Archive for April, 2019

Is there anything wrong with Census workers asking if residents are citizens?

April 25, 2019

UNITED STATES SOLICITOR GENERAL NOEL FRANCISCO ARGUED ON BEHALF OF THE COMMERCE DEPARTMENT THAT THE CITIZENSHIP QUESTION IS PROPER

Photo Credit: Diego M. Radzinschi / ALM

The United States Department of Commerce planned to ask residents whether they were citizens during the 2020 Census.  The plan was challenged on the ground that the decision to add a citizenship question was “arbitrary and capricious.”

On April 24, 2019, the United States Supreme Court entertained argument on the issue.  The decision by the Supreme Court will impact how Congressional seats are apportioned, how many electoral votes each state receives in a Presidential election and how taxpayer dollars are distributed on a per capita basis.

Lawyers for 18 states and several of the nation’s largest cities together with immigrant groups filed amicus briefs telling the Court that the citizenship question would make immigrants reluctant to respond to Census takers.  Amicus briefs filed by 17 states told the Justices that the citizenship question was needed to help enforce the Voting Rights Act.

The case was styled Department of Commerce v. New York, Case No. 18-966. The Secretary of the Department of Commerce is Wilbur Ross.  Democrats claimed that adding the citizenship question was a politically motivated attempt to undercount persons living in heavily Democratic districts.  The Census Bureau projected that asking about citizenship would lower the Census count by about 6.5 million persons — mostly among immigrants.

“This boils down to whether the Secretary’s judgment here is a reasonable one,” said Solicitor General Noel Francisco, who argued the case on behalf of the United States Department of Commerce.  During argument, General Francisco also told the Justices: “There’s no evidence in this record that the Secretary would have asked this question had the Department of Justice not requested it.”

Three lower federal courts found that Secretary Ross acted in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner and circumvented the Administrative Procedures Act, which requires federal agencies to study all relevant evidence before implementing a new policy.  One federal district judge in Maryland ruled earlier this month that Secretary Ross violated the United States Constitution “by unreasonably compromising the distributive accuracy of the Census.”  The lower court held that the Constitution requires the United States to survey “all persons” living in the United States every decade regardless of citizenship or status.

If five of the Supreme Court Justices rule that the Secretary Ross’ decision was proper then the citizenship question will be allowed in 2020.  Justice Brett Kavanaugh noted that many countries ask a citizenship question during a census and such is recommended by the United Nations.  Justice Kavanaugh also noted that until 1950 a citizenship question was a regular feature of the United States Census.

Justice John Roberts asked a question of New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood, who argued that the citizenship question was improper. “But we’ve had demographic questions on the Census — sex, age, do you own a house or own a radio?” Justice Roberts asked.

Ms. Underwood responded: “But there is no comparable evidence that those questions depress the count in such a way.”

The Court also allowed the Democratic-led House of Representative time to argue against adding the citizenship question.

California Attorney General Xavier Beccera, who also argued against the citizenship question, told the Justices:

“An undercount would threaten at least one of California’s seats in the House of Representatives — and, by extension — an elector in the Electoral College.  It would deprive California and its cities and counties of their fair share of billions of dollars in federal funds.”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor said: “There is no doubt that people will respond less [with the citizenship question].  That’s been proven in study after study.”

“There needs to be a reason to add the question, and I don’t see any reason,” said Justice Elena Kagan.  “It did seem the Secretary was shopping for a need.”

Justice Ruth Ginsburg asked General Francisco why the citizenship question was dropped after the 1950 Census.  “There was nothing in 1960 to the effect that the Census Bureau found that putting it on the short form would depress the count of non-citizens?  Nothing like that?” Justice Ginsburg said.

Justice Samuel Alito said that even if the citizenship question depressed Census participation it could give the Census Bureau answers from 22 million people for whom it lacks any citizenship information.

The Census Bureau previously sent out a separate questionnaire that included a question about citizenship.  However, the question was not included in the 2010 Census.

After the argument President Trump tweeted: “The American people deserve to know who is in this Country. Yesterday, the Supreme Court took up the Census Citizenship question, a really big deal.  MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”

In early April 2019 President Trump tweeted: “Can you believe that the Radical Left Democrats want to do our new and very important Census Report without the all important Citizenship Question?  Report would be meaningless and a waste of $Billions (ridiculous) that it costs to put together.”

