Friday, November 20, 2009

Breaking News: Heather Ellis Takes the Plea Deal

Heather Ellis, now a schoolteacher, was a student in 2007 when the Wal-Mart incident occurred.

Heather Ellis, now a schoolteacher, was a student in 2007 when the Wal-Mart incident occurred.


  • NEW: Ellis' permanent record will be cleared if she stays out of trouble for a year
  • Heather Ellis agrees to probation, anger-management class
  • Plea deal reached as jury deliberated
  • Ellis testifies on her own behalf in racially charged case

Kennett, Missouri (CNN) -- A woman accused of cutting in line at a Wal-Mart, shoving merchandise and assaulting police officers will plead guilty to disturbing the peace and resisting arrest, both misdemeanors.

Under the agreement -- reached after the jury received the case for deliberations -- Heather Ellis will plead guilty to disturbing the peace and resisting arrest. She will serve a year of unsupervised probation, attend an anger management course and serve four days in jail before the end of the year.

The sentence stipulates that if Ellis stays out of trouble for a year, the charges will be sealed and the arrest won't be on her permanent record.

Ellis said after court was adjourned that she was "taking responsibility for her actions and [hopes] that everyone else involved in the case will take responsibility for theirs."

Click to read.

Dr. Boyce Watkins: Minimizing Funeral Costs

by Dr. Boyce Watkins 

Funerals are never fun. They are emotionally draining and you are forced to endure the shock of knowing that your loved one will never be back in your life. In addition to the emotional devastation, you have to deal with the financial burdens of paying for someone to be buried. We all know that funerals are not free or cheap, and the last place you want to be cheap is when it comes to burying the person you love.
But there are ways you can keep the cost down. They say you can't take the money with you, but someone who doesn't plan for their death may be taking their relatives' money with them to the grave. Here are some ways that you can bury on a budget: giving relatives dignity without creating financial hardship.

There is a funeral cost calculator on that helps you to figure out how much your funeral might cost and whether or not you're going to be able to pay for it. Effectively, the cost estimator first determines your total resources from prepaid expenses, personal savings/investments, and death benefits. Once you know what is available to you, you have to determine how much you want to spend. Some of us want to go out in style and some of us figure that since we're dead, our relatives should be the ones having all the fun.

click to read.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Black News: Video Released in Heather Ellis Case

by Dr. Boyce Watkins 

When I held the rally for Heather Ellis last week, the woman facing up to 15-years in prison after allegedly cutting line at a Wal-Mart, I was hoping that one day the rest of the world could see what I saw nearly two weeks ago. In spite of the prosecutor's contention that the video tape would prove his case beyond a reasonable doubt, the truth is that the video is highly inconclusive. Check the video out and see for yourself.
You can click here to watch the video.

Click to read more on the Heather Ellis case.

Question of Jurisdiction: U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder v. U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham

"One of the first items law students entering law school learn is JURISDICTION (i.e. which Court (e.g. state, federal or military tribunal) should the plaintiff/district attorney/attorney general bring a petition). This is an excellent video to see what you will be learning when you enter into law school and also a REMINDER for lawyers already practicing, including those who are U.S. Attorney Generals." Syreeta L. McNeal, CPA, JD

WDSU: Federal Judge Holds Army Corps Responsible for Katrina Damage

Court Awards Plaintiffs Nearly $720,000 In Compensation

New Orleans - A federal judge has held the Army Corps of Engineers liable for some of the damage stemming from Hurricane Katrina.

The lawsuit involves WDSU anchor Norman Robinson, along with four other plaintiffs seeking damages from the federal government.

In a first-of-its-kind ruling, a U.S. District Court judge has awarded nearly $720,000 in total compensation to four of the plaintiffs. Judge Stanwood Duval Jr. ruled against the claim by Norman and Monica Robinson.

Duval ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers' failure to properly maintain a navigation channel led to massive flooding in Hurricane Katrina. He ruled in favor of residents who alleged the Army Corps' shoddy oversight of the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet led to the flooding of New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward and neighboring St. Bernard Parish.

The wide-ranging ruling was released Wednesday night. It's more than 150 pages long, and attorneys spent much of the night analyzing it.

Click here to read the lawsuit in PDF format.

