Things That Matter

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

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.

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A 6-Year-Old Girl Was Raped And Murdered And Her Suspected Attacker Was Burned Alive By Angry Residents

Things That Matter

A 6-Year-Old Girl Was Raped And Murdered And Her Suspected Attacker Was Burned Alive By Angry Residents

@WagingNonViolence / Twitter

Content warning: the following story contains details on two horrific crimes, including sexual abuse and violence against minors. Please reconsider reading this article if these issues are triggers.

A suspect pedophile and murderer was burnt alive by an angry mob in Chiapas, Mexico, after he was accused of ending the life of a 6-year-old girl.

Credit: SPD / Federal File

It is almost too gruesome and cruel to be believed. Alfredo Roblero, a 37-year-old man  from the municipality of Faja de Oro, was accused of sexually abusing and then decapitating Jarid N., a 6-year-old girl who was reported as missing on Thursday night.

Police officers from the neighboring city of Tapachula were called in and arrested Roblero. However, an angry mob pulled him out of the police vehicle. The mob took him to a public park, badly beat him, poured gasoline over his body and set him on fire. Some reports argue that the Tapachula police didn’t try to stop the attack.

As Mexico News Daily reports, the authorities later released a timid statement: “State police officers later arrived on the scene with forensics experts from the Chiapas Attorney General’s Office (FGE) to investigate. The FGE said it would ‘not allow the public to carry out justice by its own hand.” Sounds like too little, too late.

Sexual violence and murders against women is a sad and constant presence in Mexico’s social life, cases like this are a symptom of a much more generalized problem.

Credit: @WagingNonViolence / Twitter

There is no denying that to be a woman in Mexico is to be vulnerable. From archaic practices that see families basically selling their preteen daughters into marriage or prostitution to feminicides in various hotspots in the country including Ciudad Juarez and the State of Mexico, cases like Jarid N’s are scandalous but far from surprising.

There is a clear power imbalance when it comes to gender and physical threats to women are exacerbated by patriarchal discourses that basically shut down any form of political expression from women. In recent months, women have taken on the streets to protest, even painting over monuments that have long been held “sacred” by the State. But isn’t a woman’s life much more sacred than a piece of chiseled stone?

We would never condone such an act as violent and unlawful as lynching, but we gotta get some context on the justice system in Mexico.

Mexico has seen a rise in lynching in the last decade as corruption has seeped into every level of government and people have grown increasingly desperate when it comes to true justice being served. Oftentimes criminals just walk away after giving a juicy mordida (slang for bribe, but literally meaning “bite”) to the authorities, or just due to negligence or mismanagement of files and witness accounts.

Added to this, potential witnesses often feel intimidated by the authorities or the perpetrators and prefer to remain silent even if this means that unspeakable acts will go unpunished. So before you get on your high horse, take this context into account. As we said, we don’t condone this acts but the lawlessness in which vast sectors of Mexican society have survived helps explain why some see this as the only possible way in which justice can be served for someone who raped and severed the head of a little girl. 

There is also an ages-long mistrust of the government in Chiapas

The lynching of this man, as we said, is a crime in itself. It is important, however, to get some context. Chiapas, the southern state in which the lynching occurred, has a long history of mistrust of the Mexican government at one point the state even sought independence. Chiapanecos have been let down by everyone: members of every major political party (PRI, PAN, PRD) have governed the state and they have all come short on their promises. It is no coincidence that the now legendary Zapatista rebellion was born in this state. It would be a gross and big claim to say that all of this is directly related to the lynching, but these factors have certainly lay a fertile ground for citizens taking matters into their own hands. 

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The Police Officer Who Shot Atatiana Jefferson In Her Own Home Will Be Put On Trial For Murder

Things That Matter

The Police Officer Who Shot Atatiana Jefferson In Her Own Home Will Be Put On Trial For Murder

Atatiana Jefferson / Facebook

Of the numerous ways we lost friends, neighbors and members of the community this past year, the most frustratingly avoidable one was through police brutality. Unfortunately, the statistics for police brutality in the United States — specifically against Black and brown citizens — is staggering. According to MappingPoliceViolence.org, police killed 1,147 people in 2017. Black people were 25% of those killed despite being only 13% of the population. If you’re Black, you are 3 times more likely to be killed by the police than a white person. What’s even more unjust, of all these crimes and murders, those involving police officers usually don’t receive punishment. For example, in 2015, 99% of the cases involving defendants who were police officers saw no convictions. 

Despite these appalling statistics, the family of Atatiana Jefferson beat the odds and got one step closer to the justice they seek for her death this week when it was announced that former officer Aaron Dean was indicted for the crime of her murder. 

On December 20th, the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office in Fort Worth confirmed that a Texas Grand Jury voted to indict the 35 year-old former officer for the October shooting death of Jefferson, a 28-year-old pre-med graduate student. 

In the early morning hours of October 12, Jefferson was babysitting her 8 year-old nephew at her mother’s home. The two were playing video games together when the harmless family fun turned deadly. The pair heard something outside the house so Jefferson grabbed her licensed handgun and aimed it out the window. Almost instantly, the young grad student was shot and killed by Dean who — along with another officer — had entered the home.

The two cops were responding to a welfare check Jefferson’s neighbor had requested because they noticed the home’s front door was slightly open. According to the body-cam footage that was released after the incident, Dean did not identify himself as a police officer before discharging his weapon. Instead, the former officer simply stated the commands, “Put your hands up — show me your hands,” before a single shot is fired seconds later.

The decision to seek a grand jury indictment came a week after Jefferson’s death.

Public outcry demanded that the Tarrant County prosecutors take the case seriously. In a statement to the press, prosecutors revealed they had enough evidence to ask for this indictment, and intended to “prosecute this case to the fullest extent of the law.” Less than two days after the incident that resulted in Jefferson’s death, Dean had submitted his resignation to the force. Within hours of resignation, he was booked at Tarrant County Corrections Center for the murder to Jefferson and was later released on a $200,000 bond.

Police Chief Ed Kraus expressed frustration and anger at the former officer, promising, “Had the officer not resigned, I would have fired him for violations for several policies, including our use of force policy, our de-escalation policy and unprofessional conduct.”

Still, this is a rare case. Murder charges don’t often stick to police officers so Jefferson’s family and people who support justice for her life are taking it step by step. 

One of the attorney’s for the Jefferson Family, Lee Merritt took to Twitter to share the news of Dean’s substantial indictment. Still, this is a far step away from a conviction and even further from a sentencing. With all these steps still ahead for the Jefferson Family, the justice process is sure to be exhausting. Still, as Merritt tweeted, they must “keep pushing” until they get to the end and remain cautiously optimistic that the fairness of the law will prevail for Atatiana. 

The outrage that helped this case get this far was sparked by another act of police injustice in Texas. 

In 2018, Botham Jean was killed in his own home by neighbor police Officer Amber Guyger. She claimed that she thought Jean was an intruder in her apartment but mishandling of the case by the Dallas P.D. suggested a cover up and the story made national news. Guyger eventually resigned from the force and was found guilty of first degree murder. However, the former police officer was only given 10 years for her crime. A judge also recently dismissed the civil suit that the Jean family had against the City of Dallas and the Dallas P.D. for mishandling Botham’s murder investigation. If nothing else, hopefully the anger that’s felt for these unaddressed acts of police brutality will motivate the Jefferson case and find the justice Atatiana deserves.

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