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The First L.A. District Attorney Debate: Urgent, Passionate and Incomplete

Last night, the first Candidate Debate for the 2020 Los Angeles District Attorney race, held at the California African American Museum, attracted a standing room only crowd...

The First L.A. District Attorney Debate: Urgent, Passionate and Incomplete

Last night, the first Candidate Debate for the 2020 Los Angeles District Attorney race, held at the California African American Museum, attracted a standing room only crowd...

The Six Pack

The following stories are the same: 1. A family of three had moved to a small house in the woods...

How Is a Plea a Bargain?

“Horse trading determines who goes to jail and for how long. That’s what plea bargaining is. It is not some adjunct to...

Felon-omics

You’re driving your car at night, going a cool 35mph in a 25mph zone on a residential street. The streetlights are sparse. The...

Crime Story Daily Highlights – Week 18

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

On the criminal justice policy front: a new piece from the Marshall Project explores the role that violent offenders play in debates over mass incarceration and criminal justice reform. Although there is a broad political consensus around releasing more nonviolent offenders from prison and easing the sentencing laws that put them there, no such consensus exists when it comes to those convicted of “violent” crimes.

In muckraker/watchdog reporting: a new piece from the Atlantic examines the case of Derrick Clay, a Colorado man who was arrested in 2017. Clay had previously been diagnosed with psychosis and probable bipolar disorder; the judge deemed him mentally incompetent to stand trial, and he was sent to receive “competency-restoration services” at a state psychiatric hospital. But the hospital had no beds available, and Clay was put in jail instead, where he would remain for 55 days with no psychiatric treatment. Clay’s case is not an anomaly: across the US, thousands of people who “should be placed in mental-health facilities for treatment are instead detained in jail for unconstitutionally long periods – sometimes months –before they have been convicted or even tried for any crime.” And the Washington Post reports on a South Florida shootout that left four people dead, including a hostage and a 70-year-old bystander, after dozens of police officers opened fire on a hijacked UPS truck hemmed in by rush-hour traffic at a busy intersection. The case has raised questions about the officers’ response and fed into national debates around police tactics and the use of deadly force.

In complex crime storytelling: a piece from Longreads explores the case of Cody Eyre, a 20-year-old Alaskan Native who was shot and killed by police officers on Christmas Eve 2017. Cody was having a mental health crisis, felt suicidal and had a gun; his mother called 911 hoping that police would help deescalate the situation and calm him down. Instead, the opposite happened, and the night ended in tragedy. Almost two years later, Cody’s family still has questions about what exactly happened, and why: “Why is it that police are the first responders to mental health calls? In this case, why did they respond to someone going through a mental health crisis with deadly force?”. And a three-part story from the New Orleans Lens revisits the case of Erin Hunter, who was tried and convicted of murder in Louisiana in 1987. His case has long raised questions about police misconduct and poor defense lawyering – questions that, even three decades later, remain relevant today.

And in culture/true crime: the Guardian reviews “The Confession Killer,” a new series from Netflix that revisits the story of Henry Lee Lucas. In the mid-1980s, Lucas rose to infamy after falsely confessing to the murders of more than 600 women. Many of the cases had been botched or under-investigated, and Lucas’s handlers, the Texas Rangers, were happy to accept easily obtained, low-evidence confessions in exchange for the widespread acclaim that came with “catching” a prolific serial killer. Forty years later, the series attempts to finally parse fact from fiction and to explore the larger environment that fostered Lucas’s lies. And a piece from the Columbia Journalism Review examines the NYPD’s new podcast Break in the Case, as well as the broader questions it raises around journalistic integrity and transparency in true-crime reporting.

Paul Butler Reads: The Promise and Failure of “Queen & Slim”

Black protest – especially against police violence – scares some people.    The Attorney General of the United States, for example, does not think the police should be criticized.  Last week William Barr issued a  threat:  if certain communities don’t start showing the police “support and respect” they “might find themselves without the police protection they need.”   In an earlier speech to the Fraternal Order of Police, Barr claimed “the anti-police narrative is fanning disrespect...

RightWay Youth: Ernesto’s Story

A significant aspect of CRIME STORY’s mission is to draw attention to programs that have demonstrated success in helping stem the tide of over-incarceration. As part of that mission, we published The RightWay To Shut Off the Foster Care to Prison Pipeline by Sean Smith. That piece told the story of how the RightWay Foundation — based in Los Angeles — is working to address the core reasons why 25% of California’s recently emancipated foster youth are incarcerated within two years of emancipation. (This has become known as the Foster Care To Prison Pipeline.)  As a critical part of these efforts, the RightWay Foundation provides therapy for these youth to help them process their trauma and reclaim the narratives of their lives. In Sean’s piece, CRIME STORY and the RightWay Foundation announced the launch of a unique creative collaboration. Building off of their therapy efforts, and working closely with CRIME STORY journalists, a self-selected group of RightWay youth will craft narratives about their experiences in and out of the foster care system. These accounts will be published on the CRIME STORY website periodically.  This is one of those accounts; This...