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tv   PBS News Hour Weekend  PBS  March 28, 2021 5:30pm-6:01pm PDT

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captioning spoored by wnet >> sreenivasan: on this edition for sunday, march 28: covid-19 cases rise as vaccination efforts increase; and in our >> sreenivasan: and in our signature segment: the origins of non-unanimous jury verdicts and what's ahead for those convicted by them. next on “pbs newshour weekend.” >> pbs newshour weekend is made possible by: sue and edgar wachenheim iii. the anderson family fund.
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bernard and denise schwartz. the cheryl and philip milstein family. the jpb foundation. barbara hope zuckerberg. the leonard and norma klorfine foundation. the peter g. peterson and joan ganz cooney fund. we try to live in the moment, to not miss what's right in front of us. at mutual of america, we believe taking care of tomorrow can help you make the most of today. mutual of america financial group, retirement services and investments. >> for 25 years, consumer cellular has been offering no-contract wireless plans, designed to help people do more of what they like. our u.s.-based customer service team can help find a plan that fits you. to learn more, visit www.consumercellular.tv. additional support has been provided by: and by the corporation for public broadcasting, a private
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corporation funded by the american people. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> sreenivasan: good evening and thank you for joining us. new cases of coronavirus infections are beginning to rise again in the united states and globally some countries are re-imposing lockdowns. nationwide, "the new york times" shows an average of more than 61,000 cases last week-- an 11% increase over the past two weeks. this morning, the nation's top infectious disease expert, dr. anthony fauci, said more contagious variants of the virus are playing a part, but he warned again that states may be lifting restrictions too quickly. >> what we're likely seeing is because of things like spring break and pulling back on the mitigation methods that you've seen. now, several states have done that. i believe it's premature, margaret, because when i've-- i've said many times to you that when you're coming down from a big peak and you reach a point and you start to plateau, once you stay at that plateau, you're
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really in danger of a surge coming up and, unfortunately, that's what we're starting to see. >> sreenivasan: the number of vaccine doses administered in the u.s. is also rising, and those vaccines are considered effective at preventing severe disease and death from all variants of covid-19. deaths from covid-19 are far below peak levels and decreasing. "the new york times" reports a 31% drop in the average number of covid-19 related deaths in the past two weeks. the number of lives lost in the u.s. since the pandemic began is now approaching 550,000. millions of americans in the south woke up to wreckage caused by storms, and more than a dozen tornadoes that ripped through at least four states yesterday. authorities say four people were found dead after torrential rain in nashville, tennessee, caused severe flooding, and a twister touched down near lexington. tornadoes were also reported in parts of eastern texas, arkansas and mississippi. southern states have been battered by severe weather since
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mid-march. five people died during last thursday's tornadoes. in egypt, a giant cargo ship remains uck sideways in the suez canal for a sixth day today. late yesterday, tugboats managed to move the evergiven two inches. on land, earth moving machines continue to try to dig out the 1,300 foot vessel. container ship has been trapped in a single-lane stretch of the canal since tuesday. the blockage in the vital waterway is causing a major traffic jam with hundreds of ships waiting to enter. global shipping through the suez canal is valued at over $9-billion a day. opening statements begin tomorrow in the trial of former minneapolis police officer derek chauvin. chauvin is charged with second- and third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in the death of george floyd last year on memorial day. he has pleaded not-guilty on all charges. the now-fired officer was seen kneeling on floyd's neck for more than nine minutes as floyd lay facedown, in handcuffs on the street. newshour will have comete
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coverage of the trial. >> sreenivasan: in 1972, the u.s. supreme court ruled that non-unanimous juries, those that convict a defendant with a decision of 10-2 or 11-1, are a violation of the sixth amendment right to a fair trial. you might think that would have been the end of the story, but there was a loophole, and two states maintained non-unanimous jury verdicts unt recently. newshour weekend special correspondent tom casciato looks at the roots of split jury verdicts and what is ahead for those convicted by them. this segment is part of our series "chasing the dream: poverty and opportunity in america." >> reporter: this story begins with an 18-year-old who went to prison in 1982 with a mandatory life sentence for second-degree murder, convicted in new orleans by a jury vote of 10-2. while an inmate, keith amedee
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earned a g.e.d., graduated from a paralegal studies program, and did much more. >> i started working in the kitchen. i was a breakfast cook, a pot cook. i did air conditioning, refrigeration, and i gained skills with the sewing machine. >> reporter: those sewing machine skills helped him learn to make drapes and handbags, and though still incarcerated, to do some of his time as a tailor for louisiana governor john bel edwards, who granted him emency in 2020. after 40 years imprisoned, now 58, amadee found himself out, but still on parole, and making do. >> i've pressure washed a house. i cut grass. i install windows. whatever i can do to get by. >> reporter: if this sounds like a familiar tale of reform and redemption, consider that in 48 other states, with a 10-2 vote on second-degree murder, keith amedee wouldn't have been convicted on that particular
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charge in the first place. >> one of the problems with non- unanimous jury verdicts is that it allowed prosecutors to charge for significantly more serious crimes than they had the evidence to convict under. >> reporter: amedee's attorney is with the new orleans nonprofit the promise of justice initiative, jamila johnson. she believes he would have faced only a lesser charge. >> if you knew that you only needed 10 people, and that there was no penalty for seeking a more serious charge, there's no reason why district attorneys wouldn't seek the more serious charges. >> reporter: louisiana did away with non-unanimous juries in 2018. and in 2020, the u.s. supreme court ruled them unconstitutional across the board in a case called "ramos v. louisiana." but their effects still linger, in no small part due to their racist roots in a constitutional convention louisiana held in 1898. it took place in new orleans and was led by illustrious citizens.
