NEWS of the Day - August 19, 2012
on some LACP issues of interest

NEWS of the Day - August 19, 2012
on some issues of interest to the community policing and neighborhood activist across the country

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following group of articles from local newspapers and other sources constitutes but a small percentage of the information available to the community policing and neighborhood activist public. It is by no means meant to cover every possible issue of interest, nor is it meant to convey any particular point of view ...

We present this simply as a convenience to our readership ...


From Google News

Many increasingly questioning life sentences for juveniles; some convicted may go free

by Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — Sara Kruzan was 17 when she was sentenced to die in prison for killing and robbing a pimp in a Riverside motel. Now, at 32, Kruzan has a chance at being freed, along with thousands of other juveniles convicted of murder who were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Those life sentences are coming under increased attack from activists, lawmakers and even the U.S. Supreme Court, which recently struck down mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles as unconstitutional “cruel and unusual” punishment. On Thursday, the California Assembly passed a bill by the slimmest of margins that would give juvenile lifers in that state a shot at freedom.

Nationwide, there are roughly 2,500 inmates who killed as juveniles that are serving life in prison without parole, including 309 California inmates serving such sentences, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

“Because their brain is still developing, they have the ability to rehabilitate,” said Michael Harris, a senior attorney at the National Center for Youth Law. “They are more likely to rehabilitate than an adult.”

Despite the legal rulings and the legislative activity, some survivors of people killed by juveniles are pushing back and arguing that a life sentence is appropriate punishment for juveniles who commit heinous murders.

“They say they deserve a second chance, but the victims don't get a second chance,” said Maggie Elvey, whose husband was murdered in 1993 by two teens during the robbery of his gun shop in Vista, Calif.

She called Thursday a “sad day” because of the California Assembly's passage of a bill introduced by state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco. The bill allows lifers to seek a sentence of 25-years-to-life with a chance for parole after serving 15 years. It passed the state Senate last year but failed repeatedly in the Assembly before Democrat lawmakers approved it by a single vote after a heated debate. The bill moves back to the state Senate for final approval. Passage is expected.

Criminal defense lawyer Daniel Horowitz, whose wife was murdered in 2005 by a 16 year old now serving life without parole, largely sides with Elvey.

Releasing most of the thousands of juvenile lifers “would open the gates of hell,” Horowitz said.

“We aren't trying to punish these young people,” he said. “We are trying to protect the public from this happening again.”

Still, Horowitz said Kruzan may warrant an exception because of her compelling life story, which includes sexual abuse at a young age.

Kruzan's case began to garner widespread publicity in 2010 after Human Rights Watch posted a six-minute interview with her on YouTube that received 300,000 hits.

The year culminated with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger commuting her sentence to 25-years-to-life with the possibility of parole on Dec. 31, 2010, his last full day in office. Schwarzenegger said he still considered her guilty of first-degree murder, but he sympathized with her defense that the man she killed had sexually abused her and served as her pimp for years.

“Given Ms. Kruzan's age at the time of the murder, and considering the significant abuse she suffered at his hands, I believe Ms. Kruzan's sentence is excessive,” the governor wrote in his commutation message, “it is apparent that Ms. Kruzan suffered significant abuse starting at a vulnerable age.”

Today, Kruzan is fighting for an even bigger reduction of her prison sentence, arguing she killed her pimp as a result of “intimate partner abuse,” a defense that has until now been limited to battered wives and girlfriends.

In court documents, Kruzan said her pimp, George Gilbert Howard, began wooing her when she was 11 with ice cream, roller skating outings and rides in his Cadillac. Along the way, Kruzan said Howard sexually assaulted her and coerced her to work the streets of Riverside in Southern California as a prostitute beginning when she was 13.

Kruzan said in her clemency application that when she entered the motel room that night in 1994, all “the fear, anger and panic from all of the past abuse exploded inside of me and I shot him.” Howard, 36, died of a neck wound.

Her lawyers are seeking a reduction of her first-degree murder conviction to manslaughter, which would mean her immediate release or a new trial. They contend her case should fall under a 2005 California law enabling domestic violence victims serving lengthy murder sentences to seek shorter ones if their attorneys had failed to invoke domestic violence as a defense.

Riverside County District Attorney Paul Zellerbach will decide whether to free her, schedule a hearing or do nothing, letting her life sentence stand. Zellerbach, who has until Sept. 18 to decide, declined comment.

Meanwhile, courts in Florida, California and elsewhere are beginning to examine yet another wrinkle of “extreme” sentences for juveniles: the “de facto” life sentence.

On Thursday, the California Supreme Court unanimously overturned a 110-year sentence of a 16-year-old gang member Rodrigo Caballero for attempted murder, ruling it was essentially an unconstitutional life sentence. The court called on lawmakers to prohibit juvenile prison sentences for non-homicide crimes without a meaningful chance for parole.



