Turn Up for Tots

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2012-12-22_13-51-07_580 2012-12-22_13-53-46_46

Turn Up for Tots!

As we approach the holiday season many of us are looking to celebrate, have fun and as my son calls it, Turn Up. But sometimes turning up leads to trouble we don’t want or need in our lives. The McIver Law Firm wants to give you a way to get those good feelings without the negative consequences. We want you to Turn UP for Tots!

Santa is coming for most of our children and us. Unfortunately, he has lost the directions to get to many other children right here in Forsyth County. That’s why we have decided to help the old guy out and we need YOUR help to do it.

Please donate an unwrapped toy to the Salvation Army Toy Drive. We are an official drop off station so you can bring your toy/s to our office and we will make sure there is one less disappointed child this Christmas. Our firm will also post a picture of your generosity on our Face Book page.

We promise, you won’t receive a much better feeling this season than knowing you made a child’s day on Christmas morning!

And remember, if you happen to turn it up a little to high this season, C.Y.A. – Call Your Attorney!

Another Killer of a Black Teen in Florida Hides Behind Stand Your Ground

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Although George Zimmerman did not officially use Stand Your Ground as his defense, his acquittal last month in the death of Trayvon Martin has become an impetus for the protest of controversial “Stand Your Ground” laws. As these protests continue to erupt across the country, another case that is being compared to the Zimmerman case is making its way through the Florida court system.

Last Thanksgiving, JordJordanDavisan Davis was sitting in a parked SUV with two friends waiting on another friend to exit a gas station when Michael David Dunn and his girlfriend pulled into the parking spot beside them. After Dunn’s girlfriend entered the gas station, a verbal altercation broke out between Dunn and the four teens about the teens’ loud music. Seconds later Dunn fired eight shots into the SUV; four of them after the teens backed out of the parking spot in an attempt to get away. Davis was the only person shot. He was pronounced dead minutes after arriving at the hospital.

Dunn, who has plead not guilty under Stand Your Ground, claims he saw one of the teens reach for something that he believed was a shotgun and he thought the teens were going to exit the SUV. However, police did not recover any weapon or any item that may have resembled a gun from the car. As Dunn and his girlfriend drove away from the gas station he told her he felt threatened, but never mentioned a gun. Additionally, witnesses to the incident say that they never saw any of the teens exit the vehicle and reportedly heard Dunn say, “you are not going to talk to me like that” before he began shooting. Dunn’s girlfriend says Dunn had been drinking and complained of “thug music” when they pulled into the gas station.

While this case does have similarities to the Trayvon Martin case (an armed white man killed an unarmed black teenager), I think there are differences in this cases that should favor the prosecution. Most importantly, there are witnesses whose accounts of the incident seem to indicate the four teenagers did not do anything to make Dunn fear for his life. These witnesses not only include the three boys in the car with Davis, but also other customers at the gas station. However, if a judge allows Dunn to use the “Stand Your Ground” then it will be up to the prosecution to prove he was not in fear for his life when he fired shots into the car.  Dunn has been charged with first-degree murder and three counts of attempted murder.

More NSA Leaks and Snowden Receives Asylum

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Just as the controversy surrounding the National Security Agency’s surveillance practices was starting to blow over the Guardian has released information about the intrusive surveillance program. The follow-up piece to initial report focuses on a program name XKeyscore. This program allows the NSA to access information about your online history. By simply filling out an onscreen form the government can access your email, chats, and browsing history without obtaining a warrant or any other kind of authorization.  The NSA, itself, says XKeyscore is the “widest reaching” program for Edward_Snowden-2monitoring the Internet. The NSA has defended the program as necessary to protect Americans from foreign threats.  The government also claims that there are checks and balances within the system, which prevent intentional misuse of the program.

On the heels of the XKeyscore development, Edward Snowden has received asylum from Russia, which means he will not be extradited to the United States to face espionage charges. Russia has granted Snowden a year-long asylum despite the fact that the U.S. has promised that he will not tortured or be sentenced to the death penalty. Before granting Snowden’s asylum, Russian president, Vladimir Putin, said he would not extradite Snowden as long as he pledged to stop leaking information about American surveillance programs. Snowden said he cannot leak anymore information because he has already leaked all of the information he has.

I find the XKeyscore development very troubling. While it is very possible that the government is only using this system against foreign threats, it creates a slippery slope. Regardless of how the government is using right now, the NSA still has the capability to watch everything we do. With that kind of power, it could only be a matter of time before average citizens are monitored.

As far as Edward Snowden is concerned, I think he should have been extradited to face his espionage charges. I don’t believe Snowden should be considered a whistleblower. Even though these programs give the NSA the capability to monitor every U.S. citizens’ internet and phone usage, I haven’t seen any indication that the NSA actually used the program for anything other than targeting foreign threats. So in actuality all Snowden did was alert the foreign threats of the NSA’s surveillance.

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.

