How Did Ahmaud Arbery’s 3 Assailants End Up With 12 Murder Convictions?

“The felony murder rule “divorces intent from consequence,” says Lara Bazelon, a professor of law at the University of San Francisco. “The concept is that, well, if you went along for the underlying felony, if you went along for the less serious act…then you’re just as guilty as [the murderer], even if you didn’t know that your co-defendant was armed, and even if you had no intent to kill yourself.”
That scenario is not a hypothetical. In May 2020, not long before Arbery’s convicted murderers were indicted, Jenna Holm was arrested on a manslaughter charge in Idaho, accused of killing a police officer after he arrived to respond to her apparent mental health crisis. But it wasn’t Holm who killed Bonneville County Sheriff’s Deputy Wyatt Maser—something the state conceded. It was another cop, who struck Maser in his vehicle when he drove onto the scene.

While an internal investigation revealed the officers disregarded safety procedures that night, the police eschewed introspection and set their sights on Holm, charging her with an “unlawful act” and tacking a manslaughter charge on top. (A judge recently struck it down, but only after Holm sat in jail for 16 months pre-trial.)

There are many more such stories. In December 2018, 16-year-old Masonique Saunders was charged with the felony murder of her boyfriend, who a police officer shot during the commission of a robbery. Because she allegedly helped plan that burglary, Ohio said the teen effectively killed her own partner. But perhaps the most iconic anecdote associated with the felony murder rule is the unfortunate story of Ryan Holle, who was sentenced to life in prison after he lent his car to some friends. Those friends then used it to commit a crime—also a burglary—which went horribly awry after one of the men found a firearm in the house they were robbing and used it to kill 18-year-old Jessica Snyder.

Holle was a mile and a half away from that scene, but he was treated no differently than Charles Miller, Jr., who saw that gun and spontaneously murdered Snyder. “Felony murder says you are just as liable, you are just as guilty as the person who pulled the trigger,” notes Bazelon. In 2015, Holle’s sentence was commuted to 25 years in prison; he will not be released until 2024.”

Amy Klobuchar and Tom Cotton’s Big Tech Anti-Monopoly Bill Exempts Their Preferred Firms

“Note, however, the bill stipulates that it only covers firms that are over the $600 billion line “as of the date of enactment.” In other words, if a company has a market cap under $600 billion on the day the bill becomes law, then that company is permanently exempt—even if it later crosses the threshold.

Two companies that are currently under the $600 billion line and thus exempt from the bill are mega-retailers Target and Walmart. These companies are both worth hundreds of billions of dollars, and their e-commerce platforms are growing at a faster rate than Amazon’s. But under the Klobuchar/Cotton law, it wouldn’t matter if Target and Walmart overtake Amazon—they would be immune from this new antitrust action, as long as they are small enough on the day the bill is signed.

Readers may be interested to note that Target is headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Walmart is headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas. Isn’t that interesting? It’s probably just a coincidence that the $600-billion-at-date-of-enactment provision would shield the two most important companies in Klobuchar and Cotton’s home states.”

The ACLU Thinks Kyle Rittenhouse’s Civil Liberties Got Too Much Protection

“For anyone who had followed the trial closely, this outcome is unsurprising. The prosecution simply did not meet its burden of proof, and Rittenhouse’s defense team presented considerable evidence that he reasonably feared for his life each time he pulled the trigger. A witness testified that Joseph Rosenbaum, the first man shot by Rittenhouse, had threatened Rittenhouse’s life and was attempting to wrest control of Rittenhouse’s AR-15. The second man, Anthony Huber, struck Rittenhouse with a skateboard. And the third man—Gaige Grosskreutz, who survived—admitted on the stand that he had first pointed his own gun at Rittenhouse; Rittenhouse shot him in response to this perceived threat. As former Rep. Justin Amash (L–Mich.) put it: “The Rittenhouse case was a clear case of self-defense based on the evidence presented.””

“it had little to do with race: Rittenhouse and all three of his victims were white.”

“It is not necessary to elevate Rittenhouse to hero status, or to agree with his very poor decision to involve himself in the Kenosha riots, to accept that the prosecution failed to prove the charges against him.”

How Mitch McConnell Accidentally Created An Unregulated THC Market

“Mitch McConnell didn’t know what he was doing when he passed the 2018 Farm Bill. The bill included his provision that legalized industrial hemp, a form of cannabis that can be made into a wide variety of products including cannabidiol, a non-intoxicating cannabis compound commonly called CBD. That part was intentional — the law quickly launched a multi-billion dollar industry that put the once-obscure CBD compound into lattes, seltzers and hundreds of CVS stores across the country.

But after three years it appears one of the law’s biggest impacts was entirely unintentional: It accidentally created a booming market for synthetic THC, marijuana’s primary intoxicant.

The same type of CBD that’s for sale at CVS is now being synthetically converted into THC and packaged into vape cartridges and gummy bears. Thanks to a loophole in the 2018 Farm Bill, these drugs are marketed as a “legal high” and sold online and in states where marijuana remains illegal.

But chemists warn that these drugs can contain hazardous solvents, acids and unknown compounds. When FiveThirtyEight legally purchased hemp-derived THC products for testing, we found illegal levels of THC and a variety of mystery compounds that could not be identified. There are no federal safety testing requirements for these products, and while hemp companies occasionally publish test results, some brands have been caught using fake test documents.”

“The hemp industry has quickly moved past selling just Delta-8-THC and is now offering an increasingly long list of synthetic cannabinoids that they can ship directly to your door.”

“McConnell has spent years fighting for hemp legalization and, in particular, the legalization of CBD in an effort to appease his home state’s farmers. He made hemp legalization a campaign issue in 2013 and, when the Drug Enforcement Agency blocked Kentucky’s farmers from growing CBD-rich hemp under an earlier pilot program, the senator publicly fought the agency until the DEA backed down.

When it came to writing the 2018 law, McConnell apparently didn’t want to take any chances with the DEA. His provision permanently removed hemp from the Controlled Substance Act”

“The five professional chemists we spoke to for this piece were all particularly concerned by the sale of synthetic cannabinoids like Delta-8-THC-O acetate, which are both synthetically made and synthetically designed (unlike Delta-8-THC, which can be found naturally in cannabis). These types of synthetic cannabinoids were first invented by the pharmaceutical industry and can react with our internal cannabinoid receptors in unnaturally strong ways.”

It Took More Than 15 Years for a South Carolina Hospital To Get Permission To Be Built

“Before being able to break ground on a new hospital there, Piedmont Medical Center had to navigate the state’s Certificate-of-Need (CON) process, which in this case required going all the way to the state Supreme Court to fend off a legal challenge from a competitor. All that to build a 100-bed facility that the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control had determined, all the way back in 2004, was indeed needed in the region.

Unfortunately, “need” is not enough in many cases. Like how zoning laws and mandatory environmental reviews might be well-intentioned policies but are frequently wielded by “not in my backyard” (NIMBY) activists as a way to tangle new development in costly piles of red tape, the CON laws on the books in many states can be used by existing hospitals to delay or prevent new facilities from opening.

That’s exactly what happened in Fort Mill. A hospital chain based in Charlotte challenged Piedmont Medical Center’s plans for a new facility, then sued to block the state’s decision to give Piedmont permission to build the hospital. The litigation cost thousands of dollars and delayed construction by several years. Researchers at the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, a free market think tank, argue that even the threat of such lengthy, expensive reviews ends up deterring investments that would otherwise take place.”

“Artificially limiting the supply of health care services can be a major issue when a pandemic or other emergency strikes, of course, but CON laws harm public health even without the help of a novel coronavirus. States with CON laws have higher mortality rates for patients with pneumonia, heart failure, and heart attacks, according to research published in 2016 by the Mercatus Center, a free market think tank that argues for repealing CON laws. Other studies show that CON laws contribute to health care shortages in rural areas because they force medical providers to focus on wealthier, more populated areas in order to make up for the added costs imposed by the CON process.”

Do We Really Need New Anti-Asian Hate Crime Laws?