The Supreme Court is expected to render a decision in late June 2019.  NBC News predicted that the Justices would hold in favor of the Secretary.

“The Supreme Court seemed willing Tuesday to let the Trump administration add a question about citizenship to the 2020 census . . . despite claims from populous states that it would actually make the count less accurate.”

Source: Pete Williams, Supreme Court appears likely to allow citizenship question in 2020 census (NBC News — April 23, 2019).

NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL BARBARA UNDERWOOD, NEW YORK’S FIRST FEMALE ATTORNEY GENERAL, ARGUED AGAINST THE CITIZENSHIP QUESTION

Photo Credit: Hans Pennink / AP 

 

 

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The termination of Temporary Protected Status was blocked by a federal judge

April 12, 2019

FEDERAL DISTRICT COURT JUDGE WILLIAM F. KUNTZ OF BROOKLYN BANNED THE UNITED STATES FROM TERMINATING TEMPORARY PROTECTION STATUS FOR HAITIANS

The United States Secretary of Homeland Security is authorized to designate a foreign country for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) due to conditions in the country that temporarily prevent the country’s nationals from return safely or, in certain circumstances, where the country is unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately.  TPS may be granted to eligible nationals of certain countries who are already in the United States.  Eligible individuals without nationality who last resided in he designated country may also be granted TPS.

The Secretary may designate a country for TPS due to the following conditions in the country: (a) ongoing armed conflict such as a civil war, (b) an environmental disaster such as earthquake or hurricane or an epidemic and (c) other extraordinary and temporary conditions.

During a designated period, individuals who are TPS beneficiaries or who are found preliminarily eligible for TPS upon initial review of their cases are not removable from the United States, can obtain an employment authorization document (EAD) and may be granted travel authorization.  Once granted TPS, an individual also cannot be detained on the basis of his or her immigration status.

The countries currently designated for TPS are El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

A non-jury lawsuit took place during January 2019 before a federal judge in Brooklyn in a case titled Saget v. Trump.  On April 11, 2019, the judge ruled that the United States was barred terminating TPS for Haitian nationals who live and work in the United States.

“A TPS determination should not be a political decision made to carry out political motives,” wrote United States District Court Judge William F. Kuntz.  Judge Kuntz’s 145 page opinion ruled that the evidence “reflected a pre-ordained outcome accomplished by sweeping negative evidence under the rug and disregarding contrary or inconvenient factual determinations made by prior decisionmakers.”

Judge Kuntz also ruled that the evidence showed that the White House “exerted significant influence” over a November 2017 decision by then-Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke to terminate TPS for Haiti.

FORMER ACTING HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY ELAINE DUKE

Photo Credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

During the trial before Judge Kuntz, Assistant United States Attorney Joseph A. Marutollo disputed that there was any animus by President Donald J. Trump involving a decision to terminate TPS for Haitians.   Martutollo, the Chief of Immigration Litigation for the United States Attorneys’ Office in Brooklyn, argued that the Homeland Security Secretary made her decision after conducting a “thorough and vigorous review.”  He argued that conditions in Haiti had improved enough for Haitians to return to their own country.

“TPS is not asylum.  It is not akin to having a green card.  It is a temporary humanitarian response,” Mr. Marutollo told the court.

In October 2018, in a different lawsuit before United States District Court Judge Edward M. Chen in San Francisco, Judge Chen placed a temporary injunction against the United States from terminating TPS for about 300,000 citizens of El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan.  Judge Chen ruled that the TPS recipients would suffer irreparable harm and hardship if TPS was terminated.

During the San Francisco bench trial that took place in January 2019 Assistant United States Attorney Marutollo, argued that Haiti suffered from endemic problems like poverty before an earthquake hit Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010.   Mr. Marutollo noted that Haiti has not been redesignated for TPS since 2011 and that the extensions granted in lieu of that mean that no new Haitian nationals can acquire TPS.  He also argued that the TPS statute bars judicial review of any decision made by the Secretary of Homeland Security.

There are about 59,000 Haitians in the United States who are presently on TPS. More than 27,000 children were born to Haitians since being granted TPS.

The pending lawsuit in San Francisco awaits a ruling.  However, due to the lawsuit, in February 2019 the Secretary of Homeland Security issued a TPS extension until January 2020 for citizens of El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan.

