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Report: Blacks Seven-Times More Likely than Whites to Be Wrongfully Convicted of Murder

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “From their very first interaction with the police, to being arrested, booked, charged, convicted, and sentenced, Black people are discriminated against and disproportionately criminalized at every stage of the criminal justice system,” according to the Innocence Project report, #BlackBehindBars: Sparking a conversation on the Black wrongful conviction experience in the U.S.

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By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Blacks are seven-times more likely than Whites to be wrongfully convicted of murder.

Further, Black people are three times more likely than White people to be wrongfully convicted of sexual assault.

This is all according to The Innocence Project, which recently shared the harsh reality of being Black behind bars and the survival mechanisms innocent people employ to overcome being wrongly convicted.

“From their very first interaction with the police, to being arrested, booked, charged, convicted, and sentenced, Black people are discriminated against and disproportionately criminalized at every stage of the criminal justice system,” according to the Innocence Project report, #BlackBehindBars: Sparking a conversation on the Black wrongful conviction experience in the U.S.

The report, which focuses on incarcerated individuals that have benefitted from the efforts of the Innocence Project, notes that to be a Black exoneree in America means:

  • You are one of the 222 Blacks (out of 365-total exonerees of all races), proved innocent by DNA since 1989, when the first exoneration by DNA occurred. This includes the 84 Blacks on death row that were exonerated (from a total of 164 exonerees of all races)
  • You spent an average of 10.7 years behind bars for a crime you didn’t commit vs. 7.4 years for White exonerees (approx. 25% longer, on average)

“How many people are convicted of crimes they did not commit?” asked Samuel R. Gross, a law professor at the University of Michigan, and the editor of the National Registry of Exonerations in a July 2015 opinion piece for the Washington Post, “ Last year, a study I co-authored on the issue was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It shows that 4.1 percent of defendants who are sentenced to death in the United States are later shown to be innocent: 1 in 25.”

“Death sentences are uniquely well-documented. We don’t know nearly enough about other kinds of criminal cases to estimate the rate of wrongful convictions for those,” said Gross. “The rate could be lower than for capital murders, or it could be higher. Of course, in a country with millions of criminal convictions a year and more than 2 million people behind bars, even 1 percent amounts to tens of thousands of tragic errors.”

“In West Virginia, where I was locked up, all of the guards were white. White inmates got the best jobs and were given a level of trust that black inmates did not get,” said Kenneth Lawson, the co-director of the Hawaii Innocence Project.

“The way prison is currently structured, I found myself forced to practice not trusting anyone in prison. I practiced this until it became automatic,” Lawson said.

“I was 21 years old when I was wrongfully convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison,” said exoneree Jabbar Collins.

“I spent the next 16 years of my life there, all while prosecutors hid crucial evidence, and yet, not one prosecutor who hid evidence was punished or disciplined. I ask you, how is this fair?” Collins said.

Sadly, “the time of false convictions isn’t over … wrongful convictions are one of the scourges of our criminal justice system,” Nora V. Demleitner, a Roy L. Steinheimer, Jr. Professor of Law at Washington and Lee University in Virginia, told NNPA Newswire.

“Yet, generally we’ll only find out about them for serious crimes with lengthy sentences. And, in those cases, the stakes are sufficiently high for outsiders to become interested and for attorneys to fight,” said Demleitner, who also serves as editor of the Federal Sentencing Reporter and the lead author of Sentencing Law and Policy.

Demleitner also sits on the board of the Prison Policy Initiative and the Collateral Consequences Resource Center.

“Even though prosecutors tend to argue that charges are based on the strength of the evidence rather than prior convictions, African-Americans may only come to the police’s attention as potential suspects because of a prior criminal record, however minor,” Demleitner said.

“So, the over-policing of minority neighborhoods that increases the chance for a police encounter likely also contributes to false convictions,” she said.

Dr. Shakti Butler, who consulted on Disney’s Academy Award-winning film, “Zootopia,” and has created widely used educational films and curricula addressing implicit bias and racial equity, told NNPA Newswire that the system continues to be alarmingly and increasingly unfair to African Americans.

“When I see data that speaks, yet again, to the gross inequities that impact Black People in this country my heart breaks,” Butler said.

“Isn’t it clear that data alone changes nothing. Data often validates and hardens perspectives that keep reproducing the status quo … We need action that dismantles systems of oppression and trauma. That action will only begin to take form once we address such uncomfortable questions and issues with vigorous courage, love and respect,” Butler said.

Black people in the United States have never been given a presumption of innocence in the criminal justice system, said Karen Thompson, the Innocence Project Senior Staff Attorney.

