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Fatal shooting of Florida teen turned over to state attorney
Vivian Kuo Mar-14-2012 1419 5


A case involving the fatal shooting of an unarmed Florida teen, which has sparked outrage and calls for justice, is in the hands of the state attorney's office.

Police say Trayvon Martin, 17, was returning from the convenience store to the home of his father's fiancee in a gated community in Sanford, Florida, around sunset on February 26.

A neighborhood watch captain, George Zimmerman, 28, saw the teen and called 911 to report a suspicious man, authorities said.

The 911 dispatcher told Zimmerman not to confront Martin, but by the time police arrived, the teenager lay dead with a gunshot wound in the chest, said Bill Lee, the Sanford police chief. He was carrying a small amount of cash, some candy and an iced tea.

Zimmerman told police he shot Martin in self defense, authorities said.

"When you add it up, it just doesn't even make sense," said Ben Crump, the Martin family's attorney. "Trayvon Martin, a kid, has a bag of Skittles. (Zimmerman) had a 9 mm gun. Trayvon Martin didn't approach George Zimmerman, George Zimmerman approached Trayvon Martin. So how can he now assert self defense?"

A gunshot can be heard on the 911 calls recorded that night, police said.

The Martin family has sought to make the tapes available, but State Attorney Norm Wolfinger said Tuesday the calls will not be made public until the investigation is complete.

"Trayvon Martin and his family, interested persons, and the public-at-large are entitled to no less than a through, deliberate and just review of the information provided, along with any other evidence that may or may not be developed in the course of the review process," Wolfinger's office said in a statement. "We intend to honor that commitment."

The shooting has sparked an outrage in the community, with some accusing Zimmerman, who is white, of profiling the black teenager.

Numerous attempts to contact Zimmerman were unsuccessful, and it is unclear whether he has retained an attorney.

Police said they have not charged him because there are no grounds to disprove his story of what happened.

"The evidence and testimony we have so far does not establish that Mr. Zimmerman did not act in self defense. We don't have anything to dispute his claim of self-defense, at this point, with the evidence and testimony that we have," Lee said.

Lee said the 911 directions asking Zimmerman not to confront the teenager are not mandatory instructions.

"That is a call taker making a recommendation to him. He's not under a legal obligation to do that, so that is not something we can charge him with," he said. " But it would have been a good outcome ... if Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman never came in contact with one another."

In a letter sent to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the NAACP expressed doubt in the Sanford Police Department and asked the Department of Justice to review the case.

"The NAACP has no confidence that, absent federal oversight, the Sanford Police Department will devote the necessary degree of care to its investigation. We therefore call upon you to detail personnel to Sanford immediately to review the facts, ensure that the Sanford Police Department conducts an impartial, thorough and prompt investigation of the circumstances involving the death of this unarmed teen, and ensure that the responsible person is held accountable if a crime was committed," the letter said.

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Radio host Tom Joyner announced this morning that his annual full-ride scholarship will go to Atlanta student Titus Zeigler, who tutors younger children, participates in Junior ROTC and volunteers at the city food bank.

Zeigler, a senior at Grady High School in Midtown, will receive a scholarship to attend a historically black college covering full tuition, books for 10 semesters and room and board.

He plans to attend Florida A&M University as he works to become a trauma surgeon. He’s a battalion commander in Grady’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, and he joined the National Guard when he turned 17 last June.

“My job is as a medical specialist, so my job is not killing people, but to save them,” Zeigler said.

Joyner, whose morning show airs in 115 markets and reaches more than 8 million listeners each week, said he was impressed by Zeigler’s focus and determination.

Hundreds of students applied for the scholarship. Applicants had to have a minimum grade point average of 3.5 and an SAT score of 2100 on the math and verbal sections or an ACT score of 30.

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A jilted Virginia woman was arrested after she drove the wrong way down a one-way street to cut down her husband and tried to kick him to death as he crawled away, police said.

The wild ordeal unfolded after Quaneisha Torres, 21, steered her Chrysler van off into oncoming traffic on Dixon St. and struck the 31-year-old man walking on the side of the road about 10:30 p.m. Sunday, WJLA-TV reported.

The van stopped when it struck a guardrail.

The bleeding man crawled from under the wrecked vehicle to get away, but the enraged Torres allegedly stopped him and began to kick him on the ground.

Several motorists witnessed the shocking attack and called police.

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Emergency workers rushed the man to Mary Washington Hospital, where he was being treated for serious injuries that included head trauma.


Torres was charged with attempted first-degree homicide and booked at the Rappahannock Regional Jail.


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Apr-14-2014 820 0
The body of a Grambling State University student was found in a drainage ditch in Lafayette early Sunday.

