Gun Control a Big Issue in More Races This Fall

“There’s no question 2018 is stacking up as the year candidates are running on gun safety in order to win elections,” said John Feinblatt of Everytown for Gun Safety.

When Democrat Chrissy Houlahan began running for Congress in Pennsylvania, people told the military veteran and former high school teacher to stay away from one topic: Gun control. She ignored the advice. Since she announced her candidacy, there have been a rash of mass shootings, including the one in February in Parkland, Fl. Supporting major gun-control policies, she has been endorsed by gun-safety groups and is favored to win a newly redrawn seat that in its last configuration has been long held by Republicans, reports Philly.com. The shift Houlahan noticed in the Sixth District is one that activists say is echoed nationwide. Gun control, once considered a third rail in U.S. politics, has emerged as a prominent issue, particularly in several key congressional districts.

Prospects for passing gun-control bills in Congress would improve immensely if Democrats capture the 23 seats they need to flip the House – which some polls suggest they might do – and gun-control platforms might improve their prospects. For many Republicans, gun rights remain a strong issue — but a lower-profile one this year. The National Rifle Association has spent more than $6 million so far, significantly less than its double-digit spends in past elections and than the $20 million being spent for the midterms by Everytown for Gun Safety. The latest Gallup Poll showed that more than 60 percent of Americans favor stricter gun control. It’s “one of the most defining issues for Democrats running for Congress and to retake the House this cycle,” said Peter Ambler of the Giffords gun-control organization. Guns have become an issue in some gubernatorial races, such as in Nevada, Florida, and Georgia. “There’s no question 2018 is stacking up as the year candidates are running on gun safety in order to win elections,” said John Feinblatt of Everytown for Gun Safety.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Trump May Shake Up Refugee Office Amid Caravan Furor

Lynn Johnson, a top official at the Department of Health and Human Services, which runs the refugee resettlement program, is conducting a “top to bottom” review of the program, three months after the migrant crisis paralyzed the agency.

The Trump administration is eyeing a shake-up of its refugee operation and scrutinizing its controversial director as President Trump steps up his call for another crackdown along the U.S.-Mexico border, Politico reports. Lynn Johnson, a top official at the Department of Health and Human Services, which runs the refugee resettlement program, is conducting what she called a “top to bottom” review of the program, three months after the migrant crisis paralyzed the agency. That includes examining the leadership of Scott Lloyd, director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). Lloyd gained attention for his efforts to prevent teen migrants from getting abortions. Johnson’s review has taken on new urgency as Trump rails against the caravan of Central Americans heading across southern Mexico toward the U.S. border. The group has swelled to more than 5,000 people. “It’s a horrible thing. And it’s a lot bigger than 5,000 people,” Trump said on Monday. “And we got to stop them at the border.”

The refugee resettlement office came under fire last summer after the White House and the Homeland Security Department began separating families at the border. The health department was responsible for caring for separated children, and then for trying to reunite them with their families under a court order. Facing a public outcry over the children’s plight, HHS Secretary Alex Azar removed Lloyd from day-to-day operations. Azar has empowered Johnson, a longtime Colorado human services official, to make changes at the refugee office. At the height of the crisis, the HHS refugee office was caring for more than 2,000 migrant children that the Trump administration separated from their families at the border. Nearly 250 children separated at the border still remained in HHS custody as of last week. About 13,000 other migrant children also are in agency custody — the highest number ever.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Immigration Issue Key to Trump’s Strategy of Fear

The president is focusing on a caravan of 5,000 migrants traveling north to cross the U.S. border, a group he has darkly characterized as gang members, violent criminals and “unknown Middle Easterners” — a claim for which his administration has provided no concrete evidence.

President Trump has settled on a strategy of fear — laced with falsehoods and racially tinged rhetoric — to help lift his party to victory in the coming midterms, the Washington Post reports. Trump’s messaging offers an apocalyptic vision of the country, which he warns will only get worse if Democrats retake control of Congress. The president has been especially focused on a caravan of 5,000 migrants traveling north to cross the U.S. border, a group he has darkly characterized as gang members, violent criminals and “unknown Middle Easterners” — a claim for which his administration has so far provided no concrete evidence. “You’re going to find MS-13, you’re going to find Middle Eastern, you’re going to find everything. And guess what? We’re not allowing them in our country,” Trump said. “We want safety.”

The approach in many ways seeks to re-create the 2016 playbook that lifted Trump to the presidency, in which cultural flash points and controversies, like the specter of mass illegal migration, helped energize Trump’s supporters. The president believes his best contrast with Democrats is on immigration and is looking for a way to keep the issue in the news until the midterms, advisers said. Stephen Miller, Trump’s senior policy adviser who has long espoused hard-line immigration policies, is one of the chief authors of Trump’s rally messages, though the president often goes further than his prepared remarks. Unlike two years ago, Republicans are now more eagerly following the president’s cues, including in their own campaign rhetoric and ads. The overall strategy, Trump advisers and political operatives said, is to paint a portrait of a chaotic, dangerous world — with Trump and Republicans as the panacea.

from https://thecrimereport.org

GAO Finds Little Came from Trump’s Opioid Declaration

Amid fanfare last year, President Trump ordered his administration to declare a public health emergency over the opioid epidemic. The Government Accountability Office says the Trump administration has made use of only three authorities created by the declaring of a public health emergency.