“The Atlanta shooter—Robert Aaron Long—told police he struggled with sex addiction. He was a devout Christian who felt guilty about visiting sex workers at Asian spas, friends said. Were Long’s hateful acts really about race? Or were they more about misogyny—a man lashing out at women for inspiring lust in him? How significant is the fact that the victims were largely Asian women? Was his true bias against sex workers?

In one sense, none of this makes a difference. Eight lives were senselessly lost. Long’s acts were morally heinous whether driven by anti-Asian racism, general misogyny, resentment of sex workers, or total randomness. And hate crime or not, murder is a serious criminal offense, punishable in Georgia by life in prison, with the possibility of life without parole or even execution.

Yet if Long was motivated by anti-Asian or anti-female bias, this would be considered, under Georgia and federal law, a hate crime. If he was motivated by hatred of sex workers, it would not. This ambiguity perfectly encapsulates the tangled logic behind U.S. hate crime laws.”

“Hate crime statutes generally do one specific thing: enhance criminal punishments for actions that are already against the law. They say that for whatever the underlying offense is—vandalism, harassment, theft, assault, murder—the sentence will be harsher if the offense was committed out of identity-based bias or prejudice instead of, say, pure greed or lust or non-specific anger.”

“Hate crime statutes may make people feel like they’re doing something about a serious problem. But judged by their results, they’re likely to be harmless but ineffective at very best. At a 2018 U.S. Commission on Civil Rights briefing on hate crimes, none of the panelists could point to data, studies, or other evidence showing that designating something a hate crime deters, prevents, or reduces that crime or helps authorities catch perpetrators.

At worst, hate crime laws and their emphasis on individual bad motives can distract from more systemic issues.”

When Forced To Choose, Some New Mexico Gas Station Liquor Stores Will Now Just Sell Liquor

“When New Mexico lawmakers make its owners choose between selling gas or selling liquor.

Some gas stations in a rural New Mexico county are being forced by an inane new law to choose between selling gas or selling liquor and wine. Some have chosen to close their pumps in protest and sell alcohol instead of gas.

The new ban is part of a larger package of changes to the state’s liquor laws—one its chief sponsor, Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto (D–Albuquerque), calls “the biggest reform of liquor laws in 60 years in our state.” The new law contains several key elements in addition to the gas station liquor ban. Many of those changes are steps in the right direction. In fact, the “original intention” of the alcohol bill was deregulatory in nature. Among other things, it lifts a ban on home delivery of alcohol, introduces a new, less expensive liquor license for restaurants, and allows alcohol to be sold longer hours on Sundays (on par with allowable sales hours on other days).

The bad parts of the law are, well, bad. Ask the owners of Kokoman Fine Wines in Pojoaque, which was forced to try to offload $65,000 worth of nip bottles—those little liquor bottles commonly found lurking in a hotel mini-fridge—after the new law banned their sale across the state.

And then there’s the ban on gas station sales in McKinley County, where three out of four county residents are Native American. Sen. George Muñoz (D–Gallup), who introduced the gas-station amendment to the new law, says he did so because “people die in McKinley County because of alcoholism.”

While I have no doubt that some people in McKinley County who abuse alcohol die from that abuse, compelling gas stations that sell alcohol to become alcohol stores that don’t sell gas probably won’t save many (or even any) lives, and may do just the opposite. The ban is also likely unconstitutional. That’s why one chain of gas stations has sued the state to overturn it.”

California is ending a rule that helped cause its housing crisis

“With a stroke of his pen, Gov. Gavin Newsom has officially ended the over 100-year scourge of single-family-only zoning in California.

Single-family-only zoning laws make it illegal to build anything but a single-family home on a particular lot of land. Now (with small exceptions like for fire-prone areas) it is also legal to build duplexes.”

“While overhauling single-family-only zoning might sound revolutionary, the bills are gentle attempts at increasing density: legalizing duplexes and quadplexes and making it easier to build small apartment buildings that provide up to 10 homes. This doesn’t mean single-family homes are outlawed or can no longer be built, but it provides homeowners the option to convert their homes into duplexes or sell their homes to people who want to do so. Before now, it was illegal for someone to convert their home to a duplex on a lot zoned for single-family zoning. Not anymore.

