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Keri Potts’ and Lara Logan’s Shared Ordeal: Sex Assault Overseas

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Keri A. Potts claims membership in an exclusive club.

But it’s a club she never wanted to join.

Potts is a sexual assault survivor. Her ordeal occurred in Rome, but it could have happened anywhere. On a college campus like Notre Dame. At a high school party in Texas. In Egypt while on a journalism assignment.

“I’m a sexual assault survivor,” said the svelte, curly-haired, 33-year-old. “That’s the first time I’ve said that in a room full of people.”

Potts was featured speaker at this week’s lunchtime lecture at the Clinton School for Public Service in Little Rock, Ark. Potts, an ESPN executive, displayed a range of emotions as she recounted her story. To be clear, she says, it is her story and when she speaks, she is not speaking on behalf of her employer.
The story she weaves horrifies and haunts.

It began on the last day of her vacation in Rome in 2009, where she’d gone with a girlfriend.

Here’s what Potts said happened:

On that day, she met an Italian artist she said was charming and well-known. He seemed interested in her. She seemed interested in him. They had drinks. He bought her three dozen yellow buds. He invited her back to his sixth-floor apartment. She made it clear she didn’t want sex. He insisted he just wanted to talk about art.

The night took a horrible turn.

He suddenly pulled her to him, and his unwanted advances escalated from refusing to release her to biting her lips to shoving his hand inside her underwear, Potts said.

He grew angry, and when Potts, who had taken a self-defense course years earlier, struck her attacker, he hit her back, she said. She pushed him to the floor and jumped from the balcony, landing on another one below. Like James Bond, she said, she jumped to another balcony and kept running.

Potts could have left the country and never told anyone. But she didn’t. She promptly went to the U.S. Embassy and began a two-year court battle to seek justice, she said.

“Sexual assault survivors are everywhere,” Potts explained to the audience. “I wanted to remove the fear and understand. I hoped to be a better person to my fellow woman.”

Potts also created a blog — A Fight Back Woman — where she chronicled her assault. Her mission is simple: She wants to tell women that they have power. They can defend themselves. “Women aren’t taught that,” she said. “Power is outsourced to men and guns.”

In Italy, she faced complications. Potts said she had to have an interpreter and a legal team. Initially, her police report contained four major errors because of language barriers. After she returned to the United States, she visited Italian embassies to deal with paperwork. This continued for a year while an investigation proceeded.

But Potts’ perseverance paid off. The man, whom she calls Marco, was initially charged with attempted sexual assault. That increased to sexual assault. A charge of assault was also added, meaning he could face additional prison time. But he plea-bargained and, last April, received a suspended sentence. He did not face jail time.

Potts said he is on probation for five years. If he commits a crime, he goes straight to prison. He had to pay her legal fees, she said.

CBS’ chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan’s recent sexual assault in Cairo deeply affected Potts, who had traveled alone to foreign countries before the Rome incident. She disagrees with Logan’s critics, who said she had no place covering the news in Egypt because she was a woman.

“The world needs women like Lara taking on roles that were exclusively male and making gender a non-issue in order to provide a different voice and perspective,” she said.

Potts said that “mob violence can happen anywhere, even here, where women are sexually assaulted. So saying it happened to her because she was in Egypt would be irresponsible.”

Recently, Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee called upon the U.N. ambassador from Egypt “to apologize to Ms. Logan and apologize to the American people for the tragedy that happened to this woman who was doing her job — the sexual assault, the vicious sexual assault that occurred to her.”

But so much more needs to be done. Potts said that funding for education and programs that address this issue should be a top priority in Washington because the audience at risk of sexual assault is half the U.S. population.

“Right now, the [Department of Justice’s] Violence Against Women Office is not where I think it could be. Most women don’t know it even exists or who its leader is,” she said.

She’d also like to see some changes in the U.S. culture.

