• Chanel Lewis Deserves A Fair Trial
    Under Queens DA Richard A. Brown's watch, a local judge has denied three motions that have brought new evidence of racial profiling and prosecutorial misconduct to the case of Chanel Lewis - a Black, disabled man from Howard Beach who was convicted of murder on April 1st and is facing the possibility of life without parole.  Chanel, who recently graduated from the Michael De Porres School for developmentally delayed children, was handed a guilty verdict after just five hours of jury deliberation in his second trial, the first having been declared a mistrial with a hung jury. One of the jurors from his second trial has already come forward anonymously to say he is concerned they may have convicted the wrong man, claiming that they were never given access to Chanel’s taped confessions, and that when the jury alerted Judge Michael Aloise that they were deadlocked, he pressured them to come to a verdict that night, anyway. Chanel’s conviction comes on the heels of an anonymous tip that has revealed the existence of a previously unreported NYPD database of DNA swabs of over 350 Black men from the neighborhood. Many of these men, like Chanel, had no prior contact with the criminal justice system and were questioned and swabbed despite the fact that the NYPD’s investigation named two “‘jacked up’ white men” as its initial suspects. Months after Vetrano’s murder, Chanel became a suspect after being profiled by an officer in the neighborhood who followed him for ‘looking suspicious.’ In both trials, Chanel’s defense has pointed to the ways that the collection and transportation of DNA samples from the crime scene were mishandled by the NYPD. And they say that during both trials, they were not alerted to the existence of the DNA database by the prosecution at all, a clear Brady violation. To anyone who followed the Central Park Five case in Chanel’s very own city three decades ago, this will sound painfully familiar. There is a long history of faulty, inconsistent DNA testing and coerced confessions being used to secure the false convictions of Black people in this country.  As a Black man and a disabled person who was not granted access to the support or advocacy that was his constitutional right, Chanel Lewis' case sets a precedent for continued profiling within a racially biased and unbalanced judiciary system. This is not right. Despite the prosecution’s mishandling of this case and despite the fact that Judge Aloise was given credible evidence that pointed to the possible existence of another suspect, both he and the Queens DA’s office have insisted that they have found Karina Vetrano’s killer. Those of us who have watched countless Black people criminalized and convicted on insufficient or shaky evidence say that this is not enough. We demand that Queens DA Richard A. Brown go on the record and give a public accounting of the prosecutorial misconduct related to Chanel’s case now! Judge denies motion for mistrial in Karina Vetrano case | WPIX 11 New York https://pix11.com/2019/04/01/judge-denies-motion-for-mistrial-in-karina-vetrano-case/ https://queenseagle.com/all/2019/4/2/exclusive-i-was-only-white-person-that-didnt-rush-to-find-him-guilty-vetrano-juror-says https://www.newsweek.com/police-dna-database-nypd-swab-testing-collection-new-york-1326722 Chanel Lewis, 22, is currently on retrial accused of raping and strangling 30-year-old Karina Vetrano - Buzz News 24 Hours https://www.buzznews24hours.com/chanel-lewis-22-is-currently-on-retrial-accused-of-raping-and-strangling-30-year-old-karina-vetrano/ Case of Jogger’s Murder Hinges, in Part, on Questions Over a Police Stop - The New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/22/nyregion/case-of-karina-vetrano-murder-hinges-in-part-on-questions-over-a-police-stop.html Questions Around the Chanel Lewis Conviction | The Brian Lehrer Show | WNYC https://www.wnyc.org/story/questions-around-chanel-lewis-conviction/ Brady Rule | Wex Legal Dictionary / Encyclopedia | LII / Legal Information Institute https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/brady_rule
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  • Thank You For Pledging “No Executions in California”
    On Wednesday, March 13, California Governor Gavin Newsom made history by announcing that he would not allow the state to execute anyone on his watch. “Our death penalty system has been – by any measure – a failure...And as governor, I will not oversee the execution of any individual.” Sign our message to Gov. Newsom, thanking him for championing criminal justice reform, and join social justice, faith, and human rights leaders in calling on other officials to follow suit. This is a historic step. With 738 people, California has the largest death row in the Western Hemisphere. 738 people were waiting to know if and when the government would execute them. Two out of every three prisoners on death row are people of color. At least one-third have serious mental illnesses. More than half were 25 or younger when they committed their crimes. Many of them may be innocent. Many more come from just a small handful of counties that happen to have bloodthirsty District Attorneys. No one should be sentenced to death – let alone executed – under such circumstances, and Gov. Newsom ensured that will never happen as long as he is in office. Governor Newsom’s order gives indefinite reprieves to all 738 people on death row. It also withdraws the state’s lethal injection protocol, and instructs officials to close the execution chamber at San Quentin prison. This is an example of just and moral leadership, and one that the country badly needs in this time of division and anger. While many in power call for reactionary and oppressive policies – often accompanied by thinly-veiled racism and calls to vigilante violence – Gov. Newsom is charting a more just and humane course.
