Overheard on CNN.com: Published mug shots - public service or legal blackmail?
May 30th, 2012
04:57 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Published mug shots - public service or legal blackmail?

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

Are some U.S. citizens paying for the crimes - real or alleged - of their past, long after they’ve done their time?

Donald McMahon, a convicted criminal turned contributing member of society, thinks so and shared his story with CNN. McMahon said he is constantly haunted by the ghosts of his past, his former self constantly resurrected on the pages of publications and websites that post old mug shots then demand large sums of money to remove or hide them.

The story was a catalyst for debate on CNN.com, causing readers to opine on everything from rights to privacy versus the rights of the accused to what’s fair in the pursuit of earning a dollar.

MugshotMadness: As a publisher of a few "mug shot" sites, I feel that I am doing a service for the communities in which we publish. I understand how having your mug shot posted online could adversely affect someone. You also have to understand a couple other things. This info is public and if you had not been arrested, your photo would not have been on our sites. We are one of the few sites who do not not charge to remove a record IF you can send us verifiable information that the charges were dropped or you were found not guilty. I will admit that I am in this business to make a buck, but that does not mean I do not have a heart. If you show up on my sites, it's because of your actions and not because I am trying to extort you.

MichelleBD: "Stop being a victim/take responsibility...." and similar BS mantra sound like something off Fox News. These people are trying to move on with their lives while this lowlife is digging up dirt and publishing it and then demanding large sums of money to take it off. That's like tossing an anvil to a drowning victim and then blaming them for their own drowning. The people that own these sites could not care less about the public's interest, it's all about making a quick buck instead of working at a real job.

In a digital age - is your reputation your responsibility? Or do we need government intervention?

Kristine Harley: How about creating new content about yourself? Blog your positive achievements, post constructive comments on sites, upload videos to YouTube and get friends to comment on them. Build a website of your achievements, your charitable intentions, etc. At least counter your past with your present.

pearlyQ: We should at least be protected from "for-profit mug shot websites and newspapers" that only wish to exploit and extort. They are currently "legal" because arrest pictures and records are legal. These records should only be legal for government agencies and authorized parties use.


A look at Occupy movements in three states
An Occupy Wall Street protester dressed as Santa Claus walks at New York's Zuccotti Park on Wednesday.
November 3rd, 2011
11:19 PM ET

A look at Occupy movements in three states

It's been almost two months since the Occupy Wall Street protest began in New York. The movement spread to cities across the country, with many having different issues and challenges.

Many Occupy protesters generally assert, among other things, that the nation's wealthiest 1% holds inordinate sway over the remaining 99% of the population. CNN Radio reported from a few different states to get a pulse on the movement.

Click the audio player to hear the report:


The Occupy Wall Street encampment in New York’s Zuccotti Park has taken on an air of permanency since a storm pelted protesters with sleet, snow and rain a few days ago. Tents are not only tolerated by police now, they cover the public plaza from one end to the other. Protesters say they are there for the long haul.

“Our goal at this point is just to stay here. And as long as we continue to exist ... we continue to be a movement rather than just a flash in the pan,” Jeffrey Brewer said as he took part in a discussion about diversity at an area of the park demonstrators call the Think Tank.

While the park is the public face of Occupy Wall Street, problem-solving is largely taking place off-site. Working groups tackling various issues meet in nearby public atriums and restaurants daily.


Photographer's image is basis for memorial
October 16th, 2011
02:04 PM ET

Photographer's image is basis for memorial

When Bob Fitch heard about plans for a Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, he thought he might get a call.

Fitch worked for several years with the civil rights movement as a photographer and captured many iconic images of King.

When the call came some ten years ago, Clay Carson was on the other end. The founding director of the MLK Research and Education Institute at Stanford University was part of a group working on a design submission for the monument. As the editor as King's papers, Carson knew the exact image he wanted for the monument.

The photograph, shot by Fitch in 1966, shows King standing in his office with a pen in his right hand, arms crossed. Carson felt the image shows a reflective man, striking the right tone for the monument his team conceived to encourage dialogue.

Carson's group eventually beat out 900 other submissions as the winning design.

But today both Carson and Fitch raise concerns about perceived differences between the initial vision and the finished monument. Some are superficial. In the photograph, King holds a pen in his right hand. In the statue, he holds no pen, but does hold a scroll in his left hand. On a more fundamental level, both Fitch and Carson question whether King would have wanted such a large monument and likeness.

