CRIME STORY DAILY

Crime Story Daily Highlights – Week 34

This is a curated selection of highlights from Crime Story Daily this week.

On the criminal justice policy front: A piece from The Intercept looks at the criminal justice reforms – decreasing prison and jail populations, improving conditions, and reducing new prosecutions of low-level nonviolent offenses – that are now being expedited due to the spread of coronavirus. Advocates have pushed for these reforms for decades; now, “swift changes from prosecutorial offices across the country raise the question: Why not earlier? And with those changes in place, can things go back to the way they were?” A piece from the Marshall Project explains why county jails are so important in the fight against coronavirus: with more than 200,000 people flowing into and out of jails every week, the spread of the virus poses great risks not only for the detained, but also for surrounding communities. A piece from the Atlantic makes the “public-safety case” for jail releases; and a piece from The Appeal challenges state governors and the president to use their authority to grant commutations and reprieves to people in prison. Lastly, a piece from Slate focuses on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to reverse the state’s new bail reform law, which, if it passes, could not only drastically increase the public’s exposure to COVID-19, but also doom the long-planned closure of the Rikers Island jail complex.

In muckraker/watchdog reporting: The Texas Tribune reports that as the coronavirus continues to spread in Texas’ two biggest county jails, Governor Greg Abbott has blocked the release of thousands of inmates, issuing an executive order that bars those accused or previously convicted of violent crimes from being released without paying bail; a piece from the Texas Observer argues that COVID-19 has “laid bare the fundamental inequalities that a cash bond system creates.” The Intercept reports that in New York, Rikers Island prisoners are being offered $6 an hour – a fortune by prison labor standards – and personal protective equipment if they agree to help dig mass graves. And a piece from the Trace highlights the dangerous combination of widespread economic strain, a surge in firearm sales, and shelter-in-place orders – an especially toxic mix for victims of domestic violence.

In complex crime storytelling: A piece from the New Republic focuses on the fatal police shooting of a ten-year-old boy in South Jamaica, Queens in 1973. In describing the incident, first to other cops and then in court, the two officers involved “vacillated between absolute certainty and extraordinary vagueness”: they were certain the “suspect” had been armed, certain they’d been compelled to shoot in self-defense, but on all other counts, they were “terrifically inexact.” Through the lens of this tragic case, the piece focuses on the “poisonous contradictions” of coptalk: the series of euphemisms, like “officer-involved shooting,” that serve to make obscure what could be clear, and that ultimately undermine the relationship between civilians and police.

And in culture/true crime: The New York Times takes a deep dive into Kim Kardashian West’s “prison-reform machine.” Over the past two years, the reality TV star has become an unlikely force in the world of criminal justice reform: she has successfully lobbied President Trump, spoken with governors and legislators, written letters in support of clemency petitions, and is even working towards a law degree. The piece examines the fraught relationship between Kardashian West’s two worlds, celebrity and activism, which combine in “Kim Kardashian West: The Justice Project,” a two-hour documentary airing this Sunday on Oxygen.  

Thursday April 2, 2020

Why There’s No National Lockdown Lawrence Gostin and Sarah Wetter, The Atlantic

Let People Out of Jail Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic

To flatten the curve, free some prisoners. Please. Piper Kerman, Washington Post

In a Pandemic, Poor Defendants Could Pay With Their Lives Amalia Beckner, Texas Observer

The Doubled Fears of the Undocumented During the Coronavirus Shutdown Charles Bethea, The New Yorker

Los Angeles Continued Prosecuting Low-Level Offenses Amid Coronavirus Crisis Jessica Schulberg, Huffington Post

California to release 3,500 inmates early as coronavirus spreads inside prisons Paige St. John, Los Angeles Times

A Rarely Used Power Could Free Prisoners in Pennsylvania. But the Governor Is Not Using It. Joshua Vaugh, The Appeal

Domestic Violence 911 Calls Are Increasing. Coronavirus Is Likely to Blame. Madison Pauly and Julia Lurie, Mother Jones

People Are Panic-Buying Untraceable ‘Ghost Guns’ Online in the Coronavirus Pandemic Tess Owen, Vice

