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.

Ex-Prosecutor: Cosby Paid Accuser Millions Of Dollars

Nov 6, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

A former prosecutor claims his decision in 2005 not to charge Bill Cosby with drugging and molesting a woman led to the comedian paying his accuser a settlement "well into the millions of dollars."

Bruce Castor's assertion in a lawsuit Thursday against the accuser, Andrea Constand, and her lawyers is the first time anyone has put a value on the confidential settlement.

Governor Tom Wolf / Flickr

In the wake of sexual harassment and assault claims against Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and others,  dozens of female legislators, lobbyists, consultants, and reporters have come forward in the last few weeks to talk about sexism and harassment they've dealt with in their respective statehouses.

Matt Rourke / AP

For decades in the 20th Century, the U.S. treated children differently than adults in the criminal court system -- experts at the time believed kids were inherently more capable of rehabilitation. 

An-Li Herring / 90.5 WESA


Black girls in the Pittsburgh region are 11 times more likely than white girls to have contact with the juvenile justice system, according to a 2016 study, Inequities Affecting Black Girls in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County.

Bebeto Matthews / AP

Prosecutors moved to reinstate most of the dismissed charges Friday against 11 members of a now-closed Penn State fraternity for actions related to the death of a pledge earlier this year after a night of drinking and hazing.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Legislation is being introduced to end driver's license suspensions for people convicted of a non-vehicle related crimes.

Currently, charges including theft, purchase of alcohol and tobacco as a minor, carrying a false identification card and drug possession can result in a license suspension that can last several years after a prison sentence is carried out.

PA Capital Murder Study Ties Case Trajectory To Defendant Income

Oct 27, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

A new report on death penalty cases in Pennsylvania shows a strong tie between how a case proceeds through the justice system and who a defendant relies on for legal counsel.

Public defenders’ and court-appointed attorneys’ clients were more likely to be convicted in the hundreds of death penalty cases that comprised the study’s sample, compared to those who were able to afford their own private defense.

PIOTRUS / Wikimedia Commons

Pittsburgh’s controversial statue of composer Stephen Foster could soon be removed from its location in Schenley Plaza.

Pittsburgh’s Art Commission was tasked with deciding the fate of the statue, following public concern and petitions about the city-owned property. The piece depicts Foster seemingly transcribing the music of an enslaved black man, seated at his feet, shoeless.

At its meeting Wednesday afternoon, members of the nine-member commission agreed with the majority of public input received: that the statue is problematic, especially in its current location.

Emma Lee / WHYY

Pennsylvania’s hate crimes law protects people on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin. But it doesn’t include several other categories—like ancestry, disability, sexual orientation, gender, or gender identity.

Some lawmakers have been trying to change that—but not everyone is on-board.

The commonwealth’s hate crimes law didn’t always exclude protections for sexual orientation, disabilities, or gender identity. From 2002 to 2008, it protected an expanded number of groups.

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

Police have endured harsh public scrutiny over use of force cases, but prosecutors have also taken heat for choosing not to pursue cases when civilians are shot by police.

On this week’s episode of 90.5 WESA’s Criminal Injustice podcast, University of Pittsburgh law professor and host David Harris talks to David LaBahn, president and CEO of the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, a national association representing elected and appointed prosecutors.

Their conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Marc Levy / AP

Issues such as police use of force and mass incarceration have long fueled calls for criminal justice reform. But some have proposed going a step further by abolishing prisons altogether.

 

In his book published last year, Dark Ghettos: Injustice, Dissent, and Reform, Harvard philosophy professor Tommie Shelby addresses poverty and racial marginalization. He argues they will persist unless society tackles the underlying inequities that sustain them.

 

Study Finds Victim’s Race A Factor In Imposing Death Sentences

Oct 23, 2017
Kiichiro Sato / AP

A new study of capital punishment in Pennsylvania found that death sentences are more common when the victim is white and less frequent when the victim is black.

The report, which drew from court and prosecution records over an 11-year period, concluded that a white victim increases the odds of a death sentence by 8 percent. When the victim is black, the chances are 6 percent lower.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh received a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s annual assessment of LGBTQ-friendly laws.

Francisco Seco / AP Photo

A bipartisan team of three state senators has introduced legislation that would make relocation easier for victims of domestic assault within public housing.

