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Commentary, Justice Denied for McCollum and Brown

McCollum BrownThe failure of Governor Pat McCrory to grant pardons to Henry McCollum and Leon Brown after more than eight months now borders on the farcical.

The editorial page of the Fayetteville Observer is the latest to weigh in with an exceedingly polite editorial entitled “Unjustly convicted, these men deserve justice.” Here is the conclusion:

“Eight months ago, a Robeson County judge reviewed the evidence and ordered the two men released. Since then, they have lived with their sister, near Eastover. The two are adjusting to the 21st century, learning about the Internet, cellphones and other integral parts of modern life that arrived while they were in prison.

But they are still in limbo, still not completely free to resume a normal life. Because of their rape conviction, they were ordered to registered as sex offenders before they were released. Their convictions are still on their records and a serious impediment to finding work.

By law, the state owes them $50,000 for each year of their improper incarceration, up to a maximum of $750,000. And even more important, the governor owes them a pardon – which rightfully should have come as soon as the men were cleared of the crimes. Three decades of their lives were unjustly taken away. There is no compensation large enough.

We hope the governor and his staff move quickly to clear McCollum’s and Brown’s records and get them the compensation they are due. They’ve given up more than anyone ever should.”

Commentary, Justice Denied for McCollum and Brown

BrownMcCollum-v2-web-60percent-grayAs has been chronicled for some time now on these pages, the unexplained delay in justice for Henry McCollum and Leon Brown continues. This is Day 243 since the pair submitted their pardon application to Gov. McCrory. The two remain essentially indigent after having had 31 years of their lives stolen by the state of North Carolina. Today, in and an encouraging development, the Charlotte Observer editorial page has lent its voice to the growing list of groups and individuals calling on the Governor to fish or cut bait on the matter. As the editorial notes:

“McCollum and Brown need a pardon to receive compensation because they were exonerated by a judge. A different path to exoneration – the innocence commission followed by a three-judge panel – does not require a pardon. A bill to treat exonerated inmates the same passed the House unanimously last month and is now in the Senate.

McCollum and Brown are both mentally disabled, penniless and adjusting to society after 31 years under the state’s control. That their lives were wrongly taken from them by an overzealous prosecutor and others is horrific. Now, McCrory’s delay has left them struggling to pay bills and with records still tainted by the lack of a pardon.

As part of McCrory’s investigation, the SBI and the Robeson County DA’s office are exploring whether the two had any culpability in the original crime. The investigation that freed them, though, was uncommonly thorough, and the judge found not only that there was not enough evidence to retry them, but that they were actually innocent.

McCrory’s extensive probe is unnecessary, and shouldn’t take more than eight months, in any case. He needs to wrap it up and let McCollum and Brown get on with the lives the state unconscionably took from them.’

Let’s hope the Guv is paying attention.

Commentary

One of the more interesting quotes of the day came from Gov. McCrory’s Communications Director Josh Ellis in a story about the NC Chamber  siding with legislative leaders in their dispute with McCrory over appointments to key state boards and commissions.

Ellis didn’t mince any words about the decision by the NC Chamber, a group generally considered as a key ally of McCrory.

It’s a sad commentary that some prefer the good ‘ol boy system that is inefficient, unaccountable and unconstitutional,” McCrory spokesman Josh Ellis said late in the day.

Yikes. That ought to go over well at the chamber headquarters.

Commentary
Todd Chasteen

State Board of Education nominee Todd Chasteen sits with book challenger Chastity Lesesne at hearing on Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits. (Photo credit: Lonnie Webster)

It’s a crazy busy week at the General Assembly, so a lot of folks may have already lost sight of Gov. McCrory’s recent bizarre nomination of Samaritan’s Purse lawyer Todd Chasteen to serve on the state Board of Education. Fortunately, however, some rational people are speaking out about why the nomination is a very troubling development.

Here, for instance, is veteran journalist Andrea Krewson in a post on her blog this week, Global Vue, entitled “Todd Chasteen is the wrong nominee for the N.C. Board of Education”:

“Gov. Pat McCrory’s latest nominee for the N.C. Board of Education, J. Todd Chasteen of Samaritan’s Purse, fought to ban a book from honors English classes at Watauga High School in 2014.

Nominees for the board go through the N.C. General Assembly, and given its track record, it’s likely Chasteen’s nomination could go through. But it’s another example of the many troubling moves that hand leadership in North Carolina to extremists that don’t represent the values of many of the people in the state. The General Assembly should think twice before letting this nomination sail through….

His involvement in trying to keep a book away from other students should be enough to disqualify him from the N.C. Board of Education. Taken in the context of McCrory’s nominees over time, it’s clear that his nomination is just another step stifling the voices of many consumers of public schools.”

Meanwhile, the Charlotte Observer published the following excellent letter by Alan Crighton of Apex this morning: Read More

Commentary

Governor Pat McCrory’s notorious hyper-sensitivity to criticism was on full display yet again yesterday. The Guv went to the trouble of issuing a special statement in response a mild and understated barb from President Obama about the well-documented decline in North Carolina’s commitment to public education.

Here’s what the Prez said:

“Funding now here in this state, and teacher pay, is ranking as low as it gets. And so part of it is just pointing that out and hopefully understanding this shouldn’t be a partisan issue. It shouldn’t matter whether you’re Republican or Democrat. You should want to make sure schools are successful and have … teachers who are motivated and have professional training but also are making enough of a living that they can afford a middle-class lifestyle.”

Rather than letting the remark go as he would have been smart to do, McCrory tried to respond with a snippy comment in which he touted his Rube Goldberg teacher pay raise plan of last year and basically said that Obama had no idea what he was talking about.

The fact of the matter, though, is that Obama was quite correct. North Carolina spending on public education is still well-below pre-Great Recession levels. And while, some teachers did get a desperately overdue raise last year, it in no way made up for the years of layoffs, class size hikes, losses of support personnel and numerous other indignities visited on our public schools because of the state leadership’s ill-advised tax giveaways to the well-off.

The bottom line: As usual, the Governor overreacted to a gentle bit of criticism and in so doing, only served to focus more attention on the policy failures over which he has presided.