Monday, August 6, 2007
From kansascity.com: Two years ago, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius signed a law intended to end police stops based solely on skin color.
The law required, among other things, all law enforcement agencies in the state to make yearly reports to the attorney general’s office listing complaints of racial profiling.
Last year, however, only one in three law enforcement agencies in Kansas filed the required reports of racial profiling. That is 147 of 431 agencies, or 34 percent.
By comparison, 97 percent of law enforcement officials in Missouri filed such reports last year — 635 of 653 agencies.
“We don’t have any enforcement ability” over those agencies that don’t report, said Ashley Anstaett, spokeswoman for Kansas Attorney General Paul Morrison. “There’s no penalty if they don’t report.”
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Saturday, July 21, 2007
From timesdispatch.com: A study released yesterday found a wide disparity among states in the rates at which whites, blacks and Hispanics are locked up in jails and prisons.
Nationally in 2005, blacks were held at a rate nearly six times that for whites. Hispanics were held at almost twice the rate for whites. For every 100,000 of their respective populations, 412 whites were held; 2,290 blacks; and 742 Hispanics, according to study by the Sentencing Project.
Iowa had the highest black-to-white ratio, 13.6 to 1, and Hawaii had the lowest, 1.9 to 1. States with the highest ratios tended to be in the Northeast and Midwest.
Virginia ranked close to the national average -- slightly lower for whites and Hispanics, 396 and 487 per 100,000 respectively, and slightly higher for blacks, at 2,331.
The most recent figures available from the Virginia Department of Corrections show that as of mid-2005, nearly two out of three of the state's 35,000 prison inmates were black, the rest white. Figures for Hispanics were not available.
Ryan King, with the Sentencing Project, said that "because Virginia falls right in the middle of the pack is not something that is an accomplishment but rather indicates that Virginia reflects many of the same disparities that we see nationally."
"It's a much more complex situation than to say African-Americans simply commit more crimes," said King, a policy analyst with the nonprofit research and advocacy group.
Other factors play a part in the disparities, he said. Among them are where police focus their enforcement efforts, particularly in the war on drugs. "We know that African-Americans are arrested at higher rates, but not necessarily for higher commission" of crimes, he contends. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
From courier-journal.com: While the U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear -- lawyers can't use race to pick a jury -- in Jefferson County, Kentucky, prosecutors are removing African-American jurors at a higher rate than white jurors, especially when the defendants are black. And defense lawyers are removing whites at much higher rates than blacks, in part because they say they are trying to even the playing field, a Courier-Journal analysis shows.
This is occurring while a commission of judges, lawyers and citizens tries to find why African Americans are underrepresented on Jefferson County juries.
The commission's works follows a 2005 Courier-Journal series that found that people who live in predominantly African-American areas of Jefferson County are less likely to serve on juries than those who live in mostly white areas.
University of Iowa law professor David Baldus said the data suggest "systemic racial discrimination" in how Jefferson County prosecutors and defense attorneys are choosing jurors.
"It's the same old story: Blacks are not welcome in the eyes of prosecutors and welcome in the eyes of defense attorneys," said Baldus, who has written extensively on the subject and consulted for courts on racial issues. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
From baltimoresun.com: African-Americans are disproportionately harmed by mandatory-minimum drug sentences, with blacks comprising nearly nine out of every 10 offenders sent to Maryland prisons on such terms, according to a report being released today by a Washington think tank.
The report by the Justice Policy Institute, a research organization that supports alternatives to prison, is to be discussed at a House of Delegates committee hearing today. The committee is considering a bill that would repeal some of the state's mandatory-minimum sentencing laws.
The study urges moving toward a model that offers treatment over incarceration. It notes that despite the racial disparity in sentencing, blacks and whites use drugs at similar rates.
Maryland elected officials have acknowledged that drug use is a public health problem, and, as a result, the state has offered more treatment options to low-level offenders, said Jason Ziedenberg, executive director of the Justice Policy Institute.
"But what we need now is the will to change these laws," he said.