Lafayette police found the body of Alexandria Shelton, 21, in a ditch in Girard Park after friends reported her missing Saturday night.

“The Grambling State University community is in shock. It's heartbreaking. We've been dealing with this all day Sunday, cooperating with Lafayette police and talking with each other about this bright young lady. Alex was a senior criminal justice major and a member of our honors college scheduled to graduate next month,” said Grambling spokesman Will Sutton.

Shelton, a 3.5 GPA student, was going to graduate May 9.

“We’ve just been in shock since we first heard early Sunday that the body of a young woman found in a Lafayette city park was likely one of our own,” said GSU President Frank G. Pogue. “We immediately reached out to the family and we’ve been cooperating with Lafayette police. We know how important the first 24 to 48 hours of a police investigation can be. Now we encourage our students, faculty, staff and others to contact Lafayette city police, or our own campus police, if they think they have even a small bit of information that might be helpful. We need to assist police with this investigation and bring closure to this situation for the sake of Alex’s family and close friends.”

Shelton had a 3.54 cumulative GPA and was a member of the Lester Cole Honors College at Grambling State University.

GSU Provost Connie Walton is completing the necessary paperwork to seek approval of awarding Shelton's degree posthumously. In addition, Stacey Duhon, vice president for student affairs and interim vice president for institutional advancement, is working with the Foster-Johnson Counseling Center to make sure grief counselors are available.

Interested students can call the Foster-Johnson Counseling Center at 318-274-3277 to talk with someone.

According to a story by The Advertiser, friends told police Shelton had planned on meeting them Saturday night, but after three hours passed, they called her cell phone and an unknown man answered. He told Shelton’s friends he found the phone in Girard Park.

Those friends went to Girard Park to meet up with that man and a second man to retrieve the cell phone. Both men left after handing over the cell phone, police spokesman Cpl. Paul Mouton said.

The friends found Shelton’s vehicle nearby shortly after they arrived at the park Saturday night and called police for assistance.

Police located and removed Shelton’s body from a drainage ditch attached to the park's pond near the north side park entrance at around 12:10 a.m. Sunday.

Her cause of death remained unclear, Mouton said. The coroner will determine the cause of death, Mouton said, but it is uncertain when he will make his report.

Police talked with the two men who gave them specific identification about where they found the phone. The men are not suspects, Mouton said.

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A 4-year-old Pennsylvania boy died in a car accident hours after returning from his father's funeral.

Carder Brown was killed by a passing van that struck him as soon as he got out of his car in Chester, Pa., police told MyFoxPhilly.com.

Neighbors for the family told the outlet the boy had just returned from his father Derrick’s funeral after the man was killed by a gunshot last week. The family set up a GoFundMe site in his memory. They said he was killed while on his way home from work and got caught in the crossfire.

The driver of the van is being questioned by police. No charges have been announced, the website reported.

No other information was immediately available.


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Chris Boyette Apr-12-2014 159 0
A New York judge Tuesday vacated the conviction of a man who spent nearly a quarter of a century behind bars for a Brooklyn slaying that occurred while he was vacationing in Florida.

Jonathan Fleming, 51, was found guilty in 1989 in the death of Darryl Rush in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn and served the next 24 years and 8 months in prison, according to the Kings County district attorney's office. He was released Tuesday afternoon.

Fleming has always maintained he was on a family trip to Disney World in Florida when Rush was shot to death early on the morning of August 15, 1989, in a dispute over stolen money. After years of reviewing documents and re-interviewing witnesses as part of a joint investigation between his attorneys and the Brooklyn district attorney's Conviction Review Unit, it was determined that the only evidence tying him to the crime was an alleged witness who later recanted her statement.

"As you can imagine, after sitting in jail for 25 years for a crime he didn't commit, he can't help but feel vindicated," said one of Fleming's lawyers, Anthony Mayol. "On the flip side, that's 25 years that have been stolen, that he'll never get back."

At his trial, defense lawyers provided family photos and home videos of Fleming in Florida around the time of Rush's killing. But according to Taylor Koss, another of Fleming's lawyers, they did not have evidence he was in Florida on the day of the slaying. The prosecution persuaded jurors to ignore the alibi.

Fleming told his attorneys he had paid a bill for phone calls made from his Florida hotel room the night before Rush was killed, and he believed the receipt was in his pocket when police arrested him. But authorities told the defense he had no such receipt, according to Koss.

In the course of the investigation, the Conviction Review Unit found the receipt in police records, time stamped and dated -- solidifying Fleming's claim that he was in Florida at the time of the killing, according to the district attorney's office.

