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Former Crenshaw High School Football Star Geno Hall Shot Outside Halloween Party at USC

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By Jason Lewis, Special to the NNPA from Los Angeles Sentinel

Former Crenshaw High School football star Geno Hall was shot seven times outside of a Halloween party on the campus of USC. He survived the attack, and went through three hours of surgery to remove the bullets from his thigh, the back of his leg, buttocks and arms.

The on campus party was for USC students only. A crowd of about 100 people formed outside. Several people in that crowd were non-USC students, and they were not allowed access to the party.

There was an argument outside of the party around 11:45 when the suspected shooter pulled out a gun and shot Hall, and three others were wounded as well. Two suspects were chased on campus and quickly caught by campus security.

In 2009 Hall was named the City Section player of the Year. As a wide receiver, he was the best player on a team that featured running back De’Anthony Thomas, who is in the Heisman Trophy race at Oregon, and Hayes Pullard, who is a starting linebacker at USC. Thomas was a junior that season, Pullard a senior.

Hall had his way with defenses, catching short and long passes, and even in double coverage. That season Crenshaw won the City Championship and nearly won the State Bowl title.

Hall went on to play at West Los Angeles College, and he was looking to make the jump to a Division I college football program.

Legal Experts Say Pardons Deserved in Wilmington Ten Case

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By Cash Michaels, Special to the NNPA from The Wilmington Journal

WILMINGTON, N.C. (NNPA) – Revelations about former Assistant New Hanover County District Attorney James “Jay” Stroud Jr.’s racial jury gerrymandering, and his plot to cause a mistrial to impanel a “KKK” type jury in the Wilmington Ten case forty years ago were “stunning and beyond outrage,” say two veteran civil rights attorneys.

Those facts alone, they add, justify individual pardons of innocence from NC Gov. Beverly Perdue for the Wilmington Ten.

“It is stunning, and beyond outrage, to learn the level of prosecutorial abuse that dominated, infected, and ultimately drove the outcome in the Wilmington Ten trials,” says Prof. Gene R. Nichol, Boyd Tinsley Distinguished professor at the UNC School of Law at UNC – Chapel Hill, after reviewing portions of what is now known as “the Stroud files.”

“This intense abuse of governmental authority, prosecutorial misconduct — both professional and racial — casts a long shadow over the North Carolina system of justice, Prof. Nichol continued. “It also, of course, worked massive and unforgivable constitutional injury on the lives of ten North Carolinians.”

“The prosecutor made mockery of his high office by knowingly, intentionally, and purposefully placing perjured testimony at the heart of the trial. It is also clear now, in ways not demonstrated by documentary evidence before, that he tainted the trial initiation process and vital jury selection through patent, overt, and outcome-determinative racism.”

“It is crucial that North Carolina act to admit and concede such a potent and defining abuse of power,” Prof. Nichol maintains. “To allow public servants to behave in such a fashion, without remedy, is literally intolerable.”

Al McSurely, a veteran Chapel Hill civil rights attorney and NCNAACP Executive Committee member, also expressed his “outrage.”

“The prosecutor’s notes are clear and convincing evidence that race was not just a factor in his selection of the ten whites and two blacks on the Pender jury that convicted the Wilmington Ten,” attorney McSurely said. “Race was the only factor. Forty years later, we know his real motives. I believe when the governor studies this evidence, she will do the right thing and sign the pardons.”

“I can barely contain my outrage at the blatant racism of an officer of the court,” attorney McSurely added.

This stinging legal analysis comes after the fortieth anniversary of the convictions of the ten civil rights activists for crimes they maintain they did not commit.

On Oct. 17th, 1972, nine young black males and one white female – all led by the Rev. Benjamin Chavis of the United Church of Christ – were falsely convicted during their second trial of conspiracy in connection with racial violence that gripped Wilmington in February 1971.

The Stroud files now cast a large shadow over those convictions.

“The Ten,” as some call them, were all sentenced collectively to 282 years in prison, some of which they all served before worldwide public pressure forced early releases. In 1976, Amnesty International, a respected international social justice agency, labeled the Wilmington Ten “political prisoners” because they were targeted only after they protested racial discrimination in their local public school system five years earlier.