West St. Louis County Religious Leaders Rally Against Recent Hate Crimes

Leaders of the Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities held a press conference at the Dar-Ul Islam Mosque in West St. Louis County asking for justice in light of recent hate crimes against Muslims.

by Carlos Restrepo

West St. Louis County Muslims have seen their share of hate crimes and discrimination in the years since 9/11.

In 2003, the Dar-Ul-Salam Mosque, located on Weidman Road in front of Queeny Park, had its collection box broken into multiple times. Weeks later that same year, on two separate occasions, the Hindu Temple located less than a mile away from that Mosque was firebombed after the perpetrators mistook it for the Mosque.

Last year, a Muslim woman was refused service at the Mattress Firm store in Manchester because she did not uncover her face after a manager told her “she needed to show her face for service,” according to a St. Louis Post-Dispatch article.

And earlier this year, the Al Salam Day School, located inside the Dar-Ul Islam Mosque, had to be closed after the Christian group Reclaiming Missouri for Christ protested outside the Mosque with the intention of handing out anti-Islamic pamphlets.

On Wednesday morning, Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders held a press conference to denounce a recent rash of hate crime against Muslims in the U.S., which may include the Aug. 6 burning of a Joplin, MO mosque.

The FBI is still investigating whether or not that fire was arson, but religious leaders here are already speaking out against what they believe is a trend of hate crimes against religious minorities that occur near election time.

“Usually the year of election, this rhetoric (against Islam) goes up,” said Ghazala Hayat, of the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis, during the press conference.

On Aug. 10, for example, U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill), said in a town hall meeting that Muslim Americans were a "real threat that is much more at home now than it was after 9/11."

Other recent events against Muslims in America include:

“When I heard about this press conference today, I wanted to be here in person to register the ACLU's anger and dismay about the escalating violence against Muslims in our own community and across America,” said Brenda Jones, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri, during the press conference. “I am here to declare that there are no second-class citizens in America and it is not open season on Muslims.”

Moving forward

Faisan Syed, executive director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in St. Louis, organized the press conference at the mosque in West County. Not only did he want to denounce the recent violence against Muslims, but also show the resilience of the community, he said.

Syed, who has been to Joplin to help the community after the mosque's burning, said Muslims there were full of resolve and dedication and they will rebuild the mosque. A fundraising campaign has already raised nearly $400,000 for the rebuilding.

“The person who tried to burn down the Mosque on July 4th, he tried to make it a symbol that the Muslim community is unwelcome in Joplin, Missouri,” Syed said. “But because of the rebuilding effort and support across the country and the world, we have shown a bigger symbol, a greater symbol that the people of America and the world support what's right, they support what's just and they will not allow hatred to govern them or hatred to rule them.”

Meanwhile, there is a $10,000 reward offered by CAIR and a $15,000 reward by the FBI for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrators of a July 4 attack on the Joplin mosque or for more information in this latest fire.



Free Lunch Lady Could Face $600 Fine

A local lunch lady says she may no longer be able to serve free food to her community due to a law in her town.

by Tracy Davidson and David Chang

A local lunch lady says she may no longer be able to serve free food to her community due to a law in her town.

For weeks, Angela Prattis has run a free lunch program in the Toby Farms community of Chester Township. As many as 60 children a day receive a free sandwich, fruit and milk during the summer. The program is funded by the state department of education and administered by the archdiocese of Philadelphia which drops off the boxed lunches daily.

Prattis tells NBC10 she was just put on notice by the township however and received a letter telling her that she needs a variance to run the program in the residential area.

“It's a letter stating, ‘shut it down or face a $600 fine,'” said Prattis.

“Apparently the township has said there was one more hurdle that she had to jump from their point of view,” said Anne Ayella of the Archdiocese. “But from our point of view she's done everything right.”

“We're talking about children,” said Prattis. “Children. It's unbelievable. They've never once said anything to me in reference to what to do to be in the right standing with the township.”

NBC10 spoke with Bill Pisarek, the Chester Township business manager, to find out what exactly she's in violation of.

“Basically the property is in an R3 residential zone,” said Pisarek.

According to the town, Prattis is zoned residential and therefore needs a variance to offer free lunches. Pisarek told NBC10 she can apply for a variance. It costs $1,000 just to apply however.

“We're not here to go after her, to hurt her, to take money from her or to prevent her from feeding kids that need the food,” said Pisarek.

Angela tells NBC10 she plans to go to the next Chester Township Council meeting to do what is necessary. Until then however, she says she will continue to feed the children of her neighborhood before they go back to school.