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committee head thomas jenkins semmes had served in the confederate senate during the civil war. he noted the convention's purpose was "to establish the supremacy of the white race in this state to the extent to which it could be legally and constitutionally done." >> black advocates sent letters to the attorney general of the united states saying that all of the efforts the federal government had made to try to ensure the rights of black louisianans were in jeopardy, and seeking federal intervention. no one answered that call. >> reporter: the convention established that juries needed only nine votes for a guilty verdict, later amended to 10. that meant, even with a few blacks on a jury, prosecutors could be confident in an outcome determined by the white majority. >> they knew back then that we weren't going to have no more than one or two african- americans on the jury pool. so, african americans, they didn't really have a vote when they created that law. they didn't have a vote at all.
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>> and you saw 120 years that followed in which black defendants were disproportionately convicted by non-unanimous juries. >> reporter: louisiana isn't the only state with a history of non-unanimous juries. one other state had them right up until the supreme court banned them with last year's ramos decision: oregon. >> similar to louisiana, oregon's law is based originally in discrimination, but very different fact patterns. >> reporter: professor aliza kaplan leads the ramos project at the criminal justice reform clinic at portland's lewis & clark law school. she notes oregon's provision arose out of an early 20th century era in which the ku klux klan had a strong presence in portland and throughout the state. >> reporter: the stereotype is that portland is a progressive paradise, and there are some people who would be surprised to hear you talk about a major ku klux klan presence in portland. >> i think that there's a misconception in general about
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our history. at that time in oregon, we had a huge influx of both eastern european jews and catholics. >> reporter: there was also a backlash following a sensational oregon trial in 1934, in which a jewish defendant, jacob silverman, avoided a second- deee murder conviction by a vote of 11-1. the state's leading newspaper, the morning oregonian, editorialized about "mixed-blood jurors" and complained of "the vast immigration into america from southern and eastern europe." it all led to a ballot measure that amended the state constitution to allow 10-2 jury verdicts. fast forward to the 2020 supreme court decision in ramos. in his majority opinion, justice neil gorsuch wrote "though it's hard to say why these laws persist, their orins are clear." louisiana's practice was rooted in "the trappings of the jim crow era." and oregon's "can similarly be traced to the rise of the ku
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klux klan." but even though history has reached an inflection point, the non-unanimous jury story isn't over quite yet. the convictions of those who haven't yet exhausted the appeals process are vacated, and they're entitled to be retried. but what about those with final convictions, imprisoned following 10-2 or 11-1 votes? the supreme court hasn't ruled yet whether ramos applies retroactively to them, though it's expected to later this year in a case called "edwards v. vannoy." in the meantime, kaplan and the criminal justice reform clinic, along with legal colleagues working for free, are challenging dozens of those convictions in oregon state court. but it's not always easy figuring out which cases to challenge. >> unfortunately, oregon has never maintained any record of who has a non-unanimous or a unanimous conviction. what about in cases where the lawyer told their client "you're never going to be successful at trial, so take this plea deal.
