Identity & Justice

The identity and justice desk explores how the makeup of the Pittsburgh community is changing, and digs into issues of diversity and equity.

Tony Gutierrez / AP

A golf club in Pennsylvania has apologized for calling police on a group of black women after the co-owner and his father said they were playing too slowly and refused requests to leave the course.

"I felt we were discriminated against," one of the women, Myneca Ojo, told the York Daily Record. "It was a horrific experience."

Sandra Thompson and four friends met up Saturday to play a round of golf at the Grandview Golf Club, where they are all members, she told the newspaper.

Matt Rourke / AP

Bill Cosby's sexual assault retrial is set to go to the jury on Tuesday, but not before closing arguments pitting the prosecution's portrayal of a serial predator against the defense's contention that he's the victim of a "con artist" who made up drugging and molestation allegations to score a big payday.

The defense rested on Monday after the 80-year-old comedian said he wouldn't testify, echoing his decision at his first trial, which ended in a hung jury last year.

Barry Sweet / AP

The opioid crisis has prompted a reckoning with the devastating effects of joblessness and isolation throughout rural and post-industrial America.

Judge Rules Jury Can Hear Bill Cosby's Quaalude Testimony

Apr 17, 2018
Matt Rourke / AP

The jury at Bill Cosby's sexual assault trial can hear the comedian's decade-old testimony about giving quaaludes to women before sex, a judge ruled Tuesday, handing the prosecution a key victory in its effort to portray him as a serial predator.

Office of Governor Tom Wolf

A package of bills aimed to protect victims of domestic violence in Pennsylvania has been signed into law. 

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

A new Pennsylvania law is in place to help guide judges setting bail for defendants accused of domestic abuse.

Pennsylvania’s state police force is reviewing its interactions with the federal immigration and customs enforcement, in the wake of a series of investigative reports questioning the legality of troopers using traffic stops to detain people in the country illegally.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

A woman charged with falsely accusing two state troopers of rape has been ordered to stand trial in northeastern Pennsylvania.

A district judge on Friday ordered 37-year-old Christine Cromer to trial in Luzerne County Court on charges of filing false reports and unsworn falsification.

Authorities allege that Cromer falsely accused a trooper of raping her in a police cruiser in November 2016 and also provided false information in a protection-from-abuse application when she said she was raped by another state trooper.

Jake Savitz / 90.5 WESA

In an effort to have a more diverse workforce, the City of Pittsburgh is increasing its recruitment for people with physical and development disabilities. 

Starbucks CEO Apologizes To 2 Black Men Arrested

Apr 15, 2018
Gene J. Puskar / AP

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The CEO of Starbucks Corp. said he wants to personally apologize to two black men who were arrested while sitting inside one of the chain's coffee shops in Philadelphia, an incident that prompted accusations of racism on social media.

Charles Rex Arbogast / AP

Lawmakers passed the Fair Housing Act just one week after the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. as riots flared in Pittsburgh and other cities. It was intended to protect buyers and renters from discrimination based on race, color, disability, religion, sex, familial status or national origin, but advocates argue the nation is still failing renters and homebuyers with disabilities and children, as well as those of color.

Updated at 6:50 p.m. ET

Editor's note: This post contains some graphic language.

Not long before reality TV star and former model Janice Dickinson says Bill Cosby raped her, back in 1984, she snapped a picture of the iconic entertainer in a hotel in Lake Tahoe.

On Witness Stand, Accuser Calls Bill Cosby A 'Serial Rapist'

Apr 11, 2018
Dominick Reuter / AP

The first accuser to testify at Bill Cosby's retrial described the comedian Wednesday as "a serial rapist" as she parried with his lawyers, while a second accuser tearfully confronted the comedian over a 32-year-old assault allegation: "You remember, don't you, Mr. Cosby?"

The courtroom dramatics prompted mistrial requests from Cosby's lawyers — which were denied — as prosecutors began putting on a parade of women who say Cosby drugged and molested them long before he met Andrea Constand, the chief accuser in his sexual assault retrial.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

The Fair Housing Act passed 50 years ago Wednesday as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968.

Lawmakers enacted the legislation just one week after the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. as riots flared in Pittsburgh and other cities. It was intended to protect buyers and renters from discrimination based on race, color, disability, religion, sex, familial status or national origin.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

The rate of Pittsburgh renters facing eviction judgments is lower than state and national averages, according to new data analysis by the Eviction Lab at Princeton University. But many displaced tenants never make it to the courtroom.

