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.