Surging Gun Sales and Shelter in Place Orders Make a Dangerous Mix for Domestic Violence Ann Givens, The Trace

As Arrest Rates Fall, Police Focus on Quarantine Violators The Crime Report

Arlington judges second-guess their elected prosecutor for daring to challenge the status quo (Virginia) Editorial Board, Washington Post

How prison has shaped one artist’s view on social distancing Christopher Booker and Laura Fong, PBS

Records in 1946 Lynching Case Must Remain Sealed, Court Rules (Georgia) Neil Vigdor, New York Times

Series Mania: ‘La Garconne’ Puts Gender-Bender Spin on Period Crime Drama Ben Croll, Variety

Wednesday April 1, 2020

Why Jails Are So Important in the Fight Against Coronavirus Anna Flagg and Joseph Neff, The Marshall Project

Andrew Cuomo, Stop a Coronavirus Disaster: Release People From Prison Mary Bassett, Eric Gonzalez, and Darren Walker, New York Times

‘We’re Left for Dead’: Fears of Virus Catastrophe at Rikers Jail Jan Ransom and Alan Feuer, New York Times

People Are Bailing Out Inmates From New York City’s Biggest Jail, Where The Coronavirus Outbreak Is Skyrocketing Dominic Holden, BuzzFeed News

No going back on bail reform now: What was a bad idea before should be unthinkable during the coronavirus crisis Catalina Cruz, Michael Blake, Latrice Walker, and Jeffrion Aubry, New York Daily News

Rikers Island Prisoners Being Offered PPE and $6 an Hour to Dig Mass Graves Ryan Grim, The Intercept

LAPD preparing scenarios in which many officers are out sick from coronavirus Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times

Admissions to Illinois State Prisons Suspended, With Few Exceptions, Due to Coronavirus Joshua Lott, The Appeal

‘Group of Local Vigilantes’ Try to Forcibly Quarantine Out-of-Towners, Officials Say (Maine) Aimee Ortiz, New York Times

He Was Ordered to Self-Isolate. He Didn’t. Now He’s Facing Criminal Charges. (Illinois) Jodi S. Cohen, ProPublica

Fired Louisiana Prosecutor Had ‘Whites Only’ Sign In Property He Owned Jon Campbell, The Appeal

Once sentenced to life for his wife’s murder, Russell Faria to get $2M to settle lawsuit against police Robert Patrick, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Tuesday March 31, 2020

Monday March 30, 2020

Crime Story Daily Highlights – Week 33

This is a curated selection of highlights from Crime Story Daily this week.

On the criminal justice policy front: This week, COVID-19 has continued to dominate headlines, with the US displacing Italy and China as the new epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic. A piece from USA Today provides a broad overview of how the pandemic has upended our criminal justice system, from courts to policing to prisons and jails. A piece from Reason focuses on the scope of, and limits to, police powers during a pandemic. With more than half of all the confirmed cases in the country located in New York, a piece from the New York Times urges Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature to stand strong on bail reform. A piece from the New Yorker focuses on the state of New York’s prisons and jails, where the first confirmed coronavirus cases were reported last week. Meanwhile, authorities around the country are escalating efforts to scale back incarceration and reduce prison and jail populations. The New York Times reports that New Jersey will release as many as 1,000 inmates, while according to CBS News, approximately 1,700 inmates have already been released from Los Angeles County jails. And finally, a piece from the Crime Report asks whether COVID-19 can “force us to take criminal justice reform seriously.”

In muckraker/watchdog reporting: A piece from the New Republic focuses on the “pandemic economy” in American prisons. While prisons and jails across the country have moved swiftly to release inmates, ban family visitations, and adhere to social-distancing guidelines, prison work shifts have largely carried on uninterrupted. From manufacturing hand sanitizer in New York to processing chicken in North Carolina, incarcerated workers continue to face extreme risk for virtually no pay. And two pieces from the New York Times examine some of the less-reported side-effects of the coronavirus crisis. One focuses on the growing racism faced by Chinese-Americans, with verbal and physical attacks increasing as bigoted rhetoric around the “Chinese virus” spreads. The other looks at the dangerous implications of shelter-in-place and stay-at-home orders for victims of domestic violence.

