Things That Matter

The DA In Los Angeles Is Only Going For The Death Penalty In Cases Involving Defendants Who Are People Of Color

ib_2real / Twitter

According to a new report by the ACLU, Los Angeles’ District Attorney is continuing to seek the death penalty despite a state-wide moratorium on capital punishment.

What’s more? She’s only seeking the death penalty against defendants who are black, Latino, or Asian.

The ACLU report was highlighted by news from The Guardian.

Credit: @theappeal / Twitter

Los Angeles has sentenced more people to death than any other county in the US, and only people of color have received the death penalty under the region’s current prosecutor, a new report shows.

LA county’s district attorney, Jackie Lacey, has won death sentences for a total of 22 defendants, all people of color, and eight of them were represented by lawyers with serious misconduct charges prior or after their cases.

Even though there is a moratorium on the death penalty in California, LA’s district attorney is still seeking the death penalty.

Credit: @UdiACLU / Twitter

The District Attorney has also continued to seek the death penalty despite the fact that California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, issued a moratorium on capital punishment, with an executive order officially halting executions in the state.

The governor’s moratorium affects the 737 inmates currently awaiting execution in California, who will not be put to death while Newsom is in office. Lacey, however, is continuing to seek the death penalty, despite the fact that a majority of voters in LA county have twice voted in favor of death penalty repeal measures.

Not only is she seeking the death penalty, but she’s also breaking records.

Credit: @davidminpdx / Twitter

In the last five years, LA produced more death sentences per capita than any large county in Texas, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Utah or Washington – and sent more people to death row than the states of Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Virginia combined.

And out of more than 3,100 counties nationwide, LA was one of only four to have more than one death sentence. Let those numbers sink in.

And it’s usage is highlighting the built-in racism in our criminal justice system.

Credit: @ACLU / Twitter

Lacey began her role as DA in 2012 and since then zero, yes zero, white defendants have been sentenced to death. Yet her capital punishment sentences disproportionately targeted cases involving white victims.

For example, white people only made up 12% of LA’s homicide victims yet 36% of Lacey’s death penalty wins involved white victims.

And perhaps most telling, of the 22 defendants sentenced to death under Lacey, 13 were Latino, eight were black and one was Asian. Zero were white.

Lacey has also faced intense scrutiny for her refusal to prosecute police officers who kill civilians, even in the most damning circumstances.

For her part, the DA says the death penalty has not been abolished by voters and she continues to enforce the law.

In a statement to The Guardian, Lacey said: “As a career prosecutor, I believe the death penalty is the appropriate punishment for some crimes – a serial killer, someone who tortures and kills a young child, the person who rapes and then kills the victim to silence his only witness or someone who kills a police officer trying to do her job safely.”

The people, especially the communities most in danger because of her policies, have had enough.

Credit: @ib_2real / Twitter

Protests and Twitter campaigns have become the norm with nearly weekly marches taking place across Los Angeles demanding further answers from the DA.

Many on Twitter had questions about how she could still be pursuing the death penalty if there was a moratorium.

Credit: @theappeal / Twitter

Same though… Like if you’re governor has basically decreed that the death penalty isn’t in effect while he’s in office, why would you keep pushing for the death penalty?

Other’s on Twitter weren’t so surprised by the disappointing news.

Minority communities have long been targets for increased and unfair prosecutions, arrests, and stricter sentencing. For many this is just business as normal.

Cyntoia Brown Was Finally Released From Prison After 15 Years– This Is What Resistance Looks Like

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Cyntoia Brown Was Finally Released From Prison After 15 Years– This Is What Resistance Looks Like

After spending almost half her life behind bars, Cyntoia Brown was released on parole early Wednesday morning, according to the Tennessee Department of Corrections.  Brown, who was sentenced to life in prison when she was 16 years old after killing a man who allegedly forced her into sex, served 15 years in the Tennessee Prison for Women. 

Now, at 31, she is slated to begin her life on parole for the next 10 years.

As part of her parole, Brown is required to maintain employment or educational enrollment, participate in regular counseling sessions and perform at least 50 hours of community service, including working with at-risk youth.