"This is proof of alibi that was basically purposely withheld," Koss said.

The review unit also interviewed Fleming's former girlfriend, who said she called Fleming the night of the killing while he was still at his hotel in Florida. The investigation found her story to be credible, with phone records to support it.

The prosecution also produced a witness who said she saw Fleming commit the crime.

According to Koss, the woman recanted her testimony weeks after Fleming's conviction. She later testified in front of a judge that she was on parole and had been arrested with another woman for being in a stolen van the night of the killing. She said police persuaded her to give a statement against Fleming to avoid going back to jail.

Koss said the judge threw out her later testimony because she could not provide enough facts to back up her story.

A review unit search of police records years later came up with a timeline. The woman on probation was arrested with another woman on grand larceny charges and brought to the Brooklyn district attorney's office, where she gave a statement. Within the hour, the investigation found, charges against her were dropped.

Koss said defense investigators even found a witness in South Carolina who claims to have been the getaway driver during Rush's killing and who even identified someone they say is the real killer.

Judge Matthew D'Emic Tuesday vacated the conviction after a "careful and thorough review of this case, and based on key alibi facts that place Fleming in Florida at the time of the murder," said District Attorney Ken Thompson.

Koss and Mayol say the next step is ensuring that Fleming has a way to support himself after he is released.

"He has no job, no career, no prospects," Koss said.

"We're suing everybody, let's be honest," Koss added, saying Fleming's legal team intends to bring a civil rights lawsuit against the city and seek reparations from the state under a provision set up to redress wrongful convictions.

Thompson, who became district attorney at the beginning of the year, has already released two men who had been in prison for more than half their lives in connection with three killings after DNA evidence tore holes in their convictions in February.

Antonio Yarbough and Sharrif Wilson were teenagers when they were imprisoned. But after reviewing DNA evidence, Thompson said the previous convictions for the 1992 murders in Brooklyn would most likely not stand up in court and agreed the two men should be freed.

Those cases, as well as Fleming's, are not connected to investigations into Detective Louis Scarcella, whose questionable tactics have led to a review of some 50 other cases, the district attorney's office said.

On Monday, Thompson named Harvard law professor Ronald S. Sullivan, Jr. as special counsel to the district attorney for the Conviction Review Unit. Sullivan, who heads Harvard's Criminal Justice Institute, will guide the group in future cases brought for review, according to the District Attorney's office.

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Apr-12-2014 210 0
Investigators were focusing on Saturday on what caused a FedEx tractor-trailer to collide with a bus in a fiery crash in northern California that killed 10 people, five of them teenage students en route to a college recruitment event.

It remained unclear whether the FedEx driver was somehow distracted or lost consciousness, or whether a mechanical failure occurred when his truck swerved across the median of Interstate 5 and slammed head-on into the motor coach full of students from the Los Angeles area on Thursday.

The California Highway Patrol also raised the possibility that a separate collision on the truck's side of the highway might have been a factor in Thursday evening's fatal crash.

According to early highway patrol accounts of the accident, the truck side-swiped a car after crossing the center divider but before hitting the bus.

Two witnesses, Bonnie and Joe Duran, who were reported to be in the clipped car, told California media outlets that the truck was on fire before the collision.

"I was heading along in the outside lane and I looked over and saw the FedEx truck coming straight for me and he was in flames already," Bonnie Duran told a local CBS-affiliate.

I looked over and saw the FedEx truck coming straight for me and he was in flames already.

Reuters could not immediately contact the Durans and a California Highway Patrol spokeswoman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A powerful explosion unleashed by the impact was so loud it was heard throughout the nearby community of Orland, about 90 miles north of Sacramento, said Glenn County Sheriff Larry Jones.

Among the dead were the two drivers, as well as five high school students and a college recruiter on their way north to visit Humboldt State University in Arcata, California, as part of a program to help disadvantaged college hopefuls.

More than 30 others were injured in the wreck.

"We don't know whether the FedEx driver had fallen asleep, whether he experienced a mechanical failure with his vehicle or whether there was a separate collision on the southbound side that caused him to lose control," said Lieutenant Scott Fredrick, the lead Highway Patrol investigator.

A team of investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) began arriving on Friday morning to gather evidence for that agency's independent review of the accident.

NTSB member Mark Rosekind told a news conference late in the day he expected his team to remain on-site for about two weeks and would not speculate on the probable cause of the crash.

He said the NTSB probe would examine human factors as well as "the machine and the environment," including highway design elements, vehicle inspection records and driver training and medical records.

The FedEx truck, which was hauling two semi-trailers, was mostly consumed in the fire, but Rosekind said there were sufficient remains of both drivers for authorities to have collected samples for blood and toxicology analysis.