Racial Justice Act Repealed

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Governor Pat McCrory has repealed a the Racial Justice Act, which allowed death row inmates to appeal if their death sentence was sought or obtained on the basis of race. The law, which was originally passed in August 2009, permitted death row inmates’ sentences to be commuted to life sentences without parole if they proved that their sentence was sought or obtained due to race. Four people had their sentences commuted due to the Racial Justice Act. Governor McCrory said the Racial Justice Act was “seriously flawed” and only “created a judicial loophole to avoid the death penalty and not a path to justice.”

The repeal of the Racial Justice Act counteracts the efforts of civil rights movements to eradicate racial disparities in the North Carolina judicial system. Of the 153 people on death row in North Carolina, 53% are African-American. African-Americans only make up 22% of the state’s population. This type of disparity is not only evident on death row; African-Americans are pulled over, searched, and arrested more than our white counterparts and account for more than 57% of the prison population.

The main argument against the Racial Justice Act is it tied up the courts and essentially put an end to the death penalty in North Carolina. But shouldn’t making sure that a person received a fair sentence outweigh the burden put on the courts? And shouldn’t the state want to make sure that a person deserves the death penalty before it executes anyone?

This is not to say the Racial Justice Act was perfect. While the Act allowed an inmate to appeal his death sentence it did not allow an inmate to appeal his conviction or seek a sentence that was shorter than life without the possibility of parole. In fact, the Act required that the defendant waive his right to seek any other remedy besides life without the possibility of parole. The Act seemed to assume that the conviction itself was not obtained on the basis of race, which is definitely possible.

Though the Racial Justice Act would not have alleviated all of the racial inequities in the North Carolina justice system, it may have been a stepping stone to solving these problems. Now that the Act has been appealed I’m not sure how we can find justice for the many minorities that have been unfairly imprisoned in this state.

Has President Obama Kept his Promises?

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During his election campaign in 2008, Barack Obama promised his administration would implement sweeping changes from the previous George Bush regime. His campaign promises included closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, ending tax cuts for wealthy, and ending the war in the Middle East. Obama’s charismatic speeches promising change excited an entire nation, specifically minorities and young voters. Now, five years later President Obama has come up short on many of his promises.

Guantanamo Bay is still opeBarak Obama-United States-Politicsn and is still accepting prisoners. President Obama has attempted to shut Gitmo down throughout his presidency, but has been unsuccessful thus far. In a compromise that allowed most Americans to avoid tax increases, President Obama had to extend tax cuts for the “wealthiest two percent of Americans.”

Perhaps most telling about President Obama’s administration is the continued wars in the Middle East. The majority of the troops in Iraq have come home, but the war in Afghanistan is still raging. President Obama also authorizes the use of drone strikes to combat the “war on terror.” These drones have reportedly claimed hundreds of civilian lives, including Americans.  President Obama has justified the use of drones by saying they are a “legal” and “effective” tool in self-defense and indicates that he will keep using them as asset in the war against terrorism. This sound a lot like the George Bush justifications made for his controversial tactics during his war on terror and his search for “weapons of mass destruction.”

To be fair, President Obama has kept some promises he made during 2008 campaign. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has been repealed and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, which provides universal health care, was signed into law in 2010. Additionally, the economy has made great strides during Obama’s administration and the unemployment rate has been dropping over the past few months.

Though President Obama has made great strides during his five years in office, I will need to see more of his campaign promises come to fruition before I can say that he brought the “change” to this country he promised in 2008.

Should There be Affirmative Action in America?

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The Supreme Court will soon decide Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, which challenges the university’s race conscious admission policies. The case resolves around Abigail Fisher, who believes that she was rejected from Texas because she was white, even though she believes she was more qualified than some minority applicants. This case has brought back up discussions concerning the fairness and effectiveness of affirmative action. Some believe it is a form of reverse racism while others believe it is necessary to atone for hundreds of years of discrimination.US Supreme Court

I would love to live in a society where race was not relevant and we are judged on our merits. However, we do not live in that society and we have to deal with discrimination. That is why I believe that affirmative action is necessary and I do not think is it a form of reverse racism. I believe the argument of “reverse racism” is based upon common misconceptions about affirmative action that need to be dispelled. First of all, the point of affirmative action is not to give unqualified minorities opportunities over qualified members of the majority. The goal of affirmative action is to put qualified minority candidates on equal footing with their white counterparts. Secondly, government entities cannot have “quota systems” because they have been held unconstitutional by the Supreme Court so race alone will not get anyone into college. Other factors, such as grades, test scores, community service, and work experience, must be considered. Therefore, unqualified minority candidates do not take the spots of qualified white students. In fact, there are probably just as many, if not more, white students who are admitted to college due to “legacy admissions” as there are minorities admitted due to affirmative action, but I haven’t any complaints about that lately.

My only problem with affirmative action is the perception that goes along with the policy. Affirmative action can sometimes undermine the hard work that a minority has put in to be admitted to college. When minority candidates are seen on college campuses a lot of them hear comments such as, “You’re only got in because of affirmative action,” which is unfair because they worked just as hard, if not harder, as everyone else who is admitted to college.

Bill Mears of CNN.com believes that the mostly conservative Supreme Court will strike down Texas’ policy in some way, but will not invalidate affirmative action all together. I hope he is right because even though affirmative action may be an imperfect system, it is only system we have right now that will make sure minorities are given every opportunity that whites are given.