Many in the area have argued that Katrina, which struck the region Aug. 29, 2005, was a man-made disaster caused by the Army Corps' failure to maintain the levee system protecting the city.

While still evaluating the 156-page opinion, the MRGO Litigation Group issued the following statement: "We are pleased with Judge Duval's ruling in this historic case. This decision is one step on the long road to recovery for the people of New Orleans. It has been proven in a court of law that the drowning of New Orleans was not a natural disaster, but a preventable man-made travesty. The government has always had a moral obligation to rebuild New Orleans. This decision makes that obligation a matter of legal responsibility."

Tanya Smith, one of the plaintiffs, said the case was not so much about compensation but making the corps accountable. She said Katrina's devastation "could possibly have been avoided if something had been done" by the corps to fix the MRGO, a shipping channel dug in the 1960s as a shortcut from the Gulf of Mexico to New Orleans. The channel has since been closed.


Your Black News: Man Shoots Son in the Head

Jamar Pinkney Sr

Jamar Pinkney, Sr. of Detroit is accused of shooting his 15-year-old son

in the head execution style. The shooting occurred after his son, Jamar Jr., confessed that he'd done something inappropriate to his 3-year-old sister. Jamar Sr. came home, stripped his son naked, took him outside the house and shot him in the head.

Lazette Cherry, Jamar Jr.'s mother, said she wanted to get help for her son when he confessed to what he'd done with his sister. She claims, however, that there was no rape. She says that her son admitted that he knew that lying down on top of the little girl was wrong.

"He got on his knees and begged, 'No, Daddy! No!' and he pulled the trigger," she said. "There wasn't nothing that my son wouldn't do for his father. He loved his father so much."

Click to read more.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Anderson Cooper 360 Weighs in on the Heather Ellis Case

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Heather Ellis is facing 15-years in prison for allegedly cutting line at a Wal-Mart store in Missouri.

Heather Ellis is facing 15-years in prison for allegedly cutting line at a Wal-Mart store in Missouri.

Dr. Boyce Watkins
Special to AC360°

Heather Ellis is in trouble. The 24-year old preacher’s daughter has spent most of her life doing the right things: Going to college, getting ready for medical school and staying out of trouble. What Heather didn’t realize is that even when you do the right things, your margin of error as a person of color in America is virtually non-existent.

When I wrote my book, “What if George Bush were a Black Man?” the key point was that America’s justice system has a difficult time understanding that punishments must match the magnitude of the crime that has allegedly been committed. The actions that a “frat boy” can get away with 20 times during college can send an African American to prison for the next 20-years. America is a country that has, without question, consistently over-charged, over-searched, over-incarcerated and over-sentenced African Americans for the past 400 years of its existence.

Given its ugly past, the criminal justice system has very little credibility, and even police reports are subject to being questioned – especially in a town like Kennett, MO. My father’s a cop, so I know how all this works. Even when black men were lynched 100 years ago, there were always “witnesses” and police reports to say that he was a bad person. Fortunately, lynching does not occur anymore (although a black boy – Walter Currie Jr. – was burned alive by his white classmate in the same area as Heather), but the noose has been replaced with the long prison sentence as the most typical and most devastating form of punishment. As a result, black men and women are filling up America’s penitentiaries at an alarming rate, and it is destroying the core of the black family.

Click to read.

Opinion: The Heather Ellis Case is Not the Only Injustice in Missouri

Heather Ellis case one in a long line of Missouri's racial injustices

  • Supporters of Heather Ellis gather on the Dunklin County Courthouse steps on Monday, Nov. 16, 2009, in Kennett, Mo. (AP Photo/Daily Dunklin Democrat, Deanna Coronado)
  • by Brenda L. Jones – MSNBC’s

When hundreds of people rallied outside a Wal-Mart in Kennett, Missouri Monday, they did so to protest the treatment by police and local prosecutors of Heather Ellis, the now infamous 24-year-old African-American college student who three years ago made a routine trip to that very same Wal-Mart to run some errands and ended up leaving in handcuffs after being accused of cutting a checkout line.

