Tuesday November 19, 2019

Crime Story Daily Highlights – Week 14

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

On the criminal justice policy front: recently, progressive prosecutors seeking to combat mass incarceration and transform the criminal justice system have won elections in San Francisco, Dallas, Philadelphia, Boston, Northern Virginia, and around the country. A new piece from the Washington Post explores the opposition these prosecutors are facing from judges, police unions, and lawmakers who seek to thwart systemic change and preserve the status quo.

In muckraker/watchdog reporting: the case of Rodney Reed, who is scheduled to be executed in Texas on November 20, has received widespread attention and news coverage in recent weeks. Celebrities from Kim Kardashian to Oprah to Dr. Phil have spoken out in support of Reed’s claims of innocence, and numerous law enforcement officers and politicians have called for the execution to be halted. A new piece from The Intercept outlines the details of the case, from the doubts around Reed’s initial conviction to the flood of new evidence pointing to his innocence. And a piece from The Marshall Project explains why “legal standards designed to promote finality at the expense of accuracy in capital cases” make it so difficult for death row prisoners to present new evidence of innocence. And a six-month investigation by a coalition of news organizations, coordinated by the Bay Area News Group and the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley, found that more than 80 law enforcement officers currently working in California are convicted criminals. After DUI and other serious driving offenses, domestic violence was the most common charge. But due to some of the weakest laws in the country punishing police misconduct, and some of the strictest secrecy laws, it is impossible to know exactly how many of California’s 79,000 sworn officers may have criminal convictions, or what exactly they may have done.

In complex crime storytelling: fifty years ago, before the term “serial killer” had come into use, a string of murders terrorized people in Michigan, made headlines across the country, and set off a frantic investigation by a half-dozen law enforcement agencies. John Norman Collins, an unlikely suspect, was eventually tried and convicted of one of the murders, but doubts continued to swirl around the case. A new in-depth investigation by the Detroit Free Press, based on hundreds of historical newspaper articles and police photographs as well as never-before-published letters and interviews, reexamines the cases in light of new details and evidence that may implicate other potential suspects. And a piece from Slate looks back at the case of Ronald Ray Howard, a Texas man who shot and killed a highway patrolman in 1992. At Howard’s sentencing, his defense attorney argued that rap music – Tupac in particular – had gotten into his client’s head and made him snap.

And in culture/true crime: Elle Magazine profiles Laura Beil, the veteran medical reporter-turned-true crime podcaster behind Wondery’s wildly popular Dr. Death.

And a new piece from The AV Club discusses the enduring legacy of Serial, the true-crime podcast that launched both podcasting and true crime into the popular culture.

Thursday November 14, 2019

Hate-Crime Violence Hits 16-Year High, FBI Reports Adeel Hassan, New York Times

Hundreds of victims’ relatives, ex-officials ask Trump administration to halt federal executions Mark Berman, Washington Post

What I Think About When I Think About Freedom John J. Lennon, The Marshall Project

Can Restorative Justice Go Mainstream? Lauren Sonnenberg, The Crime Report

As execution nears, co-defendant says condemned man likely isn’t killer (Georgia) Joshua Sharpe, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

He was one of the first prisoners released under Trump’s criminal justice reform law. Now he’s accused of murder. David Shortell and Jason Carroll, CNN

As prosecutors take larger role in reversing wrongful convictions, Philadelphia DA exonerates 10 men wrongly imprisoned for murder Tom Jackman, Washington Post

Can The Right Superintendent Fix What’s Wrong With Policing In Chicago? Chip Mitchell and Patrick Smith, WBEZ

Former public defender Rachel Rossi latest to enter crowded LA County DA’s race James Queally, Los Angeles Times

Audit: Inmates granted parole remain behind bars for longer over housing issues (Nevada) Riley Snyder, The Nevada Independent

Marijuana smell from cars is the least of the Philadelphia Police Department’s problems Editorial Board, Philadelphia Inquirer

Never-before-published letters, interviews offer clues in infamous Michigan murders Frank Witsil, Detroit Free Press

How Bad Batch’s Laura Beil Became The Voice Of True Crime Podcasting Rose Minutaglio, Elle

How Octavia Spencer’s Truth Be Told tackles true crime and ‘wild West’ journalism Joey Nolfi and Patrick Gomez, Entertainment Weekly

Tuesday November 12, 2019

Progressive lawyer wins San Francisco district attorney race, continuing national reform trend Derek Hawkins, Washington Post

