Lawyer Made Famous In O.J. Simpson Trial, Steps Away From Nipsey Hussle Case

Christopher Darden, (Left), is seen in Los Angeles County Superior Court with his now former client Eric Holder. Holder is accused of killing rapper Nipsey Hussle in March.

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Patrick T. Fallon/AP

An attorney who became a household name prosecuting O.J. Simpson for murder in the mid-1990s will no longer represent the man accused of killing beloved hip-hop artist Nipsey Hussle in March.

Christopher Darden, a longtime litigator and former attorney with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, announced he was stepping away from the case, citing threats against him and his family.

In a Facebook post Friday, Darden said he was unsure if he would disclose “reasons for withdrawing” before later referencing the case that made him famous.

“Just as they were in 1995-Cowards never change. These days these cowards don’t send letters instead they sit anonymously behind keyboards threatening a man’s mother and children.”

Darden played a central role in the Simpson case, dubbed the “trial of the century,” where racial overtones permeated that court proceedings. At the time, Simpson was a prominent African American accused of killing his former spouse and her companion, who were both white.

Darden, who is also black, was labeled a traitor and a sellout for being on the legal team attempting to put Simpson behind bars.

He once again faces backlash. This time for representing the black man accused of killing Hussle outside the clothing store the Grammy-nominated artist owned in South Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles Times reported Darden submitted paperwork to the court on Friday and left before his now-former client Eric Holder, the alleged gunman in the Hussle killing, appeared in court.

The Times continued:

“Darden filed his motion to withdraw and left the downtown Los Angeles courtroom before Eric Holder appeared, wearing a yellow jail shirt and blue pants, his wrists shackled to a chain around his waist.

“A judge granted Darden’s request and assigned a public defender, Mearl Lottman, to the case. It’s unclear whether Lottman will continue to represent Holder, because he must first determine whether the public defender’s office has any conflicts.”

In his Facebook post, Darden also referenced some of America’s darkest history to argue that the right to legal counsel is a Constitutional right.

“After centuries of a history of black men hung from trees without trial, or after the thousands of cases of black men tried, convicted and executed without counsel… I cannot understand why in 2019 some people would deny a black man his 6th Amendment right to counsel of his choice.

“Or why defending such a man should invite threats not only against me but against my children too.”

Darden vowed that threats will never deter him from his mission, adding “the struggle continues.”

As for Darden’s former client, Holder pleaded not guilty last month to charges that included one count of murder and two counts of attempted murder. He was ordered held on $5 million bond.

Hussle, who was born Ermias Asghedom, was killed in late March. As NPR reported, he was “widely respected in the hip-hop world, not just for his musical contributions but for the hustle ethic personified in his chosen stage name.”

In his early years, Hussle came of age as a member of the Rollin 60s Crips street gang, but overcame those obstacles to earn a Grammy nomination last year for his Victory Lap album.

Hussle was 33 years old.

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In Largely Catholic Philippines, A Muslim Woman Shakes Up Senate Campaign

Philippine senatorial candidate Samira Gutoc getting an early start on the election campaign speaking at a campaign event in Caloocan City, Philippines.

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Samira Gutoc cannot help but stand out from the crowded roster of candidates in the Philippines’ midterm elections. The ebullient 44-year-old is a Muslim, and the only woman among the opposition’s slate of eight candidates running for the Senate.

Half of the 24 seats in the Upper Chamber and all of the 297 seats in the House of Representatives will be chosen in Monday’s polling. The Election Commission says 62 million voters have registered, and if history is any guide, more than 70% of them will turn out.

Rodrigo Duterte, the populist president whose off-color remarks equally repel and attract Filipinos, is not on the ballot. But the election is very much a verdict on his first three years in office. The 74-year-old president has crisscrossed the country for the Senate hopefuls of his coalition, and promoted his signature policy on the campaign trail. In stop after stop, Duterte — who won the presidency on a tough law-and-order platform — rarely missed the chance to warn anyone in the illegal drug trade, “If you destroy my country, I will kill.”

