This is a curated selection of highlights from Crime Story Daily this week.
On the criminal justice policy front: The New York Times reports that on Wednesday, Harvey Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison. The long sentence capped a precipitous fall from power for Weinstein and represented a substantive victory for the #MeToo movement brought about by his accusers. The Los Angeles Times reports that incumbent Jackie Lacey will most likely face a runoff in the race for Los Angeles County district attorney. According to the LA County registrar-recorder’s office, Lacey’s share of the vote currently sits at 49.94%; to win outright would require 50% plus one vote. If she does not meet that threshold, Lacey will face a November runoff with the second-place finisher. And this week, the Marshall Project, in conjunction with Slate, published a groundbreaking political survey of more than 8,000 prison and jail inmates across the country.
In muckraker/watchdog reporting: A piece from the Washington Post exposes the hypocrisy of lawmakers’ response to the outbreak of coronavirus: on Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that to combat shortages and price gouging, New York state would begin manufacturing its own hand sanitizer and distributing it to communities in need. The catch: it will be made by prison inmates, who “typically earn less than $1 an hour, have a heightened risk of contracting the virus and are forbidden from possessing hand sanitizer themselves. And a piece from the Outline dives deeper into the threat that coronavirus poses to American prisons, from the conditions of confinement to the lack of effective medical care.
In complex crime storytelling: A piece from The Lens focuses on the long and controversial career of Judge Frank Shea, who presided over criminal cases in New Orleans from 1963 until 1996. His time on the bench coincided with the war on drugs, increasingly punitive sentencing laws, and the rise of mass incarceration; during his career, Louisiana went from having the 13th highest incarceration rate in the nation to the second-highest. Shea, nicknamed “Speedy,” became infamous for rushing through trials, usually at the expense of defendants, many of whom are still locked up today. And a piece from Zora explains how a group of formerly incarcerated women in Atlanta led the fight to close a local jail and turn the site into a community space instead.
And in culture/true crime: In a piece for the New York Times, veteran restaurant critic Jay Rayner explores our “peculiarly American fascination” with death row inmates’ last meals. A piece from Vanity Fair asks whether a rebooted Court TV can “surf the true-crime wave.” The network – which first gained prominence in the ‘90s with live courtroom coverage of the Menendez brothers and OJ Simpson – relaunched last spring amidst a surge of renewed interest in and scrutiny of the criminal justice system. With extensive live coverage, reenactments, and talking-head commentary of Harvey Weinstein’s trial in New York, and plans to do the same for Robert Durst’s trial in LA, Court TV hopes to bring increased transparency and access to the courtroom – and to cash in on the true-crime entertainment boom. And a piece from New York Magazine focuses on the women of “prison YouTube,” a niche but surprisingly popular subgenre of influencers who share their experiences of incarceration for online audiences in the millions.