This is a curated selection of highlights from Crime Story Daily this week.
On the criminal justice policy front: This week, COVID-19 has continued to dominate headlines, with the US displacing Italy and China as the new epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic. A piece from USA Today provides a broad overview of how the pandemic has upended our criminal justice system, from courts to policing to prisons and jails. A piece from Reason focuses on the scope of, and limits to, police powers during a pandemic. With more than half of all the confirmed cases in the country located in New York, a piece from the New York Times urges Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature to stand strong on bail reform. A piece from the New Yorker focuses on the state of New York’s prisons and jails, where the first confirmed coronavirus cases were reported last week. Meanwhile, authorities around the country are escalating efforts to scale back incarceration and reduce prison and jail populations. The New York Times reports that New Jersey will release as many as 1,000 inmates, while according to CBS News, approximately 1,700 inmates have already been released from Los Angeles County jails. And finally, a piece from the Crime Report asks whether COVID-19 can “force us to take criminal justice reform seriously.”
In muckraker/watchdog reporting: A piece from the New Republic focuses on the “pandemic economy” in American prisons. While prisons and jails across the country have moved swiftly to release inmates, ban family visitations, and adhere to social-distancing guidelines, prison work shifts have largely carried on uninterrupted. From manufacturing hand sanitizer in New York to processing chicken in North Carolina, incarcerated workers continue to face extreme risk for virtually no pay. And two pieces from the New York Times examine some of the less-reported side-effects of the coronavirus crisis. One focuses on the growing racism faced by Chinese-Americans, with verbal and physical attacks increasing as bigoted rhetoric around the “Chinese virus” spreads. The other looks at the dangerous implications of shelter-in-place and stay-at-home orders for victims of domestic violence.
In complex crime storytelling: A piece from The Nation focuses on the case of Michael White. White, a young black man working as a courier for Uber Eats, was charged with first-degree murder in the death of an older white real estate developer. Typically, “with a poor black defendant and a wealthy white victim, we know how this story ends.” But in 2018, in Larry Krasner-era Philadelphia, the story didn’t turn out that way: Krasner lowered the murder charge to voluntary manslaughter, and White was ultimately acquitted, serving only two years’ probation on a count of tampering with evidence. In the end, White “received the kind of legal justice that too many young black men have historically been denied.” And a piece from the Boston Globe Magazine looks back on the 1970 hijacking of a routine shuttle flight from Newark, New Jersey to Boston. In an era when “skyjackings” were so common that airlines seemed to treat them as “little more than a nuisance,” the hijacking of Flight 1320 would permanently change the way Americans fly.
And in culture/true crime: GQ reviews Tiger King, a new true-crime documentary series from Netflix. The show focuses on the wild world of big-cat collecting and private zoos, and the many outrageous characters who populate it. Tiger King revolves around a murder-for-hire plot, but the show differs from other true-crime fare in its subtle implication and indictment of the viewer: “the crime that’s happening is perpetrated by everyone… It’s not just one incident or a serial case—it’s a wide-scale problem.”