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Another death sentence overturned in Las Vegas due to prosecutors racial bias.

This case was always about race,” defense attorney said.

Another death sentence overturned in Las Vegas due to prosecutors racial bias.

This case was always about race,” defense attorney said.

Last, month the Nevada Supreme Court threw out the death sentence of Julius Bradford after defense attorneys raised concerns that his trial was marred by the illegal exclusion of minority jurors.

Bradford was convicted and sentenced to death in 2012 for the 2003 murder of Anthony Limongello. His attorney, Lisa Rasmussen, argued to the Supreme Court that one potential black juror and another potential Hispanic juror were dismissed before District Judge Doug Smith held a hearing on the reasons for their dismissal. The Justices agreed, citing “structural error” in the judge’s actions.

“This case was always about race,” Rasmussen said during oral arguments in September.

Bradford is expected to be retried by Clark County Prosecutor Steve Wolfson, who has been in office since 2012.

In recent years, the Nevada Supreme Court has vacated multiple convictions originating in Clark County due to similar allegations of racial discrimination during jury selection.

Jason McCarty was convicted of the murders of two Las Vegas prostitutes in 2006 and sentenced to life in prison. In March 2016 his conviction was thrown out after justices ruled that Clark County prosecutors showed “purposeful discrimination” when using a peremptory challenge to keep a 28-year-old black woman off the jury.

Prosecutors claimed they removed the woman from the jury pool after a background check revealed she had once worked as a waitress at a strip club and had a brother who had been convicted of a crime 13 years earlier. But the Justices expressed skepticism about that argument since similar background check weren’t conducted on other potential jurors.

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Michael Cherry ruled the trial judge did not adequately question the reason provided by the prosecutor for excluding the juror.

In another case originating in Clark County, the conviction and death sentence of Charles Reese Conner was reversed in 2014 after the Nevada Supreme Court determined that prosecutors illegally removed a black man from the jury pool. In that case prosecutors used six of nine peremptory challenges to exclude blacks from the jury.

Justice Cherry wrote that prosecutors did not offer satisfactory explanations for why these jurors were excluded. He specifically highlighted a black man who was removed by prosecutors even after maintaining he would have no problem imposing the death penalty. That man was a United State Air Force Reserve officer who had worked as a corrections officer and a police officer. Cherry wrote that there was no reason to remove him based on his answers during jury selection.

Multiple studies have documented that prosecutors across the country use peremptory challenges to strike potential black jurors at a rate of two or three times the rate they use to strike other jurors.

In a 2015 article, the New York Times wrote: “Here are some reasons prosecutors have offered for excluding blacks from juries: They were young or old, single or divorced, religious or not, failed to make eye contact, lived in a poor part of town, had served in the military, had a hyphenated last name, displayed bad posture, were sullen, disrespectful or talkative, had long hair, wore a beard.”

Dispatch: The Torrid Love Affair Between Liberals and Bill “Broken Windows” Bratton

Dispatches is our series from organizers, attorneys, officials, and others working at the frontlines of local criminal justice reform.

Dispatch: The Torrid Love Affair Between Liberals and Bill “Broken Windows” Bratton

Dispatches is our series from organizers, attorneys, officials, and others working at the frontlines of local criminal justice reform.

It was a cold night in 2013 outside of a star-studded gala hosted by The Nationmagazine. A dozen policing activists, including myself, were waiting for Mayor elect Bill de Blasio’s police-chauffeured car. We were there to protest de Blasio, who was the featured speaker, over his first, and most important, political appointment: Bill ‘Broken Windows’ Bratton.

For some, de Blasio’s embrace of Bratton back to head the NYPD was strange: He was Rudy Giuliani’s pitbull in the early 90’s until Giuliani famously jettisoned the former Boston cop, reportedly over political jealousy. For others, the return of Bratton was a strategic move by de Blasio, who would be red meat for tabloids and the few, but loud, right wing voices in the city, like the Manhattan Institute and the police unions.

Bratton was beloved by conservatives, locally and nationally for heralding in an era of tough-on-crime policies, including the Broken Windows theory of policing, which says aggressive enforcement against quality-of-life offenses reduces serious crime. However, the political marriage between Bratton and de Blasio, a self-proclaimed reformer, liberal and progressive, should have surprised no one. Key liberal politicians and pundits from New York to Los Angeles absolutely love Bratton, for his crime-fighting reputation — and the feeling is mutual.