In 1977, the three witnesses on whose testimony the Wilmington Ten were convicted recanted their testimonies before a grand jury, saying that state prosecutor Jay Stroud paid them to lie with gifts and privileges. The CBS News program “60 Minutes” broadcast an expose’ on the fabrication of evidence in the case, strongly suggesting a false prosecution.

And in 1980, the US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, citing prosecutorial misconduct on Stroud’s part, among other issues, overturned all ten convictions. But the state of North Carolina has upheld those convictions for the past 32 years.

It was not until 2011, when the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) – an association of over 200 African-American newspapers across the nation – voted to officially seek pardons of innocence for the Wilmington Ten, did the effort to legally address the issue begin in earnest, and the Wilmington Ten Pardons of Innocence Project was born.

On May 17 of this year, a legal petition of pardons of actual innocence was formally submitted to Gov. Beverly Perdue’s Office of Executive Clemency on behalf of Dr. Benjamin Chavis; Wayne Moore; Marvin “Chili” Patrick; Reginald Epps; James “Bun” McKoy; Willie Earl Vereen; William “Joe” Wright; Jerry Jacobs; Ann Shepard and Connie Tindall.

Wright, Jacobs, Shepard and Tindall are deceased. Tindall, 62, died in August.

During the course of researching the case, the original files of Wilmington Ten state prosecutor Jay Stroud were found, and evidence of extraordinary prosecutorial misconduct uncovered. North Carolina Central University School of Law Professor Irving Joyner, and James Ferguson, original lead defense attorney forty years ago for the Wilmington Ten – both of whom filed the petition papers with the state – spent last summer researching and authenticating handwritten jury selection notes by prosecutor Stroud which indicated during the first trial in June 1972 in Pender County how he sought to impanel a “KKK” type jury to guarantee convictions.

Stroud’s notes also document how he plotted to cause a mistrial in the first June 1972 Wilmington Ten trial because there were ten blacks and two whites on the jury, his star false witness against the Ten, Allen Hall, was not cooperating, and it looked very unlikely that Stroud could win the case given the lack of evidence.

History shows that prosecutor Stroud told the presiding judge in the first June 1972 trial that he had become “ill,” and could not continue.

A mistrial was ultimately declared.

It was during the second trial in Pender County, which began Sept. 11, 1972, that Stroud got a jury more to his liking – ten whites and two black domestic workers – and a different judge who was arguably biased against the defense.

This time, the Wilmington Ten were convicted, sentenced, and sent away to prison.

It was during a Sept. 5th forum at NCCU’s School of Law, that defense attorney James Ferguson said his examination of the Stroud files was revealing.

“There was a fair amount of confirmation of things we suspected at the time that race was the central strategy of the prosecution,” attorney Ferguson maintained, singling out a legal pad that prosecutor Stroud used during jury selection of the first trial to track Ferguson’s questioning of potential jurors in Pender County, a neighboring county the case had been moved to in June 1972.

Stroud’s handwritten notes on his legal pad revealed how he wanted to “stay away from black men” in jury selection; didn’t want to impanel blacks from certain parts of the county; placed a “B” in front of the names of potential black jurors, would scribble remarks like “no,” “stay away from” and “leave off.”

If it was a black whom he thought he could convince the Wilmington Ten were guilty, however, Stroud wrote, “knows; sensible; Uncle Tom type.”

And prosecutor Stroud had unmistakable codes for white jurors he felt he had to have.

On that same legal pad sheet tracking juror interviews, when Stroud was impressed with a white interviewee’s answers, he’d write down the three letters of the alphabet most commonly associated with the most fear white supremacist group in the South at the time – the Ku Klux Klan.

“KKK?…good” is what Stroud wrote for juror Number 1 known as “Pridgen.” For Number 6 named “Heath,” the reverse, “O.K.” then “KKK?”. Number 75 on a subsequent page was “Fine – probably KKK!!” and on Number 99 Stroud writes, “does not have a record – KKK!!”

Stroud was apparently also concerned if potential black jurors in the June trial read about the case in The Wilmington Journal, the local African-American newspaper and NNPA member. Stroud considered the Journal a subversive publication that supported the Wilmington Ten.

