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Former judge makes shocking confession after helping send black man to death row based on state-paid witness testimony

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A girl who served on the jury that sentenced an Alabama man to death 25 years ago is now calling for a brand new trial due to evidence of potential wrongdoing, saying her role within the 1998 murder conviction “doesn’t allow me to sleep at night.”

Monique Hicks of Prattsville, Alabama, served on the jury that found Toforest Johnson guilty of the murder of Jefferson County Sheriff’s Deputy William G. “Bill” Hardy, who was shot to death in a Birmingham hotel parking zone in the summertime of 1995 while working off-duty as a security guard. .

Johnson, who’s black, was put on trial three years later, found guilty and sentenced to death based on the questionable testimony of a witness who was paid hundreds of dollars to testify on behalf of the prosecution.

Toforest Johnson (Photo: toforestjohnson.com)

Due to the newly discovered evidence, Hicks claims to regret his role in convicting Johnson, proclaiming his innocence and even asking for forgiveness from his family.

“I asked the Lord to forgive me for causing so much suffering.” She wrote in a guest opinion column published on April 22 on AI.com. “I pray that Mr. Johnson and his family will forgive me as well. In the meantime, I will continue to use my voice to ask for justice.”

In the column, Hicks expresses deep regret, asking: “What responsibility do I even have? “My role in wrongfully convicting an innocent man keeps me up at night.”

The effort to free Johnson has received significant support from celebrity activist Kim Kardashian, in addition to several distinguished legal figures, including the National Innocence Project, which recently filed two amicus briefs in support of a brand new trial for Johnson – one before the U.S. Supreme Court, and the opposite within the Jefferson County Circuit Court in Alabama.

As of May 2024, no execution date has been set for Johnson, who has maintained his innocence since becoming a suspect within the officer’s murder nearly three many years ago when he was 25 and in his prime.

At the time of the murder on July 19, 1995, five suspects as well as to Johnson were ultimately arrested in reference to the fatal shooting, but only Johnson was convicted despite an absence of physical evidence or eyewitnesses to place him on the scene of the crime.

Last yr, Jefferson County District Attorney Danny Carr conducted a nine-month review of the evidence and concluded that the “interests of justice” required a brand new trial for Johnson, now 50.

“Leadership is not about being right, it is about making things right,” he said at a faith rally in support of Johnson in December 2023.

But state Attorney General Steve Marshall dismissed that investigation, calling it Carr’s “subjective opinion.”

But an appeal filed by Johnson’s lawyers in Jefferson County Circuit Court proves the investigation cannot simply be ignored.

Despite the brand new evidence, Marshall continues to ask the court to prevent the convict from getting a brand new trial and insists that Johnson be sentenced to death sooner moderately than later.

The fundamental obstacle within the state’s case is witness Violet Ellison, who testified within the 1998 trial that she overheard Johnson confess to the officer’s murder during a telephone conversation she overheard as Johnson spoke from prison.

Ellison’s testimony was a key a part of the case that ultimately resulted in Johnson’s conviction, but in 2015 – 17 years after the trial – the state revealed that it had secretly paid Ellison $5,000 for her testimony.

Additionally, Ellison has a questionable record as a witness, as her testimony as a state witness in five other criminal cases resulted in acquittals and dismissals.

Her involvement within the Johnson case led three jurors – including Hicks – to request a brand new trial, stating that they might not have convicted him in the event that they had known concerning the payment to Ellison and her credibility issues.

Other recent evidence also emerged pointing to Johnson’s innocence.

A brand new podcast, “Earwitness,” has brought renewed attention to the case and revealed recent information that would potentially free Johnson after many years behind bars.

In 2023, the podcast found Ellison’s grandchildren, who revealed they didn’t trust her, describing her as willing to do “anything for a dollar.”

According to nearly a dozen witnesses, Johnson and his disabled friend Ardragus Ford were hanging out together at Tee’s Place, a nightclub in downtown Birmingham, on the time Deputy Hardy was killed 4 miles away.

However, a couple of days after the murder, a troubled 15-year-old girl named Yolanda Chambers, who was later joined by the girl who was picked up by Johnson and Ford after the boys left the nightclub, turned each men over to authorities after the sheriff’s decision. the department offers an award.

Although Chambers modified her story multiple times, she initially told investigators that the boys admitted to the ladies that Johnson had “coped out” earlier that evening. Johnson and Ford became everlasting suspects after the primary of Chambers’ many interviews with investigators.

