Governor Kay Ivey signs jury override bill

In one of her first official acts as Governor, Kay Ivey, on Tuesday, April 11, signed into law a bill that says juries, not judges, have the final say on whether to impose the death penalty in capital murder cases.
Ivey signed the bill, which had been passed by the Alabama House of Representatives on April 4, by a vote of 78-19. The same bill had previously passed the Alabama Senate by a vote of 30- 1.
Alabama was the only state left in the nation had these judicial override provisions.
Senator Hank Sanders of Selma had sponsored the bill in the Senate for several years along with a bill requiring a moratorium of the death penalty until Alabama studies and reviews the equity of the death penalty.
Sanders said, “Senator Dick Brewbaker, a Republican from Montgomery asked me if he could sponsor the jury override bill in this session and I agreed because my interest was to end this practice.”
According to the Equal Justice Initiative. Alabama judges have overridden jury recommendations 112 times. In 101 of those cases, the judges gave a death sentence. Sanders said that a quarter of the persons presently on death row are there because the judge overrode the jury’s decision on their case.
Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, sponsored a bill to end judicial override in the House. On the House floor, England substituted Brewbaker’s bill for his, and it won final passage. This bill was pending the Governor’s signature when Robert Bentley resigned and Kay Ivey moved up from Lieutenant Governor to the Governor’s position.
“Having judicial override almost undermines the constitutional right to trial by a jury of your peers,” England said.  England’s bill, as introduced, would also have required the consent of all 12 jurors to give a death sentence. Current law requires at least 10 jurors. Brewbaker’s bill left the threshold to impose the death penalty at 10 jurors.
Ebony Howard, associate legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, issued a statement applauding the bill’s passage.
“Alabama should do everything it can to ensure that an innocent person is never executed,” Howard said. “The bipartisan effort to pass a bill that would keep a judge from overriding a jury’s vote in capital cases is a step in the right direction. As of today, Alabama is one step closer to joining every other state in our nation in prohibiting judicial override in the sentencing phase of death penalty cases.”
Alabama Arise, a statewide advocacy group on social justice issues and ending poverty in Alabama, also supported passage of the bill as one of its legislative priorities for this session.

‘voter fraud is a lie, voter suppression is alive’ Rev. Barber: “We want full restoration of the Voting Rights Act now!”

By: John Zippert,  Co-Publisher

Amid the celebration and commemoration at this weekend’s Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma, Alabama, celebrating the 52nd anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday March” in 1965, there was a demand for “Full Restoration of the Voting Rights Act” by Rev. William Barber of the North Carolina Repairers of the Breach and Forward Together Movement. Rev. Barber’s demand was echoed by other speakers and was the central issue in many of the workshops and programs of the Jubilee.
In addition to the workshops, there was a parade, golf tournament, dinners, a unity breakfast, street festival, and the march reenactment on Sunday afternoon. Ten thousand or more marchers crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge behind a host of local and national leaders, including: Rev. Jesse Jackson of PUSH, Charles Steele of SCLC, Rev. Barber, Faya Rose Toure, Senator Hank Sanders, Rev. Mark Thompson of Sirius 127 Radio and many others. The Masons of Alabama turned out in force and in uniform, to participate in the march.
The weekend culminated in Monday’s “Slow-Ride from Selma to Montgomery” with a caravan of 35 vehicles including a Greene County School bus, carrying the members of the Eutaw High Ninth Grade Academy. The caravan was met by local Montgomery leaders for a rally on the steps of the State Capitol.
Prior to the re-enactment march, Attorney Faya Rose Toure pointed out that the Edmund Pettus Bridge was named for an Alabama Klu Klux Klan leader and that the name should be changed to honor Ms. Amelia Boyton Robinson and the Voting Rights Foot-soldiers who won the 1965 VRA.
Rev. William Barber spoke many times, as ketnote for the Sunday morning breakfast, at Brown’s Chapel Church before the march reenactment, on a national radio broadcast from the Dallas County Courthouse on Sunday evening and at the rally at the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery at the end of the slow-ride.