“Blacks – you get Wilmington Journal or read it – view sympathetic to letters from Chavis,” Stroud wrote in the column of his legal pad, making note of question would ask of potential black jurors.

The notation is chilling because the following year, The Journal was firebombed by a white supremacist on June 1973. Historically, another Wilmington black newspaper, The Daily Record, was burned to the ground by white supremacists during the November 10, 1898 racial uprising, demonstrating a long held fear of the Black Press in Wilmington.

“Race infused the jury selection strategy in that June trial,” attorney Ferguson said of Stroud’s jury selection notes.

The sheer number of prospective Pender County black jurors for the first Wilmington Ten trial resulted in a panel of ten African-Americans, and two whites.

“We were able to position ourselves in a way that we were headed towards getting what appeared to be a jury that might be fair,” defense attorney Ferguson said.

“But at that time, as they say, a funny thing happened on the way to the forum.”

On the cardboard back of that jury selection legal pad Stroud used, the Stroud files show, the prosecutor listed the advantages and disadvantages of mistrial, seemingly to devise some sort of strategy as to what his next move should be.

Among Stroud’s “Advantages of Mistrial,” the prosecutor listed, “1 – different judge; 2 – better prepared to select jury and to handle motions/more organized,” as his top reasons.

Stroud apparently decided to cause the mistrial, attorney Ferguson says.

“The main prosecutor in the case (Stroud) suddenly became ill,” Ferguson recalls. “For what reason I do not know. [Perhaps] sitting there looking at that many black folks serving on the jury. But he became ill, sort of speak, and decided that he could not proceed with the trial. So that trial was aborted.”

After reviewing the same materials, UNC law Professor Gene Nichol was deeply concerned.

“The Stroud memo reveals that the most cynical and stunning use of racial antagonism and hostility drove the prosecutor’s decisions in launching, and re-launching the Wilmington Ten trials,” Prof. Nichol says. “No justification exists, or could exist, for such bald constitutional transgression. It is vital that the state officially declare, as it would through a pardon of innocence, the flat rejection of the use of racial hatred in the exercise of criminal prosecution. Ignoring such outrageous misbehavior, once revealed, would be a fundamental breach of duty.”

In reaction to the Stroud Files prior to Election Day, Barbara Howe, a Libertarian candidate for NC governor, said in a press release, “The evidence that has been revealed over the years since the [Wilmington Ten] convictions paints a very gloomy picture of the North Carolina judicial system. The recanting of witness statements and the prosecutorial misconduct that has come to light with the release of the Stroud files clearly demonstrate the need for action [by Gov. Perdue]. A pardon of innocence for the Wilmington Ten would show a renewed commitment by the State of North Carolina to the cause of justice.”

Ms. Howe added that until those pardons of innocence are granted, the Wilmington Ten remain convicted felons in the state of North Carolina.

Prof. Nichol, who has also written a letter of support directly to Gov. Perdue for the Wilmington Ten Pardons of Innocence Project, wrote, “I am confident that the prosecutor’s rank, grotesque, abuse of authority merits a pardon of innocence. There are surely no circumstances to seek a ‘pardon of forgiveness’. It would be stunning to say to a group of defendants subjected to such breathtaking misconduct that we now ‘forgive’ you.”

“The only acceptable response from the State of North Carolina,” Prof. Nichol concluded, “…is to concede that its power was exercised in the Wilmington Ten prosecutions in a tyrannical rejection of honesty and constitutionalism.”

Meanwhile, the North Carolina chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference announced in Greenville last week that it was formally supporting the pardons of innocence effort for the Wilmington Ten.

Dr. Benjamin Chavis, leader of the Ten and NNPA columnist, was on hand for the announcement.

(Readers wishing to support NNPA’s Wilmington Ten Pardons of Innocence Project can sign the Change.Org petition at https://www.change.org/petitions/nc-governor-bev-perdue-pardon-the-wilmington-ten)

Despite High Turnout, Voter Participation Numbers Still Low

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By Freddie Allen, NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – After get out the vote volunteers finish celebrating their efforts in Tuesday’s presidential election, the United States will still rank lower than most industrialized countries when it comes to voter participation, according to an international poll.

