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Denver D.A. Blames Booker for His 'Justified' Killing; No Charges Against Jail Deputies

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By Roger K. Clendening, Special to the NNPA from the Denver Weekly News –

Marvin L. Booker’s slaying in the Denver jail was his fault; his killing was legally “justified,” and the five deputies implicated in his July 9 death will not be charged, Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey declared.

Morrissey’s “decision statement” concluded that Mr. Booker brought on his own “homicide” by resisting the Denver Sheriff Office (DS) deputies trying to handcuff him and place him in a holding cell at the Van Cise-Simonet Detention Center after he merely tried to retrieve his shoes and one deputy forcibly attempted to prevent him from getting them.

Mr. Booker might still be alive had he not defensively responded to the one deputy’s forcible attempt to prevent him from getting his shoes. That theme was repeated frequently in Morrissey’s statement.

And all he wanted to do was retrieve his shoes.

Black people’s reaction to Morrissey’s statement was swift and condemning last week, with some insisting Justice is asleep when it comes to Black men, and others maintaining Morrissey may see “just-us” when re-election time rolls around.

The Greater Metro Ministerial Alliance, for example, described Morrissey’s statement as an “absurd” contradiction, noting that the medical examiner’s report “clearly states that Marvin’s death was at the hands of others (homicide), but the DA states that Marvin’s death was the result of his own action (suicide).”

The Alliance, in a news conference at Greater St. John Baptist Church the day after the DA’s announcement, demanded three things of Morrissey, on behalf of “fair-minded” Denver citizens:

1. A Grand Jury investigation of the Booker homicide, saying “we need more than one set of eyes to review the evidence to determine the accountability for the death of Mr. Booker.”

2. A Federal Bureau of Investigation probe to determine if the civil rights of Mr. Booker were violated, and

3. A rescinding of DA Morrissey’s decision or his resignation

And all he wanted to do was retrieve his shoes.

In a rally and demonstration at Shorter Community African Methodist Episcopal Church the night after the DA’s declaration, nearly 100 people held signs protesting Mr. Booker’s “murder,” calling his slaying part of “genocide” against Black people in Denver, and reiterating the earlier call for DA Morrissey to rescind his decision or resign.

Those residents, along with Mr. Booker’s grieving brother, Rev. Spencer Booker – here representing the family seeking justice – gathered privately in the church to hold a “next steps” meeting from which Shorter’s Pastor, Rev. Dr. Timothy Tyler, politely asked the media to exclude themselves.

Just prior to the “next steps” meeting, Rev. Spencer Booker dropped “a word of warning” to those present, given what he called the “murder” of his brother that has gone unpunished:

“Tell your children, tell your daughters, tell your aunts and uncles, that if they are arrested in Denver, they may not see the light of day!”

And all Mr. Marvin Booker tried to do was retrieve his shoes.

During the rally, attended by members of the Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance, and by the Booker family’s attorneys, Darold W. Killmer and Mari Newman, of Killmer, Lane & Newman, LLP, there was additional focus on Morrissey’s decision statement.

For example, the evidence that Morrissey said he reviewed – which, according to his statement, did not include the testimony of the 46 other persons, and potential witnesses, referenced in the medical examiner’s report as waiting with Mr. Booker to be processed, was also noted by the ministers – shows that the application of the degree of force used by the five deputies “to control and handcuff Mr. Booker was justified,” Morrissey wrote in the statement.

The names of the deputies involved – all of whom were placed on paid leave (some called it an “undeserved vacation”) pending completion of the investigation – are Sgt. Carrie Medina, Faun Gomez, James Grimes, Kenneth Robinette, and Kyle Sharp, according to DS spokesman Frank Gale.

“A review of the totality of the evidence amassed in this investigation supports the conclusion that it was the actions of Mr. Booker that necessitated the use of force (by five deputies) at its inception and during its protracted continuation until he was subdued and controlled,” Morrissey wrote.

Moreover, he wrote, “tragically, Mr. Booker’s actions and choices resulted in his death.”

Morrissey said that after reviewing all of the evidence, no criminal charge can be proved against any of the five deputies involved.

In fact, he wrote, “the deputies were justified in using the degree of force used which was reasonable, necessary and appropriate” under the specific facts of the case.

