Together, the members of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women (NCBW) call on members of the United States Congress to exercise due process on behalf of their constituencies and move to an immediate vote to confirm Loretta Lynch as the next U. S. Attorney General.
The professional record of Ms. Lynch documents that she has served in both the public and private sectors with distinction. She has decades of experience as an attorney and has demonstrated admirable character as a dedicated and impartial jurist. She exhibited consistent leadership in heading one of this nation’s most diverse and complex U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the state of New York. She knows the Justice Department and has an exceptional record of successfully prosecuting major cases.
We are reminded in this instance of our nation’s Pledge of Allegiance, which proudly states that we are one nation…with liberty and justice for all. There is a critical need for the U. S. Attorney General to provide oversight and guidance to ensure that all Americans enjoy the same liberties and justice. However, with the eminent exit of U. S. Attorney General Eric Holder, a delay and failure to invoke a fair and impartial vote in the confirmation process for the next U. S. Attorney General threatens our nation’s ability to uphold this promise. Without ensuring that the transition of its leadership is processed expeditiously, we have serious concerns about the stability of the nation’s Chief Law Enforcement Office.
Loretta Lynch is uniquely qualified to assume the position of U. S. Attorney General and is deserving of your consideration and confirmation. Corporately, with one voice, speaking for the millions of women of color across the United States, the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc. calls upon our nation’s electorate to make an informed, discerning, and impartial vote in the confirmation of Loretta Lynch as the next U. S. Attorney General.
“We are in a critical state in our nation justice system. At this time we need a U. S. Attorney General who will continue on to ensure that every citizen has access to and enjoys liberties to justice that we expect and proudly proclaim. It is without question that we support the confirmation vote of Ms. Loretta Lynch for U. S. Attorney General.”
Questions&Issues in Alfred Wright Case May Reach Attorney General Eric Holder’s Desk
by Darwin Campbell, African-American News&Issues
Beaumont- Former New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra once said that, “it ain’t over till its over” and for the Alfred Wright family, the alleged arrest of Shane Hadnot does not mean case closed.
The absence of real investigation transparency and fact revelations raises even more questions about Wright’s demise and what officials could really be hiding in the case.
“This arrest is a smoke screen,” said Pastor Douglas Wright, the father of the late Alfred Wright. “There is something strange going on here and Hadnot is nothing more than a pawn in this conspiracy to cover up the real crime- the murder of my son Alfred Wright.”
Wright and his supporters contend that Alfred Wright is the victim of a brutal, ritualist murder.
The facts are that it was his family and community that found him some 18 days after he was reported missing. His body was found with his throat slit, his face peeled off, his eye taken out, his ear cut off, his tongue cut out and his teeth pulled out.
Those very concerns about the Alfred Wright case are raising eyebrows as far away as Washington D.C because none of the brutality of the crime or information that came to light from various other sources about Wright leading up to his disappearance is being examined. It appears the matter may be headed for a full federal investigation.
Shane Dwayne Hadnot was indicted on Aug. 6, 2014 by a federal grand jury charging him with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance resulting in death and distribution of a controlled substance resulting in death. Hadnot was arrested on Aug. 7, 2014.
According to the indictment, on Nov. 7, 2013, Alfred Wright, of Jasper, Texas, was reported missing by his family after his truck broke down in rural Sabine County, Texas.
Articles of Wright’s clothing were found on private land, approximately a mile from where Wright was last seen. After searchers initially failed to locate Wright, his body was found by family members on Nov. 25, 2013 in brush near where his clothing had been found.
An investigation into the cause of Wright’s disappearance and death revealed his involvement with Shane Hadnot.
The indictment also alleges that on Nov. 7, 2013, Wright sent a text message to Hadnot at 12:36 pm requesting to purchase cocaine and other illegal narcotics from Hadnot. Wright went missing approximately five hours later.
An autopsy was performed on Wright’s body and toxicology testing revealed that Wright’s blood contained cocaine, methamphetamine and Xanax. The final autopsy report, and other experts in the fields of pathology, toxicology, and anthropology concluded that Wright’s cause of death was an accident due to combined drug intoxication.
“This investigation was flawed and not handled properly from the beginning,” Doug Wright said. “There is something wrong with this picture because there are too many red flags and still too many unanswered questions.”
