- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

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April 2


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The Gadsden Times says Martin Luther King Jr.’s call to action still resonates:

Fifty years ago this past week, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sat in the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, debating whether to beg off a scheduled speech at the Mason Temple.



King had gotten involved in a contentious strike by sanitation workers in Memphis, upset over the accidental deaths of two co-workers in a garbage compactor and a history of poor pay and ill treatment. One demonstration he led during an earlier visit to the city turned violent and a teenager was killed.

The civil rights leader had struggled to get back to Memphis that day; a bomb threat delayed his flight. He didn’t feel well, and the weather in that part of Tennessee was horrible. (There actually were tornado warnings.) He reportedly was inclined to send the Rev. Ralph Abernathy, a top lieutenant, in his place.

However, King heard that 3,000 people were packed into the Church of God in Christ sanctuary, waiting to hear from him, so he pulled himself together and made the roughly 1.5-mile trip to the church.

His sermon was punctuated by claps of thunder and flashes of lightning, befitting his passionate use of historical and biblical imagery to demand civil rights and economic justice for all Americans.

It ended with these 132 words:

“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.

“And I don’t mind.

“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

“And so I’m happy, tonight.

“I’m not worried about anything.

“I’m not fearing any man!

“Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!”

It also was a prophetic sermon. Less than 24 hours later, King lay dead of an assassin’s bullet.

Fifty years later, the quest for that metaphoric Promised Land remains at the center of much of the political and social discourse in this country.

Some insist the goal has been reached - at least as best it can be - and it’s time to move forward from such things.

Others cite the present inequities in our society, and the festering ill effects of the old ones, as evidence that the journey is nowhere near complete.

We’re not going to solve that conflict in this space, any more than politicians of either party will solve them with posturing or speechifying. No real solution will be achieved unless people’s hearts and minds change, and that’s going to take some work.

Until then, we simply honor a great man’s life.

We acknowledge the tragedy of his death on this milestone.

Above all, we highlight the passion and power of his words - and his call to action that seems no less valid in 2018 than it did in 1968.

Online: http://www.gadsdentimes.com

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April 3

Tuscaloosa News on State Rep. Jack Williams being arrested on federal bribery charges.

Jack Williams is just the latest Alabama lawmaker who has told us how committed he is to his religious beliefs and did his darnedest to make everyone else abide by those beliefs, only to eventually be accused of wrongdoing.

Former Gov. Robert Bentley and former Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives Mike Hubbard certainly set the standard for that practice, but Williams could eventually get more time than his higher-ranking Republican colleagues.

One year ago, a public hearing was held in Montgomery on a bill that would have required sellers of computers, cellphones and other devices that access the internet to include a filter to block obscene material. To have the filter removed, consumers would have been required to pay the state a $20 fee. The bill was sponsored by Williams, a Republican from Vestavia Hills. Critics said the bill was unconstitutional and that Williams was grandstanding. It eventually died a quiet death at the end of the legislative session.

On Monday, one day after Easter Sunday, Williams was arrested along with Marty Conners, the former chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, on conspiracy charges. Williams and Conners could soon join fellow Republicans Bentley, who one year ago pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges and resigned his office, Hubbard, who was convicted in 2016 on a dozen corruption charges, former House Majority Leader Micky Hammon of Decatur, who pleaded guilty in September to mail fraud, and former state Rep. Greg Wren of Montgomery, who pleaded guilty to an ethics violation in 2014.

To be fair, corruption has not been a partisan issue in Montgomery. Former state Rep. Oliver Robinson of Birmingham pleaded guilty in September to fraud and bribery charges and former Rep. Terry Spicer of Dothan pleaded guilty to bribery charges in 2011. Both Spicer and Robinson are Democrats. It’s just that Alabama being a very red state, the odds favor the GOP these days.

Regardless of party affiliation, for decades a seemingly endless drumbeat of Alabama politicians have promised to fight for the citizens of this state only to get into office and pull a Judas-type betrayal.

Williams had already announced he would not run for the House again. Instead, he launched a campaign for the Jefferson County Commission. On his campaign website, not surprisingly, Williams quotes the Bible. He points to Micah 7:8 in the Old Testament as a verse for inspiration: “Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy. Though I fall I will rise; Though I dwell in darkness, the Lord is a light for me.”

We have no way of knowing how sincere any of these men are in their religious beliefs. That’s certainly not for us to judge. History is rife with good men and women who have stumbled and found redemption. Indeed, that is the Christian message behind the Easter celebration. And we hope that Holy Scripture helps guide Williams back into the light of day. But this sordid scenario is yet another reminder about wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Online: http://www.tuscaloosanews.com

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April 2

Dothan Eagle asks if an unintended consequence will set free a woman convicted in a slaying of a 13-year-old:

Many Alabamians may have no frame of reference for one of Alabama’s most notorious killers. For others, the name Judith Ann Neelley may ring a faint bell.

However, the family of 13-year-old Lisa Ann Millican won’t forget her. Neelley attempted to kill the youngster with injections of drain cleaner before Millican was shot in the head and pushed into a canyon by Neelley and her husband, Alvin. It’s likely that members of the jury who heard the grisly testimony before recommending she spend her life in prison without parole haven’t had those memories fade either.

After the original trial judge exercised the prerogative of judicial override in favor of execution, it appeared the 18-year-old Neelley - the youngest woman in the U.S. condemned to await execution - would languish on Death Row while her appeals were exhausted.

However, a series of curious events since have presented Neelley, now 53, with the possibility of parole, despite the intent of her judge and jury to prevent her freedom.

On his way out of office in 1999, then-Gov. Fob James commuted Neelley’s death sentence. His rationale was that the original jury intended the sentence of life without parole. Whether by omission or design, James’ commutation didn’t make clear the distinction regarding parole. The Alabama Legislature enacted a law in 2003 prohibiting parole for anyone whose death sentence is commuted, and in 2014, the Parole Board determined that the law would apply to Neelley’s case.

Recently, the judicial override prerogative was abolished, removing a trial judge’s discretion to disregard a jury recommendation on sentencing in capital cases. Had that restriction been in place almost 36 years ago, we’d have likely never heard from Judith Ann Neelley again.

Now it appears she’ll have her day before the parole board. Neelley sued over the law prohibiting her eligibility for parole, and last week a federal judge declared the law unconstitutional, clearing the way for Neelley’s pursuit of parole.

That leaves her fate in the hands of the Alabama Board of Pardons and Parole, which should weigh every fact, including the intent of the trial court, when considering her inevitable plea for freedom.

Online: http://www.dothaneagle.com

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