Archives for May 2013

Arizona Mom Turns to Scripture to Survive in Mexican Jail

CNN; May 30, 2013

Inside a Mexican jail, Yanira Maldonado wept.

A devout Mormon, the Arizona mother of seven said Wednesday she’s been turning to scripture to survive ever since authorities falsely accused her of drug smuggling last week.

“Reading the scriptures, reading the Book of Mormon, praying, fasting,” Maldonado told CNN. “And all the support that I’ve been getting from my family, my husband, my children, and everybody out there reaching out to help.”

A judge is weighing whether to set Maldonado free after authorities accused her of drug smuggling and alleged they found 12 pounds of marijuana under her bus seat.

To read the complete story, please click here:


On Bail for 19 Years, Son Born in Jail Works to Raise $172 Bond for Mother

CNN; May 30, 2013

In a story that could step straight from the pages of a Charles Dickens novel, an Indian son has worked night and day in a garment factory to earn the bail money to get his mother out of jail.

This month, after ceaseless work stitching in the textile factory, Kanhaiya Kumari, 19, raised the 5,000 rupees (about $89) needed pay his mother’s surety.

His mother Vijaya Kumari, 48, was five months pregnant with Kanhaiya when she was arrested in 1993 in connection with the murder of a neighbor in India’s Aligarh district, according to CNN affiliate IBN.

Sentenced to life in prison, she denied the charges and in 1994 she was granted bail pending her appeal, but her husband refused to post the Rs5,000 bail money.

“No one from my family or in-laws came to my help,” she told CNN.

To read the complete story, please click here:



Would You Kill This Dog? Rallying for the ‘Defense’ after a Dog Bite Injury; May 16, 2013

A death sentence for a 7-year old Sheltie is causing a stir in upstate New York—so much so that there’s a Facebook page dedicated to getting a stay of execution for the pup. What’s interesting in this case, too, is that normally we hear of dog bite injury lawyers representing the dog bite victim; this time, the attorney is representing the dog owner.

Back on March 27th, Natalie Beratta’s dog, Jack (at left), bit her four-year-old granddaughter in the cheek. There were no witnesses to the attack except for the little girl—and she needed four stitches to close the wound. According to the “Help Save Jack” Facebook page, the cheek bite was Jack’s first offense (though one news report does quote Beratta referring to the dog as “nippy”; ok, a lot of dogs are “nippy”).

Hard to know what happened—some surmise the child may have startled or provoked the dog in some way. That we’ll never know. But the series of events that followed the dog bite injury have created a groundswell of support for the dog and his owners—including the sale of t-shirts that read, “I’ve got Jack’s back”.

So how did a dog who’s been described as “friendly” and “gentle” come to be on death row?

It all started with a 911 call.

Once Beratta’s daughter, the child’s mother, called 911, and the little girl was taken to the hospital where she was treated. The 911 call apparently resulted in the animal control officer, Nick Morosco, being notified, which then resulted in Jack winding up at the Steven Swans Humane Society where he was to be quarantined, by law, for ten days.

But things didn’t stop there.

The next stop was New Hartford (NY) Town Court. Beratta, according to the Facebook page, thought she was heading to court because Jack had not been licensed (note to dog owners—get your dog licensed, it’s the law), however, the license was the least of her worries. Rather, Judge James Van Slyke ruled that the dog should be put to death. The judge’s decision was in accordance with what NY law stipulates–that any domestic animal determined to be “dangerous” be euthanized.

Needless to say, the ruling came as a bit of a shock to Beratta and her family.

The family is now appealing the judge’s decision—which otherwise would’ve had Jack put down on April 6th. Until the appeal of the case is heard, Jack remains at Stevens Swan Humane Society, which reports is costing the family $40 per day—and Jack may need to stay at the shelter for up to sixty days until the appeal is heard.

Given that the family didn’t have an attorney–why would they have thought they needed one?—and given the now costly and time-consuming position they now find themselves in in order to try and appeal the judge’s decision, what happened next is interesting.

According to the Facebook page, a New York attorney—who is only referred to as “Louis”—has taken on Jack’s case pro bono. Here is an excerpt from the Facebook page:

“An attorney by the name of Louis, read the article which was posted by Dana on the WKTV’s Facebook page and offered his services Pro-bono. Louis currently lives in NYC, but is originally from this area..and he obviously has a love for dogs!! He is a very busy man but has taken his time to help us with this case.”