Wright said there is no explanation that alleged “drugs” use alone could result in the kind of condition his body was discovered where Wright’s throat was slit, his face peeled off, his eye taken out, his ear cut off, his tongue cut out and his teeth pulled out. “How do you ignore that or explain that away,” he said.
U.S. attorney for Texas’ Eastern District, John Malcom Bales did not comment on Wright’s comments, but denies a coverup contending his officers interviewed witnesses and examined previous law enforcement work and found no evidence to support that the case as a homicide.
Freedom fighters who have followed, protested and demonstrated for justice in the case agree and are skeptical and sent a strong message to law enforcement that the full investigation should remain open until the real culprits who murdered Wright are brought to justice.
Activist Quanell X, who organized protests following Wright’s death, said he still believes the crime was racially motivated.
Sister Krystal Muhammad, National Chair of the New Black Panther Party agrees.
“We do not believe this and do not accept the latest developments,” she said “We think this is an attempt to cover the truth. We are not convinced and this does not settle it.”
Supporters, family members and the NBBP will continue to show a strong presence in Sabine County, Hemphill, Jasper and Beaumont to send a strong message that they do not intend to walk away from what is shaping up to be an attempt to make the media storm and questions surrounding the case go away.
“We will continue to support this family in their fight for justice,” said Kofi Taharka, National Chair for the National Black United Front in Houston. “This family deserves to know what really happened to their son. The real truth needs to come out and the case needs to be handled properly.”
Some officials in Washington said they believe the case will not only be one on Attorney General Eric Holder’s radar, but also may land on his desk.
“I have always viewed the United States Department of Justice, especially under the leadership of Attorney General Eric Holder, as a place of refuge and an important vehicle of justice,” said Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who also is a Senior Member of the House Judiciary. “I believe the work has started but it is not complete but at the same time it is urgent that community leaders and the lawyers of the NAACP continue to press forward for an expanded investigation from the United States Department of Justice based in Washington, DC. It is good for the value and our beliefs in words ‘Justice For All’ that a stronger and further investigation take place.”
Douglas Wright said the case is not close and he will continue to fight and will not rest until the truth is revealed.
“My son was abducted, tortured and murdered in some gruesome ritual,” he said. “The killer or killers are still out there. As we press forward, we know that God is with us and we will trust him to make a way.”
Last August, at the direction of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the Justice Department launched the “Smart on Crime” initiative, a set of internal policies and reforms to ensure federal laws are enforced more fairly and efficiently. These reforms are consistent with the President’s constitutional obligation to take care that the laws are faithfully executed.
This effort is a clarion call to all civil rights and faith community members and advocates for sentencing reform to redouble their efforts to fix a federal criminal justice system that has seen an 800 percent increase in the number of federal inmates over the last 30 years, from 30,000 to more than 216,000.
One of the smart reforms is a modification in the department’s charging policies so that certain low-level, nonviolent drug defendants, with no significant ties to large-scale organizations, gangs, or cartels, will no longer be charged with offenses triggering mandatory minimum sentences. Instead, they will be charged with offenses that allow judges to impose sentences appropriate to their conduct.
The “Smart on Crime” initiative is an exciting development that should be welcomed and supported by everyone because the status quo simply was not making the criminal justice system better, it was creating more problems than it solved. And we are spending more than $6.5 billion annually to incarcerate inmates, money that could be better used to fund job training, and educational opportunities, invest in infrastructure, support veterans, and promote reentry programs to reduce recidivism.
The United States incarcerates nearly 25 percent of the world’s inmates, even though it only has 5 percent of the world’s population. No other country imprisons a larger percentage of its population than the United States or spends anywhere near the amount we do to incarcerate our citizens.
The cost of imprisoning so many non-violent offenders is fiscally unsustainable and morally unjustifiable and it will take the combined efforts of policy makers, reform advocates, legal professionals, and private citizens to solve the problem.
There is no shortage of stories chronicling the damage done to the lives of thousands of individuals and their families by the draconian sentencing laws passed by Congress and state legislatures beginning in the late 1980s in the so-called “War on Drugs.” Few are as tragic as the story of Clarence Aaron, who grew up in a public housing project in Mobile, Alabama.
