Connect with us

National

Alabama takes step to create civil asset forfeiture database

Chip Brownlee | The Trace

Published

on

The Alabama District Attorneys Association is taking steps to create a reporting system to keep track of the use of civil asset forfeiture in Alabama.

The ADAA, Rep. Arnold Mooney, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency and other public policy groups announced the creation of the Alabama Forfeiture Accountability System.

The new database system will track and compile civil asset forfeiture cases in Alabama. Reports will be submitted to state lawmakers and state officials, and the ADAA said useful information on forfeitures will be available to the public.

“This has been a work in progress since last spring, when legislation to create a data collection and reporting system for civil asset forfeiture system died when time ran out on the legislative session,” said Barry Matson, executive director of the Alabama District Attorneys Association and the state Office of Prosecution Services. “But we continued to work with many groups – from law enforcement and state agencies to policy groups with an interest in asset forfeiture – to voluntarily put the system in place.”

The U.S Supreme Court last week mandated an overhaul of how America’s police departments and courts handle the seizure of assets from people accused of a crime. The court said the Eighth Amendment protections against excessive fines also apply to states.

Civil asset forfeiture allows law enforcement to seize property from those charged with a crime if they suspect the property was used in the commission of a crime.

Police can often then keep or sell the property. Owners of the property need not be arrested or convicted of a crime for their cash, cars or even real estate to be taken away permanently by the government.

Public Service Announcement

Even if the people are acquitted, it often takes months or years for property to be returned — if it’s returned at all.

The ACJIC, a division of ALEA, will compile data submitted by district attorneys across the state to operate the AFAS database. The University of Alabama’s Center for the Advancement of Public Safety is creating the AFAS database.

District attorneys will begin March 1 submitting data related to forfeitures including filings, pleadings and court rulings.

ADVERTISEMENT

Mooney said the creation of AFAS will bring both transparency and accountability to the civil asset forfeiture debate.

“I can’t overstate the importance to lawmakers of having accurate, reliable information as we look legislatively at civil asset forfeitures,” Mooney said. “This new system will help paint a clearer picture of what is actually going on in the state. I am proud to be part of this solution.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Shay Farley said the new database is a step in the right direction but that the “devil is in the details.”

“Keeping a record does not ensure the government is complying with the Constitution,” Farley said. “To protect individual property and due process rights, the Alabama Legislature must end the practice of unjustified governmental overreach. The criminal process already provides the government a path to seize and forfeit ill-gotten gains and property used for crimes. No one should lose their property for a crime for which they are not guilty or were not even charged.”

Farley said Alabama should look to Southern neighbor states like South Carolina and Arkansas, where lawmakers are taking steps to stop the practice.

A bill moving through the South Carolina Legislature would require a criminal conviction before property can be forfeited. The Arkansas state Senate recently approved a measure by a unanimous vote that creates a conviction requirement for civil asset forfeiture.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall is supporting the creation of the new database.

“I applaud Director Matson and the Alabama District Attorneys Association for taking it upon themselves to ensure that asset forfeiture in Alabama is transparent and above board,” Marshall said in a statement. “My office will be a willing partner in this endeavor, as we continue to fight alongside local law enforcement to make Alabama a safer place to live.”

The Alabama Sheriffs Association and the Alabama Association of Chiefs of Police are also supporting the database.

A number of other public policy organizations, both in state and nationally, also played a part in the creation of AFAS, according to District Attorney Tom Anderson of Enterprise.

“At its heart, this is truly about due process and protecting the rights of individuals, and assuring the public that whatever we are doing will be done in a transparent way,” Anderson said.

Lisa B. Nelson, chief executive officer of the Alabama Legislative Exchange Council, said the new database should be celebrated as a good step.

The goal of government should be to increase freedom and protect the rights of individuals,” Nelson said. “The move by the Alabama District Attorneys Association is a great example of nonpartisan, limited government principles at work.”

The Alabama Policy Institute said in a statement that the database will provide lawmakers with information necessary to make informed policy decisions and taxpayers with the ability to hold government accountable.

“Alabama joins 37 other states around the country that maintain a centralized reporting repository of property confiscated under civil asset forfeiture,” the institute said in a statement.

 

Chip Brownlee is a former political reporter, online content manager and webmaster at the Alabama Political Reporter. He is now a reporter at The Trace, a non-profit newsroom covering guns in America.

Advertisement

Elections

Alabama Forestry Association endorses Tuberville

Brandon Moseley

Published

on

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville.

Wednesday, the Alabama Forestry Association announce that it is endorsing Republican Tommy Tuberville for the United States Senate.

“We are proud to endorse Tommy Tuberville in the United States Senate race,” said AFA Executive Vice President Chris Isaacson. “He is a conservative with an impressive list of accomplishments, and we know that he will continue that record in his role as U.S. Senator. Tommy knows that decisions made in Washington impact families and businesses and will be an effective voice for the people of Alabama.”

