This is a curated selection of highlights from Crime Story Daily this week:
On the criminal justice policy front: The Washington Post had a preview of a pair of highly consequential criminal justice cases that are before The Supreme Court as it opens its new term. One deals with the question of whether a jury’s verdict must be unanimous; the other with whether or not states must allow an insanity defense for criminal defendants. Slate writes that the Court appears poised to outlaw split jury verdicts in both state and federal court, “abolishing a legal aberration that subordinates the power of minority jurors.” A piece from the New Yorker explores the contentious race for San Francisco district attorney.
Meanwhile San Francisco’s DA, George Gascón, a long-time reformer and critic of mass incarceration, resigned from that position to challenge Los Angeles DA Jackie Lacey, who has taken a “tough line” on crime, sending people to prison at a rate far higher than in San Francisco. A New York Times piece profiles both candidates, exploring how their formative experiences in 1980s Los Angeles shaped their opposing views on criminal justice, and examining the lasting implications of the fate of criminal justice reform in California and beyond.
On the muckraker/watchdog front: a new analysis by the Los Angeles Times found that LAPD officers search black and Latino drivers far more often than whites during traffic stops, even though white drivers are more likely to be found with illegal items. Also, there were some follow up stories on the trial of former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger, which concluded last week with a murder conviction and ten-year sentence for Guyger. The Washington Post spoke with two people who served on Guyger’s jury and offered insight into the group’s struggle to reach an equitable sentence for the murder of Botham Jean.
In complex crime storytelling: the New York Times reports that after years of painstaking investigation, the FBI confirmed on Sunday that Samuel Little, now 79 years old, is the most prolific known serial killer in American history. Mr. Little has confessed to 93 murders, 50 of which the FBI has verified thus far. The agency said in a statement that it believes “all of his confessions are credible.” Texas Ranger James Holland tells “60 Minutes” how he got Little to finally confess to his crimes. And in a new piece for The Atlantic, Jack Goldsmith, a legal scholar and the stepson of Charles “Chuckie” O’Brien, for many years a prime suspect in the sudden disappearance and presumed death of labor leader Jimmy Hoffa, reflects on his family’s experiences of the investigation and the ways in which decades of government surveillance have impacted their lives.
And in culture/true crime: new work by the artist and photographer Nigel Poor –known for co-creating the popular podcast Ear Hustle – seeks to make visible the culture, history, and people of San Quentin State Prison, a minimum-maximum facility on northwest San Francisco Bay that houses more than 4,000 prisoners, including over 700 men on death row. And in a new essay for NBC News, regular CRIME STORY Contributors Amanda Knox and Christopher Robinson examine and critiques the culture’s current true crime moment, weighing the importance of telling true-crime stories like her own against the moral complications of packaging real people’s trauma into binge-able mass entertainment.