Officer Acquittal in Freddie Gray Case
Last year, btw brought you news of the death of Freddie Gray. Gray died while in the custody of Baltimore, Maryland police. News of his death sparked outrage and protests that came in the wake of the police shooting of an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Missouri. Last month, officer Edward Nero went to court to face charges of reckless endangerment, second-degree assault, and two counts of misconduct in office. Nero was acquitted of all charges. Nero’s trial is the second of six officers charged in Gray’s death to be tried.
Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s decision to swiftly arrest and charge the officers during a time of high tension between law enforcement and young black men is now being questioned. The most serious accusations made were was against the driver of the van, Caesar Goodson. (Grey died after sustaining a neck injury against the van wall because he was not restrained with a seatbelt during transport.) Compared to the other officers awaiting trial, Nero was among the least directly linked to Grey’s death. The latest verdict, as the judge said, demonstrated that the state, “had failed to prove that the actions rose above mere civil negligence.”
What Do You Think? Follow the trials of the remaining five officers and the response (if any) from protestors. What is the response from the #blacklivesmatter community?
Russian Track Athletes Banned from Rio Olympics
Doping (using illegal, performance enhancement drugs) is an issue that has plagued professional sports for the past several years. In 2012, btw brought you news of an investigation into allegations against cyclist Lance Armstrong, which led to his being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles. Last month, the International Association of Athletics Federations, the track and field governing body, announced a ruling that banned Russians athletes from participating in that sport in the upcoming Summer Olympics held in Rio de Janeiro.
The suspension came as no surprise, as the team has been suspended from international competition since last fall. The suspension was the result of an in-depth investigation by the World Anti-Doping Agency into wide-spread, state-sponsored doping. It released a 323-page report that implicated coaches, trainers, athletes and doctors, as well as members of the Russian secret service. More than 1,400 samples were destroyed and top sports officials were routinely bribed.
What Do You Think? Some believe there is a chance for the barred athletes to compete in the games “under the Olympic flag,” meaning that they do not represent any particular country. (btw brought you news of refugee athletes doing the same thing. Should the Russian athletes be allowed to do this? Why or why not? Support you answer.
Supreme Court Rules in Affirmative Action Case
In 2009, two white women who claimed that they were denied admission to the University of Texas because of their race brought a lawsuit against the academic institution. When one of the women (Rachel Michalewicz) withdrew from the case, Abigail Fisher became the sole plaintiff. A U.S. district court (fifth circuit) heard the case and ruled in favor of the university. In 2011, Fisher’s attorneys filed a petition for the Supreme Court to hear the case and was granted “certiorari.”
Fisher v. University of Texas was originally heard by the Supreme Court in 2012 (and ruled upon in 2013) in favor of the university. But the case was sent back to the Fifth Circuit court because it had “failed to apply strict scrutiny to the university’s race-conscious admissions policy.” Once again, the court ruled in favor of the defendant. In 2015, the Supreme Court heard the case for a second time and, again, also ruled in favor of the defendant. The decision was a 4-to-4 vote (Justice Elena Kagan was recused because she had served as solicitor general on the case when it was in district court). The surprising opinion was that of Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has a history of opposing race-sensitive programs.
What Do You Think? In his dissenting opinion, Justice Alito called the case, “affirmative action gone berserk.” Do some research and find out what he means by this. Do you agree? Why or why not? Support your answer.
Supreme Court Ruling Halts Obama’s Immigration Plan
In 2014, President Obama addressed the nation and announced an executive action on immigration reform. The policy is called the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). The centerpiece of the plan is to offer temporary reprieve from deportation for illegal immigrants living in the United States. To be eligible, people must have been living in the U.S. for at least five years, have a child who has citizenship (typcially from being born here), must pass a background check, and be willing to pay taxes. Conservatives accused the president of abusing the powers of his office.
A lawsuit supported by 26 Republican-led states was filed to challenge the president’s actions. In 2015, just one day before undocumented immigrants were to start applying for legal protections, a federal judge issued a temporary injunction against DAPA. The case was appealed, ultimately making its way to the Supreme Court as the United States v. Texas. The Court’s decision was deadlocked 4-4 (due to the vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February). The Court did not disclose how the justices voted, not did it offer a decision beyond the statement, “the judgment is affirmed by an equally divided court.”