STATE NEWS BRIEFS FOR 08-30-19
DURHAM CONCERNED AFTER 5 SHOOTINGS N TWO DAYS
[DURHAM] Last week, a 9-year-old boy was killed in a driveway shooting. Monday, six people were shot and wounded in four separate incidents. Tuesday night, a man was shot and wounded on Nelson Street. Citizens are up in arms about the rash of gun violence in the Bull City. A Group called Chance 2 Changed rallied Wednesday night to demand that the city do more to prevent gun violence. Last June, Durham city Council turned down a police request for 18 more officers.
REPUBLICAN LED LEGISLATURE PASSING MINI-BUDGET BILLS TO THWART GOVERNOR
[RALEIGH] The Republican majority in the NC House and Senate are passing mini-budget bills on raises for state employees, and tax refunds for taxpayers, all in effort to get Gov Roy Cooper top cave in to approving their $24 billion budget without the Medicaid expansion he demanded. It has now been almost two months since the governor vetoed the proposed budget bill passed in the legislature, and Republicans, without a supermajority, could not override.
NC HOUSE APPROVES BILL TO STRENGTHEN ABSENTEE BALLOT LAWS
[RALEIGH] This week, the state House approved Senate Bill 683, which strengthens restrictions on absentee ballots in light of last year’s reported criminal abuses during the Ninth District Congressional race. The bill also permanently restores the last Saturday of early voting. Lawmakers briefly took that away last session, only to put it back after a hue and cry from the public.
REPORT CLAIMS 350 IN NC DIED
DUE TO NO MEDICAID EXPANSION
By Cash Michaels
A new report may or may not capture state Republican legislative leaders’ attention in their almost two-month budget standoff with Gov. Roy Cooper, but it definitely strengthens his argument for the expansion of Medicaid in North Carolina.
According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, 350 people in North Carolina died “…because of the lack of affordable health care coverage,” and had Medicaid - government sponsored health care for low-income residents - been expanded, they may not have.
The NBER report adds that North Carolina is third in the nation per the number of deaths associated with the lack of Medicaid Expansion. Florida is second with 700, and Texas is first with just over 700.
“[T]his data provides new and compelling evidence that the decision to expand Medicaid has a profound affect on the life expectancy of adults living in the coverage gap,” writes Alexandra Sirota, director of the nonprofit NC Budget and Tax Center. By expanding Medicaid for the needy, states are able to improve health outcomes, provide better management of health conditions, and improve the quality off life for those who otherwise would lack coverage.
“By linking death records and data on program participation and health outcomes across all states, the authors of this new report estimate the impact of Medicaid expansion on the mortality rate of near-elderly adults,” Ms. Sirota maintains. “Their findings point to a 9.3 percent decline in annual mortality for this age group in those states with Medicaid expansion. The primary reason for the improvement in life expectancy is disease management while under the care of Medicaid.”
On Monday, Gov. Cooper’s Press office accused Republican legislative leadership in the NC General Assembly of “dithering” instead of negotiating a budget compromise that would, among other things, expand Medicaid to 500,000 - 600,000 more North Carolinians, and finally send state lawmakers home from the long legislative session.
Republicans in the state House snd Senate, unable to overcome Cooper’s veto of their budget, counter that they flatly refuse to expand Medicaid because most of the people it would cover are able-bodied and don’t need it. They, instead, plan to carve up the much delayed $23 billion budget into smaller bills covering teacher and state employee raises, and also rainy day fund refund checks to taxpayers, daring the governor to veto those bills when passed, especially with the 2020 election coming up.
The political impasse is expected to continue way into September.
NC CHIEF JUSTICE CHERI BEASLEY (L) AND US SENATOR KAMALA HARRIS JOIN ST. JOSEPH A.M.E. PASTOR JONATHAN AUGUSTINE IN PRAYER.
HARRIS, BEASLEY REACH OUT TO
VOTERS AT DURHAM HISTORIC CHURCH
By Cash Michaels
The theme at Durham’s St. Joseph’s A.M.E. Church’s Sunday service was “Jobs, Justice and Education,” commemorating the fifty-sixth anniversary of the historic 1963 March on Washington this week. It was Pastor Jonathan Augustine’s second “Social Justice” Sunday since arriving at the historic church last May. Among the special guests - Democratic presidential hopeful and U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) - the second black woman ever to elected to the United States Senate; NC Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley - the first African American woman ever to serve as chief justice of the state’s highest court; and U.S. Senatorial candidate and NC Sen. Erica Smith (D-Bertie).
This was Sen. Harris’ second campaign appearance in North Carolina during a world-wind weekend that had her keynoting the 84th Annual Founders’ Day Banquet for the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People Saturday evening, and then scheduled to appear at a campaign stop at a local high school in Greensboro later Sunday.
At the Saturday banquet, while Sen. Harris was preparing to tell the sold-out audience that if elected president, she would financially support black homeowners, HBCUs and black businesses, a group of robed Ku Klux Klan members carrying Confederate flags and guns unexpectedly rallied in front of the courthouse in Hillsborough, just a few miles away in Orange County. The group did not have a rally permit, and quickly found itself outnumbered by local counter protesters.
Sunday morning at St. Joseph’s A.M.E., Harris - considered one of the top four Democratic contenders in the 2020 primary race - picked up on part of her message from Saturday night regarding Americans once again fighting for their freedom.