Brown earned her associate degree from Lipscomb University in 2015 with a 4.0 GPA, obtained a bachelor’s degree in the Tennessee Prison for Women in May and has regularly worked with the state’s juvenile justice system to help counsel young people at risk. Her case gained national attention last December when a Tennessee Supreme Court ruled she would have to serve 51 years in prison before being eligible for parole. High-profiled celebrities like Rihanna, Kim Kardashian West, Lebron James and Cara Delevingne joined choirs of activists and outraged citizens advocating for her release and funding legal support.

“Something his (sic) horribly wrong when the system enables these rapists and the victim is thrown away for life,” Rihanna captioned a post on Instagram in November 2017.

Kardashian West shared the pop star’s post on Twitter

 “The system has failed. Its heartbreaking to see young girl sex trafficked then when she has the courage to fight back is jailed for life! We have to do better & do what’s right,” she added. 

With mounting pressure, former Gov. Bill Haslam took the rare step of commuting Brown’s sentence earlier this year.

In January, Haslan called the sentence “too harsh,” especially considering the “extraordinary steps” she had “taken to rebuild her life” while incarcerated.

“I thank Governor and First Lady Haslam for their vote of confidence in me and with the Lord’s help I will make them, as well as the rest of my supporters, proud,” Brown said in a statement released Monday, as reported by USA Today.

Before her release, which occurred at 3 a.m. on Wednesday, she met with counselors to create a plan for her life outside of prison. According to Tennessee’s Department of Corrections, the proposal included joining and participating in a transition center and continuing coursework with the Lipscomb University program. Brown, who was recently married while in prison, also has a book deal. “Free Cyntoia: My Search for Redemption in the American Prison System” will be released October 15.

In the years leading to her release, advocates have referred to her case as an example of the “sexual abuse-to-prison pipeline,” which represents the unjust imprisonment of child sex trafficking victims and survivors of sexual abuse, particularly girls of color, to rally lawmakers and juvenile justice reformers to push for anti-trafficking laws and more support, rather than incarceration, for child survivors.

As a teenager, Brown was forced into sex work by a 24-year-old pimp named “Cut Throat” who used to verbally and physically abuse her. 

On Aug. 6, 2004, court documents note that she met 43-year-old Johnny Mitchell Allen, a Nashville real estate agent, in the parking lot of a Sonic Drive-In. After agreeing to be paid $150 for sex, the two went to his home. There, Brown said that Allen showed her multiple guns in a cabinet. At one point, she alleges that the man reached under his bed, seemingly grabbing a firearm. Frightened by the thought that he was planning on killing her, Brown said she took a gun out of her purse and fatally shot Allen.

While Brown has always claimed she killed Allen in self-defense, the prosecution argued that because she took Allen’s wallet after she shot him in the back of the head at close range, that the motive was robbery.

She was convicted of first-degree murder, first-degree felony murder and aggravated robbery, which carried, in total, two concurrent life sentences and eight additional years.

However, because Gov. Haslam used his exclusive power to grant executive clemency toward the end of his term, Brown’s sentence was commuted.

Last week, the former Tennessee governor said his decision was based on the state’s evolving approach to juvenile justice, an understanding of Brown’s troubling background and her growth behind bars.

“She, in her own words, did something horrible. She made a really bad decision as a very young woman,” Haslam told USA Today

Brown, who has expressed gratitude to Haslam and her supporters, who last week started a GoFundMe campaign that as of Wednesday afternoon has raised more than $23 thousand, said she feels blessed and ready to use her story and experiences to help others.

“I’m blessed to have a very supportive family and friends to support me in the days to come. I look forward to using my experiences to help other women and girls suffering abuse and exploitation,” she said.

