Three white Mississippi men pleaded guilty to federal hate crimes Thursday in connection with the 2011 beating death of an African-American man in Jackson, the Justice Department announced.
Deryl Dedmon, John Aaron Rice and Dylan Butler each admitted to conspiracy and violating the 2009 federal hate-crimes law in last June's killing of James Craig Anderson. They face sentences of up to life in prison and $250,000 in fines, federal prosecutors said.
The 19-year-old Dedmon had already pleaded guilty to state murder and hate-crime charges Wednesday in a state court and was sentenced to life in prison. Rice, 19, and Butler, 20, made their initial appearances with Dedmon in federal court Thursday morning.
The men are among the first defendants to be prosecuted under the federal hate-crime statute that President Barack Obama signed in 2009 and the first to be prosecuted in a fatal attack, Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, the head of the Justice Department's civil rights division, said in a statement on Thursday's pleas.FULL STORY
Five members of the University of Southern Mississippi pep band have had their scholarships revoked and have been removed from the band after they yelled a derogatory chant at a Puerto Rican player during an NCAA basketball tournament game last week.
The school announced the disciplinary action in a statement Tuesday, saying the five "have been forthcoming, cooperative, contrite and sincerely remorseful."
"They acted rashly and inappropriately, and now see the gravity of their words and actions," Vice President for Student Affairs Joe Paul said. "This is a teachable moment, not only for these students but for our entire student body and those who work with them."
The students will also be required to complete a two-hour training course on cultural sensitivity, the school said.
TV cameras captured the incident during the University of Southern Mississippi-Kansas State University game at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh on Thursday.
As Kansas State point guard Angel Rodriguez shot free throws, several people could clearly be heard chanting, "where's your green card."FULL STORY
Mississippi's Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the pardons of more than 200 convicts issued by Gov. Haley Barbour on his way out of office, rejecting a challenge by the state's attorney general.
Attorney General Jim Hood had argued in court last month that Barbour failed to follow state law by filing proper notice in newspapers where the inmates' crimes had been committed.
But in its opinion Thursday, the high court wrote that the pardons "may not be set aside or voided by the judicial branch" on those grounds.
Among those Barbour pardoned before he left office in January were many convicted murderers, including four who had worked as "trusties" at the governor's mansion. Critics argued that the governor failed to consider the families of their victims before freeing them.FULL STORY
For more than a month, we have repeatedly asked former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour to sit down and talk about the roughly 200 pardons he issued in his last days in office. And for more than a month, the answer we've received from his spokesperson is a resounding "No!"
Barbour did answer a few questions from CNN's John King a few weeks ago, when he defended his decisions.
"When we have people who get rehabilitated and after 20 years of service and they deserve a second chance, it's the governor's job and the governor's job alone to let them have a second chance. That's why I'm comfortable with this," Barbour said.
But the brief answers glossed over major questions about how Barbour came to pardon so many people, and victims' families are angry that they've never met face-to-face with the governor.
The most controversial pardons were issued to four convicted murderers who worked as trusties at the Governor's Mansion in Jackson. The families of those victims say the governor has never met with them personally, never returned phone calls.
[Updated at 2:17 p.m. ET] Joseph Ozment, a convicted murderer who was pardoned this month in a controversial move by outgoing Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, has been found in Wyoming, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood announced Monday.
Ozment was served at a hotel in Laramie, Wyoming, where he had been staying under another name, his office said.
"As our officers attempted service, Mr. Ozment fled in his girlfriend's vehicle but not before the vehicle made contact with one of our investigators," Hood said in a press release. "That is when our officers asked for the assistance of the Laramie Police Department. Mr. Ozment returned to the hotel on foot and ended up signing receipt of service in the presence of our two officers and two with the Laramie Police Department."
Ozment is one of four convicted murderers Barbour pardoned early this month. He did not appear at a court hearing in a case challenging the pardons. Hood said previously officials wanted to serve Ozment with a document telling him to appear in court.
According to a transcript of Ozment's confession to police, Ozment admitted being part of a robbery so he could have "Christmas money." He entered the convenience store with a friend who shot the clerk three times. The clerk, Rick Montgomery, crawled from around the counter and Ozment looked at him and shot him twice.
As he closed out his second term as governor, Barbour granted "full pardons" - meaning the convict's record is effectively wiped clean - to more than 200 people found guilty of a variety of crimes. All four of the convicted murderers he pardoned were serving life sentences and worked as trusties at the governor's mansion.