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  • #Free21Savage Stop the Deportation of She’yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph
    The hundreds of ICE assaults and detention of Black immigrants is an endemic in the United States, and is too often carried out with the assistance of local law enforcement. On February 3rd in the early afternoon, organizers were alerted to the arrest and detention of rapper, father, community activist and friend She’yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph -21 Savage. The circumstances of Mr. Abraham-Joseph's detention stand as a testament to the consistent and historically under-reported harassment and targeting of Black immigrants. The US' violent history of criminalizing Blackness intersects with its deadly legacy of detaining and deporting Black and Brown immigrants. This needs to stop today! There are around 4.2 Million Black immigrants in the U.S. - 619,000 are undocumented. Mr. Abraham-Joseph has been in the United States since he was a young child. Atlanta is his home. He has no current or prior criminal convictions and he is beloved by his friends, fans and family. It is shameful that he and so many Black immigrants are separated from their families on a daily basis as part of the US's heartless and racist immigration policies. Demand that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) stop the deportation of She’yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph - 21 Savage NOW!
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  • Tell Mayor Bill de Blasio to End Arrests, Summons, and Juvenile Reports in Schools
    New York City (NYC) must reverse policies that have proven ineffective at creating safe and supportive environments for students. Policing in schools promotes the exclusion and criminalization of Black and Latinx students, rather than their education. NYC should end arrests, as well as the issuance of summonses and juvenile reports, in schools for non-criminal violations and misdemeanors. Research shows that policing in schools fails to make schools safer or reduce bullying or fighting. The presence of police criminalizes typical adolescent behavior, such as disorderly conduct, which is the number one reason for summons in our schools. Experiencing an arrest for the first time in high school nearly doubles the odds of the student dropping out, and a court appearance nearly quadruples the odds of the student dropping out. Police in NYC schools largely police low-level offenses, including normal youthful behavior. In the last year, nearly 85 percent of all arrests, summonses, and NYPD juvenile reports of young people in NYC schools were for misdemeanors and violations. For Black and Latinx students our schools continue to be an on-ramp into the criminal justice system. Policing in schools creates extreme and persistent racial disparities. -Black girls are 10.4 times more likely to be arrested and 6.3 times more likely to be issued a summons than their White peers. -Black boys are 5.6 times more likely to be arrested and 9 times more likely to receive a summons than White boys. -Black and Latinx students account for 92% of all summons and 89% of all arrests. To end racial disparities in arrests, summons, and juvenile reports, the city must commit to ending these practices altogether. Instead of criminalizing young people, New York City should invest in supportive services like restorative justice, mental health supports, guidance counselors, and social workers.
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  • De-prioritize low-level marijuana arrests in Buffalo #BuffaloLLEP
    New York state decriminalized possessing small amounts of marijuana 40 years ago, but a disproportionate number of black people continue to be arrested in Buffalo every year. The unequal enforcement is a result of the "war on drugs." Exposure to the criminal justice system has severe impacts on employment, mental health, family stability and financial security. Mayor Byron Brown has the ability to make marijuana the LLEP, or "lowest level enforcement priority" for the Buffalo Police Department. This means that instead of arresting black and brown folks for marijuana, police will be able to focus on building positive, trusting relationships with communities of color, making us all safer. On the commemorative year of decriminalization, tell Mayor Brown that you support him in LLEP (#BuffaloLLEP)!
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  • Calling for the Removal/Resignation of sitting U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi
    Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith's comments on November 2nd, 2018, regarding her willingness to sit “on the front row” at a “public hanging” if invited are not only deeply offensive, they provide further evidence of her blatant disregard for her oath to uphold the Constitution. Senator Hyde-Smith’s failure to stand up to the injustice of hanging deaths in the past and her approval of such violence presently, should bar her from serving as a U.S. Senator or in any government position in the state of Mississippi. She has refused to acknowledge the insensitive and deeply offensive nature of her remarks. A leader who cannot thoughtfully reflect on her actions and their potential harm is unfit to lead.
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  • Keep Your Promises to Black Voters!