“I am honored to have the endorsement of the Alabama Forestry Association,” Coach Tuberville stated. “The AFA is an excellent organization that stands for pro-business policies. Protecting Alabama industry is a key to our state’s success.”

Coach Tuberville recently won the Republican nomination after a primary season that was extended because of the coronavirus global pandemic.

Tuberville is a native of Arkansas and a graduate of Southern Arkansas University. He held a number of assistant coaching positions, including defensive coordinator at Texas A&M and the University of Miami where he won a national championship. Tuberville has been a head coach at Mississippi, Auburn, Texas Tech, and Cincinnati. In his nine years at Auburn University the team appeared in eight consecutive bowl games. His 2004 team won the SEC Championship and the Sugar Bowl. Tuberville coached that team to a perfect 13 to 0 season.

Tuberville has been married to his wife Suzanne since 1991. They have two sons and live in Auburn.

Tuberville is challenging Democratic incumbent Doug Jones in the November 3 general election.

Public Service Announcement

Continue Reading

National

Public asked to help find missing mother of three en route to Alabama

Brandon Moseley

Published

on

Marilane Carter, age 36, left Kansas City, Kansas, late Saturday night Aug 1 heading to Birmingham seeking help for her mental health. She was seeking help possibly at Grandview or UAB. Her last known phone contact was near Memphis, Tennessee, around Sunday, August 2 at 8:00 p.m. near I-55.

According to the family, there has been no contact and no vehicle sighting since that time. Her phone is dead and there have been no credit card charges on her account.

“We are concerned for her safety,” the family said in a statement.

Marilane is married to Adam Carter and together they have three young children.

The family is asking that we all keep an eye out for Marilane and keep her and her family in your prayers.

Carter is 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighs 130 pounds. She has long brown hair, green eyes, and was last seen wearing a green t-shirt and black yoga pants.

“The biggest thing: pray that God orchestrates this in such a way that brings Marilane to safety – as well as glory to Him,” the family wrote. “We covet your prayers and help to find Marilane. #findmarilane.”

Public Service Announcement

Marilane is a 36-year-old white female. She was driving a 2011 dark grey GMC Acadia with a Kansas tag: 194LFY. She has family in Kansas City, Birmingham, and Fairhope. If found or you have any information call 911 and ask for the police.

Continue Reading

Elections

Jones campaign says that Tuberville is not taking the pandemic seriously

Brandon Moseley

Published

on

Incumbent Sen. Doug Jones, left, and Republican challenger Tommy Tubberville, right.

Saturday, the Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama) re-election campaign released a statement critical of Republican Senate nominee Tommy Tuberville suggesting that he is not taking the COVID-19 global pandemic serious enough.

“The Washington Post reported today that the stock market plummeted after jobless claims climbed last week by 1.4 million and the economy shrank by 9.5 percent — the biggest decline in most of our lifetimes,” the Jones campaign wrote. “While economists are worried about the permanent damage COVID-19 will do to the economy, and public health experts are pleading for people to abide by state and local mask orders, Tommy Tuberville “snickers” in response to questions about flouting public health orders while in DC to raise campaign cash. The people of Alabama need to know that Tuberville is not taking the pandemic seriously, raising serious questions about how he would handle this crisis if elected.”

The Washington Post reported that “Tuberville is fundraising and holding ­in-person meetings in Washington this week, defying orders from D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) that visitors from Alabama and other coronavirus hot spots quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.”

“Tuberville spent at least some of his time at the Trump International Hotel, according to a photo posted to Facebook by Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) showing the two men in the hotel lobby on Tuesday night,” the media reports stated. “Neither man was masked.”

Tuberville told the Alabama Media Group that he has been called “everything in the world,” so the last week is nothing new.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday the former Auburn coach broke Washington D.C. policy requiring “non-essential” visitors from states with high coronavirus case counts to self-quarantine for 14 days when he attended fundraising meetings in the city this week.

In addition, a photo of Tuberville with Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Arkansas) at the Trump International Hotel in Washington showed neither man wearing a face covering.

Public Service Announcement

Tuberville addressed the controversy in comments to the Alabama Republican Executive Committee on Saturday. Tuberville said that he followed all the rules and wore his mask everywhere he went. When he was at events he would take his mask off to dine and people would come over to his table to shake his hand and get their picture taken. The press has seized on those moments to attack him.

The COVID-19 global pandemic has killed 707,158 people worldwide including 160,833 Americans since it first was discovered in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China in late 2019. Absent an effective treatment or a vaccine, social distancing and masks are the only tools that we have to slow the spread of the virus.

The Tuberville versus Doug Jones race for U.S. Senate is going to have an important role in whether or not Republicans are able to hold on to their narrow Senate majority.

