TIME justice

Why Holder’s Probe Won’t Fix Ferguson

National Guard Called In As Unrest Continues In Ferguson
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder appeared with Capt. Ron Johnson at Drake's Place Restaurant in Ferguson on Aug. 20, 2014. Holder's visit was meant to calm tensions after almost 10 days of protests. Pablo Martinez Monsivais—Pool/Getty Images

Not all investigations are created equal, and this one is tackling a big problem with small tools

Is the Ferguson police department racist?

Nearly a month after the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager at the hands of a white police officer, that question is going to get an official answer, as Attorney General Eric Holder has announced a broad investigation into whether the cops in Ferguson, Mo. engaged in a pattern or practice of civil rights violations over the years.

But not all investigations are created equal, and the new DOJ probe may not deliver the kind of results that last month’s impassioned demonstrators were looking for.

The Department already has a targeted probe into the shooting of the teenager, Michael Brown, by the police officer, Darren Wilson. That investigation is designed to answer the narrow question of whether Wilson broke the law by shooting and killing Brown. The first step in the process of answering that question will come when a grand jury decides whether or not to indict Wilson; the final step would be a trial jury’s determination of his guilt or innocence.

For all the power of that criminal probe, though, Wilson’s fate won’t fix Ferguson, one way or the other. Unfortunately for that struggling suburb, it is unlikely Holder’s new civil rights investigation will either.

The new investigation is being undertaken by the Civil Rights Division’s Special Litigation Section. It doesn’t prosecute crimes–there’s a separate criminal section in the division designed to help prosecutors do that. Instead, among other things, the Special Litigation Section seeks settlements and court orders to require systemically discriminatory police departments to improve their behavior. It gets them to do that by imposing reforms like increased transparency and data collection, fostering community-police partnerships, reviewing uses of force and providing training and supervision.

Which is not to say such steps aren’t useful. Holder today called the work of the Special Litigation Section “historic” and said the department has opened 20 such investigations in the last five years, and is enforcing 14 agreements with law enforcement organizations.

But even if the new investigation does find systemic discrimination in Ferguson, and even if it does lead to a settlement or a court order, that will amount to one small step in the beleaguered community’s efforts to rebuild and reform.

TIME justice

Justice Department to Investigate Ferguson, Missouri, Police

Police Shooting Missouri
Police wait to advance after tear gas was used to disperse a crowd in Ferguson, Mo. on Aug. 17, 2014. Charlie Riedel—AP

The Justice Department intends to launch a civil rights investigation of the entire Ferguson, Missouri, Police Department, according to administration officials.

An announcement of the investigation is planned for Thursday.

With the help of the FBI, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has been investigating last month’s fatal shooting of an unarmed teenager, Michael Brown, who was wounded several times by a Ferguson police officer. The shooting touched off several days of sometimes violent protest.
But this new investigation would be much broader, looking at the conduct of the entire Ferguson Police Department over the past several years…

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

TIME Mixed Martial Arts

MMA Fighter Could Face Life in Prison if Convicted for Savage Domestic Attack

Jonathan Koppenhaver
Johathan Koppenhaver who appeared in UFC's Ultimate Fighter TV show in 2007. Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department/AP

Jonathan Koppenhaver is facing 32 felony charges in a Las Vegas court for the alleged attack

A former MMA fighter who goes by War Machine was informed of the 32 felony charges he’s facing in Las Vegas on Wednesday following an August attack on his ex-girlfriend. If convicted, the 32-year-old could face a life sentence for charges of attempted murder, domestic battery by strangulation, first-degree kidnapping, and sexual assault, ESPN reports.

In August, War Machine, whose birth name is Jonathan Koppenhaver, allegedly attacked his former girlfriend, adult film star Christy Mack. Mack posted graphic images of her injuries following the attack on social media. After a weeklong hunt, Koppenhaver was arrested in a California suburb.

Though he legally changed his name to War Machine in 2008, ESPN reports, he is being referred to by his birth name, Jonathan Koppenhaver, in the Las Vegas court. Koppenhaver was a contestant on the UFC reality series The Ultimate Fighter, and has served time before in 2012, for attempt to commit battery with substantial bodily harm.

[ESPN]

TIME justice

Deadly Butt Injection Lands Mississippi Woman Life Sentence

Tracey Lynn Garner
This Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014 file photo shows Tracey Lynn Garner during her trial in Jackson, Miss. Rogelio V. Solis—AP

Tracey Lynn Garner was convicted of murder over the fatal silicone injection

The Jackson, Mississippi, woman who administered an unlicensed silicone buttox injection that killed another woman was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison.

