Algiers Unpacks Its Kaleidscopically Dense 'The Underside of Power' Track By Track

Algiers release The Underside of Power June 23.

Dustin Condren/Courtesy of the artist

hide caption

toggle caption

Dustin Condren/Courtesy of the artist

Algiers new album The Underside Of Power is one of 2017’s most ambitious and intense records. I love it — but sometimes I have to just have to hit pause. There’s a fierceness both in subject and sound and source, including speeches from Fred Hampton of the Black Panthers, bold and dark lyrical imagery of death and rage, sounds of people weeping, drones, chimes and what at times feels like the entire history of rock, gospel and R&B wrapped into fifty-one minutes. There’s a lot to unpack here. (So much so that we recently ran a 3,800-word story on the record.)

Considering the density at the core of this record, we asked this Atlanta-born band, now made up of four musicians spread between three cities including New York and London, to hold our hand and talk us through the inspirations and aspirations of it.


Walk Like A Panther

“The song and album begins with a legendary speech from Chicago Black Panther, Fred Hampton. Here is an excerpt from the letter we wrote to his son:

We would like to start this letter with a message of gratitude. As young men growing up in the American South in the 1980s and 1990s, we had few militant political leaders comparable to you and your father to help us make sense of, and develop a response to, the cycle of violence perpetuated against black and brown people in the United States. Finding your father’s words amidst the ethical bankruptcy of Reagan’s, Clinton’s and Bush’s America, provided us with an endless source of inspiration to navigate, as Malcolm X said, ‘the miserable conditions that exist on this Earth.’

“For us, there is no better way to conclude this request than with the words of your father, spoken many years ago, but just as relevant now than ever: “But when I leave you remember I said, with the last words on my lips, I am a revolutionary. And you’re going to have to keep on saying that. You’re going to have to say that I am a proletariat. I am the people. I’m not the pig. You’ve got to make a distinction. And the people are going to have to attack the pig.”


Cry Of The Martyrs

“Initially, I had wanted to write something that evokes the last days of Che Guevara, holed up in a cell in Bolivia, awaiting his execution. Some of the lyrics are first-person narrative, evoking the state of mind of a revolutionary reflecting on the end of the dream of a better world, yet maintaining fidelity to their ideas to the end. It also evokes the spirit of Eleonor Kasrils, an underground anti-Apartheid activist in South Africa who was imprisoned for years.

“Sonically, I imagine this as a folk song people sing on the eve of the battle, facing certain death. It definitely has fewer antecedents than some our other songs, but maybe it builds on the genre we concocted on the first album. You can again hear some sci-fi elements juxtaposed alongside late-era Swans, Steve Reich and Nina Simone.” — Ryan Mahan


The Underside of Power

“Both Ryan and I had been working on Clash-inspired, Northern Soul sketches in the same key and tempo, unbeknownst to one another. Franklin heard them, combined the best ideas, and then turned it into something special. Such an important song for us to have written as a band. I suppose it occupies the same growth as collaborators that ‘Claudette’ did on the previous record to me. This is one where performing live helped complete some ideas.” — Lee Tesche


Death March

“Writing the music for this, I was originally inspired by old Italian zombie exploitation film soundtracks. There are too many to mention, but some of my favourite composers of this era include Nico Fidenco, Roberto Donati/Fiamma Maglione and The Goblins. It also references PiL, horror-film disco — Ms. 45 — and The Gun Club.

“To extend the theme politically — and unsophisticatedly — I had wanted the music to reflect both capitalism and fascism as deadly viruses operating behind the scenes and controlling us subtly until we’re all infected.

“It could also be a fun new dance: ‘Do the Death March!'” — Ryan Mahan


A Murmur. A Sign.

“This is an old song of Franklin’s, from when we first started playing. We had all consigned it to the dustbin of history until we found ourselves in [producer] Adrian [Utley]’s house of synth. We replaced the bass line with a mean-as-f*** Moog/PE-1000 combo and it become more reminiscent of Kenny Lynch’s ‘You Can’t Fight It,’ a Jamaican soul song sampling John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 theme. The song also recalls the early, dark-wave ambient techno of Caroline K and Nocturnal Emissions.” — Ryan Mahan


Mme Rieux

“This to me captures all the essence of early Portishead, if played with Wendy Carlos. It’s a Donny Hathaway soul song mixed with The Shangri-Las and Delia Derbyshire.