ADVERTISEMENT

Tuberville is an Arkansas native. He is best known for his tenure as Auburn University’s head football coach, which includes an undefeated and untied team that won the SEC Championship and the Sugar Bowl. He also coached at Texas Tech, Cincinnati, and Mississippi.

The general election is November 3. Tuberville has been endorsed by President Donald J. Trump (R).

Continue Reading

National

Attorneys ask court to intervene over numerous Alabama inmate suicides

Eddie Burkhalter

Published

on

(STOCK PHOTO)

Charles Braggs died by suicide in an Alabama prison after being kept in solitary confinement for more than two years. His suicide and a rash of others in Alabama prisons prompted attorneys for the plaintiffs in a case against the Alabama Department of Corrections to ask the court Wednesday to intervene. 

Braggs, 28, died at St. Clair Correctional Facility on July 17 after having been housed in segregation for 796 days, according to the court filing by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program and attorneys with Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz.

“Mr. Braggs was the seventh person — and the sixth Black person — to die by suicide in ADOC custody since this Court issued its Remedial Opinion and Judgment on Immediate Relief for Suicide Prevention (the ‘Suicide Prevention Opinion’) in May 2019, in which the Court found ‘substantial and pervasive deficiencies’ in ADOC’s suicide prevention program,” attorneys wrote to the court. 

Bragg’s suicide was the fifth in Alabama prisons in the last four months, the plaintiffs’ attorneys wrote in the fling, in which they call for “swift implementation and robust monitoring of the Parties’ various remedial agreements” and for the state to address the use of segregation and “segregation-like” cells, which disproportionately hold Black people.

Alabama prisons kept 1,001 people locked alone in segregation on July 28, according to the court filing. 

“Of those 1,001, ADOC’s public database lists 705 people as Black and 273 white—that is, approximately 70 percent of the people in segregation are Black,” the filing states, going on to note that Black people make up approximately 52 percent of Alabama’s inmate population and about 27 percent of the population of the state. 

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson in his May 4, 2019 opinion wrote that ADOC argues the department cannot prevent all suicides in prisons.

Public Service Announcement

“It is true that, as in the free world, not all suicides can be prevented. But this reality in no way excuses ADOC’s substantial and pervasive suicide-prevention inadequacies. Unless and until ADOC lives up to its Eighth Amendment obligations, avoidable tragedies will continue,” the judge wrote.

That 2019 opinion came after the plaintiffs’ attorneys asked the court for immediate suicide-prevention relief following 15 inmate suicides over 15 months. Thompson agreed in his opinion to make permanent most of the provisions of a previous agreement between the plaintiffs and ADOC.

Thompson’s separate judgment, filed the same day as his opinion, establishes minimum guidelines for how the state assesses and treats incarcerated people who may be at risk of suicide.

ADVERTISEMENT

Among the prison suicides noted in the court filing was Marco Tolbert, 32, who was diagnosed with Schizophrenia and prescribed anti-psychotic and anti-depressant medication, but on June 20, 2019, three months before his death, his mental health code — used by ADOC to determine care — was reduced, some of his medication was discontinued and he was moved out of Donaldson prison’s residential treatment unit and into the general population and “was not provided any follow-up mental health care,” according to the filing.

He died by suicide on Sept. 26, 2019, according to court records. 

Marquell Underwood, 22, was placed into segregation at Easterling Correctional Facility on Feb. 23 and died by suicide that same day, according to court records. 

“Mr. Underwood previously reported a history of Bipolar Disorder, was referred to mental health nine times in relation to segregation placements, self-referred once to mental health, and was placed on acute suicide watch twice during the six months before his death,” the plaintiffs’ attorneys wrote to the court. “Despite all of this, he was never placed on the mental health caseload, never received a psychiatric evaluation, and never received any mental health treatment.”

Laramie Avery, 32, died by suicide in his segregation cell at Bullock prison on April 14 and was placed in segregation for “disciplinary” reasons after being stabbed at least eight times in the head and chest, according to the filing. 

“Mr. Avery was referred for a mental health evaluation three days before his suicide, but there is no evidence that the evaluation ever occurred. He was not on the mental health caseload,” the court filing states. 

The plaintiffs’ attorneys also note the death of Darnell McMillian on June 22 at Donaldson prison. McMillian died while on suicide watch and after having been placed into a cell with another inmate also on suicide watch. 

“After an altercation between Mr. McMillian and his cellmate, correctional officers allegedly deployed pepper spray, which caused Mr. McMillian to become unconscious and may have led to his death. It is unclear what policies ADOC has instituted, if any, to ensure the safety of those on suicide watch who are double-celled,” attorneys wrote to the court. 

An ADOC worker told APR in July that correctional officers used an excessive amount of pepper spray in the cell where McMillian and another inmate were housed. The cause of his death is pending an autopsy.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement