Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley

Nov. 24 2014 4:06 PM

More People in Utah Are Killed by Police Than Die in Gang or Drug Violence

A Salt Lake Tribune review of nearly 300 homicides, using media reports, state crime statistics, medical-examiner records and court records, shows that use of force by police is the second-most common circumstance under which Utahns kill each other, surpassed only by intimate partner violence.

Between 2010 and October of this year, the Tribune found, 45 people were killed by law enforcement officers in Utah. Officer-involved killings ranked as the second-deadliest category of homicide, trailing deaths perpetrated by spouses or partners but ahead of gang killings, drug killings, and deaths resulting from child abuse.

Only one of the police-involved killings—the shooting of 21-year-old Danielle Willard during an undercover drug operation in 2012—led to a prosecution, but a judge threw out charges against the officer involved in October.

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Nov. 24 2014 2:29 PM

Darren Wilson Grand Jury Announcement Expected Today

Multiple outlets are reporting that the Missouri grand jury investigating officer Darren Wilson's role in the death of Michael Brown has reached a decision which will "likely" be announced later today. From CNN:

The announcement will come from the St. Louis County prosecutor, the sources said.
The sources did not know what decision will be announced.

Federal authorities are also investigating whether Wilson could be charged with violating Brown's civil rights, but have "all but concluded they don’t have a case," the Washington Post reports.

Post reporter Wesley Lowery, whose coverage of the Wilson/Brown/Ferguson story has been essential, says the grand jury announcement is not expected for "a few hours" and that he is currently "eating Chipotle."

Nov. 24 2014 1:23 PM

Darren Wilson Got Married to a Fellow Ferguson Police Officer

The New York Times reports that Darren Wilson, currently awaiting the decision of a grand jury that may indict him for killing Michael Brown, married a fellow Ferguson police officer named Barbara Spradling on Oct. 24:

The couple obtained their marriage license in Clayton, Mo., outside St. Louis, in the recorder of deeds office on the fourth floor of the Lawrence K. Roos administrative building, steps away from the courthouse where the grand jury has been meeting.

It's not clear where the wedding took place. The couple owns a home near Ferguson but has not been seen there recently. Wilson and his first wife, Ashley, divorced last year.

Nov. 24 2014 12:44 PM

Deadline Extended on Iran Nuclear Weapons Talks, Which Is Relatively Good News

Negotiations between Iran and a group of world powers over the country's nuclear program have been extended again, which is probably good news, though it could be bad news.

Negotiators from the United States, Russia, and other powers would like to reach an agreement under which Iran limits its nuclear program to nonmilitary applications in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. After pushing back an earlier deadline by four months, parties to the talks had set a goal of Monday to agree on a plan. They'll now give themselves until March 1 to come up with a preliminary agreement and until July 1 to work out final details.


On the plus side, the news means that both sides still believe they can come to an agreement that, given the long-troubled relationship between Iran and the rest of the world, would be a milestone achievement. The downside is that both Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani are dealing with increasingly powerful conservative opposition movements pushing them to take a hard line in the talks. For his part, Obama said on Sunday that he's "confident" that he will have the support of Congress and the American public if and when a deal is reached.

Nov. 24 2014 10:07 AM

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel Is Resigning Under Pressure From White House

Chuck Hagel is resigning as secretary of Defense after less than two years on the job, reports say, after failing to convince White House and Department of Defense officials of his competence. Said one senior administration official quoted by MSNBC (anonymously, of course): "He wasn't up to the job." From the New York Times:

The president, who is expected to announce Mr. Hagel’s resignation in a Rose Garden appearance on Monday, made the decision to ask his defense secretary — the sole Republican on his national security team — to step down last Friday after a series of meetings over the past two weeks, senior administration officials said.

The Times says Hagel never gained the respect and trust of Obama's top advisers and that his tentative and inarticulate public manner was an embarrassment to the administration.

Hagel will remain in office until a successor is confirmed by the Senate. Former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michèle Flournoy and former Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter have been named in multiple reports as possible replacements.

Nov. 23 2014 9:31 PM

Odell Beckham Jr. Makes Greatest Catch Ever

Everyone is saying it on TV and on Twitter: Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. just made the greatest catch ever.

Yep, pretty much. Here's another view of the catch, from beginning to end.


Beckham's one-handed snag, his second touchdown of the night, came in the second quarter of Sunday night's game between Dallas and New York, and came despite being mauled by a Cowboys defender.

The rookie out of LSU specializes in the one-handed catch, as you'll see in this video of his warmup routine.

He did this in college, too. Watch this amazing grab in the 2014 Outback Bowl.

And this one may be the best of all: an absurd one-handed catch of a kickoff.

Nov. 23 2014 5:46 PM

Lawyer Dresses as Thomas Jefferson in Court, Gets Disbarred for “Inexplicable Incompetence”

You may have the right to an attorney, but just make sure it’s not Dennis Hawver. Why? The Kansas Supreme Court recently voted unanimously to disbar Hawver for what the court called “inexplicable incompetence.” If you were wondering what exactly inexplicable incompetence looks like in the legal profession, Hawver is your man.