“The atmosphere of misogyny contributes to sexual assault,” she said. “From commercials that make women one of three roles: nagging, sexpots or ditzy, to limited, lesser roles women can play in TV or film — or even play in the business world — to making the conversation about how women must be perfect to avoid being raped instead of recruiting men to demand better of their sex, we fail women and men. We fail little girls.”

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Written by suziparker1313

March 10, 2011 at 4:04 am

Christine O’Donnell Denies Misusing Campaign Funds, Cites ‘Disgruntled’ Former Staffers

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Defeated Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell, who is reportedly under federal investigation to determine whether she used campaign money for personal expenses, said Thursday the claims come from “disgruntled” former employees, channeled through a “left-wing” watchdog group.

The Associated Press reported Wednesday that the case has not been sent to a grand jury but has been assigned to two federal prosecutors and two FBI agents in Delaware. 

The O’Donnell camp immediately labeled the probe “politically motivated.” She blamed political rivals for what she called “thug tactics.”

“Keep in mind,” O’Donnell said on CNN Thursday morning, “we upset the Delaware political establishment, and we beat their so-called untouchable incumbent [Rep. Mike Castle]. There’s a vendetta to stop this movement. . . . [But] we are going to continue to put the political establishment on notice.” The charges are false, she said, noting that the campaign workers making them were fired during an earlier Senate race. She called her accusers “disgruntled 2008 former volunteers.” And she denounced Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), the organization bringing the complaint, as a “left-wing, George Soros-funded liberal group.”

O’Donnell, who was backed by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in her unsuccessful campaign this fall against Democrat Chris Coons, echoed those comments on several network morning news programs, including the “Today” show.

On Wednesday, O’Donnell told The News Journal in Wilmington, Delaware. “”I don’t know if an FBI investigation even exists. If it is happening, of course we’re going to cooperate, because we have nothing to hide.” And she said on NBC Thursday that it’s “very suspicious” that she has yet to be personally notified of any inquiry even though information has been leaked to the Associated Press.

The allegations were first raised against O’Donnell, a tea party favorite, by CREW in a Sept. 30 news release. CREW said it had filed complaints with the Delaware U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Federal Election Commission against O’Donnell “for using campaign funds for personal living expenses.”

O’Donnell shocked political Washington when she upset Rep. Mike Castle in a Republican primary to run for Vice President Joe Biden’s old Senate seat. But O’Donnell, plagued by her own miscues, lost the general election to Coons.

O’Donnell raised more than $7.3 million from around the country during her campaign. In her post-election FEC report filed in early December, O’Donnell reported $924,745 on hand with only $2,692 in debts.

In an e-mail, Matt Moran, former O’Donnell campaign manager, said the charge against O’Donnell “was all started by false accusations by Christine’s political opponents,” citing CREW. And O’Donnell implied that Biden had a hand in the investigation:

“Given that the King of the Delaware Political Establishment just so happens to be the Vice President of the most liberal Presidential administration in U.S. history, it is no surprise that misuse and abuse of the FBI would not be off the table,” she said in a statement. O’Donnell told the Today Show a former Biden staffer was involved in framing the CREW complaint against her.

O’Donnell’s last tweet was on Dec. 2 when she wrote, “You heard the spin about the 2010 elections. It’s time to set the record straight & move forward – signed a book deal w St. Martins Press!” The book will be about her candidacy.

Thanks, TSA: My Fear of Flying Is Crippling Enough Without You

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Flying does not become me.

That’s why I’ll be driving this holiday weekend. And a short distance at that.
I was in second grade the first time I flew. It was a one-way flight on Delta Airlines to Chicago, where my dad traveled frequently on business. Our journey happened because my dad had driven to Chicago and a snowstorm struck. His only option: Fly home and return to get the car once the blizzard subsided.

In the plane, I sat by the window, mesmerized by clouds and the pretty stewardesses who gave me a plastic wings pin. Oh, one day I could be a pilot, too. But I was a girl. Could girls be pilots?

