the Alabama Accountability Act Coalition
1. Lawmakers seek to deny bail to violent offenders
- One unfortunate news trend in 2019 has been the prevalence of violent crime.
- Some particularly high profile murder cases, including those against young people and police officers, has state lawmakers looking for ways to address the problem in the upcoming legislative session.
- One measure to keep an eye on is a proposed constitutional amendment that would give prosecutors and judges more discretion in denying bail to those accused of violent crimes.
- Rep. Chip Brown, R-Mobile, will again sponsor legislation to “fight back” against violent criminals who are let out on bail while they await trial.
- Brown points to the recent case of Ibraheed Yazeed, who is currently charged in the November death of 19-year-old student Aniah Blanchard.
- At the time of Blanchard’s kidnapping, Yazeed was free on a $295,000 bond from charges of kidnapping, attempted murder, robbery and possession of marijuana in connection with the beating of two men in Montgomery.
- And in September, Tuscaloosa police officer Dornell Cousette was killed by a suspect who out on bail with pending robbery and assault charges.
- Alabama’s constitution currently states that any person can be considered for bail unless they are being accused of a capital offense.
- In response to Brown’s bill, other lawmakers say they want to be more specific and avoid ambiguities in addressing the bail issue.
- Read the full story from ADN’s Caroline Beck HERE.
2. Tension continues over impeachment trial process
- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday that he was not ruling out calling witnesses in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial — but indicated he was in no hurry to seek new testimony either — as lawmakers remain at an impasse over the form of the trial by the GOP-controlled Senate.
- Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is demanding witnesses who refused to appear during House committee hearings, including acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton.
- McConnell, who has all-but-promised a swift acquittal of the president, has resisted making any guarantees, and has cautioned Trump against seeking the testimony of witnesses he desires for fear of elongating the trial. Instead, he appears to have secured Republican support for his plans to impose a framework drawn from the 1999 impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton.
- “We haven’t ruled out witnesses,” McConnell said Monday in an interview with “Fox and Friends.” “We’ve said let’s handle this case just like we did with President Clinton. Fair is fair.”
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has delayed sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate in hopes of giving Schumer more leverage in talks with McConnell. But the White House believes Pelosi won’t be able to hold out much longer.
- “She will yield. There’s no way she can hold this position,” Marc Short, the chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, told “Fox News Sunday.” “We think her case is going nowhere.”
- The impasse between the Senate leaders leaves open the possibility of a protracted delay until the articles are delivered.
- Pelosi has invited Trump to deliver the State of the Union address to Congress on Feb. 4.
- Read more HERE.
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3. Elmer Harris dies at 80
- Elmer Harris, the former Alabama Power Co. CEO who helped grow Alabama’s automotive industry and spur state collaboration in economic development, died Monday at the age of 80.
- Harris worked at Georgia Power, Alabama Power and the utilities’ parent corporation, the Southern Co., before taking over as Alabama Power’s CEO in 1990. He worked in the position for 12 years, retiring in 2002, and was inducted into the Alabama Business Hall of Fame in 2007.
- A native of Clanton, Harris was active in economic development and helped create the state’s automotive industry by assisting in the recruitment of Mercedes Benz to Alabama. The German automaker announced plans to construct its Tuscaloosa County plant in 1993, opening the door to other car factories.
- “Elmer Harris was a strong and dynamic leader for our company. And, he possessed a strong interest and commitment to the growth and development of the state of Alabama,” Southern Co. chief executive Tom Fanning said in a statement.
- Harris also served in the Air Force and Alabama National Guard in addition to holding positions on numerous business and civic boards.
- Read more about Harris’ life HERE.
4. ‘Just Mercy’ film a contemporary ‘Mockingbird’
- The new film “Just Mercy,” starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx, is based on the life and work of Bryan Stevenson, who runs the Montgomery-based Equal Justice Initiative.