Where to start? Try this: During a 2005 murder trial, Hawver described his client—Phillip Cheatham—to the jury as “a professional drug dealer” and a “shooter of people.” Hawver’s unconventional legal reasoning only went downhill from there. Here’s the gist of the defense he mounted for his client in the capital murder trial from the Topeka Capital-Journal:

Hawver said the strategy of Cheatham—who he described as "an experienced and highly street-smart and intelligent criminal" who was a cocaine dealer convicted of killing another "dope dealer"—was to tell jurors that if he had killed two women in 2003, he wouldn't have left alive a third shooting victim to identify him to police. The survivor was shot eight times by the real gunman to convince her to identify Cheatham as the killer, Hawver said in explaining the trial strategy.

Not only did Hawver leave out evidence that might have exonerated Cheatham—“I had no idea that cellphones had GPS capabilities at that time”—during the sentencing phase of the trial he told jurors “they should execute the killer in his closing argument,” according to the Capital-Journal. In legalese, this strategy is referred to as: reverse psychology. As you might have guessed, Cheatham was convicted of murder and sentenced to the death penalty. Thankfully, the court overturned the conviction and ordered a retrial last year, ruling—in the understatement of the year—that Hawver had failed to represent his client properly. Here’s more from the ABA Journal:

Hawver had never previously tried a capital murder case and had not tried a murder case in more than 20 years … He was unfamiliar with ABA guidelines for trying capital murder cases. At trial, he informed the jury his client had previously been convicted of voluntary manslaughter, even though prosecutors agreed to a stipulation that the client had a prior felony conviction without further details … In an affidavit, Hawver also said he failed to seek dismissal of the capital charge after the Kansas Supreme Court struck down the death penalty scheme.

That appears to be the dictionary definition of “inexplicable incompetence.” The only case that can remotely compete in the inexplicable incompetence department with Hawver’s handling of Cheatham’s defense is when he represented himself. The Kansas Supreme Court unsurprisingly took disciplinary action against Hawver in order to disbar him. During a disciplinary hearing earlier this year, Hawver represented himself before the court—dressed as Thomas Jefferson. The Capital-Journal reported from inside the courtroom, and it wasn’t pretty.

Wearing a white powdered wig, a dark 18th century suit and long white stockings, Hawver sat in the Supreme Court listening to two earlier cases before his disciplinary case was called. Hawver represented himself during the hearing before the Supreme Court and before the disciplinary administrator's office in November 2013 … Hawver said he dressed as Jefferson, his personal hero, to see whether the Kansas Supreme Court would protect his constitutional rights. "Am I going to get you to protect my rights to defend my client" as I see fit? Hawver said. The First Amendment protects his actions with his clients, and the Sixth Amendment protects the rights of his client, he said. Hawver said he might not have jumped through every "American Bar Association hoop" but he believed Cheatham was innocent … "Phillip Cheatham didn't complain about my performance. You did," Hawver said, referring to the justices. "I am incompetent!" Hawver said, banging the lectern with his hand.

The Kansas Supreme Court agreed, unanimously ruling to disbar. Hawver said earlier this year, however, he wasn’t really sweating losing his license because he was planning on leaving the legal profession anyway in order “to devote his time to growing vegetables in an aquaponics garden.” “I don’t think practicing law is productive,” he said.

Nov. 23 2014 2:38 PM

12-Year-Old Boy Carrying BB Gun Is Shot and Killed by Police Outside a Cleveland Rec Center

A 12-year-old boy wielding a BB gun who was shot by a Cleveland police officer at an area recreational center on Saturday afternoon died from his injuries on Sunday morning, according to the hospital. Police responded to a call reporting a man with a gun outside the rec center on Saturday afternoon. The caller told the police dispatchers the gun was “probably fake,” and that the boy was “probably a juvenile,” but that information was never passed on to the police officers arriving at the scene.

Here’s how the police described the events leading up to the fatal shooting by the officer via the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

A rookie officer and a 10-15 year veteran pulled into the parking lot and saw a few people sitting underneath a pavilion next to the center. The rookie officer saw a black gun sitting on the table, and he saw the boy pick up the gun and put it in his waistband, Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association President Jeffrey Follmer said. The officer got out of the car and told the boy to put his hands up. The boy reached into his waistband, pulled out the gun and the rookie officer fired two shots, Tomba said. Tomba said the child did not threaten the officer verbally or physically. At least one of the shots hit the child in the stomach. He was rushed to MetroHealth Medical Center in serious condition.

“The department's Use of Deadly Force Investigation Team is investigating the shooting,” the Plain Dealer reports. “Detectives recovered the weapon, which turned out to be a BB gun with the orange safety marker scratched off, police said.” The Cleveland police said in a statement the BB gun resembled a semi-automatic pistol.

Nov. 23 2014 1:15 PM

The Time Bill Cosby Humiliated Marion Barry

Earlier this week, Deadspin dug up an old story about Bill Cosby admonishing a Notre Dame football player for getting mediocre grades. Cosby, who had reached the moral scold phase of his career at this point, told Dean Brown that his 2.5 GPA was “OK if you have a mental disorder.”

