide who felt as if those sworn to protect them, were hunting them instead.

Let the record show that a generation of young people rose up in this moment to lead. Tell the story of Ashley Yates, Tef Poe, and Tory Russell, brilliant young people ushering in a new era of activism, media, politics and community engagement. Tell the story of the organizations and networks that they are building in the face of a narrative that claims that young black people will loot and tweet but not strategize and work.

Let the record show that despite widespread celebrity disengagement from issues of racism, Grey’s Anatomy actor Jesse Williams has tirelessly forgone the glamour of his Hollywood career to be a bold, unapologetic presence in Ferguson and beyond, making him poised to be this generation’s Harry Belafonte.

Let the record show that national organizations like the nearly one million member ColorofChange.org worked in solidarity with Ferguson residents to support their leadership and also connect the events on the ground to a larger movement against injustice and police brutality.

Let the record show that members of rival St. Louis gangs stood together, united, protecting the elderly, women, children and physical property during the protests as a show of solidarity for their community.

Let the record show that it was not the Ferguson police department who made history but the hundreds of people who stood peacefully night after night for 15 weeks, chanting, talking and holding one another at youth organized meetings and healing stations organized by poet Elizabeth Vega.

Let the record show social media’s role in raising the name and story of an unarmed black citizen being killed – just as it has for Ezell Ford, Rekia Boyd, Eric Garner, Oscar Grant, Renisha McBride, Jordan Davis, Aiyana Stanley-Jones and countless others.

Let the record show that those very same social media platforms and voices were responsible for shining light on a city using tanks and tear gas on its citizens when mainstream media was being arrested and shut out.

Yes, let the record show the rage. Do not be afraid to talk about the disproportionately small number of people who would rather break things - windows, shelves, fences – than stand for the breaking of more people.

And most importantly, let the record show that the George Zimmerman verdict and the Darren Wilson decision are not evidence of black people’s delusions of racism but instead of how deeply entrenched bias and hatred is in a system that was built on, you guessed it, state-sanctioned racism.

Long after the facts of the case have been parsed and forgotten, long after Mike Brown t-shirts are faded and Darren Wilson rides off into a sunset that still hides George Zimmerman, there will be a record.

And if written correctly, it will tell the story of a people who refused to let America run from her promise of justice and equal protection under the law; citizens who used every awful tragedy, every imperfect victim, every messy media firestorm, every conflicting account, every questionable death, every chance it got to scream a truth that it knows deep in its bones: the police state is dangerous and unequal.

So, dear lions. Those of you black, brown, female, gay, poor, and oppressed; those feared and hunted by a system that won’t recognize its flaws, commit now to being historians. Tell and claim the parts of the Ferguson story that didn’t make it into the President’s remarks or McCulloch’s recap or the 24 hour news coverage.

If we do this, history will undoubtedly show what the state never has: that black lives – and all lives – matter.

 

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.

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