In Limbo

Sentencing is delayed for beating death in Arlington.

By Rebekah Gleaves

After eight years in limbo, Carl McDougle says a few more weeks of waiting don't really bother him.

McDougle was scheduled to be sentenced Monday for the February 1995 beating death of Anthony Monds, a mentally handicapped patient at the Arlington Developmental Center. But, on Monday, McDougle's lawyer, A C Wharton, asked Federal Court Judge Julia Gibbons to delay sentencing until early January.

"I'm not pleased that we haven't gotten sentencing done in this matter," said Gibbons, before adding that she would agree to the delay because she wants to sentence McDougle and two other Arlington defendants, Willie McCulley and Jerry Dean Lewis, at the same time.

Wharton asked for the delay so that he might file a request for a departure from standard sentencing on the grounds of "aberrant behavior" and "post-offense rehabilitation."

In May McDougle was found guilty of civil rights violations of Arlington patients, including the beating death of Monds. McDougle is appealing the conviction.

Federal sentencing guidelines indicate that McDougle should face life in prison without parole, though federal prosecutors and Mond's mother, Sarah Mackey, say this punishment is too harsh.

Mackey testified before Judge Gibbons Monday, saying that she had reconsidered her feelings on the sentencing and now thinks that life without parole is too long. She says she would not oppose a shorter sentence for McDougle and the other defendants.

"They have a life ahead of them and I feel for them," said Mackey. "I think they can change and go ahead and be nice, good, citizens."

For eight years McDougle has maintained his innocence in the beating, though co-defendants McCulley, Lewis, Wendell Cole Knight, and Carl Manns pleaded guilty to the crime and received lesser sentences. Excluding McCulley, the other defendants also received reduced sentences for agreeing to testify against McDougle. McDougle says he was offered a similar plea agreement but refused to testify against the others because he was not involved in the beating and does not know what happened.

On Tuesday, Wharton filed a motion and a legal memorandum on McDougle's behalf asking for a mental examination for sentencing purposes. Wharton says he is seeking the mental examination to ensure that McDougle understands the sentence he is facing. Wharton also says that the mental examination may convince the court that McDougle has undergone a substantial behavioral change in the eight years since the crime was committed.

Keeping Tabs

County jail begins direct supervision of inmates.

By Mary Cashiola

"With Judge McCalla coming back, I think if we were unsuccessful at implementing direct supervision, somebody might even become a resident of that jail," county attorney Kathleen Spruill said once, only half-joking. McCalla once sentenced a mental-health commissioner to spend time in her own facility until conditions improved.

Spruill says she cannot imagine the current federal order, and the accompanying lawsuit, against the Shelby County Jail ever being completed. Instead, she thinks in terms of meeting each segment of the jail compliance plan, and getting direct supervision to work is a big part of that plan.

As part of a federal lawsuit, the county jail has begun to implement direct supervision, and jailers' posts have been moved inside the pods with the inmates. The move is intended to reduce inmate violence.

The Flyer obtained data on inmate violence for the fifth and sixth floors spanning September 4th to November 4th. The figures show incidents reported a month prior to direct supervision and the first month after it was implemented.

Eight incidents were reported prior to the switch and nine afterwards.

Under indirect supervision, three of the incidents were described as inmate-on-inmate fighting; two were verbal altercations; and one was an inmate-on-inmate alleged assault. The remaining incidents were an attempted suicide and a request for protective custody.

The nine incidents reported after the October 4th switch varied more. Three resulted from verbal altercations, only one was inmate-on-inmate fighting, and there were no inmate-on-inmate assaults. There was, however, a threat made by an inmate against a staff member, as well as an incident where an inmate refused a staff order. There were also two instances described as inciting riot/disruption.

That doesn't mean that the new system of supervision hasn't worked, however.

In an interview last month, jail special monitor Charles Fisher suggested that such figures would be virtually worthless. Not all incidents might have been reported under indirect supervision, while officers inside the pod will now be in a good position to see -- and thus report -- every incident. So while assaults may seem to be happening more frequently in direct supervision, it might be because they are being reported more often.

The next status conference on the jail's progress is set for Wednesday, December 19th.

Update: Dollar Tree Discrimination

Lesbian and Gay Coalition tests store's stance.

By Mary Cashiola

Last Friday, the Dollar Tree store in Poplar Plaza had a rash of hand-holding.

But it wasn't because of warm and fuzzy feelings or the holiday spirit filling the air; it was a test to see how gay-friendly the store is.

After Rumi Tominaga and Gabrielle DuBois were kicked out of the store in October for holding hands, the Memphis Lesbian and Gay Coalition for Justice (LGCJ) wanted to take some direct action.

"Everybody was saying, 'We should go in and hold hands," says Jim Maynard, co-founder of the organization.

Len Piechowski, the LGCJ local issues chair and the first person to serve as Mayor Willie Herenton's liaison with the gay community, spearheaded the project.

"Maynard called up the Dollar Tree store to get their side of the story and the manager with whom he spoke rudely disconnected the call," says Piechowski. Piechowski then called the corporate office and asked a company spokesperson for three things: an explanation, a public apology to the community, and a personal apology to Tominaga and DuBois.

"She did not say she would or would not do that," says Piechowski. "She said that Dollar Tree does not condone any discrimination based upon race or sexual orientation." He then asked if a same-sex couple holding hands would be asked to leave the store and was told they would not.