The move stirred outrage among relatives of the pardoned murderers' victims, among others. Hood has been particularly outspoken, earlier this month calling the pardons "a slap in the face to everyone in law enforcement and (saying) Gov. Barbour should be ashamed."
He also said Ozment and three other murderers did not meet the constitutional requirements to be granted a pardon, and he wants to see the men put back in jail to finish their life sentences.
Barbour has defended his pardons. He told CNN's John King that Ozment and the others have been rehabilitated.
"He has no obligation to do anything," Barbour said. "He's been pardoned. He's a free man."
So what will happen next?
"We said we would find him and we did," Hood said. "Now we will let the court decide what happens from here."
A man accused of killing a Louisiana priest in Mississippi was found dead in his jail cell Thursday morning, a Mississippi Department of Corrections spokeswoman said.
Jeremy Manieri, 33, was being held in a jail in Pearl, Mississippi. An investigation into Manieri's death has begun, corrections spokeswoman Tara Booth said.
Manieri was charged with shooting the Rev. Ed Everitt, 70, in July 2011 at a beach house in Waveland, Mississippi.
Everitt, who presided over the Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Hammond, Louisiana, had been vacationing in Waveland when he was killed, the Southern Dominican Province order of friars has said.
Four convicted murderers who were released from prison earlier this month after receiving pardons are among those who could have their fate determined in a Mississippi court Monday.
In his final days in office, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour pardoned the four convicted murderers - David Gatlin, Joseph Ozment, Charles Hooker and Anthony McCray.
All four were released from prison January 8. They were serving life sentences and worked as inmate trusties at the governor's mansion, the Mississippi Department of Corrections said. Trusties are inmates who can receive additional rights through good behavior.
On January 11, Hinds County Circuit Judge Tomie Green granted state Attorney General Jim Hood's request for an injunction forbidding the release of any more prisoners pardoned or given clemency by Barbour.
Green issued the injunction because it appeared some pardons did not meet the procedural requirement that pardon requests must be published 30 days prior to being granted. At the hearing, the inmates must prove they met the 30-day publication requirement.FULL STORY
Editor's note: CNN Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin weighs in to help explain the details of a battle brewing after former Republican Gov. Haley Barbour approved full pardons for nearly 200 people.
The announcement that outgoing Gov. Haley Barbour approved full pardons for nearly 200 people, including 14 murderers, has sparked an angry reaction.
Among those pardoned, four convicted murderers and a convicted armed robber have already been released. A judge issued a temporary injunction forbidding the release of any more prisoners Barbour pardoned or gave clemency to before leaving office this week. A circuit court judge issued an injunction, saying it appeared that some pardons, including those for four murderers, did not meet the state's requirement that pardon requests be published 30 days before they are granted.
We've asked CNN Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin to help explain what Barbour did, the criticism he's drawn, and what his actions could mean for those pardoned and for the public.
Q: What is an unconditional pardon? Does it mean that you are fully cleared? Would a background check still reveal your record?
Toobin: A pardon is essentially equivalent to never having been charged at all. You are fully cleared. You can vote and buy guns and do anything else a nonconvict can.
The background check issue is more complicated. It probably varies by state, and by how thorough the checks are.
A Mississippi judge has issued a temporary injunction that forbids the release of pardoned prisoners, a move that comes after outgoing Gov. Haley Barbour pardoned 199 people.
Of the 199 people that Barbour pardoned on his way out of office, 14 were convicted murderers. Several convicted murderers have already been released.FULL STORY
Outgoing Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour pardoned two men convicted of murder, a state official said Monday.
"David Gatlin and Joseph Ozment had received full pardons and they were released yesterday at 1 p.m.," said Suzanne Singletary, spokeswoman for the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Both men were serving life sentences, she said.
The families of the men's victims told CNN affiliates WAPT and WLBT they are outraged by Barbour's decision.FULL STORY
Severe weather including suspected tornadoes swept through parts of Louisiana and Mississippi early Wednesday, causing some structural damage, officials said.
No injuries were immediately reported.
A suspected tornado in Tangipahoa Parish moved a home with four people inside off its foundation, but no one was hurt, according to the National Weather Service. A possible tornado also touched down near Kentwood, Louisiana, according to parish emergency management authorities.FULL STORY
In the weeks leading up to Mississippi's vote on whether to declare a fertilized egg a person and grant it full rights, nearly everyone was saying the measure was sure to pass.