"So right now, one of the things we're in the process of doing is seeing whether or not those required samples were actually collected," he added.


The fire was so intense that it could be days or weeks before some of the bodies can be identified, and investigators will have to rely on dental records or in some cases DNA testing, he said.

Bonnie Kourvelas, a spokeswoman for FedEx Corp, said the company was aware that one of its trucks was involved in the crash and is "cooperating fully with authorities."

The stricken motor coach was one of three buses of students traveling from Southern California to participate in a spring break recruitment program at Humboldt State. The two other buses had arrived safely at the campus before the third bus crashed, Rosekind said.

Nestled near the redwoods about 100 miles south of the Oregon border, the university every year invites high school seniors from disadvantaged backgrounds or who may be the first in their families to attend college to tour the campus.

The Los Angeles Unified School District, the largest in Southern California, said some of the 19 students from its high schools who were on the tour rode on the ill-fated bus, but it could not say whether any of them were among the victims.

Apart from the driver, the bus was carrying 44 to 48 students and several chaperones, highway patrol spokeswoman Lacey Heitman said. About 34 people were taken by air and land ambulances to hospitals with a variety of injuries, police said.

"They are traumatized, absolutely," another patrol spokeswoman, Tracy Hoover, said. "Most of them have scratches, cuts, burns, contusions and lacerations."

Among those killed was Humboldt State recruiter Arthur Arzola, 26, who worked for the university out of the Southern California community of Rancho Cucamonga, the Sacramento County coroner said on Friday morning.

In a biography on the school's website, Arzola characterized himself as hard-working, compassionate and friendly, and described the university as offering "incredible opportunities that change the world for the better."

A recently engaged couple serving as chaperones were also among the dead, local media reported.

Michael Myvett, who graduated from Humboldt State with a psychology degree in 2007 and worked with autistic children, and Mattison Haywood were killed just three months after Myvett proposed to Haywood outside the Louvre Museum in Paris.

High school student Marisa Serrato was also killed in the fiery crash.

The Serrato family, whose identical twin 17-year-old daughters set off on the adventure on separate buses Thursday, had a panicked, sleepless night. Marisol made it to their destination, Humboldt State University, but the family had no word on Marisa, who had been aboard the now-gutted bus, for nearly 24 hours.

They received the official word Friday evening when dental records confirmed Marisa was among the dead.

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Apr-11-2014 145 0
Reflecting on the unique power of the office he holds, Obama honored Lyndon B. Johnson as a leader who seized the presidency’s opportunity to bend the currents of history and fulfill America’s founding promises of equality – despite his advisers warnings against it.

“I reject such cynicism because I have lived out the promise of those efforts,” Obama said.

The cynicism President Obama alluded to was the push-back President Johnson experienced while trying to pass civil rights legislation. Obama took the opportunity to draw similarities to the push-back he’s currently experiencing on the Affordable Care Act.

He drew on a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. to underscore the importance of not losing faith in politics during troubled times.

“It may be true that the law can’t make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me,” Obama said.

Amid the celebrations of the law, Obama cautioned that work remains in order to fulfill the goals of the legislation Johnson championed.

“President Johnson understood that equality requires more than the absence of oppression, it requires the presence of economic opportunity,” Obama said. “If this sounds familiar, it’s because today we remain locked in this same great debate about equality and opportunity.”

After 30 minutes of reflecting and reminiscing on the 50 years that have brought us to this moment, Obama concluded his speech with an answer to the question that opened it.

“Making [people's] lives better is what the hell the presidency is for,” he said.

President Obama is the third of four presidents to speak this week with President Jimmy Carter and President Clinton preceding him. President George W. Bush will speak at the library on Thursday evening.

Before taking the stage, the Obamas took a tour of the Cornerstones of Civil Rights exhibit at the LBJ Library. He jokingly told the crowd Michelle’s favorite part of the exhibit was a clip of Lady Bird Johnson offering “constructive criticism” to Lyndon.

“Some things never change,” he said.

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Gromer Jeffers Jr. Apr-10-2014 170 0
Famed attorney Louis A. Bedford Jr. died Thursday after a long battle with prostate cancer. He was 88.

In 1966 Bedford became the first black to serve on Dallas’ municipal court.

His death was announced by the Dallas Bar Association. In 1968, Bedford was the fourth black attorney to join the association. At that time minority lawyers experience racism in the criminal justice system.

“Judge Bedford lived through, and helped bring about, many needed changes in the legal and political landscape of Dallas,” said Scott McElhaney, President of the Dallas Bar Association. “He was a humble leader and a mentor to many. He will be greatly missed.”

