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US black man tried 6 times for same crime

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By AFP
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The US Supreme Court will today begin to examine the case of a black man who was tried six separate times for the same crime — which he insists he didn’t commit — in a process tarnished by charges of racism.

The country’s top court will not pronounce on the guilt of Curtis Flowers, a 48-year-old man who has spent almost half his life behind bars, nor on the relentless push to secure his conviction.

Instead, the court will be looking into whether the prosecutor in charge of the case deliberately worked to keep black people off the jury during Flowers’ most recent trial in 2010, in which he was sentenced to death.

“Curtis Flowers was always tried by an all-white jury or a nearly all-white jury, even though the place where the murders happened and where he lived was nearly 50 per cent African-American,” said Madeleine Baran, a journalist who reported on the case in her podcast “Into the Dark.”

Together with a radio colleague from American Public Media, she spent a year in Winona, Mississippi, where the case began on July 16, 1996 with the cold-blooded murder of four people in a furniture shop.

In that southern state, with a history of slavery and segregation, “I met only one white person who thought that Curtis Flowers was innocent,” she told AFP.

By contrast, “the vast majority” of African-Americans thought Flowers was either innocent or that the case itself was flawed.

Flowers had briefly worked in the furniture store before the shooting occurred, and was arrested in January 1997 after two witnesses placed him near the scene of the crime.

Since then he has been tried for the murders a total of six times — in 1997, 1999, 2004, 2007, 2008 and finally in 2010 — each time maintaining his innocence.

“Certainly to be tried six times is unusual,” said Baran, who investigated precedents and found only one other such case, of someone tried nine times for the same crime.

US law forbids suspects being judged for the same crime twice, but Flowers faced the legal ordeal because he was never actually acquitted.

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He was convicted at his first three trials but the verdicts were overturned by the state Supreme Court for prosecutorial misconduct. Those cases were followed by two more trials which resulted in a hung jury.

Alerted to Flowers’ story by a listener, Baran became fascinated by the case because it highlighted the lack of constraints governing the behaviour of prosecutors in the 50 US states.

In Flowers’ case, a single district attorney, Doug Evans, who is white, steered all the prosecutions during the six trials. Elected by the citizens of his district in 1991, he can only ever be removed from his job if he loses an election.

Yet the first three trials against Flowers were thrown out because of Evans’ errors. Specifically in the third case the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled that he had discriminated against black jurors.

Baran and her colleagues examined other cases he had prosecuted in his long career, analysing jury rosters and rejections of potential jurors.

According to their research, Doug Evans used his power to reject would-be jurors 4.5 times as often with African-Americans as with white people.

Those findings will be presented when the US Supreme Court deliberates on the case.

“Doug Evans knows that there are a lot of problems with that case. That’s why he strikes black jurors,” said Ray Charles Carter, who defended Flowers in his last four trials.

“Black folks are more suspicious, because we have seen abuses in our family,” he said. “We have been victims too often.”

The Supreme Court in Washington is expected to render its decision by June this year, but Baran said that even if it rules in Flowers’ favour, it will only highlight the problem rather than remedy it.

“Still Curtis could be tried again by the same prosecutor and the prosecutor could attempt the same thing again,” she said.

Flowers’ defence lawyer said “Evans believes he has to win this case… that a loss in this case would harm his legacy and standing in the community.”



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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