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MARTY MELVILLE

New Zealand Banned Most Semi-Automatic Weapons

New Zealand's parliament voted 119-1 in favor of banning military-style semi-automatic weapons a little less than one month after the mass shooting, in which 50 people were killed.

On Wednesday (April 10) Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the vote was New Zealand's way of giving "a voice" to the victims.

According to reports, once the bill is given what is called royal assent by the country's governor-general, the law can go into effect as early as Friday.

"We are ultimately here because 50 people died, and they do not have a voice," Prime Minister Arden told parliament. "We in this house are their voice, and today, we have used that voice wisely."

On March 15, two consecutive mass shootings occurred at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. Fifty men, women and children were killed, the youngest being a 3-year-old boy.

The first shooting took place at the Al Noor Mosque and then at the Linwood Islamic Centre. The suspect, 28-year-old Brenton Harrison Tarrant, reportedly made a hand gesture while in court known to be associated with white supremacy.

Tarrant was formally charged last week with 50 counts of murder and 39 attempted murder counts. He's due back in court on June 14 for a mental health assessment.

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Texas Department of Criminal Justice via AP

Second Man Convicted In The 1998 Death Of James Byrd Jr To Be Executed

In 1998, Jasper, Texas became the epicenter of the nation when James Byrd Jr's dismembered body was found outside of a predominately black church. The rest of his body was found about a mile and a half away.

Byrd was beaten by three white supremacists men and tied to the back of a pick-up truck and reportedly dragged three miles. All men were found guilty for his brutal murder. One was sentenced to life in prison, one was executed in 20111 and another will be put to death today (April 24).

According to CNN, Jon William King, 44 who's been on death row for 20 years, will die by lethal injection.

King has long maintained coconspirator Shawn Berry was solely responsible for Byrd's death. King has appealed his conviction, alleging ineffectiveness from his defense team. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear his case last October.

In 2011, Lawrence Russell Brewer was executed and Shawn Berry was sentenced to life. While murders are devastating, Byrd's dragging death placed a blinding spotlight on the racial tension in America. The fallout from the case helped to pass the nation's hate crime bill, named after both Byrd and Matthew Shepard, a gay Wyoming teen who was viciously beaten to death.

Byrd's family, however, have opposed the death penalty and made it clear they would prefer that King be sentenced to life in prison. Byrd's son Ross has been quoting saying, "You cannot fight murder with murder."

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Charles Eckert

Chanel Lewis Sentenced To Life In Prison For Murder Of Queens Jogger

A New York judge sentenced the man accused of sexually assaulting and murdering a Queens jogger to life in prison Tuesday, (April 23) despite there being accusations of a coerced confession and jury misconduct.

Cheers broke out inside a courtroom when 22-year-old Chanel Lewis learned his fate. He spoke briefly in court apologizing to the victim's family. “I’m innocent,” Lewis said. “I’m sorry for the family’s loss, but I didn’t do this.”

The victim, Karina Vetrano, 30, went jogging on a park trail in Howard Beach, Queens in August 2016 when prosecutors say she was sexually assaulted and brutally murdered. Her body was discovered in August 2016 by her father.

Lewis' sentencing was initially postponed amid accusations of jury misconduct. However, Judge Michael Aloise decided Monday to move forward with the sentencing. Lewis' first trial resulted in a hung jury and his defense team stated that a desire to swiftly put the case away led to Tuesday's sentencing.

“While there is no denying that Karina Vetrano’s death is tragic and that her family and friends suffered a great loss, every aspect of this case – from the police investigation to jury deliberations – was propelled by a desire to convict at all costs,” The Legal Aid Society, which represents Lewis, said in a statement.

Lewis' defense argued his two-taped confessions were coerced and there wasn't enough DNA evidence linking him to the crime. During the confession, Lewis reportedly said he was upset at his neighbor for playing loud music and when he saw Vetrano he "lost it."

He said he strangled the jogger but didn't sexually assault her. His defense team argued the DNA evidence wasn't gathered properly and didn't match the victim's injuries.

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Muhammed Selim Korkutata

Alabama Deputy On Leave After Comments About Gay Teen's Suicide

An Alabama deputy has been placed on leave after making insensitive comments on social media about a teen who committed suicide after allegedly being bullied for his sexual orientation.

According to reports, the officer has been with the Madison County Sheriff's Office in Huntsville for 12 years and sparked backlash for referring to LGBTQ qualms as "a fake movement which requires no special attention but by persons with an altered ego and fake agenda."

"Liberty. Guns. Bible. Trump. BBQ. That’s my kind of LGBTQ. I’m seriously offended that there is such a thing such as this movement," the deputy allegedly wrote in a Facebook post. "Society cannot and should not accept this behavior. I have a right to be offended and will always be offended by this fake movement which requires no special attention but by persons with an altered ego and fake agenda.”

The law enforcement officer defended his statement as freedom of speech before it was taken down. It was made in reference to 15-year-old Nigel Shelby who took his own life Thursday (April 18) after being bullied for being gay.

In a statement, Monday, the Madison County Sheriff's Office revealed a deputy had been placed on leave, while Local sheriff Kevin Turner offered kind words to the friends and family of Nigel Shelby.

Turner said: “Bullying of any group or person in or outside of schools is unacceptable, and I welcome any and all efforts to raise awareness to bullying and bring bullying to a stop. The Madison County Sheriff’s Office is proud of the community support and engagement we have received over the years, and we look forward to growing those community partnerships.”

 

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