"We decided we would test them on what they said," says Maynard.

The group sent four couples, two male and two female, into the store at various times last Friday. Two "spotters" from the group also pretended to be customers and followed each couple around in case any ugliness broke out, whether with customers or management.

"It all went extremely well," says Piechowski. The duo passed three people with manager tags on without incident. While they were paying for their purchases, a cashier was very pleasant and engaged them in small talk.

"I was a little concerned," says Maynard, "especially with the men holding hands, but they all said they didn't have any problems."

LGCJ is now drafting a letter to the Virginia-based discount chain thanking them for creating a gay-friendly atmosphere and assuring them they'll keep shopping there.

"An originally nasty thing turned out really well," says Piechowski.

Running Out of Room

School board ponders overcrowding at Whitehaven High.

By Mary Cashiola

When proposed 2002-2003 attendance-zone changes for the new Whitehaven and Cordova area schools were presented Monday night, the Memphis City Schools board found themselves facing a problem.

Concerned about over-crowding at Whitehaven High School, the board decided to delay a decision until after a board/staff conference could convene.

Commissioner Sara Lewis said met a student who loved Whitehaven but "the child said, 'There's just too many of us here.' ... She's an honor student; she's got her head on straight; she's going to college. She said, 'It's just not fair.'"

Whitehaven High's capacity is 1,700; the school's current enrollment is 1,967. Under the proposed plan, the enrollment for next year would remain about the same. Hillcrest High, the other school affected by the plan, has a capacity of 1,500 but a current enrollment of 1,130, and an expected enrollment next year of just 887.

The attendance-zone modifications are the result of opening a new middle school in Whitehaven and a new elementary school in Cordova, in addition to converting a junior high in Whitehaven to a middle school next year.

"I want board members to go visit Whitehaven High School and see for yourselves," said Commissioner Patrice Robinson. "We have a problem."

When the plan was proposed two weeks ago, the board seemed concerned by the enrollment figures at Whitehaven and an increase in transportation costs for students.

"If we're not going to be transporting less, that's a stalemate for us as a district," said Commissioner Hubon Sandridge. "This is not satisfying what we're trying to do."

The staff's plan tried to balance the board's desire to switch from junior highs (grades 7-9) to middle schools (grades 6-8), open schools up to more residents within the neighborhoods, and keep blocks of students moving through grade levels together.

Sandridge said they've known about the overcrowding at Whitehaven wondered why nothing had been done about it.

"I don't want to continue to put that area on hold," he said. "Whitehaven has waited entirely too long."

Changes to student assignments for the 2002-2003 school year at the new Cordova area elementary passed unanimously.

In other business, Michael Hooks Jr. was voted president of the board for 2002; Carl Johnson was elected vice president.

A Smart Start

Memphis one of five groups to get early-childhood grant.

By Janel Davis

The Early Childhood Collaborative Alliance (ECCA) has received a $100,000 in-kind grant from the Smart Start Program to support the development and implementation of community-based early-childhood initiatives.

ECCA, headed by executive director Barbara Holden, invited Smart Start's National Technical Assistance Center executive director Gerry Cobb to speak about the significance of Memphis being chosen as a grant recipient. Last week, Cobb addressed a roomful of Memphis health, education, and child care services administrators on the North Carolina initiative and its expansion to other states.

"Memphis was chosen as a grant recipient because things are going on here," said Cobb. "There are already plans in place for better childcare, and several organizations and the community are working together to address the problems."

Memphis was one of only five organizations and the only community to receive the grant.

According to Johnson, the grant funds a five-member Memphis team to travel to North Carolina for Smart Start training and observation, as well as provides a coach from the original program to come here and address start-up concerns. Memphis would also be paired with a community that has successfully implemented Smart Start programs.

The Smart Start program is a public-private partnership that was created in 1993 to provide affordable, quality childcare, healthcare, and family support to children and families. The initiative is aimed at children up to 5 years old and is designed to ensure that young children enter school healthy and ready to succeed. Services are available to all children in the community, unlike other childcare programs which target specific demographics. Example programs include childcare subsidies for working families, creating additional spaces in childcare during nontraditional hours, parent literacy programs, and screenings for early detection of health problems in young children.

If approved in Memphis, Holden says collaboratives with development strategies in the areas of home support and day care support are already planned.

Smart Start focuses on garnering local partnerships with faith-based organizations, institutions of higher learning, and community organizations to fund large amounts of its programs. The remaining funding is allocated by the state government. Funding for North Carolina's Smart Start initiative is currently $220 million in state funds, and has raised more than $120 million in private resources since it began.

"In order for the plan to work," said Cobb, "there must be state buy-in. You have to have everyone on board communities must speak out to encourage legislators to make this part of the budget. You need everyone -- schools, parents, and the government."

Shelby County Mayor Jim Rout guaranteed county government support, and ECCA has been moving towards collaborative county and state initiatives.

Tennessee fares worse than national averages in eight of 10 indicators of child well-being: low birth-weight babies, infant mortality, child deaths, teen births, high school dropouts, teens not attending school and not working, families headed by a single parent, and teen deaths by accident, homicide, and suicide. Memphis is one of only six American cities in 1998 to have a 20 percent teen birth rate. The ECCA has already received a $600,000 grant to study the feasibility of a proposed countywide child health initiative.

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