    The people of New Jersey need your help. In 2017, 94 Percent of Black voters cast their ballots for Governor Murphy. Without this support from the Black community, it is unlikely that Phil Murphy would be New Jersey’s governor—53 percent of white voters supported his opponent. But nine months into his administration, Governor Murphy has not focused on critical issues facing the 94 percent: 1) Transforming New Jersey’s youth justice system: New Jersey has a shameful system of youth incarceration in which a Black child is 30 times more likely to be incarcerated than a white child—the highest disparity in the nation. 2) Restoring the right to vote to people with criminal convictions: New Jersey denies the right to vote to nearly 100,000 people who are in prison, on parole, or on probation. Although Black people make up 15 percent of New Jersey's total population, Black residents represent over 60 percent of the people who lost the right to vote due to a criminal conviction. 3) Closing the racial wealth gap: In New Jersey, one of the wealthiest states in America, the median net worth for New Jersey’s white families is $271,402—the highest in the nation. But the median net worth for New Jersey’s Black families is just $5,900. We must ensure that Governor Murphy keeps his promises to the Black voters that put him in office.
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  • Demand Gov. Cuomo Free Criminalized Survivors of Gender Violence
    Valerie Seeley is a survivor of domestic violence and in 1988 she was sentenced to 19 years to life in prison for killing her abusive partner while defending herself from a violent attack. In 2017, Valerie was granted clemency and released from Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in Westchester County, New York. Her release came after spending 17 years in prison for protecting herself. Governor Cuomo, like all state governors, has the power to grant clemency to people who have been convicted under state law. Valerie is the ONLY domestic violence survivor that has been granted clemency by Gov. Cuomo. In the last eight years Gov. Cuomo has ONLY commuted 12 sentences in total. Survived & Punished, has joined forces with Color Of Change to demand that Gov. Cuomo free all criminalized survivors of gender violence. In New York state history only three survivors have been granted clemency. Gov. Cuomo has the power to change that immediately. Today, there are many people behind bars in NY state prisons simply for fighting to survive. We must protect, not criminalize survivors of domestic and gender based violence. Women and gender nonconforming (GNC) folks have historically been incarcerated for domestic violence and Black women and GNC survivors of abuse are rarely granted the right to protect and defend themselves against their abuser, even less than other people. Throughout the country millions of women, girls and GNC people who are incarcerated are also survivors of domestic/ gender based violence. We must end the criminalization of survivors, we must protect Black women and we must free all people incarcerated for simply surviving. Demand Gov. Cuomo #FreeThemNY. Learn more about #FreeThemNY--http://freethemny.com/
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  • SB10 is not REAL bail reform. Tell Gov. Jerry Brown: Veto SB10.
    California Bail Reform has been hijacked and we must stop a dangerous bill. Last year, thousands of people stood up to demand real bail reform in California by supporting Senate Bill 10, a bill that Senator Bob Hertzberg championed. But this week, Senator Hertzberg is rushing a completely gutted version of SB 10 to a vote on the CA assembly floor, and it's bad. After nearly 2 years of advocacy and grassroots groups fighting for real bail reform, Senator Hertzberg has yielded to pressure from California’s Judicial Council introducing new language that will lead to more people locked up and entrenched racial bias in CA’s pretrial system. Yes, that Judicial Council. The very same council that had that horrific Black-face, incarceration-themed office party last year. This new bill places all the power in their hands. In a bait and switch, the CA Judicial Council and Probation Department urged Senator Hertzberg to gut the bill and introduce a new scheme. SB 10 now replaces money bail with a system that makes it easier to incarcerate legally innocent people. This is not at all the bail reform our communities deserve and have long fought for. We want to end the predatory money bail industry, but not like this. This new SB 10 will completely derail any progress in the fight to truly end pretrial injustice in the state of California and will have national ramifications. We don’t need legislation that uses a different mechanism to keep communities of color incarcerated -- we need real reform. Our fight must grow louder and stronger.