The proposed legislation seeks to allow judges discretion in sentencing repeat offenders who commit certain drug crimes. Repealing the minimum-sentencing laws would allow judges to require treatment, particularly in the case of a low-level dealer who sells drugs to support an addiction, said Del. Curtis S. Anderson, a Baltimore Democrat who commissioned the report and sponsored the bill.
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Tuesday, February 6, 2007
From NPR.com: Four sentences of house arrest and probation are handed down in the Long Beach, Calif., hate-crime trial of 10 black teenagers, as the judge in the case continues to deviate from prosecutors' recommendations. The victims, three white women who were attacked on Halloween, were visibly upset at the sentencing hearing.
Prosecutors had sought more severe punishment for three of the girls, including time in the California Youth Authority system.
In ordering community service, house arrest, probation and counseling for the youths, Judge Gibson Lee duplicated the sentences he delivered Friday — an unusual step in a case in which some of those convicted are believed to have played more aggressive, and violent, roles than others.
All but one of the teens — 8 females and 1 male — were convicted of assault in a non-jury trial. A 12-year-old was acquitted. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]
Monday, January 29, 2007
From npr.org: In Long Beach, Calif., a juvenile court judge has convicted eight black girls and one boy of beating three young white women last year. One girl was acquitted of all charges. The defendants range between 12 and 18 years old. The racially charged case included allegations of witness intimidation.
The attack happened last Halloween in an upscale mostly white neighborhood filled with trick-or-treaters. Prosecutors called it a hate crime because they said the attackers hurled racial slurs at their victims.
Nine girls and one boy were charged with the attack. But their families say that the first call for help identified the attackers as a group of black males. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]
Friday, January 26, 2007
Just in time for Holocaust Memorial Day in Italy, which is honored tomorrow, Italy's government has agreed to make denying the Holocaust a crime and to stiffen prison sentences for those found guilty of inciting racial hatred. Initially conceived to target Holocaust deniers, the bill was broadened to include all forms of intolerance after some members of the ruling centre-left coalition had expressed reservations about the appropriateness of using the criminal code to honour the millions of Jews killed in the Shoah. Nonetheless, the bill draft received unanimous approval by the Italian cabinet. With approval from the parliament, the bill will become an official law, and those found guilty of spreading ideas about a race being superior to another would now risk up to three years in prison while acts designed to incite racial, ethnic, religious or sexual violence would be punishable with a maximum four year prison sentence. Germany, which currently holds the European Union's rotating presidency, is pushing to make denying the Holocaust a crime in all member states. Full Story from Expatica.com. . . [Michele Berry]
Thursday, December 21, 2006
From NPR: News & Notes, December 20, 2006 · What is the role of race and language in the offenses branded as hate crimes? Columbia University law professor Patricia Williams and Farai Chideya take a closer look. Listen to story here. [Mark Godsey]
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
From CNN.com: Several jurors who convicted a black trash collector in the slaying of a white fashion writer made disparaging racial remarks during deliberations, which at one point became so heated two jurors had to be separated, according to documents filed Tuesday. The attorney for Christopher McCowen, who was convicted last month in the January 2002 rape and murder of writer Christa Worthington, filed the sworn statements from three jurors about three other jurors as part of a bid for a new trial. "The statements clearly indicate that these jurors were racially biased against the defendant before deliberations ever started," attorney Robert George said.