Amid fanfare last year, President Trump ordered his administration to declare a public health emergency over the opioid epidemic. “As Americans, we cannot allow this to continue,” Trump said “It is time to liberate our communities from this scourge of drug addiction.” A new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) looked at the results of that emergency declaration. The report found little came out of the declaration, reports Vox. GAO found that the declaration enabled the Trump administration to make use of three new authorities — clearing paperwork requirements for a survey of health care providers about addiction treatment, allowing two states to move forward faster with programs to address the opioid crisis, and expediting support for research about opioid addiction and overdoses. That’s not groundbreaking, particularly for an overdose crisis that’s broken records for overdose deaths year over year, reaching an estimated 72,000 in 2017.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), one of those who requested the GAO report, said, “I’ve asked this administration time and time again to show what actions they are taking to meaningfully address this crisis. No response. To me, it looks like empty words and broken promises. Hand-waving about faster paperwork and speeding up a few grants is not enough.” Trump’s emergency declaration is emblematic of the federal response to the opioid crisis so far: Despite a lot of promises and self-congratulating by the federal government on what it’s done, experts say that the White House and Congress need to go much further than they have so far, particularly when it comes to new dollars for addiction treatment. The Trump administration has only used three of 17 authorities that the GAO found in connection to the emergency declaration.

from https://thecrimereport.org

How Larry Krasner is Remaking Philly D.A.’s office

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner is one of about two dozen “progressive prosecutors” recently elected around the U.S. He may face an “insurmountable challenge” in trying to reduce mass incarceration, says The New Yorker.

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner is one of about two dozen “progressive prosecutors,” many of them backed by George Soros, who have won recent district-attorney races. Krasner now oversees 537 employees, including 300 prosecutors, and an annual budget of $42 million. Krasner often talks about his ambition to make Philadelphia the best progressive D.A.’s office in the U.S., and he knows that he faces an almost insurmountable challenge, reports The New Yorker. Resistance comes not only from the lawyers he now supervises but also from some judges, many of whom are former prosecutors. “They are being forced to look back on their entire careers and say to themselves, ‘Did I get it all wrong as a prosecutor? Have I gotten it all wrong as a judge? All these years coming down with 25 years when it should’ve been ten? And ten when it could’ve been two?’”

Last month, Krasner greeted 38 young Assistant District Attorneys, known among the staff as “baby A.D.A.s,” at the start of an eight-week training period. This year’s A.D.A.s could have been forgiven for thinking that they had mistakenly wandered into training for public defenders. “Who here has read Michelle Alexander?” Krasner asked, citing the author of “The New Jim Crow,” an analysis of mass incarceration.  “Look at the stats. There are more people of color in jail, in prison, on probation and parole than there were in slavery at the beginning of the Civil War.” He reminded the trainees that “you represent people who are not victims of crime, people who are not defendants. You represent kids who are going to public schools … You represent—because you are stewards of an enormous amount of social resources—what their lives can be in ten or 15 years if resources are in those schools.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Most MN People Accused of Sex Assault Won’t Be in Court

Minnesota prosecutors reject half the cases police send them. They reject cases that include DNA evidence, witnesses, and sometimes even confessions. They rarely ask police to conduct additional investigations. Victims say they are often never told why their assailant won’t be charged with a crime.

Most people accused of sexual assault in Minnesota won’t ever face a reckoning in court, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune in the fifth of a series. In 2016, 481 people were convicted of felony-level sex assaults in Minnesota, the lowest total since 1983, according to the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission. Only 1 in 4 sexual assault cases in Minnesota is ever referred to a county prosecutor, found a Star Tribune analysis of more than 1,300 sexual assault cases filed in 2015 and 2016. Prosecutors reject half the cases police send them. They reject cases that include DNA evidence, witnesses, and sometimes even confessions. They rarely ask police to conduct additional investigations, and in interviews, victims say they are often never told why their assailant won’t be charged with a crime.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said his office was examining 40 cases from this year that have not been charged; he also vowed to hire more prosecutors to help handle rape cases, and work more closely with law enforcement. Prosecutors are not required to explain to victims or anyone else why they decide not to file charges in a case. Their communications with police are protected under attorney-client privilege. Many victims who spoke with the Star Tribune said they never got a chance to discuss the details of their case with prosecutors. Prosecutors cite the American Bar Association’s ethical standard for filing criminal charges, which says that should occur only if there’s probable cause of a crime and evidence that is “sufficient to support a conviction.” Roger Canaff, who prosecuted rapes for more than a dozen years in New York and Virginia and now trains law enforcement on the topic, said that standard should not be interpreted to mean that charges should be filed only when victory in court is likely.

from https://thecrimereport.org

OR Crime Victims Face Delays in Obtaining Police Reports

It took a sex assault victim six months to get a copy of a police report on her case. An advocate says victims routinely are denied reports “or they are told no or they don’t get any response at all.”

