Editor's Note: Closing arguments are expected Friday afternoon in the case of a woman who is accused of assaulting police officers in a Missouri Walmart nearly three ago. She says white patrons shoved and hurled racial slurs at her when she switched lines. These are Ellis' mug shots when she was arrested in January 2007.
These photos were taken when Ellis entered the courtroom today.
Heather Ellis entering court this morning in Kennett, MO.
Gary Tuchman and Dave Mattingly
This much isn't in dispute: Heather Ellis cut in line at a Wal-Mart nearly three years ago.
But the accounts of what happened next vary, depending on whom you ask - and has divided this economically struggling Missouri town of 11,000 along racial lines.
Ellis, then a college student with no criminal history, said some white patrons shoved and hurled racial slurs at her when she switched checkout lines at Wal-Mart in January 2007.
Store employees refused to give her back her change and called police, she said.
And when she was taken outside to the parking lot, an officer allegedly told her to "Go back to the ghetto." Another roughed her up, she said.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/04/14/gm.recall/art.gm.logo.afp.gi.jpg caption="General Motors says that about 1,600 salaried workers will lose their jobs in the next few days."]
CNN Financial News Producer
A key survey of leading businesses showed Monday that the nation's economy remained weak in the first quarter, but it also hinted that the decline is slowing.
The National Association of Business Economics' April Industry Survey "provides fresh evidence that the U.S. economy's recession is abating," said Sara Johnson, an analyst on the survey.
"Declines still out number gains, but fewer firms are reporting declines and more are reporting gains," Johnson said. "This suggests that the economy is at an inflection point but has not yet reached a turning point."
The big bank hot streak continues. Bank of America surprised Wall Street this morning by reporting a first quarter profit of $4.2 billion. That was well ahead of expectations.
But the stock fell sharply out of the gate as the bank warned of "deteriorating credit quality."
Over the past two weeks, rivals Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase and even Citigroup - which like Bank of America has received $45 billion in government assistance - have all delivered earnings that exceeded Wall Street's expectations.
Washington policymakers contemplating a fundamental overhaul of the nation's troubled health-care system may want to study the saga of Wal-Mart.
Once vilified for its stingy health benefits, the world's largest company has become an unlikely leader in the effort to provide affordable care without bankrupting employers, their workers or taxpayers in the process. From its headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., the retailer is doing in the real world what many in Washington are only beginning to talk about.
Senior Producer, D.L. Hughley Breaks the News
My wife and I are trying to decide if we should sell our stocks.
We’re looking at our portfolio, weighing all the relevant factors, and giving serious thought to putting our money under our bed. We’re also thinking seriously about hiding under the bed ourselves.
Granted, my wife and I aren’t financial geniuses. But we have kids, we have a house, and we need to be responsible about this stuff.
My current panic started yesterday, when I saw this chart on the Planet Money site.
Editor's note: Dr. Gail Saltz is a Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at The New York Presbyterian Hospital.
Dr. Gail Saltz
Over the weekend a group of waiting shoppers trampled and killed a temporary Wal-Mart worker who was standing at the door to let shoppers in. How in the world could this happen? How could anyone do such a thing?
This was sadly a case of the effects of group dynamics, or in other words mob mentality. When you put people into a group you tend to increase their level of arousal and excitement. Another phenomena of a group is that of shared responsibility, that each individual feels less directly responsible and “delegates” his own superego (conscience) to the group. The particular group in question here were people feeling the effects of this recession and fearful that they will not be able to get enough stuff for the holidays, thinking they NEED the sales to make their family and themselves happy. This added to the feeling of rationing, that there is a limited commodity of stuff, money, sales items and if they don’t get it now then they never will. This is of course untrue and in no way justifies anyone’s actions, none the less it is this desperate perception that likely fueled extreme behavior.
Mobs can incite all kinds of awful behavior. “Fans” have set fires and destroyed property at sporting events. Concert goers have groped women and jumped on top of and hurt people. Gangs have robbed and destroyed stores in city blackouts. Taken as individuals many of these people would never ever have done something so amoral. But put together they incite each other, embolden the crowd and lose their moral compass.
This weekend’s horror was likely done by a group of anxious, excited shoppers who individually would never have done this and are likely feeling tremendous guilt and remorse that they were in anyway involved. Some will feel so uncomfortable that they may be in utter denial they were involved at all. It speaks to the power that one psyche can have upon another and to the immense power and loss of boundaries in a group. It is also evidence of the tremendous anxiety people are feeling in the face of the economic pressures and the unknowns that financially lay ahead. We need to be aware of the ability of such fears to move us, to make us behave in ways that we will regret. Desperation can mess with your conscience and so we all need to be on the alert to remember there is no material thing worth hurting someone for. Although a group can have a negative impact, it can also have a positive one. What we need is for people to gather together in support of each other, to lend a hand to your neighbor, be a listener to your friend, be compassionate to your loved ones. And remember grouping together for support requires no stuff.
Randi Kaye | BIO
Hey there, I have some breaking news to share with you.
Remember Debbie Shank, the brain-damaged woman Wal-Mart had sued. The company was looking to get back money it had paid for her care after a semi-truck had plowed into her minivan eight years ago.
She was working for Wal-Mart, stocking shelves overnight so she could spend more time during the day with her family. The company wanted $470,000 back but only $217,000 is actually left of the money she had won in her own lawsuit against the trucking company. The money had been placed in a trust to provide for her long-term care. A court ruled Wal-Mart was entitled only to the money left in the trust.
Two nights ago on AC360, I introduced you to Debbie Shank. She is a brain-damaged woman from Jackson, Missouri, who used to work for Wal-Mart.
In May of 2000, Debbie’s minivan was struck by a semi-truck and her brain received the brunt of the trauma. She now lives in a nursing home. Debbie was covered by Wal-Mart’s Health and Benefits Plan but after she settled with the trucking company that hit her, Wal-Mart sued her to get back the $417,000 it had paid out for her care.
What neither Debbie nor her husband, Jim Shank, noticed was a tiny clause in the health plan’s paperwork that said if Debbie settles with a third party for damages, which she did, Wal-Mart has a right to recoup the money it spent on her care.
All that’s left in the fund set aside to care for Debbie right now is $277,000 and she needs every penny of it. Her husband is working two jobs to care for her. She can’t function on her own and, because he has to work, he can't always care for her at home. He even divorced her so she could get more money from Medicaid. It gets worse. After they lost their first appeal in Missouri, their 18-year-old son was killed in Iraq. Debbie attended the funeral but because of her injuries, she doesn’t remember being there or even remember that her son is dead. She still asks for him. She doesn’t understand why she lives in a nursing home. It is no way to live...
JACKSON, Missouri (CNN) - Debbie Shank breaks down in tears every time she's told that her 18-year-old son, Jeremy, was killed in Iraq.
Even though the 52-year-old mother of three attended her son's funeral - she continues to ask how he's doing. When her family reminds her that he's dead - she weeps as if hearing the news for the first time.
Shank suffered severe brain damage after a traffic accident nearly eight years ago that robbed her of much of her short-term memory and left her in a wheelchair and living in a nursing home.
It was the beginning of a series of battles - both personal and legal - that loomed for Shank and her family. One of their biggest was with Wal-Mart's health plan.