“Their entire relationship to justice is not a standard of not guilty but one of not guilty yet,” Thompsons said.

To view the report and the various experiences of those exonerated, click here.

Also, follow #BlackBehindBars on social media.

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IN MEMORIAM International Soccer Icon Pelé Dies at 82

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Sometimes called “Pérola Negra” (“Black Pearl”), Pelé became a Brazilian national hero. According to Britannica, he combined kicking power and accuracy with a remarkable ability to anticipate other players’ moves. 

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Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento in Três Corações, Brazil, on Oct. 23, 1940, Pelé became soccer’s first superstar.
Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento in Três Corações, Brazil, on Oct. 23, 1940, Pelé became soccer’s first superstar.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Pelé, the international star who was instrumental in three World Cup championships with Brazil across three decades and who energized U.S. soccer with the New York Cosmos in the 1970s, has died.

The 82-year-old legend had been hospitalized since November, and his doctors reported that Pelé’s cancer had advanced, requiring care related to renal and cardiac dysfunction.

He has been receiving regular treatment since doctors removed a tumor from his colon in 2021.

“Father. My strength is yours,” the international star’s son, Edinho, posted on social media.

Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento in Três Corações, Brazil, on Oct. 23, 1940, Pelé became soccer’s first superstar.

He led the Brazilian national teams to World Cup glory in 1958, 1962, and 1970.

In 1956, he joined the Santos Football Club, where he played inside left forward, winning nine São Paulo league championships and, in 1962 and 1963, the Libertadores Cup and the Intercontinental Club Cup.

Sometimes called “Pérola Negra” (“Black Pearl”), Pelé became a Brazilian national hero. According to Britannica, he combined kicking power and accuracy with a remarkable ability to anticipate other players’ moves.

“After the 1958 World Cup, Pelé was declared a national treasure by the Brazilian government to ward off large offers from European clubs and ensure that he would remain in Brazil,” Britannica researchers wrote.

On Nov. 19, 1969, in his 909th first-class match, he scored his 1,000th goal.

Pelé made his international debut in 1957 at age 16 and played his first game in the World Cup finals in Sweden the following year.

The Brazilian manager was initially hesitant to play his young star. But, according to Britannica, when Pelé finally reached the field, he had an immediate impact, rattling the post with one shot and collecting an assist.

He had a hat trick in the semifinal against France and two goals in the championship game, where Brazil defeated Sweden 5–2. At the 1962 World Cup finals, Pelé tore a thigh muscle in the second match and had to sit out the remainder of the tournament.

Nonetheless, Brazil went on to claim its second World Cup title.

Researchers said rough play and injuries turned the 1966 World Cup into a disaster for Brazil and Pelé, as the team went out in the first round, and he contemplated retiring from World Cup play.

Returning in 1970 for one more World Cup tournament, he teamed with young stars Jairzinho and Rivelino to claim Brazil’s third title and permanent ownership of the Jules Rimet Trophy. Pelé finished his World Cup career, scoring 12 goals in 14 games.

Pelé’s electrifying play and penchant for spectacular goals made him a worldwide star.

His team Santos toured internationally to take full advantage of his popularity. For example, in 1967, he and his team traveled to Nigeria, where a 48-hour cease-fire in that nation’s civil war was called to allow all to watch the great player.

Pelé announced his retirement in 1974 but, in 1975, agreed to a three-year $7 million contract with the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League and to promote the game in the United States. He retired after leading the Cosmos to the league championship in 1977.

Pelé was the recipient of the International Peace Award in 1978. In 1980 he was named Athlete of the Century by the French sports publication L’Equipe, and he received the same honor in 1999 from the International Olympic Committee. In 2014 the Pelé Museum opened in Santos, Brazil.

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COMMENTARY: Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin: Avoid Burnout with These Simple Tips

THE AFRO — Although it cannot be medically diagnosed, burnout can lead people to lose their sense of self and feel as if they are not accomplishing enough. Since the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Psychological Association found that the risk of burnout has increased for workers due to extra stress, increased household demands and longer working hours. 
The post COMMENTARY: Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin: Avoid Burnout with These Simple Tips first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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By Megan Sayles | AFRO Business Writer
Report for America Corps Member
msayles@afro.com

We’ve all heard the age-old saying that “hard work pays off.”  But, sometimes, working too hard can do more harm than good.

“Burnout” is a form of work-related stress in which an individual experiences physical, emotional or mental exhaustion caused by their job’s demands. It can also make workers feel distanced from their jobs and engender negative feelings about them, according to the World Health Organization.