On Nov. 20, 2017, then-Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke announced her decision to terminate the TPS designation for Haiti with a delayed effective date of 18 months to allow for an orderly transition before the designation terminated on July 22, 2019.  A news release put out by Homeland Security stated:

“The decision to terminate TPS for Haiti was made after a review of the conditions upon which the country’s original designation were based and whether those extraordinary but temporary conditions prevented Haiti from adequately handling the return of their nationals, as required by statute.  Based on all available information . . . Secretary Duke determined that those extraordinary but temporary conditions caused by the 2010 earthquake no longer exist.  Thus, under the applicable statute, the current TPS designation must be terminated.”

Source: Acting Secretary Elaine Duke Announcement On Temporary Protected Status For Haiti (United States Department of Homeland Security — Nov. 20, 2017).

Former Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen made a similar decision regarding 263,000 El Salvadorans who were granted “temporary” residence in the United States.

FORMER SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY KIRSTJEN NIELSEN

Photo Credit: Alex Wong / Getty Images

Some have concluded that the 18-month grace periods were more than generous.  One columnist argued that the 1-1/2 year period to leave “will . . . give more time to ‘go into the shadows,’ more time to apply for green cards, more time to create more anchor babies, collect welfare, take jobs from Americans, and, for some, to collect a paycheck from MS-13.”

Source: Ed Straker, Why do “Temporary Protected Status” refugees need 18 months to leave America? (American Thinker — Jan. 9, 2018).

Judge Kuntz assumed office in 2011 after being appointed by President Barack Obama. From 2005 until being appointed as a federal judge he was a lawyer in the New York office of the law firm Baker Hostetler.  Judge Chen also assumed office in 2011 after being appointed by President Obama. He served as a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union from 1985-2001, specializing in language discrimination cases.

FEDERAL DISTRICT COURT JUDGE EDWARD M. CHEN OF SAN FRANCISCO TEMPORARILY BLOCKED THE UNITED STATES FROM TERMINATING TEMPORARY PROTECTED STATUS FOR CITIZENS OF FOUR COUNTRIES INCLUDING HAITI 

 

 

The United States Supreme Court will decide an appeal alleging racial discrimination in the selection of a jury in a quadruple murder case

April 6, 2019

CURTIS FLOWERS IS LED AWAY FROM THE MONTGOMERY COUNTY COURTHOUSE IN WINONA, MISSISSIPPI AFTER A COURT HEARING ON MARCH 16, 2014

Photo Credit: Dale Gerstenslager / AP

On March 20, 2019, the United States Supreme Court entertained oral argument in Flowers v. Mississippi, Supreme Court Case No. 17-9572.  The issue before the Court was whether a criminal defendant’s Constitutional rights were violated by the prosecution’s exercise of its peremptory strikes to exclude five black prospective jurors.

Sheri Lynn Johnson of Ithaca, New York presented the argument on behalf of Flowers.  She began her argument by stating:

“The only plausible interpretation of all of the evidence viewed cumulatively is that [District Attorney] Doug Evans began jury selection in Flowers IV with an unconstitutional end in mind, to seat as few African American jurors as he could. The numbers are striking. In the first four trials, Mr. Evans exercised 36 peremptory challenges, all of them against African American jurors.  in the sixth trial, he exercised five out of six of his challenges against African American jurors.”

LAWYER SHERI LYNN JOHNSON ARGUING ON BEHALF OF FLOWERS: SHE ARGUED THAT DISTRICT ATTORNEY DOUG EVANS WANTED AS FEW BLACK JURORS AS POSSIBLE 

Art Credit: Art Lien

Jason L. Davis, Special Assistant Attorney General of Jackson, Mississippi, presented the argument on behalf of the State of Mississippi.  He began:

“The history of this case is troubling, but the history is confined to this case, and, as Mr. Chief Justice pointed out, it is unusual.  There are — this is the sixth trial in this small town, a small town of approximately 5,000 individuals.  The questioning of whether the makeup or the limited number of individuals in the town was one of the reasons for follow-up questions is accurate. At the outset, let me say that the Mississippi Supreme Court’s decision in this case was commensurate with Batson and its progeny.”