And all he wanted to do was retrieve his shoes.

Mr. Booker’s heart stopped pumping “during physical restraint,” wrote Dr. John Carver, assistant medical examiner, in his autopsy report issued August 20. Carver reported that Mr. Booker had been “restrained prone on the floor with the weight of (five) restraining officers” on his chest and abdomen.

That crushing of five, count ‘em, five human beings on Mr. Booker’s 5’5”, 135-pound frame, determined by Morrissey to be “reasonable, necessary and appropriate,” was accompanied by the since-suspended “sleeper” hold around the slain man’s neck and throat; the use of nun chucks, and repetitive shocking with a Taser to keep him pinned to the floor, contributed to his getting killed, according to Dr. Carver’s report.

Other strong criticism of Morrissey’s decision came from Lawrence Borom, former head of the Urban League of Denver. He is a 34-year city resident, activist and academic with wide-ranging experience and exposure to the containment practices of Denver city and county criminal justice system practitioners, and the impact of those practices on Black men, in particular.

After reviewing Morrissey’s publicly issued statement, Borom emailed the following assessment to DWN:

“After reviewing the D.A.'s statement of 9/28/10, I have the following comments: Denver District Attorneys never, or seldom, charge law-enforcement officers with criminal acts when the death of a Black citizen is involved, no matter what the circumstances are, what witnesses relate, or what other evidence is available.

“The newspaper accounts of damaging witness statements against the deputies in this case are not mentioned by the D.A. in his statement. Were they not a part of his investigation? All public accounts of the incident suggested that excessive force was involved in this case, leading to Mr. Booker's death. Five deputies were not able to control one 135 pound, 56- year-old man, short of inflicting death? Morrissey blames Booker's struggles as the cause of his death; he doesn't question the provocation of the female deputy in not allowing Booker to gather his shoes, and then physically contacting him when he proceeded to get them anyway. Was this demand by the deputy unreasonable? News accounts indicated that Booker was not uncooperative up to this point. Might a more reasoned order from the deputy have prevented the incident? Further, in a notorious case of a Black youth dying from a choke-hold in an arrest by Denver Police a number of years ago, the Black community was assured that the choke-hold would no longer be used by law-enforcement officers in Denver. When was this dangerous practice resumed, and under whose authority?

And all he wanted to do was retrieve his shoes.

Larry Borom went on to add: “I met Marvin Booker at the time he arrived in Denver. He endeared himself to the people of the Black community by his uncanny recitations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s speeches. He occasionally did unskilled work for the Urban League, of which I was then the President/CEO.

“Marvin was a young man who wanted justice for his people, who was always willing to help others. He became the constant friend of me and the rest of the Urban League staff. I haven't seen Marvin for many years, and I was not familiar with later problems he encountered, but he always had a helping hand for those he thought could be saved from the streets.

“Marvin didn't deserve to be beaten to death, as has been reported, nor does any person. These atrocities have occurred over and over in the 34 years I have lived in Denver,” said Borom.

“They will only stop happening when all the responsible authorities, especially the Mayor [John W. Hickenlooper, now a candidate for Governor of Colorado] and the District Attorney [Mitchell Morrissey is expected to seek re-election to a third and final term in 2012], let it be known that Black citizens, their children, and friends, are not to be brutalized and killed by the law-enforcement officers of the city and county of Denver,” Borom said. The assembled ministers and citizens at the rally, amid shouts of Amen and the calls to an Almighty always perceived as on the side of the righteous but trod-upon masses, issued wailing, prayerful appeals, through the Black church’s ever-present calls and responses, declaring, finally and collectively, “We ain’t going away. We’re here to stay, until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

“Such a tragedy,” concluded Borom, “is only possible when Justice sleeps and killers feel that they are immune to prosecution in the deaths of Black citizens.”

And all Mr. Marvin L. Booker tried to do was retrieve his shoes.

Black Vote Crucial to Stopping Conservative Takeover in 2010

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By Stephon Johnson, Special to the NNPA from The Amsterdam News –

It’s been a trying year for the Democratic Party; a year when even its collective achievements have been dampened by public relations disasters. Despite Democrats’ fright at the thought of losing seats in Congress to the Republican Party, there are several groups that can help them sustain its power, if it can get them to the polls.

