Above The Law's Elie Mystal Discusses Samuel DuBose Shooting and Pell Grants for Prisoners

President Obama has announced a plan to make Pell grants available to prisoners for the first time in twenty years. The announcement got attention in the press, including Above the Law’s Redline. Redline’s Managing Editor, Elie Mystal, joins LBN’s Mark Wahlstrom to discuss this and other current issues in this report, including the shooting of Cecil the Lion, which he also covered for Redline.

Mystal notes that about the same time people on the social media were boiling with outrage over the killing of Cecil, a black man named Samuel Dubose was shot and killed at a traffic stop by a (then) University of Cincinnati police officer. “Do we have enough outrage to go around?” Mystal thinks we do.

He likes the return of Pell grants to prisoners, people whom “our system tends to treat . . . like undead humanoids devoid of soul or citizenship.” Mystal’s approach to the situation is simply that prisoners are people, and some day, most of them will again be on the streets. He doesn’t want them coming after him or his family. The best way to have prisoners who function like human beings when they get out is to treat them like human beings while they are locked up.

Mystal suggests that one of the biggest things driving social sensitivity and change at the present is technology, more so than the social media. Camera phones are everywhere, and they see everything. “Camera phones are why we care that this black guy got shot in the face.” When all of us can see why and how people are being arrested, we begin to see them as people and not as nameless statistics.

The social media are important, but it is easy for mob rule to break out suddenly, Mystal points out. Walter Palmer, the dentist who killed Cecil the Lion, has been overwhelmed with negative attention, including death threats. There is a difference between shaming and vigilante justice. “The Internet has no idea what that distinction is.” If the Internet had a sense of proportion, there would have been much more outrage over Samuel Dubose than Cecil the Lion. [Note: Raymond Tensing, who shot Samuel Dubose, has been charged with murder and is being held on a $1 million bond.] Mystal notes that the police officer’s report was that he was being dragged off by the suspect in the car. “People would have actually believed the police officer if not for video evidence” showing otherwise.

Mystal says that we should take all “only eyewitness” testimony with a grain of salt. He wants to see it in order to believe it. “Tom Brady: I don’t what was on his phone. I want to see it.” Pictures are important.

Elie Mystal, the Managing Editor of Above the Law: Redline, joined Above the Law in 2008 by winning the ATL Idol Contest. Prior to joining ATL, Elie wrote about politics and popular culture at City Hall News and the New York Press. He was formerly a litigator at Debevoise & Plimpton but quit the legal profession to pursue a career as an online provocateur. He's written editorials for the New York Daily News and the New York Times, and he has appeared on both MSNBC and Fox News without having to lie about his politics to either news organization. The Legal Broadcast Network is a featured network of the Sequence Media Group.

Cecil the Lion: Killing Trophy Animals and Big $$$ in Big Game Hunting. Emily Collins Reports

Emily Collins reports that the killing of Cecil the Lion has sparked widespread debate over big game hunting. Big game safaris have been controversial for years, although the sport attracts 15,000 Americans to Africa each year for hunting trips. In South Africa alone, big game hunting brings in 9,000 hunters and generates $744 million in revenue for the big game hunting industry.

Conservation groups, including the World Wildlife Fund, support regulated hunting. The argument hunters make is that, if it is done legally and properly, hunting will allow the strongest animals to survive and, in the process, scale back illegal hunting. Conservation experts maintain that it’s not enough to preserve animals. Functioning ecosystems must be preserved as well. Animal rights groups argue that hunting encourages illegal activity. The heads of killed animals are treated as trophies, and animal skins and bones are traded on the black market.

The killing of Cecil the Lion has brought the big game hunting issue into the spotlight. Cecil, a rare black-maned lion, was killed by Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer. Palmer claims to have obtained a permit from his professional guides. He says he thought it was legal to hunt and kill the animal outside of a protected park in Zimbabwe. As it turned out, the hunt was illegal. Palmer could be tried in the U.S. or be extradited to Zimbabwe.

The legal matter of concern is not the killing of Cecil, but rather the alleged bribing of wildlife guides in order to gain access to prey. Palmer says that he trusted the guides. He is said to have paid them $50,000. The African lion population is on the decline, dropping 48.5% in the last 20 years. If the species is listed as endangered, import of lion trophies into the U.S. would be illegal. The Wildlife Conservation Society commended President Obama for his recent remarks in Kenya about the need to end wildlife trafficking.

The Legal Broadcast Network is a featured network of the Sequence Media Group.

Capital Punishment: The Debate Rages On. Bob Donley Reports

Bob Donley reports that capital punishment is as hotly debated an issue now as it ever has been. The death penalty goes back to colonial times. It is estimated that about 13,000 people, mostly men, have been executed throughout our nation’s history.

Amnesty International says that “the death penalty is the ultimate, irreversible denial of human rights.” Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington, declared, “We cannot teach that killing is wrong by killing. We cannot defend life by taking life.”

On the other hand, says Donley, the death penalty has its defenders. Among them is Steven Stewart, the prosecuting attorney for Clark County, Indiana. Stewart’s position is this: “It cheapens the life of an innocent murder victim to say that society has no right to keep the murderer from ever killing again. In my view, society has not only the right, but the duty to act in self defense to protect the innocent.”

There was in recent years a lull in the carrying out of death penalties. And for a few years, Donley notes, it was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court in Furman v. Georgia ruled that imposing the death penalty in cases like Furman constituted cruel and unusual punishment. But four years later, the Court changed its mind in Gregg v. Georgia, holding that the death penalty as long as it was not done in such a way as to be cruel and unusual.

According to the latest figures available, Donley says, 1,177 people have been executed since the death penalty moratorium was lifted. A majority of states still have the death penalty as an option, but Texas is by far the most active in carrying out the death penalty, accounting for over one-third of all executions nationwide.

The debate on the morality and the cost of the death penalty are certain to continue.

The Legal Broadcast Network is a featured network of the Sequence Media Group.