Mr. Davis later argued that while there is a troubling history involving earlier trials the strikes in the sixth trial were proper.  “Each of the jurors that were struck either worked with a relative, were related, or knew, intimately, family members, the defendant or his family members, up to and including one juror who lied on her questionnaire and then admitted to lying on the stand. . . . The juror who lied on her questionnaire expressly admitted that she lied for the sole purpose of getting off the jury.”  Dr. Davis further argued: “This is one of the issues with this case, is that each of these strikes that we have, we don’t have one single reason.  We have numerous.”

SPECIAL ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL JASON DAVIS ON BEHALF OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI: HE ARGUED THAT FLOWERS’ RIGHTS UNDER BATSON WERE NOT VIOLATED 

Artwork Credit: Art Lien

Curtis Giovanni Flowers was charged with murdering four employees of Tardy Furniture Store in Winona, Mississippi.  The factual background was set forth by the Mississippi Supreme Court in Flowers v. State, 240 So.3d 1082 (Miss. 2017).

On the morning of July 16, 1996, Bertha Tardy, the owner of the furniture store, along with three other employees were found with gunshot wounds to the head at the furniture store.  The other employees were Robert Golden, Carmen Rigby and Derrick Stewart.  The victims were discovered by Sam Jones, who arrived at the store for the purpose of employee training.  Mr. Stewart was still alive when Mr. Jones arrived but he later succumbed to his injuries.

[Ms. Tardy was 59, was the owner of Tandy Furniture Company. She had a husband and a daughter.  She was a graduate of Winona High School and New York School of Interior Design.  Mr. Golden, 42, was a delivery worker at the furniture store. Ms. Rigby, 45, was the bookkeeper at the furniture store and had a husband and two sons.  Mr. Stewart, 16, a part time employee at the furniture store, died on July 22, 1996 at University Hospital at Jacksonville, Mississippi.  He played short stop and pitcher for Winona High School and was the team’s leading hitter.]

Johnny Hargrove, the Chief of Police for Winona, was the first law enforcement officer to arrive.  Shell casings from 0.380 caliber bullets were recovered from the scene and a bloody shoeprint was found near one of the victims.  About this time there was a call about an automobile burglary at Angelica Garment Factory.  Deputy Sheriff Bill Thornburg responded and learned that someone burglarized Doyle Simpson’s car and stole a 0.380 caliber pistol.  An employee of the garment factory, Katherine Snow, had seen Flowers near Mr. Simpson’s car about 7:15 that morning.

Flowers was located and interviewed about 1:30 p.m.  Flowers consented to a gunshot residue test.  On July 18, 1996, Flowers was interviewed for a second time. He said he had been babysitting his girlfriend’s children on the morning of the murders but provided inconsistent statements about his schedule.  Flowers said he had been employed at the furniture store for a few days earlier that month but was fired on July 6, 1996 after he did not show up for work for a few days.

Flowers moved to Texas in September 1996.  After further investigation, Flowers was arrested and brought back to Mississippi.  During March 1997, Flowers was indicted on four counts of capital murder.

The case was unusual because it was tried six times.

First Trial — In October 1997, after a change of venue from Montgomery County to Lee County, Flowers was convicted for the murder of Bertha Tardy and sentenced to death.  The Mississippi Supreme Court reversed Flowers’ convictions on the ground that his right to a fair trial was violated by admission of evidence of the other three murder victims.  Flowers v. State, 773 So.2d 309 (Miss. 2000) (Flowers I).

Second Trial — Flowers’ second murder trial took place in Harrison County for the murder of Derrick Stewart.  Flowers was convicted and sentenced to death.  On appeal, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the conviction.  The court held that Flowers’ right to a fair trial was violated by admission of evidence of the other victims and by the prosecution arguing facts not in evidence.  Flowers v State, 842 So.2d 531 (Miss. 2003) (Flowers II).

Third Trial — Flowers’ third trial took place in 2004 in Montgomery County for all four murders.  Flowers was convicted and sentenced to death.  The conviction was reversed after the Mississippi Supreme Court held that the prosecution engaged in racial discrimination during jury selection.  Flowers v. State, 947 So.2d 910 (Miss. 2007) (Flowers III).

[In Flowers’ third trial Mr. Evans used all 15 of his peremptory strikes against black prospective jurors.  The Mississippi Supreme Court found that Mr. Evans discriminated in jury selection.  The court called Mr. Evans’ actions “as strong a prima facie case of racial discrimination as we have ever seen.”]