“Lyrically, I wrote it as a reference to Camus’ The Plague, hence the reference to one of its characters. It’s actually a very personal one for me, imagining a conversation on the death of God with my mother, the kindest, truest person I know — and a true believer in god. — Ryan Mahan


Cleveland

“The meaning of this song’s title is twofold: It’s based around a sample of the gospel song ‘Peace be Still’ by Rev James Cleveland, but it’s primarily meant to invoke Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old black boy who was shot and killed by police in Cleveland, Ohio in November 2014.

“I wanted the song to sound like the Final Judgement in the Bible, wherein the wicked are judged and condemned by the righteous with all the ‘weeping and gnashing of teeth,’ of the damned when justice is finally realized. I like how this translates in the ‘solo’ section of the song. It consists of various recordings of people inconsolably crying and weeping, while the guitar and lead vocal mirror their contortions. If you’ve ever witnessed something like that in real life, the sound of a person’s sorrow is equal parts frightening and musical.

“In my spare time, I read a lot of blogs and listen to podcasts about unexplained deaths and missing persons — especially when it concerns corruption within state and legal institutions. The cases of some of the individuals mentioned in the song — Kindra Chapman, Sandra Bland, Andre Jones, Keith Warren, Alfred Wright — are so obviously criminal but they’ve been all overlooked and forgotten except by their loved ones who are still fighting for answers and justice. People need to know about these cases. They’re definitely not isolated and it’s a phenomenon which has been ongoing since the founding of this country.” — Franklin Fisher


Animals

“Lyrically, this song is a direct attack on Trump, his proponents, the grand-scale coming out of American crypto-fascists and the corporate media’s normalization of it all. If you feed into it, if you buy into it, if you give into it, it further reinforces the Orwellian layer cake of impenetrable bullshit and absurdity that had already overtaken the cultural climate back in March 2016, when this was first written. And unfortunately, Trump, Bannon and all their cronies seem to be consolidating power by the day.” — Franklin Fisher


Plague Years

“This is inspired by horrorfied modern techno like Vatican Shadow, juxtaposed with grime beats. Travis, from Ono, kindly lent two spoken word pieces and Ben Greenberg smashed them together. Travis has been making avant-garde music since the ’70s and is one of my favorite human beings on Earth.” — Ryan Mahan


Hymn For An Average Man

“I was fooling around on this gorgeous piano in Adrian [Utley]’s parlor when this song occurred to me as a concept. I wanted it to sound like a record locked in a groove, to paint a picture of someone being stuck and trapped in a horrible situation that they’re condemned to repeat, like Sisyphus or Prometheus. I like to think of it as free, indirect discourse, describing the recurring nightmare of a fascist. You see the people throughout history who supported these horrible regimes and you wonder ‘how do they sleep at night?’ Well, hopefully they have some semblance of a conscience that, no matter how much they try to drown it, haunts their dreams and keeps them up at night. This must have happened if we believe what Hannah Arendt said, that evil is perpetuated not by monsters but by ‘average,’ men. Let’s hope so…” — Franklin Fisher


Bury Me Standing

“I think this interlude represents the band’s open attitude towards working with me. From very early on, they have been encouraging me to contribute beyond playing the drums, perhaps because they know they can’t include everyone on every single song, but more likely because it fosters and reinforces this idea of us as a collective entity.

“This song grew out of an interstitial element of our live show, with me playing warped chimes and drones transposed to the drum pads from a phone recording made whilst exploring the redwood forests of northern California during our last US tour. Lee added and elevated my stuff with tape loops, bowed cymbal and sax which, for me, makes ‘Bury Me Standing’ feel like a mournful and resigned extension to ‘A Murmur. A Sign.'” — Matt Tong


The Cycle/The Spiral: Time to Go Down Slowly

“I’d recently had an argument with my wife and in the aftermath, written her a letter. Before sending it, I heard an interview with Michael Stipe explaining how the lyrics from ‘E-bow the Letter’ were essentially a letter he’d never sent so I decided to steal his idea for this song. Hence, some of the coochy-coo language. But I’m also stealing from Marvin Gaye.

Otherwise, the song is about the cycle of violence, and there’s plenty of loaded imagery there to point towards the obvious. The refrain in the coda is one of the first things Ryan and I ever worked on. It was about my parents’ divorce.” — Franklin Fisher


Well, if you’ve gotten this far, you read references to a lot of fascinating music you may never have heard of — so we made a playlist.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Federal Judge In Michigan Temporarily Halts Deportation of Iraqis Who Fear Torture

A federal judge in Michigan granted temporary reprieve from deportation on Thursday to more than 100 Iraqi nationals with criminal convictions who were living in the Detroit area. They had argued they could face persecution or torture in Iraq because of their status as religious minorities, The Associated Press reports.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which represented the Iraqis, says they include Christians and Muslims.

“We are thankful and relieved that our clients will not be immediately sent to Iraq, where they face grave danger of persecution, torture or death,” ACLU of Michigan Legal Director Michael Steinberg said in a statement. “It would be unconstitutional and unconscionable to deport these individuals without giving them an opportunity to demonstrate the harm that awaits them in Iraq.”

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 114 Iraqis in the Detroit area who it says have criminal convictions, according to AP. Many have been in the U.S. for decades. Some came as children and committed their crimes decades ago, Reuters says.

Although the Iraqis had deportation orders, Reuters adds, they were allowed to stay in the U.S. because Iraq would not issue them travel documents. But that changed in March after Iraq agreed to accept deportees in exchange for being removed from the list of countries in President Trump’s revised travel ban.

The news service says the Michigan roundup was part of a broader sweep in which immigration authorities detained close to 200 Iraqi immigrants across the country.

The Justice Department had argued that immigration court is where the Iraqi nationals should make their case — not U.S. District Court. But U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith halted the deportations for 14 days while he decides if his court has jurisdiction.

Reuters says a Justice Department spokeswoman could not immediately be reached for comment on the ruling.

The news service reports that the arrests shocked Michigan’s close-knit Iraqi community. It says a half-dozen members of the state’s Congressional delegation urged that the Iraqis be allowed to stay until Congress receives assurances about their safety.

In the meantime, “the court’s action today was legally correct and may very well have saved numerous people from abuse and possible death,” ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt said, according to Reuters.

“The court took a life-saving action by blocking our clients from being immediately sent back to Iraq,” Gelernt said in the ACLU statement. “They should have a chance to show that their lives are in jeopardy if forced to return.”

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

U.N. Says World's Population Will Reach 9.8 Billion By 2050

The world’s population is growing by about 83 million people each year. The growth is largely driven by birth rates in the world’s poorest countries.

Sakchai Lalit/AP

hide caption

toggle caption

Sakchai Lalit/AP

The world’s population growth is slowing, according to a new United Nations report, but the number of people living on Earth will still approach 10 billion by the year 2050.

The document tallies the current population at 7.6 billion people, up from 7.4 billion just two years ago.

This year’s count means the world added roughly 1 billion people over the last dozen years. It will take 13 years to add the next billion, according to the report. The planet is expected to have 8.6 billion people in 2030, and 9.8 billion by 2050.

A decade ago, the world’s population was growing by 1.24 percent per year; today it is 1.1 percent.

The report says China remains the most populous country, with 1.4 billion inhabitants – or 19 percent of the world’s population. But India trails close behind at 1.3 billion people, and in just seven years, is expected to surpass China in population.

Other key findings in the report by the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs:

“Sixty per cent of the world’s people live in Asia (4.5 billion), 17 per cent in Africa (1.3 billion), 10 per cent in Europe (742 million), 9 per cent in Latin America and the Caribbean (646 million), and the remaining 6 per cent in Northern America (361 million) and Oceania (41 million).

Much of world’s population growth is expected to come from developing nations, which have the highest fertility rates — 4.3 births per woman. That rate is expected to fall to around 3.5 by 2030. Nevertheless, the populations in more than two dozen African nations are likely to “at least double” by 2050.

Loading…

By contrast, the birth rate in Europe is just 1.6 births per woman. It has been on the rise in recent years and is expected to reach 1.8 by 2050 — but that’s not enough to keep the continent’s population from shrinking. Europe is the only region expected to have a smaller population in 2050 than it does today.

Life expectancy is also projected to get longer. “Globally, life expectancy at birth has risen from 65 years for men and 69 years for women in 2000-2005 to 69 years for men and 73 years for women in 2010-2015,” the study finds. Its authors attribute the improvement, in part, to a lower mortality rate among children and successful efforts to fight diseases — especially HIV/AIDS.

The projection that an extra 1 billion people will inhabit the Earth in 13 years raises questions about the ability of global resources to keep up.