Led by civil rights activist Dr. Boyce Watkins and a coalition of civil rights organizations including the ACLU, the protesters marched to the Dunklin County Courthouse where, beginning today, Ellis, a Kennett native whose father still serves the Church in God in Christ congregation in town, will find herself fighting for her freedom after being charged with multiple felonies that could land her up to 15 years in prison. They were there to decry what Ellis has said was the abhorrent treatment she received from both her fellow shoppers and police. In a complaint she filed with the NAACP, Ellis says she was pushed by a white customer, hassled by store employees and called racial slurs by police who physically mistreated her. The police were called to the scene after Ellis and her cousin got into two separate checkout lines, and after Ellis joined her cousin when one line started moving faster than the other.

Click to read.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Heather Ellis: The Struggle Continues...

by Elliot Millner, J.D.

Heather Ellis is presently facing a possible 15 years in prison based on charges stemming from an incident that took place at a Wal-Mart in her hometown of Kennett, Missouri. Heather's ordeal began when she was falsely accused of cutting in line in front of some white customers (For more details of the case, visit

White supremacy, white privilege, institutional racism, "colorblind" racism, and racial discrimination are very much alive and well in the United States of America. I know this is something that those who choose to walk around deaf, dumb, and blind don't want to hear, however it is the unfortunate truth. Despite the post-racial b.s. preached by many upon his victory, the election of President Obama has sparked an increase in blatant acts of racist and white supremacist behavior.

It has been established repeatedly throughout history that when the superior position of white people in American society is perceived to be threatened, many white people respond to this perceived threat in the most ignorant and hateful ways, including threatening violence, and actually committing acts of violence against Blacks and other non-white groups. The unspoken truth regarding race relations in this country is that there has never been any true peace between white and non-white people here; the only illusion of peace that appears to exist does so because of the general willingness of Black people and other non-white groups to assimilate into white culture, and to appease the desires of the white majority. When Blacks and other non-whites have stood up and actually fought against the status quo, the results are pretty consistent; if the person isn't murdered, they are usually imprisoned or exiled ( MLK, Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Leonard Peltier, Paul Robeson, various individuals and groups via COINTELPRO, etc.). The conditioning effect of this pattern of actual fighters for freedom, justice, and equality being destroyed has been to produce a significant number of Black people who are scared to fight (for anything), and willing to accept the figurative "crumbs" that fall off of the white majorities table.

Which brings us to Heather. Here is a case involving a Black woman who simply wanted to go to Wal-Mart, grab a few items, and go home. Instead, she is facing prison time for what amounts to not staying in the place that certain ignorant elements in this area of Missouri felt she should stay. Although the activity in Kennett, Missouri seems to be on the extreme end of the spectrum, this is something that could happen to any one of us, at any time. Heather was offered "crumbs" (a plea deal that included misdemeanor charges), however she and her family have chosen to fight against what they see as an unjust system. They have chosen to not accept a plea deal for doing nothing wrong.

I ask that you show support for Heather and her family in some way. I also ask that you refuse to accept the crumbs that fall to the floor, and demand that you have your own plate at the table, and to also demand that for all people. If you can't or won't help Heather in her fight, do so for someone else. Unfortunately, there is still no shortage of fights out there to be fought.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Prosecutor Removes Himself from the Heather Ellis Case

Tuesday, November 10, 2009 ~ Updated 1:25 PM

Heather Ellis is shown alongside her mother, Hester Ellis, outside the Justice Center at Bloomfield last month following her pre-trial hearing in a case that has gained national attention. At right is Ellis' attorney, Timothy Hunsaker from the St. Louis firm of Rosenblum, Schwartz, Rogers and Glass. Also pictured (at left) is an unidentified member of the American Civil Liberties Union.
(Staff photo by Noreen Hyslop)

A motion filed in a Dunklin County courtroom brings a new twist to the case against Heather Ellis, a case that has garnered national media attention.

Ellis, an African-American woman from Kennett, is charged in connection with an incident at the Kennett Walmart in 2007 during which she was arrested and charged with two counts of the Class C felony assault on a law enforcement officer, one count of the Class B misdemeanor peace disturbance and one count of the Class A misdemeanor resisting arrest. Ellis was charged as a result of a scuffle that broke out in a checkout line at the store, following Ellis being accused by associates employed by Walmart of cutting in line.

The motion in question, filed by Ellis' attorney on November 2, involves Ellis' legal representation requesting Dunklin County Prosecuting Attorney Stephen Sokoloff to recuse himself from the case.

