I read a lot. It's part of my job as a writer. Sadly, most of what I read these days is kind of terrible. We do awful things to one another. We've been doing it for a long time. Here's something terrible that I learned today.
In 1972, Herman Wallace was in the Louisiana State Penitentiary doing a stretch for armed robbery. While he was inside, one of the prison's guards was murdered. Wallace and two other black men--Robert King and Albert Woodfox--were convicted for the murder.
There was just one problem: they weren't guilty.
To say that Wallace, King and Woodfox, known members of the militant Black Panther Party, were unpopular with the penitentiary's staff was an understatement. Back then the trio insisted that the crime was being hung on them because of the color of their skin and their political beliefs. Their declaration of innocence wasn't enough to save them from being punished for the guard's murder. The trio was declared guilty. Wallace spent the next 41 years of his life in solitary confinement.
In 2013, a United States Federal Court Judge overturned Wallace's sentence, stating in no uncertain terms that Wallace's trial had been "unconstitutional" and ordered his immediate release. The Department of Corrections complied with the order.
A few days later, Wallace died of liver cancer. The only moments of freedom he had known in over four decades were also his last. King and Woodfox were a little more lucky--both managed to stay alive for more than a few days after leaving prison. Read the rest
Massive income inequality, combined with Republican attacks on the taxation of the wealthiest, has produced a situation in which the state increasingly depends on extracting fines, interest and debt service from people who grow steadily poorer and less able to pay, and thus the state must turn to ever-more-extreme measures to extract the money it needs to survive.
Read the rest
Boosted Boards got a big push thanks to enthusiast Casey Neistat, whose reviews of V2 prompted many to buy one. Daniel Dahlberg's joy quickly turned to dismay when Vancouver cops pulled him over and fined him $600 for riding it on the street. Read the rest
A sad and infuriating lead sentence from the LA Times: "A 75-year-old woman who tried to sell a paperweight containing a speck of moon rock may try to hold a federal agent liable for detaining her for two hours in a public parking lot in urine-soaked pants, a federal appeals court decided unanimously Thursday." The good news is that she is going to sue NASA for the humiliating treatment.
She decided to try to sell the paperweights and contacted auction houses without success. She finally emailed NASA for help in finding a buyer for what she called “rare Apollo 11 space artifacts.” She explained how her late husband had received them.
Norman Conley, a special agent and criminal investigator for NASA’s Office of Inspector General, was assigned to investigate whether Davis really possessed a moon rock.
He had someone pose as a broker and call Davis. During several conversations, all but one recorded, Davis explained how she obtained the moon rock and insisted she wanted to do everything legally. She also mentioned that she hoped to sell her late husband’s firearms.
At no point was she informed that all lunar material is the property of the federal government and that possession was a crime, the court said.
If the account in this appeal is accurate, the special agent Norman Conley is a jerk. Read the rest
Shavkatbek Saipov was vacationing in Turkey in 2013 when he was hit in the eye by a teargas cannister fired by police during the brutal crackdown on the Occupy Gezi protests; he lost the eye and sued the Turkish police. Read the rest
In 2013, 16-year-old Ethan Couch was found guilty of drunkenly plowing into a group of people helping a stranded motorist, killing four of them and maiming two others. A psychologist hired by Couch's defense lawyers said the teen's extravagantly wealthy lifestyle prevented him from knowing right from wrong. Texas State District Judge Jean Boyd agreed. Instead of sending Couch to prison, she gave him 10 years probation and a stint at a luxury rehab center in Newport Beach, California, which offers cooking classes, yoga, and "equine-assisted psychotherapy."
The horse-enhanced rehab apparently didn't work, because a video recently surfaced that shows Couch, now 18, playing beer pong at a party. The conditions of Couch's probation forbid him from drinking alcohol. Shortly after that, Couch failed to show up for a scheduled meeting with his parole officer. When authorities investigated, they discovered Couch and his mother Tonya (48) were missing, along with their passports. After a brief manhunt, Couch and his mother were captured in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Couch has dyed his hair black.
The Daily Beast has more about Couch's parents, who seem like real pieces of work:
Read the rest
On a February night at 1 a.m., a cop found Ethan urinating in a parking lot, with a 14-year-old girl naked inside his truck, which contained a Miller Lite can and bottle of Grey Goose vodka, according to D Magazine.
Tonya paid Ethan’s fines and court fees, and blamed herself when he didn’t complete an alcohol class and community-service hours. She said she’d “misread the online thing.”
During a deposition in a civil suit against the family a year later, Tonya was asked about the girl.
In November 1322, Jakoba (or Jacoba) Felicie stood trial in her native Paris for the crime of practicing medicine without official sanction. Over the course of the trial, it became clear that her work as a doctor had been excellent. But Dr. Felicie was stuck in an unfortunate catch-22. She could not legally work as a doctor without first getting professional training. And she could not get professional training because she was a woman. The ScienceZest blog tells her story. Read the rest
A judge in Los Angeles today sentenced 28-year-old Johannes Mehserle (shown at left), former BART transit officer, to two years in prison for shooting an unarmed man on an Oakland train platform. Oscar Grant, 22 years old, (shown at right) died.
A number of witness cellphone videos circulated online shortly after the incident, and were used in the court hearings.
Two years was the minimum sentence Mehserle could have received for the involuntary manslaughter conviction. The trial had been moved to LA over concerns about the extensive media coverage of the killing in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Let's hope Oakland stays non-violent tonight.
Oakland-based Youth Radio has some excellent coverage of the Oscar Grant story.
More on today's sentencing: NPR, LA Times, SF Chronicle, Oakland Tribune. The SF Appeal is liveblogging whatever unfolds with protests tonight.
Oscar Grant: Youth Radio's magazine about the aftermath
Jury reaches verdict in BART police shooting caught on cellphones ...
"Citizen videos" spread online showing BART police officer ... Read the rest
Ceara Sturgis, a top student at Wesson Attendance Center in Mississipi, has been purged from the yearbook. She attended the school for 12 years, but she's also a lesbian, and so they made her an un-person.
"They didn't even put her name in it," Sturgis' mother Veronica Rodriguez said. "I was so furious when she told me about it. Ceara started crying and I told her to suck it up. Is that not pathetic for them to do that? Yet again, they have crapped on her and made her feel alienated."
Sturgis and her mother commissioned the Mississippi ACLU to protest officials' October 2009 decision not to allow Sturgis' photo to appear in the senior yearbook because she chose to wear a tuxedo instead of a dress.
The ACLU wrote an October letter demanding officials use Sturgis' submitted photo in the yearbook, but Copiah County School District officials refused. Rodriguez said she expected the yearbook to at least contain a reference to her daughter on the senior page. What she discovered on Friday, when the yearbook came in, was that the school had refused to acknowledge her entirely.
School Cuts Gay Student Photo from Yearbook
Lesbian panic shuts down Mississippi high-school prom
Lesbian panic victim invited to Potemkin Prom? Read the rest