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Cronkite School, Arizona PBS launch crowdfunding campaign to expand coverage of immigration, border

January 26, 2016

Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and Arizona PBS today kick off a crowdfunding campaign to help Cronkite News students increase coverage of border and immigration issues during this election year.

The Cronkite School is the first journalism program in the nation to establish a major partnership with Beacon, an innovative crowdfunding platform that helps national news organizations and independent journalists raise funds for reporting projects. Cronkite Borderland The Cronkite School and Arizona PBS are starting a crowdfunding campaign that will enable Cronkite News to send students to the border to cover immigration, security and other topics. Download Full Image

The crowdfunding campaign will enable Cronkite News, the student-produced news division of Arizona PBS, to send students to the U.S.-Mexico border and enhance the reporting tools they can use to better understand immigration, security, the economy and other issues.

“More than 15 million people live on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, and too often they are missing from news coverage,” said Cronkite School Dean Christopher Callahan. “We are excited to be partnering with Beacon on this project, which will equip our students with important reporting skills and provide borderlands news coverage during a year in which presidential candidates are debating these types of issues."

The 30-day crowdfunding campaign’s goal is $25,000. With every pledged dollar, Beacon will match donations if the campaign reaches its goal. People can pledge their support at the Cronkite News Beacon page

Student journalists will produce stories that bring to light diverse political insights and perspectives and explore new ways of storytelling, using cutting-edge media and technology. The initiative is part of Cronkite News – Borderlands, where students cover border issues in English and Spanish under the guidance of award-winning professional borderlands journalists Alfredo Corchado and Angela Kocherga.

As part of the crowdfunding campaign, the Cronkite School will offer rewards to donors based on their level of support. Those include thank-you letters, insider reports from the CN-Borderlands bureau and invitations to lectures and other events.

The Cronkite School also will test and analyze which types of audiences are most likely to contribute and whether crowdfunding is a viable ongoing revenue source for student-based media. Cronkite News has received a $10,000 grant from the Institute of Nonprofit News to support this endeavor.

Launched in 2013, Beacon works with journalists and readers to fund important stories around the world. Journalists create crowdfunding pages on Beacon, detailing the reporting project, and readers decide whether to make a contribution. Crowdfunding is becoming an important revenue source for news organizations, particularly non-profit newsrooms.

“Crowdfunding for journalism works best when you combine an important issue with a trusted newsroom, willing to engage with its audience,” said Dan Fletcher, Beacon’s co-founder. “With those traits in mind, the Cronkite School is the perfect university to pioneer this project.”  

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ASU expands teachers' technology tool kit

ASU program is expanding teachers' technology tool kits, with amazing results.
ASU student-teachers are embracing animation, songs, storytelling technology.
January 22, 2016

Student-teachers find that learning surges with apps, animation and other know-how

A few years ago, students in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College took a three-credit course on how to use technology in the classroom.

“There’s something kind of ironic about having a course called ‘integrating technology,’ but it’s a standalone course — it’s not integrated,” said LeeAnn Lindsey, who is in charge of the technology-infusion initiative at the college.

Then that changed. Starting in 2012, the Teachers College dropped the one-time class and began infusing technology into every course that undergraduates take. So when ASU students learn how to teach multiplication tables or American history, they use videos, storytelling applications, animation software and other techniques to improve the lesson.

The goal, Lindsey said, is for the children to be the ones using the technology.

“It’s not just about ‘I’m going to lecture with a PowerPoint behind me.’ It’s how to teach so that students are driving instruction,” Lindsey said.

“The students are the ones creating a website; they’re doing digital videos to show their learning.”

Starting last year — and thanks to a $50,000 donation — some of ASU’s student-teachers took that philosophy into their school classroomsASU partnered with the Avondale, Tolleson and Osborn elementary school districts in metro Phoenix, providing training and iPads for the project. The donation was from the Jane A. Lehman and Alan G. Lehman Foundation., where they saw amazing results. Children learned faster and were more engaged. Lessons were individualized and classrooms became paperless.

All students became enthusiastic, according to Hayley HoskinHayley HoskinHayley Hoskin (at right in the photo) is in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College iTeachAZ yearlong teacher-training program., an ASU student who teaches eighth-grade math in the Avondale Elementary School District.