“Girls can be anything they want to be,” my mom said then and has repeated more than a thousand times since.

Except a good passenger, in her case. “I’ll never fly again unless I have one foot on the ground and one in the plane,” my mom proclaimed the minute the plane landed.

She was terrified. When the pilot announced an update on the plane’s altitude, she flipped. Mom didn’t take tranquilizers, but she needed one of my uncle’s Valiums. On the other hand, I felt fearless and free. Of course, I was 8 years old and didn’t know any better.

True to her word, it was the first – and last – time my mom, who was then in her 40s, ever flew. Her fear of flying – or aerophobia – cemented itself. With the new TSA screenings and the footage she sees on television, she will likely never step foot on a plane.

Perhaps it was her fear that transferred to me. My dad certainly didn’t help matters.

He would return from business trips in the 1970s and talk about the air marshals that he met on flights. Back then, the sky marshals were plain-clothed police officers who flew planes to prevent hijackings. That system remained in place until x-ray screening equipment was made mandatory in civilian airports. My dad could get information from anyone, even if they weren’t supposed to talk to him.

“Terrorists could hijack our planes like they do in foreign counties,” he said.

That bit of intel, along with television coverage of numerous plane crashes, stripped my flying innocence. I knew too early bad things could happen. That’s how my parents operated. They never let me live in Candyland for very long without explaining its harsh realities.

In college, Australia beckoned. But I needed an anesthesiologist to knock me out in order to make the epic flight across the Pacific Ocean. Alas, I didn’t go.

I flew a couple of times in my early 20s, both to Philadelphia. The flights were uneventful until the return flight on my last visit to Philadelphia in 1996. A very jittery man from the Middle East sat across the aisle from me. Maybe he had a fear of flying, too. His friend sat right in front of him and looked equally stressed. They were fidgety and looked frequently inside their jackets.

The stories my dad had told me about hijackings haunted me. The men watched me. I watched them. Something was amiss. Suddenly turbulence hit, lightening struck all around us. While everyone else went on high alert, the two men unexpectedly appeared calm. Had the storm thwarted plans? Was my imagination getting carried away?

We landed in St. Louis and the men vanished into the crowd as I connected to my Little Rock flight. I don’t remember much about that flight except I had a couple of cocktails to calm my nerves, and Bob Franken, who worked for CNN at the time, was on the plane to return to Little Rock to cover the Whitewater trials.

I didn’t fly again for two years. An opportunity to work in a Mexican orphanage arrived, and I took it. Mexico was wonderful; flying, not so much. Still, I knew that this fear could be conquered.

Two months later, a dream trip landed in my lap – a 10-day trip to Ireland. I made a pact with myself. If I survived that trip, I would annihilate my ridiculous fear of flying.

The night flight to Ireland was fantastic. An Irish businessman entertained me with stories about his homeland as he tried to assure me all would be fine. The flight was as smooth as a nightcap.

It’s always the return trips that turn hellish. The flight from Dublin to Atlanta made me wish the airline attendant carried a tranquilizer gun. The plane had mechanical problems before it taxied off the Dublin runway. On a stopover in western Ireland, the plane was evacuated because of a bomb threat.

Finally, the plane landed safely back in the States. My pact was sealed. Aviatophobia, be damned. The airline even sent a reward for surviving the flight – a $400 voucher. It was a sign to fly again. So I did. For the next three years, I flew all over the country on jets and prop planes. Then, Sept. 11 occurred, and my fear returned.

I’ve flown a handful of times since then, but my nerves are wrecked by the time the plane lands. With TSA now reminding the country that anyone may be hiding explosives in their boxers, briefs or G-strings, that phobia is likely to remain. The realization: I’m just the kind of girl who likes both of her feet firmly planted on the ground.

Written by suziparker1313

March 8, 2011 at 10:43 pm

Gov. Perry Wins Unprecedented Third Term in Texas

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Republican Rick Perry, Texas’ longest-serving governor, won an unprecedented third term Tuesday night.