Tracey Lynn Garner, 54, was convicted last week of depraved-heart murder, a legal designation that signifies disregard for human life, for the 2012 silicone injection she gave to Karima Gordon, 37. Gordon fell ill immediately after the injection and died days later. Prosecutors argued that Garner was motivated by greed, Reuters reports.

Garner, who is transgender, was previously known by the name Morris Garner.

An investigator testified during the trial that he found a bottle of silicone and syringes labeled “veterinary use only” in Garner’s home.

[Reuters]

TIME Crime

Ferguson Wrestles With What to Do Next

Michael Brown Sr, yells out as his son's  casket is lowered into the ground at St. Peter's Cemetery in St. Louis
Michael Brown Sr., center, yells out as his son's casket is lowered into the ground at St. Peter's Cemetery in St. Louis on Aug. 25, 2014 Richard Perry—Pool/Reuters

The town is trying to figure out how to turn a tragic moment into a lasting movement

The funeral was choreographed to the smallest detail, from the celebrities sprinkled through the church to the Cardinals cap laid atop the black-and-gold casket. A massive crowd filed past the television cameras and into the jam-packed sanctuary or the overflow rooms live-streaming the service. The ceremony was billed as a celebration of Brown’s life, which ended Aug. 9 in a hail of bullets fired by a white policeman, and the crowd heard upbeat gospel music, stirring sermons and a eulogy from the Rev. Al Sharpton. But it was also an opportunity to send a message to his mourners. “We are required,” Sharpton told them in his peroration, “to leave here today and change things.”

For the residents of Ferguson, Mo., Brown’s funeral on Monday closed one chapter and opened a new period of uncertainty. The worst of the violence appears over, and the protests are beginning to subside. Soon the television cameras will get packed up, leaving a town that has become the latest shorthand for America’s racial divide to figure out how to translate the energy, intensity and anger of the past two weeks into concrete change.

The problem is that nobody is quite sure how to do it — or what that change would even look like. The shooting of an unarmed, 18-year-old black man at the hands of a white Ferguson policeman opened all sorts of wounds that have festered for generations. Of the thousands who have tromped up and down West Florissant Avenue since Brown’s death, there are nearly as many diagnoses about what Ferguson needs now.

To some, the answer is erasing the pattern of improper police behavior that has plagued this St. Louis suburb. To others, it is addressing income inequality or struggling schools. Still more cite the need to regain lost jobs, or repair the ruptured trust between the community and the people sworn to protect it. Then there is the glaring lack of African-American political representation: Ferguson is a city that is two-thirds black, run by a white mayor and nearly all-white city council.

“This is Jim Crow country,” says Garrett Duncan, a professor of education and African-American studies at Washington University in St. Louis. “You still have a predominantly white and affluent population voting for who runs North County,” the collection of townships like Ferguson north of St. Louis.

Ferguson’s protesters are united on one point: they want justice, in the form of an indictment for Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot Brown at least six times just after noon on Aug. 9. (A new audio recording, provided to CNN by an unidentified resident, who alleges he inadvertently captured the incident on tape, purports to show that Brown was killed in two distinct bursts of gunfire separated by a pause. CNN says it cannot authenticate the tape.) But an indictment will be slow, if it comes at all. Robert McCulloch, the lead prosecuting attorney in the case, has estimated he won’t finish presenting evidence to a grand jury until about mid-October. Issues can flare and fade in a blink. If the courtroom lag diverts attention from the systemic problems that led to Brown’s shooting, the community could lose the momentum it has gathered.

To Larry Jones, bishop of the Greater Grace Church in Ferguson, the solution is to reach out to a generation of young, black men who don’t believe the system is geared to represent them. Part of that, he says, is to form mentorship programs that help blacks prepare to enter the workforce and to cope with episodes of police targeting. But another part is improving civic participation. “We have forgotten the power we’ve been given to go to the polls and cast our vote,” says Jones. “It’s those local elections that really affect our lives. We do have a voice, and we need to use it.”

In 2013 municipal elections, just 6% of African Americans turned out to vote. The figures are so low, in part, because the elections were held in the spring of an off-year. But that doesn’t explain the racial gap: whites, who comprise just one-third of the city’s population, were three times more likely to vote. A number of groups are trying to improve African-American participation. The organization HealSTL, launched in the wake of the shooting, leased office space in town as part of its bid to “turn a moment into a movement.” Other organizations have also erected voter-registration booths alongside the protests.