In complex crime storytelling: A piece from The Nation focuses on the case of Michael White. White, a young black man working as a courier for Uber Eats, was charged with first-degree murder in the death of an older white real estate developer. Typically, “with a poor black defendant and a wealthy white victim, we know how this story ends.” But in 2018, in Larry Krasner-era Philadelphia, the story didn’t turn out that way: Krasner lowered the murder charge to voluntary manslaughter, and White was ultimately acquitted, serving only two years’ probation on a count of tampering with evidence. In the end, White “received the kind of legal justice that too many young black men have historically been denied.” And a piece from the Boston Globe Magazine looks back on the 1970 hijacking of a routine shuttle flight from Newark, New Jersey to Boston. In an era when “skyjackings” were so common that airlines seemed to treat them as “little more than a nuisance,” the hijacking of Flight 1320 would permanently change the way Americans fly.

And in culture/true crime: GQ reviews Tiger King, a new true-crime documentary series from Netflix. The show focuses on the wild world of big-cat collecting and private zoos, and the many outrageous characters who populate it. Tiger King revolves around a murder-for-hire plot, but the show differs from other true-crime fare in its subtle implication and indictment of the viewer: “the crime that’s happening is perpetrated by everyone… It’s not just one incident or a serial case—it’s a wide-scale problem.”

Wednesday March 25, 2020

Monday March 23, 2020

‘Complete chaos’: How the coronavirus pandemic is upending the criminal justice system Kristine Phillips, USA Today

Coronavirus makes jails and prisons potential death traps. That puts us all in danger Editorial Board, Los Angeles Times

Police Powers During a Pandemic: Constitutional, but Not Unlimited Damon Root, Reason

This Chart Shows Why The Prison Population Is So Vulnerable to COVID-19 Weihua Li and Nicole Lewis, The Marshall Project

Coronavirus Has Arrived at Rikers Island: Inside New York City Jails, Where the Pandemic Is Set to Explode Nick Pinto, The Intercept

A Rikers Island Doctor Speaks Out to Save Her Elderly Patients from the Coronavirus Jennifer Gonnerman, The New Yorker

In Prison, ‘Precautionary Quarantine’ is Just Another Name for Lockdown Tomas Keen, The Crime Report

As COVID-19 Spreads In South Florida, Miami-Dade Police Department Instructs Officers To Issue Citations For All Misdemeanor Offenses Jerry Iannelli, The Appeal

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stops another scheduled execution because of the coronavirus Jolie McCullough, Texas Tribune

Philly DA said death-row inmate is ‘likely innocent.’ Now his case is delayed by the coronavirus. Samantha Melamed, Philadelphia Inquirer

Despite Risk of Spreading Virus, Judges Continue to Impose Cash Bail in Pennsylvania Joshua Vaughn, The Appeal

North Carolina Prisoners Still Working in Chicken Plants, Despite Coronavirus Fears Joseph Neff, The Marshall Project

ICE Detainees Launch Hunger Strike Over Coronavirus Fears (New Jersey) Brendan O’Connor, The Appeal

Why Prosecutors Need to Understand the Impact of Trauma Shonna Carlson, The Crime Report

Crime Story Daily Highlights – Week 32

This is a curated selection of highlights from Crime Story Daily this week.

On the criminal justice policy front: This week, the news has been dominated by the outbreak of COVID-19, and what it means for courts, police, prisons, and the criminal justice as a whole. A piece by Emily Bazelon for the New York Times outlines the risks posed by the virus as some court systems proceed with business as usual. An op-ed in the Washington Post calls on government officials to “take immediate steps to limit the risk posed by mass confinement, including releasing those detained on bail, along with elderly prisoners who pose little danger to the public.” A piece from The Appeal explains why reducing prison and jail populations is key to “flattening the curve” of the outbreak; and a piece from the Marshall Project focuses on tracking prisons’ response to the virus. And from the New Yorker, a Q&A with epidemiologist Homer Venters, formerly the chief medical officer on Rikers Island, offers some guidance as to how prisons and jails around the country can act quickly to contain the virus’s spread.

