This is a curated selection of highlights from Crime Story Daily this week.
On the criminal justice policy front: A piece from the Huffington Post takes a deep dive into Los Angeles County’s contentious district attorney race. Los Angeles is the second largest city in the country; it accounts for almost a third of California’s incarcerated population. LA’s next DA will likely set the pace for criminal justice reform throughout the state and potentially across the country. On that note, USA Today reports that this week, incumbent DA Jackie Lacey moved to dismiss nearly 66,000 marijuana convictions in Los Angeles County. Lacey’s office partnered with the nonprofit Code for America, which created an algorithm that identifies convictions eligible to be dismissed under Proposition 64, the ballot measure that legalized recreational marijuana in California in 2016.
In muckraker/watchdog reporting: A piece from the New York Times by Charles Blow examines Michael Bloomberg’s legacy as mayor of New York City and the lasting harm done by stop-and-frisk to the city’s minority communities. As recently resurfaced speeches reveal, Bloomberg’s justifications for the policy were blatantly and explicitly racist; he spoke candidly about “ninety-five percent of murderers” fitting the same description – “they are male, minorities, 16 to 25” – and about “minority neighborhoods” being “where all the crime is.” Blow writes that “what Bloomberg did as mayor amounted to a police occupation of minority neighborhoods, a terroristic pressure campaign, with little evidence that it was accomplishing the goal of sustained, long-term crime reduction.”
In complex crime storytelling: A short-form documentary from The Marshall Project, “Anatomy of Hate,” revisits the 2015 shootings of three Muslim college students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, by their white neighbor Craig Hicks. The case made headlines around the world, sparking widespread outrage among Muslims when police labeled the killings a “parking dispute” rather than a bias-motivated attack. Five years later, the film examines the legal definition a “hate crime,” centering the question of whether the Chapel Hill murders meet that definition. And a piece from The Appeal focuses on the case of Tony Carruthers, a Tennessee man who was sentenced to death in 1996 on three counts of first-degree murder. After going through six court-appointed attorneys in two years, Carruthers was refused a seventh and forced to represent himself. If the state follows through on his execution, Carruthers’s case would be historic: “he would be the first person in nearly a century to be put to death after being forced to represent himself at trial.”
And in culture/true crime: The Los Angeles Times reviews “Yellow Bird,” a new book by Sierra Crane Murdoch that follows one woman’s investigation into the mysterious death of a North Dakota truck driver. That woman is Lissa Yellow Bird, a member of the MHA Nation Native American tribe located on central North Dakota’s Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. The truck driver was Kristopher Clarke, who disappeared in 2012 at the height of an oil boom that swept the reservation into a frenzy of activity. Crane’s account of Yellow Bird’s obsessive search for the killer is “ambitious and vast, encompassing tribal politics and family histories, trips to look for a corpse and catfishing text exchanges with a suspect.” And the Texas Observer interviews Alec Karakatsanis, a public defender-turned-civil rights lawyer whose new book of essays, “Usual Cruelty,” critiques “the blindness of his own profession, arguing that lawyers inside the criminal justice system – now desensitized to its everyday brutality – have largely helped preserve an architecture of injustice and cruelty.”