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Tennessee Governor Considering Clemency for Cyntoia Brown

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Lacey Atkins.

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam revealed on Monday that he is considering clemency for Cyntoia Brown.

Brown was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison in 2004 for the murder of a 43-year-old man who allegedly attempted to kill her when she was 16 years old. Brown called has continues to stand by her  actions, calling her response self-defense.

Despite her plea, the Tennessee Supreme Court ordered Brown to serve 51 years in prison before she’ll receive parole eligibility.

According to prosecutors, Brown is being accused with intent to rob the man, but her lawyers are claiming she was fighting for her life. She originally became involved with the victim after her abusive boyfriend forced her into prostitution. In response to being accused of theft, she appealed, stating that the money was stolen out of fear that her significant other would take her life if she came back with nothing.

On Monday, Governor Haslam discussed the paramountcy of higher education in Tennessee when Justin Lang, a member of the Black Lives Matter organization in Nashville, stepped up to the mic to pose a loaded question, bringing Brown’s case to the forefront of the conversation.

“Since we’re here talking about education, I wanted to ask a question about one of your Tennessee students and a graduate of Lipscomb University, Cyntoia Brown,” Lang asserted. Brown earned her associate’s degree from Lipscomb while in prison

“As a victim of sex trafficking and assault, this is an unjust sentence in the first place,” Lang continued. Under Tennessee law, all minors engaged in sex work are legally considered victims of sex trafficking. “She has not been treated as a victim of trafficking and not given the justice she deserves.”

“The Supreme Court’s decision that Cyntoia must serve 51 years before she can be considered for parole is a human rights issue,” Lang said. “And so I ask you, what really, functionally, is the difference between life without parole — which is no longer constitutional as the United States Supreme Court declared for minors, for any crime — and ‘you might get parole after 51 years,’ for a victim of sex trafficking?”

“And so I ask why has Cyntoia Brown been incarcerated for 14 years for enduring harm? And so I say, Governor Haslam,, you have the power and ability to grant clemency to Cyntoia Brown, and so I ask when will you grant her clemency, I ask what will be your legacy as you leave office, and how will you answer to this human rights violation that the state of Tennessee is committing by keeping her incarcerated?”

Although a moderator attempted to silence Lang, the governor thanked him for his question and stated that his office is currently reviewing her case.

“We’re reviewing a lot of cases,” Haslam said, “and while Cyntoia’s case has gotten a lot of publicity, I don’t think you want us to treat her’s any different than a whole lot of cases that I think people want us to review.”

The court announced a decision on the clemency request before Haslam leaves office in six weeks.

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Obama Foundation reveal new Renderings of Presidential Center ahead of Summit

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The Obama Presidential Center will occupy 19.3 acres within the 550-acre Jackson Park. The OPC’s architectural footprint occupies just over two acres.

The OPC will include a world-class museum and public gathering space that celebrates the first African American President and First Lady.

At the heart of the Obama Presidential Center is a public plaza, welcoming visitors to the campus and Jackson Park. It will serve as a place for live performances and community festivals.

The OPC will also feature a landscaped courtyard, bringing natural light and greenery to its public spaces. The garden level of the museum building features interactive programmes, a retail shop and café

The Chicago Public Library is also getting a new branch, with an interactive digital media space and a garden on its roof – complete with growing fruit and vegetables, and beehives.

The museum building’s design embodies the idea of ascension – the action of rising to an important position from the grassroots.

Within the museum, exhibits will explore US history and tell the story of the volunteers who powered the campaign. It will also examine the eight years of progress, setback and hope.

As for the park, there will be play areas and walking paths, connected by a long pedestrian promenade. The path connects the OPC to the Museum of Science Industry.

The landscape of Jackson Park’s historic Women’s Garden will also be restored with plantings, pathways, and seating.

And, a one-acre wetland area will feature a Wetland Walk with seating, a tree canopy, and a place for children to play.

The two-acre children’s play area will have a giant playground with innovative recreation equipment, including a lagoon and woodland-themed features.

“We’ve spent the past few years talking with the community and meeting with neighbors and stakeholders to incorporate their input on how the residents of the South Side and the city of Chicago want to experience the OPC in Jackson Park,” said David Simas, CEO of the Obama Foundation.

“In response to the feedback we received, we’re presenting updates that create even more ways for the community to enjoy what will become an important and memorable gathering place.”