In muckraker/watchdog reporting: A piece from the New York Times follows Julius Irving, an organizer based in Gainesville, Florida who works to register new voters. Many of the people he interacts with are formerly incarcerated, and share a deep mistrust of politicians and skepticism about becoming part of the political process – not to mention the logistical and bureaucratic hurdles they face in attempting to register. And a piece from The Atlantic focuses on “crime-free housing” programs, which make illegal activity by any resident or guest, anywhere near a rental property, grounds for eviction. Crime-free housing programs, the article argues, work well until they don’t, by putting landlords in close partnerships with police and allowing them to mete out punishments for crimes tenants may not have committed.

In complex crime storytelling: A piece from New York Magazine focuses on the murder of Tessa Majors, the Barnard College freshman who was killed last December while walking through a park near campus. When news came out that the main suspect was a 13-year-old boy, the murder immediately drew comparisons to the infamous Central Park Five case a generation before. But the differences between the two cases, and the way the community reacted to them, were also clearly apparent: now, the focus is on the system as a whole, on the troubled relationship between Columbia and Harlem, and on the failure of the NYPD to patrol the area more effectively. The piece outlines both the similarities and differences between the two, and what the story says about New York City today: “every generation, a crime tells a new story about New York. The murder of Tessa Majors is ours.” And a piece from The Atlantic focuses on the story of Jake Millison, a rancher from the rugged mountain town of Gunnison, Colorado. When Jake went missing in May of 2015, the local police didn’t think much of it; his family claimed that he had skipped town. But something didn’t sit right with Jake’s friends, who fought to make people pay attention – and to expose the family’s role in Jake’s mysterious disappearance.

And in culture/true crime: The New York Times offers a list of true-crime favorites – books, podcasts, movies and TV – to binge on while social-distancing.

Crime Story Daily Highlights – Week 31

This is a curated selection of highlights from Crime Story Daily this week.

On the criminal justice policy front: The New York Times reports that on Wednesday, Harvey Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison. The long sentence capped a precipitous fall from power for Weinstein and represented a substantive victory for the #MeToo movement brought about by his accusers. The Los Angeles Times reports that incumbent Jackie Lacey will most likely face a runoff in the race for Los Angeles County district attorney. According to the LA County registrar-recorder’s office, Lacey’s share of the vote currently sits at 49.94%; to win outright would require 50% plus one vote. If she does not meet that threshold, Lacey will face a November runoff with the second-place finisher. And this week, the Marshall Project, in conjunction with Slate, published a groundbreaking political survey of more than 8,000 prison and jail inmates across the country.

In muckraker/watchdog reporting: A piece from the Washington Post exposes the hypocrisy of lawmakers’ response to the outbreak of coronavirus: on Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that to combat shortages and price gouging, New York state would begin manufacturing its own hand sanitizer and distributing it to communities in need. The catch: it will be made by prison inmates, who “typically earn less than $1 an hour, have a heightened risk of contracting the virus and are forbidden from possessing hand sanitizer themselves. And a piece from the Outline dives deeper into the threat that coronavirus poses to American prisons, from the conditions of confinement to the lack of effective medical care.

In complex crime storytelling: A piece from The Lens focuses on the long and controversial career of Judge Frank Shea, who presided over criminal cases in New Orleans from 1963 until 1996. His time on the bench coincided with the war on drugs, increasingly punitive sentencing laws, and the rise of mass incarceration; during his career, Louisiana went from having the 13th highest incarceration rate in the nation to the second-highest. Shea, nicknamed “Speedy,” became infamous for rushing through trials, usually at the expense of defendants, many of whom are still locked up today. And a piece from Zora explains how a group of formerly incarcerated women in Atlanta led the fight to close a local jail and turn the site into a community space instead.  

