This is a curated selection of highlights from Crime Story Daily this week.
On the criminal justice policy front: In honor of Thanksgiving, a new piece from the Washington Post highlights the cruel irony of pardoning turkeys for the cameras when nearly 14,000 federal inmates await long-overdue outcomes on backlogged clemency petitions.
In muckraker/watchdog reporting: a piece from the New York Times focuses on the widening “tech gap” between prosecutors and public defenders, which can make it exceedingly difficult for underfunded public defenders’ offices to effectively represent their clients in court. And a piece from the New Republic examines the rural prison-building boom that has put up 29 new state and federal prisons in Appalachia over the past 30 years. In deindustrialized economies hit hard by the decline of coal, prison construction projects bolstered by punitive sentencing policy have benefitted elected officials and their “cronies” in private industry at local communities’ expense.
In complex crime storytelling: a new piece from Rolling Stone outlines the case of R&B singer Jimmy Dennis, who was wrongfully convicted of capital murder in 1992 and spent the next 25 years of his life on death row. After a decades-long legal battle, the case against Jimmy, fueled by police and prosecutorial misconduct, finally fell apart, and in 2017 he left prison a free man. And a piece from Vox examines the story of Grace Millane, a 21-year-old woman who was murdered in rural New Zealand in December 2018. After the man accused of killing her argued in court that she died accidentally during “violent sex,” media outlets around the world zeroed in on the victim’s alleged interest in BDSM, reducing their coverage of the case to “salacious clickbait.” “It’s part of a bigger patter,” the author writes, “in which female crime victims are treated as though they’re guilty of something, with the media and the public digging through their past for damaging details, or simply speculating about them based on who they are.”
And in culture/true crime: a piece from the New Republic explores the so-called “My Favorite Murder problem”: how can we discuss true crime stories without buying into outdated or oversimplified ideas about law enforcement and justice? As the author puts it, “the stories we tell about crime and how to stop it prop up a system that is often as much about maintaining fantasies of social order as it is about implementing real justice.” And New York Magazine reviews the new PBS docuseries College Behind Bars, which focuses on Bard College’s Bard Prison Initiative. The program provides a rigorous liberal arts education to more than 300 incarcerated men and women across New York state.