His Democratic opponent, Bill White, the former mayor of Houston, gave Perry a strong challenge. It was the first election loss for White since beginning his political career in 2003.

Perry watched the election results at Texas Disposal Systems’ Exotic Game Ranch in Buda, a small town outside Austin.

Like Republicans all across the country, Perry used widespread anti-Washington sentiment to defeat his opponent. White said in interviews leading into Tuesday’s election that Perry rehashed GOP talking points and used President’s Obama slipping popularity to nationalize the race instead of defending his own record. Perry seldom mentioned White, who worked as the deputy secretary of energy in the Clinton administration in the 1990s.
While White, a lawyer, earned endorsements in the The Dallas Morning News and the The Houston Chronicle, he had an uphill climb. The Morning News wrote that Perry had done “relatively little during a decade at the helm of state government.”
Perry became governor in 2000 when George W. Bush resigned from office to seek the presidency. He has since run twice, fending off a long line of challengers. Earlier this year, he defeated Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson and businesswoman Debra Medina in the Republican primary.
In 2006, Perry faced Democrat Chris Bell as well as author and comedian Kinky Friedman. In 2002, Democrat and businessman Tony Sanchez spent $75 million on the race but won just 40 percent of the vote.
Perry seized the tea party movement early, pondering Texas’ secession from the union at a tea party rally last year. At the time, he said, “My hope is that America, and Washington in particular, will pay attention. We’ve got a great union. There’s absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, who knows what may come of that? But Texas is a very unique place, and a pretty independent lot to boot.”
When asked about the secession comment, Perry told Politics Daily’s Matt Lewis, “I totally understand how distressed people across this country are at Washington and Washington’s disdain for people’s personal freedom.” He said he tipped his hat to the tea party for “getting people to go back and read the Constitution.”
White ran on his record as Houston mayor. He received the endorsements of environmental groups for pushing practical measures to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil with more production of domestic natural gas and greater reliance on other renewable domestic resources. He also touted Houston’s job growth under his leadership.
As late as Monday, White lobbed attacks on Perry. His campaign sent out a press release hinting that the governor might leave office early to run for president in 2012 and is just prepping himself for the national stage. The release also said that Perry was planning a tour for his upcoming book, “Fed Up: Our Fight to Save America From Washington,” soon after the election. Another potential candidate in 2012, Newt Gingrich, wrote the book’s foreword.
According to The Associated Press, Perry says in the book that he is fed up with “prohibition of school prayer, the redefinition of marriage, the nationalization of health care, the proliferation of federal criminal laws, interference with local education, the increased regulation of food — [Washington] even telling us what kind of light bulb we can use.”

Written by suziparker1313

March 8, 2011 at 10:25 pm

Blanche Lincoln and Arkansas Democrats Battle the Red Tide

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The poster child for political jeopardy this year is Sen. Blanche Lincoln, Democrat of Arkansas.

On the surface, it appeared that Lincoln, a seasoned, victorious veteran of four federal campaigns, had adroitly threaded the political needle in preparation for re-election. Since becoming a senator in 1998, she has played the role of independent Blue Dog centrist, often voting against her party to curry favor among conservative Democrats and independent voters back home.

After Sen. Edward Kennedy died, Lincoln became the first woman and Arkansan to chair the Senate Agriculture Committee, a plum position considering agriculture is Arkansas’ largest industry.

But less than a month before the midterm elections, Lincoln is in trouble.

Progressives began to criticize her last year. A whisper campaign took root about how Lincoln, who has a home in Virginia with her husband and twin sons, never visited Arkansas.

Lincoln found herself in the controversial waters of the health care overhaul, an issue that she vacillated on but supported in the end. In the spring, she drew two primary opponents and engaged in a bloody battle that she survived in a June run-off.

Dark clouds gathered around Lincoln exactly at the same time that the national Tea Party and Republican rabble-rousing made some inroads in Arkansas, which has been a predominantly Democratic state since the Reconstruction era.

If Lincoln’s main primary rival, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, had won, he’d likely be facing similarly troubling prospects.

For better or worse, Lincoln finds herself a victim of Arkansas’ changing political climate – at least this year.

“It’s just not a good year to be a Democrat, even, apparently, if you’re wielding a powerful position in agriculture and representing a state that is by tradition more thoroughly Democratic than nearly any other,” said Janine Parry, political science professor at the University of Arkansas.

Lincoln isn’t facing a particularly charismatic Republican opponent. Rep. John Boozman has served the Republican-dominated 3rd Congressional District for nine years. The low-key politician easily beat eight other candidates in the May primary. He hasn’t run a lot of television ads and has less money than Lincoln.

But Boozman is an alternative to Lincoln, and that’s enough for some voters.

In a recent Rasmussen Reports poll, Boozman led Lincoln by 55 percent to 37 percent, with 5 percent undecided. Three percent preferred some other candidate. A Green Party candidate along with an Independent are also on the November ballot.

Lincoln is far from the only Arkansas Democrat in trouble.

Some state legislative seats and constitutional offices that have been Democratic since the 1800s are now considered toss-ups. The Republican Party of Arkansas has fielded its largest slate of candidates ever, from county judges to federal offices.

The state GOP, with help from the Republican National Committee, has also stepped up its grassroots ground game. Alice Stewart, Republican Party of Arkansas senior communications adviser, gives Lincoln credit for making the party stronger.

“This push that you’re seeing started with angry voices not being heard by Lincoln during the health-care debate,” said Stewart. “People started getting engaged. They went from being concerned to becoming extremely engaged. That’s why you had so many Republican candidates in the primary who wanted to take on Lincoln.”

Stewart said that enthusiasm trickled down to other races that Republicans have not had much of a chance of winning in prior elections.

A perfect example is the 1st Congressional District, which Lincoln represented for two terms. Rep. Marion Berry has held the seat in the heavily rural district since 1997.

In January, Berry announced his retirement. His chief of staff, Chad Causey, is running against Republican Rick Crawford, a businessman and agricultural broadcaster. Polls show the race to be a dead heat.

The 2nd Congressional District seat, which has been held by Democrat Vic Snyder – Arkansas’ most progressive congressman – could become Republican. Snyder decided earlier this year not to seek re-election. Former Bush White House aide Tim Griffin faces Joyce Elliott, a retired schoolteacher and state legislator who beat four opponents in the May primary. If Elliott could pull out a victory, she would be the state’s first black representative to Washington. But polls show Griffin leading Elliott by 20 points.

For the last 30 years, Bill Clinton’s star power both as governor and president helped to stymie a massive Republican takeover in his home state. He is once again attempting to inoculate against the red tide.

Clinton returns to Arkansas next week to campaign for Lincoln and the Democratic ticket in Jonesboro, a college town in the 1st Congressional District. The district may be the firewall that keeps the Arkansas congressional delegation from flipping to the GOP. Clinton last campaigned for Arkansas Democrats in September. This week, Lincoln began airing a television ad featuring the former president.

Even if Republicans make gains, Arkansas will remain a Democratic state. All constitutional offices are held by Democrats and 87 percent of local elected officials are Democrats, said Joel Coon, Democratic Party of Arkansas communications director.

“Any talk of a Republican takeover of the state is premature and a little silly,” said Coon. “This is a crazy year and Republicans are feeling confident in their chances, but they are counting their chickens before they are hatched.”

The Republican tide that washed over the South in the 1980s and ’90s may finally be rolling into Arkansas. But Parry cautions that it will take more than one election cycle for Republicans to claim domination.

“The Republican bench continues to be miserably shallow, so shallow – I’d propose – that although the current national environment may help build, finally, a sustained Republican apparatus in Arkansas, it might also sweep in some Republican winners who just weren’t ready for prime time,” Parry said. “That could mean dashed hopes for competitive elections, again, in 2012.”

Written by suziparker1313

March 8, 2011 at 10:03 pm

The West Memphis Three, and the Two Women Fighting to Free Them

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – In a historic Gothic church in downtown, more than 150 people from Arkansas, around the country and the world gathered Wednesday night to show their support for the West Memphis Three.

The West Memphis Three are Jason Baldwin, Damien Echols and Jessie Misskelley Jr. While teenagers, they were charged with the murder of three 8-year-old boys, who were found in 1993 naked and bound in West Memphis, Ark. The case immediately made national headlines and was the focus of two HBO documentaries.

Echols was sentenced to death, while Baldwin and Misskelley received life sentences.

Since 1993, the case has received attention from celebrities, including a rally and concert in August that featured Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, Dixie Chick Natalie Maines, Patti Smith and Johnny Depp.

On Thursday morning, the Arkansas Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Damien Echols’ case. His attorneys asked for a new trial based on claims of juror misconduct and new DNA evidence – DNA testing was unavailable in 1993 – that they say proves his innocence. Attorneys for the state attorney general office argued that DNA testing wasn’t enough to warrant a new trial. More than 100 people packed the Supreme Court chamber and an overflow room where West Memphis Three supporters viewed the proceedings on a closed-circuit television.

Two women are at the heart of the West Memphis Three activism — Capi Peck, a Little Rock restaurant owner, and Lorri Davis, the wife of Echols. Together, they have become a force to be reckoned with as they have pushed for a new trial and more grassroots activism in Arkansas, the one place where attention on the case has been minimal.

“Arkansas voices needed to be heard,” Peck told Politics Daily. “I’ve taken flack for getting involved since I own a restaurant and been told it wasn’t wise because the public position was divisive and polarizing. But this is social justice. It is a black mark on our state and judicial system.”

Peck met Davis through her restaurant four years ago. Back then, Davis, who is shy, didn’t publicly talk about the case or her relationship with Echols. The two women never mentioned the case as they began to hang out on Saturday nights. Peck, who was aware of the case, says see initially saw their friendship as a way for Davis to relax and put the case out of her mind. Then Davis started opening up to Peck.

Davis told Peck the story about how she had seen “Paradise Lost,” the HBO documentary about the case in 1995. At the time, Davis, a West Virginia native, lived in New York where she worked as a landscape designer. She became fascinated with Echols and began writing him in prison. Two years later, she moved to Arkansas. In 1999, they married.

Through that time, Davis has fought to get legal and financial help for the cause. She has become friends not only with Peck but Vedder, who has visited Echols numerous times in prison, and Depp.

“It’s not so much my own stress, but the stress of what Damien has had to live with,” Davis says. “It’s horrible to see people you love suffer, to watch their life slipping away.”

Peck says she’s watched the “emotional strain” take a toll on Davis as she tried every avenue to get Echols – and also Misskelley and Baldwin – free and keep focus on the case. Davis never takes a vacation because she doesn’t want to miss her weekly visit with Echols. They talk every day on the telephone.

Some would call Davis crazy for falling in love with a man on Death Row. She dismisses it.

“I felt this kinship with Damien,” she says without further explanation.

Peck realized that while celebrity and global netroots support existed in the case, few in Arkansas seemed to care about the issue. Davis, too, had very little community support, even after she began seeking it. Peck, along with a handful of friends, began Arkansas Take Action to educate the public on the facts of the complex case and generate a grassroots push for a new trial.

The West Memphis Three case is a complicated one. The murders of Stevie Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore rocked the small eastern Arkansas town of Robin Hood Hills, a wooded area near their home in West Memphis. Local and state police were pressured by the community to quickly find the murderer.
Some believed it to be a case of an occult killing. Echols was singled out because he wore black clothes, listened to heavy metal and read horror novels, although he did not know the three boys.
Less than a month later, Misskelley, who was later diagnosed as mentally handicapped, confessed to the crime and claimed Echols and Baldwin sexually abused, cut and beat the victims. The confession and facts of the crime never matched. No DNA taken from the crime scene matched that of the West Memphis Three.

In 2007, Peck and Davis invited Natalie Maines to a rally on the steps of the state capitol in Little Rock where they presented petitions and letters to Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe asking for a new trial. The governor does not have the power to do so, but can commute sentences and grant pardons. He has ruled out both. That rally spawned a controversy when Maines said then that new DNA evidence implicated one of the stepfathers of the dead boys. Maines also posted a note about the new evidence to the Dixie Chicks website.

The stepfather, Terry Hobbs, filed a lawsuit in 2008 against Maines for damages that included “loss of income, injury to his reputation and emotional distress.” The suit was dismissed in December. In April, the court ordered Hobbs to pay Maines’ attorney and court fees.

Peck, who says the last time she was involved in politics or a cause was George McGovern’s 1972 presidential campaign, placed petitions and informational cards Trio’s, her popular restaurant, about the case. Her group held candlelight vigils, which seldom garnered any local press attention. She became friends with Echols and began writing letters to him.

“I am an eternal optimist,” Peck says. “I ultimately have faith in people. I believe that if we are adamant and vocal we can make a difference.”

The group recently sent a letter to former President Bill Clinton asking for him to lend support to the “tragic injustice.” Clinton’s Harlem office wrote back that the case was a local issue.

The August rally and concert, attended by 2,500 people, was a sell-out. Many had never paid attention to the case but are now involved in Arkansas Take Action, gathering signatures on another round of petitions to take to the governor. A video was also produced for the rally.

The event also focused on the new evidence that will be presented at Thursday’s hearing — new DNA found in one of the ligatures used to restrain one of the victims.
Experts believe that Misskelley’s confession was coerced. The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, along with the Northwestern University School of Law’s Center on Wrongful Convictions, filed an amicus brief with the Arkansas Supreme Court asking the court to grant Echols a new trial. According to that group, there have been 257 post-conviction DNA exonerations in the United States. A quarter of them involved a false confession.

Aside from DNA evidence, defense attorneys argue that the jury foreman engaged in “blatant misconduct” by having improper conversations with a prominent Arkansas attorney that led to Echols’ and Baldwins’ murder convictions.
If the Supreme Court refuses to grant a new trial, lawyers plan to fight the case in federal court. The Supreme Court will likely rule on the case in the next two to six weeks.

At the vigil Wednesday night, letters and journal entries by the West Memphis Three were read by activists. White candles were lit and a silent meditation occurred for 17 minutes to symbolize the 17 years that the three have “endured a grave injustice.”

Supporters – some of whom came from as far as Canada and California – plan to pack the courtroom Thursday morning as the state and Echols’ attorney present their two sides to the state Supreme Court justices, who previously upheld Echols’ conviction.

Peck and Davis take issue with those who say they are fighting a lost cause. “The tide is turning. Whatever happens tomorrow, our work is not over,” Peck says. “Regardless of what happens, we are not going to go away until these three young men are home.”

Davis echoes her friend. “The world is watching Arkansas and its judicial system and politicians now,” she says.

Written by suziparker1313

March 8, 2011 at 10:00 pm

Christine O’Donnell’s Younger Years: Forget Witchcraft, Think Media Goddess

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Bless her heart. Christine O’Donnell has a lot of people angry at her — Wiccans, Satanists, Bill Maher, and even some Republicans. 

No small feat, but reflecting on O’Donnell’s history, it’s par for the course.

Maher made an appearance on “Hardball With Chris Matthews” Tuesday night to discuss O’Donnell, who made more than 20 appearances on his “Politically Incorrect” show years ago. Over the weekend, O’Donnell, who is the Republican Senate nominee in Delaware, said she made comments like the one about dabbling in witchcraft to help Maher with ratings.

Maher called foul.

“It’s funny to me, Chris, because this is the woman who claimed on another one of our ‘Politically Incorrect’ episodes from the ’90s that she would not lie, even in the case of hiding Anne Frank in her attic,” Maher told Matthews. “Eddie Izzard confronted her and said, ‘Really? If Hitler was at the door and you had Anne Frank in the attic, you wouldn’t lie?’ She said, ‘No. God would find a way.’ ”

Perhaps, Maher did want ratings, but O’Donnell had her own agenda as a young, firebrand former Catholic-turned-Evangelical Christian pushing her message. She said on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show Tuesday night that she viewed such appearances as a ministry and that she was excited back then about her new-found faith.

Some will laugh at her naivete, and likely doubt the veracity of her statement, but I know plenty of people who, in their teens and twenties in the Bible belt, tossed their heavy metal albums into the roaring fireplace and began quoting the Gospel.

O’Donnell told Hannity that her “faith has matured” since her twenties.

But that comment doesn’t appease Wiccans and Satanists, who want her to understand their beliefs. Wiccans say that O’Donnell is confused about witchcraft. They have altars but no blood. Satanists have rebuffed O’Donnell, too. They claim no real Satanist would ever have a picnic on an altar.

Give Christine a break. Her dabbling in the dark side may have happened exactly as she described. Blame the boy she dated. Maybe the young warlock was trying to impress her by turning his weight bench into a devil-worshipping altar and splattering some red food coloring for effect.

Her story to Maher also could have been pure theatrics. After all, she started off as a theater major in college and ended up in the College Republicans. From there, she found her way to Washington, working with Enough Is Enough, an anti-pornography group, and later at the Republican National Committee. She even attended the 1996 Republican National Convention.

Like many ambitious twenty-somethings who hit Washington, she networked and created her own group, Saviors Alliance for Lifting the Truth (SALT). If she was looking to create a media launching pad, it paid off.

She discussed creationism in schools on CNN and the sins of masturbation on an MTV sex special in 1996. But like the witchcraft statement, O’Donnell has taken too much criticism for her viewpoints on masturbation. To be fair, masturbation was a hot, controversial topic in the 1990s. In 1991, Pee-wee Herman was busted for masturbating in a movie theater. In December 1994, Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders was fired by President Clinton for promoting masturbation as a means of preventing young people from engaging in riskier sexual acts.

Author Martha Cornog wrote in The Journal of Sex Research in 2004 that, since the 1960s, only 30 books focusing on masturbation had been published. Guess which decade had the most? Yep — the 1990s, when there were 13.

Talking about such a taboo topic greatly benefited O’Donnell, who became a popular pundit. She took her cheery smile and bouncy hair all the way to Maher’s show, where she was the chaste Sandra Dee foil in the grungy sex-obsessed Clinton years.

Like any good grassroots activist, she kept her name and her cause in the headlines. In 1997, she wrote a Washington Post op-ed about witnessing at rock concerts. “Walking through the crowd I also noticed more pentagrams than crosses around the teenage necks,” she wrote. “Satanism is the religion of the ’90s, I was told.”

While Maher chides O’Donnell about her appearances on his show, he contends that he likes her and that she is sincere in her beliefs. He wants her to come on his HBO program. But O’Donnell told Hannity Tuesday night that she was only focusing on local media until after the election. But can a media junkie really ignore phone calls from big-time talk show producers? Doubtful.

After all, the biography attached to a 2003 article written by O’Donnell — in which she tackles “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and the women of Middle Earth — describes her as “sassy, stubborn and sweet, and by those who disagree with her as ‘the girl you hate to love.’ This young woman who National Review Magazine says ‘blends the flare of the Bible with Cosmopolitan,’ shatters the stereotype about her generation.”

If O’Donnell loses to Democrat opponent Chris Coons, she’ll likely land her own television show. Maybe that’s what she’s been after all of these years.

Written by suziparker1313

March 8, 2011 at 9:45 pm