This is a curated selection of highlights from Crime Story Daily this week.
On the criminal justice policy front: A piece for the New York Times by Emily Bazelon dives deep into the issue of non-unanimous juries. Last October, the Supreme Court heard arguments about whether or not split verdicts violate the Constitution; its decision is expected in the coming weeks or months. Bazelon examines the issue through the lens of specific cases: people who were exonerated, after convictions by non-unanimous juries, and the jurors who believed in their innocence all along. “If the justices end the practice,” she writes, “they will finally close a chapter in American jurisprudence, in which two states — because of laws based in discrimination — have for decades been allowed to disregard a fundamental premise of our legal system.”
In muckraker/watchdog reporting: In a piece for the New York Times, Michelle Alexander, author of “The New Jim Crow,” reflects on the ten years since the book’s publication. She locates the injustices of the current moment – Trumpism, xenophobia, mass deportation – in a broader historical context, as just one manifestation of the same racial and political dynamics that fueled the War on Drugs and mass incarceration: “The very same playbook has been used over and over in this country by those who seek to preserve racial hierarchy, or to exploit racial resentments and anxieties for political gain, each time with similar results.” And a piece from the Texas Observer examines the state’s practice of banishing prisoners to more than a decade of solitary confinement, “an extreme form of a controversial punishment likened to torture.” Many of these prisoners don’t know how, or if, they will ever get out.
In complex crime storytelling: A piece from the Tampa Bay Times examines the case of James Dailey, who is currently facing a death sentence in Florida for the 1985 murder of a 14-year-old girl. Dailey’s case has always been plagued by ambiguity and doubt, fueled by the controversial use of jailhouse informants, the lack of physical evidence tying him to the murder, and his co-defendant’s ever-evolving story. And a piece from the New York Times focuses on the disappearance of Selena Not Afraid, a 16-year-old Crow Native American girl from rural Montana. As in many other Western states, lost and missing Native American women are something of an epidemic in Montana. The piece outlines the scope of the problem, as well as Selena’s community’s fight to bring her case and others like it the attention and resources they deserve.
And in culture/true crime: The New Republic reviews Clemency, a new film from Nigerian director Chinonye Chukwu that attempts to grapple with the ”banal evil” of the death penalty. Clemency “aims to dramatize the inherently undramatic: the moral culpability of one of the state’s anonymous functionaries.” And the New York Times reviews “The Third Rainbow Girl,” a new book that focuses on the 1980 double-murder of two young women attending a “peace festival” in rural West Virginia. The book spins out from the crime itself to examine the small Appalachian community where it took place, the socioeconomic factors that circumscribe daily life there, and the deep-seated trauma inflicted by the decades-long mystery.