The Miami Herald reported a story so crazy it could only have happened in Florida. A man, Claudy Charles, stands accused of intentionally setting his own car on fire in South Miami-Dade. If convicted, he faces second-degree arson charges… So, it’s up to a ragtag group of his peers and a hot-shot attorney named Stephen Gutierrez, whose specialized knowledge of exothermic science might be his only chance in this classic case of courtroom drama.
To help his client beat an arson case, a lawyer tried the old ‘spontaneous combustion’ argument…
As the 28-year old defense attorney presented his case before jurors, he claimed that the defendant didn’t intentionally set fire to his own car — but rather, it “spontaneously combusted.” Who hasn’t seen that age-old story played out a hundred times? Classic boy loves car, boy (allegedly) sets fire to car scenario.
When, out of nowhere, he, himself, spontaneously combusted…
During his closing arguments, he suddenly “… rushed out of the Miami courtroom…” Apparently, he’d been “fiddling” in his pocket when, unexpectedly, smoke began pouring from his pants “…leaving spectators stunned” as his right pocket burst into flames — possibly set ablaze by the burning irony of justice — causing him to flee like the man on fire. Been there, brother…
Later, with a visibly singed pocket and an explanation involving the faulty battery of an e-cigarette, our hero returned to find the jury missing from the courtroom. Reportedly, they’d been ushered out during his in-seam inferno and now he’d be robbed of his slow burning “ta-da” moment.
And In the end, he lost the case — so in the eyes of our justice system, the 48-year old defendant lit his own car on fire. Obviously.
His client was convicted of second-degree arson. Like the fella says, “it’s better to burn out than fade away” anyway… Oh, and as far as arsons go, second-degree is at least the second worst kind of arson there is, IMO.
On Monday, more than 400 Oklahoma inmates were released from prison following the nation’s largest single-day mass commutation in history. The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board unanimously voted to commute the sentences of 527 state inmates. Yesterday, 462 of them were able to walk free while 65 are being held on detainer.
Governor Kevin Stitt, a Republican, former mortgage company CEO, and criminal justice reform advocate, has pledged to step away from outdated policies. Oklahoma has the second-highest incarceration (after Louisiana) in the United States, according to the Sentencing Project.
The freed inmates are all low-level or non-violent offenders who may not have been commuted without Oklahoma voters’ approving criminal justice proposals in 2016.
Oklahoma governor greets freed inmates at a woman’s prison.
Stitt said he believes the commutation will give many residents a “second chance” at a news conference.
“This marks an important milestone of Oklahomans wanting to focus the state’s efforts on helping those with nonviolent offenses achieve better outcomes in life,” Stitt said, according to NBC News. “The historic commutation of individuals in Oklahoma’s prisons is only possible because our state agencies, elected officials, and partnering organizations put aside politics and worked together to move the needle.”
The governor attended Dr. Eddie Warrior Center, an all-women’s prison, where now-former inmates were emotionally embracing family and friends.
“We really want you to have a successful future,” Stitt told the crowd. “This is the first day of the rest of your life. … Let’s make it so you guys do not come back here again.”
The state plans on going beyond just releasing inmates.
“With this vote, we are fulfilling the will of Oklahomans,” Steve Bickley, executive director of the parole board, said in a statement Friday. “However, from Day One, the goal of this project has been more than just the release of low-level, nonviolent offenders, but the successful re-entry of these individuals back into society.”
The state government is not just releasing the inmates, but also making sure they receive a proper government-issued driver’s license or ID card. These are essential items that allow inmates to reintegrate back into society, making jobs and housing more attainable.
“It has been a moving experience to see our state and community partners help connect our inmates with the resources they need for a successful reentry and I thank Governor Stitt, DOC Director Scott Crow, and the many local nonprofits, churches, and job creators that stepped up to ensure these inmates have every opportunity for success,” Bickley said.
Voters usher in a new era of criminal justice reform in Oklahoma.
In 2016, Oklahoma voters approved a ballot measure by a 16 percentage point margin to decrease prison rolls, and to downgrade drug and property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors.
“Basically, in Oklahoma, we’re just warehousing people in prison, and we’re not trying to rehabilitate anybody because of budget constraints,” Bobby Cleveland, a Republican state representative and chairman of the Public Safety Committee, told the New York Times.
Stitt, who was elected in 2018, also signed a bill this year that retroactively adjusted sentences for those who had their charges downgraded. This paved the way for the mass commutation to happen expediently.
The United States has the highest incarceration in the world.
The United States has the largest prison population in the world. According to the Sentencing Project, the 500 percent increase in incarceration rates over the last 40 years is due to policy not an increase in crime. In fact, crime, especially violent crimes have significantly decreased, dropping by 51 percent to 71 percent between 1993 and 2018, Pew Research notes.
