Crime Story Daily Highlights – Week 24

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.

Wednesday January 22, 2020

Ten Years After “The New Jim Crow” David Remnick, The New Yorker

Mass Incarceration, Then and Now David Remnick, The New Yorker Radio Hour

Two men are in prison for the same Florida murder. One may be innocent. He also may be executed. Dan Sullivan, Tampa Bay Times

Weinstein Jury Has Only 2 White Women as Prosecutors Protest Jan Ransom, New York Times

Facebook, Twitter hold evidence that could save people from prison. And they’re not giving it up Megan Cassidy, San Francisco Chronicle

Tear-Gas Grenades and ‘Qualified Immunity’ Robert McNamara, Wall Street Journal

The Secretive Company That Might End Privacy as We Know It Kashmir Hill, New York Times

Mississippi man gets 12 years in prison for possessing a cellphone in county jail Minyvonne Burke, NBC News

LAPD gang-framing scandal could have ripple effect on criminal cases Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times

Former LA County Sheriff Lee Baca must report to prison by Feb. 5, judge rules Alex Wigglesworth, Los Angeles Times

NJ Gov. Signs Law Granting Non-Violent Offenders Early Parole Eligibility Andrea Cipriano, The Crime Report

Armed man’s fatal shooting by Texas troopers after chase shows difference in police pursuit policies Cassandra Jaramillo, Dallas Morning News

A chance encounter, a high-speed chase: How police caught the alleged Springfield kidnapper Dugan Arnett and Gal Tziperman Lotan, Boston Globe

Eminem Slips Into the Mind of the Las Vegas Shooter Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic

Decades After Two Murders, an Appalachian Town Grapples With the Crimes Melissa Del Bosque, New York Times

Crime Story Daily Highlights – Week 23

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

On the criminal justice policy front: A piece from the New Republic by Melissa Gira Grant looks at New York’s recent bail reforms, as well as the reaction against them. In 2019, reform advocates managed to win significant changes to New York’s bail system, including an end to cash bail for most misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies. In response, politicians, prosecutors, and police union officials who oppose the reforms have launched an all-out backlash campaign based on law-and-order rhetoric, false equivalencies, and dog-whistling. Cash bail was never about safety, Grant writes: “The reaction against bail reform exposes the lie of the old system: It was always about money.” And the Washington Post reports that Steve Descano, the commonwealth’s attorney for Fairfax County, Virginia, announced this week that he will no longer prosecute adults for simple marijuana possession. Descano, a Democrat, was elected in November along with a number of other “progressive” prosecutors in what has been called a “sea change” for criminal justice reform in Northern Virginia.

In muckraker/watchdog reporting: A piece from the New Yorker looks at “the trouble with crime statistics”: the metrics by which we track and measure crime, often the basis for important policy decisions, are imperfect and highly subjective. As one sheriff put it, “We do not have a good mechanism in place for tracking why a person commits crime.” And a piece from the Vera Institute of Justice examines the economics behind rural prison building, an industry that the federal government has been quietly fueling since the 1980s.   

In complex crime storytelling: The New Yorker outlines the story of Brittany Smith, an Alabama woman who stands accused of murdering the man she says raped her. Brittany was jailed, denied her medications, and kept from her children; the former cop assigned to represent her advised that she plead guilty to manslaughter, which would carry a prison sentence of up to twenty years. Brittany refused, and is asserting a stand-your-ground defense instead. And the San Francisco Chronicle examines the case of Leola Shreves, a 94-year-old woman who was brutally murdered in 2013 in her home in Yuba City, California. Police quickly narrowed in on a convenient suspect: Leola’s neighbor Michael Alexander, who was ultimately tricked into falsely confessing to the crime. Alexander spent three years in pretrial detention before prosecutors, acknowledging that they had no physical evidence linking him to the crime, decided not to try him. Six years later, DNA testing would lead police to Leola’s actual killer.

And in culture/true crime: Rolling Stone reports that “The Murder Squad,” a podcast that aims to help solve cold cases by asking listeners to “pitch in” on investigation, scored its first “breakthrough” this week: a listener’s DNA, uploaded into the DNA database GEDmatch at the Murder Squad’s suggestion, helped lead to the arrest of James Curtis Clanton, now a suspect in the 1980 killing of a 21-year-old woman. And the Boston Globe reviews “Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez,” a three-part series from Netflix that chronicles the former New England Patriots star’s journey from childhood to the maximum security prison where he ended his own life in 2017.