Categotry Archives: Law


Nick McDonald


Categories: Law, Writers/Editors

nmcdonald.jpgA few minutes after President John F. Kennedy was shot on Nov. 22, 1963, Dallas Police Officer Maurice “Nick” McDonald arrived at Dealey Plaza. He and several other officers received a tip about a suspicious man who had snuck into the Texas Theater without paying for his movie.
McDonald and the other officers entered the rear of the darkened movie theater to search for their suspect. Lee Harvey Oswald was sitting in the audience.
When McDonald confronted him, Oswald said, “Well, it’s all over now.” But as McDonald tried to search and cuff him, Oswald stood and punched the officer right between the eyes. The blow so was powerful it knocked McDonald’s hat off his head.
Oswald then used his right hand to shove a gun into the officer’s stomach. Just as Oswald pulled the trigger, McDonald jammed his hand into the firing mechanism. The gun’s hammer snapped against the flesh of his hand, but the bullet didn’t fire. In response, McDonald hit Oswald and fought for control of the weapon. Several other officers grabbed the assassin and placed him under arrest.
Oswald was linked to the Kennedy assassination later that day. While in police custody on Nov. 24, 1963, he was shot to death on live television by nightclub owner Jack Ruby. Oswald was also suspected in the murder of Dallas police officer J.D. Tippit, who was killed shortly after the president was shot. Tippit was McDonald’s lockermate.
Born in Camden, Ark., McDonald graduated from high school and enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He served during the Korean War before joining the Dallas Police Department in 1955. McDonald remained on the force for 25 years, but capturing President Kennedy’s killer was his most memorable case. He later chronicled the event in his memoir, “The Arrest and Capture of Lee Harvey Oswald.”
McDonald died on Jan. 27 of complications from diabetes. He was 76.


Ed Earnest


Categories: Education, Law

Edward Earnest believed in giving people second chances. Forty years ago, a prison warden and a mental health specialist gave him one that changed his life.
Earnest began breaking into stores and stealing food when he was only 11. Several years at a reform school didn’t provide the discipline and direction he needed. At 16, Earnest was sentenced to state prison for robbery.
While serving his time at the Draper Correctional Center in Elmore, Ala., warden John Watkins and Dr. John McKee, Alabama’s director of Community Mental Health, decided to rehabilitate him. Earnest earned a GED in prison and vowed to help other troubled youths avoid making the same mistakes he had.
After his release in 1966, Earnest attended the University of Alabama and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in social work. In 1970, he founded C.I.T.Y., a skills training program in Tuscaloosa, Ala., that helps at-risk youths obtain their GEDs. The mission of C.I.T.Y., which stands for Community Intensive Treatment for Youth, is to prevent troubled teens from participating in criminal activities. Participants are usually referred by juvenile court judges when parenting and regular school programs fail to turn the kids around.
Ten C.I.T.Y. programs currently operate in Alabama, and serve 600 to 700 kids a year. Each center is staffed by teachers and counselors that help the youths develop the social, behavioral, academic, technical and family skills they need to become productive members of society. In 1995, the National Council on Crime and Delinquency recognized C.I.T.Y. as a “promising and effective program.”
Earnest died on Jan. 5 from cancer. He was in his early 60s.


Robert T. Matsui

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Categories: Law, Politicians

rmatsui.jpgRobert T. Matsui, a California Democrat who served 26 years in Congress, died on Jan. 1 of complications from myelodysplastic syndrome, a rare blood disorder. He was 63.

The Sacramento native was born in 1941, three months before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. He and his parents were forced to live in internment camps for three years during World War II. Due to poor living conditions, his pregnant mother contracted German measles and gave birth to a blind daughter, Barbara.

In the 1980s, Matsui helped pass legislation that apologized for the U.S. government’s internment policy. President Ronald Reagan signed the Japanese-American Redress Act in 1988, which also established a $1.25 billion trust fund to pay reparations to the Japanese-Americans detained in the camps.

Matsui graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, and Hastings College of the Law at the University of California. He decided to become an attorney after reading Clarence Darrow’s autobiography. Matsui founded his own law firm and served on the Sacramento City Council. He was working as the vice mayor in 1978 when he won a seat representing the capital city’s fifth district in Congress.