Fourth and Fifth Trials — Flowers’ fourth and fifth trials were also on all four counts of capital murder. Both resulted in mistrials when the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict during the culpability phase.  The State did not seek the death penalty in the fourth trial but sought it in the fifth trial.

[In the fourth trial, seven white jurors voted to convict and all five black jurors voted to acquit.  In the fifth trial, all but one juror — a black man — voted to convict.  This resulted in a hung jury.  After the trial the prosecutor charged the hold-out juror with perjury after the trial judge accused him of lying during voir dire.  The state attorney general eventually dropped all charges.]

[After the fifth trial, an alternate juror was charged with perjury for lying under oath about her contact with Flowers and his family before the trial.  She pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 15 months in prison.]

Sixth Trial — During June 2010 Flowers’ sixth trial took place in Montgomery County for all four murders. The prosecution called 21 witnesses during its case-in-chief.  On June 18, 2010, the jury returned a guilty verdict for all four murders.  Following a sentencing hearing, the jury sentenced Flowers to death.

It has been reported that Flowers’ sixth trial was the first time in United State history that the same person has been tried six times on the same murder charges.  Flowers’ sixth trial, Mr. Evans struck five black women and used a six strike on a white woman.

“Prosecutors have consistently argued Flowers had a ‘beef’ with the store because his paycheck had been withheld to offset merchandise damaged in his care. Several other factors tied Flowers to the crime: bloody shoe prints found at the scene matched shoes he was said to own; several eyewitnesses saw him in front of or near the store the morning of the killings; the gun used was stolen from Flowers’ uncle’s car the morning of the killings and Flowers was seen sitting on the car; cash found at Flowers’ home was close to what had been stolen from the store, and a gunshot residue test performed on Flowers hours after the killings confirmed particles on his hands.”

Source: Monica Land, No 7th trial for Curtis Flowers in quadruple murder (Nov. 16, 2014 — The Clarion-Ledger).

District Attorney Doug Evans represented the State of Mississippi in all six of Flowers’ trials.  Mr. Evans used 44 strikes in total — 36 against black and eight against white prospective jurors.

Flowers appealed based upon 13 assignments of error.  Assignment of Error No. 6 was that the jury selection process, the composition of the venire and the jury seated, and pervasive racial and other bias surrounding the matter violated Flowers’ constitutional rights under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

On Nov. 11, 2017, in a 6-3 opinion written by Justice Josiah D. Coleman, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed Flowers’ convictions and the imposition of the death penalty.  Flowers v. State, 240 So.3d 1082 (2017) (Flowers IV).  As to the jury selection issue, the court held that the fact that the prosecutor committed a “Batson violation” during an earlier trial did not preclude finding on retrial that the same prosecutor’s race-neutral explanations for striking five black venire members were credible.  The court concluded: “Taking into account the ‘historical evidence’ of past discrimination, i.e., Mr. Evans’ past Batson violations, the Court remains unpersuaded that the trial court erred in finding that the State did not violate Batson.”  240 So.3d at 1135.

“Batson violation” is based on the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Batson v Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986), in which the Court held that the Constitution forbids prosecutors from challenging potential jurors solely on account of their race or the assumption that black jurors as a group will be unable to impartially consider the State’s case against a black defendant.

Mr. Davis noted that the trial at issue was presided over by Judge Joseph H. Lopez, Jr., who “acknowledged that he would be diligent in making sure the same type of error [that took place in Flowers’ third trial] did not occur again.” Mr. Davis quoted Judge Lopez from the trial transcript where Judge Lopez said “I’m going to look very closely at this case.”  Mr. Davis further argued:

“In this case, the record itself shows that the district attorney offered valid race-neutral reasons for each strike. Each strike was considered by the trial court, who had made aware — made the parties aware of — that he was aware of the history of the case, and the record supports that all the jurors that were struck because they were either sued by Tandy Furniture, they were either related to the defendant, or friends with, or had worked with members of the defendant’s family.”

CIRCUIT JUDGE JOESPH H. LOPEZ, JR. OF MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI WAS THE TRIAL JUDGE FOR FLOWERS’ SIXTH MURDER TRIAL

Photo Credit: Unknown

Justice Brett Kavanaugh asked Mr. Davis: “And can you say, as you sit here today, confidently you have confidence in the — how this all transpired in this case?” Mr. Davis responded:

“If have confidence in this record, Justice Kavanaugh.  I have confidence in the strikes that the district attorney made based on the four corners of this record. I have confidence that, if reviewed with an eye towards what actually transpired, it supports the Mississippi Supreme Court’s decision in this case.  That I have confidence in.”