“It was night and day to see that the students who had been disengaged from the lessons — even defiantly not participating — were the ones who created the most abstract and creative presentations,” said Hoskin, whose class created animated stories and wrote a song to explain the concept of proportion.

“It was nice to see how it reached every kind of learner in the classroom.”

An iPad with a person's face on the screen.

A tablet shows a fourth-grade student pretending to be a pilot during the iTeachAZ presentation in Avondale on Jan. 15. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now


'They got it the first time'

ASU students in the iTeachAZ program spend the whole academic year teaching at their schools, not just one semester. They student-teach in a classroom, supervised by experienced mentor teachers, and take their senior-year ASU classes on the school district campus, taught by an ASU faculty member who is the site coordinator.

Lynda Scott is the ASU site coordinator in the Avondale Elementary School District in the West Valley. She jumped at the chance to apply for the technology-infusion program after looking at her data from the previous year. She observed many student-teachers using videos and games, but only once did she see the children using technology. Her goal was to get the technology into the pupils’ hands.

“A lot of people think that classroom management would get worse with technology, but we could see that classroom management was better because the kids were so engaged in what was happening and they were listening,” she said.

Both the student-teachers and their mentors were trained, and Scott modeled how to integrate technology in the ASU classes she taught the pre-service teachers — who needed to see both the good and the bad.

“We knew it would not be perfect,” Scott said. “We knew there would be times when the kids wouldn’t use it appropriately. One day our Internet was out. We had trouble with the apps. But I told them, ‘This is going to happen in the classroom, so what’s your Plan B?’ "

Earlier this month, the student-teachers and their mentors in the Avondale district presented their technology-infusion projects. Among their conclusions:

• Students learn quicker: ASU student-teacher Lola Dominguez teaches first grade and used a storytelling app. “They listened the first time, and they got it the first time.”

• Assessments are faster: Rebecca Haines, who has been teaching for 29 years, tried the Plicker app, in which each student answers on a card with a bar code. She scanned the room and knew immediately how many got the answer right. “It’s a quick and easy assessment, and it helps our understanding of what they understand,” said Haines, a second-grade mentor teacher.

• The students were more engaged: Hoskin said her eighth-graders weren’t required to work on their projects at home, but most did. Being able to create an animated project gave shy students the courage to speak up, she said. “They could just press play and they weren’t standing up there with a poster board.”

• Technology allows more inclusion: ASU student Ashley Kesweder teaches first grade and found the storytelling app perfect for her pre-readers. “They were able to show me what they know without that frustration of not knowing how to spell,” she said.

Partnering with mentors

The various gadgets, apps, programs and methods that teachers use will likely change in the coming years, but the point of the technology infusion is to keep minds open.

“It’s creating a mind-set of embracing any new technology that comes along, with a framework for how to integrate technology that’s not specific to one tool,” Lindsey said.

And that’s important for the experienced teachers as well, said Chris Giles, the K-12 education technology specialist for the Arizona Department of Education.

“This is really sketchy ground for them because they’re not the technology users that the students are,” said Giles, who trains teachers around the state. He sees the ASU program as a key way for the new and experienced teachers to collaborate.

“There’s no age thing, just partnership.”

ASU’s pre-service teachers will continue to use devices, apps, videos and programs as part of their courses, but the $50,000 grant that funded the elementary-school program has expired.

Lindsey said she is searching for more money to offer the program to more schools.

“I would like to find a donor who says ‘This works, I can see it.’ "

Top photo: Betsy Hargrove (center), superintendent of the Avondale Elementary School District, chats with Sara Sanchez, an elementary education senior at ASU, about the project she created with students in her fourth-grade class while working on a Native American unit. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


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Bringing citizenship to the classroom

ASU's Vickery a fan of incorporating technology into the teaching of history.
New ASU professor passionate about teaching citizenship, history.
ASU professor: Teachers' background can influence how they teach citizenship.
January 21, 2016

New ASU professor passionate about new ways to teach history, social studies

Editor's note: This is part of a series highlighting new faculty members at Arizona State University. Find a complete listing of new 2015-2016 faculty here.

