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.