North Carolina Newspapers

Thursday, August 3, 2006
ZKIie Cljarlotte
The Voice of the Black Community
1531 Camden Road Charlotte, N.C. 28203
Gerald O. Johnson ceo/publisher
Robed L Johnson co-publisher/general manager
Herbert L White edt'or in chief
Women benefit
when suspected
rapists are
By Maddy deLone
Last month, Alan Newton walked out of a Bronx courtroom a
man. Twenty-two years after he was convicted for a brutal
rape that he didn’t commit, he was finally exonerated. For the
first time since 1984, he decided what he woiald wear and what
he would do.
One of the first things he did was approach several dozen
reporters to talk about the rape survivor who mistakenly iden
tified him as the perpetrator, leadir^ to his conviction. Before
addressir^ his own wrongful conviction and his new fieedom, he
said his thoi^hts were with the rape survivor. His voice chocked
with emotion, he expressed compassion and sympathy for her.
Tb date, 182 people nationwide have been exonerated with
DNA testing. The Innocence Project represented many of tb^m,
jiost as we represented Alan Newton. Because we only take cases
where DNA can yield conclusive prcxjf ofinnocence, many of our
clients are men who were wror^y convicted of sexual assault.
Ninety percent of the 182 exonerations involved sexual assault
(sometimes in combination with murder and other crimes).
While the criminal justice sj^tem began using DNA testing two
decades ago to help identify the guilty and exonerate the inno
cent, it has become more prevalent and more sophisticated in
recent years.
Since our chents_ are primarily men convicted of heinous
crimes against women, some people wonder whether our work
serves the interests of rape survivors and women generally I
stron^y beheve that it does in very specific, individual ways,
and also more broadly and profbimdly
When the wrong man is convicted of assaulting a woman,
nobcxly sees justice. The true perpetrator can remain at large,
xmpunished for a horrible crime and able to rape again. In one-
third of the 182 DNA exonerations, we haven’t just proved some
one’s innocence; the DNA has been used to help identify the true
As Alan Newton recognized earlier this month, wrongful con
victions —once they’re finally overturned—reopen crime victims’
wounds and prevent them fiom moving forward, often decades
after a crime. Once DNA proves that tire wrong man was con
victed, rape survivors are often brorxght right back to the ni^t
of the crime. Many are left questioning how they identified the
wrong man, and wondering whether they vrill have to endure
another trial, years later. The pain survivors experience at such
times could be avoided if wrongful convictions were prevented in
the first place.
Beyond the substantial consequences for the wrongly accused
and individual rape survivors, wrongful convictions concern
many of us because people of color and poor people are dispro
portionately targeted by our criminal justice system. That’s trou-
blii^ enough, but when it’s done in the name of protecting the
public and punishing violence against women, we cannot stand
Among the 182 exoneration cases, where the race of wrongly
convicted people is known, nearly 75 percent are men of color.
No two cases are alike, but in many of them, police focxrsed on
an Afiican-American man immediately and ignored information
that might have led to other suspects. In some of them, police
coerced confessions, prosecutors concealed evidence and defense
attorneys for poor defendants failed to challenge faulty evid^ice
and law rarfbrcement tactics.
The leading cause of wrongful convictions—playing a factor in
about 75 percent of the exoneration cases—is eyewitness
misidentification. The day after Alan Newton was econerated in
the Bronx, a member of a “men’s advocacy” group called our
office. He wasn't palling to help Newton find a job or offering
other support to him, as many others have. He wanted to know
why Ihe Innocence Project doesn’t pursue peijxuy charges
gainst rape survivors who identify the wrong man.
Aside finm the patently offensive notion of putting rape sur
vivors on trial, the truth is that eyewitness misidentification is
often the result of flawed law enforcement techniques that lead
crime victims to identify a suspect who police already joesume
is guilty 'The Innocence Project pursues poliey reforms to
improve identification techniques nationwide so crime victims
aren’t led to misidentify innocent people. These include specific
changes to pohce lineup procedures, which have already been
adopted by a number of cities, states and counties.
A number of rape survivors and crime victims work with the
Innocence Project' to remedy the deeply embedded problems in
our criminal justice system that cause wrongful convictions in
the first place. They are all incredibly strong, powerful and
amazing women. A particularly inspiring partner in our work is
Christy Sheppard of Oklahoma
Her cousin, Debra Sue Carter, was brutally raped and mur-
dsed in 1982. Six years later, Dennis Fritz and Ron Williamson
were convicted; Fritz was sentenced to life in prison, while
Williamson received the death penalty and came within five
days of being executed. In 1999, both men were exonerated with
DNA testing, which indicated that the state’s main witness
against them was actually the perpetrator.