The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance ranked voter turnout in 169 countries and the United States, the leader of the free world, came in 120th with a 66.5 percent voter turnout rate. And presidential turnout is much higher that off-year elections.

Italy with 89.8 percent was the only member of the G8, the group of the world’s largest economies, to crack the top 20. Germany scored 85.4 percent, followed by the United Kingdom (75.2 percent), Canada (73.9 percent) France (73.8 percent) and Japan 69.5 percent. Only Russia ranked lower than the United States in that group with 58.4 percent.

Australia ranked No. 1 with 94.5 percent turnout rate, penalizing wayward citizens that failed to cast a vote.

As the United States exports democracy around the world, the residents of “the shining city on the hill” fail to exercise one of their most fundamental rights: their right to vote.

Yet, the 2008 presidential election raised the bar for minority participation to 23.7 percent, but fewer Whites voted in 2008 (66.1 percent) than in 2004 (67.2 percent). For all of the history made the night the United States elected its first African American president, according to the Pew Research Center, voter turnout decreased from 63.8 percent in 2004 to 63.6 percent in 2008 (Figures for 2012 are not yet available).

Researchers rattle off a number of reasons for the low voter turnout, ranging from voter apathy to voter repression. State voters’ laws that disproportionately affect minorities and the poor also factor in.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law found that a number of states enforced voters’ laws that confused the poll workers and the voters. The Lawyers’ Committee reported that poll workers in Florida, Michigan, New Hampshire, Louisiana, South Dakota Idaho requested photo ID even though it wasn’t required. Florida and Ohio, two hotly contested battleground states, adopted what are considered the most repressive election laws.

Researchers also found that Black voters were asked for identification at the polls at a much higher rate than White, even in states where IDs are not required.

To combat the confusion around the new ID regulations, Civil rights groups ramped up their efforts to educate voters prior to Tuesday’s elections.

“At the Advancement Project we’ve been doing a significant amount of voter education that we haven’t had to do in the past,” said Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the multiracial civil rights group.

While some state laws made it harder for voters to turn out, others implemented the 1993 National Voter Registration Act that allowed residents to register to vote when they renewed their driver’s license. This often increased voter turnout by 4.7 percent. Researchers suggested that allowing voters to register on Election Day could boost voter turnout by an additional 8.7 percent compared instead of enforcing the typical 30-day cut-off point.

Oregon not only allows voters to register online, but also permits them to cast ballots by mail.

When Superstorm Sandy threatened to dampen voter turnout in his state, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie approved a measure allowing voters to cast presidential ballots by fax and e-mail.

Voters’ rights advocates say that the our election system is broken and that it’s going to take more than state regulations and technology to fix the problem.

“It’s going to take public will,” said Browne Davis. “Voting is fundamental to our democracy. We all benefit from a robust democracy that includes all voices. It’s going to take people of color who are the target of these restrictive laws to decide that we’re going to revive the voters’ rights movement. We’re going to continue this work because it’s not going to end on November 6.”

Barbara Arnwine, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said that civic engagement is a year-round responsibility of all citizens.

“Being involved in your democracy is not just about Election Day and it’s not just about your vote,” explained Arnwine. “You have to hold council people, senators and state representatives accountable.”

Jobs Report Shows Slow, Steady Growth

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By Freddie Allen, NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Voters were still waiting to elect the next president of the United States when the Labor Department’s monthly jobs report, issued four days before the election, provided a glimpse into what the American economy might look like over the next four years.

The unemployment rate increased from 7.8 percent in September to 7.9 percent in October, but economists say that it was for all the right reasons. More workers rejoined the labor force and the economy added 171,000 jobs. In additional good news, the Labor Department amended the August jobs number from 142,000 to 192,000 and the September figures from 114,000 to 148,000.

Even with the uptick in the unemployment rate to 7.9 percent, economists point out that more people joined the labor force, which signals that “discouraged workers” are getting back in the game.

“If you’re out there looking for work and there is none, it’s harder to keep trying,” said Tim Sullivan, federal policy coordinator for United for a Fair Economy, a nonpartisan organization that promotes economic justice and equality. “Even, if you’ve stopped looking for work and you find out that your friend got a job you think, ‘Okay, well, maybe I can, too.’”

