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Say it Louder In 1963, 17 was sentenced to life without parole. Let him finally come home.
The United States is the only country in the world that sentences children to life without the possibility of parole. One of those children was a boy named Henry Montgomery. In 1963, Montgomery was 17 years old, and was convicted of shooting and killing a plainclothes police officer in East Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He was initially sentenced to death, but the Louisiana Supreme Court decided that racial tensions, including Ku Klux Klan activity in the area, had influenced the jury’s decision. Instead, the court resentenced him to life in prison. There is hope, however, that soon he’ll be coming home.
Montgomery is now a long way removed from the teenager he once was. He is 75 years old. He has been in prison at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, also known as Angola, for 57 years.
Sometimes numbers like this exist as abstractions. What does 57 years mean? What are 57 years spent living inside a cage? What they are is a lifetime.
When Montgomery was sent to prison, the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act had yet to be signed. Both Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X were still alive. Ruby Bridges was 9 years old. Four little girls had just been killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. A gallon of gas was 30 cents and a loaf of bread was 20. The Beatles had yet to come to America. “Surfin’ U.S.A.,” by the Beach Boys, was Billboard’s No. 1 song of the year. My own parents, now in their 60s, had yet to begin kindergarten.
Today, according to the Sentencing Project, a research and advocacy organization that works to reduce incarceration in the U.S., more than 53,000 people are serving life-without-parole sentences. The state of Louisiana, where 70 percent of people serving life sentences are Black, has more people serving life sentences per capita than any other state in the country. Until recently that number included thousands of children, but two relatively recent Supreme Court cases, one of which had Henry Montgomery at its center, changed that. More than 50 years after his original sentence, Montgomery became the petitioner in a 2016 case, Montgomery v. Louisiana, in which the Court ruled that its 2012 decision, Miller v. Alabama—which banned mandatory life without parole for children—could be applied retroactively. The Miller decision was based on research demonstrating that children’s brains are not as fully developed as adults’. This seems obvious and intuitive, but new neuroscientific evidence made clear that children who commit crimes cannot be held culpable to the same extent as adults, and that they have even more of an opportunity to change.
Read the story on The Atlantic
More of This The lawyer trying to get the rich to give up their money
Living with purpose sounds like a nice idea, but can often get lost in the stresses and strains of everyday life.
Stephanie Brobbey wanted to do things differently. The 35-year-old private wealth lawyer was on the cusp of partnership when she made a dramatic pivot to found the Good Ancestor Movement.
Instead of trying to get clients to build wealth, she now wants them to pass it down.
Ultimately, Brobbey wants those with plentiful means to reconsider what they need, to put a ceiling on that figure, and look to redistribute the rest in a way that can repair and regenerate society.
At a time of heightened awareness of the pressures on the planet’s resources and social inequality, Brobbey’s curious approach to wealth curation could be the next disrupter in the space.
Read the story on Financial Times
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Less of This Judges keep accepting reasons to exclude Black people from juries
In the coming weeks, a panel of 12 jurors will have to decide if Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael, and William “Roddie” Bryan acted in self-defense when they cornered Ahmaud Arbery with their trucks before shooting him and leaving him to bleed out in the street. From the very start, the racial dynamics of the shooting—the fact that three white men killed an unarmed Black man and walked free for months—have raised questions about if the trial would be fair or unjustly tilted in favor of the white defendants.
Roughly one week in, the notion of fairness is already in peril. Eleven of the 12 jurors are white. Only one is Black. “This court has found that there appears to be intentional discrimination,” said Georgia trial court Judge Timothy Walmsley, who allowed defense lawyers to use their peremptory challenges to dismiss eight of nine African Americans during jury selection. Despite the intentional discrimination, Walmsley refused to reseat any of the Black jurors. How is it possible to acknowledge intentional discrimination but allow the trial to proceed as usual? Unlike challenges for cause that require lawyers to state reasons for striking prospective jurors, peremptory challenges allow each side in a criminal case to excuse potential jurors for any reasons or for no reasons at all, as long as they have not been removed because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion. The number of “peremptories” varies from state to state. In Georgia, each defendant accused of a felony has nine; the prosecution gets the same number.
How does one detect if a lawyer has a discriminatory motive when using a peremptory challenge? There’s the rub. In 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court, in the case of Batson v. Kentucky, issued a ruling placing the burden on trial court judges to determine if discrimination is the motivation for such challenges. Under Batson, when one side contends that the peremptory challenge is racially motivated or motivated by other types of discrimination, the other side must offer to the judge a “race-neutral” explanation for removing the prospective juror. It is left to the judge to determine if the explanation is plausible. And how has that worked out? Not well.
Read the story on Slate
Speaking Of… The conservative legal movement is emboldened
On November 4, the Biden administration announced a new testing mandate for unvaccinated workers in most American companies. As with everything else in American life these days, litigation soon followed from conservative business owners and Republican officials. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals was the quickest to respond to the proposed Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule and issued a stay of its enforcement. These stays aren’t necessarily unusual, but in this case, there was something a little different about it.
“Because the petitions give cause to believe there are grave statutory and constitutional issues with the Mandate, the Mandate is hereby stayed pending further action by this court,” the three-judge panel wrote to explain its decision. Some legal experts noted right away that this order doesn’t actually apply the usual judicial test for courts to provide emergency relief. Instead, it blandly asserts that there is “cause to believe” the proposed rule might be illegal and constitutional.
It also didn’t escape notice that this was the same panel—the exact same trio of Fifth Circuit judges—who not only refused to block Texas’s controversial abortion bounty law from going into effect while lawsuits unfolded but also went out of its way to torpedo a lower-court order that had blocked it from being enforced. That judicial gambit paid off when the Supreme Court, by a 5–4 vote, decided not to overturn the Fifth Circuit’s maneuver in that case. As a result, Senate Bill 8 remains in effect unless and until the Supreme Court says otherwise.
The moment is useful for illustrating a subtle but important shift in the federal judiciary—and how people view the federal judiciary—over the past 18 months. Naturally, Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation shifted the court decisively to the right. But the perception of the Supreme Court’s ideological balance is almost as important as the reality itself. Now that this perception has taken root, we’re starting to see it bear fruit. Call it the Barrett effect: A variety of conservative political actors are now doing things they might have hesitated to consider when Chief Justice John Roberts or former Justice Anthony Kennedy cast the deciding vote. This dynamic, in turn, is poised to push the country even further to the right.
Read the story on New Republic
Stop the Hate Program Funding
The California Department of Social Services (CDSS), in partnership with the Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs (CAPIAA), is pleased to announce the availability of $20 million in Fiscal Year 2021-22 for the Stop the Hate Program.
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