North Carolina Compensates Victims of Eugenics Program

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For more than 40 years, North Carolina instituted a eugenics program that resulted in over 7,000 forced sterilizations of people deemed mentally handicapped, promiscuous, or unfit to have children. The eugenics movement, which swept the world during the early part of the 20th century, claimed that mental illness, genetic defects, and other social stigmas could be eliminated by sterilization. In fact, eugenics is what Nazi Germany used to justify the Holocaust. Although the theory of eugenics was scientifically disproven and most states the program in the 1930s, North Carolina continued its program until the 1970s and expanded the program in 1945 to target blacks and the general population. Over 2,000 children were sterilized in North Carolina during the eugenics program, including a 10-year-old boy who was castrated. Near the end of the program more than 60% of the victims were black and 99% were female.

Now, nearly forty years after the eugenics program was ended, North Carolina is offering compensation to the living victims of the eugenics program. The House and the Senate have agreed to divide $10 million between the living victims of the program, which will be distributed in a lump sum on June 30, 2015. There are estimates that nearly 2,000 victims are still alive; however, only 168 have been identified so far. Individuals must submit claims proving that they are victims of the eugenics program exactly one year prior to the scheduled disbursement date.

Though the no amount of money to forcefully taking away someone’s God-given right to have a family, North Carolina is at least trying to make amends for the racist and sexist program it implemented for more than forty years. Hopefully, more victims will come forward to receive their just compensation.

What’s Next for Zimmerman?

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While the jury found Zimmerman not guilty in the State trial, his legal troubles may be far from over. The NAACP has been pushing the Department of Justice to file federal charges against Zimmerman under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, better known as the Matthew Shepard Act. Being completely objective and honest I don’t think the DOJ should press charges against Zimmerman under the Matthew Shepard Act. To obtain a conviction of this Act, the prosecution must prove a defendant caused bodily injury or death because of another’s actual or perceived race. While it is probable that Zimmerman racially profiled Trayvon, I do not think Zimmerman killed Trayvon because he was black and I don’t think the prosecution will be able to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.

However, Trayvon’s parents couldGeorge Zimmerman still seek damages in a wrongful death suit against Zimmerman. Obviously, any amount of money damages will not replace the loss of their son, but it could provide some sort of closure for the family. Wrongful death suits are completely independent of criminal trials so one will not preclude the other. In fact, since the burden of proof in a wrongful death suit (more likely than not) is less than a criminal trial (beyond a reasonable doubt) it is possible that a defendant can be found liable civilly, but not criminally.

As I discussed in a previous post, had Zimmerman done as the 911 operator had asked and stayed in his car and not followed Trayvon, the fight would have never occurred and Trayvon would still be alive today. Accordingly, it is possible that Zimmerman’s actions more likely than not caused Trayvon’s death and his family will be able to recover damages. However, it is also possible that Zimmerman could receive civil immunity due to Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law.

Zimmerman Found Not Guilty

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Over the weekend, a jury of six women found George Zimmerman not guilty in the death of unarmed death of 17 year old, Trayvon Martin. The jurors apparently found that there was not enough evidence to prove Zimmerman was not acting in self-defense when he killed Martin last February. I actually agree with the not guilty verdict on the second degree murder charge. The prosecution did not prove second degree murder beyond a reasonable doubt and I do not believe Zimmerman had any of the “ill will or hatred” necessary for a second degree murder conviction.

However, I t220px-TrayvonMartinHoodedhink Zimmerman should have at least been convicted of manslaughter. The fact still remains that if Zimmerman had not followed Martin and stayed in his car – as he was directed to do by the 911 operator – Trayvon would still be alive. Though we cannot prove who was on top during the fight that occurred moments before Zimmerman fired the fatal shot, we can prove that Trayvon felt he was in danger when he saw Zimmerman following him. Zimmerman, himself, said Trayvon was running and Rachel Jeantel, who was on the phone with Trayvon moments before he died, said that he described Zimmerman as “creepy.” These facts prove that Trayvon believed he was in danger when Zimmerman was following, so when Zimmerman exited his car Trayvon had a right to defend himself. Accordingly, even if Trayvon was on top, which we still don’t know to be true, he was only defending himself against Zimmerman’s aggression. Therefore, Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense should not have been enough for him to escape a manslaughter conviction.

I hope Zimmerman feels some remorse for Trayvon’s death. However, his remorse does not change the fact that his overzealousness to catch a criminal caused him to follow, confront, and kill an innocent teenager and he should have been consequences for his actions.

What Does the Supreme Court’s DOMA Ruling mean for North Carolina’s Amendment One?

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The Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as unconstitutional. Under DOMA the federal government refused to recognize same-sex marriages that are legal in 12 states and the District of Columbia. This meant that same-sex couples could not receive federal benefits that were available to other legally married couples. The Court held that withholding federal benefits from gay couples that are available to straight couples deprives gay couples of the liberty guaranteed to them under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

Same-sex couple Nowlin Haltom (L) and MiSo what does the DOMA ruling mean for North Carolina’s Amendment One, which recognizes only marriage between a man and a woman in North Carolina? In the short term, nothing. The DOMA decision only requires the federal government to recognize gay marriage in states that already legalized it. The Court decided not to make a sweeping decision regarding the right of homosexuals to marry nationwide, which means that decision is still left to the individual states to decide. Therefore, the decision does not have an effect on North Carolina Amendment One.

However, in the long term the DOMA case may provide another critical step in getting equal marriage rights for homosexuals. The Court just ruled that DOMA withholding federal benefits, which are available to straight couples, from gay couples deprives them of their liberty under the Due Process Clause. Accordingly, it would reasonably follow a state that does not allow a gay couple to marry, a right that is available to straight couples in every state, would also deprive gay couples of the liberty they are entitled to under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment.

The Supreme Court has also ruled on a number of other cases that seems to lend themselves to allowing gay couples to get married. In Zablocki, the Court ruled that marriage is a fundamental right and the State cannot interfere directly and substantially with the right to marry unless there is a compelling government interest. If I have a fundamental right to get married, doesn’t it reasonably follow that I have a fundamental right to marry the person of my choice? If I have a fundamental right to marry the person of my choice, doesn’t a prohibition of gay marriage directly and substantially interfere with this fundamental right?

Though the DOMA decision will not have an immediate effect on Amendment One it could definitely be a stepping stone to the fight for equal rights for homosexual couples in the coming years. If and when the Supreme Court rules gay marriage is legal throughout the country Amendment One will have no authority and gay couples will be able to get married in North Carolina.