Alabama, USA death penalty for not killing

This 5 March 2020 United States TV video says about itself:

Martin Luther King III Pushes To Halt Alabama Execution | Morning Joe | MSNBC

An eleventh-hour push to halt the execution of Nathaniel Woods, a black prisoner in Alabama, is continuing with activists calling on Gov. Kay Ivey to intervene. Woods is set to die at 6 p.m. Thursday. Martin Luther King III joins Morning Joe to discuss.

By Kate Randall in the USA:

Nathaniel Woods, 44, who never killed anyone, executed in Alabama

7 March 2020

The state of Alabama executed Nathaniel Woods, 44, Thursday evening. His execution came nearly 16 years after three Birmingham police officers were shot and killed. Woods was sentenced to death for the 2004 killings despite the fact that he did not fire any shots on what has come to be known as the “Deadliest Day” in the Birmingham Police Department’s history.

Capital punishment, which is banned in the vast majority of the modern industrialized world, is still legal in 29 of 50 US states, the US federal government and the US military. The death penalty is horrific in its own right, a barbarous practice rooted in vengeance and retribution that has nothing to do with rehabilitation, has been proven not to deter crime and does not provide “closure” to the victims of crime.

In Woods’ case, the injustice of the ultimate punishment is compounded by the fact that he did not pull the trigger that ended the lives of officers Carlos Owen, Harley A. Chisholm III and Charles R. Bennett. This reality was never disputed by the prosecution in Woods case. By witness accounts, Woods actually ran from the cops who were in the process of arresting him and taking him into custody for an outstanding misdemeanor warrant at a drug house in Birmingham. The man who shot the officers, Kerry M. Spencer, is on death row awaiting execution and has since said that Woods is “100 percent innocent”.

Michael Collins, another officer at the scene that day, testified at trial that Woods had come out of the house with his hands up and said to the police: “I give up. I give up. Just don’t spray me with that mace”, before Spencer started shooting. However, Collins later changed his testimony from earlier statements to include a claim that Woods had threatened the officers before they were killed.

Numerous public figures and celebrities, including Martin Luther King III, O.J. Simpson and Kim Kardashian, protested the execution. More than 75,000 opponents of the execution signed petitions to Alabama Governor Kay Ivey to stop it. Woods’ sister, Pamela Woods, told Newsweek that her brother’s impending execution was “a modern-day lynching”.

Woods’ conviction and sentence were affirmed by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals and the Alabama Supreme Court. Governor Ivey, a Republican, declined to commute his sentence. The US Supreme Court issued a temporary stay of execution Thursday night but lifted it before Woods’ execution warrant expired, allowing it to proceed.

The Birmingham News reported on the grisly scene at William C. Holman Correctional Facility’s execution chamber in Atmore on Thursday. After the curtains to the viewing room opened at 8:37 p.m. local time, the News wrote, “Woods sat up on the gurney and stared straight ahead to one of the three viewing rooms. As the warden left the room, Woods laid his head down. At 8:40 p.m., Woods sat back up and began mouthing words. His fists were clenched, while his right-hand index finger was stuck out in an apparent sign of his Islamic faith.”

Woods laid his head down at 8:43 p.m. as the lethal chemicals proceeded to flow. He moved his arms against the restraints. After an 8:45 p.m. consciousness check, his left arms jerked up against the restraint. No more movement was seen after that and Woods was pronounced dead at 9:01 p.m.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall urged Ivey not to be persuaded by Woods’ supporters. He wrote, “Although Woods was not the shooter, he was hardly an innocent bystander”. He cited the testimony of Marquita McClure, Woods’ girlfriend at the time, who told detectives that she had heard Woods and Spencer talking about killing police before the shootings.

However, McClure later told a pretrial hearing that she “made that up”, according to a 2003 AP report. “I told y’all what you wanted to hear,” she said. The Appeal reported that Woods’ attorneys argued in an appeal that police had threatened her with parole violations if she refused to testify against him. Woods’ pro bono attorney Lauren Faraino said McClure’s testimony had been pivotal in Woods’ conviction.