And in culture/true crime: In a piece for the New York Times, veteran restaurant critic Jay Rayner explores our “peculiarly American fascination” with death row inmates’ last meals. A piece from Vanity Fair asks whether a rebooted Court TV can “surf the true-crime wave.” The network – which first gained prominence in the ‘90s with live courtroom coverage of the Menendez brothers and OJ Simpson – relaunched last spring amidst a surge of renewed interest in and scrutiny of the criminal justice system. With extensive live coverage, reenactments, and talking-head commentary of Harvey Weinstein’s trial in New York, and plans to do the same for Robert Durst’s trial in LA, Court TV hopes to bring increased transparency and access to the courtroom – and to cash in on the true-crime entertainment boom. And a piece from New York Magazine focuses on the women of “prison YouTube,” a niche but surprisingly popular subgenre of influencers who share their experiences of incarceration for online audiences in the millions.

Crime Story Daily Highlights – Week 30

This is a curated selection of highlights from Crime Story Daily this week.

On the criminal justice policy front: A piece from the New Yorker looks at the national movement to restore voting rights to convicted felons who have served their sentences, and at the quieter, less-publicized fight to expand voting rights for current prisoners. Currently, forty-eight states impose either severe restrictions or an outright ban on voting from prison; only Maine and Vermont extend the franchise to all incarcerated citizens. The article questions why the expansion of these rights remains such a tough political sell, even among the most progressive candidates. And a piece from the New York Times asks 2020 Democratic presidential candidates – all of whom are united in seeking a “major overhaul” of the criminal justice system – which changes they would prioritize first. The results reveal a “wholesale shift from previous election cycles, in terms of both specific policies and the lens through which the candidates discuss the issue. It also provides an unusually clear picture of how they would go about accomplishing what they say they want to accomplish.”

In muckraker/watchdog reporting: A piece from the Appeal investigates a still-unfolding scandal in Orange County, California, where sheriff’s deputies have been accused of mishandling evidence on a “staggering” scale. Two internal audits conducted by the Orange County sheriff’s department – and then kept secret for months – uncovered a pattern of filing false reports that could potentially call into question thousands of convictions.  

In complex crime storytelling: A piece from Philadelphia Magazine revisits the case of Cosmo DiNardo, who was convicted of murdering four young men in July 2017 in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, in a crime so brutal it generated international headlines. The article explores in detail Cosmo’s transformation from “model son,” a “good-looking kid with a promising future,” to convicted murderer, beginning with his descent into increasingly severe – and increasingly mishandled – mental illness. And a piece from the Intercept focuses on the case of Claude Garrett, a Tennessee man who was convicted of first-degree felony murder in 1993 after a house fire claimed the life of his fiancé. Garrett, who was sentenced to life in prison, maintains that the fire was accidental; expert fire investigators have long supported his claims of innocence, arguing that his conviction rests on “junk science” and debunked myths. Now, with a TV special reexamining the fire set to air soon, and an application to the Davidson County District Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit pending in Nashville, Garrett’s case may soon get the second look it deserves.  

And in culture/true crime: The New York Post reviews “Forensic Files II,” a new reboot of the popular HLN docuseries that aired from 1996 to 2011. The show explores true-crime stories in a 30-minute “whodunit” format. And The Verge reviews “McMillions,” HBO’s new documentary miniseries about the McDonald’s Monopoly game scam that occurred between 1989 and 2001.

Friday March 6, 2020

Wednesday March 4, 2020

Quandary for 2020 Democrats: Which Criminal Justice Changes Get Priority? Maggie Astor, New York Times

This race could be a bellwether for the future of prosecution Harry Litman, Washington Post

LA’s First Black District Attorney Is Battling for Reelection. Black Activists Want Her Out. Samantha Michaels, Mother Jones

This DA Election Could Bring a Big Change in How Austin, Texas Treats Drug Addiction Kira Lerner, The Appeal

Why the Weinstein Jury Decided to Convict: Inside the Deliberations Jan Ransom, Sharon Otterman, and Laura Dimon, New York Times

In the US criminal justice system, algorithms help officials make better decisions, our research finds Zhiyuan Lin, Jongbin Jung, Sharad Goel, and Jennifer Skeem, Washington Post

A DC judge issues a much-needed opinion on ‘junk science’ Radley Balko, Washington Post