A year ago, Arizona was the first state in the country to require students to pass a civics testStarting with the class of 2017, students must correctly answer 60 of the 100 questions on the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization civics test in order to receive a high school diploma in Arizona. They can begin taking the online test in eighth grade. in order to graduate from high school.

That’s both good and bad news to Amanda Vickery, a new assistant professor of elementary social studies education at the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University.

“On the one hand, in traditional curriculum we’re seeing the disappearance of social studies. I’m hopeful this (test) means more focus, more funding and more attention on social studies.

“The other side is that can we really reduce citizenship to passing a test? It’s troubling to reduce participation as a citizen to this prescribed body of knowledge.”

Vickery, who came to ASU in the fall semester from Texas, is passionate about keeping social studies in the K-12 classroom.

“In elementary and middle schools, we’re seeing social studies being left out or alternated with science, being taught every other month or whatever,” she said.

Vickery teaches ASU students who will become elementary school teachers. Last semester, she asked them about their memories of learning social studies. It wasn’t inspiring.

“Basically it’s rote memorization, lectures, reading a textbook,” she said.

“We need to move away from the teacher-centered way of teaching history, move away from lectures, and give students primary sources and teach them to construct the narratives for themselves,” said Vickery, a former elementary and middle school teacher.

She’s especially enthusiastic about the “technology infusion” initiative at the teachers’ college, in which students are taught to include technology as part of the lessons. That means having students tell the story of Rosa Parks or the first Thanksgiving using smartphone apps, podcasts or story-building software.

“We want to move away from the thought that students are empty vessels,” she said.

Both teachers and students bring their backgrounds to the classroom, and that can shape the lessons. Vickery, who is biracial, has researched how African-American teachers’ experiences affect their teaching of citizenship. She found that they teach it as a concept of community rather than a checklist of patriotic acts like voting.

“Citizenship is community, and they’re trying to promote this idea of belonging and how all students can belong,” she said.

That’s an important concept in the current political climate.

“I think as a researcher and a teacher it’s interesting to see how the discourse of citizenship has shifted. Now we see certain people are ‘other’ based on the inflammatory rhetoric of politicians and others,” Vickery said.

“We need to teach the leadership aspects of citizenship.”

Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


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ASU March on West celebrates MLK Day

January 20, 2016

Students from across the Valley came together on Jan. 20 to participate in the March on West campus in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This was the 25th anniverary of the event, which started as protest in favor of recognizing MLK Day as a paid holiday in Arizona in 1987.

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Reflecting on MLK's 1964 speech at ASU.
ASU celebrates MLK through speech remembrance, reenactment.
January 14, 2016

Civil-rights leader made speech at ASU in 1964, month before historic Civil Rights Act; listen to it here

Monday marks Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a time to reflect on the struggles for equality and freedom in America. It's also a day to recall our various connections to the holiday's namesake.

For Arizona State University, the major tie to King is a speech he delivered on campus June 3, 1964 — less than one month before the landmark Civil Rights Act was signed. 

Titled “Religious Witness for Human Dignity” (listen to the speech here), King delivered the address to an audience of 8,000 people at ASU’s Goodwin Stadium. In it King stumps for civil-rights legislation and reminds people that racism doesn't just exist in the South; it spreads everywhere.

That engagement is one of King's lesser-documented public appearances. And until a recording of the event was discovered in 2013 most people had no idea it ever happened. In 2014, ASU Archivist Rob Spindler told ASU Now, "This discovery is highly significant for Arizona and the nation. The major online Martin Luther King archives at the King Center and Stanford University don't mention this address, nor do they mention that King ever gave orations in Arizona.

The recording was among a box of reel-to-reel tapes donated to charity by late Phoenix businessman and civil-rights leader Lincoln Ragsdale, an ASU alum, and discovered by Phoenix resident Mary Scanlon while shopping at a Valley Goodwill store.

After the discovery, a committee of ASU archivists, historians and scholars worked to verify the recording’s authenticity. It's legit. And it's worth listening to for a perspective of history, and as a touchstone to one of America's most revered civil-rights leaders.