Faraino told Newsweek, “When I became involved, I realized just how deeply this had been messed up by his prior counsel.” She said that Woods’ court-appointed trial attorney, who had never tried a capital case before his, rejected a plea deal by the state which would have seen him sentenced to between 20 and 25 years for a non-capital offense. But they had advised him that he could not be sentenced to death because he was not the trigger man.

“Well, that is incorrect. In Alabama, even if you’re not the trigger man, you can be sentenced to death on the theory of complicity which is exactly how they convicted Nate”, Faraino said. She also described other instances of incompetence by his trial attorneys, including missing deadlines so that strong legal claims had been procedurally barred.

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Alabama, USA government attacks women’s reproductive rights

This 16 May 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

Abortion Ban – What Happens to Unwanted Children When Abortion is Illegal?

What happens to children born because abortion is illegal? Will the new abortion ban leave unwanted children without proper care? A Thom Hartmann listener calls in to tell her story of going through life feeling like she was an unwanted child. Should anyone have to go through this?

By Patrick Martin in the USA:

Alabama abortion ban: Back to barbarism

16 May 2019

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed into law Wednesday afternoon the most stringent ban on abortion in any state, criminalizing the medical procedure except in cases where the life or health of the mother is in serious danger. An amendment to permit abortion in cases of rape and incest was removed from the bill when it reached the floor of the state Senate on May 9.

The new law imposes a prison term of up to 99 years for any doctor who performs an abortion except to save the life of a pregnant woman. There is a ten-year term for attempting to perform an abortion. While women who receive an abortion are not explicitly criminalized, the law establishes “personhood” for a fetus from the moment of conception. This opens the door for criminal prosecution for child abuse of pregnant women for any conduct deemed to be potentially damaging to the fetus.

Republican legislators in the state House and state Senate decided to enact the most extreme anti-abortion bill in order to give the US Supreme Court the opportunity to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which threw out state laws criminalizing abortion. Rep. Terri Collins, the sponsor of the bill, was quite explicit that the ban on abortion for victims of rape and incest was necessary in order to assert, in the face of expected legal challenges in the federal courts, the principle that a fetus is a living person from the moment of conception, with full constitutional rights.

The Alabama law is an outrageous act of medieval barbarism. Its consequences, should it eventually be upheld by the courts, would be to force women seeking abortion in Alabama into back-alley procedures at greatly increased risk of death or mutilation. This danger will face working class women especially, since wealthier women will be able to travel to other states to have the procedure. This is in a state so impoverished and with such a deficient social infrastructure that more than half of its counties have no obstetricians.

The law is unconstitutional, not merely because it directly contradicts the Roe v. Wade precedent, but because it represents the elevation of a religious doctrine to state policy in violation of the First Amendment ban on the establishment of religion. Alabama legislators were quite explicit about the religious motivation for the law.

Republican Senator Clyde Chambliss, a sponsor of the bill, argued against exceptions for rape and incest, declaring, “When God creates the miracle of life inside a woman’s womb, it is not our place as human beings to extinguish that life.” The House sponsor, Terri Collins, said the bill was the outcome of “prayer”. This directly contradicts the First Amendment, which bans translating into law—imposed on all citizens—the religious prejudices of fundamentalist Protestants or the corrupt Roman Catholic hierarchy.

There is every reason to believe that the five-member ultra-right majority on the US Supreme Court is looking for an opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade, despite the perfunctory statements made by four of the five during their confirmation hearings that Roe was a settled precedent. Significantly, the high court on Monday went out of its way to overturn a 40-year-old precedent dealing with an obscure issue of state sovereignty, namely, whether states have sovereign immunity from lawsuits by residents of other states.

Justice Stephen Breyer in his dissent said that the five-member right-wing majority was setting a precedent for overturning well-established precedents and warned, “Today’s decision can only cause one to wonder which cases the Court will overrule next.” The unstated reference to the 46-year-old Roe v. Wade decision was understood by all court observers.

