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Calif. Supreme Court Upholds Decision That Eliminated Black Jurors from Death Penalty Cases

In April, a federal judge ordered Alameda County to review over 30 death penalty convictions following allegations that the Alameda District Attorney’s office removed Black and Jewish people from juries. The trials reviewed included a case that involved a jury in February 2000 that found Giles Albert Nadey guilty of murder and sodomy, sending him to death row.

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Shutterstock photo.

By California Black Media

Last week, the California Supreme Court voted 5-2 to uphold an Alameda County court’s decision to issue death penalty sentences in over 30 trials, ruling that the prosecutors had valid reasons to dismiss Black jurors.

“We conclude in each instance the prosecutor’s reasons were inherently plausible and supported,” the court ruled. The court cited evidence from jury questionnaires and the prosecutors’ questions directed to the jurors removed from the trial.

In April, a federal judge ordered Alameda County to review over 30 death penalty convictions following allegations that the Alameda District Attorney’s office removed Black and Jewish people from juries.

The trials reviewed included a case that involved a jury in February 2000 that found Giles Albert Nadey guilty of murder and sodomy, sending him to death row.

During this trial, a California prosecutor removed five out of six Black women from the jury pool. According to the prosecutor, some of the Black jurors were reluctant to impose the death penalty. Other Black women had liberal views, the court concluded, that may have clouded their judgment. The defense team eliminated the last Black women from the jury and continued the trial with no Black women serving on the jury.

The court appeal in Nadey’s case alleged that his case was affected by racial bias. However, the Supreme Court decided to uphold the initial ruling and found that the State prosecutor’s decision to remove Black jurors was justified.

Capital punishment remains a complex issue in California’s criminal justice system, although Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a moratorium on executions.

The executive order declared that “death sentences are unevenly and unfairly applied to people of color, people with mental disabilities, and people who cannot afford costly legal representation.”

A report by The Sentencing Project indicated that African Americans are skeptical about pursuing the death penalty in cases. Therefore, criminal justice advocates argue that prosecutors prefer juries that support capital punishment, often excluding Black jurors.

California laws allow convicts to appeal court rulings based on racial bias in criminal hearings. Criminal justice advocates continue to push back on the death penalty and call for more accountability in the courts.

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California Black Media

Gov. Newsom Announces He Backs a Ban on Cellphones in Schools

Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to restrict the use of smartphones in K-12 schools statewide, he announced on Tuesday. The Governor stated his intentions amid warnings from President Joe Biden on the harmful impact of social media on children. The announcement followed a report released by the U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy that calls on Congress to regulate social media platforms.

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Shutterstock.

By California Black Media

Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to restrict the use of smartphones in K-12 schools statewide, he announced on Tuesday.

The Governor stated his intentions amid warnings from President Joe Biden on the harmful impact of social media on children. The announcement followed a report released by the U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy that calls on Congress to regulate social media platforms.

Proposed regulations include warning labels on harmful content that may hurt minors active on social media. The Governor stated that he plans to sign a law that authorizes school districts to limit or ban the use of smartphones by students or require the supervision of a school employee.

“As the Surgeon General affirmed, social media is harming the mental health of our youth. Building on legislation I signed in 2019, I look forward to working with the Legislature to restrict the use of smartphones during the school day,” said Newsom.

“When children and teens are in school, they should be focused on their studies — not their screens,” he said.

In 2022, Newsom authored a letter urging companies in the tech industry to drop a lawsuit against the children’s online safety law he signed that same year. Newsom aims to take online safety laws a step further allowing school districts to ban or limit the use of smartphones to help protect children from the harmful effects of social media.

The California School Boards Association argues that any rules on the use of smartphones should be regulated by school districts as opposed to the state.

Troy Flint, the school board association’s spokesperson, said that school districts should make the final decision on regulations over smartphones.

“We support legislation which empowers school leaders to make policy decisions at a local level that reflect their community’s concerns and what’s necessary to support their students,” said Flint.

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) supports Gov. Newsom’s plan to ban smartphones during school hours, stating that smartphones and devices distract students from learning and facilitate cyberbullying.

On June 18, LAUSD voted to ban the use of cellphones during the school day.

In a similar light, Sen. Henry Stern (D-Malibu) proposed SB 1283 earlier this year. If passed, the legislation will give school districts more authority to limit the use of social media at school. SB 1283 is currently under review in the Assembly Education Committee.

