In the Bible Belt, Christmas Isn’t Coming to Death Row

When it comes to the death penalty, guilt or innocence shouldn’t really matter to Christians.  

NASHVILLE — Until August, Tennessee had not put a prisoner to death in nearly a decade. Last Thursday, it performed its third execution in four months.
This was not a surprising turn of events. In each case, recourse to the courts had been exhausted. In each case Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, declined to intervene, though there were many reasons to justify intervening. Billy Ray Irick suffered from psychotic breaks that raised profound doubts about his ability to distinguish right from wrong. Edmund Zagorksi’s behavior in prison was so exemplary that even the warden pleaded for his life. David Earl Miller also suffered from mental illness and was a survivor of child abuse so horrific that he tried to kill himself when he was 6 years old.
Questions about the humanity of Tennessee’s lethal-injection protocol were so pervasive following the execution of Mr. Irick that both Mr. Zagorski and M…

Texas: More Details Emerge In Deadly Smuggling Operation, Truck Driver Could Face Death Penalty

39 people were discovered in and around Bradley’s tractor-trailer
"39 people were discovered in and around Bradley’s tractor-trailer."
The truck driver involved in the fatal human smuggling scheme that left 10 people dead may now be facing the death penalty himself. On Monday, James Matthew Bradley Jr., 60, of Clearwater, Fla., was charged under federal law with one count of “transporting illegal aliens.” If convicted, the crime is punishable by life imprisonment or death if the crime results in a death.

But investigators aren’t stopping there. On Tuesday, a US immigration official told the Associated Press that they believe Bradley is just one part of a large human smuggling organization, and their goal is to identify and dismantle the ring. "We're certainly not stopping at looking at the driver. We're trying to investigate and identify the different cogs, the stash houses, the other members, where the money came from," said Shane Folden of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations office in San Antonio.

A total of 39 people were discovered in and around Bradley’s tractor-trailer early Sunday morning while parked in a Wal-Mart parking lot just off Interstate 35, about 150 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. The incident has become a major news story ever since and more details continue to emerge as officials conduct interviews with the 29 survivors. Based on the information gathered, they now believe there may have been as many as 200 people crammed into the sweltering trailer at one point. Some of the survivors have also provided authorities with other key details and admitted they had paid smugglers to bring them across the US border. Once across the border, they were loaded onto trucks that took them to the tractor-trailer. They were marked with different colors of tape so that the various smugglers on the other end could identify them once the tractor-trailer reached the parking lot.

One man told agents he had arranged to pay smugglers $5,500 once he arrived in San Antonio. He said that while he was waiting with 28 people to be smuggled across the river on Friday evening, the smugglers told him that people associated with the Zetas cartel charged about $700 for protection and to cross by raft. The witness then said the group proceeded to cross the river in three separate trips and then walked throughout the night.

He said it was about 9 a.m. Saturday morning when his group was picked up by a silver Chevrolet Silverado truck and taken to the tractor-trailer where about 70 people were already waiting inside. He said everything seemed okay for the first hour but as the temperatures climbed, more and more people started having trouble breathing and some began passing out. Investigators also learned that people started banging on the trailer walls trying to get the driver’s attention and did not get any response. They also took turns breathing in the outside air from a ventilation hole in the wall of the trailer. The witness said that when they finally pulled in to the Wal-Mart parking lot, the driver slammed the brakes so abruptly that several people fell over. When the rear doors opened, six black SUVs were waiting to pick up people and would leave as soon as they filled with passengers.

On Monday, Bradley’s fiancé told the Associated Press that he had no idea there were people in the back of his trailer. She said that he told her he didn't hear anything, and had only noticed movement in the trailer when he got off the road in San Antonio for a bathroom break. She said that when he opened the doors, “he saw the people in there, laying everywhere." At that point she explains Bradley phoned her and was distraught. "He said he didn't know what to do, which way to go. He was crying, distraught. He was scared. You could tell it in his voice.

Source: Trucking Industry News, Jana Ritter, July 25, 2017

Truck Driver Could Face Death Penalty In Deadly Human Smuggling Case

DALLAS (CBS11) – A truck driver faces life in prison or even the death penalty after being accused of transporting people in the U.S. illegally in a sweltering semi-trailer with no air-conditioning.

Ten people died, and nearly 30 are hospitalized, after a Walmart employee in San Antonio spotted the truck and a victim early Sunday morning and called 911.

Bill Bernstein, Deputy Director of Mosaic Family Services in Dallas, says even though what happened in San Antonio may be rare, the problem is all too common.

“It’s a horrible situation to happen and you wish things like that didn’t happen,” said Bernstein.

Bernstein says the victims opt to come into the country by being smuggled in through some form of transportation. “They leave because they’re real desperate and they’re willing to face conditions that are so intolerable that they know they’re putting their lives on the line to get there.”

Authorities say the driver, 60-year-old James Bradley, told them he didn’t know there were dozens of people in the trailer before discovering them.

Bradley faced a federal judge in San Antonio for the first time on Monday.

Investigators say some of those who escaped from the truck told them they crossed the border, then hid in stash houses in Laredo until they were brought into the trailer.

Experts say they believe this is part of a smuggling network.

This fiscal year, Homeland Security Investigations, which is part of ICE, says it initiated 2,110 human smuggling investigations nationwide and had 1,522 convictions nationwide.

The Associate Director of the Embrey Human Rights Program at SMU, Brad Klein says the Lone Star State sees many cases. “Texas and Dallas in particular, is a huge hub for both trafficking and smuggling. Part of it is location and part of it is the economy.”

Klein says smuggling can turn into another crime: human trafficking, when the victims are coerced or threatened. “Someone who may think they’re getting into a situation of simply being moved from one place to another may end up being trafficked.”

A study by the University of Texas released in January found there could be as many as 300,000 victims of human trafficking in this state alone.

Bernstein says Mosaic Family Services has helped more than 500 human trafficking victims in the past 16 years. “What they end up doing is they may be working 16 hours a day, not really being paid, fed, sleeping on the floor in a closet, it may involve sex work, it may involve any kind of labor.”

Klein says SMU will be hosting a two-day workshop on Human Trafficking September 13 and 14 to not only further shed light on the problem, but help find solutions as well.

Source: CBS11, Jack Fink, July 24, 2017

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