In response to a comment by Justice Sonia Sotomayor that she would have thought that a different prosecutor would have been substituted before the fifth and six trials, Mr. Davis ended his argument:

“And again, I would agree completely, Justice Sotomayor, that we have an unusual circumstance, an unusual case with these six trials having been all tried by the same prosecutor. But I would resubmit, again, that the decision of the Mississippi Supreme Court in this instance was not violative of Batson and its progeny.”

The arguments before the Supreme Court were analyzed by Amy Howe, a former law professor who has argued two cases before the Supreme Court:

“After nearly an hour of oral argument that included the first questions by Justice Clarence Thomas since 2016, there seemed to be at least five justices who agree with Flowers. . . . Although Johnson emphasized Evans’ history of striking potential African-American jurors throughout the trials in Flowers’ case, much of the oral argument was spent grabbling with the specifics of Evans’ strikes in the sixth trial, and in particular some potential jurors’ relationships with the victims and their families and the extent to which Evans had questioned the would-be jurors about potential biases.”

Source: Amy Howe, Argument analysis: Justices seem receptive to inmate’s juror-discrimination claims (Howe on the Court — March 21, 2019). Ms. Howe further reported:

“But then Justice Clarence Thomas . . . had a question. He wanted to knw whether Flowers’ trial lawyer had used any of her peremptory strikes — and, if so, what was the race of the jurors whom she had struck.  Johnson responded that the trial lawyer had only used her strikes to remove white jurors from the juror pool, adding that ‘her motivation is not the question here.  The question is the motivation of Doug Evans.'”

If Flowers’ conviction is reversed then he could still face a seventh trial.

DISTRICT ATTORNEY DOUG EVANS QUESTIONING A WITNESS DURING ONE OF THE SIX TRIALS ACCUSING FLOWERS OF FOUR COUNTS OF MURDER.  MR. EVANS WAS ELECTED DISTRICT ATTORNEY IN 1992 AND HAS SERVED IN THAT POSITION SINCE THAT TIME.

Photo Credit: Taylor Kuykendall / The Greenwood Commonwealth / AP

THE FOUR MURDERS TOOK PLACE AT THE TARDY FURNITURE STORE IN WINONA, WHICH IS NOW CLOSED

Photo Credit: Monica Land / The Clarion-Ledger

 

The Final Four teams are ready to play in the NCAA basketball tournament

April 2, 2019

JARRETT CULVER OF TEXAS TECH SHOOTS OVER GONZAGA’S RUI HACHIMURA DURING THE SECOND HALF OF THE RED RAIDERS’ 75-69 WIN OVER THE BULLDOGS

Photo Credit: AP

Virginia will play Auburn and Michigan State will play Texas Tech on Saturday, April 6, 2019 to determine the finals of the 2019 NCAA Basketball Tournament.

Virginia (33-3) v Auburn (30-9)

Virginia has defeated Gardner-Webb, Oklahoma, Oregon and Purdue.  Virginia only beat Oregon by 4 and needed a buzzer beater to force overtime against Purdue. The Virginia-Purdue game is said to be the best game of this year’s tournament.

Auburn defeated New Mexico State, Kansas, North Carolina and Kentucky to reach the team’s first Final Four.  (Kansas, North Carolina and Kentucky are the three winningest teams in college basketball history.)  Auburn narrowly escaped the first round with a 1-point win over New Mexico State.

Auburn will need to adjust without 6-8 sophomore Chuma Okeke (average of 12 points per game), the Tigers’ best front court player who tore his ACL early in the second half of Auburn’s Sweet 16 win over North Carolina.  With Okeke out against Kentucky in the Elite Eight, 6-8 junior Anfernee McLemore (6.6 ppg) played 32 minutes and 6-7 junior Danjel Purifoy (3.6 ppg) played 30 minutes.

This game will feature five players shooting at least 37 % for 3-pointers.  For Virginia they are 6-2 junior Kyle Guy (15.2 ppg), 6-5 junior Ty Jerome (13.3 ppg) and 6-7 sophomore De’Andre Hunter (14.9 ppg).  For Auburn they are 5-11 junior Jared Harper (15.4 ppg) and 6-3 senior Bryce Brown (16 ppg).  The 3-point shot could very well determine the winner of this game.  Guy is Virginia’s leading scorer.  The Cavaliers’ leading rebounder is 6-8 junior Braxton Key (5.4 rpg).  Jerome is Virginia’s assists leader (5.3 apg).

