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Black Teens Receive 11 Life Sentences in Crime Where No One Was Hurt

NNPA NEWSWIRE — A 2012 Human Rights Watch report noted that the state of California had de facto sentenced 301 people to die in its prisons for crimes they committed when they were under the age of 18.

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Now, 32 years old, having been incarcerated for 15 years, Juan Rayford Jr. remains in a San Diego-area prison with freedom now his primary dream.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

At 17, Juan Rayford Jr. was like so many other teens with big dreams – he wanted to escape his hardscrabble neighborhood and play college football and perhaps make it into the NFL.

But a fateful 2004 night in the northern Los Angeles County city of Lancaster, quickly turned those dreams into a lifelong nightmare.

Rayford had just returned to school to complete credits toward his diploma and what he’d hoped would be a shot at playing football, or, at minimum, a shot at getting out of the city that sits north of Los Angeles and the crossroads of the steamy hot and dry Antelope and Mojave deserts.

Rayford’s mother moved him to Lancaster to keep her son away from the influence of the gangs and violence that have led to as much bloodshed as Rayford’s dad, Juan Rayford Sr., saw in all of his years in the military.

Rayford’s parents were divorced, but both pushed for their child to succeed.

However, they were both aware that the Antelope Valley wasn’t immune to gangs and the related complications that are too often visited upon young African Americans, especially where law enforcement and (ultimately) America’s system of justice are involved.

While at a house party with some friends, Juan Jr. ducked into the back of the hosts’ home to play video games. While there, he said he heard the commotion between a friend and another individual.

“The friend and the other guy had a long-standing beef and it spilled over to a fight and Juan and everybody came running,” said Juan Sr., who lived in Virginia at the time of the incident and now lives in Texas. “Shots were fired, and when the police came, they took names and wanted to know who did what.”

“My son did nothing wrong, he had no gun and there were some shots fired but nobody was hit, nobody was hurt,” he said.

After questioning everyone there, prosecutors appeared to hone in on Rayford Jr. and another teen, Dupree Glass.

Although no one was shot or injured and the home owner and other witnesses initially said the teens weren’t involved, or at least did not possess a gun, Rayford Jr. and Glass were charged with 11 counts of attempted murder.

At trial, both Rayford and Glass were forced to depend upon overworked public defenders. They were offered a deal: 15 years in prison.

“I’m not guilty,” Rayford Jr. pled to his father and all who would listen.

His plea, however, fell on deaf ears.

Zealous prosecutors, who successfully requested bail set at $11 million, piled on.

On October 25, 2004, Juan Rayford Jr. was sentenced to 220 years, plus — 11 life terms.

Glass received a similar sentence.

The sentences appear to violate the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

“My son’s sentence is manifestly excessive, which constitutes, in effect, cruel and unusual punishment,” Rayford Sr. said. “The only witnesses for the prosecution were the owner of the house and her 15-year old daughter,” Rayford Sr. said.

“The mother and the daughter gave statements to the police the night the incident occurred, which stated that Juan Jr. was there, but he was not one of the shooters.

“At the trial their statements changed, and Juan Jr. had a court appointed attorney who called no witnesses on his behalf,” he said.

Legal experts said it defies reason and proportionality as the Eighth Amendment forbids extreme sentences that are ‘grossly disproportionate’ to the crime and directs judges to exercise their wise judgment in assessing the proportionality of all forms of punishment.

Now, 32 years old, having been incarcerated for 15 years, Rayford Jr. remains in a San Diego-area prison with freedom now his primary dream.

Meanwhile, his father fights daily for him.

In 2012, Rayford Sr. wrote a letter to then-U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder seeking relief, but there was no response. Most recently, he’s written to California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, an outspoken proponent of Criminal Justice Reform.

Becerra’s spokesman told NNPA Newswire that the case is headed toward the state Supreme Court and, therefore, he couldn’t comment.

A 2012 Human Rights Watch report noted that the state of California had de facto sentenced 301 people to die in its prisons for crimes they committed when they were under the age of 18.

They could not be legally sentenced to death — in 2005, the Supreme Court found the death penalty unconstitutional for juveniles.

However, theirs is literally a “life” sentence, having been sentenced to prison for the rest of their lives with no chance of parole or opportunity for release.

Sentences like these underscore how the state of California spends $12 billion annually on its prisons.

Further, Human Rights Watch noted that the United States is now the only country in the world that imposes life sentences on youth for crimes committed when they were under the age of 18, and that the number of youth given that sentence has continued to increase. Eighty-Five percent of those sentenced to life terms are individuals of color.