There are a multitude of abortion rights cases now in the federal courts, triggered by a wave of restrictive legislation enacted by Republican-controlled state legislatures, mainly in the period since Trump entered the White House and appointed two ferociously anti-abortion justices to the Supreme Court. Neil Gorsuch replaced Antonin Scalia, which did not shift the balance on the court on the issue, but Brett Kavanaugh replaced Anthony Kennedy, who had been the swing vote on numerous abortion rights cases and co-wrote the current controlling decision, Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), which represented a restriction on abortion rights but left Roe v. Wade basically intact.

Just since January, four states—Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio—have enacted “fetal heartbeat” laws that ban abortion after the sixth week of pregnancy. The sole purpose of these laws is to block the vast majority of abortions, since few women are even certain they are pregnant only six weeks after conception.

One law, introduced in Texas but not yet enacted, goes even further: it would remove the exemption of abortion from the state definition of homicide, making every woman who receives an abortion potentially a candidate for Death Row.

These are not merely state decisions. They have national implications. It cannot be ruled out that state laws criminalizing abortion within a state will be interpreted to criminalize the conduct of a woman who travels outside the state to obtain an abortion, as well as the actions of those who help her. This is the barbaric logic of the position that “abortion is murder.”

Moreover, there is no reason to believe that the Supreme Court majority will not go beyond merely reversing Roe v. Wade, which would leave abortion policy to the states. Also possible is a sort of Dred Scott decision in the sphere of women’s rights, requiring states that recognize abortion rights to enforce the prohibitions enacted by anti-abortion states, just as Trump is seeking to compel “sanctuary cities” to enforce the most draconian attacks on immigrants and refugees.

Beyond the legal counterrevolution against Roe is the implacable withdrawal of social support for women seeking an abortion. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 90 percent of all US counties have no abortion provider. In seven American states, there is only a single abortion provider in the entire state. Alabama has only three. Even a large, densely populated Midwest state like Ohio has only 10, down from 45 in 1992. Twenty-seven large American cities have no abortion provider.

And abortions are not covered under Medicaid or Obamacare—because of continuous capitulations by the Democrats on this issue. The result is that for much of the United States, working class women have already been deprived of the right to abortion. They cannot fly to New York, Chicago or Los Angeles to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.

Over decades in which the right to abortion has been largely eviscerated, the Democratic Party, always cowering before the Christian right, has done little to defend it.

Nancy Pelosi tweeted this week against “this relentless and cruel Republican assault on women’s health.” But during the 2018 campaign she declared that defense of the right to an abortion was not a “litmus test” and insisted on backing Democrats in some congressional districts who held equally “cruel” views.

Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand and other presidential candidates also condemned the decision. But none of them have made the defense of abortion rights, particularly in the South and in rural areas, a major feature of their campaigns. This is despite Trump’s repeated declarations that he intends to make the overturn of Roe v. Wade a centerpiece of his reelection campaign.

Now the incessant talk of “empowering” women—which means, of course, bourgeois women—runs into the embarrassing spectacle of Alabama’s first female governor, once hailed as a moderating influence on the Republican Party, signing into law the most restrictive anti-woman legislation in recent American history.

The reality is that abortion is a democratic right that is of particular importance to the working class. It is working class women who must make difficult decisions about how and when to have children. They face the greatest danger of becoming pregnant through rape or some other form of abuse. The class divide in American society applies just as forcefully in that sphere as in any other.

Abortion rights … can be defended only through the struggle, led by the working class, against the capitalist system and all of its political representatives.

I’m From Alabama And Gave Birth To My Rapist’s Child Because I Couldn’t Get An Abortion: here.

WAVE OF PROTESTS PLANNED OVER ABORTION BANS Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Women’s March, NARAL Pro-Choice America and other groups are organizing nationwide demonstrations on Tuesday to protest the wave of new state laws restricting abortion. [HuffPost]

MISSOURI LAWMAKER BACKPEDALS ON ‘CONSENSUAL RAPE’ CLAIM A Missouri Republican who referenced “consensual rapes” during a debate over his state’s proposed eight-week abortion ban has walked back the remark, reportedly claiming he misspoke. [HuffPost]

Protests erupt across US over barbaric anti-abortion ban in Alabama: here.

