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Group Seeks New Grand Jury in Ferguson Police Shooting Case 

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In this Nov. 24, 2014 photo, a protestor poses for a "hands up" photo in front of a burning building on West Florissant Ave. in Ferguson, Mo. ‘Hands Up, Don’t Shoot’ has become a rallying cry despite questions whether Michael Brown’s hands were raised in surrender before being fatally shot by a Ferguson police officer. (AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Christian Gooden, File)

In this Nov. 24, 2014 photo, a protestor poses for a “hands up” photo in front of a burning building on West Florissant Ave. in Ferguson, Mo. ‘Hands Up, Don’t Shoot’ has become a rallying cry despite questions whether Michael Brown’’s hands were raised in surrender before being fatally shot by a Ferguson police officer. (AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Christian Gooden, File)

JIM SALTER, Associated Press

ST. LOUIS (AP) -€” The NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund, citing “grave legal concerns,” is asking a Missouri judge to convene a new grand jury to consider charges against the Ferguson police officer who fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown.

The letter submitted Monday to St. Louis County Circuit Judge Maura McShane also asks for a special prosecutor to oversee the case and an investigation of the grand jury proceedings that ended in November with a decision not to charge Officer Darren Wilson.

Lawyers and other experts who analyzed grand jury transcripts for the fund raised concerns about the decision to allow a witness to provide false testimony, erroneous legal instructions to grand jurors, and “preferential treatment of Mr. Wilson by the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, the fund’s president.

Wilson, who is white, fatally shot Brown, who was black and unarmed, on Aug. 9 in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The shooting led to sometimes-violent protests that escalated again on Nov. 24 after McCulloch announced the grand jury decision.

Ed Magee, a spokesman for St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch, declined to comment Tuesday. Messages were left with Wilson’s attorney and the clerk for McShane.

Nine white and three black jurors heard more than 70 hours of testimony from about 60 witnesses.

McCulloch said he assigned prosecutors in his office to present evidence, rather than doing it himself, because he was aware of “unfounded but growing concern that the investigation might not be fair.” McCulloch’s father was a police officer killed by a black suspect. He did not recuse himself from the investigation despite some calls for him to do so.

In December, state Rep. Karla May, a St. Louis Democrat, called for an investigation of McCulloch after he said in an interview on KTRS Radio that some witnesses obviously lied to the grand jury.

He cited a woman who claimed to have seen the shooting but “clearly wasn’t present. She recounted a story right out of the newspaper” that backed up Wilson’s version of events, he told the radio station.

Allowing such false testimony “fatally compromises the fair administration of justice,” the fund wrote to the judge.

But Ric Simmons, a professor at The Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law, said allowing witnesses to testify unfiltered may have simply been part of McCulloch’s effort to stay neutral. Grand jurors usually hear a shorter recounting of evidence that might be presented at trial, but the Ferguson grand jury heard more extensive testimony.

“I think charitably their reason for bringing in all the evidence was so they could say, ‘Look, we showed the grand jury everything, and let them make their own decision,'” Simmons said.

The fund also cited concern about faulty legal instructions initially given by assistant prosecutors. The information was later corrected, but jurors could have been confused, the fund said.

Also Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Carol Jackson in St. Louis extended for 45 days a temporary restraining order requiring Missouri police to give protesters the chance to disperse before tear gas is deployed. Attorneys for law enforcement agencies and protesters who are suing them said they were in settlement negotiations.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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D.C. Statehood is a Voting Rights Issue… and Racial Justice Issue

The disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of D.C. residents is fundamentally un-American and there is no good reason to allow it to continue.

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Washington, D.C. has a higher percentage of Black residents than any state in the country, and they have no voting representation in Congress. This is systemic racism in action. It is long past time to give Washington’s 712,000 residents the representation they deserve by making D.C. our 51st state.
It is shameful that people who live in the nation’s capital have no say in Congress. And it is unacceptable that local laws and budgets passed by D.C. elected officials can be overturned by members of Congress who decide to meddle in local decision-making. That explains why Washington, D.C.’s license plates include the slogan, “End taxation without representation,” a rallying cry by American colonists against the tyranny of British rule.
The disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of D.C. residents is fundamentally un-American and there is no good reason to allow it to continue. There are bogus reasons to oppose statehood, and some Republicans in Congress have been trotting them out now that legislation to admit Washington, D.C. as a statehood bill is moving forward in Congress.
Some claim that Washington, D.C. is too small to be a state. But D.C. has more residents than either Vermont or Wyoming. There are currently six states whose population is less than a million. D.C. pays more federal taxes than 21 states—and more federal taxes per person than any state.
Some make the false claim that it would require a constitutional amendment to make Washington, D.C. a state. Not true. The Constitution clearly gives Congress the authority to admit new states.
That’s how every one of the 37 states that were not initially part of the U.S. have joined the country. The original District of Columbia was created out of land from Maryland and Virginia. In 1846, a good chunk of D.C. was returned to Virginia. No constitutional amendment was required then, and none is required now to admit Washington, D.C. as a new state. Some objections are so idiotic, frankly, that they must be a cover for pure partisanship or worse.
In March, a Heritage Foundation legal fellow testifying before Congress said that D.C. residents shouldn’t get representation in Congress because they can already influence congressional debates by placing yard signs where members of Congress might see them on their way to work. One Republican congressman said (wrongly) that D.C. would be the only state without a car dealership. Another said that D.C. doesn’t have enough mining, agriculture, or manufacturing. Mitch McConnell said the plan to make D.C. a state was evidence of “full bore socialism on the march.”
At least some Republicans are honest about their real reason for opposing statehood:  they just don’t want to let D.C. voters elect Democratic officials who will support progressive policies supported by the majority of the American people.
But that is not a principled position. None of the objections to D.C. statehood hold water, especially when weighed against the basic injustice of disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of people.
Washingtonians have fought in every U.S. war. About 30,000 D.C. residents are veterans. But D.C.’s mayor does not even have the ability that governors have to mobilize its own National Guard—a fact that proved to be deadly during the Jan. 6 Capitol Insurrection.
The bottom line in this: how can we hold ourselves out as a model of democracy when we are the only democratic country in the world that denies representation and self-governance to the people who live in its capital? We can’t.
As the Biden administration recognized in announcing its support for D.C. statehood, it is long past time to correct this injustice. The House of Representatives voted on April 22, to admit Washington, D.C. as a state. Senate leaders must not allow filibuster rules or Republican resistance to prevent Congress from righting this wrong.