“Since the official beginning of the War on Drugs in the 1980s, the number of people incarcerated for drug offenses in the U.S. skyrocketed from 40,900 in 1980 to 452,964 in 2017,” the Sentencing Project claims. “Today, there are more people behind bars for a drug offense than the number of people who were in prison or jail for any crime in 1980. The number of people sentenced to prison for property and violent crimes has also increased even during periods when crime rates have declined.”
Unnecessarily high incarceration rates have negative effects on various communities. Moreover, they specifically harm communities of color who are often targets of law enforcement despite numerous studies that show races and ethnicities commit crimes at roughly the same rates.
While people of color are 37 percent of the United States population, they make up 67 percent of the prison population. Black men are six times more likely to be incarcerated as white men while Latinx men are twice as likely — both groups face harsher sentences for committing the same crimes as their white peers.
Oklahoma, a state where Trump swept every county in 2016, illuminates how criminal justice reform has become a bipartisan issue — simply too many people are affected for the issue to go unchallenged.
An Orlando, Florida police offer was fired after arresting two 6-year-old black children at school. The officer suspected the two 6-year-old committed “misdemeanor battery.” In both incidents, the officer handcuffed the first graders with zip ties. The firing comes after public outcries of support for the 6-year-old girl, who many felt was grotesquely mistreated by the police officer. To anyone who understands institutional racism and the school-to-prison pipeline, this comes as no surprise.
“The school-to-prison pipeline is the path through which unfair treatment of adolescents leads to involvement in the criminal justice system. However, efforts to correct this problem often fail to include black girls, who are six times more likely to receive an out-of-school suspension than their white counterparts,” writes Mackenzie Chakra for American Progress.
Research shows that black children are perceived as less innocent than white children, and as early as age 5 black girls are viewed as older than white girls of the same age. Black children are 10 times more likely to face discipline for typical childhood behavior like tantrums or class disruptions.
Fortunately, this is a rare case where the two children were not fully processed and eaten up by the system.
How does a 6-year-old commit misdemeanor battery?
WFTV spoke to Meralyn Kirkland the 6-year-old’s grandmother. Kirkland says that her daughter has sleep apnea and is prone to temper tantrums because she is exhausted a lot of the time. Teachers are aware of the girl’s condition. However, one day the girl kicked a staff member which prompted police intervention. I am sure the kick hurt a lot and the full-grown adult is seriously injured (not).
The 6-year-old was arrested and brought to a Juvenile Assessment Center where Kirkland discovered her granddaughter had been arrested for battery.
“I asked them for her, and they told me she was currently in process of being fingerprinted. And I think when they said fingerprinted is when it hit home to me. And I’m, like, fingerprinted? And they said yes, and they escorted me into an office and on the desk in that officer were two mugshot pictures of my 6-year-old granddaughter,” Kirkland said.
When Orlando police found out the officer did not get his supervisor’s approval for arresting the girl, they say they stopped the little one from being fully processed. However, Kirkland is less convinced because she has paperwork that requires her granddaughter to appear in court for the battery charge. Reporters are unsure of the events that led to the arrest of the second child on the same day.
The officer is fired
Initially, the officer was arrested, but he has now been fired. Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolón said the situation made him “sick to his stomach.”
“When I first learned about this, we were all appalled and we could not fathom the idea of a 6-year-old being put in the back of a police car,” Rolón said at a news conference. “It’s still shocking to us. To have something like this happen was completely and totally a surprise to all of us.”
Department officials claim that the resource officer has a strict policy that prohibits officers from arresting children under the age of 12 without approval from their manager.
“It was clear today when I came into work that there was no other remedy than to terminate this officer,” Rolón said.
The resource officer in question does not have a clean record himself, in 1998 he was charged with aggravated child abuse after bruises and welts were discovered on his 7-year-old son. He was also subjected to four internal investigations (two of which were for excessive force as recent as 2016), and in another incident, the resource officer threatened the husband of a woman he had been dating. So it is really cool of this school to have this man around children and for the police force to have employed him for years (not).
Charges dropped against 6-year-old
State Attorney for Orange and Osceola counties Aramis Ayala said she had no intention of prosecuting either 6-year-old.
“I can assure you that there will be no criminal prosecution for a misdemeanor battery for these elementary children in my name or on my watch,” Ayala said. “Unlike some, I will not presume guilt or dangerousness of a child based on any demographic.”
Ayala hopes to stop the school to prison pipeline where it starts by choosing not to prosecute literal children for misbehaving at school.
“We must explore better options as a state. We must raise the expectations of how we respond in difficult situations,” Ayala said. “This is not a reflection on the children, but more of a reflection of a broken system that is in need of reform. It’s time to address juvenile legislation in ways that better protect the interests of children and their development.”
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