One of those groups: Black folks.

All over the country, Black voters have a chance to make a significant impact in major elections. From Senate races in Kentucky, Nevada, and Missouri to gubernatorial races in Georgia, Florida, California, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, the Black vote could be the key to Democrats holding down the fort come November. But does that mean candidates, incumbents, and newcomers alike will alter their message to cater to Black voters?

“Tailor a message for Black voters? By and large, no,” said David Bositis of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. “In part because the issue, with respect to Black voters, is going to be turnout, and the Republicans, they basically are viewed by African-Americans as the party of the people who opposed the Civil Rights Movement. It’s a party dominated by White southerners like Jim DeMint and African-Americans are never going to support anybody who represents the views of White southerners.”

In states like California, Blacks are only 7 percent of the population, but vote in the double-digits percentage wise in elections. With a desire to throw their weight around and continually test their political power, Blacks will have a huge effect on elections like the governor’s race between State Attorney General Jerry Brown and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman. The buzz surrounding the campaign and Whitman’s alleged transgressions with undocumented workers are dwarfing Brown’s inability to tap into the mindset of Black voters and give them a reason to go to the polls.

Blacks will also play a key role in the Senate race in Nevada, with Harry Reid looking to maintain his seat against Sharron Angle. While vastly underreported, Las Vegas is a union stronghold and many Blacks in the state are union members. Despite being only 8.3 percent of the state’s population, Blacks can sometimes count for 10 percent of the voting turnout.

“Harry Reid knows that for every Black voter that turns out, it’s a plus for Reid,” said Bositis. “And he has a lot of money…enough money to send every Black voter in a limo with a chauffeur [to the polls].”

A lot of attention has been paid to the gubernatorial election in New York State because of Republican candidate Carl Paladino. Paladino, while kicking up dust and riling up feathers, has become a cult figure among New York State’s extreme right wing. According to recent polls by Quinnipiac University and Siena College, Paladino is still getting votes from many New Yorkers—albeit nowhere near as much as Democratic candidate Andrew Cuomo.

“No, I don’t think that he has a chance of winning,” said Bositis when speaking of Paladino. “The thing is that this guy is not the kind of Republican who might be able to win in New York State. He’s not George Pataki, who was a reasonable person. Pataki wasn’t some nut. This guy is kind of a nut.”

 

In other words, Paladino doesn’t stand a chance with Black voters, but is Andrew Cuomo taking the Black for granted? Former New York City Mayor David Dinkins says no.

“He has a track record of accomplishment and support for issues important to the African-American community dating back to his days as the HUD secretary,” Dinkins said to the New York Daily News after a ceremony renaming a Brooklyn state office building after Shirley Chisholm. “I don’t think Andrew Cuomo is taking the Black vote for granted at all.” However, in the nation’s capital, one politician learned the hard way what happens to those who disregard the Black vote.

Some were shocked that Washington, D.C., Mayor Adrian Fenty lost a re-election bid to City Council Chair Vincent Gray. Many believe that Fenty, who is Black, lost his election because of the perception that he left the Black vote behind in favor of gaining White voters. On National Public Radio last week, Washington Post reporter Courtland Milloy stated as much.

“You can see the Capitol dome. You can see the Lincoln Memorial. You can see the Washington Monument. You can see all, all of the testimonies to freedom and justice and equality, and right now, it's as bad as I've ever seen it,” said Milloy when interviewed by Steve Inskeep. “He vowed to work to do something about that. What accompanied the change in character, and it was a stunning change, it happened almost overnight—he went from being a really nice guy to kind of a mean guy, arrogant guy, when it came to dealing with Black people.”

It would behoove candidates around the country to not ignore the Black vote any longer. They’re on the clock.

Forgery, Fraud, and Foreclosures

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By Cyril Josh Barker, Special to the NNPA from The Amsterdam News –

Reports indicate that several lawsuits have been filed against big banks due to the mishandling of important lending documents. The mishap has resulted in the stopping of foreclosure proceedings and reviewing past evictions in 23 states.

Banks that are being targeted in the lawsuits include Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Ally Financial Inc., and GMAC Mortgage because of document verification issues, specifically, false signatures and documents. Tens of thousands of homeowners are being affected by the flaw.

