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11.21.07

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News Briefs

By Patricia Lynn Henley


A Moving Trial

Renato Hughes Jr., 23, will not stand trial for murder in lily-white Lake County. On Nov. 15, a judge ruled that there's reasonable doubt this young black man can get a fair trial there, and ordered the case moved to another county. As reported earlier this year in these pages ("Justice Averted?" June 13), Hughes is being held legally responsible for the deaths of two of his closest friends, who were killed during what police allege was an attempted home-invasion robbery in Clearlake in 2005. The two young black men were shot in the back by the white homeowner, who wasn't charged with a crime. Hughes is going to trial under a law that holds a person responsible if they provoke an action that leads to death. Lake County district attorney Jon Hopkins says he was "flabbergasted" that the judge approved the motion to move the trial to another county. "The jury selection process had revealed that people were not prejudiced by pretrial publicity and weren't going to decide the case by race." Defense attorney Stuart Hanlon says Hopkins "must have been sitting in a different jury selection process than I did." The problem, Hanlon notes, is not overt but rather unconscious racism. "Lake County is such a homogenous society—it's 90 percent white—that people there don't deal with black people, especially black young men." On Dec. 14 state officials will present three counties as potential new sites for Hughes' trial. It's the right move, Hanlon asserts. "The bottom line is everyone should want a fair trial and a chance to get at the truth, and now we have a chance to do that."

Message for Feinstein

Sen. Diane Feinstein's support for the successful nomination of Michael Mukasey as U.S. Attorney General despite his refusal to renounce waterboarding and other torture techniques prompted the Sonoma County Democratic Central Committee and Progressive Democrats Sonoma, among others, to ask a California Democratic Party executive board meeting to censure Feinstein. "[Feinstein] needs to pay attention to the people who elected her, and we all oppose torture. Democrats oppose torture," says Alice Chan, spokeswoman for Progressive Democrats Sonoma. The call for the censure resolution failed, Chan says, in part because it was submitted after the agenda deadline, so under party rules if one committee member objected, the issue would be dropped. "We really didn't expect it to pass," Chan explains. She adds, "We're not finished. There's another [Democratic Party executive] meeting three months from now."


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