It was considered the perfect place to mount what could have been a historic challenge to abortion laws: After all, Mississippi is the most anti-abortion, religious and conservative state, according to a Gallup Poll. It was supposed to give a boost to the nationwide movement of the Colorado-based nonprofit Christian group Personhood USA, which is attempting to get the measure on the ballot in several other states.
The measure had all of the momentum within the state, with both the Democratic and Republican nominees for governor endorsing it.
So what exactly happened?
There were a few theories floating around Wednesday morning after the measure was defeated. (The Clarion-Ledger said with 96% of precincts reporting, the vote was 58% to 42% against the measure.)
1) People began asking questions about the language of the amendment.
Many of those opposing the bill who spoke to CNN said there simply had not been enough discussion about what the amendment would actually do. Women we spoke to said they felt this was government overreaching to begin with, but they weren't even sure how far-reaching it would be because the language was so ambiguous.
They wanted to know: What are the implications? What will it mean for women's reproductive rights? What does it mean about the decisions a woman can make with her doctor? Will it mean women will be at the mercy of the state when it comes to everything from taking certain birth control pills to trying to conceive if a couple is infertile? What happens to those fertilized eggs for IVF treatments if they aren't used? And would people be facing prosecution if they did any of those things?
Certainly, as opponents suggested, the vague language of the bill and the unknown implications could have been part of what swayed voters.
Many of those questions were dismissed by those in support of the bill, saying they were merely scare tactics. All they were trying to do was give equal rights to the unborn, supporters said, the same ones afforded to the mother.
Comment of the morning:
“Wouldn't creating a life through in vitro fertilization be ‘pro-life?' ” – centrisright
Voters in Mississippi on Tuesday will face one of the most controversial measures on ballots nationwide. Mississippians will vote on whether to amend the state constitution to define life as beginning at conception, which would eliminate abortion, including in the cases of rape and incest. Initiative 26 would define "personhood" as "every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof." The measure would also outlaw certain forms of birth control and the destruction of embryos in laboratories, putting in vitro fertilization procedures in question because of the resulting unused fertilized eggs.
CNN.com readers were largely against the measure.
EurekaJim said, “Yup. The party of ‘less government" except when they want the government to do something they want it to do.”
ovipconsult said, “Mississippi being the poorest (or at least one of the poorest states) with one of the highest unemployment rate in the country, and many still live in poverty ... and abortion is what they really care about? My goodness. Politicians should just go hide in the cave. Judges ... should just be removed if they want to control women's productive organs.”
BubbaJ said, “Eliminating abortion, Social Security and Medicare are their primary goals. They have become the party of ‘100% support for life ... when it's a fetus. Once it's out, it's on its own."
Update 8:00 a.m. ET] No fatalities or injuries have been reported from a possible tornado that touched down Sunday night in Cleveland, Mississippi, authorities said Monday morning.
A Sears store and a Walmart store sustained substantial damage, according to local officials. Downed trees and power lines damaged a nearby subdivision, officials said.
[Update 7:51 a.m. ET] A storm that ripped through Cleveland, Mississippi, on Sunday night destroyed a Sears store and damaged a Walmart and a nearby subdivision, officials said Monday morning.
"We've got a mess on our hands," said Kimberly Broadwater of the Bolivar County Volunteer Fire Department.
There were no deaths or serious injuries, but the local hospital had stopped taking patients, Broadwater said.
The county's communication network had been knocked out, according to Broadwater. "We are back to doing things the old-fashioned way - by telephone," she said.
Earlier, the NOAA Storm Prediction Center sent out an alert that a tornado had touched down, but authorities were still trying to determine if the damage was done by a tornado or straight-line winds.
[Updated 7:33 a.m. ET] Officials said they are assessing damage Monday morning to determine if a storm that moved through Cleveland, Mississippi, on Sunday night destroying the roof at a Walmart was a tornado or a band of straight line winds.
An alert was sent out Sunday evening that a tornado touched down in Cleveland, Mississippi, but authorities are still trying to determine if a tornado was responsible for the heavy damage to Walmart, Sears and a nearby subdivision.
The storm caused some structural damage, but the damage was fairly scattered, Bolivar County Sheriff's Officer Lee Tedder told CNN. No fatalities or serious injuries were reported.
– CNN's Reynolds Wolf and Greg Morrison contributed to the report.
[5:47 p.m. ET] Former Tropical Storm Lee left at least four people dead as it crossed Southern states.