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  • Stop Vigilante Justice against Black Children
    Stop Vigilante Justice against Black Children District Attorney Faith Johnson is caving to the outrage of a lynch mob. Six black kids are the target of this hatred. We demand that this vigilantism end immediately The District Attorney’s Office recently announced that it will seek to try the teens accused of car theft and robbery as adults, after the victims demanded “aggressive” retribution and organized more than two thousand people in Dallas around one goal: trying and locking up children as adults. Vengeance doesn't work as criminal justice policy. And it is not going to make our community safer. We know that kids tried as adults are more likely to commit new crimes, commit them more frequently, and commit more violent offenses than kids treated like the kids they are. Children are fundamentally different from adults. Research shows that kids who commit even serious crimes can and frequently do grow out of intransigent behavior as their brains mature. It is not a matter of leniency - youth need a system designed to rehabilitate youth. DA Johnson’s decision is not about justice or community safety. Rather, it is about obeying the demands of those who have the power and social capital to demand we throw away the lives of children. If these children were rich or white, would the outrage be as swift and the demands so damning? It is District Attorney Faith Johnson’s job to recognize and follow the course of action that protects everyone and best serves the interest of our community, not to respond to the demands of her rich constituents at the expense of black children. Racist mob action has no place in our justice system. D.A. Johnson must do her job and take a principled, common-sense approach to community safety, one that treats children like children. We demand that D.A. Johnson withdraw her motion to transfer these children to adult court. *Joe Estelle is a member of the Texas Organizing Project, and sits on their Right 2 Justice committee.
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  • Tell U.S. Attorney Berman - Drop the Charges Against Therese Patricia Okoumou!
    I, the undersigned, am aware that Therèse Patricia Okoumou was found guilty at her trial on December 17th of three federal misdemeanors: trespassing, disorderly conduct and interference with government agency functions. Despite the real prospect of spending 18 months in prison, “We stand on the right side of history. I am not discouraged,” Patricia said after being sentenced. Our Lady Liberty remains steadfast in her mission to continue campaigning against the immoral and inhumane family separation policies of the Trump administration. Since Patricia's trial, new information has revealed that the extent of the Trump Administration's outrageous “zero tolerance” policy, which it has consistently LIED to the court and the American people about, is even worse than previously known. The federal government has ripped apart tender-aged children from nursing mothers. It has flown thousands of young children across the country away from their families and placed them in cages. Some of The Children are being forcibly drugged and others sexually molested in internment camps. There have been deaths of asylum seekers, as young as 7 years old, under the care and custody of border patrol agents and Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE). As part of our basic right to protest, outlined in the constitution, Patricia climbed the Statue of Liberty to increase awareness of this injustice, and I stand in solidarity with her! When we fell low as a country, Patricia went as high as she could to raise consciousness about these atrocities.
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  • Justice for Anthony Wall
    On May 8, a 22-year-old Mr. Anthony Wall, a Black man who is openly gay, escorted his younger sister (age 16) to the prom. Later, he took her and her friends to a local Waffle House in Warsaw, NC. After sitting down at a table that had not yet been cleared, staff members got into a heated argument with Mr. Wall and his teenage sister. According to Mr. Wall and witnesses at the scene, Waffle House employees began using offensive racial and homophobic slurs and threatened to inflict physical harm on them. They called him the N-word and f**got and one staff member went so far as to take his shirt off readying himself for a fight. The police were called and when Officer Frank Moss of the Warsaw Police Department arrived on the scene, he began choking Mr. Wall and throwing him against the window. He then violently threw Mr. Wall to the ground and placed him under arrest. The traumatic incident was captured on video with a cell phone and it has since gone viral. The video captures the officer choking and slamming Mr. Wall against the outdoor glass and then onto the pavement. During the violent exchange, Mr. Wall screamed that he could not breathe and pleaded for his safety with other officers who were on the scene. It is evident from the video footage, that because of what he had just been through, he was fearful for his physical safety and his life. When he was being handcuffed, Mr. Hall requested to be transported with any officer, but not with Officer Moss, who had just brutally assaulted him. His requests were ignored, and not only was he forced to ride with the same officer who inappropriately and unprofessionally handcuffed him, but there was an aggressive police canine accompanying them inside the vehicle. Mr. Wall has since been charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Eric Sutherland, Warsaw police chief, said that an officer can use physical force on a subject if the person is not complying. Notably, Mr. Wall was not only unarmed but the officer was more than twice his size. The Mayor of Warsaw released a three-and-a-half minute statement in support of Officer Moss, attempting to justify the treatment of Wall during the arrest. We will be closely monitoring the response from not only the Warsaw Police Department but also District Attorney Ernie Lee with the State Bureau of Investigation; the FBI; and the N.C. Department of Justice's Law Enforcement Training and Standards Commission which we understand are also investigating the incident. As a civil and human rights community, we demand answers and a thorough investigation of what has transpired and that the results of this investigation be made fully available to the public. No human being should endure the type of verbal and physical abuse that Mr. Wall experienced and any charges against him should be dropped immediately. Please join us in signing this petition to ensure justice for Anthony and Chikesia. Remember none of us are free until all of us are free!
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