Among the most common problem involves documents that were not verified before foreclosures could legally proceed. Several documents were signed by employees who said they didn’t verify important information. There are also questions about the notarization of documents.

Issues of forgery are also coming into play, as many documents contain different signatures in different versions.

Massachusetts, Illinois, Iowa and Florida are among the states that have stopped foreclosure proceedings. In Florida, a judge dismissed 61 foreclosure cases.

Data from RealtyTrac Inc. indicates that more than 95,300 homes were taken by lenders in the country in August, along with lenders issuing more than 338,000 foreclosure filings to homeowners. In a Princeton University study by Douglas Massey and Jacob Rugh, Blacks have suffered the most from foreclosures.

In Black neighborhoods across the America, there was an increase in foreclosures by 15,028. Blacks were more likely to be given subprime loans with high interest rates and hidden fees. The study also revealed that worse deals were given to Blacks with similar credit scores as Whites.

Blacks were found to be as likely as Whites to receive predatory treatment among lenders that did not go bankrupt.

According to Rep. Ed Towns, D-NY, New York is not one of the states that has stopped foreclosure proceedings because of the mishap. Several state attorney generals have asked lenders to freeze foreclosure proceedings in their states. Towns said New York will take the steps to do the same, if necessary.

“We are going to look at this issue from a commitment stand point,” the congressman told The Amsterdam News. “I’m not sure there is going to be a hearing, but there is a lot of interest. All these mistakes have been made by losing paperwork.”

Towns said that people have called his office in reference to the problem going on in other states, saying that the banks’ mistakes have put the economy into a deeper financial hole that is harder to dig out of.

“There’s no doubt it has made it worse,” he said. “I give credit to banks for correcting this. I can’t help thinking about those who have been foreclosed on. What recourse do they have? I’m hoping that others will follow through as we monitor and look at this.”

News Analysis: Understanding Black Attitudes Toward Homosexuality

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NEWS ANALYSIS

By George E. Curry, Special to the NNPA –

Are African-Americans less supportive of homosexuality than other racial and ethnic groups? The answer is an emphatic yes. But, the reasons have more to do with religion than race.

“While the U.S. is generally considered a highly religious nation, African-Americans are markedly more religious on a variety of measures than the U.S. population, including level of affiliation with religion, attendance at religious services, frequency of prayer and religion’s importance in life,” observes a report titled, A Religious Portrait of African-Americans by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

The report noted, “Nearly eight in ten African Americans (79%) say religion is very important in their lives, compared with 56% among U.S. adults. In fact, even a large majority (72%) of African-Americans who are unaffiliated with any particular faith say religion plays at least a somewhat important role in their lives, nearly half (45%) of unaffiliated African-Americans say religion is very important in their lives, roughly three times the percentage who says this among the religiously unaffiliated population overall (16%).”

And, African-Americans are more likely to act on their religious beliefs.

“More than half of AfricanAmericans (53%) report attending religious services at least once a week, more than three-in-four (76%) say they pray on at least a daily basis and nearly nine-in-ten (88%) indicate they are absolutely certain that God exists. On each of these measures, African- Americans stand out as the most religiously committed racial or ethnic group in the nation,” the report stated.

Among the most religiously committed, no group is more committed than African-American women. The report found that 84 percent of Black women say religion is very important to them and 59 percent say they attend religious services at least once a week.

Given African Americans’ close affiliation with the church, it should come as no surprise that most Blacks oppose homosexuality.

“Blacks are much more likely to think that homosexuality is morally wrong (64%) than Whites (48%) or Hispanics (43%),” according to a Pew poll last year on civil unions and gay marriage. Again, that should be placed within the larger context of religion.

“Overall, two-thirds of those who attend services at least weekly say homosexual behavior is morally wrong, compared with 43% of those who attend services monthly or yearly and 32% of those who seldom or never attend,” the report stated.

A survey released Wednesday that combines two recent polls by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life shows that 43 percent of the public favor same-sex marriage and 48 percent oppose it. The report, Gay Marriage Gains More Acceptance, represents the first time in the 15 years Pew has been polling that fewer than half of Americans oppose same-sex marriage.