Court To Decide If Drug Use While Pregnant Is Child Abuse

Apr 9, 2018
Gosia Wozniacka / AP, file

Pennsylvania's highest court will determine whether a woman's use of illegal drugs while pregnant qualifies as child abuse under state law.

The Supreme Court has taken up the case of a woman who tested positive for suboxone and marijuana at the time she gave birth early last year at Williamsport Hospital.

A county judge ruled that didn't qualify as child abuse under the state's Child Protective Services Law, but the intermediate Superior Court said drug use while pregnant can make bodily injury likely for a child after birth.

AP

By the time Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was shot and killed on a Memphis balcony in April 1968, Pittsburgh's black community had been simmering for years over the once thriving 100-acre section of the Lower Hill District that city leaders had leveled to build the Civic Arena. 

Marc Levy / AP

In Pennsylvania, about 60 percent of parolees are rearrested or reenter the prison system within three years of release. About 20,000 people are released from the prison system each year.

Over two years, a University of Maryland study commissioned by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections found inmates willing to relocate cities after release were seven percent less likely to be rearrested or reincarcerated, compared to their peers who went back to their former communities.

Scott Goldsmith

Humans have always migrated, whether by choice or because of involuntary forces such as political or environmental displacement. Photographer Brian Cohen said in the age of travel bans and border walls, exploring the idea is as topical now as ever. 

Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

An officer-involved fatal shooting in Homewood in February was justified, according to Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala. The timeline outlined on Tuesday was established piecing together security footage, gunshot time-stamps, evidence from the scene and officer testimony, according to Zappala. 

In the early morning hours of Sunday, Feb. 11, two Pittsburgh Police officers began trailing 39-year-old Mark Daniels on foot after he left a convenience store, because they said he appeared agitated and angry.

Pablo Martinez Mansivais / AP

A Marine from Pittsburgh killed during World War II will be buried next week at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C.

An-Li Herring / 90.5 WESA


It’s a fact of life that when you’re born, you don’t get to choose your name. But Claire Bloom, 24, decided about six years ago that she had to change her name.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Thousands of Americans turned out last weekend for the largest youth-led protests since the Vietnam War. What did March for Our Lives accomplish, and what are students and lawmakers taking away from this renewed effort against gun violence? 

The Greater Pittsburgh Coalition Against Violence

The Greater Pittsburgh Coalition Against Violence is working to get more people to commit to the safety of women and girls. The organization is hosting a community-wide summit Saturday focusing on gender-based violence.

Summit coordinator Lois McClendon said violence against women and girls is often overlooked or minimized, and often disproportionately impacts women of color and transgender women of color. She said “it seems not to get the kind of play in the media or even the concern among the public.”

Marc Levy / AP

A Pennsylvania judge is requiring the prison system to pay $1,500 over its response to a request for information about how a fly ash dump and possible water contamination may be affecting inmate health.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

Security video shot in the basement of a Penn State fraternity house the night a pledge was fatally injured during an evening of hazing and drinking shows fraternity members plying pledges with alcohol.

Pennlive.com reported testimony Monday in the preliminary hearing for 11 former members of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity focused on deleted video the FBI recovered.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

In an empty classroom after lunch period, student organizers go over final details for an upcoming rally and march, including confirming speakers and collecting cash for T-shirt orders.

Senate OKs Bill To Toughen Gun Laws In Domestic Abuse Cases

Mar 21, 2018
Carolyn Kaster / AP

The Pennsylvania Senate is giving unanimous approval to a bill to force people with a domestic violence ruling against them to more quickly forfeit their firearms.

The Senate's 50-0 vote Wednesday sends the bill to the House. Domestic violence- and gun violence-prevention groups support the bill. It passed after changes negotiated by gun-rights groups.

Addie Lancianese / 90.5 WESA

From elected officials to interns, City of Pittsburgh employees would be required to undergo yearly anti-harassment training under legislation proposed Tuesday by three City Council members. 

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

 

After a career spent helping catch criminals, a retired Pittsburgh police detective is facing charges herself.

Margaret "Peg" Sherwood, 51, allegedly gave false information to prosecutors in two 2014 homicide cases and tried to stop a domestic violence prosecution to protect a jailhouse informant, according to an indictment unsealed in January by the state attorney general's office.

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