Lawyers for the young Alabama woman who was five months pregnant and is facing a manslaughter charge after she was the victim of a shooting that led to a miscarriage filed a motion in Jefferson County Circuit Court this week to have all charges dismissed. The attempted prosecution of 27-year-old Marshae Jones is part of the escalating effort to reverse the 1973 US Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion by granting full legal rights to the human fetus. It is also bound up with a law-and-order frenzy that criminalizes the poor: here.

ABORTION ‘GAG RULE’ EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY Taxpayer-funded family planning clinics must stop referring women for abortions immediately, the Trump administration said, declaring it will begin enforcing a new regulation hailed by religious conservatives and denounced by medical organizations and women’s rights groups. [AP]

Rare yellow cardinal in Alabama, USA

This video from the USA says about itself:

22 February 2018

An extremely rare cardinal has birders and biologists flocking to Shelby County, Alabama this week, as images of a yellow cardinal have circulated around social media.

Auburn University biology professor Geoffrey Hill said the cardinal in the photos is an adult male in the same species as the common red cardinal, but carries a genetic mutation that causes what would normally be brilliant red feathers to be bright yellow instead.

Alabaster resident Charlie Stephenson first noticed the unusual bird at her backyard feeder in late January and posted about it on Facebook. She said she’s been birding for decades but it took her some time to figure out what she was seeing.

“I thought ‘well there’s a bird I’ve never seen before’,” Stephenson said. “Then I realized it was a cardinal, and it was a yellow cardinal.”

Stephenson said she would not give out her address or specific location due to fears that people would flock in to get a look at the bird, but said she lives near the new Thompson High School in Alabaster. She shot some video of the bird … . The yellow cardinal is still around, she said.

“Every time I watch the bird feeder, I can see him,” she said. “The cardinals in my back yard typically come in the morning and again in the evening and I can only bird-watch on weekends until the time changes, but on weekends, I’ll sit there and watch for him.

(Video courtesy Charlie Stephenson)

Pro-Trump Moore loses Alabama Senate election

This 13 December 2017 video from the USA says about itself:

Roy Moore Loses!!!

Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks reports in on the Alabama senate race between Roy Moore and Doug Jones.

By Barry Grey in the USA:

Corporate Democrat Doug Jones defeats far-right evangelical Roy Moore in Alabama Senate race

13 December 2017

In a special election Wednesday to fill the US Senate seat from Alabama vacated by President Trump’s attorney general Jeff Sessions, conservative Democrat Doug Jones defeated ultra-right former state Supreme Court chief judge Roy Moore.

It was the first time a Democrat won a US Senate election in Alabama since the election in 1992 of Richard Shelby, who subsequently became a Republican and remains today the state’s senior senator.

The vote count as of this writing was 49.9 percent for Jones to 48.4 percent for Moore, a narrow but comfortable margin. Despite the fact that state law triggers an automatic recount only if the margin of difference is 0.5 percent or below, Moore refused to concede the election following Jones’ victory speech and indicated that he would contest the outcome.

The Democratic victory was the result of a higher-than expected turnout of about 37 percent, with turnout particularly high, compared to previous elections, among African Americans and young people. Voter turnout was especially heavy in the major urban centers of Birmingham, Mobile, Huntsville and Montgomery. Moore won, as expected, in the rural largely white parts of the state, but he lost in the black rural areas, where turnout was much higher.

Jones had a big advantage among younger voters and won overwhelming majorities among African Americans.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

In addition, in Alabama there are also many areas where black voters live who had stayed at home disillusioned at the presidential election last year. [NOS correspondent] Zwart: “They have now gone to the polls en masse and have issued a statement by almost all voting for Moore’s opponent”.

So, apparently, these black voters, though opposing Donald Trump, thought Hillary Clinton was not an inspiring alternative to Trump. Now, however, they saw an opportunity to hinder Trump’s right-wing policies. Things may have worked similarly for younger voters who did not vote in the Trump-Clinton election but who did vote this time.