Another challenge will be fixing the issues with local police, which range from widespread reports of bias to the heavy-handed crackdown on the protests. Chris Koster, Missouri’s attorney general, has announced workshops this autumn designed to diversify the state’s urban police forces. (Ferguson, whose force is 94% white, is hardly the only township with an unrepresentative police department.) Democratic Congressmen Emanuel Cleaver and William Lacy Clay, both of Missouri, met last week with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to air their concerns about the “militarization” of area police, who responded to the protests with tear gas, rubber bullets and armored tanks. “If there is any good that can come out of the tragedy in Ferguson,” they wrote in a statement on the meeting, “our hope is that this effort will spur a national discussion about how to achieve a fundamental shift in local law enforcement, away from military-style responses, and towards a more community-based policy.”

Other residents hope that the exhale following the funeral will allow them to rebuild the city’s reputation. Ferguson has become a byword for racial strife and civic unrest, but it is more complex than a single stretch of heavily photographed road. Other sections of town bear the ubiquitous signs of urban reinvention: a downtown strip dotted with a wine bar and refurbished loft apartments, a farmers’ market, community gardens. In 2010, a 30-person delegation even traveled to Kansas City, Mo., to compete for an All-America City Award, for which the city was a finalist.

“For the most part, we get along,” says Brian Fletcher, a former Ferguson mayor who is one of the founders of a group called I Love Ferguson. The committee has passed out more than 8,000 signs bearing that credo, which dot leafy yards in the more affluent neighborhoods and line some of the city’s streets. It hopes to raise money to repay the businesses that suffered in the looting, and maybe even enough to incentivize others to move in. “The image that we’ve received is a city in chaos. We don’t ignore the fact that there’s racial tension and segregation,” says Fletcher, who is white. “We have chosen to stay here. We’re not leaving. It is an amazing community.”

The community has done some amazing things since Brown’s death, from the volunteer peacekeepers who soothed tensions between protesters and police to the residents who showed up each day with crates of bottled water and trays of food, paid for out of their own pockets. Now the challenge, as Sharpton told the mourners at the funeral, is to “turn the chants into change.” But marching orders are much more easily given from the pulpit than carried out on the street. It is up to Ferguson to figure out whether it will be known for a shooting or the healing that followed. “How we responded to the tragedy,” says Fletcher, “will become the real legacy.”

TIME remembrance

Ferguson Gathers to Say Farewell to Michael Brown

Michael Brown, Lesley McSpadden
Lesley McSpadden, mother of Michael Brown, wipes a tear as she stands by his casket at his the funeral at Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis, Monday, Aug. 25, 2014. Richard Perry—AP

Lively but mournful service was held at the Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St Louis on Monday

Hundreds of mourners gathered at the Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St Louis on Monday for the funeral of slain Missouri teen Michael Brown.

Musicians, politicians, civil rights activists, and residents of the teenager’s hometown of Ferguson joined the family in mourning the African American 18-year-old, whose fatal shooting by a police officer on Aug. 9 exposed racial tensions within the suburb and sparked widespread demonstrations and several nights of violent protest.

“Michael Brown’s blood is crying from the ground…crying for justice,” said Michael’s uncle, Charles Ewing. “At such a time as this, God is shaking this nation.”

Though it was a somber occasion, the church sanctuary was often overrun with praise as family members and friends took to the podium to share memories of the young man they called “Mike Mike.” Brown would have been about a week into his freshman year of college on Monday.

“He said one day the world would know his name,” a family member said. “He did not know how his name would be remembered, but we are here today remembering the name of Michael Brown.”

Eulogizers calling on members of the community to channel their anger over the death of the teen in positive ways—through voting and peaceful assembly—and calling on the country to take a hard look at how law enforcement engages with black and minority communities.

“America, it’s time to deal with policing,” said Rev. Al Sharpton, who delivered a speech at the funeral. “We’re not anti-police. We respect police. But those police that are wrong need to be dealt with just like those in the community that are wrong need to be dealt with.”

Brown’s mother Lesley McSpadden, wearing a red sleeveless dress, sat just steps from her son’s closed casket which was surrounded by enlarged photos of the teenager. Throughout the service, mourners reached to console McSpadden, who was often overcome with emotion.