In Gwinnett County, Georgia, just outside Atlanta, firefighters said Tuesday they found the body of a man who drowned in a rain-swollen creek near Norcross. He was one of two men who were trying to walk across the creek Monday "when a sudden gush of rushing water swept them over into the middle of the creek," the Gwinnett Fire Department said.
The creek was estimated to be 8 to 10 feet deep near the spillway where the two were swept away. The first man held onto the second but eventually lost his grip. He was washed downstream as well but managed to escape the water.
In Baldwin County, Alabama, police said they no longer believe a missing 16-year-old boy is alive. The teen was last seen on a beach near Gulf Shores on Sunday, said sheriff's spokesman Maj. Anthony Lowery. Lowery said Tuesday hopes of him coming to shore have faded.
A flooding death was also reported in rural northeast Mississippi, where one person drowned after floodwaters swept away a vehicle in Tishomingo County, emergency officials said.
In addition, a woman died in Chattanooga, Tennessee, early Tuesday. A woman went outside about 12:30 a.m. to move her vehicle and was struck by a tree, said police Sgt. Jerri Weary. About 30,000 people in the area were without power as of Tuesday morning, Weary said, and several roads were closed because of flooding.
As of 5 p.m. ET, the center of what remained of former Tropical Storm Lee was located about 115 miles northwest of Atlanta and was nearly stationary, the National Weather Service's Hydrometeorological Prediction Center said Tuesday.
Winds of up to 30 mph may accompany the rain.
[Updated at 5:15 p.m. ET] More than 100 homes in north suburban Atlanta were damaged by heavy thunderstorms and possible tornadoes as the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee swept through the area Monday, authorities reported.
At least one person was rescued from the basement of a collapsed home near Woodstock, about 30 miles north of downtown Atlanta, Cherokee County Emergency Management Supervisor Robby Westbrook told CNN. He said sheriff's deputies counted more than 100 homes damaged in a roughly five-mile stretch around the town.
And Cherokee County Fire Department spokesman Tim Cavender said several trees were knocked down around Holly Springs, about five miles north of Woodstock. But there were no immediate reports of injuries, he said.
The National Weather Service issued a series of tornado warnings for the area starting around 2:30 p.m. Tornado sightings and radar indications were reported across the northwest Atlanta suburbs throughout the rest of the afternoon.
[Initial post, 11:45 a.m. ET] Lee whipped up winds, dumped rain and caused severe flooding across a broad swath of the Southeast on Monday even after weakening to a tropical depression.
The storm will bring up to 20 inches of rain to some areas Monday as it moves into southern Mississippi, the National Hurricane Center said.
The threat of flash floods forced authorities in Jackson, Mississippi, to evacuate more than two dozen families from an apartment complex early Monday, Jackson police spokeswoman Colendula Green said. The storm knocked down power lines and trees across the city, officials said Monday.FULL STORY
Kaleb Eulls says he didn't do anything special, but others still think of him as a hero.
It’s been nearly two years since the high school football star tackled a gun-wielding girl on a bus of students on the way to school in Yazoo County, Mississippi. Eulls, a senior at the time, was one of the oldest kids on the bus when the girl started pacing the aisle, shouting and pointing the gun, threatening to shoot.
Eulls says he was just doing what was right when he lunged at the girl and tackled her to the ground, wrestling the gun from her hands. He was hailed as a hero and made the rounds on the talk-show circuit, dutifully answering questions with “yes ma’ams” and “no sirs” but not exactly relishing the spotlight.
The attention gradually faded, and he went about his life. He graduated from Yazoo City High School in 2010 and entered Mississippi State University on a football scholarship.
Now a rising sophomore, the 6-foot-4, 275-pound defensive tackle has his hands full with school and team practice. The 20-year-old says he hopes to go pro one day but he's studying for a “backup” career in finance.
Others aren’t so quick to forget a good tale of heroism. People still approach him about it, and the Oprah Winfrey Network reportedly interviewed him for an upcoming show.
“I get people who thank me and said what a great job I did; some want to know what happened,” he said. “I’m the same person I always was, but people recognize me more.”
He still speaks humbly about the incident and responds to questions with “yes ma'am” or “no ma’am.” He rejects attempts to attribute greater meaning to the incident or credit it with changing his life.
Well, except for one thing maybe.
“It taught me to expect the unexpected because you never think anything special or crazy is going to happen to you. But it does sometimes,” he says.