Harper and Brown combined for 50 of Auburn’s 77 points in their win over Kentucky.  5-9 freshman Kihei Clark (4.4 ppg) of Virginia should draw primary duty on Haprer of Auburn, which means that Virginia’s Guy will likely spend most of his time on defense matching up with Auburn’s Brown.  Whoever gets the better of the one-on-one matchup  between Guy and Brown could send his team to the title game.

Austin Wiley, a 6-11 junior, leads Auburn in rebounds (4.2 rpg) and Harper leads Auburn in assists (5.9 apg)

Michigan State (32-6) v Texas Tech (30-6)

Michigan State defeated Bradley, Minnesota, LSU and Duke.  Michigan State is arguably the best balanced team in the country.  Five of their six losses have been by 5 points or less and two of those were in overtime.  The Spartans’ 6-0 junior Cassius Winston (18.9 ppg) was the Big Ten Player of the Year.  Winston took over the game against Duke when his team faced its biggest deficit as the Spartans beat No. 1 ranked Duke by a score of 68-67.  Duke was led by the most electric player in college basketball,  6-7,  285-pound freshman Zion Williamson (22.6 ppg).  Xavier Tillman, a 6-8 sophomore, scored 19 points against Duke and averages 10.1 ppg.

Texas Tech defeated Northern Kentucky, Buffalo, Michigan and Gonzaga.  Texas Tech is said to be the best defensive team in the country.  The Red Raiders’ defense can render any offense completely ineffective.  This will be the fist Final Four for Texas Tech.  The Red Raiders’ top scorer is 6-5 sophomore Jarrett Culver (18.9 ppg), who will probably be the best offensive player in the game.  He also leads Texas Tech in rebounds (6.4 rpg)and assists (3.8 apg). Culver will be guarded closely by Michigan State’s 6-6 freshman Aaron Henry (5.9 ppg) and 6-7 senior Kenny Goins (8.1 ppg). Goins is the Spartans’ leading rebounder (9.0 rpg).

UPDATE ON THE SEMI-FINALS RESULTS — Virginia beat Auburn by a score of 63-62 and Texas Tech beat Michigan State 61-51.  Virginia’s Kyle Guy was fouled while shooting a 3-point shot from the corner with 0.6 seconds left in the game when the Cavaliers were behind by 2 points.  Guy then made all three free throws to eliminate the Tigers from the tournament. Michigan State trailed by 13 points with 9:40 to play.  Henry Aaron’s driving layup cut the deficit to 52-51 with 2:54 to play. The Red Raiders outscored the Spartans 9-0 after that point.

UPDATE ON THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP — Virginia beat Texas Tech 85-77 in overtime. The Cavaliers led by 10 with about 10 minutes to go and led by 8 at the 5:46 mark. The Red Raiders went ahead 68-65 on Norense Odiase’s two free throws with 22 seconds to play.  De’Andre Hunter of Virginia then made a three-point shot with 12 seconds to play to knot up the score at 68.  Jarrett Culver of Texas Tech missed a potentially game-winning jumper with one second to put the game into overtime.  Texas Tech went ahead 73-70 with 3:09 to play on Matt Mooney’s jump shot.  Virginia then out-scored Texas Tech 15-4 to win the national championship.

Virginia’s top scorers were De’Andre Hunter (27), Kyle Guy (24) and Ty Jerome (16).  The top scorers for Texas Tech were Brandone Francis (17), Davide Moretti (15), Jarrett Culver (15) and Kyler Edwards (10).  Guy was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four.

CASSIUS WINSTON OF MICHIGAN STATE DRIVES BY DUKE’S R. J. BARRETT; WINSTON WAS THE SPARTANS’ LEADING SCORER WITH 20 AND ALSO HAD A GAME-HIGH 10 ASSISTS 

Photo Credit: Annie Barker / The State News

NORENSE ODIASE OF TEXAS TECH AND MAMADI DIAKITE OF VIRGINIA BATTLE FOR THE REBOUND DURING THE SECOND HALF OF THE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

Photo Credit: Tom Pennington / Getty Images