Liliana Segura

Life in Prison for Stealing Candy? Thousands of Prisoners Sentenced to Die Behind Bars for Nonviolent Crimes

This past August, the Lafayette-based IND Monthly published a story about a 54-year-old man named Bill Winters, incarcerated at a medium-security prison in Epps, Louisiana. Winters, who is black, was arrested in June 2009, after he drunkenly entered an unlocked oncologist’s office on a Sunday morning, setting off a security alarm. When police arrived, he had rummaged through a desk drawer, and was in possession of a box of Gobstoppers candy. Winters was convicted of simple burglary a week before Thanksgiving, and given a seven-year prison sentence—hardly a slap on the wrist. But a few days later, the prosecutor in his case, Assistant District Attorney Alan Haney, sought additional punishment for Winters, under the state’s habitual offender law. Based on his record of nonviolent offenses, which went back to 1991 and ranged from cocaine possession to burglary, the trial court resentenced Winters to twelve years without any chance of parole. But Haney was still not satisfied. He appealed the ruling, arguing that the court had imposed an “illegally lenient sentence” and that the rightful punishment was life without the possibility of parole.

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Can the Obama Admin Actually Fix Our Broken Criminal Justice System?

On Monday, August 12, the day Attorney General Eric Holder announced “a fundamentally new approach” to the criminal justice system in his speech before the American Bar Association in San Francisco, US District Court Judge Mark W. Bennett was in his office in Sioux City, Iowa, drafting a sentencing opinion in a drug case. An outspoken critic of mandatory minimums [see “Imposing Injustice,” November 12, 2012], Bennett is known for writing unusual opinions that criticize the sentences he must often hand down. “It’s about trying to make the system fairer,” he says, “not just for the defendant in front of you, but for others.”

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Will Pennsylvania Execute a Man Who Killed His Abusers?

The following article first appeared in the Nation. For more great content from the Nation, sign up for their email newsletters here.

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Will the Supreme Court Toss Life Without Parole for Juveniles?

The following article first appeared on the Web site of The Nation. For more great content from the Nation, sign up for its e-mail newsletters here.  

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Would You Fight for the Life of a Man Who Shot You and Left You for Dead?

death penalty case in Texas received a lot of media attention in the past several weeks, as state prison authorities prepared to execute Mark Stroman, a man who shot and killed two people in a vengeful rampage after September 11th. His victims, who he targeted because he thought they were Arab, were a Pakistani man named Waqar Hasan and an Indian man named Vasudev Patel. A third man survived. His name is Rais Bhuiyan. He is Muslim, from Bangladesh. He has told his story to news outlets across the country; how he was approached at the gas station where he worked, how Stroman, a tattooed white man, demanded, “where are you from?” as he brandished a gun. How he had not yet answered when he felt "the sensation of a million bees stinging my face, and then heard an explosion" as Stroman shot him. Bhuiyan survived, somehow, and was left blinded in one eye.

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Tortured to Death in the US

The following article first appeared in The Nation magazine. For more great content from the Nation, sign up for their email newsletters here.

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6 Things You Might Not Know About Supreme Court Nominee Elena Kagan

The nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court has produced many more questions than answers, but that has not stopped the avalanche of news stories, which could take days to sift through. Nevertheless, it seems pretty clear from what we know so far that this is not good news for anyone who hoped that the president might choose a nominee that would continue in the liberal tradition of the justice she's replacing, John Paul Stevens. The American Prospect's Scott Lemieux calls the decision "Ivy League nepotism of the worst sort," saying "the idea that the complete absence of evidence about her constitutional vision is no big deal is something that's easy for someone who will never be denied an abortion, be discriminated against by an employer, etc. to say, but for people who actually take such things seriously it's rather important."

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Videos of Small Animals Being Crushed by Women in High Heels Are Protected Free Speech?

This week the Supreme Court handed down an eight to one ruling that, depending on your priorities, either reflects its total, unwavering belief in the primacy of the First Amendment, or else proves once and for all that the justices have no soul -- except for maybe Samuel Alito.

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