Already, roughly 800 million people go to bed hungry, according to this 2015 U.N. report. It says a full one-third of the world’s food is wasted every year. If just a quarter of it could be recovered, it would be enough to feed 870 million people.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Georgia Inmates Come To Aid Of Unconscious Guard

Six inmates at Georgia’s Polk County Jail came to the aid of a deputy sheriff who collapsed on the job, calling 911 with his phone and staying with him as the ambulance arrived.

The inmates were on their weekly work detail on June 12, sprucing up a Polk County cemetery ahead of Father’s Day, when the deputy collapsed, WXIA in Atlanta reports.

“I happened to look up and I seen the officer, he was going to his knees,” one inmate tells WXIA.

Another inmate says the officer was already face down by the time they made it to him. “We turned him over and made sure that he was okay.”

One inmate took the officer’s phone out of his pocket and dialed 911. Others removed his gun belt, opened his shirt and took off his vest to ready him for CPR, they said.

“He was out for a minute and he wasn’t really breathing,” an inmate told WXIA.

Emergency workers arrived and transported the deputy to the hospital.

The deputy — who asked to remain anonymous — told WXIA he suffers from a chronic illness called chiari malformation, which can cause hyperventilation, especially in the heat.

He added that he and the inmates know each other well, since they are often together in the work program. “None of my guys ran. None of them done anything they shouldn’t have done,” he said.

“They could have taken the gun, got the work van and gone,” Polk County Sheriff Johnny Moats toldTimemagazine.“They were out there by themselves with this one officer. If they would have left him there, it could have been hours before anyone came across him.”

The New York Timessays Moats will recommend that the inmates’ sentences be reduced or that they be released with time served.

Moats toldThe Atlanta Journal-Constitution that while some of the inmates have not yet been sentenced, “If I’m in court when they go, I would stand up and let them know what they did.”

The Times says none of the inmates was doing time for violent crimes. Their offenses ranged from probation violations to minor drug crimes.

“They’d have a whole lot to lose,” if they’d tried to run, Moats told the Times. “Most of their release dates are in three to six months.”

Moats said the incident stands in stark contrast to another one involving two Georgia inmates arrested just a day earlier, after killing two corrections officers and fleeing.

“We all know that Monday could have ended differently for our Officer,” Moats posted on Facebook. “We are very proud of the actions of all 6 inmates involved.”

The deputy who collapsed is back on his feet and doing fine. He has been taken off work detail supervision and will be placed on patrol duty, WXIA says.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Facebook Changes Its Mission With Groups Announcement

Facebook’s mission will change to focus on the activity level of its users. The entrance to the social media giant’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., is pictured in 2013.

Ben Margot/AP

hide caption

toggle caption

Ben Margot/AP

For anyone still wondering if Mark Zuckerberg plans to run for president, today should dispel that myth. It appears that his tour of America — which many speculated is an effort to score political points — was designed to give the 33-year-old CEO a chance to learn about human behavior, in the physical and digital worlds, in order for him to build a better product. He wants to turn Facebook into a place where users form popular groups and hang out together, a lot.

Zuckerberg chose a peculiar — and telling — location to announce to the world that, after much research and reflection, he is changing the mission of his company. He wasn’t at his Silicon Valley campus, nestled between ping pong tables and bean bags (standard tech iconography).

He was in a warehouse in a big Midwestern city, Chicago. The location was kept a secret. And he was surrounded by 300 power users — people who have built groups with thousands or even a million members inside Facebook, such as Lola Omalola, who started “Female In Nigeria” (FIN) for women to talk openly following the kidnapping of nearly 300 school girls by Boko Haram; or Erin Schatteman, who started Mommy2Mommy, a group where women exchange baby tips and even breast milk; or Janet Sanchez, whose “Esposas Militares Hispanas” acts as a support group for military spouses.

In a 25-minute speech broadcast on his Facebook page and transcribed here, Zuckerberg disclosed that his platform has hit nearly 2 billion users. But at some point, number-dropping is like name-dropping. It gets old. The real news is not the stunning figure. It’s a change in strategy: from going wide to going deep.

For the last decade, Facebook’s mission has been to “make the world more open and connected.” The company has been so obsessed with bringing more people onto the app, that it tried building drones to spread the Internet to the far corners of Earth.