In very different ways, Christy Sheppard and Alan Newton
remind us why working to fi:ee the wrongly ccaivicted and pre
vent wrongful convictions is ciitical for everyone involved. They
show us not just what’s at stake, but that aU of us can—and
must—do our part to correct hyustice.
MADDY deLONE is executive director of The Innocence Project, which
is affiliated with the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law ai Yeshiva
University in New York.
One-sided reporting on the Middle East
Until Sunday when Israeli
bombers leveled a three-story
building in the tiny Lebanese
village of Oana, killing at
least 55 people, most of them
children, the U.S. media has
been anything but even-
handed in covering Israel’s
three-week assault on south
ern Lebanon, a stror^hold of
Israel initiated a 48-hour
pause in the aerial attacks, in
the face of international con-
I demnation, and
I later resumed
I its effort to
j cripple the mil
itary capability
of rebel groups
intent on
Israel. If the
past is any indi
cator, the U.S.
media -after it’s Sunday
pause - will return to its mis
sion of blaming Hezbollah
and Hamas for all the strife
in the Mddle East.
Of course, both groups have
blood on their hands, but they
are not alone.
Fair and Accuracy in
Reporting, the media watch
dog group, reported prior to
Sunday’s fatal assault:
“... The portrayal of Israel aS
the innocait victim in the
Gaza conflict is hard to
square with the death toll in
the months leading up to the
current crisis; between
September 2005 and June
2006, 144 Palestinians in
Gaza were killed by Israeli
forces, according to a list com
piled by the Israeli human
rights group B’tselem; 29 of
those killed were children.
During the same period, no
Israelis ■ were killed as a
result of violence from Gaza.”
But you’d never know it by
reading U.S. newspapers.
“On Jiily24, the day before
Hamas’ cross-border raid,
Israel made an incursion of
its own, capturing two
Palestinians that it said were
members of Hamas (some
thing Hamas denied - L.A.
Times, July 25). This incident
received far less coverage in
the U.S. media than the sub
sequent seizure of tiie Israeli
soldier; the few papers that
covered it mostly dismissed it
in a one-paragraphbrief(e.g.,
Chicago Tribune, 7/25/06),
while the Israeli taken pris
oner got finnt-pa^ headlines
all over the world.”
The nation’s three leading
dailies published one-side,
overly simplistic comments
on the Middle East violence.
“In the wake of Ihe most,
serious outbreak of
Israeli/Arab violence in years,
three U.S. papers - the
Washington Post, New York
Times and Los Armies Times
— have each stron^y editori
alized that Hamas in Gaza
and Hezbollah in Lebanon
were solely responsible for
sparkir^ violence, and that
the Israeli military response
was predictable and unavoid
able. These editorials ignored
recent events that indicate a
much more complicated situ
ation,” FAIR observed.
Under the headline,
“Hamas Provokes a Fight,”
(6/29/06), the New York
Times editorialized that “the
responsibility for this latest •
escalation rests squarely
with Hamas” and that
“Israeli military response
was inevitable.” In another
editorial two weeks later
(7/15/06), the Times said: ‘Tt
is important to be clear about
not only who is responsible
for the latest outbreak, but
who stands to gain most fiom
its continued escalation. Both
questions have the same
answer: Hamas and
The media monitoring
group su^^ts that the fight
ing did not begin with the
capture of two Israeli sol
“A major incident fueling
the latest cycle of violence
was a May 26, 2006 car
bombing in Sidon, Lebanon,
that kfiled a senior official of
Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian
group allied with Hezbollah.
Lebanon later arrested a sus
pect, Mahmoud Rafeh, whom
Lebanese authorities claimed
had confessed to carrying out
the assassination on behalf of
Mossad (London Times, Jrme
17). Israel denied involve
ment with the bombing, but
even some Israelis are skepti
cal...” '
But that wasn’t the only
precursor to the current con
flict. In a July 21 column,
fair’s Alexander Coclffium
pointed out:
• On June 20, an Israeli air
craft fixed at least one missile
at a car in an attempted
extrajudicial- assassination
attempt. 'The missile missed
the car and killed three
Palestinian children and
wounded 15;
• One June 13, 2005 Israeli
aircraft fired missiles at a
van in anoth^ extrajudicial
assassination attempt; nine
innocent Palestinians were
lolled and
• Israel shelled a beach in
Beit Lahiya on Jime 9,2006,
killing eight civilians and
injuring 32.
