Dallas is renaming a four-mile stretch of road in honor of Botham Jean

Four miles of roadway in Dallas will now bear the name of Botham Jean, the Black man who was murdered in his apartment by an off-duty police officer in 2018.

The Dallas City Council voted on the name change Wednesday after the proposal was put forth by Mayor Pro Tem Adam Medrano, along with two council members. Now, the stretch of South Lamar Street between Interstate 30 and South Central Expressway will be known as “Botham Jean Boulevard.”

The stretch includes the South Side Flats apartment complex where Jean lived and was killed, and Dallas Police Department headquarters, according to CNN affiliate KTVT.

“Renaming the street in honor of Botham Jean would show the citizens of Dallas that his death was not in vain and show the world his life mattered,” the proposal for the name change states.

Amber Guyger, then a Dallas police officer, fatally shot the 26-year-old Jean in his apartment on September 6, 2018.

Guyger testified at her trial that she went to the apartment thinking it was hers, when she in fact lived directly below. Jean was inside, watching TV, and Guyger testified she thought he was an intruder. She fired her service weapon and killed him.

In October 2019, Guyger was convicted of murder and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Last August, her attorneys filed an appeal, claiming insufficient evidence.

— CNN

Black man wrongfully convicted on death row goes free

Eddie Lee Howard was wrongfully sentenced to death in 1994. Now, after decades of fighting, he has been exonerated.

Howard, who is Black, was sentenced to death in 1994, after being wrongfully convicted for the murder and rape of 84-year-old Georgia Kemp, who is White, in Columbus, Mississippi, according to the Innocence Project, which represented Howard.

Howard was initially tied to the crime by a doctor who compared bite marks on Kemp’s body to Howard’s teeth. But in August, the Mississippi Supreme Court recognized that bite-mark comparisons were not enough to tie him to the murder, and stated that “an individual perpetrator cannot be reliably identified through bite-mark comparison.”

“After reviewing the record, we conclude that Howard’s evidence as to the change in the scientific understanding of the reliability of identification through bite-mark comparisons was almost uncontested. Based on this record, we agree with Howard that a forensic dentist would not be permitted to identify Howard as the biter today as Dr. West did at Howard’s trial in 2000,” the court wrote in August.

As a result, the case was reversed, rendered and remanded. Howard was released from Mississippi’s death row in December, and he was exonerated on Friday, the Innocence Project said.

“I want to say many thanks to the many people who are responsible for helping to make my dream of freedom a reality,” Howard said in a statement. “I thank you with all my heart, because without your hard work on my behalf, I would still be confined in that terrible place called the Mississippi Department of Corrections, on death row, waiting to be executed.”

The United States has some of the highest incarceration rates in the world. By the end of 2019, more than 1.4 million people were incarcerated in the nation, according to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Black Americans are disproportionately affected, and in Mississippi more than half of the prison population is Black, according to a report by the Sentencing Project, a nonprofit criminal justice research organization.

— CNN

UCF intends to fire professor whose tweets created firestorm

ORLANDO, Fla. — The University of Central Florida plans to terminate a psychology professor over allegations unrelated to his tweets over the summer that many students described as racist.

The investigation found that Charles Negy created a “hostile” classroom environment, deterred students from filing complaints about his classroom conduct, failed to report that a student said she had been sexually assaulted by one of his teaching assistants and provided false information during the investigation, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

The university’s investigation of Negy began over the summer after officials received more than 500 messages about him. The findings led the university to notify Negy on Wednesday that it intends to fire him.

Following his tweets over the summer, many students and former students called for the associate professor’s firing, saying they deemed his posts to be racist, sexist and transphobic. However, the university’s Office of Institutional Equity noted that the First Amendment protects a public employee’s right to speak about “matters of public concern.”

University spokesman Chad Binette told the newspaper Negy’s posts did not play a role in the university’s decision to seek his firing.