Man at a podium

Lincoln Ragsdale at the podium in Goodwin Stadium on the ASU campus in 1964. Martin Luther King Jr. sits behind him, to the right. Photos courtesy of ASU Libraries Arizona Collection

What we know now is that King (pictured at the top of this story with Ralph Abernathy to the left and ASU President G. Homer Durham to the right), was invited to Arizona by the Maricopa County chapter of the NAACP to deliver his speech at ASU’s Goodwin Stadium. Durham introduced King and praised him for putting the Sermon on the Mount into practice.

Durham, who came to ASU from Utah, was a well-known member of the LDS Church.

It's a worthy note because King's invitation to ASU was endorsed by a spectrum of faiths. A newspaper advertisement in the Arizona Republic in June 1964 invites “All Faiths” to “Join Together in a Religious Witness for Human Dignity in True American Tradition.” In addition to the NAACP, sponsors of the event included St. Agnes Parish, Central Methodist Church, Temple Beth Israel, Mt. Calvary Baptist Church, First Institutional Baptist Church and the Phoenix Council of Churches.

In an ASU Now story from January 2014, Keith MillerMiller is the author of two books about King, "Voice of Deliverance: The Language of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Its Sources" and "Martin Luther King’s Biblical Epic: His Great Final Speech.", an ASU professor of English and national authority on King’s speeches, explained why King's ASU speech was so notable.

“King gave it less than a month before the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law by President Johnson after its backers had defeated a long Senate filibuster,” Miller said. “Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, a powerful politician, was opposed to and subsequently voted against the legislation. ASU President Durham showed courage by welcoming King to ASU, despite the popularity of Goldwater, who received the GOP presidential nomination later that summer.”

Miller said Durham’s welcoming of King was also bold for another reason. The LDS Church did not fully recognize racial equality until 1978.

“Durham was a racial liberal who went out on a limb. He also hired African-American professors at ASU,” Miller said.

Others have said this speech, and Durham's willingness to bring King to ASU, is proof and a reminder that Arizona does have a history of supporting King and his mission of ensuring equality for all races. 

ASU's other notable tie to the holiday is its annual tribute to the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. That was the event that featured King's historic "I have a Dream" speech. Each year the West campus involves local sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students to reenact the march while ASU faculty member Charles St. Clair reenacts the speech. The event is free. Learn about MLK-related events on the ASU Events site.

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ASU's innovation is a benefit for society

ASU's innovative ways can help more people in Arizona, and beyond, to a degree.
ASU President Crow: Negative political rhetoric keeps me up at night.
January 13, 2016

President Crow cites university's many achievements in broadening access to college credit

Editor's note: This story is being highlighted in ASU Now's year in review. To read more top stories from 2016, click here.

In his annual address to the community, President Michael M. Crow said that Arizona State University’s innovative mindset requires collaboration and purpose, and it is driven by a responsibility to the community.

“We’re prepared to innovate to be helpful to your family, your business, your hope for your community,” he said.

“We also have public values that we’re protecting, which is to be lower cost and egalitarian in terms of our admission standards.”

Crow made these remarks Wednesday night during his annual Community Conversation at Galvin Playhouse on the Tempe Campus. The dialogue was built around the topic of “What is innovationASU topped the list of “most innovative schools” in the U.S. News and World Report college rankings for 2016 based on a survey of peers. College presidents, provosts and admissions deans around the country nominated up to 10 colleges or universities that are making the most innovative improvements to curriculum, faculty, students, campus life, technology or facilities. ?”

He said that ASU’s innovations show that the United States — itself an innovation in government when it was formed — has unlimited potential.

“In this moment when America needs a model for innovation — we have literally been able to move and innovate at light speed compared to a normal university,” Crow said.

Crow said that it’s difficult for universities to embrace innovation.

“University innovation is like an oxymoronic term. They’re only concerned with their niche,” he said.

ASU’s very model is innovative, Crow said, compared with universities that limit admissions and restrict programs.

“Some universities spend 10 years talking about whether they want to offer a degree program.”

Crow said that ASU rejected the old-fashioned model of university success.

“We were told we needed to raise admission standards, build a medical school and replicate everything everyone else did.” He said the traditional model wasn’t sufficient to meet the state’s needs.