It’s a promise he has made good on. Authorities say nearly 5,300 drug suspects have been killed in police operations since Duterte took office in July 2016. Rights groups believe the official figure is a gross understatement of the drug war’s carnage.

Opposition senatorial candidates known as “Otso Diretso” or the “Straight Eight” take a group photo with a crowd of civic leaders inside the San Ferdinand Cathedral in Lucena City, Philippines.

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Gutoc herself is no anti-Duterte crusader. A women’s rights advocate, she seems to have cultivated the ability to get along with the sometime obstreperous president, and still challenge him.

For his part, Duterte has refrained from criticizing her in the campaign, while showing no such restraint for the rest of the opposition line-up. Gotoc’s run is a bid to end a 20-year absence of a Muslim from the Philippine Senate. Senatorial candidates must run nation-wide, and as a Muslim, she’s running in a country that is 92% Christian.

Again, she’ll get no argument from Duterte. Born and raised a Catholic, he routinely attacks the Church and its teaching. But he exhibits equanimity toward the Muslim community, which comprises 5% of the population, and he has often spoken of his own maternal grandmother’s Muslim heritage.

Gudoc’s faith does not appear to be an issue in the campaign. She generates more of a stir as the only woman among the male-dominated line up of opposition senatorial candidates known as “Otso Directso” or “Straight Eight,” which is how they’d like voters to mark their ballots.

Between rallies, Gutoc ducks into her van to re-apply lipstick and re-arrange her headscarf, wrapped turban-like around her head.

Just days before she and her fellow opposition hopefuls close their six-week campaign, they careen between visits with coconut farmers and social service groups at a local cathedral before and a serenaded lunch.

She sways to the music at campaign stops to the delight of the crowds in the Philippine song-and-dance political culture. She slurps noodles from a banana leaf with farmers, and in the next breath chides Duterte.

Gutoc gently jabs him for not confronting China over its aggression in the South China Sea, which has hurt Filipino fishermen, and which she calls a sell-out.

“If you are bowing to China,” she tells NPR, speaking of Duterte, “you should bow more to your own fisher folk or farmers. People who are prejudicing our future are [on] the other side.”

Duterte has attacked her opposition Liberal Party, accusing it of plotting to oust him. He’s tagged politicians of all stripes with involvement in the illegal drug trade, publishing a “Narco List” of names of officials, mayors, and other politicians who he says are involved in the drug trade. Human rights lawyers call it a violation of due process, while critics say it amounts to a political hit list.

Instead of making accusations at campaign rallies, Gutoc asks aloud, “Why don’t you figure out issues like poverty?” Her answer? “Election time [is] character assassination time.” She says fear of retribution has kept local officials from endorsing the opposition.

Where Gutoc is willing to stand up to the president, whose attacks on free expression and women have done little to dent his high approval ratings, she’s garnered a following. Her candidacy can be seen as part rejoinder to Duterte’s demeaning rhetoric on women.

Samira Gutoc (center-left, in white) gamely poses for a group of women who approached her after one of the Otso Diretso campaign rallies in Lucena City.

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At rally after rally, she is the fiery fresh-face breaking Muslim stereotypes. She can break out into song about the loneliness of Filipinos who work overseas —some 2.3 million citizens.

As the daughter of a diplomat raised in Saudi Arabia, Gutoc recalls hosting Filipino “families of workers who had no homes. I saw their pain,” she says.

A lawyer by training, Gutoc has worked as a civic leader advocating for women, the environment, and marginalized groups. She returned two decades ago to her native Mindanao, the main southern island in the Philippine archipelago that is also home to many of the country’s Muslims. She served as a member of the Regional Legislative Assembly of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. She describes herself as a Filipino woman working hard to help “improve the lives of my family, my community, my people.”

She herself is now exiled from her hometown of Marawi, the city on restive Mindanao that was laid waste in 2017 when Philippine government troops battled ISIS-linked militants who had dug into the city. Gutoc led volunteers in rescuing residents trapped during the five-month siege, an experience that animates her belief she can serve.

