Thursday, December 13, 2007

Black Men: It's Our Responsibility to Change the Dynamic!

W.E.B. Du Bois, Jackie Robinson, Ralph Ellison, Clarence Thomas, Al Sharpton, Shaquille O'Neal, Samuel L. Jackson. All are black men who grew up without their biological fathers. More than half of the nation's 5.6 million black boys live in fatherless households, 40 percent of which are impoverished.

- quoted in the December 14, 2007 Washington Post article 'The Ghost of a Father' profiling Barack Obama

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Howard University Grads Lawrence and Lamont Garrison to Possibly Receive Sentence Reductions

With the Supreme Court's ruling (finally) in favor of sentencing fairness for Crack vs. Powder Cocaine charges and the U.S. Sentencing Commissions retroactive implementation of its recent guideline amendment on crack cocaine offenses, it seems that the case of Howard grads Lawrence and Lamont Garrison may get another look...and at minimum may result in a reduction of their 15-year and 19-year, respectively, sentences.

According to the Sentencing Project, an estimated 19,500 persons in Federal Prison will likely be eligible for a sentence reduction of more than two years.


Lawrence and Lamont Garrison
Identical twins Lawrence and Lamont Garrison were inseparable. In elementary school, one would rush to the other's classroom and wait until he was dismissed. Living in the same house in Washington, D.C. that their mother and grandmother had grown up in, they attended Howard University together. Both worked part time to help pay their tuition – Lamont for the Department of Justice and Lawrence for the Department of Energy. Good students and aspiring lawyers, the twins graduated together in May 1998.

A month before their graduation, the police came to the door one night and arrested Lawrence and Lamont. They were charged with conspiracy as part of a 20-person powder and crack cocaine operation, implicated by a target of the investigation, the owner of a Maryland auto body shop."

My boys never missed a day in school, they never stayed out all night and then one night the police knocked on the door and said they were drug dealers," recalled the twins' mother, Karen Garrison.

In court, they maintained their innocence and would not accept a plea bargain. Although no drugs, paraphernalia or drug money were found in their house or on their person, they were separately convicted of conspiracy to distribute powder and crack cocaine.

The conviction resulted from the testimony of members of the conspiracy, and records showing calls they made to the body shop. According to Lawrence and Lamont, the phone calls were related to a botched repair job on their uncle's car. The owner of the body shop had his sentence reduced by implicating others in the conspiracy, and was sentenced to 36 months in prison.

The Garrison twins were finally separated by harsh federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws when they were sentenced and incarcerated in federal prison. Although neither brother had a prior conviction, Lamont was sent to Manchester, Kentucky for 19 years; Lawrence was sent to Elkton, Ohio for 15 years.

"After they were found guilty in June they never came back home," the mother recalled. I didn't think stuff like this happens. If I had other children, how could I tell them ‘stay in school, be good and nothing bad will happen to you,' because that's not true.

In 2001, the Washington City Paper quoted a letter from a former professor written to the judge on the twins' behalf: "I have known Lawrence and Lamont for about five years. They were present on time for every single class session. They were diligent in their work, enthusiastic and highly motivated … They struck me as very focused and spiritual young men. I enjoyed having them in my classes and conversing with them outside of class … Lawrence and Lamont do not belong in jail."

Now 34, Lawrence and Lamont have served nine years in prison, and still maintain their innocence. Ms. Garrison, 53, now spends every other weekend on the road to visit one of her sons. It's a 300-mile drive from her home in Washington, D.C. to visit Lawrence and a 500-mile drive to visit Lamont. Lawrence remains interested in the law and has taught a legal writing class in prison. Lamont wants to pursue a Masters in business. However, both will continue to face hurdles to success.

The Garrison twins' cases raise questions of innocence, although they were in fact convicted of a drug conspiracy. But, did the punishment fit the crime? Twenty years ago, at the start of the "war on drugs," penalties for drug offenses increased dramatically. These new laws were intended to target major drug dealers, or "kingpins." However, the people most affected by these policies have not been kingpins. They are most likely to be people from low income communities and communities of color. The result has been the mass incarceration of low-level and non-violent offenders.