He discussed several ways that ASU has broadened access to university credit, such as the Starbucks College Achievement ProgramThe Starbucks College Achievement Program offers full tuition reimbursement to employees who pursue an online degree through ASU. and the Global Freshmen AcademyThe Global Freshman Academy debuted in the fall semester. Anyone can take online classes and decide after completion whether they want to pay for the ASU credits, which are offered at a rate of $200 per hour.. While the former is open to Starbucks partners around the country and the latter to potential students around the world, they both also can can help Arizonans who want to pursue college credit, he said

“There are a million people in Arizona who started college and never finished,” he said.

Michael M. Crow

ASU President Michael M. Crow addresses the crowd during his 2016 Community Conversation inside the Galvin Playhouse on Tempe campus. Photos by Robin Kiyutelluk/Arizona State University

The public was invited to submit questions via Twitter with the hashtag #AskMichaelCrow. One question was, "What keeps you up at night?"

“Negative political rhetoric,” Crow said.

“People don’t really know what we have inherited — all these educational opportunities and artistic expressions and all the things we’ve got.

“Everyone is talking about how we’re collapsing and the country is not going ahead, and when you look at what we’ve been through, the civil war and the opening of the west, it’s just not the case."

But ASU’s students are not pessimistic, he said.

“When I talk to our kids I don’t get that sense. Maybe my elixir is being with them. They’re filled with this desire to make a difference.”

Another problem that keeps Crow up at night is the notion of fairness and equity.

“We still live in a society that has a lot of outcomes determined by your parents’ income and that’s an unfair thing.

“We need to do anything we can to find that student with talent — the rich kid, the poor kid, the homeless kid, the foster kid.”

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


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Crow: Arizona should set goal for college degrees

ASU President Crow underscores value of a college degree.
Arizona legislators urged to issue a degree goal for the state.
January 12, 2016

ASU president emphasizes the growing importance of college degree at annual legislative breakfast

Arizona should move to a simpler funding model for higher education and set a goal for increasing the number of college graduates to help drive the state’s economy, according to Arizona State University President Michael M. Crow. 

“It is our role, our job, our function to figure out how to take that one variable, education attainment, and drive it forward,” Crow told a crowd of legislators and ASU advocates at the KAET studio on the Downtown Phoenix campus on Tuesday.

Crow (pictured above) says that ASU is geared up to continue producing some of those graduates, having already raised the quality of programs and number of degrees over the past decade through innovation, a topic he is scheduled to address at a town hall tonight.

The audience at the Sun Devil Advocate Legislative Network Breakfast included many members of the state Legislature, who began their session this week, and Crow told them that there have always been arguments that education is too expensive or unnecessary. It is college education, though, that has driven the social and economic transformations of the nation over the past century, he said. The technology and capabilities that the public takes for granted and the brainpower that made it all possible all are the product of college education, Crow said. The future advances produced by educational attainment will drive the next transformations.

“Can you imagine the arguments they had in 1905 when some fool walked up on stage and said, ‘I have to get all these farmers high school diplomas’?” he said.

“I can guarantee that reductions in educational attainment, with fewer people going to college, fewer people learning to become master learners, as a percentage of the population, won’t produce good outcomes.”

ASU has increased the number of people earning degrees from more than 14,000 in 2007 to roughly 20,000 last year.

He said that ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering have increased the number of graduates by two and a half times, as well as boosted the freshmen retention rate from 68 percent to more than 90 percent.

“We’ve done all that while investments from our principal investor, the state, have gone down,” Crow said.

Men talking at an event.

State Sen. John Kavanagh (left) talks with ASU President Michael Crow before the Sun Devil Advocates Network Breakfast in the KAET studio Tuesday. President Crow and College Success Arizona head Rich Nickel laid out the case for increased funding for ASU to members of the state Legislature. Photos by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Crow implored the legislators to consider the Arizona Board of Regents’ proposed funding model, which asks the state to fund half the cost of educating in-state students. Currently, state funding covers about a third of that costAccording to statistics supplied by the Arizona Board of Regents, which governs the three state universities, the annual resident per-student cost is about $15,550, an average of the three state universities. That number includes academic, support and maintenance programs, but not research or capital expenditures. In 2016, the state will fund about $5,302 per resident student. Tuition and fees cover about $6,554. That means the three state universities must cover the remaining $3,694, which comes from sources including the increased tuition paid by out-of-state and international students. The Arizona Board of Regents is proposing that the state eventually increase its investment to $7,775 per in-state student..