Today, the CEO explained, Facebook’s mission will change to focus on the activity levels of users, and to support the most active so that they can keep building the digital spaces that draw in the masses. In official language, the new mission is to “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”

The company is releasing new tools that allow people who build Facebook groups to see a bit of the treasure trove of data that the social media platform historically has hoarded — like the times of day that group members are most engaged. Users will be able to schedule a post in advance — an announcement that garnered thunderous applause.

Zuckerberg wants to get 1 billion Facebook users to join “meaningful communities.” For the last six months, his team has been running an experiment to have algorithms reorganize users’ digital lives by suggesting groups that may be of interest — perhaps one for nature lovers or for Christians, groups that three or four friends just joined. He explained “most people don’t seek out communities in the physical world or online. Either your friends invite you or on Facebook we suggest them for you.”

He posits that through these algorithm-driven groups, Facebook is helping TO save us from the social isolation of the physical world: “If we can do this, it will not only turn around the whole decline in community membership we’ve seen for decades, it will start to strengthen our social fabric and bring the world closer together.”

The CEO did not discuss how this strategy fits into Facebook as a business, though the answer is obvious: more eyeballs means more money from online advertising. But economics was absent from the discussion. The power users featured in this first “Community Summit” do not make advertising money from their dogged efforts to build community on Facebook. While groups may become vital to the corporate strategy, Facebook does not allow advertising within the groups. When NPR asked why, a product leader said he did not know and a spokesperson said “we have nothing to share at this time.”

A former Facebook employee who has written extensively about the company’s growth doubts that the change in mission is a real shift. Antonio Garcia Martinez wrote, “FB once bet its financial future on Pages. It didn’t turn out well. This sounds like a philanthropy project, not a business model.”

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Israeli Judge Says Airlines Can't Reseat Women At Request Of Men

An El Al plane on the tarmac at the Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv in July 2016.

Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images

hide caption

toggle caption

Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images

Renee Rabinowitz, a Holocaust survivor in her 80s, was flying from Newark, N.J., to Tel Aviv in 2015, when a flight attendant on Israel’s El Al airline asked if she’d be willing to change seats. An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man had said he did he not feel comfortable sitting next to her.

Rabinowitz agreed to move. But afterward, she said she felt “deep humiliation” – and sued the airline in Israeli court.

Jerusalem’s Magistrate Court ruled Thursday in her favor, saying that asking her to change seats based on her gender was discrimination.

“I’m thrilled because the judge understood the issue,” Rabinowitz toldThe New York Times. Her lawyers are calling it a “revolutionary” decision.

Rabinowitz, an Orthodox Jew, is a retired lawyer with a Ph.D. in educational psychology, according to the Times. “Despite all my accomplishments — and my age is also an accomplishment — I felt minimized,” she told the newspaper.

Rabinowitz was represented by the Israel Religious Action Center, the legal and advocacy arm of the Israel Reform movement. The group says requests for seat changes to accommodate men who don’t want to sit next to women have become common.

“It’s difficult to find someone who has flown New York to Tel Aviv who hasn’t seen it or been a part of it,” IRAC Deputy Director Steven Beck told NPR. “Particularly around the holidays, a lot of ultra-Orthodox are taking flights” and the men “would not sit down.”

Some deeply religious Jews believe any contact between the sexes is immodest. That has caused delays and even chaos on numerous flights in recent years when men refused to take seats next to women.

Beck says the phenomenon isn’t limited to flights on the Israeli airline: “It’s just the number of ultra-Orthodox Jews on El Al is greater, and the effort to accommodate them is greater.”

The court ruling requires El Al to instruct its staff in writing that such requests are illegal, and train its staff on the new rule within six months. The court awarded Rabonowitz 6,500 shekels, or about $1,800, in damages.

Requests from El Al for comment were not immediately returned. The airline was owned by the Israeli government before it was privatized in 2006.

After the lawsuit was filed last year, El Al told Israel’s Haaretznewspaper that its “employees in the air, on the ground, in Israel and around the globe do all possible to listen to and provide solutions to the concerns or requests from our customers whatever they might be, including seating requests on the airplane.”

In court, the Timesreports, the airline said it had not discriminated against women because its reseating policies also applied to men. But it pointed out that Israeli courts have allowed religious observance to be considered in the past.

Why doesn’t El Al have passengers request special seating requirements in advance, as they would request a kosher or vegetarian meal?