During the trial, through which Chambers emerged as an inconsistent witness, police all but admitted that they were unsure who actually killed Deputy Hardy because they lacked any physical evidence or eyewitness testimony that directly implicated Johnson.

During the trial, prosecutors also presented five conflicting theories concerning the fatal shooting in an attempt to explain the circumstances of Hardy’s death, but stopped in need of drawing any conclusions, suggesting there was no smoking gun.

The lead detective on the case initially testified that Ardragus Ford and one other man, Omar Berry, were chargeable for Hardy’s killing. However, prosecutors modified their theory multiple times over a three-year period, leading to Johnson being the just one found guilty and sentenced to death.

Toforest Johnson’s cousin, Antonio Green, and his daughter Shanaye Poole have kept photos of him for years. (Photo: ToforestJohnson.com)

Hicks said she modified her mind about Johnson’s guilt greater than 20 years after she helped send him to death row for the crime.

“After the trial, I returned home and returned to everyday life,” she explained. “I haven’t heard anything else from Toforest Johnson for over two decades. But then I started seeing his case on the news.”

Around this time, in 2023, public officials in Alabama began calling for a retrial of Johnson, which was met with broad support from the likes of Kardashian, who in January shared several infographics about Johnson’s criminal case on Instagram along with her 364 million followers . .

In one post, Kardashian wrote that Johnson was “26. He spent Christmas in prison for against the law he didn’t commit” and posted a link to a petition for help for the man.

Support for Johnson also got here from numerous unlikely places, namely from former state Attorney General Bill Baxley and Birmingham District Attorney Jeff Wallace, who in 1998 prosecuted Johnson for Hardy’s murder.

Earlier in 2014, Wallace testified under oath that he “does not believe the state’s case is very strong because it depends on the testimony of Violet Ellison.”

Baxley, who fought to restore the death penalty as Alabama’s attorney general within the Nineteen Seventies, also said he firmly believed Johnson was innocent, describing him as “trapped” within the legal system.

“Johnson’s murder trial was so riddled with errors and the evidence presented against him so scant that no Alabamian should tolerate his imprisonment, let alone his execution,” he added. Baxley wrote for the Washington Post.

The call to throw out the ruling also drew support from two former Alabama governors and a former Republican state judge.

AND website named in Johnson’s honor also found, which highlighted the variety of advocates and lawmakers who were behind the hassle to free him.

As the momentum built for Johnson, Hicks said she began to grapple with the impact of the jury’s decision on his fate, which led to deep personal reflection and she or he found she could now not ignore what many others were now claiming about Johnson’s innocence. .

Based on her Christian faith, Hicks said she felt moved to express her recent perspective on the case in a column she wrote, calling for a brand new trial for Johnson while emphasizing the necessity for a good and thorough examination of all of the evidence.

“Twenty-five years ago I sat on the jury in a Birmingham courtroom and voted for a man’s death. Prosecutor Jeff Wallace asked me and the opposite jurors to convict defendant Toforest Johnson of murder. He then asked us to sentence Mr. Johnson to death. We did each.

After Wallace, of all people, called for a brand new trial, Hicks said she struggled to come to terms along with her own decision to convict Johnson, which forced her to speak out.

“I remember how young Mr. Johnson looked. And I remember perfectly well that when the verdict was read, I heard loud lamentations in the audience. Now that I am a mother myself, I can only imagine the immense sadness that Mr. Johnson’s mother must have felt. At the time, I took comfort in the belief that my vote to convict Mr. Johnson and sentence him to death was the right one. Now my tears are flowing too.”

This article was originally published on : atlantablackstar.com
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Undeterred Clarence Thomas under fire after reports revealing more undisclosed trips aboard the GOP billionaire’s private jet and nearly $4.2 million in gifts

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Clarence Thomas Claims Critics Have Plotted to

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is under fire again over his repeated acceptance of luxury gifts and free travel after Senate Democrats released a series of documents showing the veteran lawyer didn’t disclose three private flights he took with billionaire Republican Party donor Harlan Crow in 2017–2021.

As detailed in a document provided by Crow’s lawyers to the Senate Judiciary Committee, two of the flights were round trips and one included multiple destinations.

The latest revelation in the case follows a shocking ProPublica report last yr that exposed Judge Thomas usually accepted gifts from multiple billionaire Republican megadonors, including former Berkshire Hathaway executive David Sokol, former Miami Dolphins owner H. Wayne Huizenga and Crow, a Dallas real estate mogul, amongst others.