Rev. Barber made similar points in each speech. At the breakfast, we invoked the martyrs of the civil and voting rights movement – Dr. King, Jimmie Lee Jackson, Jonathan Daniels, James Reid, Viola Luizzo, and un-named others, whose blood he said was crying out to people today to continue the work of restoring the Voting Rights Act, fighting voter suppression in all its forms, and building a more beloved community involving Blacks, Whites, Latinos and all religious faiths.
He said he had come to Selma, ”not for the nostalgia of history but to listen for the ‘blood’ that was shed and soaked into the concrete of the bridge and the wooden pews of the churches.” Barber said that America was headed by an egotistical narsisistic man, “but this is not the first time that a racist was in the White House. Steve Bannon is not the first white Supremacist to be in high places. Trump is not the first President to hold these views. Many of his predacessors felt the same way.”
“On June 25, 2013”, Barber said, “the U. S. Supreme Court in the Holder vs. Shelby County case, overturned Section 4 and nullified Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Within an hour of the destruction of pre-clearence of voting changes in the Shelby decision, Texas approved a voter ID law and other changes; two months later, North Carolina passed voter suppression laws.
Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and other Southern states also passed voter ID and other voter suppression measures. Voter fraud is a lie, voter suppression is alive.”
“Twenty-one states adopted 47 regressive voting changes within a year of the Shelby decision, The 2016 Presidential election was the first in half a century without the protection of the Voting Rights Act.
868 fewer polling places were allowed in Black and Brown communities around the nation. In the 25 Presidential debates, both Republican and Democratic, no mention was made of the issue of voter suppression in our communities,” said Rev. Barber.
“Long before Russia interfered in our elections, voter suppression had hacked and distorted the system,” said Barber. He pointed out that in Wisconsin 300,000 voters were disenfranchised due to the voter ID requirements and Trump defeated Hillary by 20,000 votes in that state.
Senator Hank Sanders spoke to the problems of voter suppression, voter ID, Legislative gerrymandering in Alabama, Packing and stacking Black voters in majority Black districts. He also recounted the history of now Attorney General Jeff Sessions role in initiating voter suppression in Alabama with voter fraud trials of civil rights activists.
Rev. Barber said, “ the 11 former Confederate states have 171 electoral votes, you only need 99 more to have the 270 needed to win the electoral college. These states have 26 U. S. senators, the extremists need only 25 more Senators to control the Senate which they are doing now. They have the House of Representatives, statehouses, county courthouses, we have work to do to fully restore the Voting Rights Act.”
As part of the evening radio broadcast and rally at the Dallas County Courthouse, Rev. Barber displayed maps, which showed the concentration of poverty, child poverty, low wages-right-to-work states, states that did not expand Medicaid, overlapped with the states that adopted new voter suppression measures. Most of these maps showed concentration of these problems in the rural South. Rev. Barber also displayed a map of states and areas with a concentration of protestant Evangelical Christians and once again the overlap was clear. He called this a “mis-teaching of faith and a false interpretation of the Bible”.
At the rally in Montgomery, speaker after speaker blasted the voter suppression, racial gerrymandering and limits to voting by the people. Rev. Barber said, ”We must get ready for a 100 days of disruption and civil disobedience in our state houses and in Congress to work for full restoration of the Voting Rights Act. Different state organizations should be preparing to go to Washington, D. C. and non-violently disrupt the process qnd win back our full voting rights.

Bridge Crossing Jubilee to go forward as planned for March 2-6, 2017 in Selma

At a recent press conference at the Alabama State House, Senator Hank Sanders of Selma said the Bridge Crossing Jubilee celebration commemorating the 1965 Bloody Sunday March for Voting Rights will go forward as planned with some small changes.
The Bridge Crossing Jubilee consists of 40 or more events over the five-day period, including workshops, mass meetings, a parade, golf tournament, breakfasts, dinners, films and other events related to voting rights. The Jubilee includes a re-enactment of the 1965 march from Browns Chapel Church through downtown Selma and crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge and a rally on the Montgomery side of the bridge.
Sanders said the Jubilee received a bill for $23,882 from the City of Selma for police, fire, public service and other expenses for the five-day event. “We are not able to pay this outrageous amount. We have always said that we were willing to pay a reasonable amount but this bill is unacceptable. We paid for the right to hold this commemorative march in blood in 1965 and we are not paying now,” he said.