Beck says his organization suggested El Al require passengers to do just that, but the airline refused.

“Our problem is with pressuring women,” says Beck. “It’s not fun to be told a flight will be delayed or sent back to the gate if you don’t accommodate a man’s request.”

Rabinowitz’s case echoed other recent battles in Israeli public life. Beck called the ruling a victory over “the gender segregation that Israel has been battling for more than a decade — all of the attempts by the ultra-Orthodox community to push women out of the public sphere.”

IRAC won a lawsuit in 2007 against gender segregation on public buses (though Beck notes that buses in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods continue to be de facto segregated). And in 2014, an Orthodox feminist group won a class-action lawsuit against an ultra-Orthodox radio station that wouldn’t allow women’s voices on the air.

Rabinowitz’s family fled Europe to escape the Nazis at the beginning World War II and moved to the United States; she later moved to Israel. Beck said his client is a mother of two, grandmother of six, great-grandmother to 32, “and now a civil rights activist.”

Rabinowitz told the Times she was “exhilarated” by Judge Dana Cohen-Lekach’s ruling because “she realized it is not a question of money; they awarded a very small sum. She realized it’s a matter of El Al changing its policy, which they have been ordered to do.”

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Trump Sued For Allegedly Violating Presidential Records Act

Two government watchdog groups, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and the National Security Archive (NSA) filed a lawsuit Thursday against President Trump and the Executive Office of the President.

The complaint alleges that White House staffers’ widely reported use of encrypted messaging apps, such as Signal and Confide, for internal communication violates the Presidential Records Act (PRA).

In the lawsuit, the groups claim the Trump administration has “failed to adopt adequate policies and guidelines to maintain and preserve presidential records.”

Encrypted messaging apps automatically delete messages, which would prevent that communication from being archived.

“The American people not only deserve to know how their government is making important decisions, it’s the law,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement. “By deleting these records, the White House is destroying essential historical records.”

Presidential records are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act while a president is in office. However, they become eligible under the PRA five years (and 12 years for classified material) after a president leaves office.

Additionally, the lawsuit draws attention to Trump’s use of his personal Twitter account. Under the Obama administration, social media posts were included as a type of communication to be archived under the PRA.

Any of Trump’s statements made on Twitter are subject to federal record-keeping, and the lawsuit argues that any deleted tweets would count as a violation of the PRA, as well.

The lawsuit points to an instance in November when Trump deleted a tweet about meeting with generals at his Mar-a-lago resort.

CREW and NSA say they have the legal standing to sue, though that assertion likely will be challenged by the White House. CREW spokesperson Jordan Libowitz tells NPR that both groups have what’s called “informational injury,” which would allow them to sue.

This isn’t the first lawsuit CREW has filed against Trump and his administration. The watchdog group filed a lawsuit in January stating that Trump’s failure to fully divest from his businesses allows him to receive favors from foreign governments by staying at his properties or holding events at his hotel, which violates the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment on the latest lawsuit.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Brendan Dassey Of 'Making A Murderer' Wins Federal Appeals Court Case

Brendan Dassey is escorted out of court in Wisconsin’s Manitowoc County in 2006.

Morry Gash/AP

hide caption

toggle caption

Morry Gash/AP

A federal appeals court has upheld a lower court ruling that the confession of Brendan Dassey, whose case was part of the Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer, was involuntary. Dassey was found guilty of helping his uncle kill a young woman in 2005, and has been held in a Wisconsin prison.

The case against Dassey was constructed largely on that confession, in which he stated that he helped to rape and kill a woman named Teresa Halbach, as The Two-Way has reported.

A three-judge panel from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in its majority opinion that Dassey should be released unless the state of Wisconsin decides to retry him within 90 days or appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Now, the state is weighing its options. “We anticipate seeking review by the entire 7th Circuit or the United States Supreme Court and hope that today’s erroneous decision will be reversed,” Johnny Koremenos, director of communications and public affairs for the Wisconsin Department of Justice, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Here’s further background on the case:

“Dassey was 16 years old when he confessed to helping his uncle, Steven Avery, carry out the rape and murder of 25-year-old photographer Teresa Halbach.

“Halbach was killed at the Avery Salvage Yard, where she had been hired to photograph vehicles for a magazine, according to court documents. Investigators found burned human remains that matched Halbach’s DNA, along with her car, where they discovered multiple bloodstains.”