In 1986, three years before Cosby eviscerated Brown in front of his teammates, he mocked a more public figure: Washington, D.C. mayor Marion Barry.


Courtland Milloy described the scene in an Oct. 9, 1986 story in the Washington Post:

When D.C. Mayor Marion Barry walked onto the stage Monday night at the tribute to the late jazz musician Thelonious Monk, host Bill Cosby began cracking jokes about him. “Here's the mayor of D.C. … or what's left of it,” Cosby said.
Barry winced and forced a smile, but Cosby didn't stop there.
“The mayor told me he was looking for a campaign contribution,” Cosby continued. “I asked, ‘How did you do in the primary?’ He said, ‘I got 71 percent.’ So I told him, ‘Here's 35 cents.’ ”
As Barry was making his presentation, Cosby returned to the stage with cohost Debbie Allen on his arm, and without even letting the mayor kiss her, Cosby turned on his heels and escorted Allen away.
The audience snickered and Barry hung his head. Even though it might seem like an honor to be poked fun at by the most popular man in America, this act came across as a show of disrespect. If Barry weren't embarrassed, many people in the audience were.

Cosby was at the peak of his fame in 1986, as The Cosby Show had reached No. 1 in the ratings with a weekly audience of 30 million households. This was also around the time, Barbara Bowman alleges, that Cosby “brainwashed [her] into viewing him as a father figure, and then assaulted [her] multiple times.”

Barry, meanwhile, was about to be elected for his third term as mayor. In Milloy’s view, the D.C. politician—whose administration was beset by allegations of corruption—was lucky he wasn’t facing stiffer competition. “One got the impression that if Cosby wanted to run for mayor as a write-in candidate, Barry would have to throw in the towel,” Milloy wrote.

In 1990, a little more than three years after Cosby yukked it up at his expense, Barry was arrested after getting caught on tape smoking crack as part of an FBI sting operation. In 1994, though, Barry completed a remarkable political comeback, getting elected for a fourth term as mayor.

Cosby was not impressed. In October 1996, the Washington Post’s Reliable Source column reported that the comedian “refused a photographer's request that he pose for a picture with D.C. Mayor Marion Barry at a National Coalition on Black Voter Participation event.” A Cosby spokesman said, “He is not a fan of the mayor” and did not want a photograph that might “suggest he is a friend of the mayor, a supporter of the mayor.”

Cosby and Barry would make up, sort of. At an event a couple of months after the photograph incident, the Post reported, Cosby “blew a make-up kiss at [Barry’s wife] Cora Masters Barry.”

Nov. 23 2014 11:34 AM

Marion Barry, Washington, D.C.’s “Mayor for Life,” Dies at Age 78

After decades as the brightest light in D.C. politics, former Washington, D.C. mayor Marion Barry died at the age of 78, the Barry family confirmed early Sunday morning. The Washington Post describes the four-term mayor, who was serving on the D.C. City Council at the time of his death, as “the most influential and savvy local politician of his generation … He dominated the city’s political landscape in the final quarter of the 20th century.” Barry, who mounted an unlikely and successful bid for a fourth term as mayor after doing time in federal prison, was dubbed “Mayor for Life” in the nation’s capital.

Barry was a sharecropper’s son who rose to power in the nation’s capital as a civil rights champion. Descriptions of Barry’s tenure in office, and relationship with the city he governed, however, depended on whom you asked. Here’s more from the Post:

He came to Washington as a champion of the downtrodden and the dispossessed and rose to the pinnacle of power and prestige. As mayor of the District, Mr. Barry became a national symbol of self-governance and home rule for urban blacks. His programs helped provide summer jobs for youths, home-buying assistance for the working-class and food for senior citizens. And he placed African Americans in thousands of middle- and upper-level management positions in the city government that in previous generations had been reserved for whites …
When Mr. Barry took office, so chaotic had the District’s finances been that the city didn’t even know how much money it had in the bank. He instituted budgetary and fiscal accounting procedures to figure that out. But by the end of his last term as mayor, Congress and the courts had stripped him of much of his authority, complaining of graft, corruption and gross mismanagement in his administration.
“Some governments are corrupt but are known for their competency in running the city,” Sen. John C. Danforth (R-Mo.) told Mr. Barry at a 1989 hearing on the D.C. budget. “Others are incompetent but considered clean. [Washington’s] government is scandalously corrupt and hopelessly incompetent.”
In 1990, Mr. Barry was arrested on drug charges in a sting by the FBI and D.C. police after having been lured to a Washington hotel room by a woman with whom he’d previously had an amorous relationship. “Bitch set me up!” he muttered aloud as he was being placed under arrest. The comment was captured on FBI videotapes of the sting and broadcast on television, and it would endure as a signature phrase in Mr. Barry’s vocal legacy. His conviction months later would become front-page news around the world. He completed a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program and served six months in a federal prison, then used the experience to his political advantage as a platform in his improbable comeback bid for elected office.