A graduate of Booker T. Washington High School, he attended Prairie View A&M University and received a law degree from Brooklyn Law School.

State Sen. Royce West, one of the many lawyers mentored by Bedford, said the trailblazer had to leave Texas to go to law school.

“His passing comes at a time when we’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, which he was involved in,” West said. “And his passing leaves a void. He was a person we could talk to about different issues in the community.”

West said Bedford offered him advice when he left the district attorney’s to start his own firm. And he was there when West ran for district attorney and ultimately the state senate.

“I will never forget what he told me,” West said. “He said ‘the pie is big enough for everyone. Just do a good job.’”

In 1952 Bedford organized the J.L. Turner Legal Society. He was the organizations historian until his death.

His was active in the civil rights movement, working to desegregate schools and preserve the voting rights of minorities.

In 2006 he was overcome with emotion after giving the oath of office to newly elected Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins, the state’s first black DA.

“There were lawyers who worked hard for this day and didn’t get to see it,” Bedford said after Watkins took the oath. “I have an emotional feeling because I think about them and it brings tears to my eyes.”

Dallas lawyer Michael Todd, former president of the Dallas Black Criminal Bar Association, said Bedford would be missed.

“He was a person young attorneys could lean on for guidance,” said Todd, who attended the New Hope Baptist Church with Bedford. “He was a true pioneer.”

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Emma Lacey-Bordeaux Apr-09-2014 362 0
A body found in an Indiana lake has been identified as that of Teleka Patrick, the Michigan doctor who's been missing since December, the Porter County Coroner's Office confirmed.

Her body was discovered Sunday in Lake Charles, west of Gary, Indiana, officials said.

The cause and manner of death are still pending further investigation, but are consistent with drowning, the coroner said in a statement Tuesday. An autopsy revealed no trauma, the statement added.

Michigan doctor mysteriously disappears

The 30-year-old medical resident failed to show up for work on December 6 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The night before, her 1997 Lexus was discovered abandoned more than 115 miles away in a ditch off of Interstate 94 in Indiana, directly south of the lake where she was ultimately found.

Police brought out dogs to track Patrick's scent. They led investigators out of the ditch where Patrick's car rested to the highway. There, the scent went cold.

"We looked everywhere," Sgt. Rick Strong of the Indiana State Police told CNN in December.

Surveillance video and home videos uploaded to YouTube provided investigators with clues about Patrick's movements in the weeks, days and hours before she vanished.

The YouTube videos showed Patrick talking, cooing and singing to someone unnamed and apparently unknown. Patrick's mother told CNN she wasn't aware of any romantic relationship her daughter may have had. But the videos have an intimate feel to them.

"Hi, baby," Patrick says in one. "I am just coming to you to say 'hi' and tell you about my day."

In another video, Patrick shows a table set for two with omelets and pancakes.

"If you were here, this is what would be your plate," she coos.

In a surveillance video from a Radisson hotel in Kalamazoo, not far from where she worked, Patrick is seen on the night of December 5 around 7:30 p.m., hours before police found her car in Indiana.

She spent about 10 minutes talking with employees at the reception desk but ultimately left. There's no audio on the video, and it's not clear why Patrick failed to book a room.

But at 7:48 p.m., she strode across the hotel's tiled floors, out the door and onto a hotel shuttle bus.

Those are the last known images of her.

Her family says Patrick, who had just moved to Michigan, bought a plane ticket to come visit them for the holidays in Florida.

In January, family members urged investigators to remain focused on the possibility that foul play was involved in her disappearance, after reports surfaced that gospel singer Marvin Sapp had filed a personal protection order against Patrick in September.

In court documents, Sapp said Patrick "has claimed him as her husband, had moved from California to Michigan, joined his church, had contacted his children and had been to his home.

"I have at least 400 pages of correspondence from her which I have never responded," his complaint reads.

While the discovery of Patrick's body answers some questions, it leaves many more unanswered for the grieving family of a young doctor described as "wonderful," "beautiful" and "talented."

Investigators have said they have no evidence of foul play, but they also don't have conclusive evidence that Patrick's movements on December 5 were voluntary.

"We have scoured, searched and looked at everything we could possibly look at -- all the exits, all the businesses, all the hotels," Strong said late last year. "We posted fliers; we talked to neighbors (who live near the highway). We did a full-blown, on-the-ground search in the wooded area north of where the car was."

Carl Clatterback, a private investigator hired by Patrick's family, told CNN that investigators are looking into the videos. A central question: Who was Patrick talking to in the videos and does that person know anything about what happened to her?

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