Colorado still allows killers to use gay or transgender “panic” defenses. But the strategy could soon be outlawed. Jesse Paul, Colorado Sun

Barnard College Slay Trial to Examine What Teen Suspect Understands Ben Chapman and Leslie Brody, Wall Street Journal

NYPD’s most-sued officers: 87 lawsuits filed against 14 cops in just two years Graham Rayman, New York Daily News

Maryland to pay more than $8.7 million to three men recently exonerated in Baltimore student’s death in 1983 Luke Broadwater, Baltimore Sun

The Untold Tale of Cosmo DiNardo’s Descent Into Murder and Madness Ralph Cipriano, Philadelphia Magazine

A police officer’s lie unraveled after a Seattle man took his own life. This is how it happened. Daniel Beekman, Seattle Times

Tuesday March 3, 2020

Monday March 2, 2020

Crime Story Daily Highlights – Week 29

This is a curated selection of highlights from Crime Story Daily this week.

On the criminal justice policy front: This week, Harvey Weinstein was found guilty of two felony sex crimes in New York. A piece from the New York Times provides a broad overview of the case and trial; while a piece from New York Magazine breaks down the jury’s verdict, including the differences between first- and third-degree rape and between rape and predatory sexual assault. And the Washington Examiner reports that this week, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed legislation that will expand parole opportunities for inmates who were imprisoned as juveniles, including those serving life sentences. The law has been hailed as a landmark piece of legislation that “gives an opportunity for youths who have committed serious crimes and repented a future opportunity for social redemption.”

In muckraker/watchdog reporting: A piece from The Intercept focuses on the backlash against criminal justice reform in New York, led by a coalition of police leaders, prosecutors, and Republican lawmakers.

In complex crime storytelling: A piece from the New Yorker examines the case of Eric Smokes and David Warren, both of whom were sent to prison as teenagers in 1987 for the murder of a French tourist in Manhattan. Both have consistently maintained their innocence; they argue that, like the Central Park Five two years later, their arrest “resulted from police investigation conducted under public and political pressure to hold someone responsible.” The article details their fight, decades later, to challenge their convictions and clear their names. And a piece from Rolling Stone focuses on Anthony Montwheeler, an Oregon man who stands accused of murdering his ex-wife. Montwheeler’s story rests at the intersection of criminal justice and mental illness, demonstrating the challenges inherent for both doctors and judges in evaluating a person’s state of mind.

And in culture/true crime: A new episode of The Appeal’s podcast “Justice in America” focuses on police accountability and “why it’s so hard for the criminal justice system to hold police accountable.”

Crime Story Daily Highlights – Week 28

This is a curated selection of highlights from Crime Story Daily this week.

On the criminal justice policy front: A piece from the Huffington Post takes a deep dive into Los Angeles County’s contentious district attorney race. Los Angeles is the second largest city in the country; it accounts for almost a third of California’s incarcerated population. LA’s next DA will likely set the pace for criminal justice reform throughout the state and potentially across the country. On that note, USA Today reports that this week, incumbent DA Jackie Lacey moved to dismiss nearly 66,000 marijuana convictions in Los Angeles County. Lacey’s office partnered with the nonprofit Code for America, which created an algorithm that identifies convictions eligible to be dismissed under Proposition 64, the ballot measure that legalized recreational marijuana in California in 2016.

In muckraker/watchdog reporting: A piece from the New York Times by Charles Blow examines Michael Bloomberg’s legacy as mayor of New York City and the lasting harm done by stop-and-frisk to the city’s minority communities. As recently resurfaced speeches reveal, Bloomberg’s justifications for the policy were blatantly and explicitly racist; he spoke candidly about “ninety-five percent of murderers” fitting the same description – “they are male, minorities, 16 to 25” – and about “minority neighborhoods” being “where all the crime is.” Blow writes that “what Bloomberg did as mayor amounted to a police occupation of minority neighborhoods, a terroristic pressure campaign, with little evidence that it was accomplishing the goal of sustained, long-term crime reduction.”  