New SF DA Chesa Boudin wants to transform system: ‘A lot of work to be done’ Evan Sernoffsky, San Francisco Chronicle

Texas Prepares to Execute Rodney Reed Amid a Flood of New Evidence Pointing to His Innocence Jordan Smith, The Intercept

New DNA Evidence Likely Exonerates a Texas Death Row Inmate. The Government Won’t Test It. Billy Binion, Reason

‘A Proud Day’: Ex-Felons Clear Final Hurdle to Vote (Florida) Patricia Mazzei, New York Times

California’s Criminal Cops: Who they are, what they did, why some are still working Robert Lewis, David Debolt, Jason Paladino, Katey Rusch, Laurence du Sault and Ali Defazio, Mercury News/Bay Area News Group

Child Abusers Run Rampant as Tech Companies Look the Other Way Michael Keller and Gabriel Dance, New York Times

Deadly consequences: Murder case exposes a system’s failings (Georgia) Alan Judd, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

How Did They Run an Elaborate “Sextortion” Scam From Prison? Cellphones. Joseph Darius Jaafari, The Marshall Project

ICE may circumvent California’s ban on private immigrant detention centers Andrea Castillo, Los Angeles Times

The U visa is supposed to help protect immigrants and solve crimes. But police are undermining it Laura Morel, Reveal

Categorical Mistakes: The Flawed Framework of the Armed Career Criminal Act and Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Rachel Barkow, Harvard Law Review  

The Moment Tupac Became America’s Most Dangerous Rapper Joel Anderson, Slate

Indiana will pay inmate $100k for each year he spent in solitary, lawyers say Crystal Hill, Indianapolis Star

Crime Story Daily Highlights – Week 13

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

On the criminal justice policy front: the Washington Post reports that on Tuesday, voters in Northern Virginia turned out to elect an “unprecedented” swath of reformer prosecutors. Four candidates running on explicitly progressive, anti-mass incarceration platforms won races for commonwealth’s attorney offices in Fairfax, Arlington, Loudoun, and Prince William counties – among the most populous in the state. Their wins have been called a “sea change” for Northern Virginia and beyond, as the elections will likely push the Virginia state prosecutor’s association to the left on issues ranging from the death penalty to cash bail to cooperation with immigration authorities. And Vox reports that Kentucky’s new governor-elect, Democrat Andy Beshear, is poised to sign an executive order that would restore voting rights to at least some people with felony records after they’ve served their sentences. Kentucky has one of the strictest felony disenfranchisement laws in the country, banning ex-felons from voting for life. Beshear’s executive order would potentially increase the state’s voter rolls by more than 100,000.

In muckraker/watchdog reporting: a new investigation by the New York Times has found that alcohol breath tests, a “linchpin of the criminal justice system,” are often unreliable. The machines are highly sensitive and require careful calibration and upkeep in order to work properly; the investigation found that due to human error, lax oversight, and improper maintenance, the tests often yield skewed results. The consequences of the legal system’s reliance on breath tests are far-reaching: “People are wrongfully convicted based on dubious evidence… And when flaws are discovered, the solution has been to discard the results — letting potentially dangerous drivers off the hook.” And in a new piece for The Atlantic, John J. Lennon examines the lasting impacts of the 1994 crime bill, which has prevented many incarcerated people from pursuing higher education while behind bars, creating “a culture of ignorance, violence, and hopelessness.”

In complex crime storytelling: a new piece from The Atlantic looks at the case of Ganave Fairley, a longtime resident of San Francisco’s Potrero Hill neighborhood who was captured on video stealing Amazon packages left on neighbors’ porches. Photos of Fairley, taken from video surveillance apps like Ring or Nest, were posted “Wanted”-style on Nextdoor, where they blew up as evidence of San Francisco’s “out of control” property crime rates. The story highlights the complexities of race and class relations in a liberal, rapidly gentrifying city that is home to both extreme poverty and extreme wealth.

And in culture/true crime: the New York Times profiles Christina Randall, a YouTube creator who talks candidly about life behind bars and the challenges of re-entry with her 400,000 subscribers. In addition to sharing prison beauty hacks – coffee grounds as mascara, Dorito dust as lipstick – Randall has also explained the “unspoken rules of prison” and interviewed a former correctional officer about corruption among prison guards. Overall, her videos offer an “empathetic, first-person perspective on incarceration.” And The Marshall Project reviews “Texas Jailhouse Music,” a new book that explores the “Golden Age of prison radio.”