Brown’s funeral comes two weeks after the teen was shot by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in circumstances that are still unclear. The investigation into Brown’s death is still ongoing, though the federal government has stepped in to conduct a separate analysis of the events alongside local authorities.

TIME Crime

Ferguson Father Wants ‘Day of Silence’ for Michael Brown Funeral

From left: Michael Brown, Sr., Reverend Al Sharpton, and Lesley McSpadden during a news conference outside the Old Courthouse in St. Louis on Aug. 12, 2014.
From left: Michael Brown, Sr., Reverend Al Sharpton, and Lesley McSpadden during a news conference outside the Old Courthouse in St. Louis on Aug. 12, 2014. Jeff Roberson—AP

“Please, please take a day of silence so we can lay our son to rest. Please"

The father of the unarmed Missouri teenager whose shooting death at the hands of police sparked widespread protests called for peace Sunday as he and his family prepared to lay their son to rest Monday.

“Please, please take a day of silence so we can lay our son to rest. Please. That’s all I ask. And thank you,” Michael Brown Sr., the father of Michael Brown, said during a rally Sunday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

The event, known as Peace Fest, is an annual festival held in a St. Louis park, but its message held particular resonance this year for a community still reeling from the death of Brown, 18, and its aftermath. Brown was shot by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9. Protests and sometimes violent clashes rocked the St. Louis suburb for days following the shooting.

Attention will again turn to Ferguson again on Monday for the funeral. Services are scheduled for 10 a.m., and three White House officials will attend, the Washington Post reports.

TIME justice

John Lennon’s Killer Denied Parole Again

Mark David Chapman was convicted of murdering John Lennon outside Lennon's Manhattan apartment on December 8, 1980.
Mark David Chapman was convicted of murdering John Lennon outside Lennon's Manhattan apartment on December 8, 1980. AFP/Getty Images

It's the eighth time Mark David Chapman was denied parole

The man who shot and killed John Lennon has been denied parole by the New York State Parole Board for the eighth time because his release would be “incompatible with the welfare of society.”

Mark David Chapman, 59, shot Lennon four times outside the musician’s New York City apartment in a 1980 murder that attracted worldwide attention. The crime earned him 20 years in prison.

In its decision, the parole board showed little hesitation to deny Chapman’s parole, Bloomberg reports.

“You stalked and waited for your victim and thereafter shot him multiple times causing his death,” the board said in its decision. “The victim had displayed kindness to you earlier in the day and your actions have devastated a family.”

Chapman will be up for parole again in 2016.

[Bloomberg]

TIME justice

California to Fight Ruling Against Death Penalty

California Attorney General Kamala Harris Announces Lawsuit
California Attorney General Kamala Harris speaks during a news conference on October 10, 2013 in San Francisco. Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

State Attorney General Kamala Harris to appeal

California is appealing last month’s federal court ruling that declared the state’s enforcement of the death penalty to be unconstitutional.

State Attorney General Kamala Harris said Thursday that she would appeal the ruling by Judge Cormac Carney of the U.S. Central District of California, who said that the state’s death penalty violated the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Last month, Carney, a Republican-appointed judge in Orange County, vacated the death sentence of Ernest Jones, who was convicted in the 1995 rape and murder of his girlfriend’s mother but is still on death row. In a lengthy decision, Carney ruled that uncertainties and delays over executions in the state violated inmates’ constitutional rights.

“The dysfunctional administration of California’s death penalty system has resulted, and will continue to result, in an inordinate and unpredictable period of delay preceding their actual execution,” Carney wrote. “As for the random few for whom execution does become a reality, they will have languished for so long on Death Row that their execution will serve no retributive or deterrent purpose and will be arbitrary.”

The case will now move to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“I am appealing the court’s decision because it is not supported by the law, and it undermines important protections that our courts provide to defendants,” Harris said in a statement. “This flawed ruling requires appellate review.”

Only 13 people have been executed in California since the death penalty was reinstated in 1978, and no inmate has been executed since 2006. More than 900 are currently on death row in the state.

TIME justice

Oklahoma Cop Charged With Raping 6 Women While on Patrol

Some of the alleged assaults took place during traffic stops

An Oklahoma City police officer was arrested Thursday and charged sexually assaulting at least six women while he was on patrol, though police expect more alleged victims to come forward.

Daniel Holtzclaw is charged with rape, oral sodomy and sexual battery. The three-year veteran of the force is being held on a $5 million bond, Reuters reports.

Police said the assaults took place while Holtzclaw was on the job, in some cases as a result of traffic stops.

[Reuters]

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