The latest public display of affection between Bratton and his liberal enablers was featured in the opinion section of the New York Daily News Monday (“Salute de Blasio’s policing miracle” ). In this op-ed, Bratton once againgloated about how under de Blasio he’d received “more resources than I had ever gotten from one of my mayors.” He’s right, de Blasio has been quite generous to the NYPD: in 2016, de Blasio, along with a purportedly “progressive” New York City Council gifted Bratton’s NYPD almost 1,300 extra police officers at a cost of hundreds millions of dollars amid protests and historic lows in crime.

Bratton’s show of support for de Blasio was timed to hit newsstands the day before the mayoral election, which the incumbent won handily. But the endorsement from a rockstar policing guru wasn’t about ensuring that a liberal progressive defeats an unremarkable Republican challenger — it was about signaling that the bond between liberals and the most powerful police figure in the last few decades remains as strong as ever.

Not long after our protest outside the 2013 gala, there was another strategically-timed love note, this one by the head of an established civil rights nonprofit in Los Angeles that gave its blessings and to Bratton. This time, it was in the prestigious pages of the New York Times. There, former Advancement Project co-director Connie Rice fawningly praised Bratton (the police chief in Los Angeles from 2002 to 2009), who she said won over the trust of the black community and even civil rights organizations like hers (“Hail to the Chief”, December 10th, 2013).

Rice (cousin to Condi Rice of Bush administration fame) spoke glowingly about Bratton’s willingness to listen and learn “from everyone — the mayor or a gang member,” a curious appraisal given Bratton’s history of questionable gang injunctions in LA and, later, an escalation of gang raids in NYC.

Without a doubt, the Rice op-ed was designed to give Bratton civil rights cover while also alleviating the concerns of New York liberals over Bratton, the champion of Broken Windows. The Rice piece also worked to undermine and neutralize criticisms of Bratton by community groups in LA, like the Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA-CAN), who warned about Bratton’s rebranding in the media:

There has been a wave of articles since Chief Bratton’s reinstatement and very few of them have been critical of his record in Los Angeles. Instead, we have been bombarded with Bratton quotes and politically connected civil rights advocates assertions that have nothing to do with the realities in our communities. LA CAN will work to set the record straight as the “Bratton media express” rolls out its fabricated versions of Los Angeles policing because the record should be clear and authentic.

To what might one attribute this discrepancy in volume afforded to the head of a civil rights organization, like Rice (who, west coast organizers often point out to me, used to park in the LAPD parking lot) and to that of grassroots organizers? Well, for one, the press was more than willing to listen to supporters of Bratton, who has always been a media favorite. Another factor was that Rice wasn’t the only liberal establishment figure who has been enamored with Bratton.

Former president Barack Obama has tipped his hat to Bratton, and vice versa. Even the current liberal darling Kamala Harris, the former prosecutor turned California Senator who some hope will become the Democratic nominee for President in 2020, heaped immense praise on Bratton and his Broken Windows policing in her 2009 book, Smart On Crime. And there have been other influential voices, like Jill Leovy, noted author of the international bestseller, Ghettoside, who gushed to Slate last year about the “beautiful” quotes she’d gotten from Bratton as he waxed poetic to her about the political nature of his work.

In the last three years, thanks to pressure from grassroots organizers in New York City, Broken Windows policing has finally come under intense scrutiny. The political pendulum has swung so far away from quality-of-life policing (with the notable exception of Mayor de Blasio, who has continuously voiced his support for Bratton’s cherished approach) that it’s become somewhat mainstream now to be against Broken Windows.

However, the love affair between Bratton and liberal political circles is as strong as ever. Bratton’s op-ed for de Blasio isn’t very different from the time he endorsed Harris during her campaign to become California’s Attorney General in 2009 or when he went to bat for another ‘progressive’ during Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s re-election bid that same year. In fact, the Villaraigosa campaign’s television ads that Bratton appeared then were eerily familiar to Bratton’s shout-out to de Blasio this week, congratulating Villaraigosa for adding 1,000 more cops and touting the Democrat’s support for police.

You see, the congratulatory pats on the back and ringing political endorsements between Bratton and liberals is predictable. Even in bluer than blue cities like New York or Boston, where Mayor Joe “Marty” Walsh, has received the endorsement of the Boston Patrolmen’s Association, liberals love police and police love the liberals that are loyal to them. But there is special place in the liberal heart for figures like Bratton, a political and media savvy cop who makes progressive hearts swoon with promises of data-driven enforcement and “community policing” even as he ushers in the orwellian era of predictive policing and clings to archaic manifestos like the utterly racist Moynihan report.