According to the affidavits, filed by jurors identified only as Juror A, Juror B and Juror C, racist comments included snide remarks from a white female juror about a black female juror's hairstyle and questions about her educational background; a white female juror commenting that she was afraid of McCowen, saying "the big black guy" was staring at "us"; and a black male juror's comments that he did not like other blacks because "look at what they are capable of." The black female juror, referred to as Juror A, said in her affidavit that the white woman, while trying to convince other jurors that Worthington had been bruised during a struggle, "exploded when I questioned her about it by yelling that '...when a big black guy beats up on a small woman' bruises of that size would happen." Juror A then called the woman a racist and the two had to be separated, according to the affidavit. The affidavits also describe the pressure the jurors say was exerted on them to switch their votes from not guilty to guilty. Juror B said that after the jury delivered its guilty verdict Nickerson told them they could have declared a second deadlock. Both Juror A and Juror B said they would not have changed their votes to guilty if they had known that. Full story... [Mark Godsey]
Saturday, December 9, 2006
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
When should culture be taken into account in criminal prosecutions and to what extent? Though used sparingly, carving out cultural exceptions in drug laws is far from a novel concept. Not that long ago, SCOTUS allowed a small Brazil-based church in New Mexico to continue the use of hallucinogenic tea, which contains the illegal drug DMT. The Utah Supreme Court dealt with the question fairly recently, too, when it decided that a couple that started a religion using peyote for ritual shouldn't face federal drug charges.
This past week, in Wisconsin, Liban Moalin, 37, an Ethiopian-born Canadian citizen was convicted of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, in what some people are calling a "culturally insensitive drug case." Moalin's conviction was based on his possession of khat, an evergreen shrub grown in East Africa and the Arabian peninsula and prized for its stimulating properties. For millennia, East Africans and Arabs have chewed the plant's leaves and stems as a stimulant. The Village Voice explains that khat is used the same way as the leafy version of chewing tobacco, balled into a side of a cheek. But the chewing lasts for hours and hours (usually some liquid— water, tea, or soda—is needed to ward off dry mouth) and the juice is swallowed, not spit out.
Moalin was arrested in January after he took delivery of a shipment of the plants from a friend in Italy. But the shipment had been intercepted by U.S. Customs agents, then was delivered to Moalin by a Madison police detective posing as a Federal Express employee. The jury rejected claims by Moalin's attorneys that he didn't know khat was an illegal drug because it is the active ingredient in khat--cathinone, and not the plant itself--that is listed as a controlled substance in state law. Assistant District Attorney Kenneth Farmer countered that marijuana itself isn't mentioned in statutes either, only its active ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol is listed. But everyone still knows it's illegal to use or possess.
Increasingly, police are cracking down on khat in cities where there are concentrations of East African immigrants. These crack downs lead some to think that khat prosecutions represent a clash of cultures, aimed at targetting Muslims and finding legitimate, albeit pretextual, bases for deportations. Still, others ask, what's wrong with enforcing the laws of the land, regardless of the offender's cultural background? More on Khat from the Village Voice and the Moalin conviction from the Wisconsin State Journal [Michele Berry]
Monday, October 16, 2006
From AllHeadlineNews.com: The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has released their 2005 statistics on hate crimes. Statistical data indicates a total of 7,163 criminal incidents. These incidents involved 8,380 reported offenses reported in 2005, resulting from a bias toward a particular race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity/national origin, or physical or mental disability...Racial bias topped the list as motivation for the 2005 hate crimes at 54.7 percent. Thereafter, smaller percentages were reported for motivations of religious bias at 17.1 percent, sexual-orientation bias at 14.2 percent, ethnicity/national origin bias at 13.2 and disability bias of 0.7 percent. The "Hate Crime Statistics, 2005," is published by the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program. The data includes details on reported hate crimes from city, county, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement agencies across the country. More statistics. . . and more information from the FBI about these statistics here. . . [Michele Berry]
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
From washingtonpost.com: A new crime trend is unfolding in the D.C. and some suburbs, too: an increase in armed robberies committed by thugs whose motivation appears to be less about getting money than inflicting pain. For even if you comply with demands to hand over your belongings, you are still likely to be assaulted, raped, kidnapped or killed. Much of this crime is being committed by adolescents.
Accompanying the increase in juvenile arrests for armed robbery has been an increase in juveniles arrested for carrying handguns -- a combination that Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey finds particularly disturbing. "We're dealing with adolescents who have no remorse, no regrets," he said. And they are well armed.
The latest trend in armed robberies includes the most volatile mix in the annals of American crime: black-on-white violence. The sense of security among the affluent and influential has been shaken.