During his 14 terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, Matsui obtained financing for light rail projects and flood protection for the Sacramento region. He was one of the original authors of legislation that created the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Even though it put him at odds with other members of the Democratic Party, Matsui was also a strong supporter of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Matsui was the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for the past two years and the third-ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee. In recent weeks, he had prepared to oppose President George W. Bush’s plan to privatize Social Security. Matsui believed that such a proposal would cut benefits, raise the retirement age and reduce retirees’ standard of living. Instead, he proposed updating Social Security incrementally, in order to ensure its long-term solvency.

Re-elected last November with 71.4 percent of the vote, Matsui’s death will trigger a special election for a new representative. His wife, Doris, a former director of public liaison in the Clinton White House, has been mentioned as a possible candidate.

Watch Matsui Give a Speech on the Floor of the House

Listen to a Tribute From NPR


Donald L. Hollowell


Categories: Law, Military

dhollowell.jpgDonald Lee Hollowell, the venerable civil rights attorney who once sprung the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. from prison, died on Dec. 27 of heart failure. He was 87.
Born in Wichita, Kan., Hollowell earned his high school diploma while serving for six years with the U.S. Army 10th Cavalry, the regiment known as the Buffalo Soldiers in the Old West. He attended Lane College in Jackson, Tenn., but dropped out of school and reenlisted when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. During World War II, he rose to the rank of captain while fighting in Europe.
Hollowell returned to Lane after the war to complete his education, then earned a law degree from Loyola University in Chicago. After settling in Atlanta, he supported the civil rights movement through the legal system. Hollowell represented King in 1960 when the civil rights leader was sent to Georgia’s Reidsville Prison on a traffic charge. He represented Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Hamilton Holmes Jr., and helped them desegregate the University of Georgia.
Hollowell’s firm helped desegregate Atlanta’s schools and Augusta’s buses, and later won a landmark case that required Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital to admit black doctors and dentists to its staff. The firm also came to the defense of Preston Cobb, a black teen who was sentenced to die for allegedly killing a white man. Hollowell stopped the execution and got Cobb released. In his spare time, Hollowell defended hundreds of lesser-known civil rights protesters and mentored young black lawyers, including Vernon Jordan, an adviser to Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, and Horace Ward, a federal judge.
In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Hollowell to be the first director of the southeastern office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a government agency that monitors workplace discrimination. He remained at the EEOC for nearly 20 years. A former president of the Voter Education Project, Hollowell helped increase the number of African-American voters from 3 million to 5.5 million.
For his lifetime of achievement and dedication to civil rights, the Emory University law school established a professorship in his name and the city of Atlanta named a street after him. Hollowell’s undergrad alma mater plans to name its library in his honor.


Harold H. Benjamin

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Categories: Extraordinary People, Law, Medicine

hbenjamin.jpgHarold H. Benjamin, the founder of a national network of wellness centers for cancer patients, died on Dec. 23 of complications from pulmonary fibrosis. He was 80.
The Philadelphia native served as a radarman in the U.S. Army during World War II, then earned a bachelor’s degree from Penn State. He married a classmate, Harriet Miller, who supported him through law school at Cornell. Benjamin was working as an attorney when Harriet was diagnosed with breast cancer. She underwent a bilateral mastectomy in 1972 and recovered from the disease.
The experience inspired Benjamin to give up his successful Beverly Hills practice and dedicate his life to helping others. He encouraged cancer patients to maintain a positive attitude and promoted his Patient Active Concept: “People with cancer who participate in their fight for recovery from cancer will improve the quality of their life and may enhance the possibility of their recovery.”
In 1982, Benjamin pooled together $250,000 and created the first Wellness Community in Santa Monica, Calif. The organization, which offered free psychological and social support to cancer victims and their families, was facilitated by licensed therapists. The Wellness Community now serves 30,000 people a year at 22 centers in the United States. A center in Tokyo and another in Tel Aviv provide free services to cancer patients overseas.
The Wellness Community received a $1 million donation from a local philanthropist after “Saturday Night Live” comedian Gilda Radner wrote about her experiences there in the book “It’s Always Something.” When Radner died of ovarian cancer in 1989, her Wellness Community psychotherapist Joanna Bull, her husband Gene Wilder and her friends launched a similar project called Gilda’s Club.
Benjamin chronicled his efforts and philosophies in the books “From Victim to Victor” and “The Wellness Community Guide to Fighting for Recovery From Cancer.” He was also interviewed on the CBS news program “60 Minutes.”

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