In 2017, then-California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that allows judges to decide against imposing prison-sentence enhancements of 10 or more years in cases where firearms are used to commit a felony.

The state boasts some of the most severe sentence enhancements in the country with more than 100 separate code sections that add years to a person’s prison or jail sentence, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.

One of the most commonly used sentence enhancements was the five year enhancement that comes with the use of a firearm. Using the five year enhancement, nearly 100,000 years have been added to the sentences of people currently in custody.

“I hope this bill will lead to more fair and equitable sentencing in cases involving guns where no one is hurt,” said Democratic Sen. Steven Bradford of Gardena, Calif.

“Longer sentences do not deter crime, but instead disproportionately increase racial disparities in prison populations and they greatly increase the population of incarcerated persons,” Bradford said.

For Rayford Jr. and Dupree Glass, there could finally be some hope.

In 2014, the nonprofit legal entity, the group, Innocence Rights of Orange County, filed writs of habeas corpus on their behalf.

In a statement posted on their website, Innocence Rights of Orange County noted that Rayford and Dupree were sentenced to eleven consecutive life sentences for “allegedly shooting at a house where eleven people lived.

“No one was injured, and Juan has maintained his innocence since day one.

“Nevertheless, he was prosecuted under the Kill Zone Theory which eliminates the need for the prosecutor to prove the element of specific intent when charging attempted murder as long as the individuals are standing within a ‘kill zone.’”

The kill zone is an ambiguous area defined by the prosecutor which results in excessive attempted murder charges.

The petition by Innocence Rights of Orange County was granted by the California Supreme Court in December 2016 and they’re currently waiting for the Court to hear the case.

“Juan isn’t bitter, he isn’t angry,” Rayford Sr., said. “He prays every day and he does what he’s supposed to do and we are hopeful that the Court will soon hear the case and grant his freedom.”

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Emma L Williams

    Emma L Williams

    May 3, 2019 at 7:12 am

    @StacyBrownMedia @NNPA_BlackPress @JuanRayford @DrBenChavis @XavierBecerra https://t.co/7XNMD3S134

  2. Willie Rose

    Willie Rose

    May 3, 2019 at 7:29 am

    Black males under siege for white fear of their seed!

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IN MEMORIAM: Sterling Tucker, Civil Rights Leader and Activist Politician, Dies at 95

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Prominent American civil rights activist and Washington, D.C. politician Sterling Tucker passed away on July 14, in Washington, D.C. Tucker was the first chair of the District of Columbia City Council and ran for mayor in 1978. He was defeated by Marion Barry by 1,500 votes.

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Prominent American civil rights activist and Washington, D.C. politician Sterling Tucker passed away on July 14, in Washington, D.C. (Photo: @councilofdc / Twitter)

By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor

Prominent American civil rights activist and Washington, D.C. politician Sterling Tucker passed away on July 14, in Washington, D.C. Tucker was the first chair of the District of Columbia City Council and ran for mayor in 1978. He was defeated by Marion Barry by 1,500 votes.

Tucker was an active part of the Poor People’s Campaign and organized Solidarity Day, a 50,000 member protest in Washington D.C. on June 19, 1969. The Poor People’s Campaign was started by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), in 1968. It would be continued under the direction of the Rev. Ralph Abernathy, Dr. King’s chief lieutenant, after King was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

The Poor People’s Campaign was focused on economic justice for poor people in America. Today that work is continued by Rev. William Barber II. Sterling Tucker worked alongside Reverend Abernathy and Coretta Scott King in what was the first formal activist effort to bring economic justice for African Americans.

Tucker served on the first District of Columbia City Council from 1969 to 1974, as home rule was established and served one term. He was also chairman of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. During the early 80s he began a consulting firm called Sterling Tucker and Associates and in 1990 was chairman of the American Diabetes Association.

“He was fundamental to the leadership of the city,” former city council chairman Arrington Dixon told the Washington City Paper about Tucker. Dixon remembered Tucker as mild mannered but impactful. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter nominated Tucker to be Assistant Secretary for the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Sterling Tucker is survived by his two daughters, Michele Jeffery and Lauren Tucker; four grandchildren and many friends and colleagues.

His body laid in repose in the John A. Wilson Building, where the D.C. City Council meets in Washington and funeral services took place at the McQuire Funeral Home on Georgia Avenue NW. The Tucker family asked that donations be made in his name to the American Diabetes Association, P.O. Box 15829, Arlington VA 22215 and Trinity Episcopal Church Outreach Ministry to the Homeless, 7005 Piney Branch Road N.W., Washington DC 20012.

Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist and writer for NNPA as well as a political analyst and strategist as Principal of Win Digital Media LLC. She may be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on twitter at @LVBurke

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PRESS ROOM: 100-year old legendary African-American debate coach awarded 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award from NSDA

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Dr. Thomas Freeman’s 70-plus year resume includes teaching Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during his time at Morehouse, former U.S. Reps. Leland and Jordan, Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis, gospel superstar Yolanda Adams, and Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington, who sought out Freeman’s expertise to coach the cast of the Golden Globe-nominated film “The Great Debaters.”

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The National Speech & Debate Association has honored Dr. Thomas Freeman’s 70-plus year legacy with the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award.
The National Speech & Debate Association has honored Dr. Thomas Freeman’s 70-plus year legacy with the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award.

100-year old legendary African-American debate coach Dr. Thomas Freeman has been awarded the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Speech & Debate Association.

Freeman’s 70-plus year resume includes teaching Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during his time at Morehouse, former U.S. Reps. Leland and Jordan, Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis, gospel superstar Yolanda Adams, and Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington, who sought out Freeman’s expertise to coach the cast of the Golden Globe-nominated film “The Great Debaters.”

Freeman was the Texas Southern University debate coach for six decades before his retirement in 2013. Freeman recently celebrated his 100th birthday on June 27, 2019.

“The National Speech & Debate Association is deeply honored to award Dr. Freeman with our 2019 lifetime achievement award,” said J. Scott Wunn, Executive Director of the National Speech & Debate Association. “Our members, board members, coaches, and students hold Dr. Freemen with such high esteem – he’s like a celebrity within our organization. Freeman is the epitome of who our members hope to become – someone who defies the odds and uses the power of words to propel change. His words of encouragement at our National Tournament in Dallas will always echo through our hearts.”

About the National Speech & Debate Association

The National Speech & Debate Association is the largest interscholastic speech and debate organization serving middle school, high school, and collegiate students in the United States. The Association provides competitive speech and debate activities, high-quality resources, comprehensive training, scholarship opportunities, and advanced recognition to more than 150,000 students and coaches every year. For 90 years, the National Speech & Debate Association has empowered nearly two million members to become engaged citizens, skilled professionals, and honorable leaders in our society. For more information, visit www.speechanddebate.org.  

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Empire Star Taraji Henson Speaks on Suicide and Mental Health on Capitol Hill

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “It breaks my heart to know that 5-year-old children are contemplating life and death, I just…I’m sorry. That one is tough for me. So, I’m here to appeal to you, because this is a national crisis. When I hear of kids going into bathrooms, cutting themselves, you’re supposed to feel safe in school,” Henson told the members of Congress and those in the audience in a hearing room on Capitol Hill in Washington.

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Award-winning actress and Empire star Taraji P. Henson testified before members of Congress on mental health issues in the African American community. (Photo: YouTube)
Award-winning actress and Empire star Taraji P. Henson testified before members of Congress on mental health issues in the African American community. (Photo: YouTube)

By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor

“I am here using my celebrity, using my voice, to put a face to this, because I also suffer from depression and anxiety. If you’re a human living in today’s world, I don’t know how you’re not suffering in any way.”

Award-winning actress and ‘Empire’ star Taraji P. Henson testified before members of Congress on mental health issues in the African American community.

The Congressional Black Caucus launched a task force on mental health issues in April of this year. They have held hearings on mental health and the increasing number of suicides among black youth. The CBC Emergency Taskforce on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health is chaired by Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ).

The members of the task force are Reps. Alma Adams (D-NC), Emanuel Cleaver II (D-MO), Danny Davis (D-IL), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Jahana Hayes (D-CT), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Barbara Lee (D-CA), John Lewis (D-GA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Frederica Wilson (D-FL).

“I’m here to appeal to you because this is a national crisis,” Henson said. Henson founded The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation in 2018 to eradicate the stigma surrounding mental illness in the African American community with a specific emphasis on the suicide rate among Black youth.

“I really don’t know how to fix this problem, I just know that the suicide rate is rising,” she said. “I just know that ages of the children that are committing suicide are getting younger and younger,” the actress added.

“It breaks my heart to know that 5-year-old children are contemplating life and death, I just…I’m sorry. That one is tough for me. So, I’m here to appeal to you, because this is a national crisis. When I hear of kids going into bathrooms, cutting themselves, you’re supposed to feel safe in school,” Henson told the members of Congress and those in the audience in a hearing room on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Every year, 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experience a mental illness, but a National Alliance on Mental Illness study discovered that black adults utilize mental health services at half the rate of white adults.

Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist and writer for NNPA as well as a political analyst and strategist as Principal of Win Digital Media LLC. She may be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on twitter at @LVBurke

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The Storied History of the NAACP

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Much has changed since the creation of the NAACP 110 years ago, and as we highlight these achievements during this year’s convention, we cannot forget that we’re still tirelessly fighting against the hatred and bigotry that face communities of color in this country,” NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson said.

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Accordingly, the NAACP’s mission remains to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of minority group citizens of United States and eliminate race prejudice. (Photo: The Oklahoma Eagle)

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

The NAACP plans to highlight 110 years of civil rights history, and the current fight for voting rights, criminal justice reform, economic opportunity and education quality during its 110th national convention now happening in Detroit.

The five-day event which began on Saturday, July 20, will also include a session on the 2020 Census, a presidential roundtable, CEO Roundtable, and LGBTQ and legislative workshops.

“We are excited to announce the 110th annual convention in Detroit, my hometown,” said NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson.

“For me, it is a homecoming and I will also be excited to announce our theme for this year which is, ‘When we Fight, We Win,’” Johnson said.

Winning is what the NAACP was built on – winning battles for racism, freedom, justice and equality.

The NAACP was formed in 1908 after a deadly race riot that featured anti-black violence and lynching erupted in Springfield, Illinois.

According to the storied organization’s website, a group of white liberals that included descendants of famous abolitionists Mary White Ovington and Oswald Garrison Villard; William English Walling, and Dr. Henry Moscowitz, all issued a call for a meeting to discuss racial justice.

About 60 people, seven of whom were African American, including W. E. B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, and Mary Church Terrell, answered the call, which was released on the centennial of the birth of President Abraham Lincoln.

“Echoing the focus of Du Bois’ Niagara Movement for civil rights, which began in 1905, the NAACP aimed to secure for all people the rights guaranteed in the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the United States Constitution, which promised an end to slavery, the equal protection of the law, and universal adult male suffrage, respectively.”

Accordingly, the NAACP’s mission remains to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of minority group citizens of United States and eliminate race prejudice.

“The NAACP seeks to remove all barriers of racial discrimination through democratic processes,” Johnson said.

The NAACP established its national office in New York City in 1910 and named a board of directors as well as a president, Moorfield Storey, a white constitutional lawyer and former president of the American Bar Association.

Other early members included Joel and Arthur Spingarn, Josephine Ruffin, Mary Talbert, Inez Milholland, Jane Addams, Florence Kelley, Sophonisba Breckinridge, John Haynes Holmes, Mary McLeod Bethune, George Henry White, Charles Edward Russell, John Dewey, William Dean Howells, Lillian Wald, Charles Darrow, Lincoln Steffens, Ray Stannard Baker, Fanny Garrison Villard, and Walter Sachs. Despite a foundational commitment to multiracial membership, Du Bois was the only African American among the organization’s original executives.

Du Bois was made director of publications and research, and in 1910 established the official journal of the NAACP, The Crisis.

By 1913, with a strong emphasis on local organizing, the NAACP had established branch offices in such cities as Boston, Baltimore, Kansas City, St. Louis, Washington, D.C., and Detroit.

NAACP membership grew rapidly, from around 9,000 in 1917 to around 90,000 in 1919, with more than 300 local branches.

Joel Spingarn, a professor of literature and one of the NAACP founders formulated much of the strategy that fostered much of the organization’s growth.

He was elected board chairman of the NAACP in 1915 and served as president from 1929-1939.

The NAACP would eventually fight battles against the Ku Klux Klan and other hate organizations.

The organization also became renowned in American Justice with Thurgood Marshall helping to prevail in the 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education, the decision that overturned Plessy.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, which was disproportionately disastrous for African Americans, the NAACP began to focus on economic justice.

Because of the advocacy of the NAACP, President Franklin D. Roosevelt agreed to open thousands of jobs to black workers when labor leader A. Philip Randolph, in collaboration with the NAACP, threatened a national March on Washington movement in 1941.

President Roosevelt also set up a Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC) to ensure compliance.

The NAACP’s Washington, D.C., bureau, led by lobbyist Clarence M. Mitchell Jr., helped advance not only integration of the armed forces in 1948 but also passage of the Civil Rights Acts of 1957, 1964, and 1968 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

NAACP Mississippi field secretary Medgar Evers and his wife Myrlie would become high-profile targets for pro-segregationist violence and terrorism.

In 1962, their home was fire bombed, and later Medgar was assassinated by a sniper in front of their residence. Violence also met black children attempting to enter previously segregated schools in Little Rock, Arkansas, and other southern cities.

The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s echoed the NAACP’s goals, but leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, felt that direct action was needed to obtain them.

Although the NAACP was criticized for working too rigidly within the system, prioritizing legislative and judicial solutions, the Association did provide legal representation and aid to members of other protest groups over a sustained period of time.

The NAACP even posted bail for hundreds of Freedom Riders in the ‘60s who had traveled to Mississippi to register black voters and challenge Jim Crow policies.

Led by Roy Wilkins, who succeeded Walter White as secretary in 1955, the NAACP collaborated with A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin and other national organizations to plan the historic 1963 March on Washington.

The following year, the Association accomplished what seemed an insurmountable task: The Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“Much has changed since the creation of the NAACP 110 years ago, and as we highlight these achievements during this year’s convention, we cannot forget that we’re still tirelessly fighting against the hatred and bigotry that face communities of color in this country,” Johnson said.

“With new threats emerging daily and attacks on our democracy, the NAACP must be more steadfast and immovable than ever before to help create a social political atmosphere that works for all,” he said.

The NAACP provided all historical information for this report.

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VIDEO: Hamilton County Juvenile Judge Tracie Hunter Dragged Off to Jail — Literally

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Hunter was initially charged with committing nine felonies. After charges were dropped on all but one, she was convicted and entered into a lengthy appeals process. The state supreme court of Ohio refused to hear her appeal, sending the case back to the lower court and resulting in her ultimate sentencing.

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Former Hamilton County, Ohio Juvenile Judge Tracie Hunter is dragged from the courtroom following her sentencing for unlawful interest in a public contact, after she illegally helped her brother keep his county job by mishandling a confidential document. (Photo: YouTube)

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Former Hamilton County, Ohio Juvenile Judge Tracie Hunter appeared overcome with emotion as she was literally dragged from a Cincinnati courtroom by a sheriff’s deputy on Monday, July 22, after she was sentenced to six months in jail for charges stemming from a controversial conviction in 2014.

A jury convicted Hunter of unlawful interest in a public contract after she was accused of helping her brother keep his county job by mishandling a confidential document.

Hunter was initially charged with committing nine felonies. After charges were dropped on all but one, she was convicted and entered into a lengthy appeals process. The state supreme court of Ohio refused to hear her appeal, sending the case back to the lower court and resulting in her ultimate sentencing.

With a courtroom packed with supporters — and many more who stood outside of the proceedings — Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Patrick Dinkelacker dispensed Hunter’s punishment.

Prior to sentencing, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters wrote a letter asking the court to consider having Hunter undergo psychiatric evaluation based on questions he has about what he calls Hunter’s “mental condition,” according to reporting from WLWT5.

Hunter’s attorney David Singleton disagreed with the request, adding that he “couldn’t believe” Deters would ask the court to have Hunter undergo evaluation and that they plan to file a motion to dismiss the case.

With all of the support Hunter has received based on both real and perceived biases during the initial trial and appeals process, Mayor John Cranley wrote a letter to Dinkelacker asking him not to place Hunter in prison, saying that she has suffered as a result of her conviction and doesn’t appear to pose any risks to others.

Postcards were sent to Dinkelacker’s house asking for leniency in his sentencing. He read some of the postcards during the hearing.

“I violated no laws, I did not secure a public contract, I did not secure employment for my brother who worked for the court for about seven years before I was elected judge,” Hunter said.

At least one of Hunter’s supporters was arrested at the courthouse after trying to intervene when deputies attempted to take Hunter into custody.

Others shouted, “No Justice, No Peace,” and accused the court of racism.

In June, former Cincinnati State Sen. Eric Kearney had expressed to NNPA Newswire that Hunter’s incarceration was “going to be a problem” and the city would “explode. I’m telling you, black people [in Cincinnati] are not going to take [Hunter going to jail] lightly,” Kearney said. “The city is on edge.”

Kearney, Hunter and her vast number of supporters have said the process used to convict her wreaked of politics, corruption, nepotism and racism.

The jury that rendered the guilty verdict in her trial was comprised of political foes and others associated with the prosecutors and a Republican establishment that didn’t take kindly to Hunter breaking the GOP and white-male dominated stronghold to win a seat on the bench in 2010, her supporters have pointed out.

