Daily Inspo The WNBA star who put her career on hold to free an innocent man from prison
Still in her prime, Maya Moore sacrificed her career, stepping away as one of the greats in basketball for a long shot bid to help free a prisoner she was convinced had been wrongfully convicted.
There would be no fifth W.N.B.A. championship, no bid for another Olympic gold medal, no fans gasping at the perfect jump shot.
In a shock to the sport, she left the game — temporarily, she said — in early 2019 to free Jonathan Irons, a Missouri man who continuously claimed innocence as he served a 50-year prison sentence for burglary and assault with a gun.
And on Wednesday, her sacrifice paid the ultimate dividend.
Irons, 40, walked out of a Missouri prison a free man after spending 23 years behind bars. After an appeal Moore partially funded and publicly backed, Irons’s sentence had been overturned. In a scene of tearful celebration outside the front doors of the Jefferson City Correctional Center, Moore and her family at long last greeted the man they’ve come to consider one of their own.
“I’m pumped that people are understanding where the real change lies as far as giving something up,” Moore said at a news conference on Thursday. “That’s all of us, giving something up, if you have any sort of power.”
Athletes across sports have joined calls for social and racial justice, especially in the most recent wave spurred by deaths of Black people at the hands of the police.
And female athletes like Moore have often been at the forefront but outside the limelight as men, working in leagues with higher television ratings, tend to get the lion’s share of coverage.
Read the story on NY Times
Say It Louder I’m a lawyer who believes in police abolition
DERECKA PURNELL is a human rights lawyer, writer, and organizer based in Washington D.C.
We called 911 for almost everything except snitching.
Nosebleeds, gunshot wounds, asthma attacks, allergic reactions. Police accompanied the paramedics.
Our neighborhood made us sick. A Praxair industrial gas-storage facility was at one end of my block. A junkyard with exposed military airplane and helicopter parts was at the other. The fish-seasoning plant in our backyard did not smell as bad as the yeast from the Budweiser factory nearby. Car honks and fumes from Interstate 70 crept through my childhood bedroom window, where, if I stood on my toes, I could see the St. Louis arch.
Environmental toxins degraded our health, and often conspired with other violence that pervaded our neighborhood. Employment opportunities were rare, and my friends and I turned to making money under the table. I was scared of selling drugs, so I gambled. Brown-skinned boys I liked aged out of recreational activities, and, without alternatives, into blue bandanas. Their territorial disputes led to violence and 911 calls. Grown-ups fought too, stressed from working hard yet never having enough bill money or gas money or food money or day-care money. Call 911.
When people dismiss abolitionists for not caring about victims or safety, they tend to forget that we are those victims, those survivors of violence.
The first shooting I witnessed was by a cop. I was 12. He was angry that his cousin skipped a sign-in sheet at my neighborhood recreation center. I was teaching my sister how to shoot free throws when the officer stormed in alongside the court, drew his weapon, and shot the boy in the arm. My sister and I hid in the locker room for hours afterward. The officer was back at work the following week.
Like the boy at the rec center, most victims of police violence survive. No hashtags or protests or fires for the wounded, assaulted, and intimidated. I often wonder, What if Derek Chauvin had kneeled on George Floyd’s neck for seven minutes and 46 seconds instead of eight? Maybe Floyd would have lived to be arrested, prosecuted, and imprisoned for allegedly attempting to use a counterfeit $20 bill. Is that justice? This, for me, is why we need police abolition. Police manage inequality by keeping the dispossessed from the owners, the Black from the white, the homeless from the housed, the beggars from the employed. Reforms make police polite managers of inequality. Abolition makes police and inequality obsolete.
Read the interview on The Atlantic
More of This Requiring a bar exam in 2020 perpetuates racism
Lauren Hutton-Work and Rae Guyse are 2020 graduates of the University of Texas School of Law.
Bar examiners are gatekeepers charged with protecting the public from bad lawyers. But amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the accompanying economic crisis, prioritizing this gatekeeping function means putting aspiring lawyers at risk and making it harder for nonwhite and low-income people to enter the profession.
In mid-March, bar examiners throughout the country were asked to present recommendations to their state supreme courts on how to safely and reasonably administer the test in 2020. Some states, like Oregon and Utah, heeded the concerns of law school graduates, law school deans, practitioners and medical professionals. Those states decided that diploma privilege—allowing law students to automatically pass the bar if they fulfill certain grade and course requirements to graduate—is the only way to mitigate health risks without deepening social and technological inequities that would be further perpetuated by an online exam. Other states ignored these concerns and chose to preserve the status quo. Texas, for example, doubled down on the exam requirement, scheduling an in-person exam in September and an online exam in October.