Carson believes the issue of the pen came about due to a flipped negative that put the pen in King's left hand. The scroll replaced the pen so as not to be historically inaccurate. Several calls to the MLK National Memorial Project Foundation about the scroll went unanswered.

As to what King might have wanted to represent his legacy, Fitch says just the achievement of the monument is one to celebrate. Fitch says many people who worked in the movement, himself included, feel joyful that the "miracle of equity that he helped move forward for Afro-American people is honored in some way by the nation."

And for Carson the prominent placement of the monument, the first major monument on the National Mall honoring an African-American, fits with the grand vision of King.

For Carson, this moment brings back memories of another time on the mall, the famous March on Washington in 1963, where King laid out his grand vision. Said Carson: "Many of us who were there thought it was about getting civil rights legislation passed. But he was carrying on a dialogue with Jefferson about the meaning of the Declaration of Independence."

Now, standing in stone, the grand monument to the man and the movement seeks to continue this conversation. As Carson says, "Hopefully Americans black and white and many other races will be part of that discussion that is raised visually by the memorial: What do our nation's ideals really mean, how close are we to reaching those ideals and making them something other than words."

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Filed under: U.S.
At Troy Davis protests, people talk big change
Hundreds of protesters gathered in Jackson, Georgia, on Wednesday in the hours before Troy
September 23rd, 2011
07:45 PM ET

At Troy Davis protests, people talk big change

In the hours before Troy Davis was executed in a Jackson, Georgia, prison Wednesday for the murder of a police officer, the hundreds of people who had gathered outside not only protested his sentence, but also talked of bringing about reforms for the future.

During the hot day and into the evening, high-profile activists, college students and others said there was too much doubt over Davis' guilt for an execution (though the prosecutor said he had no doubt). And some expressed hope that the death penalty eventually would be abolished.

In a crowded church across the street from the prison, the head of Amnesty International, Larry Cox, drew raucous applause with a nod to the Christian belief in an afterlife.

"We are not afraid of death, because we know that death can be conquered," he said.

Many spoke about reforming the justice system. Elijah West, a cousin of Davis, spoke of getting a degree in criminal justice so that he could make changes from the inside.

Ben Jealous, head of the NAACP, called the death penalty "legalized vengeance" and urged the protesters to oppose it.


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Filed under: Crime • Death Penalty • Georgia • Justice
Undocumented immigrants are 'coming out'
Jessica Vasquez, Nataly Ibarra and Dulce Guerrero met through through their decision to speak out about their illegal status.
August 19th, 2011
11:32 PM ET

Undocumented immigrants are 'coming out'

The Department of Homeland Security announced plans this week to review 300,000 pending deportation cases in federal immigration courts to determine which individuals meet specific criteria for removal and to focus on "our highest priorities."

That could be good news for some students who have been putting their illegal status out in the open in protests around the country. Such protests target immigration enforcement legislation or push for federal laws that would give illegal immigrants a path to become residents or citizens.

One such protest took place in Atlanta earlier this year when seven students, all undocumented, sat in the middle of a major road and blocked traffic.

"The civil disobedience we follow that from the civil rights movement," says Dulce Guerrero, 18, a recent high school graduate who ended up in a police van that day.

Guerrero and her friend Nataly Ibarra, 16, were drawn together by their choice to speak out about their illegal status despite serious consequences, including deportation.

Undocumented students like Guerrero and Ibarra, many of whom have lived in America since childhood, use the phrase, "coming out." Instead of "coming out of the closet," the phrase used in the gay rights movement, they say "coming out of the shadows.”

"It is rhetorically powerful because undocumented immigrants are supposed to be in the shadows. An illegal alien is someone who isn't supposed to be around, so to say that you are coming out of the shadows means that you are flaunting the whole idea of being illegal of not belonging,” said Dr. David Cisneros, a communications professor at Boston’s Northeastern University.

The Office of Homeland Security is signaling that it might be willing to give people like Ibarra a break by not prosecuting low priority cases. It's a move that could open the door for more illegal immigrants to come out.