Mind you, Beratta is just trying to keep Jack alive—she isn’t wanting to bring him back home and risk any other possible incidents. In fact, according to WKTV, Beratta has found a home for him in a neighboring county.

“They’re older people,” Beratta told WKTV. “They don’t have any children and we made the arrangement to have him go there and we can see the dog whenever we want. So it’s a safe situation for everybody. He’s a wonderful pet, a wonderful pet. I mean, he’s been in our family. He’s our family member.”

While Beratta awaits the appeal decision, local supporters of Jack have also created a petition at

Alabama blacks faced segregation and discrimination when getting law degrees; May 17, 2013

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – When he was going to law school at Boston University in the early 1950s Demetrius Newton had thought about not coming back home to Fairfield and face setting up a law practice as a young black man in the segregated South.

He had chosen over his father’s wishes to go to Wilberforce University in Ohio for his undergraduate education – instead of his father’s choice Morehouse College – for just that reason. “I had all the segregation I could stand, all of the back-end-of-the-bus and all of the black and white water fountains.”

As he neared the end of his time in law school, however, a conversation with Willa Adams helped make up his mind. Adams was the wife of Oscar Adams, who at the time was one of the few African American attorneys practicing law in Birmingham and who would later become the first African American on the Alabama Supreme Court.

Willa Adams, who died in 1982, told Newton he was needed in Birmingham.

“She said D, I don’t care where you go – as long as you’re black you’ll always be discriminated against so you might as well come home,” said Newton, who is now in his 27th year in the Alabama House of Representatives, including 12 years as that body’s first African American speaker pro-tem.

Many other young African American men did not come home after being forced to leave the state to attend law school.

Prior to 1964 there had been only 19 African Americans licensed to practice law through the Alabama State Bar, according to the bar. As of April, there were 1,098 African American attorneys – or 6.4 percent – who are members of the state bar.

But those few black law students who did come home in the 1950s and early 1960s were thrust into the position of point men in courtroom fights during the civil rights movement. Their battles led to overturning many of Birmingham and Alabama’s discriminatory and Jim Crow segregationist laws and protecting the rights of protestors.

But before they could practice law, however, those men had to face a series of hurdles to get a law degree and their law license.

To read the complete article, please click here:

Immigration: Those with a past to legal status should not wait for an immigration reform law to file

New York Daily News; May 17, 2013

Q: I can’t afford the green card filing fees necessary. Should I wait to try to get legal status under the proposed immigration reform?

I was born in Manila, but now I am a naturalized Canadian citizen. I am here in temporary worker status under Canadian Treaty National status. I married a U.S. citizen in August 2011 and we now have two children. My wife filed form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative for me and the USCIS approved the petition. Now we are saving to pay the fees so we can file the rest of the forms for my green card. Name withheld, Virginia
A: Waiting for immigration reform makes no sense for those who already have a path to legal status. Under the current proposal, you will likely wait more than ten years to get your green card. USCIS will not waive your filing fees, so my only suggestion is that you do your best to come up with the money.

Empty nets in Louisiana three years after the spill

Yscloskey, Louisiana (CNN) — On his dock along the banks of Bayou Yscloskey, Darren Stander makes the pelicans dance.

More than a dozen of the birds have landed or hopped onto the dock, where Stander takes in crabs and oysters from the fishermen who work the bayou and Lake Borgne at its mouth. The pelicans rock back and forth, beaks rising and falling, as he waves a bait fish over their heads.

At least he’s got some company. There’s not much else going on at his dock these days. There used to be two or three people working with him; now he’s alone. The catch that’s coming in is light, particularly for crabs.

“Guys running five or six hundred traps are coming in with two to three boxes, if that,” said Stander, 26.

Out on the water, the chains clatter along the railing of George Barisich’s boat as he and his deckhand haul dredges full of oysters onto the deck. As they sort them, they’re looking for signs of “spat”: the young oysters that latch onto reefs and grow into marketable shellfish.

There’s the occasional spat here; there are also a few dead oysters, which make a hollow sound when tapped with the blunt end of a hatchet.

To read the complete article, please click here: