News Roundup

As the Winston-Salem Journal reports, the death of John Neville at the Forsyth County Detention Center continued to animate calls for justice and accountability in Winston-Salem this week after surveillance video footage of the circumstances surrounding his death was made public.  People gathered in Bailey Park in the city’s downtown for a vigil honoring Neville where they sang songs and listened to remarks from three speakers.  Keep reading for more on this story and other news.

Neville.  Roughly 45 minutes of video footage was made public and is posted on the Winston-Salem Journal’s website.  The footage shows detention center staff responding to Neville’s cell where he had apparently suffered a seizure and fallen out of his bunk.  He is disoriented and repeatedly tries to get up while officers hold him down and tell him that him that he is having a medical incident and that they are there to help.  Eventually they place him in handcuffs and transport him from his cell in a wheelchair.  A nurse checks his blood pressure while he continues to be disoriented and struggle against his restraints.

Part of the footage shows several detention officers struggling to remove handcuffs from Neville while he is restrained face down in a holding cell following the medical emergency.  During the ordeal, Neville repeatedly says “I can’t breathe” and calls for help.  While Neville calls out, an officer tells him to calm down so they can remove the cuffs.  Eventually a key breaks inside the cuffs and a protracted process ensues where the cuffs eventually are removed using bolt cutters.

Coronavirus Testing.  WRAL reported this week that all inmates at North Carolina prisons now have been tested for coronavirus and that 2.1% of the tests were positive.  Nearly 30,000 inmates were tested, with 619 tests coming back positive.  In 24 facilities, no positive tests were recorded.  The widespread testing effort began in mid-June, but inmates in certain facilities already had been tested.  The WRAL report says that when the results of all testing are combined, there are 1,459 positive tests overall among inmates, which is about 5% of the state prison population.

Arson Threat Plea.  The News & Observer reports that a Catawba man, John Malcolm Bareswill, pleaded guilty in Virginia federal court this week to threatening to burn down a predominantly Black church in Virginia Beach after church leaders participated in a prayer vigil and peaceful demonstration related to George Floyd’s death in late May.  Bareswill initially denied calling an adult Sunday school class and using a racial slur while saying that members of the church needed to “shut the [expletive] up” and threatening to burn the church down, but the FBI discovered incriminating internet searches on his cellphone as well as records of a call to another Black church in the area that went unanswered.

Salas.  A few weeks ago, the News Roundup noted a tragic incident where a federal judge in New Jersey, Esther Salas, was the target of a shooting by a disgruntled lawyer, who ended up killing Salas’s son and severely injuring her husband.  As the New Jersey Star-Ledger reports, Salas spoke publicly about the incident for the first time this week.  In a video statement, Salas recounted the events surrounding her son’s death and asked that personal information about judges be kept private so that their addresses are not easily found.

Facial Recognition.  Earlier this week the New York Times podcast The Daily ran an episode about Robert Julian-Borchak Williams, a man who was arrested, jailed, and accused of larceny after being misidentified by facial recognition software used by the Detroit Police Department.  The podcast says that Williams’s case is perhaps the first confirmed misidentification by such software but that it is likely, for reasons related to how the software algorithms are developed and how they are used by law enforcement agencies, that misidentifications happen with some frequency.  It’s an interesting listen and there’s an earlier New York Times article about Williams’s case here.

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