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News Roundup: Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Day in court

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This week, notoriously anti-immigrant Sheriff Joe Arpaio heads to court, facing charges of civil rights violations, namely racial profiling.  (For a rundown of the worst things Sheriff Joe Arpaio has done, view this list.)

Here’s what the media covered the trial:

From Edvard Pettersson and William Hermann of Business Week:

Stanley Young, a lawyer for five individuals who sued Arpaio, said yesterday in his opening statement at Phoenix trial that he would prove how the crackdown resulted in the “denigration of Hispanics.”

“It is our view the problem starts from the top,” Young told U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow, who will decide the case without a jury. “We hope the court will compel the MCSO to honor the Constitution and put into practice procedures used by other law enforcement agencies to prevent racial discrimination.”

From the Associated press via the Washington Post

David Vasquez, an IT specialist from Mesa who identified himself as a Mexican American, said he and his wife were pulled over during a June 2009 sweep as the couple was headed to dinner. One of the deputies who stopped them asked Vasquez whether he spoke English, which he does.

Five or 10 minutes after being pulled over, a deputy said he pulled Vasquez over because he had a crack in his windshield, which Vasquez testified wasn’t blocking his view of the road.

The officer didn’t write him a ticket. Vasquez now questions how the officer was able to spot the crack in the windshield given his position at an intersection.

According to Fernanda Santos of the New York Times:

The elected sheriff and his office are accused of engaging in a pattern of discriminatory policing during large-scale operations known as suppression patrols, unfairly singling out Latinos — including citizens and legal immigrants — for stops, questioning and detention.

In one letter to the sheriff, a writer described dark skin as “the look of Mexican illegals,” urging the sheriff to go to a particular street corner on the northern edge of this city and “round them all up.” Another complained about people speaking Spanish at a fast-food restaurant in Sun City, northwest of here. Yet another grumbled about day laborers gathered at a spot in nearby Mesa, asking when officers would check to see if they were there “under legitimate circumstances.”

From Julianne Hing of Colorlines:

Attorneys for plaintiffs of the class-action suit say they have sufficient evidence to make their case, including testimony from U.S. citizens and people who were in the country lawfully but were targeted, detained and harassed because of the color of their skin. Andrew Byrnes, an attorney with Covington & Burling working with the civil rights coalition on the case, said they will make their case suing data provided by the office which show that Latinos were stopped at higher rates during “saturation patrols” than other times. Byrnes said their data show that no matter when stops occurred, even when they didn’t happen during Arpaio’s famed crime suppression sweeps and traffic stops, stops of Latino drivers lasted longer than stops of non-Latino drivers. Lawyers will also present internal communication in the MCSO showing Arpaio’s use of inflammatory language and his endorsement of racial profiling.

After years of believing himself to be above the law, we’re hoping this trial will be the thing to finally push the Sheriff to an early retirement.