- The movie is based on Stevenson’s acclaimed 2014 memoir “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption.” It’s centered on a formative case for Stevenson, one that helped birth the EJI. In 1989, Stevenson defended Walter McMillian, a then 47-year-old black tree cutter who the year before had been falsely accused and swiftly sentenced to death for the murder of an 18-year-old white woman in Monroeville, Alabama, the hometown of Harper Lee.
- As AP film writer Jake Coyle explains, “Just Mercy” has the shape of a civil rights drama like “To Kill a Mockingbird” but it’s more contemporary. The story might not be set during slavery or segregation, but those histories are innately connected to the prejudices and injustices that lead to the jailing of men like McMillian.
- “We don’t see those kinds of stories very often and I think that’s created a void in our consciousness about what’s happening. We have the highest rate of incarceration in the world and most people in this country have no knowledge of that,” says Stevenson. “That lack of knowledge and that lack of compassion is what’s made us so vulnerable to the abuse that is on display in this story.”
- Read more about the film and watch Stevenson’s TED talk HERE.
5. Will Whatley: On gifts and giving this Christmas
- ADN’s Will Whatley contributes a holiday column this Christmas Eve.
- In it, he contemplates the dichotomy of giving and receiving gifts, which we tend to do this time of the year.
- And, even though he admits to being an impatient gift-giver, Will explains that it’s important to be able to experience joy in accepting gifts from others and giving a gift yourself.
- Here’s an excerpt:
- Read Will’s full column HERE.
Ascend to expand capacity, reduce emissions at north Alabama plant
- DECATUR, Ala. (AP) — A Texas-based company said an expansion announced Monday at a plant in north Alabama will increase production and reduce pollution.
- Ascend Performance Materials of Houston said state and local governments are providing incentives to expand its plant in Decatur and increase production of adiponitrile, a compound used to make plastics.
- The construction work will create about 150 jobs, and the plant will employ an additional 10 people once production expands. The work, scheduled to begin next year, will decrease emissions at the factory by 60%, the company said.
- Ascend employs about 400 people in the state.
- Read more from The Decatur Daily’s Eric Fleischauer HERE.
Police seek woman who disappeared after leaving Birmingham bar
- BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Police are searching for a missing woman who left a bar with two strangers and then reportedly texted someone that she might be in trouble.
- Paighton Laine Houston, 29, was last seen leaving the Tin Roof bar on Friday night, news outlets report, citing Birmingham police. The Trussville woman reportedly left willingly with two men, Sgt. Johnny Williams said.
- Charlaine Houston, identified as the missing woman’s mother by The Trussville Tribune, posted a cry for help on Facebook that said Houston’s bank account has gone unused and her phone is going straight to voicemail.
- Houston sent a text to a friend just after midnight Friday that said, “idk who im with so if I call please answer. I feel in trouble,” according to the newspaper.
Security guard killed in Enterprise bar shooting
- ENTERPRISE, Ala. (AP) — A late-night fight at a bar in south Alabama left a security guard dead, police said.
- A statement released by the Enterprise Police Department on its Facebook page said a large group of people got into an altercation at the Daleville Lounge early Sunday. Stevie Lamaric Franklin, 42, of Troy was shot in the back and died at a hospital.
- Police identified Franklin as a security worker but they haven’t released details about what happened, and they haven’t announced any arrests in the killing.
State seeks juror questionnaires in case against sheriff
- ATHENS, Ala. (AP) — Prosecutors want to ask potential jurors about an Alabama sheriff awaiting trial on multiple ethics and theft charges.
- The Athens News Courier reports that prosecutors have asked a judge for permission to distribute a questionnaire to potential jurors who could hear the case against Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely.
- The state is asking to focus on specific issues in Blakely’s case. Prosecutors also want to ask about Blakely’s status as sheriff, an office he has held for almost 37 years.
- Blakely’s trial is scheduled to begin March 9.
- Blakely was arrested in August on charges that include accusations of taking thousands of dollars from campaign and law enforcement accounts. He is free on bond and remains in office.
- Blakely has pleaded not guilty.
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