Clarence Thomas claims critics planned to 'bombard' his reputation amid calls for his resignation
Associate Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas speaks at the Heritage Foundation on October 21, 2021 in Washington, DC. Clarence Thomas has served on the Supreme Court for 30 years. He was nominated by former President George H. W. Bush in 1991 and is the second African American to serve on the Supreme Court, after Justice Thurgood Marshall. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Judge Thomas never mentioned it in his annual financial reports, regardless that he received very expensive gifts for over 20 years.

The Senate Finance Committee can also be investigating Thomas’s financial dealings over the past 20 years amid increased calls for stricter ethics rules and Thomas’ resignation.

Recent documents show that Judge Thomas traveled across the country at will, which indicates that in May 2017 he flew on a Crow private jet from St. Louis to Kalispell, Montana, and then went to Dallas. Then, in March 2019, the conservative justice took the billionaire’s private jet from Washington, D.C. to Savannah, Georgia, and back. In June 2021, Thomas secretly flew from Washington, D.C., to San Jose, California, and back, in line with logs obtained by the Judiciary Committee.

The most notable discovery is that Thomas made three journeys that had not been previously disclosed.

The news got here shortly after a report by the group Fix the Court found that Thomas had received more gifts than every other Supreme Court justice in history, with the total value of those gifts since 1981 exceeding $5.87 million, including nearly .2 million dollars were received in just the last 20 years, in line with the commission’s reading.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, criticized Thomas for what he called a transparent violation of ethics and decency.

“Nearly $4.2 million in gifts, and even that was not enough for Judge Thomas, with at least three additional trips that the Commission has not disclosed to date, the Commission found,” Durbin said in a press release. press release. “The Senate Judiciary Committee’s investigation into the Supreme Court’s ethics crisis provides new information – like the one we released today – and makes clear that the high court needs an enforceable code of conduct as its members continue to choose not to meet for the moment.”

Thomas previously admitted that he received only 27 gifts on federal disclosure forms before Fix the Court released its research, while his lack of transparency led to ongoing discussions on Capitol Hill about judicial ethics.

Legal experts suggested that failing to reveal the trips would likely not result in any penalty for Thomas.

The Code of Conduct for Judges, established in November 2023, has no provisions on consequences in the event of breaches, nor does it provide a mechanism for determining whether such breaches have occurred.

The code, devoid of any real enforcement power, has come under increasing criticism in the wake of the various ethics scandals which have engulfed the Supreme Court over the past yr.

More recently, the controversy surrounding Justice Samuel Alito and the display of far-right flags at two of his residences in reference to the January 6 attack only highlighted the ineffectiveness of the code.

Last June, Alito also sought to dispel a ProPublica report alleging that he went on a luxury fishing trip to Alaska 15 years ago with a billionaire Republican donor whose hedge fund was the subject of several Supreme Court decisions that Alito never he didn’t withdraw.

Meanwhile, a few of the gifts Thomas received helped cover various living expenses, including private school tuition for his grandson, automobile batteries and tires for the family vehicle, ProPublica reports.

But Crow was the one who really raised the lifestyle for the conservative justice after a few of the financial difficulties Thomas had in his early years on the Supreme Court.

According to ProPublica, Crow paid for Thomas’ extravagant around-the-world vacation on a private jet, and also financed exotic cruises on a luxury yacht and the purchase of a luxury RV with a $267,000 loan that Thomas didn’t should repay.

The reasons for the largesse towards Thomas remain unclear, raising concerns about potential attempts to influence and corrupt the highest court in the land.

Crow previously insisted that he and Thomas were close friends and that Thomas had not adjudicated on any matters involving his estate.

Yale Law School professor George Priest, who has spent summers with Thomas and Crow in the past, told ProPublica that he believed Crow’s generosity was geared toward improving Thomas’s quality of life fairly than attempting to influence his legal opinions.

Lawmakers use every ethics controversy as a platform to call for a code of conduct that imposes real consequences for actions perceived as undermining confidence in the Supreme Court.

“As a result of our investigation and subpoena authorization, we are providing the American public with greater clarity about the scope of Supreme Court justices’ ethical lapses and the need for ethics reform,” Durbin also noted in his statement. “Despite his lowest ever approval rating and endless self-made scandals, Chief Justice Roberts continues to refuse to use his current powers to implement an enforceable code of conduct.”

As with all revelations about Thomas, the latest report sparked criticism of the Supreme Court justice and calls for his removal or resignation.

“Stop framing it as, ‘Thomas must resign’ – he won’t ever, ever, ever try this – start pushing for impeachment. With each revelation about Clarence Thomas’ gifts from billionaire donor Harlan Crow, it becomes more and more clear: Congress must impeach Thomas,” one X user wrote.

“Accepting money shows he has no integrity. It would take honesty to resign. He has served the far right throughout his career,” wrote one other user. “This man is an embarrassment to every bar card holder and has no shame in bringing the same to SCOTUS.”

This article was originally published on : atlantablackstar.com
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At church, Trump stirs up tensions among black immigrants. Are Democrats ready to respond?

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If you listened closely during Donald Trump’s recent visit to a “black” church in Detroit, you could have heard whispers concerning the ghosts of the political past.

“They are attacking your jobs,” Trump said. “People crossing the border – all these millions of people – are causing enormous harm to our black population and our Latino population.”

Trump’s dire warning was not a brand new claim, however it has been repeated across political eras, sometimes even by Democrats themselves. After all, President Bill Clinton signed a law in 1996 that made it easier to deport more immigrants while narrowing the trail to legal immigration.

For many Black Americans, this remains to be not the case – for them, immigrants are their allies, exploited by similar economic systems designed to marginalize the “other.” But for other groups of voters within the broader Black community, even when it isn’t politically correct to say it out loud, Trump’s claim about competition from immigrants could also be attractive.

For these voters, immigrants – most frequently Latino immigrants – are allegedly the explanation why Black Americans lose their jobs and are marginalized within the very country they helped construct with their sweat and blood. For them, while immigrants began to pursue the American dream, sometimes called “hard workers,” black Americans were trampled on as they climbed the ladder of racial and social caste. If immigrants didn’t take jobs, they not less than sometimes clashed culturally.

So whose interpretation is true?

The query of whether immigrants are “taking” jobs and opportunities from Black Americans is a sensitive one for advocacy groups and a few political circles since the answer requires nuance.

The American Immigration Council argues that there isn’t a significant correlation between high levels of immigration and high unemployment among black Americans because immigrants often play complementary roles within the labor market. These are positions requiring lower qualifications, which opens the best way for native employees to perform better-paid positions. However, in an article within the journal “Beyond conflict and competition”, authors Chrisshonna Grant Nieva, Laura Pulido and Nathan J. Sessoms explain the next:

Haitian immigrants who crossed a spot within the U.S.-Mexico border barrier wait in line to be processed by the U.S. Border Patrol on May 20, 2022, in Yuma, Arizona. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

In short, the reply will depend on your occupation and level of education.

This research shows us that policy frameworks for “immigrant competition” must acknowledge complexity, otherwise they may appear to disregard the true experiences of some people. For those that want easy answers, heroes and scapegoats, the above explanation doesn’t satisfy either side of the talk.

But that does not imply Democrats should avoid it.

Doing so only strengthens the case as an efficient tool for the Republican Party. Look no further than the handfuls of immigrants bused into predominantly black Chicago neighborhoods to sow deep resentment among residents.

“Our particular frustration is with the continued and blatant disregard for the safety and overall quality of life of Black residents, as many of these migrants have been abandoned in our neighborhoods with no plan in place to monitor and house them long-term,” she said. Natasha Dunn, Chicago resident, quoted on Fox News article regarding a housing plan that assumed the location of migrants in a close-by abandoned school.

And speaking of Fox News, one seek for “Black” and “migrants” yields quite a few articles portraying immigrants as a threat to the Black community. Somehow, the identical right-wing media brands that disparage and demonize the Black Lives Matter movement, DEI, racial justice efforts, and America’s first Black president are concerned concerning the well-being and pain of Black communities.

The most astute media consumers can spot contradictions. But others won’t care concerning the source of the news. It also doesn’t negate the concerns of Black Americans, especially in the event that they live in swing states where each vote could make or break the consequence of an election.

Democrats tend to lump essentially the most racially and ethnically diverse communities under one big electoral tent, with Black and Latino voters (including Black Latinos/Latinos) being a part of their electoral coalition. For Democrats to counter Trump’s attacks on them as a celebration out of touch with immigration on the expense of the Black community, they should have a transparent explanation of how the concerns of immigrant communities align with Black American communities.

Migrants, most of them from Haiti, are seen at an encampment along the Del Rio International Bridge near the Rio Grande, Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021, in Del Rio, Texas. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

They must even be prepared to tell the story of how these groups formed the coalition.

Just as Black Americans aren’t a monolith, immigrants to America, especially Latino immigrants, who come from over 20 countries, aren’t a monolith, speak different languages, and belong to different races.