On the one-year anniversary of her sexual assault, Claire Rood of Portland, Or., requested a copy of her now-completed police report. It would take six months, an ombudsman and the order of the district attorney’s office before Rood would ever see it, reports The Oregonian. On July 23, 2014, Rood reported a sexual assault to police. Two months later she decided not to press the case, writing to the detective that she stood by her claims but didn’t feel supported or believed. No charges were filed. By reading the police report, Rood hoped to understand “what it was that made my allegations so preposterous to police,” she wrote on her blog. In December, her request was denied because a witness in the case didn’t want their statement released. At the Multnomah County District Attorney’s urging, on Jan. 26, the city finally released her police report.

An Oregonian columnist requested the same report recently and was denied. Portland Police Spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson acknowledged that the denial “shouldn’t have happened.” He agreed that the wait for records is too long and said police are hiring more staff to process requests faster. Attorney Jacqueline Swanson, who specializes in advocating for survivors of sexual abuse, said victims are routinely denied access to their own police reports from law enforcement agencies across Oregon. “Just in the past year alone, I can’t even count the number of women who have gone through the exactly the same thing (Rood) went through,” Swanson said. “They are denied it or they are told no or they don’t get any response at all, and the vast majority of the time they don’t fight it.” California requires law enforcement agencies to provide a free copy of incident reports to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, human trafficking or elder abuse upon request.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Electric Chair Execution Set in Tennessee for Nov. 1

Edmund Zagorski asked to die by electrocution rather than a controversial lethal injection method that experts said causes several minutes of severe pain. A court ordered the state to comply.

The Tennessee Supreme Court set Nov. 1 for the execution  of Edmund Zagorski after a  delay to accommodate his request for the electric chair, The Tennessean reports. The execution date for Zagorski, 63, seems final. The U.S. Supreme Court already rejected delays based on other remaining legal challenges. Gov. Bill Haslam gave Zagorski a brief reprieve this month to allow the state to prepare to use the electric chair. Zagorski asked to die by electrocution rather than a controversial lethal injection method that experts said causes several minutes of severe pain.

The state initially denied his request, saying he had asked too late, but a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order barring the state from using lethal injection to kill Zagorski. Haslam said he stepped in to give the state extra time to get ready for the electrocution. The Department of Correction protocol calls for additional staff training in the lead up to an execution using the electric chair. Zagorski faces death for the 1983 killings of John Dale Dotson and Jimmy Porter. He was convicted of shooting them, slitting their throats and stealing their money and a truck. The two men had expected to buy 100 pounds of marijuana from Zagorski. Justice Sharon Lee, who has been a vocal critic of the way the high court has scheduled new executions, dissented from the order setting Zagorski’s new date.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Bomb Found Outside Soros Residential Compound

A device found outside a suburban New York residential compound owned by liberal philanthropist George Soros “had the components” of an actual bomb, including explosive powder. Soros is a frequent target of right-wing conspiracy theories.

A device found outside a suburban New York residential compound owned by liberal philanthropist George Soros “had the components” of an actual bomb, including explosive powder, a law enforcement official said Tuesday. “The components were there for an explosive device,” said the official, reports the Associated Press “It was not a hoax device.” Investigators were reviewing surveillance video to determine whether the package had been sent through the mail or otherwise delivered. Among the unanswered questions was whether the package was addressed to Soros, the billionaire who is a frequent target of right-wing conspiracy theories.

The Bedford Police Department said it responded to the address in the hamlet of Katonah at 3:45 p.m. A security officer who worked at the compound placed the package in a wooded area and called police, who alerted the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Bedford police said the FBI’s terrorism task force was investigating. Soros, who made his fortune in hedge funds, frequently donates to liberal causes and is vilified on the right. Recently, conservative critics have, without evidence, accused him of secretly financing a caravan of Central American migrants to make their way north toward Mexico and the U.S. Soros, who is Jewish, has also been the target of anti-Semitic smears. Activists frequently post the addresses of homes he owns in Westchester County, north of New York City, on social media sometimes accompanied by ill wishes.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Only 49% Say Death Penalty is Applied Fairly

The percentage has dipped below 50 percent for the first time since Gallup began asking the question in 2000. The survey reports 49 percent of Americans say the death penalty is applied fairly, and 45 percent say it is applied unfairly.

The share of Americans who say they believe the death penalty is applied fairly has hit a record-low of 49 percent, says a new Gallup survey, the Hill reports. The percentage has dipped below 50 percent for the first time since Gallup began asking the question in 2000. The survey says 49 percent of Americans say the death penalty is applied fairly, and 45 percent say it is applied unfairly. Among Republicans, 73 percent say the death penalty is applied fairly, more than twice as large as the share of Democrats who say the same – just 31 percent.

Americans are also more likely than ever to say that the death penalty is applied too often, at 29 percent. Some 37 percent said the death penalty is not used often enough, a significant drop from its highest level in 2005, when 53 percent shared that view. The poll was conducted before the Washington state Supreme Court ruled the state’s death penalty is unconstitutional, saying it is imposed “in an arbitrary and racially biased manner.” There are now just 30 states that allow the death penalty.

from https://thecrimereport.org