“None of the findings in the investigation are a result of Dr. Negy’s comments on Twitter, which are protected as free expression, or comments in the classroom that were the subject of some students’ complaints but that the university determined were protected by academic freedom,” Binette wrote in an email to the newspaper.

Over the past few months, investigators from the university interviewed more than 300 people over the past several months about Negy’s conduct, reviewed hundreds of documents and listened to many hours of audio, Binette said.

“I disagree with almost all of the allegations, and that’s all I can say right now,” Negy told the Orlando Sentinel.

Nagy has been on paid administrative leave since Jan. 5 and is not teaching this semester. The university said his termination for misconduct would take effect Jan. 25. Tosha Dupras, the interim dean of UCF’s College of Sciences, wrote in a letter to Negy that he has until Jan. 25 to submit a written response to the allegations.

Dupras said upon receipt of the response, the university will make a final decision.

Dupras said the accusations against Negy are “serious,” and investigators found that students were hesitant to report incidents because he discouraged them from submitting complaints to the university.

“You repeatedly gave students the impression that you were insulated from complaints because of tenure,” she wrote.

University leaders condemned Negy’s tweets last year, but said the university must honor the principles of free speech and academic freedom.

In one post in June, Negy wrote: “Sincere question: If Afr. Americans as a group, had the same behavioral profile as Asian Americans (on average, performing the best academically, having the highest income, committing the lowest crime, etc.), would we still be proclaiming ‘systematic racism’ exists?”

Over the summer, thousands of people signed online petitions calling for Negy’s firing.

— The Associated Press

Apple, utility each give $25M to Black college learning hub

ATLANTA — Apple and a major utility are each giving $25 million to launch a learning center and business incubator for students of historically Black colleges and universities, part of an outpouring of giving to such schools in the wake of the summer’s protests over racial injustice.

The Propel Center will have a physical campus in Atlanta and online offerings meant to reach students at each of the country’s 100-plus historically Black institutions..

Apple also announced Tuesday that it will make grants to HBCU engineering programs to expand curricula, research and lab space, add 100 new scholarships for students and open a first-of-its-kind developer academy in Detroit. It will also invest $10 million over the next 20 years with venture capital firm Harlem Capital to fund startups with diverse founders and $25 million in the Clear Vision Impact Fund for capital loans to small and medium-size businesses, with an emphasis on minority-owned companies.

“We are all accountable to the urgent work of building a more just, more equitable world — and these new projects send a clear signal of Apple’s enduring commitment,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement.

The money from Apple will finance a virtual presence and a 50,000-square-foot (4,650-square-meter) building for the Propel Center near the Atlanta University Center. That’s a consortium of four Black colleges — Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Spelman College and the Morehouse School of Medicine — that share resources such as a common library. Another $25 million from Atlanta-based Southern Co., an electric and gas utility, will pay for engineering and career training.

“Propel will provide HBCU student-scholars across the country access to cutting-edge technology, resources, and programming to be globally competitive across multidisciplinary disciplines and career trajectories,” Clark Atlanta University President George T. French Jr. said.

Propel Center is being spearheaded by Ed Farm, a nonprofit based in Birmingham, Alabama, that earlier started a program to teach computer coding and bring career opportunities to HBCUs.

“We’re thrilled to be partnering with Apple on this extraordinary project,” said Anthony Oni, Ed Farm’s founder and a vice president at Southern Co. “The Propel Center will help cultivate leadership and drive innovation in tech and beyond, acting as a springboard for change in communities across America.”

The Propel Center will offer academic programming both in person and online. Classes will focus on entrepreneurship, computer programming and the business of entertainment, but also agriculture, leadership and social justice. The center also seeks to promote coaching, business startup and idea development.

The center will host some students and teachers at its Atlanta campus who will live onsite.

Apple said the giving is part of a $100 million racial equity and justice initiative it announced in June, while Southern Co. said it’s part of a $50 million initiative to support HBCUs in the company’s service area of Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

Apple’s Detroit developer academy will be a partnership with Michigan State University.

— The Associated Press

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