Sanders pointed out that most of the events are free and most are workshops held in churches and public buildings that do not require police presence for five days. “We bring in people from all over the state, nation and the World. They spend money in Selma and surrounding communities. We do not charge for most of the events and when there is a charge it is for food and other expenses. The Jubilee does not make money – it takes money,” said Sanders.
“The basic change we are making is shifting the Jubilee Festival with vendors and music from Water Street at the base of the bridge to the east side of the bridge,” said Sam Walker.
All other events will take place as planned.
On Monday, March 6, there will be a “Slow Ride to Montgomery” and a rally at the State House at the end of the ride with Rev. William Barber speaking on the moral imperatives of ending voter suppression in America. The organizers are hoping for 100 vehicles to participate. The ride will follow the route of the 1965 march, stopping at historical sites along the way.
The Bridge Crossing Jubilee begins on Thursday, March 2 at 7:00 PM with an Old-Fashioned Mass Meeting at Tabernacle
Baptist Church at 1431 Broad Street in Selma, where the initial meetings of the voting rights struggle were held in Selma in the 1960’s.
Legendary Civil Rights Attorney Fred Gray will be the keynote speaker at Tabernacle Baptist Church on Thursday. Attorney Gray is the lead lawyer who argued and won the case to allow Voting Rights Foot Soldiers to march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. He is portrayed in the movie Selma.
Attorney Gray has been involved in many historical Civil Rights cases in Alabama, including Gomillion v. Lightfoot; representation of Rosa Parks, whose arrest led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott and desegregation of the Montgomery bus system; and Lee v. Macon Co. Bd. of Educ., which helped to desegregate schools throughout the state.
A full schedule of events for the weekend is available at http://www.selmajubilee.com.

21st Century youth attend leadership camp

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Senator Hank Sanders leads discussion on leadership traits with participants
at 21st Century’s Youth Leadership Development Winter camp.

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L to R: Harambe participants at 21C Winter Leadership Camp held at the Selma Center for Non violence, Truth and Reconcilliation. Justine Morton, Akeem Hardy, Alphonzo Morton, IV, Ivan Peebles, Alphonzo Morton, III, Destiny Dancy, Jamia Jackson, Carol Zippert, Daijah Means.

Approximately 40 students, representing five counties, participated in the annual 21st Century Youth Leadership Movement Winter Camp in Selma, AL, December 2-4, 2016. The week end activities opened on Friday evening with the usual pep rally of freedom and leadership songs composed over the years by 21C founder, Attorney Faya Rose Toure.
This was followed by a special presentation by Mrs. Annie Pearl Avery on her coming of age and continuing activities in the Civil Rights and Freedom Movement.

Mrs. Avery, a former SNCC worker, held engaging exchanges with the students who were in awe of the risks she and so many others took in the struggles across the South.
Saturday’s activities included Mindful Movements led by April Caddell, Co-Coordinator of the Winter Camp. April also led a session on Mindfulness is a Super Power. A core session on leadership traits was presented by Senator Hank Sanders, utilizing the leadership strategies in the story of Gideon from the Bible.
The students viewed a documentary, entitled 13th, on the prison industrial system produced by Ava Duvernay. The following discussion was led by Alphonzo Morton, III, Camp Co-Coordinator. The film brought out how the 13th Amendment of the US Constitution condones the slavery of persons incarcerated. Slave labor of convicted felons became a big enterprise in this country.
Pep rallies with original 21C songs were inserted throughout the day, which was capped off with a trip to the movies for entertainment. All camp participants, students and adults, enjoyed Almost Christmas at the Walton Theater in Selma.
The week end camp closed out by noon on Sunday with a Takeaway Session where the young people shared their experiences and leadership lessons learned.
21st Century Youth Leadership Movement was founded in 1986 as a non profit organization dedicated to developing young people as community directed leaders. The various county chapters are led by volunteers who are committed to the vision and goals of the organization.