In cities like New York within the Sixties, Black American and Puerto Rican immigrant communities fought side by side for his or her civil rights, with groups just like the Black Panthers and Young Lords demanding healthcare, education and an end to exploitation. Even though Puerto Rican migrants are American residents, there are still lessons to be learned from cross-cultural cooperation (and sometimes tension).

What was it about their situation that made them even closer? Some scholars say the concept of “connected fate” convinced these communities to work in partnership.

Differences in immigrant nationalities (Mexican, Cuban, Jamaican, Dominican), race (black, white, Asian, mixed race), and geography (West Coast vs. Northeast vs. American South vs. Midwest) mix to create different responses to narratives about rivalry between immigrants and ethnic groups across the country. Democrats should tailor their immigration messaging and never treat all voters the identical.

Democrats even have a number of work to do in countering Trump’s claims to be the champion of Black America: his death wish for the Central Park Five; his claim of “very good people on both sides” after neo-Nazi marches; confirmed contempt for black employees; threats of military motion against BLM protesters; the initiation of the birth movement; and his “shithole countries” comment, which deemed people from majority-black countries unworthy of immigrants.

But it isn’t enough to pull out Kanye and say, “Donald Trump doesn’t care about black people.” Democrats must show how policies actively reveal concern for the economic and private well-being of Black people. They have loads of work to do, from child tax credits and prescription drug caps to student loan forgiveness.

However, when it comes to immigration, messages need to be more direct and targeted. They should remind the general public that President Biden is on his first day in office proposed immigration reformAmerican Citizenship Act of 2021. The bill was rejected by Republicans and had no probability with a Senate filibuster.

Democrats should explain how they crafted a bipartisan immigration bill that might address essentially the most pressing points of the crisis, but Trump advised against passing it, largely to prevent a legislative victory for Biden. They also needs to reveal why the party believes that immigration is legal improves the general economy for all Americans, and although immigration has been broken under Democratic and Republican presidents, they’ve a plan to fix it.

But most significantly, Democrats must clarify that Black Americans is not going to be left behind of their vision for America and the long run in 2025. Because for these voters, being prioritized is mandatory, not optional.

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This article was originally published on : thegrio.com
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Kamala Harris speaks at the 100 Black Men conference in Atlanta

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Kamala Harris, 100 Black Men, Atlanta

 


Vice President Kamala Harris arrived in Atlanta on June 14 and addressed attendees at the thirty eighth 100 Black Men Conference as a part of her economic opportunity tour. The event was moderated by host Steve Harvey.

According to a press release issued by The 100 Black Men of America, Harris’ appearance He was not support for Harris or the Biden-Harris administration; reasonably, it was a possibility to have interaction in a meaningful conversation about economic opportunity.

As reported by Georgia Public Broadcasting, Harris’s comments mentioned possibilities for minority-owned small businesses to acquire enterprise capital investment, home ownership and debt prevention, in addition to policies developed by the Biden-Harris administration aimed at helping close the racial wealth gap.

“There are obstacles built into the system that need to be addressed to give people a chance. And it’s not about giving alms,” the vice president told the audience. “It’s about saying, ‘Give people the opportunity to compete, give hard-working people a chance to advance, not just survive.’”

Harris’ trip to Atlanta was her second visit to the city as a part of her economic opportunity tour; he is anticipated to go to Atlanta again on June 18 to debate gun violence.

April trip, based on a White House fact sheet highlighted the $158 million investment from the Biden-Harris administration awarded to Atlanta through the Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhoods Program, the first such program offered by the federal government. The fact sheet says “The Stitch” – the nickname given to the project – represents infrastructure projects awarded in 40 states.

It is well documented that the invention of the American highway system spelled the death of thriving Black communities and neighborhoods. According to civil rights lawyer and law professor Deborah Archer, “The interstate highway system is… a physical realization of our racial norms and values. “Highways have been built through and around Black communities to physically perpetuate racial inequality and protect white spaces and privilege.”

The economic opportunity tour represents an attempt by the Biden-Harris administration to confront this history and devote resources to addressing it, based on the fact sheet.

“The Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhoods program is another way the Biden-Harris administration is expanding economic opportunity while also addressing the legacy of harm in communities that have faced decades of disinvestment or economic hardship,” the White House said. “The administration is focused on supporting economic returns in communities across the country; especially those that have suffered from decades of disinvestment.”

This article was originally published on : www.blackenterprise.com
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