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
From latimes.com: Latino and African American motorists in most areas of Los Angeles are significantly more likely than whites to be asked during police stops to leave their vehicles and submit to searches, according to the latest study ordered by the city. However, the study group said its detailed analysis of the data cannot determine whether the different treatment is a sign of racial profiling by officers.
The collection and analysis of racial data involving vehicle and pedestrian stops was one of the requirements of a federal consent decree that was approved by a judge five years ago in response to allegations that the LAPD has engaged in a pattern of civil rights abuses, including the framing and shooting of minority residents by members of the Rampart anti-gang unit.
Racial profiling is one possible explanation, said Michael Smith, an author of the report, but he said there are other possibilities as well. "Ultimately, decisions are made by individuals, and an aggregate analysis like this can't climb into the minds of officers out there," Smith told the commission. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Sunday, June 11, 2006
Recently proposed New York legislation would allow law officers to consider race and ethnicity in identifying potential terrorism suspects. The legislation is supported by politicians from both parties and opposed by the New York Civil Liberties Union.
The proposed legislation would authorize law enforcement officials to "consider race and ethnicity as one of many factors that could be used in identifying persons who can be initially stopped, questioned, frisked and/or searched."
The proposed bill drew a response from New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman. "Racial and ethnic profiling has been shown time and time again to be not only anathema to principles of equality, but it's bad law enforcement," said Lieberman. More. . . [Mark Godsey]
Monday, May 29, 2006
Thursday, March 23, 2006
Yesterday, Georgia's Senate approved a bill reinstituting the state's defunct hate crimes law that has been bogged down in the Legislature for years. Georgia's old hate crimes law, drafted in 2000, had called for stiffer criminal penalties for crimes where a victim is chosen because of "bias or prejudice." But in 2004, the Georgia Supreme Court threw the law out after ruling it "unconstitutionally vague." The new bill instead singles out people who commit a crime because of "the victim's race, religion, gender, national origin, or sexual orientation." More. . . [Mark Godsey]
Thursday, March 2, 2006
From Margy Love: Here is testimony that will be given tomorrow by Judge Patricia Wald before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on the discriminatory impact of mandatory minimum sentences. This hearing was sought by the ABA and by a coalition of other justice advocacy groups. It is the first international inquiry into United States sentencing practices, and the fact it is being held is significant.
Sunday, February 19, 2006
In this article, Professor Brandon Garrett from Virginia Law's Center for the Study of Race and the Law, discusses how political pressure, lawsuits, and the U.S. Department of Justice's efforts to track and compile statistics on police-use of racial profiling, encouraged the New York Police Department to reform their policies. "This whole movement (away from NYPD's use of racial profiling) says interesting things about police and their openness to change, but also the circumstances where pressure can lead to something more constructive, even in situations where it seemed like lawsuits were doomed to fail," Garrett said.
He explained that class-action lawsuits challenging racial profiling were often doomed to fail, because Fourth Amendment jurisprudence often clashes with these suits' use of equal protection theories to demonstrate that race is a motivating factor for police action. After all, "reasonable suspicion" has been defined to include something as subjective as spotting someone in a neighborhood where the individual appears to be out of place. In short, police are allowed to use race as one, but not the only factor. For example, in one case, police stopped all young black men in a mostly white town, looking for cuts on their hands, after an elderly woman was raped by a man matching that description. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a dismissal of the case because the stop was based not only on race but on sex and age. Nevertheless, the public and political pressure that these suits have provoked, has encouraged such police reforms, not only in New York, but also in Florida and Ohio. More. . . [Mark Godsey]
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
"The theft of one of the three kings from a New York nativity scene appears to be a hate crime. The missing king is Balthasar, an African. The statue was replaced by a white sheet hanging from a pole, possibly a symbol of the Ku Klux Klan, police said. The nativity scene was outside a Lutheran church in Holbrook on the east end of Long Island." Story. . . [Mark Godsey]