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Sen. Padilla on Reparations: “We Can Walk and Chew Gum”

For nearly two centuries now, Black American descendants of enslaved Africans have been making the case to an unyielding U.S. government for reparations. Advocates say payments would compensate for centuries of unpaid labor and an opportunity for the federal government to make good on its promise to provide 40 acres and a mule to each formerly enslaved Black person after the Civil War. 

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California’s newest and first Latino Democratic Senator, Alex Padilla, says he supports reparations for Black American descendants of enslaved African people. He made the statement during an online news briefing with members of California’s  organized by Ethnic Media Services.

“It’s the morally right thing to do,” said Padilla. “For me, it’s not a difficult conversation.

Padilla said reparations would go a long way to “address institutional injustices.”

For nearly two centuries now, Black American descendants of enslaved Africans have been making the case to an unyielding U.S. government for reparations. Advocates say payments would compensate for centuries of unpaid labor and an opportunity for the federal government to make good on its promise to provide 40 acres and a mule to each formerly enslaved Black person after the Civil War.

A shift in the national consciousness last year – which some attribute to organizing around Black economic and political empowerment led in part by the American Descendants of Slaves Movement and the national reckoning on race that began last summer after the killing of George Floyd — has ushered in a political environment in the United States where many legislators are much more open than they have been in the past to reparations.

“We have to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time,” Padilla said. “We should be able to negotiate and advance an infrastructure package, and immigration reform and protect the rights of voters, and work on environmental protection, and address historical injustices like this.”

Earlier this month, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee voted to approve forming a committee to study the idea of providing reparations to African Americans.

Padilla is a veteran politician who’s worked his way up the political ladder, previously serving as a Los Angeles city councilman, a state senator and as Secretary of State before he was nominated in January to replace outgoing Sen. Kamala Harris.

Padilla said that he has been senator for less than 100 days, but he’s packed a lot into that short period. During his first couple of months, he participated in former Pres. Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial and voted to approve the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 intended to help Americans devastated economically by the coronavirus pandemic.

In the Senate, he is pushing and supporting a number of bills on a range of issues, including proposals focused on immigration reform (providing a pathway to citizenship for essential workers) and hate crimes against Asian Americans.   

The son of Mexican immigrants, Padilla grew up in the Pacoima, a Los Angeles neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley. His father worked for 40 years as a short-order cook and his late mother cleaned houses. Both parents were local activists who fought against violence in their community. Padilla said they were the inspiration for his political career.

“Through their hard work, we had a modest upbringing to put it mildly,” said Padilla. “We grew up with the values of service to others, and hard work, but we also saw our parents get very involved in the community.” 

 

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Vallejo Police Chief Issues Statement After Chauvin Verdict

“Creating a systemic culture that embraces the core values of dignity, safety, respect, and compassion is our charge in leadership and a call to action for us all. The status quo isn’t acceptable. We can and must do better. We will do better.”

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“Today, justice was appropriately served. Police officers should be guardians of the communities we are sworn to protect and serve. Our task is to embrace the principle of safety with respect — respect for human dignity, respect for the sanctity of life, and respect for what our communities are demanding of us.

“As a law enforcement executive, I acknowledge it is my obligation to lead with purpose and urgency. Policy change isn’t enough. Creating meaningful cultural change is imperative.

“Creating a systemic culture that embraces the core values of dignity, safety, respect, and compassion is our charge in leadership and a call to action for us all. The status quo isn’t acceptable. We can and must do better. We will do better.

“Those of us entrusted with the responsibility of law enforcement must build trust where we have it, restore trust where we’ve lost it, and earn trust where it never existed. These responsibilities should only be entrusted to those who have a record of successful accomplishments consistent with these values.

“This is what our citizens and communities want, this is what they deserve, and this is what we must deliver.”

Vallejo Chief of Police Shawny Williams

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