A Nicaraguan national considered a principal suspect in the execution-style slayings of two Delaware State University students and one prospective student in Newark over the summer pleaded not guilty Wednesday.
Rodolfo Godinez wore an orange prison uniform and stood with his hands and feet shackled during his 10-minute arraignment before state Superior Court Judge Donald Volkert. A tattoo of flames on his forearm in part read: “Hell offered me salvation and freedom for all.”
Five other suspects one of whom is Godinez’s half brother, 16-year-old Alexander Alfaro have already pleaded not guilty in the Aug. 4 killing of 18-year-old Terrance Aeriel, 20-year-old Iofemi Hightower and 20-year-old Dashon Harvey.
Godinez, 24, of Newark, faces 16 charges, including three murder counts.
Volkert set bail at $1.5 million on the murder charges. That brought Godinez’s combined bail to $3 million, which includes $1 million on separate charges related to the killings and $500,000 stemming from an outstanding arrest warrant for robbery and aggravated assault in 2003.
Aeriel and Harvey were students at Delaware State University and Hightower was in the process of enrolling there for the fall semester when they were each shot in the back of the head in the playground of an elementary school.
“There really isn’t anything left to say,” Harvey’s father, James, said outside the courtroom Wednesday. “We just want the justice system to do its job.”
Aeriel’s 19-year-old sister, Natasha, also a Delaware State student, was shot in the head but survived and was able to help authorities identify some of the suspects. She is living at an undisclosed location under the care of the state’s witness protection program.
All six suspects face murder and weapons charges. The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office has petitioned to have the three juvenile suspects tried as adults. A hearing to decide that matter is scheduled for next month, McTigue said.
Many Texas Grads Not Ready For College, Panel Says
Texas high school graduates enter college far less ready for the harder course load than other students, according to new research that shows nearly half of the state’s college freshmen take remedial classes.
The number is well above the 28 percent of freshmen elsewhere in the U.S. who are enrolled in remedial or development courses, according to data unveiled Monday by a state panel appointed by Gov. Rick Perry.
The Commission for a College Ready Texas went on to say that state curriculum standards are too flimsy and that a passing score on the state’s high school graduation test doesn’t prove a student is ready for college.
“We have a big hill to climb in Texas,” said Sandy Kress, chairman of the commission and former education adviser to President Bush.
Among the recommendations the panel plans making to state education leaders are new, college-oriented curriculum standards for English, math, science and social studies courses taught in public schools.
The study noted that only 18 percent of Texas students who took the ACT college entrance exam met college readiness benchmarks in those areas. The percentages were even smaller for Black and Hispanic students.
The panel also found that 61 percent of students are not academically prepared to succeed in post-secondary education.
Recommendations by the panel will be made to the State Board of Education and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
Charges Reduced Against One of “Jena 6” Teens
The last of six Black teens to be arraigned in the beating of a White high school student pleaded not guilty Wednesday to reduced charges.
Bryant Purvis, 18, who had initially been charged with attempted second-degree murder, was charged with second-degree aggravated battery and conspiracy in a court hearing that lasted just minutes.
Purvis is set to stand trial as an adult in March 2008. If convicted, he could be imprisoned for up to 22 years.
The six teens, known as the Jena Six, were arrested after a December 2006 attack on a White student, Justin Barker, at Jena High School. Tensions between Black and White students had been running high for weeks, with one incident involving placement of a hangman’s noose in a tree on campus. A noose is a hated symbol among Southern Blacks who view it as a harassing reminder of lynchings in the past.
The case drew national attention, with civil rights leaders decrying the severity of the charges against the teens. The injuries to the White student were not considered life-threatening.
In September, the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson led one of the largest civil rights demonstrations in years as an estimated 20,000 people marched through the streets of this northeast Louisiana town of about 3,000 residents.
So far, Mychal Bell is the only one of the Jena Six to stand trial. He was convicted in June of aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy. The convictions were later overturned and the case sent to juvenile court.
Bell, now 17, was ordered to jail last month for a probation violation in an unrelated juvenile court case.
Purvis’ lawyer, Darrell Hickman, said Purvis was “30 feet away from the melee when it took place” and that the charges against Purvis should be dismissed. If they aren’t, Hickman said he will seek a change of venue because of the intense emotions and attention tied to the case in Jena.
Now a senior attending classes in Texas, Purvis said he’s concentrating on his studies and basketball, and hopes to attend college.
© Copyright 2005 by DiverseEducation.com