National Roundup

Mn acquitted of killing 3 people, wounding 2 others

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A judge has acquitted a Minnesota man accused of fatally shooting three people and wounding two others in St. Paul last year in a case that hinged on an alibi defense.

Ramsey County Judge Kelly Olmstead on Friday found Antonio Dupree Wright not guilty on all charges, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported. Wright, 42, of Minneapolis, had waived a jury trial, allowing the judge to decide his fate.

“There’s insufficient evidence to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is the person who committed these heinous crimes,” Olmstead said.

Prosecutors had charged Wright with second-degree murder and attempted murder, alleging he was the masked man who fired a handgun at the victims at a St. Paul duplex on Sept. 4, 2022. Killed were Angelica Gonzales, 33, Cory Freeman, 42, and Maisha Spaulding, 44.

“There is no question that the victims were intentionally targeted for murder,” Olmstead said. “The sole, true issue in this case is the identity of the shooter.”

Wright’s attorney, Joe Friedberg, argued in his written closing that Wright had a “proven” alibi: He was in Chicago at the time.

“This is just a horrible case of a massacre, where the state charged the wrong guy,” Friedberg told the newspaper after the verdict.

On the day of the shooting, Wright’s aunt testified during the trial, he stopped by her Chicago home unannounced at 10 a.m. for a visit. His mother testified he went to her apartment at 10 p.m., which would have been over five hours after the shooting. She identified the man seen on surveillance video from the apartment lobby as her son.

Friedberg also argued that witnesses had testified the shooter had dreadlocks, which Wright didn’t have.

Stephen Anderson, who was shot in the head and hands, had told investigators that the gunman was named Antonio, the charges said. Anderson also picked Wright out of a photo lineup as the shooter. But Anderson backtracked at trial, saying the shooter had dreadlocks and was not Wright.

“While we are disappointed in the outcome, we respect the court’s decision,” prosecutors said in a statement.

Wright still faces kidnapping and attempted murder charges from a separate incident and remains jailed on $2 million bail.

Prisoner lawsuit claims they’re forced to endure cruel conditions at prison farm

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Men incarcerated at Louisiana State Penitentiary filed a class-action lawsuit Saturday, contending they have been forced to work in the prison’s fields for little or no pay, even when temperatures soar past 100 degrees. They described the conditions as cruel, degrading and often dangerous.

The men, most of whom are Black, work on the farm of the 18,000-acre maximum-security prison known as Angola -- the site of a former slave plantation -- hoeing, weeding and picking crops by hand, often surrounded by armed guards, the suit said. If they refuse to work or fail to meet quotas, they can be sent to solitary confinement or otherwise punished, according to disciplinary guidelines.

“This labor serves no legitimate penological or institutional purpose,” the suit said. “It’s purely punitive, designed to ‘break’ incarcerated men and ensure their submission.”

It names as defendants Angola’s warden, Timothy Hooper, and officials with Louisiana’s department of corrections and its money-making arm, Prison Enterprises.

Ken Pastorick, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety and Corrections, said the department hadn’t officially been served with the suit.

“We cannot comment on something we have not seen nor had any opportunity to review,” he said.

The United States has historically locked up more people than any other country, with more than 2.2 million inmates in federal and state prisons, jails and detention centers. They can be forced to work because the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which abolished slavery after the Civil War, made an exception for those “duly convicted” of a crime.

The plaintiffs include four men who formerly or are currently working in the fields, along with Voice of the Experienced, an organization made up of current and formerly incarcerated people, around 150 of whom are still at Angola.
The suit said the work is especially dangerous for those with disabilities or health conditions in the summer months, with temperatures reaching up to 102 degrees in June, with heat indexes of up to 145.

Some of the plaintiffs have not been given the accommodations and services they are entitled to under the Americans with Disabilities Act, it said.

These men are forced to work “notwithstanding their increased risk of illness or injury,” the suit said.

It asserts the field work also violates their 8th Amendment rights to be free of cruel and unusual punishment, and that some plaintiffs in the suit were sentenced by non-unanimous juries and therefore were not “duly convicted” within the meaning of the 13th Amendment.

The men — represented by the legal advocacy organizations Promise of Justice Initiative and Rights Behind Bars — are asking the court to declare that work they are forced to do is unconstitutional and to require the state to end its generations-long practice of compulsory agricultural labor.

Man pleads guilty in deadly Jeep attack on Reno homeless center

RENO, Nev. (AP) — A man who admitted to deliberately driving his Jeep into a crowd serving food outside Reno’s homeless center, killing one person and seriously injuring two others, has pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder with the use of a deadly weapon.

David Turner, 58, was arrested while he was sitting in his car at a nearby motel shortly after the April 3 attack, authorities said.

Turner told police he drove into the people because he was homeless and had nowhere to go but investigators have been unable to establish any further motive or explanation, according to court documents.

Michelle Jardine, 55, was killed. Christina Roman, 47, and her 22-year-old daughter Clarissa Roman were seriously injured.

The Washoe County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement Friday that Turner entered his guilty pleas on Tuesday without any negotiations with prosecutors.

The public defender’s office did not immediately respond Friday to an email seeking comment.

Turner’s sentencing is scheduled for late January. He could get up to life without the possibility of parole for the murder charge, and a maximum prison sentence of up to 40 years for each attempted murder charge.