“The measure of our strength is not who we beat down, it’s about who we lift up,” the former California state attorney general continued, also touching on how her faith in GOD has strengthened her, to thunderous applause led by several fellow sorority sisters of Alpha Kappa Alpha Inc. in attendance.
Harris later teased her old friend, Pastor Augustine, saying, “Yes pastor, I know you can’t tell people who to vote for but you can tell people who to pray for.”
But before she concluded her remarks, Sen. Harris gave props to a fellow AKA sister, Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, who is running to keep her seat in 2020.
“If justice is to be real in America, one of the most important and lasting places it will happen and take place is in the courtrooms of America, and it will be by re-electing the chief justice of the Supreme Court of the state of North Carolina,” Sen. Harris said, turning to Beasley and then saying, “I’m honored to be sharing this moment with you.”
During her remarks prior to Sen. Harris’ comments, Chief Justice Beasley explained that in her role as “leader of the Judicial Branch of government,” she essentially oversees the state’s court system administratively, as well as hear the same cases as her colleagues on the High Court.
“It is on parity with the governor of the state of North Carolina,” Beasley said, referencing how the governor leads the state’s Executive branch.
The chief justice talked about the important issues the Judicial Branch has addressed under her administration, including the opioid crisis, juvenile justice, and school justice partnerships - where the courts are working with school systems to reduce the high number of students being referred for criminal arrests by the schools.
Beasley said those numbers have dropped dramatically because of the school justice partnerships to make sure that predominately poor, black and other students of color are not harnessed with criminal records that will cripple their futures.
The chief justice also spoke of the partnerships between faith-based institutions and the courts to “help make our communities successful.”
“So I ask you so very much for your support, your prayers, your vote, but not just your vote, but we need to tell everybody across the state, because this is a statewide election, to support Cheri Beasley for chief justice.”
AFTER 245YEARS IMPRISONED,
DONTAE SHARPE FREED
By Al McSurely and Cash Michaels
[GREENVILLE] A black man, wrongly tried and convicted at age 19 of a murder 25 years ago he did not commit, was finally released from prison last week, thanks to the tireless efforts of his mother, the NCNAACP, and activists across North Carolina.
In a Pitt County Courthouse courtroom filled with family and supporters last Thursday, Dontae Sharpe smiled wide and threw both fists up in the air when Pitt County prosecutors, during a second evidentiary hearing in the case, declined to retry him for the 1994 shooting death of George Radcliffe, a crime Sharpe has always declared his innocence of.
A witness who was 14 years-old at the time of the murder, testified now that she was forced by police to testify against Sharpe during his 1995 trial, and was recanting that testimony now, saying the she never saw Sharpe shoot anyone. No physical evidence ever linked Sharpe to the crime.
Calling that original murder trial “a nightmare,” veteran Raleigh criminal defense attorney Joe Cheshire of Raleigh, reviewed that trial’s transcript, and testified as an expert witness now that Sharpe was essentially railroaded. He said in his 42 years of defending people charged with heinous crimes, the racism and corruptness in eastern North Carolina courts--where the largest concentration of poor and black people live in NC, remains a major problem in the state’s criminal justice system.
And last May, defense attorneys presented scientific evidence from the State Medical Examiner at the time of the murder, that proved Sharpe was not the man who shot Radcliffe.
As had been worked out beforehand, the Assistant District Attorney for Pitt County announced that the State did not believe, given the new evidence, that it could successfully prosecute Sharpe and therefore the State "dismissed all charges" against him. A split second later an explosion of human emotion ripped the courtroom. Dontae and his mother, Sarah Blakely, hugged and cried. Deputies took him to a holding room. A few minutes later, the bailiff handed a copy of the judge's Order to Sharpe. "Keep this with you," he told Sharpe. “You are free to go."
“What we saw was the court doing exactly what the law is supposed to do,” said defense attorney Catlin Swain after the judge decided trelease Sharpe after prosecutors decided not to retry the case. Rev. T. Anthony Spearman, president of the NCNAACP and staunch supporter of the “Free Donte Sharpe’ movement, led a public prayer of thanksgiving afterwards.
‘The struggle for Dontae to re-enter the corrupt-racist culture on the outside is the second stage of this struggle,” Rev. Spearman told supporters. “We who, by the grace of God, remained free while he was imprisoned for a quarter century must immediately step up our efforts to reform the corrupt-racist NC criminal justice system, and give Dontae plenty of room to get his bearings before he decides how to contribute his insights to the struggle."
But Dontae Sharpe’s mother, Sarah Blakely, was just happy to have her son, after 25 years, back home.
" There's plenty of time to plan the next part of the struggle. Today, let us give thanks. To God. To the Legal Team from the Duke Innocence Project. To Dontae, for providing a strong example in moral courage and faith. To our NAACP Friends, Rev. Barber and Rev. Spearman, and all the Moral Monday people who came out. To the Coalition Against Racism. And particularly to Attorney Caitlin Swain and Forward Justice. Today we say, Hallelujah!. The next phase of the struggle can wait a few days."
DONTAE SHARPE KISSES AND HUGS HIS MOTHER, SANDRA BLAKELY, AFTER HE IS FREED FROM PRISON