Sentences for federal drug crimes are based on the quantity of the drugs involved, not the individual's role in the crime. The emphasis on quantity rather than the role of the offender, along with the conspiracy laws, too often result in disproportionate sentencing even for first-time offenders such as the Garrisons.

Ms. Garrison has since become an advocate to change the sentencing laws – despite the fact that any alteration would not retroactively change the fate of her only twin sons. She said she aims to help the sons and daughters who have been victims of the law which has claimed many – whether innocent or guilty – as a result of the racial disparity and collateral consequences that arise from the unfair sentencing guidelines.

"I hope I can be halfway effective in helping," said Ms. Garrison. "It's not getting better; it seems to be getting worse."

James Johnson and another Case of Prosecutorial Misconduct

Prosecutor Mike Nifong apparently has not been the only North Carolina prosecutor engaged in misconduct, poor investigations and abuse of the public trust.

Please see the details of the case of African-American teen, James Johnson, below and visit for additional information.

On the afternoon of June 28, 2004, a shocking and terrible crime occurred in Wilson, N.C. Brittany Willis, a young white woman who had just graduated from high school, was kidnapped at gunpoint from a shopping center, taken to a deserted field nearby, raped and murdered. Her car was stolen.

The NAACP has deep sympathy for Brittany Willis and her family. The courts must punish people who commit such heinous crimes. However, the criminal justice system should not punish the innocent.

James Johnson, a young African American man who recently graduated from high school, reported the following to investigators and the NAACP to establish his innocence: On June 28, 2004, Kenneth Meeks, an African American youth aged 16, drove Ms. Willis’ stolen car to Mr. Johnson’s home. According to Mr. Johnson, Meeks honked the horn and begged Mr. Johnson to take a ride with him. Meeks showed him a handgun and admitted that he had just killed a young woman and stolen her car. At that point, Mr. Johnson feared for his life. Mr. Johnson further reported that Meeks drove to the crime scene and showed him where the body was. Then, Meeks drove to a carwash and tried to clean out the car. Mr. Johnson further reported that Meeks drove him back to his home and said that he knew Mr. Johnson would not report the crime. Julian Deans, a 19-year old classmate of Mr. Johnson, also told police that Meeks had discussed some of the details of his crime with him.

Mr. Johnson and Mr. Deans struggled with how to deal with Meeks’ confession. Three days later, they went to Mr. Johnson’s father, Arthur Johnson, for help. Trusting the criminal justice system, Arthur Johnson took James Johnson and Julian Deans to the police station without counsel. James Johnson voluntarily reported to the police that Kenneth Meeks confessed committing the crimes.

Within the next few hours, on July 2, 2004, the police arrested Meeks. Meeks discovered that Mr. Johnson provided information to police. Apparently angry with Mr. Johnson for informing the police, Meeks told the police that James Johnson was directly involved in the murder and rape of Ms. Willis. Meeks admitted that he was involved in the crimes. The police charged Meeks and Mr. Johnson with murder, rape, kidnapping and armed robbery. The prosecutors asked for the death penalty and no bond for Mr. Johnson. Julian Deans was charged as an accessory after the fact for not immediately reporting the crime.

In 2005, Meeks recanted his statement against James Johnson. Meeks admitted to his lawyer, his psychologist and several other people that he committed the crimes alone. In 2006, Meeks’ lawyer and his psychologist testified in court that Meeks admitted to them that Mr. Johnson was not involved in the crimes. Moreover, in a letter dated April 24, 2007 to the Wilson Daily News, Meeks wrote, “I committed the crime alone. James Johnson is innocent. For them to keep holding him is a crime in itself.”

James Johnson and Meeks took polygraph tests. Meeks’ test indicated that Johnson was not involved. James Johnson’s test confirmed that he was not involved.

Furthermore, there is no physical evidence against James Johnson. None of the DNA, blood evidence, hair and fiber evidence connected James Johnson to the crimes. There are no credible witnesses against James Johnson.