Sen. Art Haywood (D-Philadelphia and Montgomery County), Sen. Camera Bartolotta (R-Beaver, Greene and Washington Counties) and Sen. Judith Schwank (D-Berks County) are sponsoring the bill.

Jerry Sandusky Denied New Trial On Child Sex Abuse Charges

Oct 18, 2017
Gene J. Puskar / AP Photo

Jerry Sandusky lost a bid Wednesday for a new trial and a chance to convince a jury he is innocent of the child sexual abuse charges that landed him a decades long prison sentence.

Judge John Foradora ruled that he was denying Sandusky's request for a new trial and dismissal of the charges.

The former Penn State assistant football coach's lawyers have 30 days to appeal the judge's decision to the Superior Court.

John Locher / AP

Gun violence kills thousands of Americans every year. It carries massive consequences in lives lost, injuries and medical treatment, but what about the economic cost – in jobs, businesses and community development? How can we measure the opportunity cost of gun violence?

Pittsburgh Diocese Settles Suit Over Birth Control Mandate

Oct 17, 2017
Andrew Rush / AP Images

The Pittsburgh and Erie Roman Catholic dioceses have settled lawsuits seeking to overturn an Affordable Care Act mandate that would have forced them to provide contraceptive and abortion-inducing drugs or services as part of their employee health care plans.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

A Pennsylvania judge said Monday he will announce later this week whether to grant former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky a new trial or throw out child sexual abuse convictions against him.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

President Donald Trump plans to visit Harrisburg Wednesday to pitch his tax reform plan. 

An-Li Herring / 90.5 WESA

UPDATED: 5:31 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017

A jury Tuesday cleared one Pittsburgh police officer and deadlocked on charges against a second in a civil rights lawsuit filed by a man who was paralyzed when he was shot during a traffic stop.

Kiichiro Sato / AP

Over the last 50 years, more than 8,000 people have been sentenced to die under the death penalty, and 1,500 of them were ultimately executed. But today, the death penalty has fallen out of favor.

Bystander Rape-Prevention Programs Face Questions

Oct 9, 2017
Keith Srakocic / AP

Training programs around the country are trying to teach bystanders to stop sexual assault, and now is when they have to be especially alert. Campus sexual assault reports are so common at the beginning of the fall semester, college administrators call this time of year the "red zone."

Penn State University sends campus-wide text alerts when someone has been sexually assaulted. During the last academic year, there were 29 campus text alerts about sexual assaults at the university's main campus, and half of them were issued in the first ten weeks of school.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Jurors are continuing deliberations in a civil rights lawsuit filed by a black man paralyzed by a white Pittsburgh police officer during a traffic stop nearly five years ago.

Twenty-four year-old Leon Ford is suing Officers David Derbish and Andrew Miller for the November 2012 traffic stop where Derbish shot Ford five times. Jurors in the federal case started deliberating Tuesday and haven't yet reached a verdict Friday.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Four members of the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church protested at Carnegie Mellon University Thursday afternoon. They were met by hundreds counter-protesters who tried to drown out the church’s singing with their own chants, bagpipes, noisemakers, and drums.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

It’s a 10-foot tall bronze statue on a four-foot tall granite base, that many Pittsburghers want to see moved.

The statue of Stephen Foster exhibited conspicuously in Oakland's Schenley Park, was first displayed in Highland Park.

Nyttend / Wikimedia Commons

A jury did not reach a verdict in Leon Ford’s federal case against two Pittsburgh police officers Wednesday and will return for more deliberations Thursday.

Ford is suing officers David Derbish and Andrew Miller in federal civil court for a 2012 shooting that left him paralyzed. Derbish faces an allegation of excessive force, and Miller is accused of assault and battery.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

Ana Alberto-Ramirez spends most evenings after work with her boyfriend at their home in Bethel Park, hanging out and watching TV.

“And he plays soccer, so I go to his games, and I like taking pictures. Sometimes I’m there just taking pictures,” she said.

The 24 year-old works as a hair stylist on Pittsburgh’s South Side.

“I like to make hours, so I like to stay longer than I have to, especially when it’s busy.”

Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

Goodwill's Donation Processing Center in Lawrenceville has 29 employees with intellectual and developmental disabilities who do task-oriented work like sorting donated clothing and scanning books.

An-Li Herring

A jury began deliberations in Leon Ford’s federal civil trial against two Pittsburgh police officers following closing arguments Tuesday. The jury could deliver its verdict any day.

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