In his “state of the state” speech Monday, Gov. Doug Ducey said he valued the Arizona’s three public universities but gave no funding details. The current budget cut $99 million in university funding. Ducey will release his 2017 budget proposal Friday.

Crow said the state’s universities have long wanted a performance-based funding model that would reward them for success in hitting specific metrics.

Currently, Arizona is one of 19 states that have no goal for educational attainment, which would include professional certificates and two-year associate’s degrees as well as bachelor's degrees. For example, Colorado’s goal is to increase the number of adults ages 25 to 34 in the state holding postsecondary degrees or certificates to 66 percent by 2025.

“Setting a goal would provide a beacon of light for everyone to move toward, and it doesn’t cost a dollar,” said Rich NickelRich NickelRich Nickel is president and CEO of College Success Arizona, a non-profit group that provides scholarships and mentoring and seeks to raise awareness of the importance of college completion., president and CEO of College Success Arizona, who also spoke at the event.

“If you’re looking at regional competition and other states around us who are doing well economically and have said that a certain percentage of their population needs to have degrees to fill jobs, maybe it’s something we should consider also,” Nickel said.

His organization doesn’t advocate for a specific goal.

“The goal needs to be thoughtfully considered, but I would not expect Arizona to come in at less than 50 percent,” he said.

Currently about 37 to 40 percent of Arizonans have a degree or certificate, Nickel said, adding that about 68 percent of jobs in Arizona will require post-secondary training by 2020.

State Sen. John Kavanagh, a Republican who represents Fountain Hills, said that setting a goal can be a roadmap to the future.

“If they’re measurable, as Dr. Crow wants them to be, then they also let those who invested, the taxpayers and the students, know there will be accountability.” 

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


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Teaming up for sustainability in Playoff Plant-Off

The other college playoff game: Planting trees.
Playoff Plant-Off pits universities against each other in tree-planting game.
January 12, 2016

Universities in town for the College Football Playoff compete for urban forestry grant by planting trees in Phoenix

Alabama beat Clemson in Monday night's college football national championship, played in Glendale. But a more unique competition took place earlier that day when representatives from the four college football playoff teams, as well as Arizona State University and the University of Arizona, competed in the Playoff Plant-off.

The teams, some of which were intermingled with representatives and alumni from various colleges, planted trees at Marivue Park in northwest Phoenix. The competition challenged the teams to see which one could plant 10 trees the fastest and in the correct way. The winning teams were awarded trophies, and the champion received an urban forestry grant to plant trees on its campus.

Watch the action and hear why this competition was important in this video. The winners are listed below.

First place: Michigan State 

Second place: University of Arizona College of Medicine Phoenix, Clemson

Third place: ASU, Alabama, Oklahoma

Justin Rohner, ASU's team captain, is shown in the photo at the top of the page. Photo by Ken Fagan/ASU Now

Ken Fagan

Videographer , ASU Now


New executive action: Smoking gun, or firing blanks?

January 8, 2016

On Tuesday, Jan. 4, President Barack Obama described his executive action on new gun-control measures, focusing on background checks and tracking weapons sales. News organizations began counting down to the Thursday night town hall on the measures almost immediately. The issue is a hot topic, and divisive in American politics: How much control is too much?

Erik Luna, professor of criminal law at the ASU Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law and resident expert on the Second Amendment, tackles some of the questions at forefront of mind.  Download Full Image

Question: The question on everyone’s mind: Is President Obama stretching the limits of executive action?

Answer: The actions have been pitched as clarifying and enforcing current law, not crafting new law. But, of course, the interpretation of existing provisions can be so unfaithful to the text and context of a statutory scheme as to have the effect of new “law.”  

What can be said is the following: 

1. We should expect gun-rights advocates to litigate every legal issue raised by President Obama’s actions. Some pressure points will include the Administration’s interpretation of who qualifies as a gun dealer (“engaged in the business” of dealing in firearms) for purposes of federal law.