Although it cannot be medically diagnosed, burnout can lead people to lose their sense of self and feel as if they are not accomplishing enough. Since the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Psychological Association found that the risk of burnout has increased for workers due to extra stress, increased household demands and longer working hours.

This makes it even more important for people to know the signs of burnout and the strategies to combat it.

Natasha Charles is the founder and CEO of Intuitive Coaching with Natasha Charles, a comprehensive life coaching and consulting firm. She created the business after gaining 20 years in senior administration roles.

Charles was motivated to open the firm in 2018 out of a desire to create a business focused on inspiring continuous improvement. There, she works with individuals and executives to create lives that they love and offers them personalized solutions to address critical work and business challenges.

“It’s really about thinking about you, the person, and all that you are,” Charles said. “People tend to be very focused on one aspect of their life, and a lot of times, it’s about their career, so it’s really about making space for all of your goals and all of your dreams.”

When someone experiences burnout, Charles said they could be actively doing their job while simultaneously worrying about their other responsibilities and priorities, whether personal or work-related. She also stressed that burnout can be experienced no matter what profession you are in and what you are being paid.

Aside from the physical and mental impacts of stress, burnout can impact finances if it causes an employee to take extended periods of time off or miss work, according to Charles. It can also reduce their productivity.

In the beginning of 2022, the term “quiet quitting” emerged, and for some, it’s being used as a method to avoid burnout. It involves individuals meeting the minimum requirements of their job descriptions, investing no extra time or effort than what is mandatory.

For Charles, quiet quitting is a signal that a person is not fulfilled by their job and may need to think about changing workplaces or careers.

“I get that people are not always able to up and quit, and it can take time to find what that next role is,” Charles said. “I would come from a space of encouraging the person to start thinking about what that is. What is it that you ultimately desire to be doing in your life and seeing your work?”

One of the most important steps in reducing and preventing burnout is educating yourself about the syndrome, so you can be aware of the warning signs, according to Charles. She also said it was crucial for employers to talk to their employees about it.

Awareness can help prevent the shame and guilt that comes with burnout and allow people to give themselves grace.

After a person has weighed whether they are experiencing burnout or not, they should think about how they want to confront it. This could include engaging in self-care, asking for extra support at work or home, and creating stronger boundaries between their personal and professional lives.

When burnout is impacting your performance, it’s time to consider making a career change, Charles said.

To ensure your work life does not invade your personal life, Charles said people need to assess the goals they have for all areas of their life. Once you’ve set goals, it’s easier to devise a plan and set the necessary boundaries to achieve them.

Charles also said it’s important to carve out time for yourself where you’re not constantly checking your phone or email for work reasons.

“There is life beyond your work. There is an entire world out there to be discovered,” Charles said. “There’s a world within us to be discovered as well, and I encourage everyone to invest in discovering those pieces.”

This article originally appeared in The Afro.

The post COMMENTARY: Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin: Avoid Burnout with These Simple Tips first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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Tory Lanez Found Guilty in Meg Thee Stallion Shooting 

NNPA NEWSWIRE — The case fired up social media and highlighted the misogyny that still reigns in hip hop. Many on Twitter routinely attacked Megan, accusing her of lying among other vicious vitriolic comments.
The post Tory Lanez Found Guilty in Meg Thee Stallion Shooting  first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Canadian rapper Tory Lanez faces more than 20 years in prison and deportation after a jury in Los Angeles found him guilty in the 2020 shooting of hip hop star Megan Thee Stallion.

Lane, 30, was found guilty of three felony counts, including assault with an unregistered semiautomatic weapon, carrying a loaded gun, and discharging a firearm in a vehicle with gross negligence.

The case fired up social media and highlighted the misogyny that still reigns in hip hop. Many on Twitter routinely attacked Megan, accusing her of lying among other vicious vitriolic comments.

The 27-year-old Megan, whose real name is Megan Pete, testified that Lanez offered her hush money and didn’t care about her injuries and pain suffered because he shot her.

Lanez, who declined to testify, claimed there was another shooter, Pete’s friend who was also arguing with the hit maker as they drove home from a party.

“[Lanez] told me to dance,” Pete told the jury, adding that he also cursed at her following the shooting.

Sentencing for Lanez is scheduled for Jan. 27.

“You showed incredible courage and vulnerability with your testimony despite repeated and grotesque attacks that you did not deserve,” Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon said, referring to Pete.

“You faced unjust and despicable scrutiny that no woman should ever face, and you have been an inspiration to others across LA County and the nation.”

The post Tory Lanez Found Guilty in Meg Thee Stallion Shooting  first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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