For grassroots activists and the everyday person getting arrested for jumping a turnstile or a nickel bag of weed, the message is clear: there’s a bubble in which law enforcement bigwigs like Bratton, progressive politicians, media elites and other insiders operate within — and we aren’t in it.

Josmar Trujillo is writer and activist based in East Harlem. He organizes with the Coalition to End Broken Windows, a coalition of grassroots groups based in New York. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Fair Punishment Project.

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Despite 'Public Health' Messaging, Law Enforcement Increasingly Prosecutes Overdoses as Homicides

via Drug Policy Alliance

Despite 'Public Health' Messaging, Law Enforcement Increasingly Prosecutes Overdoses as Homicides

In response to a surging overdose crisis, prosecutors are doubling down on draconian drug induced homicide statutes.

On November 28, 2014, 28-year-old Edward Martin was found dead inside a Quiznos bathroom in Littleton, New Hampshire. Next to his body was a syringe and spoon with which he used to inject a potent batch of heroin that turned out to be laced with illicitly manufactured fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin. While such scenes are now tragically common, the prosecutorial aftermath compounds the human toll of the opioid crisis.

Before Michael Millette, 55, sold Martin the bag of heorin, he warned him to be careful because it was a strong batch. “I told him, ‘Listen, this stuff is really good, just do a tiny line, it’s very strong,’” Michael recalled in a profile written by the Drug Policy Alliance published on November 7th. The two men were friends, often confiding in each other about their shared experience of being addicted to opioids — how they felt sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.

Their friendship was irrelevant to Littleton Police Department and the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Drug Task Force, which by December 2014 had pinned Martin’s death back on Millette using a draconian law developed during the crack-cocaine era, “Sale of a Controlled Drug Resulting in Death,” otherwise known as drug-induced homicide. On October 26, 2015, after spending nearly a year in jail, Millette — a drug user who was selling merely to support his own addiction — pled guilty to selling fentanyl that resulted in Martin’s death. He was sentenced in Grafton County Superior Court to spend the next 10 to 30 years in New Hampshire State Prison.

In the midst of America’s deadliest drug crisis, cases like Millette’s are spiking across the country. Drug induced homicide prosecutions increased by more than 300 percent in just six years, from 363 in 2011 to 1,178 in 2016, according to an analysis of media mentions outlined in a new report by The Drug Policy Alliance, a New York-based non-profit. Hailed by prosecutors as a strong message to dealers, drug induced homicide cases instead create a chilling effect among drug users, deterring them from calling 911 during an overdose, effectively undermining the so-called “public health” response to America’s worsening overdose crisis.

“Drug induced homicide is couched as a way to respond to the overdose crisis, but prosecutors are not held accountable for proving whether these laws are effective,” said Lindsay LaSalle, Senior Staff Attorney at the Drug Policy Alliance and the report’s author. “There is not a shred of evidence that these laws are effective at reducing overdose fatalities.”

In fact, research shows these laws are not only ineffective, but that they exacerbate the very problems they purport to solve. Of those who have witnessed an overdose, more than half reported they are reluctant to dial 911, citing fear of legal consequences, according to a 2017 study published in the International Journal of Drug Policy. Drug-induced homicide prosecutions undercut the utility of 911 Good Samaritan Laws, which provide a safe haven for people seeking medical assistance during an overdose, LaSalle said.

Rather than prosecuting upper-echelon drug distributors, prosecutors often charge friends and romantic partners of the overdose victim, according to an analysis by Health In Justice, a policy institute out of Boston’s Northeastern School of Law tracking punitive drug policies such as drug-induced homicide and involuntary commitment for drug users. “Fewer than half of cases we analyzed involved a traditional buyer/seller relationship,” said Leo Beletsky, lead investigator at Health In Justice, and an Associate Professor of Law and Health Sciences at Northeastern University.

via Health In Justice Institute

Both analyses by Health In Justice and the Drug Policy Alliance also found a familiar, racialized policing pattern. Even though drug users tend to purchase drugs from members of their own race, class and peer group, more than halfof all drug-induced homicide cases mentioned in the news involved a person of color as a dealer and a white overdose victim, according to Health In Justice. Drug Policy Alliance’s LaSalle noted that in a 94 percent white suburban county near Chicago, 35 percent of drug induced homicide cases were brought against people of color.

In the case of Martin and Millette, one life was lost to an overdose and the other was lost to a miscarriage of justice. Every dollar spent prosecuting drug-induced homicide cases is money that could be better spent providing treatment and preventing overdoses from occurring in the first place.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are mine and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Fair Punishment Project.

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