Editor’s note: A version of this story appeared in the print edition of The Observer on April 1. The University announced in a Sunday press release it would award the 2019 Laetare Medal to Norman C. Francis — the president of Xavier University of Louisiana — during Notre Dame’s 2019 Commencement.In the press release, University President Fr. John Jenkins lauded Francis’ many achievements.“For more than 50 years, Dr. Francis has been at the center of civil rights advocacy by leveraging the power of Catholic higher education,” Jenkins said in the release. “In bestowing the Laetare Medal upon him, Notre Dame recognizes his leadership in the fight for social justice through educational empowerment.”According to the press release, Francis has served as the president of Xavier University for 47 years. During this time, the school’s enrollment has increased threefold and its endowment is now eight times larger than it was at the beginning of his tenure. Nationally, the school has the largest number of African American students who have graduated with undergraduate degrees in biology, life sciences, chemistry, physics and pharmacy.Xavier University is both a Catholic and historically black college/university (HBCU). The school was founded by St. Katharine Drexel in 1925, at a time of legal segregation in the United States, the release said. The founder of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament was “heir to a banking fortune” and advocated for racial equality for African Americans and Native Americans using her economic resources.In the release, Francis saluted Drexel’s work.“I did not build Xavier; I was part of Katharine Drexel’s mission to provide a quality education for all,” Francis said in the release. “All the people I worked with were part of this plan and mission, which was not only honorable, but was totally necessary when you look back at what the United States was at the time.”Francis was born to a family of five children in Lafayette, Louisiana in 1931. Throughout his childhood, he attended Catholic schools that were made possible by Drexel’s philanthropy, according to the release. He was admitted to New Orleans’ Loyola University Law School in 1952, becoming the first African American student accepted to the law school. Furthermore, his brother, “the Most Reverend Joseph Francis, auxiliary bishop of Newark,” was the fourth African American bishop in the United States. Francis served in the army and in 1957 accepted a job as “dean of men” at Xavier, instead of entering a career in legal practice.“It didn’t take long for me to see that I could do more good educating young African-Americans, and when I look at the stats and where we are nationally, I never regretted it,” Francis said in the release.According to the release, Francis accepted his job as president of Xavier on April 4, 1968 — which, according to the release, was “the same day Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated” in Memphis, Tennessee.In the release, Xavier said he feels honored to receive the Laetare Medal.“I am honored by Notre Dame recognizing me in this way,” he said. “I think the fact that I have the privilege of being among the Laetare awardees is itself a hope and an inspiration, not just for the students, but for many others as well.”In addition to being the president of Xavier, Francis has served in a multitude of other roles as well, the release said.“While solidifying Xavier’s reputation of academic excellence, Francis gained renown as a civic leader and an exceptional statesman. He served in advisory roles to eight U.S. presidents on education and civil rights issues and has served on 54 boards and commissions,” the release said. “He has been a member of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, a member of the Board of Trustees at the Catholic University of America and a member of the board of directors of the National Catholic Conference for Interracial Justice. He also served as chair of the Louisiana Recovery Authority after Hurricane Katrina. In 2006, President George W. Bush honored Francis with the nation’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.”Francis has also previously received two honorary awards from Notre Dame, the release said.“Francis received an honorary doctor of laws degree from Notre Dame in 1988 for his commitment to education and civil rights. The University also recognized him in 2006 with a rare second honorary doctorate for his tireless work to rebuild his own institution and serve as chair of Louisiana Recovery Authority,” the release said.Notre Dame has awarded the Laetare Medal since 1883. The recipient is announced on the fourth Sunday of Lent, also known as Laetare Sunday — hence, the name of the award. It was intended ”as an American counterpart to the Golden Rose, a papal honor that antedates the eleventh century,” the release said. Every year, the medal is awarded to “a Catholic ‘whose genius has ennobled the arts and sciences, illustrated the ideals of the Church and enriched the heritage of humanity.’”According to the release, the award’s previous recipients include a number of noteworthy Catholics.“Previous recipients of the Laetare Medal include Civil War Gen. William Rosecrans, operatic tenor John McCormack, President John F. Kennedy, Catholic Worker founder Dorothy Day, novelist Walker Percy, Vice President Joe Biden, Speaker of the House John Boehner, labor activist Monsignor George G. Higgins, Homeboy Industries founder Rev. Gregory Boyle, S.J., Rio Grande Valley Catholic Charities executive director Sister Norma Pimentel, M.J., singer Aaron Neville and actor Martin Sheen,” the release said.Tags: Commencement, Dr. Norman Francis, Laetare Medal, University President Fr. John Jenkins