The Barry Grey article continues:

He also won the independent vote by 9 points, an indication that Moore was abandoned by sections of affluent white voters who traditionally vote Republican. Some 22,000 voters cast write-in ballots, a higher number than Jones’ margin of victory. On Sunday, Senator Shelby had told CNN that he would not vote for Moore and he urged Alabama Republicans to write in the names of other Republicans.

The result is a serious blow to Trump, who intervened strongly in favor of Moore after the Senate Republican leadership withdrew its support following allegations that the 70-year-old former judge had made improper sexual advances to teenage girls when he was a deputy district attorney in his 30s.

Jones’ admission to the Senate will cut the Republicans’ majority to one, 51 to 49.

The election campaign itself was a spectacle of political reaction and mud-slinging. Moore is a fascistic evangelical who advocates the establishment of a theocracy in the United States. He supports making homosexuality a crime, glorifies the pre-Civil War South, has called for the deployment of US troops on the border with Mexico and promotes xenophobia as part of a pseudo-populist crusade against the “Eastern establishment.”

He was twice removed from the state Supreme Court for defying federal court rulings against his agenda of religious bigotry. The first occasion was his refusal to abide by a ruling that he take down a three-ton monument to the Ten Commandments which he had installed outside the Supreme Court building. The second was his issuing of instructions to probate court judges to continue enforcing a state law banning same-sex marriage that had been overturned by the federal courts.

In one campaign appearance, Moore was asked when he believed America was last “great.” He said one would have to go back to the period before the Civil War, i.e., during the period of slavery in the South. In 2011, he told a right-wing talk show host that getting rid of every amendment to the US Constitution after the 10th would “eliminate many problems.” That would mean overturning the amendments that freed the slaves, guaranteed the democratic rights of freedmen and granted them the right to vote.

In 2009 and 2010, Moore’s Foundation for Moral law hosted pro-Confederate Alabama “Secession Day” celebrations.

Jones and the Democratic Party virtually ignored Moore’s ultra-right policies and instead based their campaign almost entirely on playing up accusations of sexual misconduct against the Republican candidate. As Election Day approached, the national Democratic Party and its allied media sought to leverage the Moore allegations to revive charges of sexual harassment against Donald Trump that had first been raised by the media and the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign in 2016. This will undoubtedly be intensified following Jones’ victory.

Indeed, USA Today published an editorial Wednesday night that cited a Trump tweet with sexual innuendos directed against Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who had called for his resignation over sexual allegations against him. The newspaper declared that Trump was unfit to remain president.

Apart from this sexual mud-slinging, Jones stressed his independence from the national Democratic Party, his support for increased military spending, his commitment to fiscal austerity and his backing for tax cuts to improve the business climate for corporations wishing to exploit the deeply impoverished working class in Alabama. He combined an appeal to black voters with an effort to win over disaffected Republicans.

Jones made no class appeal whatsoever in a state that is a byword for crushing poverty and exploitation, and offered no serious proposals to address unemployment, poverty wages or lack of decent education, housing and health care.

Nevertheless, he benefited from growing opposition to Trump and his administration’s attacks on health care and democratic rights, its push for a $1.5 trillion tax windfall for the rich and threats to unleash a nuclear war against North Korea. According to exit polls, Trump’s disapproval rating of 48 percent equaled his approval rating. This is in a state that he won last year by a margin of 63 percent to 35 percent.

In his victory speech, Jones reiterated his campaign themes of “unity” and bipartisan cooperation with the Republicans, declaring, “We tried to make sure this campaign was about finding common ground.” He said nothing about the pervasive poverty in Alabama, the fourth poorest state in the country, where household median income is nearly $11,000 less than the national figure. Nor did he mention, let alone criticize, Moore’s fascistic politics.