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we have non-unanimous juries. you're a black man. you don't have a chance. so you should take this plea deal." that happened a lot here, too. and that's really hard to prove. >> reporter: oregon attorney general ellen rosenblum applauded ramos, calling split- jury verdicts "an embarrament to our otherwise progressive state." but she has filed a supreme court brief in the edwards case stating oregon "has a compelling interest in the finality of its convictions," and retroactivity would have "a significant impact on crime victims and requires retrials years after the fact when key evidence may be gone." in louisiana, the state has given a deadline to those wishing to contest their non- unanimous convictions, an estimated 1,600 of them. they have until april 20 of this year, one year since the ramos decision. some 340 of those are in new orleans parish, where recently elected district attorney jason williams is addressing them with what he calls the undoing jim crow juries civil rights
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initiative. this, as the promise of justice initiative has been inundated with requests from others hoping to file to have their own cases reconsidered. the small organization is managing to represent some 850 of them with volunteer help from about 700 lawyers across the country. and even with althat assistance from other attorneys, is it possible you all will not be able to file on behalf of each of those men and women who were convicted by non-unanimous juries? >> i think it is certain that a certain percentage of people will not be able to file before the deadline. >> reporter: keith amedee is one of those who has filed. though he's already out of prison, he's not yet out of the woods. >> i would love to get from under this parole. i'm on parole to 2072. i got to pay parole fees. >> reporter: his latest part- time job is at a local dollar store. he also has his employment credentials online. and he has message about non- unanimous juries.
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>> my hope is for the united states supreme court to rule these cases where we can eliminate this. >> reporter: even retroactively. >> right. >> sreenivasan: we asked oregon attorney general ellen rosenblum to join us for a conversation. her office told us she is holding off on interviews as she awaits more guidance on the supreme court's ruling on retroactivity. new orleans parish district attorney jason williams did accept our invitation, and joined me recently from his office in new orleans. give me some perspecti of how race has factored in to the relationships that the citizens have with what they would consider justice. >> we are the incarceration capital of the world. the united states leads in incarceration. louisiana leads the country. and the city of new orleans is responsible for most of those bodies in the state penitentiary. we also lead, here in new
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orleans, in the number of exonerations, meaning the wrong person was arrested, an innocent person sat in jail while the real perpetrator was left out on the city streets. we also have some of the highest rates of violent crime. so, what you see is this sort of disproportionate, inequitable justice has led us down a pathy of rendering us less safe. so, we've been unfair. we've been unsafe, and our project of undoing jim crow juries is about delivering that fairness and equity to start to rebuild trust. >> sreenivasan: we hear this term of wrongful conviction. when you give these individuals new trials, are you essentially implying that they were wrongfully convicted even though they were convicted with the rules that were written in place at the time? >> no, what i would say, when
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you're talking about a split- jury verdict is that an individual, guilty and innocent, did not have due process, did not have the same fairness they would have gotten in another state because of that 1898 constitutional convention. and so, the same way that a police officer can bring a guilty man or an innocent man, a guilty or innocent man or woman can also not have had a fair shake in our criminal legal system. we don't even use the word criminal justice system in this office because the system has not lived up to that for everyone, right. so, we've got to make sure that we're looking at this thing from every angle. this is not a panacea. it's not a silver bullet to deal with the injustices in our system. it is us dealing with one bucket of injustice in the city of new orleans. >> sreenivasan: so, none of this is a get out of jail free card, to be clear. you are just granting them a new opportunity at a trial, right? >> hari, you' absolutely correct.
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justice isn't just about guilt or innocence, it's not just about how long a person stays in jail, but is ensuring fairness and creating a system that serves all people due process. we're just making sure that fairness and justice apply to everyone. a lot of these votes, 16 out of the 22 you brought up, have pled guilty to the same crime or a lesser from within two weeks of undoing those non-unanimous juries. >> sreenivasan: now, i know you're just starting with these 22 cases, there are likely hundreds more cases, not just in new orleans, but across louisiana. what do you say to the families of the victims who are probably struggling to process this and put this behind them, but this is now maybe reopening a wound? >> it absolutely is reopening the wound, and that is why we have hired more victim witness advocates to reach out to victims and family members to
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explain to them what happened in 2018, when the state overwhelmingly voted to fix this and what happened at the supreme court when a very conservative court made it abundantly clear that this was one of the last pillars of jim crow, a lot of >> sreenivasan: what happens if a jury finds someone not guilty of a lesser charge or perhaps of the charge that the prosecutor thought that they could bring to trial? how do you make up for the lost time that these people have spent in jail? >> you can't make up for the lost time, which is why we are very proactively dealing with this and not waiting another year to see how the supreme court decides retroactivity. if it is racist, if it is unfair, it is our job to make it fair.