This isn’t a panacea for housing production. UC Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation found that SB 9 (the bill that legalizes duplexes) will “modestly accelerate the addition of new units relative to the status quo.” Other laws that restrict the building of new and more affordable homes are still in effect — in particular, local laws around minimum lot sizes will continue to make it illegal to turn single-family homes into duplexes if the existing lot is too small to subdivide while still adhering to the size regulations.

However, the Terner Center finds that “approximately 700,000 new, market-feasible homes would be enabled under SB 9.” That’s a lot! But because many people won’t want to sell their homes or subdivide them themselves, “only a share of that potential is likely to be developed, particularly in the near term. … As such, while important, the new units unlocked by SB 9 would represent a fraction of the overall supply needed to fully address the state’s housing shortage.””

Let’s Make it Easier for Distillers To Ship Alcohol Directly to Adult Consumers

“Congress effectively prohibits the U.S. Postal Service from transporting beer, wine, or spirits directly to consumers. Such shipments must be made through FedEx, UPS, and other private shippers, which are often more expensive than USPS. A bipartisan bill introduced this summer, the USPS Shipping Equity Act, would end that ban and allow the USPS to ship alcohol from licensed producers to consumers of legal drinking age.

The second issue is that even though nearly every state allows DTC shipments of wine, and many allow DTC shipments of beer—directly from brewers and vintners, respectively, to consumers—only nine states currently permit direct shipments of liquor from distillers to consumers. While some states have temporarily relaxed DTC liquor shipment rules during the pandemic, in most cases there’s no promise those measures will remain in place going forward.”

“the three-tier system, a Prohibition relic under which states generally prohibit direct alcohol sales from a brewer, vintner, or distiller to a consumer. The three-tier system mandates these alcohol producers first sell to a distributor or retailer—a mandatory middleman—who can then sell to actual drinkers.”

“It makes no sense for Congress to (rightly) allow FedEx and UPS to deliver alcohol but not permit USPS to do the same. It’s equally bizarre for states to treat liquor shipments differently than shipments of wine, beer, or cider. In order to protect and create jobs, level the playing field for alcohol producers, and ensure consumers have more choices, Congress and state lawmakers must get to work.”

What’s in the new Republican voting law that passed in Texas?

“SB 1 has morphed and changed considerably over the last several months, and the final version does not include some of the most aggressive attempts to limit voting rights that were included in previous iterations. The final version stripped a provision that would have shut down many urban polling precincts, and another that would have ended early voting on Sunday mornings, when many Black churches sponsor “souls-to-the-polls” drives.

It also doesn’t include anything resembling the most troubling provision of Georgia’s recently enacted election law, which permits Republican officials to take over election administration in Democratic strongholds such as Atlanta, which has the potential to disenfranchise voters en masse.”

“the bill does include a number of provisions that either make it harder to vote in Texas or tweak the state’s election rules in ways that advantage Republicans.

In 2020, for example, a few polling places in Harris County, a highly Democratic area that includes Houston, remained open for 24 hours. The Republican bill bans this practice while simultaneously expanding early voting in many smaller counties — which tend to be the domain of the GOP.

Similarly, the bill imposes new restrictions on absentee voting, such as a requirement that most voters provide their driver’s license number in order to vote by mail, and a provision that makes it a felony for election officials to send unsolicited absentee ballot applications to voters. In 2020, Republicans were much less likely to vote absentee than Democrats, most likely because then-President Donald Trump repeatedly denounced mail-in ballots.”

“One potentially troubling provision of the GOP bill requires election officials to conduct monthly purges of the state’s voting rolls, ostensibly to identify noncitizens who may have registered to vote. Another provides new legal protections to partisan poll watchers, who are permitted to observe elections and the vote-counting process — but who may also attempt to disrupt the election.”

” No one who cares about voting rights should celebrate SB 1. It erects unnecessary barriers between voters and the franchise, and it subtly changes Texas’s election law in ways that are likely to benefit the party that wrote the bill. But much of SB 1 makes only marginal changes to Texas’s already quite restrictive voting laws.”