“It’s one motivation that compels me to be in the public eye, because I can talk about their struggle,” she says. “And it’s also the struggle of anyone [trying] to find a house and shelter and safety.”

Duterte had jokingly exhorted soldiers to commit rape during the Marawi siege. Gutoc, called a remark offensive and quit a local peace panel to which Duterte had appointed her. In the campaign, she sounds the alarm about rape in a country where police data show on average a woman is sexually assaulted every 72 minutes.

“We have got to band together, join together, and file a claim against that bastard who did it to us,” she roars before an audience at De La Salle University in Manila.

Her call to report rape resonates. Michele Orbeta, 21, says, “When she opened up about that during the forum I could tell — especially amongst my fellow students — it really got everyone’s attention.”

As she campaigns, women of all ages reach out to Gutoc, hugging her, and ambushing her for selfies.

Marino Amado, 67, is among them. The retired bank manager is ecstatic over meeting Gutoc, and like many, find Duterte’s disparaging remarks about women distasteful. Amado says lack of equality is the most entrenched problem for women, and she sees Gutoc as a counterpoint to the president’s testosterone-laden swagger.

“We don’t like our … president and only Samira Gutoc … will fight for us,” she says.

The opposition slate has faced the money and the machinery of their Duterte-allied rivals, and polls this past week showed they had not broken through to the electorate. Despite Gutoc’s obvious appeal, her biggest hurdle in Monday’s election may be name recognition. But on the ballot, each candidate is assigned a number that corresponds to their name. Hers is “36,” and with a little self-deprecation, she hopes to lodge it in the voters’ minds.

“Thirty-six is my ballot number,” the stout Gutoc tells audiences, “and my waistline.”

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South Africa’s President Ramaphosa, ANC Hold On To Power In National Elections

Electoral workers count ballots in view of party agents after the close of polls at the Parkhurst Primary School in Johannesburg, South Africa this week.

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South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress, retained control of parliament in national elections held there this week. But its grip on power eased as the party’s overall share of the vote dipped from previous elections amid widespread corruption scandals within the party and a sluggish economy.

While the ANC’s victory was never in doubt, the election was seen as a referendum on the party that’s been in power since apartheid ended there a generation ago.

Results from the Independent Electoral Commission website on Saturday showed the ANC garnered roughly 58% of the vote. Opposition parties the Democratic Alliance picked up 21%, while the leftist Economic Freedom Fighters garnered 11%.

President Cyril Ramaphosa will make the argument that he has a mandate to unify the country and build a cabinet capable of turning around Africa’s most industrialized economy, which is struggling with unemployment hovering at 27% .

On Wednesday when South Africans went to the polls for duel parliamentary and legislative elections, it was clear from early on that many voters would be remaining on the sidelines.

The BBC reports that approximately six million South Africans did not register to vote in the election. Adding:

“Perceptions of honest government are critical if Mr Ramaphosa is to attract the investment South Africa needs.

“This is Africa’s largest economy and tackling its inability to provide jobs for the young is the great challenge ahead.

“In a country where the youth have traditionally led rebellions – in 1976 and again in the mid-1980s against apartheid – the most striking statistic in this election is the fall-off in voting by young people.”

Ramaphosa rose to power after former South African President Jacob Zuma was forced out last year.

Zuma served nine years as president but was plagued by numerous corruption scandals and party infighting. About a month after he resigned, South Africa’s top prosecutor announced the former president would be charged with 16 counts, which included fraud, corruption and racketeering.

The ANC has been in power since 1994, when global icon Nelson Mandela was sworn in as both South Africa’s first black president and the first democratically elected leader.

As NPR reported earlier in the week, the ANC has a storied past as a “liberation movement” that oversaw extensive reforms in the nation. As of late, the party’s reputation has been tarnished by years of “rampant corruption, influence-peddling scandals and accusations it failed to deliver on a promise to end in equality for black south Africans.”

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