[Updated at 6:15 p.m.] A lightning strike Wednesday afternoon sent 77 Air Force ROTC cadets to hospitals in the Hattiesburg, Mississippi, area, where they were all responsive and in stable condition, according to spokeswoman Maj. Deidre Musgrave of Camp Shelby.
Two of the 77 were sent by ambulance, and the remaining 75 were sent to the hospital by Camp Shelby buses, Musgrave told CNN.
All 77 were college students enrolled in the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps, which uses Camp Shelby as its summer training site, Musgrave said.FULL STORY
The brood is back, and it's gonna be noisy.
Trees, posts, walls and other vertical surfaces throughout the American South are being covered this spring with billions of periodical cicadas: red-eyed insects that emerge, like Chicago Cubs fans' pennant hopes, for a few weeks just once every 13 years.
The bugs are perfectly harmless to humans, unless you count annoyance caused by the remarkable amount of noise the love-starved little critters make. The male cicada's mating call has been compared to a circular saw, only more shrill - and that's just the way the lady cicadas like it. FULL POST
Talk show maven Oprah Winfrey’s syndicated show comes to an end this week after 25 years. Here is a look at this and other stories that CNN plans to follow:
Fans, stars turn out for Oprah Winfrey's big goodbye
After a quarter-century that has seen Oprah Winfrey become a pop culture icon, the Queen of Talk has decided to walk away on her OWN terms, as in devote herself full-time to her Oprah Winfrey Network.
But first there's a two-day sendoff - taped last week - that will be broadcast Monday and Tuesday and promises a solar system of stars, surprises, and of course, ratings gold. On Wednesday, the final "Oprah Winfrey Show" will air. Winfrey is reportedly producing the show herself and is keeping her plans secret.
Louisiana, Mississippi officials wait on the water
Louisiana officials are expected to reassess the need for a mandatory evacuation Monday for Butte La Rose in the face of forecasts that the Atchafalaya River will crest just below flood stage.
Many residents living in a swath of Louisiana's Atchafalaya Basin have left their homes in anticipation of high water after officials opened floodgates to relieve the state’s pumps and levee systems.
Malaysians dig out after landslides
Rescue workers were expected to continue looking for children reported missing following two landslides that buried a Malaysian orphanage.
At least 16 people were killed and nine others injured in the landslides that were triggered by heavy rains, the nation's official news agency reported Sunday.
Rescue workers scoured the area for up to two dozen children believed buried in and around the orphanage near Hulu Langat, southeast of the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, the Bernama news agency said.
The prime minister, who was attending meetings in the United States, said the government would rebuild the orphanage and provide payments to the victims.
Will the volcanic ash cloud in Iceland grow?
Officials in Iceland were expected to monitor the ash cloud that has formed after the Grimsvotn volcano under the Vatnajokull glacier erupted over the weekend.
The eruption forced flight cancellations and the closure of airspace over the country's four international airports, Keflavik International Airport spokeswoman Hjordis Gudmunsdottir said.
Officials will reassess the situation at midnight Sunday (8 p.m. EDT), she said.
Weather patterns this weekend have been very different from the northerly winds that swept through the region after last year's eruption of the volcano Eyjafjallajokull, which spewed an ash cloud that disrupted air travel in Europe.
But the movement of an ash cloud is difficult to predict, a spokeswoman for the official United Kingdom weather agency said.
Ash could reach the United Kingdom and northern continental Europe Wednesday, she said.
Netanyahu set to address AIPAC in Washington
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected Monday to address the main American-Israeli advocacy group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington.
Netanyahu's visit comes after President Barack Obama on Sunday spoke to the U.S. Jewish lobby, softening his remarks after he said last week that Israel-Palestinian negotiations should start from pre-1967 borders.
Originally saying that borders based on Obama's remarks would be "indefensible," Netanyahu struck a conciliatory tone Sunday.
"I share the president's will to promote peace, and I value his current and past efforts to achieve this goal," Netanyahu said in a statement.
"I am determined to act together with President Obama in order to find ways to resume the negotiations for peace," Netanyahu's statement said. "Peace is a vital need for all of us."
'O'bama' heads to Europe, to the sound of Irish ayes
In search of relatives, President Barack Obama is expected to visit Ireland this week, where he may see children sporting "O'Bama" T-shirts and waving American flags.
"It was brought to my attention last year that my great-great-great-grandfather on my mother's side hailed from a small village in County Offaly," he said on the campaign trail in 2008.
To many of the residents in one small village, the presidential visit is a homecoming of sorts, a gesture of solidarity and kinsmanship in troubled times.