In April 2006, Kenneth Meeks pled guilty to first degree murder and six other charges. Currently, Meeks is serving a life sentence for Ms. Willis’ murder.

In December 2006, the District Attorney decided not to seek the death penalty against James Johnson, making him eligible for bond. In January 2007, the Court set his bond at $1 million. As a result of the NAACP North Carolina State Conference’s rallies, marches, vigils and lobbying, on September 24, 2007, after spending three years in jail, the Court reduced James Johnson’s bond to $60,000 and he was released from prison. Under pressure from the NAACP North Carolina State Conference, the Wilson County District Attorney’s Office asked the Court to appoint a special prosecutor to reconsider the case. The special prosecutor will make a recommendation to a Superior Court judge about whether to proceed.

In sum, all of the evidence shows that Meeks acted alone. James Johnson should be exonerated. Therefore, the NAACP demands that all charges against Mr. Johnson be dismissed.

Monday, December 10, 2007

What is your vote worth? An IPod...College tuition...$1 million

What is your vote worth? Would you trade it for an IPod Touch? How about the cost of college tuition? What about $1 million?

Do you agree with the students surveyed at New York University (NYU)?

Most at NYU say their vote has a price
By: Lily Quateman - Washington Square News
November 14, 2007 07:29 PM EST

Two-thirds say they'll do it for a year's tuition. And for a few, even an iPod touch will do.

That's what NYU students said they'd take in exchange for their right to vote in the next presidential election, a recent survey by an NYU journalism class found.

Only 20 percent said they'd exchange their vote for an iPod touch.
But 66 percent said they'd forfeit their vote for a free ride to NYU. And half said they'd give up the right to vote forever for $1 million.

But they also overwhelmingly lauded the importance of voting.
Ninety percent of the students who said they'd give up their vote for the money also said they consider voting "very important" or "somewhat important"; only 10 percent said it was "not important."
Also, 70.5 percent said they believe that one vote can make a difference — including 70 percent of the students who said they'd give up their vote for free tuition.

The class — "Foundations of Journalism," taught by journalism department chairwoman Brooke Kroeger — polled more than 3,000 undergraduates between Oct. 24 and 26 to assess student attitudes toward voting.

"The part that I find amazing is that so many folks think one vote can make a difference," Sociology Department Chairman Dalton Conley said. He added, "If we take them at their word, then perhaps they really think votes matter, and that's why someone might pay a year's tuition to buy theirs."

Sixty percent of the students who said they'd give up their vote for tuition also described their families' income as upper-middle or high.

Their reasons for giving up their votes varied.

"At the moment, no candidate who truly represents my political beliefs has a chance of winning a presidential election," one male junior studying film and television at the Tisch School of the Arts wrote on the survey.

"It is very easy to convince myself that my vote is not essential," wrote a female CAS sophomore. "After all, I'm from New York, which will always be a blue state."

Other students wrote that they were disgusted by the thought.

"I would be reversing history — a lot of people fought so that every citizen could be enfranchised," said a female in her second year at the Stern School of Business.

One CAS junior went even further, writing that "anyone who'd sell his lifelong right to vote should be deported."

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Banned by YouTube: Sometimes Its Just Fun to Gawk II

Unlimited Video Game Rentals - Start Now!

For 6 months it appeared on YouTube and received 84,408 views, and then it was banned.

Now it's back for you viewing pleasure!

Check out the video slide show 'Banned by YouTube'. Sometimes Its Just Fun to Gawk II.

Save up to 75% off your new comics!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

MyStoreMaps Feature Added to Jaymo's Garage Sale's eBay Listings

Jaymo's Garage Sale has added the MyStoreMaps feature to its eBay listings. The MyStoreMap tracks each eBay sale to our customers in all US states, Canadian provinces and to over 300 countries around the world. Showing actual customer shipment counts provides a differentiator which attracts buyers to our listings.

Sellers Add a Map Counter to Your Listings. Fast. Simple.