As more Americans find work and the economy climbs slowly out of the Great Recession, some economists wonder if the depression in the Black community will ever be addressed.

The Black unemployment rate increased from the September mark of 13.4 percent to 14.3 percent compared while the White unemployment rate that remained unchanged from over that period at 7 percent.

“It points out a glaring moral failing for the country that a lot of people would prefer to just ignore,” said Sullivan. “It’s easier to say that we live in a post-racial country. It’s easier to ignore it than to confront it.”

Economists caution against looking at the unemployment rate in a bubble, however. The share of the Black population that was employed improved from 53 percent in September to 53.4 percent in October. The share of the White population that was employed in October was 59.5 percent, a slight increase from the 59.4 percent in September.

The share of Black men with jobs increased from 57.5 percent in September to 58.1 percent in October compared to the share of White men, which saw a slight increase from September (59.4 percent to 59.5 percent).

However, the unemployment rate for Black women jumped from 10.9 percent in September to 12.4 percent in October, much of it attributed to the number of Black women looking for work. Like Black men, the share of Black women that found work also increased from 55.3 percent to 55.9 percent. The unemployment rate for White women didn’t change in October (6.3 percent) and the share of White women that were employed decreased slightly, from 55 percent in September to 54.9 percent in October.

Although the number of jobs created in October exceeded expectations, economists say that the economy is still years away from the pre-recession unemployment rates that Americans enjoyed in 2006 and 2007.

“A strong unemployment rate is going to be somewhere between 4 and 5 percent,” said Heidi Shierholz, an economist with the Economic Policy Institute based in Washington, D.C.

To reach the mark in five years, 230,000 jobs would need to be created every month.

Shierholz said that the damage was so severe from the Great Recession that the economy would have to add 330,000 jobs every single month for three years just to get back to a 5 percent unemployment rate.

She said, “We always need to keep in mind just how far we have to go.”

Some Groups Hope to Keep Young Voters Active

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By Maya Rhodan, NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Now that the elections are over, some youth leaders are hoping to keep their peers actively involved in civic affairs.

“Young folks are going to continue to drive the future and the direction of this country after the election,” said Sammie Dow, the National Youth and College Divisions Director of the NAACP. “Post-election is either going to come with folks who are angry about what happened in the election and are ready to organize or people who are really excited about what happened are ready to mobilize.”

By all accounts, that will not be an easy task.

“There are a lot of people on campus who were saying how they can’t wait for the election to end,” said Megan Sims, a sophomore at Howard University.

In the past three presidential elections, young voters ages 18-29 have proven pivotal in the election of national leaders. However, their engagement extends only slightly beyond their willingness to show up at the polls.

According to a 2010 survey of “millennials” by the Pew Research Center, younger voters are almost equally as likely to vote in every election, sign petitions, and contact elected officials regularly, as those in older age groups.

Sims, who voted for the first time this election, plans to stay actively engaged in politics beyond the Presidential race.

“I try to always stay on top of what’s going on in politics. You have to be aware of what’s going on,” she said. “ I want to be involved in reclaiming our legacy as Black people so we can do for ourselves and better ourselves to make a better community.”

Youth chapters of the NAACP across the country are going to address issues such as education, employment, imprisonment throughout the year in hopes of keeping young people engaged, Dow said.

While the overall unemployment rate was 7.9 percent in October, among African Americans ages 18-29, the rate was 21.4 percent, nearly three times the national rate, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

For those who have jobs, issues like how much money they’ll be able to save for retirement have led to additional worry, according to Brandi Richard, the president of National Urban League Young Professionals.

“The changes in the amount of money that we make because of the recession will impact how much we make over out lifetimes and how much we’ll be able to put back,” says Richard. “The issues that have been raised are so important you can’t not continue to discuss them.

This year the National Urban League Young Professionals plan to pinpoint the issues most affecting their community to create an agenda they can take to elected officials.

The agenda is set to include issues on retirement options, jobs in the public and private sector, and education.

Sims worries that a second Obama term may have a down side. She explained. “I feel like students will still be involved, but there will be a lot of students that say ‘I got him back into office, I did my part.’”

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