Decisions like this raise the question: who or what are boards of law examiners really trying to protect?
Despite a 441 percent increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations since Memorial Day, until last Friday, Texas was among the 19 states still opting for an in-person exam in July. Unsurprisingly, when the Texas Board of Law Examiners invited the public to speak at a Zoom meeting ostensibly designed to help the board develop alternatives to the July exam, over 1,700 people joined.
Examinees in attendance vividly described their concerns. Some disclosed their struggles with COVID-19 or shared they had lost family members during the pandemic. Parents spoke of caring for young children while simultaneously attempting to study for the bar exam. Black students noted that, because COVID-19 coincided with a national reckoning on race, they had been under intense personal stress.
Read the story on The Appeal
Less of This People are getting kicked off juries for supporting Black Lives Matter
Questioning a potential juror named Crishala Reed, the prosecutor homed in on a sentence from Reed’s questionnaire.
“I support Black Lives Matter,” she had written.
The prosecutor asked Reed if she supported “destroying other people’s property.” Reed said no. After the questioning, the prosecutor used a peremptory strike, where no reason is required, to remove Reed from the jury for the 2016 trial.
She looked around the jury box and didn’t see any other Black people, Reed told The Marshall Project.
“I felt targeted,” Reed said. “It was a life-changing experience for me, personally. And I still talk about it to this day. I tell my kids about it. Not to scare them but to make them aware.”
The questioning of Reed’s support for Black Lives Matter will be considered by a California appeals court in the coming months. Lawyers for the defendants in the double-murder trial say the decision to remove Reed violated the U.S. Constitution’s ban on excluding prospective jurors based on race.
The case is one of several across the country in which prosecutors have pressed potential jurors about their sympathy for Black Lives Matter – a movement that has won growing mainstream support in the weeks since the killing of George Floyd.
Read the story on The Marshall Project
Speaking Of… The Supreme Court refuses to acknowledge systemic racism
American society is rapidly changing its attitudes about racism in policing after Minneapolis police killed George Floyd. In a matter of a few short weeks, once–radical sounding policy demands, like defunding the police, have become commonplace thanks to the massive and diverse protests across the country. Prominent politicians, athletes (including NASCAR drivers), and other community leaders have joined the calls for a systemic reimagining of policing and the legal system. The courts have an important role to play in this national soul-searching. There is widespread agreement, including between Justices Clarence Thomas and Sonia Sotomayor, that the high court’s qualified immunity doctrine has contributed to a culture of impunity. But there is a far more pervasive and enduring Supreme Court decision that needs to be changed if we genuinely want to tackle institutional racism.
In Washington v. Davis, decided in 1976, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that laws or government policies that disproportionately harm Black people do not violate the Constitution’s equal protection clause. The case was brought by aspiring Black police officers challenging the statistical disparity in test scores between Black and white test takers as a reflection that the D.C. police department’s hiring policy was unconstitutional. The test, known as Test 21, was chock full of white cultural and idiomatic references that may well have contributed to the fact that from 1968 to 1971, 57 percent of Black applicants failed the test as compared with 13 percent of whites.
In a 7–2 decision penned by Justice Byron White, the Supreme Court decided that courts can only find that a law or governmental action violates the equal protection clause when a plaintiff can show that a state actor intended to discriminate, and that this intention, in turn, caused a discriminatory result. But discriminatory intent is virtually impossible to prove. Who openly admits they are racist? This nearly insurmountable bar means that laws that treat Black people worse than white people (for example, laws requiring exponentially harsher sentences for crack possession than for cocaine use) remain tolerated throughout society.
Read the story on Slate
Wednesday August 5 at Noon PST
Does networking trigger your anxiety?
For those of us already on the margins--Black, Indigenous, POC, queer, and non binary folks--how to we build professional connections while still staying true to our identities?
Wednesday July 1 at Noon PST. Register here
We're looking for a civil rights fellow
With support from California ChangeLawyers®, Immigrant Defenders Law Center seeks to hire a Post-Bar Legal Fellow that will focus on advocating for and increasing awareness of South Asiandetainees’ right for equal and fair access to civil rights and liberties. This Fellow will focus on documenting the South Asian experience in detention centers with the goal of producing a report on the findings and recommendations. These findings may lead to systematic change through advocacy or impact litigation.