speaking up
March 20, 2019

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas listened to arguments about a case that involves racial discrimination on Wednesday. And then he did something surprising: He spoke — for the first time in three years and only the second time in a decade.

Thomas, a conservative judge, is reportedly known for his silence on the stand, but, per Reuters, he asked several questions amid arguments in the case of Curtis Flowers, a 48-year-old black man from Mississippi who has been tried for the same quadruple murder six separate times. He is an inmate on death row. Flowers' case was the focus of the American Public Media podcast, In the Dark.

Flowers and his attorney, Sheri Lynn Johnson, are arguing that Flowers' right to a fair trial was violated multiple times because the prosecutor in his case "had relentlessly worked to keep black jurors from sitting on" Flowers' trials. Both sides in a trial are, in fact, permitted to strike a limited number of potential jurors and they are not required to submit a reason behind the decision, but a juror's race cannot be a factor.

Reuters reports it seems likely the Supreme Court will side with Flowers, including conservative Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Samuel Alito. But Thomas, who is black, sounded skeptical and was focused on whether Flowers' defense team had likewise sought to exclude white jurors in Flowers' most recent trial. Tim O'Donnell

December 6, 2018

An undocumented immigrant who makes President Trump's bed at one of his golf clubs is speaking out against him.

Victorina Morales told The New York Times she began working at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey in 2013, 14 years after entering the United States illegally. Another woman, Sandra Diaz, says she too was hired at the same club when she was undocumented, although she has since become a legal resident.

Both women say they used fake documents during the hiring process but that supervisors were aware that they were undocumented. And they say they're not the only ones. "There are many people without papers," Diaz said of the club's staff. Morales also said that her supervisor would sometimes demean employees as being "stupid illegal immigrants" who are less intelligent than dogs.

Morales and Diaz both said they have interacted with Trump directly a number of times, describing him as a good tipper but "extremely meticulous" to the point that he once closely inspected the edges of frames for dust. In one instance, Diaz told the Times that she saw Trump have an "outburst" over orange stains on his white shirt, which were "remnants of his makeup."

Diaz quit in 2013, but Morales still works at the club, although she doesn't expect to much longer. She says that employees there have grown disturbed by the way Trump has spoken about immigrants, and that's why she has chosen to speak up. “We are tired of the abuse, the insults, the way he talks about us when he knows that we are here helping him make money," she explained. Read more at The New York Times. Brendan Morrow

September 22, 2016

Donald Trump's second ex-wife, Marla Maples, has been famously tight-lipped on her thoughts about her billionaire ex-husband and his run for president. Despite being quoted in the London-based Telegraph in 1999 as saying, "If he is really serious about being president ... I will feel it is my duty as an American citizen to tell the people what he is really like," Maples and her daughter, Tiffany Trump, have mostly kept to themselves this election season. (Maples, for her part, denies giving the quote to The Telegraph.)

Maples says she keeps mostly mum about Trump so as not to come between her daughter and her daughter's father — but she also, more obliquely, references a possible non-disclosure agreement. But Maples finally spoke out in an interview with The Daily Beast — and while she doesn't necessarily criticize her ex, she certainly talks around him:

"I have always been more liberal," she said, "and I believe in gay and lesbian rights and I believe everyone on this planet has a right to choice. So, I just don't feel it's productive for me to go judging another person's choices. I think it's important for all of us to speak about what is important for us. I think — I even saw them advising Hillary today that she shouldn't go out attacking — like some of the other candidates did — that she should really stick with her own strengths, and I kind of take that to heart."

"There's just issues that I was born caring about that may be a little different than what we're seeing take — how can I say that?"

She paused.

"We're seeing issues come to the forefront, for sure. Um, I just believe we have to have positive dialogue and understanding." [The Daily Beast]

Again taking special care about her choice of words, Maples added that she is teaching daughter Tiffany how to stand up for what she believes in and make herself heard if her father indeed finds himself as commander in chief next year. "If her father ends up being [in the White House], I'm gonna make sure she's really prepared with the issues that are important to her and have been important to me as a mom in raising her, that she will be an active part in pushing these things through," Maples said. Read the entire interview at The Daily Beast. Jeva Lange

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