This is a curated selection of highlights from Crime Story Daily this week.
On the criminal justice policy front: a piece from the Philadelphia Inquirer details Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner’s plan to drop low-level drug charges in favor of addiction treatment. And from The Intercept, a comprehensive look at capital cases in active death penalty jurisdictions since 1976 reveals that “capital punishment remains as ‘arbitrary and capricious’ as ever.”
In muckraker/watchdog reporting: a new piece from ProPublica and the New York Times Magazine details the story of Paul Skalnik, a career criminal with a history of lying and fraud and “one of the most prolific jailhouse informants in US history.” Decades of collaboration with successive Florida prosecutors brought Skalnik favorable sentencing treatment in exchange for dramatic – although not necessarily true – courtroom testimony that has sent dozens of defendants to jail, and four to death row. And an investigation from The Intercept found that it is surprisingly easy – much easier than it should be – to qualify as an “expert” fingerprint examiner. In recent years, the reliability of forensic science as evidence has been called into question, but judges still widely allow fingerprint experts to testify in court after passing absurdly easy “proficiency tests.” As a result, jury verdicts that send defendants to prison are often influenced by largely debunked “junk science.”
In complex crime storytelling: a piece from the New Yorker from May 1996 details the murder of Harvard University junior Trang Ho by her roommate, Sinedu Tadesse. The story dominated national headlines at the time, and more than two decades later, questions continue to swirl around the case. And in an essay for the Boston Globe, Deanna Pan recounts the story of her rape and the subsequent feelings of guilt, regret, and shame that burden so many survivors of sexual assault.
And in culture/true crime: the Los Angeles Times reviews “After Parkland,” a new documentary that follows survivors of the horrific mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida as they attempt to cope with and find meaning in the tragedy. And a new podcast from the Arizona Republic focuses on the life and murder of Don Bolles, an investigative reporter who spent years working to expose corruption in Phoenix’s racing industry.