Read: Cyntoia Brown Will Be Released From Prison Next Week And Supporters Have Already Started A GoFundMe

Latino Students Are Being Put Into School With Fewer White Students And That Often Means Schools With Fewer Resources

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Latino Students Are Being Put Into School With Fewer White Students And That Often Means Schools With Fewer Resources

If you’ve been paying attention to the Democratic debates, you might be feeling some type of way about CNN’s repeated taking to task of Vice President Joe Biden for voting against busing to desegregate public schools in the 1970s. Some feel frustrated to hear this issue be brought up. One Twitter user lamented. “Good grief. Enough about busing. Focus people. We have a corrupt, racist criminal in the White House. Stop helping him.”

Meanwhile, Latinx journalists like Yamiche Alcindor are wondering out loud, “Why are we talking about busing 50 years ago when schools are segregated today? We need a conversation about what is happening now.” The research from three universities definitively conclude that Latino students in California public schools are more racially segregated from white peers than any other state. In fact, it’s only “intensifying.”

Last week, University of California Berkley released a study that concluded that, nationwide, Latino children are likely to enter elementary schools with fewer white peers than a generation ago.

@educationweek / Twitter

The definition of segregation in the case of the study isn’t by individual race or ethnicity, but rather by the obvious educational and funding benefits that white students receive over black and brown students. The authors of the research report that this matters because “”racially segregating students of color … often corresponds with unfair financing of schools, regressive allocation of quality teachers and culturally limited curricula.” It benefits minority students to be integrated with a white majority (read: better funded) school. 

In 1998, the average Latino student in elementary school found themselves in a student body where 40% of the students were white. By 2015, that number dropped to 30%, even though the population of Latinos in this country has skyrocketed.

The numbers just become drastically worse in urban areas.

@FDCSD / Twitter

Again, the problem isn’t inherent in a black and brown student body. It’s systematic racism that determines that implicitly implies that the more white students in the classroom, the better the funding and, therefore, education is going to be for everyone. Research shows that black students who attend integrated schools have higher rates of earning bachelor’s degrees and higher wages overall compared to black students who are effectively segregated.

In urban areas across the country, the average Latino finds themselves in a student body that is just 5% white. That reinforces class lines and prevents the diversity of ideas to be spread across those very lines.

The good news is that Latina mothers are progressively becoming more educated.

@kayashley_x / Twitter

UC Berkley’s research team produced an in-depth report on the intersection of education and the Latino community, which includes the impacts of segregation and beyond. Bruce Fuller is the lead researcher and a professor of education and public policy at Berkley. Fuller is happy to report that his “Berkeley-led team found that college-going rates of Latina mothers have climbed steadily since 1998. These women show little hesitation to assimilate, while enriching their bilingual skills, then moving into better jobs and suburbs that host integrated schools.”

The seemingly largest factor in Latino children having a better education is a result of their parents becoming more and more educated.

@latimes / Twitter

The research confirms our own personal anecdotes. As Latinos finally enter the middle class, families are moving to middle class neighborhoods with schools that are just likelier to be more integrated. In an interview, Fuller says that as young Latino families become more educated, it “allows for movement into more economically-integrated communities. Now [these communities] might still be predominantly Latino, but at least we’re achieving economic integration for many, many Latino kids.”

“If we can get poor kids in the same classrooms as middle-class kids,” Fuller said, “we’re probably going to see stronger educational outcomes.”

*Shocking* research that bilingual skills offer higher pay is also motivating schools to implement dual-language campuses.

It doesn’t have to be Spanish either. According to Fuller, “One popular elementary school immerses students in classes taught in both Mandarin and English, starting in kindergarten. It’s a “microcosm of the world,” Principal Darlene Martin said.”

Fuller’s research compares the demographics of various counties across the U.S. and tries to understand what policies allow for greater racial integration. “Part of this stems from differing patterns of housing segregation,” he reports. “Still, educators differ in their will to build magnet schools and dual-language programs, which white parents find rigorous and attractive.”

Fuller wants to see political leaders explain “how they aim to bring the nation’s kaleidoscope of children under one roof.”

@13Who_Gaga / Twitter

Fuller concludes his research with this powerful statement: “Let’s look forward and build from what works, recognizing that nurturing mutual respect grows from tender mercies each day in classrooms, not from polarizing squabbles over the past.”