Click to read.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Houston Chronicle: Parents sue over Prairie View student's death


Copyright 2009 Houston Chronicle
Nov. 3, 2009, 8:10PM

A 20-year-old Phi Beta Sigma pledge at Prairie View A&M University underwent systematic hazing — including a strict bread-and-water diet, paddling and mandatory rigorous exercises — that intensified until it culminated in his death, a lawsuit filed by his parents states.
Donnie Wade II, a biology major studying to become a doctor, died Oct. 20 following a pre-dawn exercise session with a group of his pledge brothers, investigators said.

While the autopsy is not yet complete, Wade's mother, Katrina, blames hazing for taking her only son from her.

“I will not rest until I am sure no other families will go through what we have,” she said.
Her husband, Wade I, is an associate pastor of the Dallas-area Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship.

$97 million

The wrongful death lawsuit, filed Friday in Dallas County, seeks as much as $97 million in damages from the national fraternity based in Washington, D.C., the pledge trainer, Marvin Jackson, and Prairie View A&M.

Prairie View's spokeswoman Sheleah Hughes said the university is continuing its probe into the incident and could not comment on the lawsuit.

Similarly, Phi Beta Sigma did not return phone calls. But in a recent Web site posting, the organization stated: “Hazing does not represent the tradition and principles of the 95-year history of our fraternity” and expressed its condolences to Wade's parents.

The parents hired a private investigator, who took statements that led to the filing of the lawsuit, said the family‘s attorney, Kevin Kelley of Dallas.

The suit states that the younger Wade paid his $900 initiation fee and was given his acceptance letter from the Dangerous Delta Theta chapter of Beta Sigma Phi, as were nine other pledges.

To continue reading the article follow the link below:

"I have family from Dallas, TX who knew the family of the slain student and went to the funeral this past weekend. When are these fraternities and sororities going to learn that this type of stuff (e.g. Hazing) is not beneficially. You don't have enough insurance to cover for the loss of life and also you could go to jail for murder for a long time just to replicate what happened to you when you pledged. People better start waking up...." Syreeta L. McNeal, CPA, JD

Credit Repair: Things You Need to Know

By Jamal C. Wright, Esq.

In my field of Bankruptcy, I get more inquiries about how to improve credit reports than any other legal issue. More often than not, I get approached when the issue becomes critical. The debtor has come to a point in their life where they wish to purchase a house, a car or an education. But if you know what I know about credit reporting agencies (CRA’s) and their practices, then you wouldn’t approach me at all. In fact, I don’t want you to approach me about cleaning your credit report. No lawyer does. We will get to why in a moment. Here’s my chance to tell you a little bit about what I know. Let’s break it down to 3 basic points:

  • (1) Tiiiiime… aint on my side, no it’s not!
There is no quick fix to your credit report. People ask me all the time if I could do something, immediately, to bring their FICO scores up twenty points. Nope. Your Fico score is concocted from a secret algorithm that only the people at Fair-Isaac Corporation know. Their secret is as protected as the ingredients to Coca Cola. However, it is public knowledge that this score is derived from the credit history told about you, by the “big 3” credit reporting agencies. So to change your score, you must change history, so to speak. This takes time. People should give themselves 3-9 months after they have begun work on their reports to look for a significant change in their FICO score.

  • (2) One web site:

Not This site is credit report improvement central. This site is one that the three CRA’s are forced to maintain by federal law. It’s the only site you should waste time on, despite the lack of a catchy jingle. In the site’s own words, they admit:

“ provides consumers with the secure means to request and obtain a free credit report once every 12 months from each of the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies in accordance with the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACT Act).”

They also give you a free report whenever you have been turned down for credit or a job, etc… I always say that nobody should EVER have to pay for a credit report.

What CRA’s do not admit so readily, is that the same federal law requires them to be 100% correct in everything they report. This means if they say you owe someone $100 and you really owe $101, they MUST investigate and MUST either correct it or erase it within 30 days of becoming aware of the inaccuracy, or else. It’s very hard to maintain 100% correct trade lines, since what you actually owe a creditor, can change from moment to moment. That’s the rub and it works in your favor, because frequently we find that CRA’s just erase the trade line, hence the saying, “clean one’s credit.” Who will bring the inaccuracies to their attention? You. Your attorney could do it, but the credit lobby in Congress made it so that when attorneys get involved in the process the CRA’s actually have MORE than thirty days to investigate. How do you bring it to their attention? You dispute them.