December 1, 2005 Regular News Bill gives prosecutors the last say in all cases Bill gives prosecutors the last say in all cases Mark D. Killian Managing Editor A law that would rewrite a criminal procedural rule that has given the defense the last say in some cases for more than 150 years has cleared a Florida House panel.The House Criminal Justice Committee voted 8-0 November 9 to pass out HB 147, sponsored by Rep. Dick Kravitz, R-Orange Park, the committee’s chair, during one of the legislature’s interim committee weeks.If it passes both chambers by a two-thirds vote, it would replace part of Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.250. That rule provides in cases where the defense calls only the defendant to testify and no other witnesses that the defense attorney gets the first closing argument, and then a rebuttal after the prosecution makes its closing argument. In other cases where the defense calls other witnesses, the prosecution gets the first and last closing arguments.The bill provides that in all criminal cases, the state attorney gets the first closing argument, the defense lawyer may reply, and the prosecutor may offer a rebuttal to the defense attorney’s closing. The issue is also now pending before the Florida Supreme Court as part of a package of proposed rule amendments.Kravitz said it was time for Florida to change which side gets the last say to conform with how it is done in 47 other states, the federal courts, and the District of Columbia.This is the third year Kravitz has sponsored the measure. An identical bill – SB 658 by Sen. Steve Wise, R-Jacksonville — has been filed in the Senate.“Since the state has the burden of proof, then it is my feeling that we should have the last shot at the jury,” Kravitz said.Rep. Marcelo Llorente, R-Miami, voted in favor of the bill, but expressed separation of powers concerns and said he is retaining “the right to change my mind” when the bill is heard again at the House Justice Council.“I would encourage the people who testified today to provide the data to support that this is a matter of substance as opposed to procedure, according to how the other states and the [federal] courts are doing it,” Llorente said. “This is a matter that concerns me a great deal—-the separation of powers issue. It came before the legislature last year and had great debate on this matter. I will look forward to hearing more about this issue at the next stop.”Kravitz cited the case of a rape victim who testified in support of the bill last session as evidence for changing the rule. The women said her attacker, whom she did not know, was able to get personal information about her from her pretrial deposition and then claim they had a relationship, and her rape claim was in retaliation for his ending it.“In [the defense’s] closing argument to the jury, they made it sound like it was somewhat consensual because he knew all about her,” Kravitz said. “And [the state] obviously did not have a chance to rebut and so the last thing the jury heard was the defendant, so he was acquitted.”One of the defense attorneys in the case, Christopher Brown, however, has said having the last say played no role in the outcome.Paula Saunders, representing the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, spoke in opposition saying the rule has been a vested procedural right in Florida since 1853 and the only reason she’s heard for changing the rule is “that somewhere, sometime, someone felt they lost a case” because the defense got the final closing argument.“Well, I’d like to think all criminal defense lawyers have such brilliant oratory skills that we won our cases based solely on our closing arguments, but the truth is the cases are won and lost on the strengths or weaknesses of the evidence, on the credibility of the witnesses, on failures in investigations,” Saunders said. “There are a host of factors that go into winning and losing cases, not just the closing arguments of counsel.”Saunders said if the rule is changed, defense lawyers will no longer have an incentive to not put on marginal witnesses or exhibits or recall state witnesses, which will result in extending trials and clogging up already overcrowded dockets.Sixth Circuit Public Defender Bob Dillinger, representing the Florida Public Defender Association, said the rule is set up now to level the playing field.“I would submit to you when a jury walks into a criminal courtroom — even though we all learned in civics class the defendant is presumed innocent — when a jury sits down and looks at a defendant they don’t usually say, ‘What is this falsely accused person doing in this courtroom?’” Dillinger said. “They usually say, ‘What did he do?’ or ‘What is he charged with?’ That is a tremendous benefit the government has and tremendous burden for the defense to overcome in terms of presumption of innocence.”He said allowing the defense to go last in these cases protects the citizens against the immense power and resources of the state.However, Buddy Jacobs, general counsel for the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association, said times have changed significantly since 1853 and the “playing field” is much more level now, noting the state spends a great deal on providing counsel to indigent defendants, and private defense lawyers are highly skilled.Jacobs also noted the Third DCA in Diaz v. State urged the Supreme Court to “revisit the wisdom” of the provision.“This is something that needs to change,” Jacobs said. “It is good for victims in Florida, and it certainly is good for the system.”Kravitz said he can appreciate the opponents’ arguments because the way the rule works now benefits their clients “and that’s their job.“But when the status quo is unfair, then in my opinion it is time to change and this has became a defense tactic. . . and. . . a fairness issue,” Kravitz said. “If the people have the burden of proof, then the people should have the last shot at the jury.”
Ball reportedly severed ties with Big Baller Brand co-owner Alan Foster over a missing $1.5 million on Friday. He later posted a photo that featured himself wearing a Nike uniform, his No. 2 jersey hanging from the rafters in the STAPLES Center and a Nike slogan with the caption “moving on to bigger and better things.” The 21-year-old has also dealt with a shoulder ailment and underwent knee surgery last July, though he was officially shut down for the remainder of the season earlier this month.He averaged 9.9 points and 5.4 assists per game through 47 appearances this season. “Yeah, they talked to me,” Lonzo Ball told ESPN. “They asked me about it, and I told ’em, ‘I feel comfortable. If I wasn’t comfortable, I wouldn’t play in ’em. If I didn’t play in [his signature BBB shoes], I’d play in Kobe [Bryant’s signature Nike shoe]. I work out in [LeBron James’ signature Nike shoe], but that’s because they’re heavier.”Ball added that he told the Lakers he was open to making adjustments, specifically “just minor things” to his Big Baller Brand shoes if necessary. Related News Lakers G Lonzo Ball leaves Big Baller Brand, hints at Nike deal Lonzo Ball cuts ties with Big Baller Brand co-owner after $1.5M goes missing, report says Lonzo Ball’s injury woes have been persistent, and the Lakers are wondering if his shoes had anything to do with it.According to ESPN, Los Angeles went as far as to ask the second-year guard whether his Big Baller Brand sneakers were to blame after he suffered his third ankle injury with the team in January.