In complex crime storytelling: A short-form documentary from The Marshall Project, “Anatomy of Hate,” revisits the 2015 shootings of three Muslim college students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, by their white neighbor Craig Hicks. The case made headlines around the world, sparking widespread outrage among Muslims when police labeled the killings a “parking dispute” rather than a bias-motivated attack. Five years later, the film examines the legal definition a “hate crime,” centering the question of whether the Chapel Hill murders meet that definition. And a piece from The Appeal focuses on the case of Tony Carruthers, a Tennessee man who was sentenced to death in 1996 on three counts of first-degree murder. After going through six court-appointed attorneys in two years, Carruthers was refused a seventh and forced to represent himself. If the state follows through on his execution, Carruthers’s case would be historic: “he would be the first person in nearly a century to be put to death after being forced to represent himself at trial.”

And in culture/true crime: The Los Angeles Times reviews “Yellow Bird,” a new book by Sierra Crane Murdoch that follows one woman’s investigation into the mysterious death of a North Dakota truck driver. That woman is Lissa Yellow Bird, a member of the MHA Nation Native American tribe located on central North Dakota’s Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. The truck driver was Kristopher Clarke, who disappeared in 2012 at the height of an oil boom that swept the reservation into a frenzy of activity. Crane’s account of Yellow Bird’s obsessive search for the killer is “ambitious and vast, encompassing tribal politics and family histories, trips to look for a corpse and catfishing text exchanges with a suspect.” And the Texas Observer interviews Alec Karakatsanis, a public defender-turned-civil rights lawyer whose new book of essays, “Usual Cruelty,” critiques “the blindness of his own profession, arguing that lawyers inside the criminal justice system – now desensitized to its everyday brutality – have largely helped preserve an architecture of injustice and cruelty.”

Crime Story Daily Highlights – Week 27

This is a curated selection of highlights from Crime Story Daily this week.

On the criminal justice policy front: As the intense backlash against New York’s controversial new bail law continues, the New York Post reports that State Senate Democrats have held a series of closed-door meetings seeking to find a compromise. A new proposal backed by Governor Cuomo would entirely eliminate cash bail, but return judges’ leeway to hold suspects before trial. A piece from Slate focuses on the electoral success of criminal justice reform in the affluent suburbs of northern Virginia, where progressive prosecutors swept Democratic primary and general elections in November 2019. As American suburbs have become increasingly diverse in recent decades, the stereotype of “small-minded, cautious suburbanites” has come to seem out of date; as the Virginia prosecutors’ elections show, the traditional law-and-order rhetoric and fear-of-crime campaigns designed to thwart reform in suburban areas may no longer carry the same weight.

In muckraker/watchdog reporting: A piece from Washington Monthly focuses on Attorney General William Barr’s continued attacks on reformist prosecutors, whom he has repeatedly lambasted as “soft on crime.” Earlier this week, Barr’s Justice Department stepped in to overrule its own prosecutors’ sentencing recommendation in the case of Trump crony Roger Stone, who has been convicted of lying to Congress, witness tampering, and obstructing a congressional investigation. The piece highlights the hypocrisy inherent in this contrast between Barr’s stance on progressive prosecutors and his leniency towards Stone.

In complex crime storytelling: A piece from Rolling Stone focuses on the case of Rob Will, who was sentenced to death nearly 20 years ago for the murder of a sheriff’s deputy in Harris County, Texas. Will’s trial and subsequent appeals were marred by errors, questionable testimony, and dubious tactics; yet despite considerable evidence supporting his innocence, federal procedural rules may bar him from a new trial.

And in culture/true crime: The Los Angeles Times reviews “Prison Truth,” a new book by the pioneering journalist William J. Drummond. Since 2012, Drummond has been an adviser to the San Quentin News, a newspaper published by inmates of California’s San Quentin State Prison. The book chronicles Drummond’s own story, along with “the remarkable efforts by San Quentin Prison inmates to document their circumstances — and in so doing, achieve rehabilitation through introspection and expression.” And Salon interviews the co-directors of Netflix’s new true-crime docuseries “The Pharmacist,” which recounts a father’s fight to solve the murder of his son. Previous docuseries from the duo have focused on Kalief Browder and Trayvon Martin.

Thursday February 13, 2020