2. America’s chief executives during this millennium, Presidents Bush and Obama, have opened new vistas of presidential power. Both adopted broad interpretations of their authority in counterterrorism efforts. In addition, President Bush had the habit of using “signing statements” to assert his right to ignore or not enforce laws enacted by Congress, while President Obama’s refusal to take action against illegal immigrants under his DACA policy (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) stretched the traditional understanding of “prosecutorial discretion.” In the end, whether someone agrees or disagrees with a particular executive action will likely reflect their normative commitments (e.g., gun rights vs. gun control, someone’s stance on immigration policy, etc.). But the precedent set by these (in)actions is unnerving for those concerned about constitutional structure, the limits of the president’s authority, and his duty to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”   

Q: What’s the legal culture around this issue like? Does the SCOTUS’ 2010 ruling on gun ownership make these new restrictions more difficult?

A: When I heard President Obama say the following — “I believe in the Second Amendment. It is there, written on the paper. It guarantees a right to bear arms.” — I almost spit out my coffee. I cannot imagine that an unreconstructed political liberal like the president actually believes in the Second Amendment, by which I mean not only the text of the constitutional provision but also its current interpretation by the Supreme Court. In District of Columbia v. Heller (2010), the Court ruled that the Second Amendment conferred an individual right to keep and bear arms, rather than a collective (and thus largely non-litigable) right to possess and carry a firearm in connection with militia service. In turn, the Court in McDonald v. Chicago (2010) held that the Second Amendment was fully applicable to the states. If you think that President Obama “believes in” (i.e., supported) either of these rulings, I’ve got a bridge I’d like to sell you.

Nonetheless, it seems unlikely that the president’s actions (at least as they have been outlined to this point) would be deemed by the courts to violate the Second Amendment. The decisions in "Heller" and "McDonald" concerned absolute bans on handguns possessed for self-defense in the home — an issue which is not obviously implicated by the president’s actions — and the Supreme Court went out of the way to emphasize the limited nature of its opinions.

Q: Politically, it has been historically noted that gun control has motivated those on the anti-control side more than pro-control side. Will this deprive the president and others of the political capital to enact tougher regulations?

A: It’s not clear that the president even has the capital to effect the plan he outlined, let alone genuinely tough gun restrictions, at least to the extent that any critical component depends on congressional action. Apparently, for example, President Obama will request that Congress fund the hiring of new government employees to conduct gun-related investigations. It would not surprise me if a significant number of federal lawmakers, perhaps a majority, reject the president’s request.

Q: Arizona is among the states with comparatively more relaxed laws, including concealed carry without requiring a permit. Will Arizonans feel much of an effect from these changes?

A: Probably not, unless the president’s actions portend a vast increase in federal enforcement activity in Arizona. 

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Un-making a murderer

January 6, 2016

ASU's Post-Conviction Clinic works to free the wrongfully convicted

Since its release last month, the Netflix documentary series "Making a Murderer" has inspired a host of social media debates, many soaked in outrage aimed at an alleged injustice.

The series follows the murder case against Steven Avery in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, and the accusation that the county's law enforcement conspired to frame him.

Although Avery's innocence is in question, one thing is certain: We devour these stories. Other binge-worthy, fact-based productions built around the premise of being accused of or getting away with murder — such as the podcast “Serial" and HBO's docu-series "The Jinx" — enthrall and enrage the public, casting a light across the criminal justice system and making us wonder: How can justice prevail?

One way is through the ASU Post-Conviction Clinic, which is partnered with the Arizona Justice Project, giving Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law students the opportunity to work on real cases with claims of actual innocence. The clinic recently received nearly $1 million from the National Institute of Justice to work on cases where DNA evidence could exonerate the wrongfully convicted.

Katherine Puzauskas is the supervising attorney for the ASU Post-Conviction Clinic, and previously held the position of director of the Arizona Justice Project. Robert Dormady is a graduate of ASU Law, who is now an ASU Law Fellow and serves as the program coordinator for the clinic. The two contributed answers, via email, on this subject for a Q&A with ASU Now.

Q: With programs like “Making a Murderer” and “The Jinx,” there seems to be a heightened public interest in criminal cases that suggest errors in assessing guilt or innocence. Has there been an increase in individuals and legal groups taking on such cases?

