In The News

Jun 19, 2009

NATIONAL – Preliminary data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Report finds that most types of crime declined in the U.S. in 2008. Experts told the New York Times, “The data assuaged fears that job losses, foreclosures, and reduced social services would lead to increased crime.” The preliminary findings show that murders declined by 5.5 percent and rapes declined by 2.2 percent. Researchers did find that violent crime rose in cities and towns with populations of less than 10,000.

MILITARY – The Army reports that more soldiers committed suicide in May than died in combat. USA Today reports that in May, there were 17 confirmed or suspected suicides among active-duty soldiers, and eight confirmed or suspected suicides among reservists not on active duty. Sixteen soldiers died in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan in May. So far this year, there are 82 confirmed or suspected Army suicides compared with 51 in the same period last year.

MILIARY – Former soldier, 24-year-old Steven D. Green, was sentenced to life in prison without parole for raping a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and murdering her, her parents and younger sister in Iraq. Green’s trial was the first capital punishment case to be tried in the U.S. for a crime committed overseas by a former member of the military. Green left the Army with an honorable discharge for a personality disorder weeks before he was arrested in 2006. During the sentencing phase of his trial, the defense argued that the Army should have removed Private Green from front-line duty and given him more intensive mental health care, but prosecutors countered that many combat troops face the same kind of trauma and stress and do not resort to rape and murder, the New York Times reports.

CA – Late last month, music producer Phil Spector was sentenced to 19 years-to-life in prison for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson, the Los Angeles Times reports. Clarkson was shot through the mouth in the foyer of Spector’s home six years ago. A jury convicted him of Clarkson’s murder last month, a year-and-a-half after another panel deadlocked. Specter also was ordered to pay nearly $26,000 for Clarkson’s funeral expenses, and the cost of counseling for her mother and sister.

MS – In the first-ever rewrite of the state’s domestic violence laws, enacted in 1981, Mississippi courts are giving domestic violence victims more access to court protection, Fox 13 reports. Courts will now handle domestic violence cases every day and protection orders will be extended from ten to 30 days after a hearing. The Mississippi State Supreme Court ordered a commission to study the state’s domestic violence laws at the request of Attorney General Jim Hood last year. The changes will take effect on July 1.

NY – City officials have placed a hold on a program that charged rent to homeless people who were living in shelters but had income from jobs. Shelter providers reportedly “openly loathed” the program, begun in May. It was based on a 1997 state law that had not previously been enforced, the New York Times reports. Shelter residents complained that homeless families, including some victims of domestic violence, were not properly notified of their right to contest the rent and that some families were being charged more than was appropriate. A representative of the city’s Department of Homeless Services said that “technical issues” forced officials to shut down the program, at least until those issues are resolved.

NC – Kannapolis police arrested Rodney Liverman earlier this month on charges that he raped another man’s wife for pay. The victim’s husband allegedly found Liverman on Craigslist, the Charlotte Observer reports, and hired him to rape his wife. The victim reports that Liverman entered her bedroom with a knife while she and her husband were sleeping. During the rape, she was able to get the knife away from Liverman and threw it towards her husband seeking help, but her husband did nothing to stop the attack. After the attacker left, the husband told the victim to take a shower and not to call 911. She called 911 and went to a hospital with an investigator. The victim’s husband is also in jail, charged with first-degree rape, for arranging the assault. Craigslist officials are reportedly tightening policies after an alleged murderer in New England used the online service to find victims.

SD – In a “groundbreaking decision” a federal judge has awarded nearly $600,000 to a Wounded Knee woman who sought damages from a sexual assault committed by a U. S. Army recruiter under provisions of the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty’s “bad men clause.” The victim, Lavetta Elk, is a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and is covered by the 1868 treaty. The clause says, “If bad men among the whites, or among other people subject to the authority of the United States, shall commit any wrong upon the person or property of the Indians, the United States will… reimburse the injured person for the loss sustained.” Elk’s attorney said that congressional records show there was discussion as early as 1860 about Native American women being assaulted by white men, and it was contemplated in the treaty, the Rapid City Journal reports. If the decision is upheld, it could open the door for more lawsuits by Native Americans who belong to tribes with similar treaties – and could become a historic decision for Native Americans victims.

WI – A county circuit judge has struck down Milwaukee’s ‘paid sick days’ ordinance because it includes language requiring employers to offer ‘paid safe days’ – paid days off to allow victims to deal with domestic or sexual violence or stalking . Judge Thomas Cooper ruled on June 12 that ‘paid safe days’ differ from the ‘paid sick days’ that voters overwhelmingly supported in a ballot measure last November, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. Advocates for workers have appealed the ruling. San Francisco and Washington, D.C. have ‘paid sick days’ laws in place, and Washington, D.C.’s law includes ‘paid safe days.’

INDIA – Earlier this month, India’s Parliament elected its first female speaker, Meira Kumar. Kumar is the daughter of a former deputy prime minister and a member of India’s lowest caste. Her election is expected to bolster the Congress Party’s image as pro-women and pro-rights for the lower castes, the Associated Press reports.