“Blacks continue to oppose same-sex marriage by a wide margin,” the new report states. “In 2010, just 30% of non-Hispanic Blacks favor gay marriage while 59% are opposed. From 2008 to 2000, 28% of Blacks favored same-sex marriage and 62% were opposed.”

The number of African-Americans in favor of allowing gays to serve openly in the military has dropped from 57 percent in 1994 to 48 percent in 2010. During the same period, White support increased from 51 percent to 63 percent.

There are other variations as well, with younger and more educated people more likely to favor same-sex marriage than their older and less educated counterparts. Geography is a factor as well, with a majority of Southerners opposed to same-sex marriage, the Midwest and West were about evenly divided and the Northeast supported gay marriage by a margin of 49 percent to 41 percent.

The new study did not address civil unions, which would give unmarried gay and lesbian couples many of the rights now enjoyed by married heterosexual couples. A Pew poll last year revealed that Blacks support civil unions rather than gay marriages, with 43 percent of Black Protestants in favor of civil unions and 49 percent opposed. Overall, 57 percent of Americans favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to enter into civil unions, up from 45 percent in 2003.

Interestingly, the poll on civil unions and gay marriage noted that 64 percent of Americans say gays and lesbians encounter a lot of discrimination, facing more discrimination than Muslims (58 percent), Latinos (52 percent), Blacks (49 percent) or women (37 percent).

Gregory B. Lewis of the Andrew Young School of Public Policy Studies at Georgia State University examined data from 31 public opinion polls conducted between 1973 and 2000, which involved nearly 7,000 Blacks and 43,000 Whites. In 2003, his analysis was published in Public Opinion Quarterly. Lewis concluded, “Despite their greater disapproval of homosexuality, African-American opinion on gay civil liberties and employment discrimination are quite similar to whites’ opinions, and African-Americans are more likely to support laws prohibiting anti-gay discrimination.”

Many African-Americans are influenced by the Bible and their religious leaders. Black preachers tend to address social issues such as school prayer, the death penalty, and homosexuality more than their White counterparts.

In one survey, nearly 50 percent of African-American churchgoers reported that their pastors regularly expressed negative viewpoints toward homosexuality. In one Baltimore study, 68 percent of the Black respondents said their pastor had preached that homosexuality was a sin or immoral.

Ministers point to various passages of the Bible to justify their stand against homosexuality, including Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9 and the most quoted Scripture on the subject, Leviticus 18:22, which reads, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.”

In its 2009 report titled, At the Crossroads: African American Same Gender Loving Families and the Freedom to Marry, the National Black Justice Coalition, the nation’s only African-American gay civil rights organization, said: “The ‘homosexuality is a choice’ rhetoric is also preached by African-American ministers in their churches. Arguing that as a result gays are not entitled to certain rights and protections in the same way African-Americans are, creates a wedge between African-American and gay communities.”

To some, it is a wedge unlikely to disappear.

During a Freedom Weekend panel discussion earlier this year in Detroit, Anthony Samad, a scholar, social activist, and columnist, told supporters of gays and lesbians: “…What you’re asking African Americans to do is go against their belief system, which is the church. Most of them believe a marriage should be between a man and a woman. You’re asking them to choose between your cause and their church.”

Ethiopian Reporter Survives Jail to Receive Prize

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

Dawit Kebede, one of the first journalists to be jailed for independent reporting on Ethiopia's 2005 election violence and among the last to be released under a presidential pardon nearly two years later will receive the International Press Freedom Award on Nov. 23 from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Other prizewinners are Nadira Isayeva of Russia, Laureano Márquez of Venezuela, and Mohammad Davari of Iran.

Unlike many of his colleagues who went into exile, Kebede chose to stay in Ethiopia after receiving his freedom from jail in Addis Ababa, where he had been crammed into a communal cell with 350 political prisoners.

In 2008, he was detained for an article titled “freedom of writing should be respected” in the Awramba Times. Today, it is the country's only Amharic-language newspaper that dares question authorities, notes CPJ.

"Here are three things people should know about me," the 30-year-old Kebede says. "First, it is impossible for me to live without the life I have as a journalist. Second, unless it becomes a question of life and death, I will never be leaving Ethiopia. Third, I am not an opposition. As a journalist, whatsoever would be a governing regime in Ethiopia, I will never hesitate from writing issues criticizing it for the betterment of the country.”

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