The Democratic victory, which clearly came as a shock to Jones himself, revealed the fragility of the hold of right-wing populist and nativist politics on states that have long been conceded by the Democrats to the Republicans. Alabama itself has undergone a significant development in recent years, with the entry of major firms such as Airbus, Mercedes Benz, Honda and Hyundai and the rapid growth of an industrial working class.

Manufacturing workers made up between 13 and 16 percent of the total workforce in 2015. That is the fifth highest concentration of all states, according to the National Association of Manufacturers, and a substantial increase from a decade ago.

Neither of the right-wing parties of US big business offers any policies to defend the interests of workers in Alabama or any other state. Nor was Wednesday’s election an indication of a surge in support for the Democrats. Exit polls showed that the majority of workers disapproved of both parties, and by similar margins.

Nearly three-quarters of Millennials in the US want a new party: here.

A United Nation team’s tour of Alabama last week exposed what many Alabama residents have known for decades: residents of the state’s Black Belt region are suffering in social conditions most frequently encountered in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. Notably, Lowndes County, the home of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, suffers from poor sewage disposal and resultant hookworm infection otherwise unknown in the United States: here.

LAST Wednesday night the Trump administration declared war on America’s public sector unions: here.

The Trump White House Monday issued a so-called “War Powers” letter addressed to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and the president pro tempore of the Senate, Orin Hatch, to “keep the Congress informed about deployments of United States Armed Forces equipped for combat”: here.

‘Stop Donald Trump nominee Jeff Sessions’

This video from the USA says about itself:

Sessions’ Extreme Record

31 January 2017

Jeff Sessions‘ attempted to jail Alabama civil rights workers who were registering Black voters in 1985. Since then, time and time again, Sessions has failed to stand up for the rights of all Americans. As Rep. John Lewis‘ told the Committee during Sessions’ confirmation hearing: “We need someone as Attorney General who’s going to look out for all of us.”

From the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in the USA today:

5 things you need to know about Jeff Sessions and why you should contact your senators

The full Senate is scheduled to vote this week on the confirmation of Senator Jeff Sessions to serve as Attorney General of the United States. LDF has thoroughly researched Jeff Sessions’ troubling decades-long record on civil rights and racial justice and followed his hearing closely. Both his record and his testimony underscore that he is unqualified to be Attorney General.

We urge you to call your senators right now about Jeff Sessions and make sure your voice is heard.

Here are five things you should know from Senator Sessions’ testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee:

1. In ten hours of testimony, Sessions never spoke about the need to defend victims of discrimination.

2. Sessions continued to misrepresent his record and take credit for significant civil rights victories secured by other lawyers.

3. Sessions defended “properly drafted” voter ID laws, despite several recent federal court rulings holding that voter ID laws have unlawfully discriminated against Black and Latino voters.

4. Sessions declined to commit to “defending the rights of Muslim Americans as strenuously as those of any other faith” to be free from discrimination, and said he was “not sure” if lawyers with a secular worldview are as capable of determining the truth as religious lawyers.

5. He offered no assurances that he would vigorously protect the rights of LGBTQ Americans or women.

We need an independent, strong Attorney General who will unite the country and build public trust that our government and justice system will work fairly on behalf of everyone. That clearly is not Jeff Sessions.

Coretta Scott King letter on Sessions

INSIDE THE SENATE FLOOR SCUFFLE OVER SILENCING ELIZABETH WARREN Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) invoked Senate Rule XIX to silence Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) during a speech she was giving in opposition to the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) as attorney general. Warren had begun reading a letter Coretta Scott King wrote in 1986 to protest Sessions’s appointment to a federal judgeship when McConnell called a Senate vote to bar her from speaking, saying she had gone over the line. Take a look at the letter from Coretta Scott King Warren was attempting to read. And here’s why you saw #ShePersisted trending on Twitter. [HuffPost]

More than 200 students rallied and marched at Wayne State University in Detroit on Monday evening against Trump’s executive order banning refugees and visitors from seven majority-Muslim countries. Metro Detroit has a higher percentage of residents with Middle Eastern roots than any urban area in the US, and Wayne State University is the home of thousands of students who are immigrants or the children of immigrants: here.