FAIR says, “While
Hezbollah’s capture of two
Israeli soldiers may have
reignited the smoldering con
flict, the Israeli air campaign
that followed w^s not a spon
taneous reaction to aggres
sion but a well-planned oper
ation that was years in the
‘“Of all of Israel’s wars since
1984, this was the one for
which Israd was most pre
pared,’ Gerald Steinberg, a
political science professor at
Israel’s Bar-llan University,
told the San Francisco
Chionicle (7/21/05). “By 2004,
the military campaigned
scheduled to last about three
weeks that we’re seeing now
had already be^ blocked out
and, in the last year or two,
it’s been simulated and
rehearsed across the board”’
FAIR posed a sobering
question: If joiuTialists have
been told by Israel for more
than a year that a war was
coming, why are they all pre
tending that it all started on
July 12?
That’s a good question I
wish we had some good
GEORGE E. CURRY is editor-
in-chief of the National
Newspaper Publishers
Association News Service and His website
More to gas price shock than crude spike
By Jeff Dom
While U.S. oil companies
blame the global oil market
for hi^ gasoline prices, a
close analysis of pricing si^-
gests it’s not so simple: The
run-up at the pump also
comes fium domestic refin
ing, which is largely con
trolled by Big Oil.
In consultation with several
economists. The Associated
Press examined pricing
trends since 1999, which was
the starting beU for the mod
em era of pricier gasoline. It
found evidence that:
• The portion of gas prices
tied to refining has ballooned
all on its own, apart fix)m od.
• The suspicion of finstrat-
ed drivers is correct: After
upward spikes, the price of
gasoline drops back more
slowly than the price of oil _
and someone pockets the dif
The cormtry’s average price
for self-serve regular gas
climbed to a record high’ at
just over $3 a gallon in July
according to the Lundberg
Survey research firm, The
petrolevun industry knows
that many drivers are
steamed about both its record
prices and profits.
In a recent television com
mercial by the industry’s
American' Petroleum
Institute, a driver wonders
“why world demand for crude
oil determines what I pay at
the pump.” The industry
wants Americans to know
that the price of gas tracks
the price of its chief ingredi
ent, crude oil. Why? Oil prices
are set on a world market,
often beyond direct control of
American petroleum compa
The group has a point.
Crude oil does account for
just rmder half the price of
gasoline, the government
says. And oil prices are sub
ject partly to supply decisions
of foreign oil powers and stiff
demand in Europe and Asia.
However, many Americans
remain dubious, even con
temptuous, of industry
‘Tt’s a bunch of biill. It’s just
to cover their behinds,” said
Fernando Reas, of Hartford,
Conn,, who was saving on gas
this summer by vacationing
nearer home at a trailer park
at Falmouth, Mass., on Cape
Consumers like Reas are
right, at least, to suspect
there’s more to the story
A big chunk of gas prices -
almost a fifth - pays refiners
who make gasoline fiom oil,
andAmerica’s refineries have
been hiking their prices, too.
Charges of refineries can be
detected in what’s known as
their “margin” - the difference
between what they pay for
crude oil and what they col
lect for the gas they refine.
Service station costs and
taxes add to the final retail
price of gas.
In a competitive market,
when raw material gets more
ejqjensive, matins typically
shrink, economists say Not
so in the oil business these
days. Refiners have somehow
managed to fatten their mar
gins through years of rising
oil costs.
Since 1999, their average
margin has jumped by 85
percent, reaching 43 cents for
June, according to AP’s analy
sis of daily data fiom the New
York Mercantile Exchange.
That margin increased by
just 20 percent in the seven
pi^eding years.
Rayola Dougher, who over
sees market issues for the
American Petroleum
Institute, says today’s mar
gins are helping refiners
bounce back fi’om leaner
times of the 1990s. “They’re
still as a sector struggling,
but certainly the last few
years have been looking
good,” she acknowledges.
Refining groups say they
are doing their best to bolster
supplies, which would ease
price pressure. The industry
has announced plans to
expand domestic refining
capacity by at least 8 percent
in the next several years.
In faimras, the margin rise
hasn’t been aU gravy for
refiners. Refining costs have
escalated finm environmen
tal mandates, such as special
gas blends mandated in par
ticular places. 'Wild price fluc
tuations have added risk -
and tiius financir^ cost - to
business projects. Last sum
mer’s hurricanes also tmi-
porarily took out some opera
But refining margins also
reflect profit. Some econo
mists and consumer advo
cates suspect that refiners
have intentionally bottled up
supply to buoy prices, mar
gins and ffitimately profits,
A 2002 congressional study
foimd some evidence it hap
pens, but that doesn’t neces
sarily mean refiners huddled
in a back room somewhere,
hatching conspiracies. They
don’t need to. They can each
simply decide to crimp output
or hoard supply Such margin
goosing is a permissible bid
“to maximize their profits,”
federal trade investigators
said in a 2001 report.
‘Tt’s simple economics,” says
Severin Borenstein, director
of the University of California
Energy Institute. “They
understand that putting
more supply on the market
drives the price down.”
JEFF DORN covers the econo
my for The Associated Press.

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