Listen to the full story here:

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Filed under: Immigration
Easter hunt targets the work of street artist known as 'Catlanta'
April 23rd, 2011
08:20 PM ET

Easter hunt targets the work of street artist known as 'Catlanta'

Art lovers in Atlanta are on the prowl this weekend. But they're not after Easter eggs. Using social media to hunt for clues, they race from location to location seeking the ultimate prize: a palm-sized magnet shaped like a cartoon cat.

The magnets, each hand painted, are the brain child of a local artist who goes by the name of his creation: Catlanta.

To hear him tell it, the whole enterprise grew organically. The design came from a sketch of his own cats made "cuter." Initially, the artist painted the cat on walls around town but a chance discovery of magnet sheets outside a dumpster gave rise to the less permanent tag prized by fans. The artist says he’s done with spray painting, citing the controversy associated with that type of permanent marking: "I want this to be something that the city supports."

Read more about how Catlanta uses social media

While the artist has hundreds of gushing fans online, not everyone shares the excitement. Peggy Denby, who works with community groups and elected officials to eradicate graffiti, says she thinks his work may violate the city's code.

None of this seemed to bother Catlanta's fans as the Easter kitten hunt ended Saturday, with those who narrowly missed out Tweeting their tales of woe. These fans they may have another chance when the hunt resumes next week.

Click the audio link to hear the complete story:

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to podcasts here.

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Filed under: Art
June 22nd, 2010
09:22 PM ET

Security Brief: Accused militia members remain jailed

Five members of a militia in Michigan arrested and charged in March with seditious conspiracy have lost their bid to be freed on bail. A federal appeals court Tuesday reversed a lower court judgment in May that the five – who belonged to the Hutaree militia – should be allowed bail. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, wrote that “each defendant poses a danger to the community and that no conditions of release will reasonably assure the safety of the community.”


March 12th, 2010
05:18 PM ET

What is the HIG?

The debate over the questioning of accused terrorist Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab rages on between Democrats and Republicans. John Brennan, White House adviser on homeland security, slammed Republican critics - saying that GOP leaders knew, or should have known, that AbdulMutallab would be read his Miranda rights. These comments did not sit well with Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Michigan, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee. Hoekstra said Brennan told him that AbdulMutallab was in FBI custody.

Pressed by CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Hoekstra said that being in FBI custody did not necessarily mean AbdulMutallab would be read his Miranda rights. Rather, he said he took it to mean the FBI's "high-value interrogation group would decide whether or not this person would be mirandized ... and whether they would go through the civilian process or be put into a military tribunal."

Fact Check: Is Hoekstra correct in his characterization that the high-value interrogation group has the power to make a determination about which court system will handle a suspect?


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Filed under: Fact Check
March 12th, 2010
04:08 PM ET

How effective are auto recall campaigns?

The new year brought a rash of recalls. Since January millions of cars have been recalled from major manufacturers and horror stories of malfunctioning autos have filled the airwaves. As many owners rushed to get the requisite fixes, CNN Fact Check Desk wondered: what happens to the cars that are not fixed?

Fact Check: What makes a recall campaign successful and what percentage of consumers typically respond?


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Filed under: Fact Check
March 12th, 2010
11:09 AM ET

Are there 300 terrorists in jail?

Vice President Joe Biden has argued that civilian trials have a better record than military trials for terror suspects. On "Face the Nation," Biden threw out some supporting figures: "There have been over 300 tried in federal courts by the last administration and by us. They're all in jail now. None of them are out seeing the light of day."

Fact Check: Is Biden correct? Are there over 300 terrorists in jail?


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Filed under: Fact Check
March 11th, 2010
06:54 PM ET

Could health care reform violate the U.S. Constitution?

While the debate over health care has at times bordered on the absurd, some opponents of the bills passed by the Democratic-led Congress have raised questions of fundamental importance to American democracy - namely, whether some of the proposals are constitutional. 

While the arguments have hinged on a variety of components of the bills, the most oft-repeated concern relates to the individual mandate. Because the individual mandate is part of all three health care proposals, those passed by the House and the Senate and the one proposed by President Barack Obama, this challenge is potentially the most serious. 

As wrangling over the fate of health care reform continues, the CNN Fact Desk takes a look at the concern that a provision of the health care bill violate the governing document of the United States. 
Fact Check: What are the arguments concerning the constitutionality of the individual mandate? Do they have any validity?  


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Filed under: Fact Check • Health Care