For example, one of the jurors worked for WCPO Television, a local station that has filed numerous lawsuits against Hunter.

Court documents revealed that the jury foreman contributed $500 to state Sen. Bill Seitz, the father of county jury coordinator Brad Seitz, who was responsible for compiling the panel of jurors that arrived at the guilty verdict, which required a unanimous decision from the jury.

Hunter said that the only three black jurors, none of whom had known ties to prosecutors and all of whom held out for acquittal, ultimately yielded to pressure from other jurors. The judge refused to allow defense lawyers to poll the jury after announcing the verdict.

In every American criminal trial, particularly those that end in guilty verdicts, it’s the right of attorneys to request the judge to poll all 12 jurors to ensure each is in agreement with the verdict.

“The judge refused a motion for a retrial after he refused to poll the jury, in clear violation of the law and at the request of my attorney,” Hunter told NNPA Newswire in June.

“If the judge polled the jury, it happened in a blink, but I don’t remember that happening,” Kearney said.

At the close of the trial, three jurors came forward and said that their true verdict was not guilty and “if Judge Norbert Nadel had polled the jury, they would have said so,” Hunter said.

Hunter also wanted her supporters to know that she is not suicidal.

“I want everyone to know that I don’t drink … I don’t do drugs … I have no intention of harming myself,” she said.

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COMMENTARY: Pros and Cons of Modular vs Site-Built Homes

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Over the last 20 years,” said Maria Coutts, president of The Coutts Group and a senior officer of the Pennsylvania Builders Association, “the customization of modular homes has a consistent record of matching site-built homes and meeting customer demand, largely due to the use of computer-aided design.

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A completely different method of offsite homebuilding -- modular construction — has also been around for many decades but has not gained much traction until recently. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

Improvements in Modular Homes Make Them a Competitive Alternative to Site-Built Homes

Christopher G. Cox, Publisher and Managing Editor, www.realesavvy.com

For many decades the preferred homebuilding method has been to assemble all the construction materials on site and build from the ground up, usually over a period of about six or more months. This is still the method used to construct some 90 percent of homes being built today.

A completely different method of offsite homebuilding — modular construction — has also been around for many decades, but has not gained much traction until recently.

“Over the last 20 years,” said Maria Coutts, president of The Coutts Group and a senior officer of the Pennsylvania Builders Association, “the customization of modular homes has a consistent record of matching site-built homes and meeting customer demand, largely due to the use of computer-aided design.

“The use of overhead cranes also allows modular structures to be as wide and as high as desired,” Coutts adds.

In modern modular construction, modules are manufactured in a climate-controlled factory environment. “This decreases the possibility of the materials being exposed to rain, snow and wind,” Coutts explains. “Prolonged exposure to these elements can lead to warping, mold and nail pops throughout the home. Also, squeaky floors and steps can be an issue if it is raining or snowing during a site build,” Coutts said.

Jeff Holdren, district sales manager, western territories, for North Carolina-based Holmes Building Systems, agrees with Coutts that quality control is greatly enhanced with modular building. “Actually, if you think about it,” Holdren said, “a modular home is a lot stronger structure. You have to be able to pick it up, put it on a transport and wind tunnel test it to 60 miles an hour.”

Both Coutts and Holdren point to the relative speed of construction of modular versus site-built homes. “The time a site builder might be involved in the construction process,” said Coutts, “is tremendous and with modular this time is cut in half.” Holdren concurs, noting, “A home can be finished within 120 days from the time we start.

“Many of the homes featured on the television series ‘Extreme Home Makeover’ are modular homes because of the speed required by the production schedule,” Holdren adds.

Coutts and Holdren also agree that the public at large is not aware of the many advantages of modular construction.

“Modular homes are much better than when I started in 2002, 17 years ago,” Holdren said. He attributes the lack of growth in part to the failure of his industry to better educate the public. “We do not do a great job of educating people. There is still a general perception that a modular home is inferior,” he notes.

Coutts is optimistic that this is changing. “Site-built construction has been the standard for so long that consumers don’t always research both sides, pro and con, of these two styles. As the concepts and practices of modular construction are becoming more popular with the general public, more consumers are becoming very receptive to this building practice,” she said.

Perhaps as a sign of things to come, Coutts notes that modular construction has gained much more of a foothold in Europe than it has in the U.S. “Modular construction will eventually increase in use similar to the northern European countries of Denmark, Sweden and Germany,” said Coutts, “where it accounts for 20 to 85 percent of total annual builds.”

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