Former President and First Lady, Barack and Michelle Obama are scheduled to speak in Chicago this week for the third annual “Obama Foundation Summit”.

The two-day event is set to kick off at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Bronzeville.

Images Courtesy of The Obama Foundation

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Trump calls Impeachment Inquiry a Public ‘Lynching’

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President Donald Trump compared the impeachment process to “a lynching” on Twitter Tuesday morning.

“So some day, if a Democrat becomes President and the Republicans win the House, even by a tiny margin, they can impeach the President, without due process or fairness or any legal rights,” he wrote. “All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here – a lynching. But we will WIN!”

This tweet from the president came amid a series of tweets apparently quoting programming on Fox & Friends, which included accounts about polling on impeachment and about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

While he has previously referred to both the impeachment inquiry and Mueller probe as a “coup,” Tuesday’s comments appear to be the first time Trump has publicly used the word “lynching” to describe the investigations into his potential misconduct in office.

Trump’s allies, however, have used variations of the the word in such a context.

In September, Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz referred to Democratic outcry about Trump’s conversation with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky — which sparked the impeachment inquiry — as a “lynch mob.”

Reaction to the president’s tweet was swift.

A top Democrat, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., said on CNN, “That is one word no president ought to apply to himself. You know, I’ve studied presidential history quite a bit, and I don’t know if we’ve ever seen anything quite like this.”

Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois, an African American Democratic congressman, in a reference to the historical connotations of the word, said, “Do you know how many people who look like me have been lynched, since the inception of this country, by people who look like you.”

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Rush tweeted.

On the campaign trail, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary and 2020 presidential candidate Julian Castro said the president’s use of the word was “beyond shameful.”

“It’s beyond shameful to use the word ‘lynching’ to describe being held accountable for your actions,” Castro tweeted.

George Conway, lawyer and husband to White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway and a frequent Trump critic, called him “deranged.”

The president’s reference to “lynching” comes months after the Senate passed a bill that would make lynching a federal hate crime. The bill was introduced by Democratic Sens. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker — both now presidential hopefuls — and Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina.

The Justice for Victims of Lynching Act referred to lynching as having “succeeded slavery as the ultimate expression of racism in the United States following Reconstruction.”

“Lynching is not a relic of a painful past — it is a present and pernicious evil that we still have yet to confront,” Booker said in a statement in February. 

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Amber Guyger served with shocking sentence for the murder of Botham Jean

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 More than one week after her trial started and a day after she was found guilty of murder, Amber Guyger has been sentenced to 10 years, WFAA reports.

The jury has reached a sentence in the murder case against Amber Guyger.

The former Dallas officer was sentenced to 10 years.

Guyger was found guilty of murder Tuesday morning and the jury began sentencing deliberations Wednesday afternoon.

During closing arguments, the state asked the jury to sentence Guyger to a minimum of 28 years – the age Botham Jean would be today if he was still alive.

Judge Tammy Kemp told jurors that they could also consider “sudden passion.”

Texas law defines sudden passion as “passion directly caused by and arising out of provocation by the individual killed.”

Under sudden passion, a defendant faces between a two and 20-year sentence.

Over a two-day period, character witnesses for Jean and Guyger took the stand.

Bertrum Jean was first to be called by the state Wednesday morning.

“I loved my Sunday morning,” he told the courtroom Wednesday. “My Sundays have been destroyed.”

Sundays, he told the courtroom, were the days he would talk with his son on the phone after Jean returned home from church.

“Sundays are not a good day for me,” he said, breaking down in tears several times while on the stand. “Because I’m not hearing his voice.”

Jean’s mother took the stand the day before.

“I cannot sleep,” she told the courtroom. “I cannot eat. It’s just been the most terrible time for me.”

Karen Guyger, Amber’s mother, was the first witness called by the defense Wednesday.

She also became emotional on the stand as she described a young Amber Guyger, who she called sweet and someone who easily made friends.

Karen Guyger testified that a former live-in boyfriend molested Amber when she was 6 years old. He was later arrested on a charge of indecency with a child, she said.

“She was very upset,” Karen Guyger said of when her daughter first told her about the shooting. “I couldn’t understand her because she was crying so hard.”

“She wanted to take his place,” Guyger’s mother said. “She always would tell me she wished she could have taken his place.”

Tuesday, the day Guyger was found guilty, the former Dallas police officer was booked into the Dallas County jail. She was taken into custody outside of the jury’s presence at the end of the day.

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