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In the Media: Dixon Challenges Election Results; Family of Tyrone West Seeks to Reopen Case

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A digest of Baltimore news from local sources.

From the Baltimore Sun: Baltimore schools CEO to be replaced by former academics chief

"After months of searching for a new leader amid criticism of city schools CEO Gregory Thornton, the school board announced Tuesday that he will be replaced by a former administrator who oversaw improving academic performance in the district.

"Thornton will step down Friday, and Sonja Santelises will take over July 1.

"'We believe Sonja has the ability to lead the district for the next 10 years,' said Marnell Cooper, the school board chairman. 'Her background as an educator is clear, she's incredibly strong, she understands the challenges of the school system.'

"The decision ends Thornton's divisive tenure less than two years into a four-year contract. State lawmakers, religious leaders and education advocates have said he lacks vision, direction and follow-through, and a growing number of lawmakers and community activists in recent months have called for his ouster.

"Thornton, who came to Baltimore from Milwaukee in 2014, grappled with a litany of financial and operational mishaps as head of Maryland's fourth-largest school system. He leaves the district embroiled in a bitter legal dispute with more than a dozen charter schools.

"In a statement, Thornton said he was proud of his work in Baltimore, saying he helped the district operate more efficiently and launched programs that provide all students with free breakfast and lunch and that encourage dropouts to return to school."

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From the Baltimore Sun: Sheila Dixon exploring legal challenge to election results for Baltimore mayor

"Former Mayor Sheila Dixon said Tuesday she is considering challenging election results that gave state Sen. Catherine E. Pugh a narrow victory in the Democratic primary for Baltimore mayor last week.

"Dixon said Tuesday that she did not 'necessarily concede' on election night and is exploring legal options. About 3,000 votes separate Dixon and Pugh, who declared victory based on the unofficial tally.

"Dixon had 34 percent of the vote compared to Pugh's 37 percent when early voting and Election Day returns were counted.

"The NAACP and community activists have called on Gov. Larry Hogan to request that the state prosecutor investigate Baltimore's Board of Elections, which has been criticized for losing ballots and wrongly turning away some voters on Election Day.

"Armstead B.C. Jones Sr., the city's elections director, has dismissed the accusations, saying his staff carried out their duties properly.

"A Hogan spokesman said the governor 'believes that any election that takes place in Maryland should be completely free of administrative irregularities or fraud of any kind.

"There is a legal and procedural process for issues like this that involves local boards of election and possibly the state prosecutor if the allegations or complaints rise to that level," said Douglass Mayer, the spokesman."

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In front of the Medical Examiner’s Office, the family of Tyrone West demands his case be reopened

"The family of Tyrone West—a 44-year-old man who died in police custody in July 2013—who have gathered every Wednesday since West's death in order to keep West's name and in the news, gathered yesterday in front of the Chief Medical Examiner Office's to address an independent forensic review's findings that dispute West's autopsy.

"The review by Dr. William Manion, the chief of pathology at Memorial Hospital of Salem County, New Jersey, claims West did not die of what has been colloquially called a 'bad heart' but rather, because he could not breathe—or 'positional asphyxia.' Manion was hired by the West family, who have filed a multi-million dollar federal lawsuit against officers present at West's death.

"'The medical examiner's came out with their foolishness that my brother died of a heart attack and dehydration. First of all, let's clear the record: he never had any heart problems. No health issues whatsoever. Let's make that clear,' West's sister Tawanda Jones said, a sign that read 'Medical Examiner You Are Under The Bus!!' resting in front of her. 'And as you will see in Dr. Manion's report, it was positional asphyxiation. So to me, either the Medical Examiner's Office is incompetent or in cahoots and covering up my brother's brutal murder.'

"Jones also mentioned how Lt. Melvin Russell came to their house not long after West's death and asked if West had any preexisting conditions. She believes this is evidence that the police narrative about how West died was already in the works.

"The state medical examiner found no injuries or evidence of asphyxiation and a Police Internal Review Board said in August 2014 that West died because of how hot it was in July and because of his pre-existing heart condition, which the family asserts did not exist.

"The family also intends to demand that West's body be exhumed so that they can conduct an independent autopsy.

"Along with new of the independent autopsy review, there has been a series of events which further raised the profile for the family and West's case over the past few months: the anniversary of the Baltimore Uprising (activists connected to West Wednesday were crucial in organizing and playing a role in the larger protests that made up the Baltimore Uprising) has given West's death more attention; a West Wednesday event in March was tied to the Light City Festival; and the civil trial victory in March of Abdul Salaam, who won a $70,000 verdict against two Baltimore police officers, Nicholas Chapman and Jorge Bernardez-Ruiz, both of whom were also present when West was arrested.

"There has also been increased pressure on State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby from activists tied to Baltimore Bloc (who have worked closely with the West family) connected to another case, the police shooting of Keith Davis Jr., which culminated in a public confrontation of Mosby by Davis Jr.'s fiance, Kelly Holsey, at the Impact Hub. There, Mosby briskly exited when Holsey challenged Mosby."

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