Sunday, May 10, 2015

Rights for the LGBT Community - Alisha Beeman

There have been a number of issues dealing with the LGBT community and injustices that are taking place regarding their human rights. The people within this community are constantly discriminated against and are treated inhumane because of their sexual orientation or whom they identify with based on gender.
Cooley v. Forrest County Sheriff's Department was one of the many cases that protray the discrimination that people within the LGBT community face. Upon reading Cooley's resume and hiring him, the Sheriff's Department welcomed him with open arms, stating that his resume and work ethis was one of the best that they had ever seen. When they learned that Cooley was a gay man and had a partner after arriving on scene to his home after being called for a domestic dispute, he was fired from his job and the Department attempted to deny him unemployment benefits. After Cooley filed suit with the ACLU against the men who violated his equal protection and due process rights he was rewarded a settlement.
Some of the injustices that lie within the Cooley case were the fact that he was a victim of domestic abuse and his rights were attempted to be taken from him because of his sexual orientation. Cooley was written down in the case file as the victim of the dispute yet he was still being held accountable because of his sexual orientation. The Sheriff even told Cooley that he was being fired because he was gay. It is an injustice because someone who has the credentials and the work ethic to hold such a position that Cooley did in his department, should not be fired or exempt from continuing to do so because of who he chooses to love or simply whom he is attracted to.
Some remedies for the injustice are emphasis on the separation of church and state. Many of the ideas about homosexuality being a “disease” or a “sin” come from religious views. Homosexuals should still be able to maintain the same rights as heterosexuals, even if the majority of those who are religious that may also believe that homosexuality is wrong or a sin, have an issue with it. They are people as well and they deserve the same rights as any other human being on this earth.
We also need to recognize the freedoms that are being taken away from people of the LGBT community with the denial of same-sex marriages. Things such as deciding what type of medical procedures should take place when same-sex couples have a partnership is a right that is taken from them because same-sex marriage is still not recognized in some states. Things such as health, divorce, family leave, insurance, and taxes are just a small list of things that are much different for same-sex couples and heterosexual couples.

As students there are a few things that we can do to help. The ACLU has opportunities to be a member, donate, attend events, or volunteer to support civil liberties that include rights for the LGBT community. Becoming informed with the types of issues that lie within denial of rights for same-sex couples is important as well. Some people may think that they are just being denied a wedding or marriage papers, but there is much more to marriage than walking down the aisle that needs to be considered when politicians are denying rights to same-sex couples.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Elkhart Four Injustice Report

Katelynn Agazzi
Comparative Justice
April 22, 2015
The “Elkhart Four”

On August 22, 2013 three boys from Elkhart, Indiana were found guilty for the death of their 21 year old friend, Danzele Johnson, while one other pleaded guilty back in November the year before. Although none of the boys were armed, and did not actually murder Johnson, they were given 50-55 years. Black Layman, Jose Quiroz and Anthony Sharp were each given 55 years while Levi Sparks was given 50. On October 3, 2012 Layman, Sparks, Quiroz, Sharp and Johnson needed cash for drugs and decided to find an empty house to break into. They found a house, which seemed to be empty, and broke into the house through the back door (Layman, Sharp, Quiroz and Johnson) while Sparks stayed across the street as a “look out.” The homeowner, Rodney Scott, was upstairs taking a nap and heard the noise. He quickly ran downstairs with his handgun and fired the gun being scared for his life. Scott ended up killing Johnson and wounding Layman.

Under Indiana’s felony murder statute, a person can be charged with murder if someone is killed while he or she is committing or attempting to commit another crime: arson, burglary, robbery, carjacking, human trafficking, sexual trafficking, or sex and drug crimes. Felony murder carries the same penalty as murder, but unlike a murder charge, in which intent to kill must be proven, a person can be convicted of felony murder even if the death is accidental or unintended.
This case is specifically an injustice for many reasons. It is unlike other felony murder cases because they typically involve armed defendants who can reasonably foresee that someone could get killed in their actions. It is also unlike other felony murder charges because they were attempting to commit a non-violent burglary of what they believed to be an unoccupied residence. The last reason is because they were all juveniles.

In October of 2013 Layman, Sharp and Sparks filed notices of appeal in the Indiana Court of Appeals, asking for the overturn of their conviction. On September 12, 2014 the Court of Appeals upheld their convictions, but ruled their sentences were inappropriate and suspended 10 years of Layman and Sharps sentences to probation and suspended 5 years of Sparks to probation. On October 14, 2014 Layman, Sharp and Sparks asked for their cases to be transferred to the Indiana Supreme Court and as of February 26, 2015 the Supreme Court held oral arguments, however justices have yet to decide whether or not to rule on the case.

There are many actions that citizens and politicians can take that will eradicate felony murder charges like this one in the future. Michigan, Hawaii and Kentucky have already abolished felony murder, but most still have some sort of variation of it on the books. In some states, felony murder is included in the definition of first degree murder. In others, it’s a less serious offense, typically second degree murder. A lot of state representatives around the country believe that it should be abolished but do not take any action to do so in their state because of lack of constituent support.