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>> sreenivasan: new orleans parish district attorney jason williams, thanks so much for joining us. >> thank you, hari. >> sreenivasan: while the coronavirus pandemic has had dire economic impacts across the globe, its impact on women has been pronounced, setting back some of the strides women have made in gender and economic equity. carly zakin and danielle weisberg are co-founders and heads of "the skimm," a digital media coany aimed at millennial women. >> sreenivasan: i spoke with them about their launch of skimm-u, a free online financial series to help women who have been disproportionately impacted during the pandemic. carly zakin and danielle weisberg, thank you both for joining us. first, i want to ask a little bit about skimm-u, this financial literacy course. carly, why start this? what's it about? >> skimm-u is really about
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educating our audience. obviously, the pandemicas changed everything for all o us, but it's really changed everything for her. and when i say "her," we're really talking about the millennial woman. and this is a moment where we've all en that she's just been decimated by the pandemic and we'velready, pre-pandemic, she was already fighting a wage gap. she was already fighting to, sort of, have equal footing. and she was also the one that was hurt the most in the pandemic. and when we really thought about what is it that we want to lean into for our audience, it was thinking about what are the skills we wish we had from college, and our educational background that would allow us to get a leg up in our financial knowledge and how can we give that to our audience when she needs it most. >> sreenivasan: so, danielle, you're not approaching this from the viewpoint of we know it all. in fact, in many ways you're trying to say, i didn't know this and you're making yourself vulnerable in that way in saying, if i didn't know this
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and i went to college, there's probably a chance that somebody didn't. >> yeah, that's a great point. we really take the perspective at "the skimm" that we're not experts, it's impossible and it's unnecessary to try to be an expert in every single area of your life. what we try to do is to make sure that our audience is armed with enough of the right information and the confidence to be able to make the decisions that are right for themselves and their family. and that looks different in many different types of situations that our millions of skimmers are in every single day. when we first started the company, we thought about what we wanted to do, which icreate a brand, a platform that really stood for making an impact with this generation that has so much information coming at them in so many different ways, at so many times. and, for us, in the beginning,
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that meant creating a way to make digestible daily information around what was going on in the world. and now we've taken a step back and really thought about what that means at this stage, is helping our audience navigate what is coming up, as carly spoke about, for millennial women throughout the country, when they think about what's on their plate right now, they can't even think about it. there's so much going on. the idea of work is home and home is work, the idea of balance. none of that really exists anymore. so, we don't want to spend time talking about it. what we want to spend time on is making sure that we can help them be a step ahead for whenever we come out of this. it's not going to be easy to get this audience back to the position of strength that they were in, where they were at the position of being breadwinners, of being able to say we're leading our male peers in paychecks and degrees. we are getting seats at the table. and now all of that has been erased.
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>> sreenivasan: for some of you, our conversation continues here. the full version is online at pbs.org/newshour. carly, when we look at the impact of the pandemic, it has been disproportionate on women in general. and, as you point out, it's also different by generation. and when you think about the kind of work that's left to try to just get back to that parity, how long is this going to take? >> well, when you say get back to that parity, i think it depends how you define it. >> sreenivasan: i'm sorry, to get back to better than where we were in noal times. >> you know, we're obviously talking at a time where it's been coined the “shecession.” and what's really interesting about this generation is that there's never been one like her. she's, pre-pandemic, was facing, sort of, unprecedented opportunity where she actually was getting a seat at the table. she actually was beginning to out-earn her male counterparts
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in paychecks and in degrees and was becoming the breadwinner. and then, at the same time, she's facing just insurmountable student debt, still fighting the wage gap. she was going to count her parents as her dependents at the same time as children she's having later in life. and then you put in the pandemic. so, when we talk about how do we get back to normal, i don't think that a lot of her wants to get back to normal. it's how do we move forward? how does she have workplace solutions that allow h to have a family that allow her to become the breadwinner? and how does she have support in all aspects of her life that really allow her to move forward and to have agency in her life? what we've seen so much in this past year is just the feeling of loss of control. and that's really, really underscored once again, why we felt like skimm-u was so right, right now, which is here's the stuff you can control is the information that you have at your disposal. >> sreenivasan: carly zakin, danielle weisberg, co-founders
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of "the skimm." thanks so much. >> thank you. >> thank you so much. >> sreenivasan: that's all for this edition of “pbs newshour weekend.” for the latest news updates visit pbs.org/newshour. i'm hari sreenivasan. thanks for watching. stay healthy and have a good night. captioning sponsored by wnet captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org >> pbs newshour weekend is made possible by: sue and edgar wachenheim iii. the anderson family fund. bernard and denise schwartz. the cheryl and philip milstein family. the jpb foundation.
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barbara hope zuckerberg. the leonard and norma klorfine foundation. the peter g. peterson and joan ganz cooney fund. we try to live in the moment, to not miss what's right in front of us. at mutual of america, we believe tang care of tomorrow can help you make the most of today. mutual of america financial group, retirement services and investments. additional support has been provided by: consumer cellular. and by: and by the corporation for public broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the american people. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. you'r
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-hi. i'm rick steves, celebrating easter all across europe. easter is the most thoughtful and sacred of christian holidays. it's a time of quiet reflection and passionate ritual, swinging from great sorrow to great joy. across generations and across cultures, easter celebrates both resurrection and the promise of new life. ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪

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