A: While wrongful convictions are not a new phenomenon, it has only been during the past few decades that scientific advancements have allowed organizations to systematically identify and assist wrongly convicted prisoners. The Innocence Project, started in 1992 at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York, uses DNA testing to prove innocence in post-conviction cases nationwide. Since the creation of the Innocence Project, other projects have emerged across the country; the Arizona Justice Project is the fifth project to address claims of innocence post-conviction in the nation. There are now more than 70 innocence projects worldwide.

Q: Have the tools changed over the past decade or so making the reconsideration of old cases more productive?

A: Yes. All states across the country have passed DNA testing statutes allowing prisoners to seek post-conviction DNA testing of specific items of evidence. As DNA testing technologies evolve and improve over time, there’s a greater chance a DNA profile can be generated. More than half of the states in the U.S. have passed evidence preservation statutes that require the care and conservation of certain evidence for potential post-conviction testing. That helps explain why there have been 336 DNA exonerations nationwide since 1989, as well as nearly 1,400 other exonerations proven through other types of evidence. In addition, several states have passed legislation or have otherwise worked toward reforms to address eyewitness ID procedures in an attempt to prevent eyewitness misidentification, which is currently one of the leading cause of wrongful convictions.

Q: In your work with the ASU-Post-Conviction Clinic and the Arizona Justice Project, how do you choose which cases to take on? And how tough is it to decide which cases to take?

A: The Arizona Justice Project screens all cases before referring cases to the ASU Post-Conviction Clinic. In order for the Project to undergo an initial review of a case, the person applying for assistance must be challenging a conviction that occurred in Arizona, and must have exhausted their appeals and no longer be entitled to legal representation at public expense. If a prisoner meets that criteria, he or she must complete a questionnaire answering several questions about their criminal case. The prisoner’s case is then screened by a lawyer who identifies any potential issues. If there are specific issues that warrant further investigation, such as new evidence, the lawyer recommends that case for further review. Each case undergoes a thorough review and, sometimes, the case is paneled before senior lawyers who help make a decision about whether the case should proceed.

Q: You’ve surely confronted cases when innocent people have been locked up unjustly. How do you begin to make these right?

A: It’s a long arduous process that can be complicated by the age of the conviction and complexity of the issues. After the prisoner’s case has been screened and a preliminary investigation has taken place, generally the next step is to gather the case records, which include the trial record, transcripts, police reports, appellate records, medical records, etc. That process can take a long time depending on the age of the case and how many hands it’s passed through.

Simultaneously, the case reviewer will contact the lawyers who represented the prisoner, and requests are made to police agencies and crime labs for police reports and evidence testing and storage information. The lawyers meet with the prisoner, and may interview witnesses and/or revisit the crime scene. If evidence of innocence is discovered, the case proceeds through post-conviction relief proceedings in the court system. If the prisoner is successful, a plan for release is developed and a whole new set of obstacles begin.

Q: What sort of challenges do the wrongfully convicted face both during their proceedings and after release? How does the conviction affect their loved ones, and even those who are victims or the families of victims?

A: The challenges faced by the wrongly convicted, and inmates generally, during incarceration are beyond what we can comprehend; however, we have seen difficulties dealing with the insurmountable stress, fear and anxiety associated with the prospect that they may never be reunited with their family, or that their physical and mental well-being may be compromised while incarcerated. Upon release, new challenges arise such as finding permanent housing, employment, social services and lasting relationships. What may be simple to you and me, common-place situations — living alone, taking public transportation, trusting people around you and doing day-to-day tasks such as going to the grocery store or ordering a meal at a restaurant — can be extremely stressful and difficult for prisoners re-entering society. Loved ones are also affected by not knowing whether they’ll ever get to see their family member or friend released from incarceration, and not knowing whether they’re safe while in custody. Victims and society at-large are affected because if the wrong person is convicted, the true perpetrator goes unpunished and may commit more crime.

Q: Does the heightened focus in the media and by legal groups suggest that there may be a greater willingness by judges to revisit old cases?  

A: We hope it brings to light that our criminal justice system is not infallible. Errors are made, and consequently there are innocent people in prison. With greater awareness about the causes of wrongful conviction, we hope there is a corresponding willingness of the courts and prosecuting agencies to revisit old cases.

Logan Clark

Media Relations Officer , Department of Media Relations and Strategic Communications