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Dylann Storm Roof's Defense Lawyers File A Legal Challenge To The Death Penalty

According to Roof's defense team, the death penalty is "arbitrary, cruel and unusual punishment"

Dylann Storm Roof's attorneys filed a legal challenge to the U.S. death penalty Monday. (August 1) Roof's legal counsel said they would drop their filing if prosecutors dropped their pursuit of the death penalty.

Roof, 22, is accused of killing nine people inside a historic African-American church in Charleston, S.C., on June 17, 2015 with the intentions of starting a race war. Roof was captured shortly after the horrific killing in North Carolina, and charged with 33 federal offenses, including hate crimes.

Back in May, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch released a statement stating the Justice Department would seek the death penalty if Roof was found guilty of the heinous crimes.

“Following the department’s rigorous review process to thoroughly consider all relevant factual and legal issues, I have determined that the Justice Department will seek the death penalty.  The nature of the alleged crime and the resulting harm compelled this decision.”

Roof's lawyers said they only wanted to raise questions about the death penalty with the federal challenge, which stems from the "government's decision to seek the defendant's execution rather than accepting his proffered pleas of guilty and willingness to accept multiple sentences of life imprisonment without possibility of release."

The lawyers then outlined several reasons against the death penalty stating it was "arbitrary, cruel and unusual punishment" along with it violating the Fifth and Eighth amendments.

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Richard Levine

Report: Jehovah's Witness Community Kept Secret List Of Child Molesters

The Jehovah's Witness community is reportedly being investigated for allegedly keeping a secret database that listed thousands of "undocumented" child molesters within the community, The Atlantic reports.

According to the latest report, the information was obtained after the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, which serves as the head of the Jehovah's Witness organization, sent a survey to its 10,883 U.S. Kingdom Halls seeking information about members of the community accused of sexual abuse in 1997. The survey was reportedly comprised of 12 questions, including how the community viewed the alleged abusers, whether the abuse was a one-time occurrence, and more.

The responses were then mailed back to the Watchtower in a blue envelope and scanned into a Microsoft SharePoint. It was never shared with the police, however.

In 2014, a man filed a lawsuit against the Watchtower, claiming he was molested by a Jehovah's Witness leader in 1986. During that case, the Watchtower disclosed that its U.S. headquarters had received 775 blue envelopes from 1997 to 2001.

In 2012, Candace Conti, a former member of the community, was awarded $28 million by a jury after claiming a man she worked with for a community service project sexually abused her when she was nine and group leaders ignored her because of the  "two-witness rule."

According to The Atlantic, the organization's "two-witness rule" requests that two people bare witness to the crime being alleged. "Barring a confession, no member of the organization can be officially accused of committing a sin without two credible eyewitnesses who are willing to corroborate the accusation," the rule states. Critics have said that the rule makes it easier for child molesters to abuse kids.  

According to estimates, the number of accused Jehovah's Witness child molesters listed in the secret database could range from 18,000 to 23,000. It's unclear how police are proceeding in light of the new report.

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Nuccio DiNuzzo

Chicago Mayor Calls Jussie Smollett Charges Drop "A Whitewash of Justice"

If you've been keeping up with the twists and turns in the Jussie Smollett case, then you may have thrown your hands in the air Tuesday morning (March 26) when prosecutors announced all charges against the 36-year-old actor were dropped.

The shock reverberated online and through the Chicago Police Department who accused the former Empire actor of staging the crime. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson were prompted to offer their reaction to the outcome.

"This is without a doubt a whitewash of justice," Emanuel said at a news conference. "There is no accountability. It is wrong, full stop."

Johnson, who was reportedly furious over the outcome, learned about the prosecution's decision while attending a police academy graduation with the mayor.

"I'm sure we all know what happened this morning," Johnson said.  "Do I think justice was served? No. What do I think justice is? I think this city is owed an apology."

Johnson stands by his belief that Smollett made up the whole thing and also suggested a deal was made to keep Smollett out of prison.

"At the end of the day, it's Mr. Smollett who committed this hoax, period," Johnson said. "I heard that they wanted their day in court ... so America could know the truth, and they chose to hide behind a secrecy of a brokered deal to circumvent the judicial system."

The mayor was beside himself after the news, insisting he learned about Smollett's outcome when everyone else did and questioned where are the actor's morals.

“A person using hate crime laws that are on the books to protect people who are minorities, and you turn around and use them to advance your career?" Emmanuel said. "Is there no decency in this man?"

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Scott Olson

The Body Of Ohio Activist Amber Evans Was Found In The Scioto River

The body of 28-year-old Amber Evans was found in Ohio's Scioto River Saturday. (March 23) Evans, a beloved activist, had been missing since January 28.

According to reports, Evans' body was found by Columbus Police. The activist worked with several social justice organizations including the Juvenile Justice Coalition in which she was promoted to executive director.

Evans was reported missing in January following a dispute with her boyfriend of 10 years. Local authorities did, however, say her boyfriend has been cooperative.

“Since the beginning of the investigation that there were no known domestic violence issues in Evans’ relationship and there was no reason to suspect foul play,” the Columbus-Dispatch reports.

*UPDATE 3/24/19: The body recovered yesterday, Saturday, 3/23/19 has been positively identified as 28yo Amber Evans. The family has been notified.While this is not the outcome we hoped for, we understand this brings closure for the family. Our thoughts & prayers go out to them. https://t.co/YF2iAS4LSN

— Columbus Ohio Police (@ColumbusPolice) March 24, 2019

Evans went to work the morning of Jan 28 and left at 5:30 PM after feeling sick. A security camera at a local store captured her purchasing cold medicine and a Snickers. Evans' abandoned car was found later that evening in the Scioto Mile area with her purse in the track. Her cell phone was located the next day in another part of the Scioto Mile.

Tonya Fischer, Evans' mother, took to social media to express her appreciation for the outpouring of support.

“I’m coming on here as a mother who has just found out that I lost my first-born child,” Fischer said, choking up as she spoke. “I love you all, and you all know I’m more than willing to accept all that you have to give... but just give me a moment. Just a moment. Give my family a moment.”

 

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