In 1992, shortly after his grandfather’s death, Clarence made a mistake that would change his life. He agreed to introduce an old high school football teammate to a college classmate whose brother was a drug dealer. Clarence was present during one of the brother’s drug transactions and during another attempted transaction for which he received $1,500.
He was later arrested by federal law enforcement officers and charged with conspiring to process 20 kilograms of powder cocaine and distribute it as crack cocaine. Even though this was his first offense, Clarence was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Shocking as this sounds, the judge was powerless to adjust the punishment to fit the crime because he was required by law to impose the sentence called for by the then-mandatory federal sentencing guidelines.
It would be comforting to think that the case of Clarence Aaron is an aberration, a rare miscarriage of justice in a system that otherwise works well for all Americans. It would be comforting but it would also be wrong.
The sad fact is that for thousands of inmates in the federal penal system, especially African Americans and Hispanics, the case of Clarence Aaron is not the exception but the rule. As recently as 2010, more than half of all inmates in the federal system (52%) were incarcerated for drug offenses, a rate more than three times as great (17%) as found in the state penal system.
And the racial and ethnic composition of federal inmates incarcerated for drug offenses is equally troubling story because while whites and African Americas use drugs at similar rates, African Americans are much more likely to be arrested and sentenced for drug offenses. Indeed, African Americans and Hispanics comprise more than 6 in 10 federal inmates incarcerated for drug offenses.
Moreover, according to the U.S. Sentencing Commission African American offenders receive sentences that are 10 percent longer than white offenders for the same crimes and, according to a report by the Sentencing Project, African Americans are 21 percent more likely to receive mandatory-minimum sentences than white defendants.
Many persons concerned about the fair administration of justice were alerted to and alarmed by the danger posed by the imposition of mandatory-minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenses and worked to restore balance and justice to sentencing policy.
In 2005, I introduced the “No More Tulias Act of 2005” (H.R. 2620) in response to the infamous drug task force scandal in Tulia, Texas that occurred six years earlier, during which 15 percent of the town’s African American population was arrested, prosecuted and sentenced to decades in prison based on the uncorroborated testimony of a federally funded undercover officer with a record of racial impropriety.
This legislation, which was endorsed by more than 50 of the leading civil rights, religious, and criminal justice reform organization was designed to help put an end to these abuses by enhancing the evidentiary standard required to convict a person for a drug offense, improving the criteria under which states hire drug task force officers, and denying federal money to states that do not have laws preventing convictions for drug offenses based solely on uncorroborated testimony.
Later, in 2007, I introduced the “Drug Sentencing Reform and Cocaine Kingpin Trafficking Act of 2007” (H.R. 4545), bipartisan legislation eliminating the unjust and discriminatory 100 to 1 disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentences in federal law. Companion legislation in the Senate was introduced by then Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware (S. 1711).
This legislation attracted wide-spread support because scientific research had by this time clearly refuted the myth upon which the 100 to 1 ratio was based that use of crack cocaine was far more addictive and dangerous than powder cocaine. Instead, the pharmacological effects of crack cocaine were repeatedly shown by scientific and medical experts to be no more harmful than powder cocaine and that the effect on users is the same. Since there was no pharmacological difference between the two drugs, the “Drug Sentencing Reform and Cocaine Kingpin Trafficking Act” removed the distinction in federal law between them for sentencing purposes. Similar bills to remedy the inherent unfairness in federal drug sentencing were introduced by Senators Edward M. Kennedy and Orrin Hatch, and Jeff Sessions.
In 2010, after years of working to reform our drug sentencing laws, our efforts finally bore fruit when the Congress passed and President Obama signed into law the “Fair Sentencing Act of 2010” (P.L. 111-220), which finally ended the 100:1 ratio that had resulted in unconscionable racial disparities in the average length of sentences for comparable offenses. Indeed, the 100:1 regime was so draconian that it typically resulted in African Americans serving as much time in prison for non-violent drug offenses as whites did for violent offenses. The Fair Sentencing Act incorporated all of the key components of my “Drug Sentencing Reform and Cocaine Kingpin Trafficking Act” and is a watershed moment in the fight for fair and equitable drug sentencing policy.
But since the provisions of the “Fair Sentencing Act” were not retroactive there is still much work left to be done. The federal prison system still houses thousands of inmates sentenced under the old, unfair 100-1 ratio regime.