  • (3) The CRA Dispute

When you go to, you will be getting the most recent version of your report from the “Big 3.” You will also be able to start your dispute process. The reports will contain a confirmation number. This number will allow you back into the system for the next 30 days on the individual CRA websites, to dispute trade lines. The hardest thing about starting this process is finding the actual “dispute” page on each of the three CRA sites. They aren’t exactly in plain view.

After reviewing your reports and identifying the most “questionable” trade lines, go online and dispute them by clicking a few buttons. The process is amazingly simple for you. Not exactly the same for them. The CRA will take your dispute, go back to the original creditor and ask them to prove their claim. If the creditor can’t dig paper proof of the exact claim within thirty days (and unless they are Bank of America, they rarely can), the tradeline MUST be erased, or “cleaned.” As for your other negative tradelines, wash, rinse, repeat. There are twists and turns, but if you are consistent, you can wipe virtually all “inaccuracies” off of your report, thus enhancing your FICO score.

Legal Disclaimer: This site provides information about the law designed to keep readers informed of pertinent legal matters affecting the African-American community. But legal information is not the same as legal advice -- the application of law to an individual's specific circumstances. Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend you consult a lawyer in your specific location if you want professional assurance that our information, and your interpretation of it, is appropriate to your particular situation.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Black News: NNPA Covers the Heather Ellis Case

By Pharoh Martin NNPA National Correspondent
Tuesday, November 3, 2009 8:53 AM CST

(NNPA) - Because of a trip to Walmart three years ago, Heather Ellis is now fighting for her life. The 24-year-old former college student is facing felony charges that could get her up to 15 years in prison after being arrested for an incident that stemmed from her cutting a line at a Walmart in Kennet, Missouri.

The case is garnering national attention because of the racial underpinnings and perceived multiple injustices involved. It goes to trial Nov. 18. On November 16, the Your Black World Coalition, NAACP, American Civil Liberties Union, National Action Network, and Southern Christian Leadership Conference plan to converge on the small town of Kennett to protest and heighten the publicity.
Here’s what happened: On Jan. 6, 2007, Ellis and her cousin were sent on a midnight run to Walmart by her parents to pick up some items. With her cousin already standing in line near the register, Ellis tried to join him at the front of the line. That's when the clerk accused Ellis of cutting in front of other customers.

Customers behind objected and verbally accosted the then 21-year-old, according to Ellis' father Rev. Nathanial Ellis in an interview with the NNPA News Service. One White customer physically pushed the former college student. Ellis tried to explain that she was joining her cousin who was already in line and told the lady not to push her again. She was subsequently pushed again. The cashier would later refuse to ring Ellis up even after everybody else in line went through.

“The cashier stalled my daughter long enough for the night manager to come up,” Rev. Ellis explained. “My daughter paid with cash but she asked my daughter for an I.D. [Heather] said that she didn't need an ID because she paid with cash.”

Click to read.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Michael Baisden Signs on to Support the Heather Ellis Case

by Dr. Boyce Watkins 

Just when you thought black celebrities didn't care anymore, the "Bad Boy of Radio,"Michael Baisden announced today that he is going to give $5,000 to the legal defense fund of the family of Heather Ellis, a 24-year old black female college student who faces 15-years in prison after cutting in line at a Walmart.

Click to read.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Heather Ellis Case: One that We Should All Be Concerned About

Dr. Wilmer Leon, Howard University

One of the things that make America unique is its Constitution, specifically the Bill of Rights. In its original form, the Constitution did not include a list of basic civil liberties or guarantees to the individual. Many prominent Americans, including Thomas Jefferson insisted that a list of fundamental protections be included to restrain the national government from tampering with the fundamental rights and civil liberties of its citizens. The intent of the framers of the Constitution was to level the playing field. They felt it necessary to restrain the very powerful government, prosecutors, and police from arbitrary and capricious action against the less powerful individual. Over time these protections have been passed down to the state level.

The case of Heather Ellis is a perfect present day example of why individual American citizens need to be protected from over zealous capricious prosecutors and police. For a young woman to be facing up to fifteen years in prison for trespassing, disturbing the peace, and two felony counts of assaulting a police officer, all for allegedly cutting a check-out line at a Wal-Mart is unconscionable.

Click to read.