Dassey’s 2007 conviction, as we reported, was overturned last August by a federal judge who determined that the confession was involuntary:

“The focus of the judge’s decision was on the interrogation when Dassey confessed. Over the course of a three-hour period of questioning, ‘generally responding to the investigators’ questions with answers of just a few hushed words, a story evolved whereby in its final iteration Dassey implicated himself in the rape, murder and mutilation of Teresa Halbach,’ according to the judge’s [August] decision.”

The state’s attorney general filed a notice of appeal against that decision in September, as we reported. In November, the federal judge who overturned the conviction granted a petition for Dassey’s release, but just three days later the 7th Circuit granted the state’s motion that Dassey remain in prison during the appeals process.

Today, the three-judge panel said it determined the confession was involuntary not because of a single statement or question, instead calling it “death by a thousand cuts.” The judges’ opinion takes issue with numerous techniques used by interrogators:

“Because of the cumulative effect of these coercive techniques — the leading, the fact‐feeding, the false promises, the manipulation of Dassey’s desire to please, the physical, fatherly assurances as [Calumet County Sheriff’s investigator Mark] Wiegert touched Dassey’s knee etc. — no reasonable court could have any confidence that this was a voluntary confession.”

One judge on the panel dissented, saying that while there were some “factors” supporting the view that the confession was not voluntary, others support the view that “overall, the confession was voluntary.”

Dassey’s lawyers called today’s ruling a “significant step closer to achieving justice.” In a statement, they said, “In rejecting the State’s assertion that Brendan confessed voluntarily, the court acknowledged what many parents already recognize: Brendan’s youthfulness and intellectual disability make him particularly vulnerable in the interrogation room.”

The state has argued that “Dassey’s confession was not coerced because the investigators who questioned him never made him any explicit promises,” as the Journal Sentinel reported.

Dassey’s uncle, Steven Avery, was convicted in a separate trial and is serving a life sentence.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Mourners Remember Otto Warmbier At Hometown Funeral

Mourners carry the casket of Otto Warmbier after his funeral Thursday. The funeral was held at Wyoming High School, outside Cincinnati.

Bryan Woolston/AP

hide caption

toggle caption

Bryan Woolston/AP

Throngs of mourners paid their final respects to Otto Warmbier Thursday at a public funeral at the high school he attended near Cincinnati. Just four years ago, Warmbier graduated from the school as the salutatorian.

The 22-year-old University of Virginia student was detained in North Korea for 17 months and died on Monday, shortly after he returned to the United States in a coma.

“It doesn’t really feel real yet,” his former soccer teammate Grady Beerck said, according to The Associated Press. “He’s so young, and he’s been gone for so long. The impact he made is always going to last with people.”

Beerck described Warmbie as a “goofy kid” who’d “drop anything to help his friends.”

An estimated 2,000 people packed Wyoming High School, in Wyoming, Ohio, with more lining the streets, CNN reports. The service took place in the arts center, which could only hold 800 people, so many more watched on screens set up in overflow rooms.

Warmbier’s brother, sister and friends spoke at the service, NPR member station WVXU in Cincinnati reports.

Inside the arts center, some of the personal items Warmbier took to North Korea were on display: a wallet, a University of Virginia notebook and the cream-colored linen blazer he wore there, CNN says.

Warmbier’s North Korean trip was only supposed to be a five-day tour. But he was arrested in Pyongyang in January 2016, and as we have reported, was accused of trying to steal a propaganda poster. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison and hard labor.

Warmbier was returned to the United States last week in a coma. North Korea said he had contracted botulism and that it was releasing him on “humanitarian grounds.”

But the doctors who examined him after his return disputed the botulism claim and said he had “extensive loss of tissue” in his brain.

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, who had met with North Korean officials in New York to press for Warmbier’s release, attended the funeral.

“North Korea needs to be held accountable for what happened to Otto Warmbier,” Portman said. “(T)hey’ve shown through their treatment of Otto a disregard for basic human rights for human dignity.”

Portman said sanctions against North Korea should be tightened, WVXU reports.

As a hearse carried Warmbier’s casket away, some mourners held up their fingers in the shape of a “W,” for his name, according to AP.

A Hamilton County Coroner has not yet determined Warmbier’s cause of death. According to his family’s wishes, no autopsy was performed. But a statement from the coroner said, “There are additional medical records and imaging to review and people to interview.”

Let’s block ads! (Why?)