“It’s just too hard for every teacher, every school, or every parent to have to figure this out on their own,” said Stern. “There are sometimes when government just has to step in and make some bigger rules of the road.”

A similar bill, AB 3216, introduced by Assemblymembers Josh Hoover (R-Folsom), Josh Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) and Al Muratsuchi (D-Rolling Hills Estates), is being considered by the Senate Education Committee.

The bills would take effect in January if passed by the Legislature and is approved by the Board of Education in school districts that support the cellphone ban.

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Activism

Oakland Post: Week of July 10 – 16, 2024

The printed Weekly Edition of the Oakland Post: Week of July 10 – 16, 2024

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Business

Opinion: California Needs to Do More to Boost Employment for Black Americans

California must act now to confront today’s Black job crisis. The Bureau of Labor Statistics last year reported that 90% of the nation’s unemployed U.S. citizens are Black Americans. And despite being less than 10% of Los Angeles’ population, Black people comprise more than a third of its unhoused residents. Senate Bill (SB) 1340 renews hope in confronting this Black job crisis, as $180 billion in federal funds are coming to California to support the state’s green infrastructure projects over the next decade.

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Taylor Jackson, regional organizer, Southern California Black Worker Hub. Courtesy photo.
Taylor Jackson, regional organizer, Southern California Black Worker Hub. Courtesy photo.

By Taylor Jackson
Special to California Black Media Partners
 

California must act now to confront today’s Black job crisis.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics last year reported that 90% of the nation’s unemployed U.S. citizens are Black Americans. And despite being less than 10% of Los Angeles’ population, Black people comprise more than a third of its unhoused residents.

Senate Bill (SB) 1340 renews hope in confronting this Black job crisis, as $180 billion in federal funds are coming to California to support the state’s green infrastructure projects over the next decade.

The bill – authored by longtime worker rights and racial equity advocate Sen. Lola Smallwood-Cuevas (D-Los Angeles) – would establish local “disadvantaged worker” demographics across California and require state-funded contractors to prioritize hiring these workers, who are primarily from underserved communities of color.

One Black construction worker who has benefited from an equitable hiring program is Patricia Allen. In 2014, Allen was an unemployed single mother living in the Crenshaw area who was hired to work on LA Metro’s Crenshaw/LAX rail line as part of their Project Labor Agreement (PLA) that prioritized the hiring of local disadvantaged individuals.

“It really felt good to see other faces like mine on the project,” said Allen, who now works as a safety supervisor for a construction company after earning her safety training certificate.

SB 1340 would also require state-funded contractors to regularly track and report disadvantaged workers hired on their projects to hold them accountable to meeting equitable hiring goals established by the state.

The Biden Administration has intended for states to utilize these federal grant dollars to boost equitable hiring programs and other community benefits. To remain competitive in securing future federal funding, California must demonstrate that it is successfully executing equitable hiring programs. Tracking and reporting are the most effective ways to ensure that California is keeping receipts on workers hired on development projects and ensuring that the communities they come from have benefited.

California awarded one of its first contracts from these federal dollars to a Texas-based company. Without SB 1340, Black community members are concerned about the implications: firms like this out-of-state contractor are not currently required to hire local workers from vulnerable communities, including Black men and women.

As critical as SB 1340 is in helping to solve the state’s Black job crisis, the bill has fallen on deaf ears in the Governor’s Office. SB 1340 is yet to be funded, despite being passed by the State Senate and Assembly Labor Committee as well as strongly recommended by a sizable coalition of statewide community partners. While Gov. Newsom makes promises to support legislation that aim to make a more equitable California, Black workers need him to act now on those promises. 

Although California is facing budget constraints, SB 1340 will be a low-cost bill to implement. It’s a small investment that will pay big dividends given that it will create jobs that would take thousands of people out of poverty, ultimately saving the state money with their tax-paying jobs reinvested back into the state.

Because of California’s long history of institutionalized racist policies, Black communities were excluded from building the state’s infrastructure during the 20th century. SB 1340 would give Black workers an opportunity to play an important role as California transitions into a new green economy.

“This bill is not just about building roads and bridges. It’s about building communities where all people can have environmental and economic justice,” said Dawn Modkins, director of the Southern California Black Worker Hub.

To voice your support for SB 1340, please call or email your state legislator’s office or call the Office of the Governor at (916) 445-2841.

About the Author 

Taylor Jackson is the regional organizer at the Southern California Black Worker Hub.

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