This week at crimestory.com Amanda Knox and Christopher Robinson formally began to publish two pieces a week in their series Exoneration and Incarceration in a Time of Pandemic. Their pieces will appear on Mondays and Wednesdays each week throughout the crisis.
We began the week by presenting my interview with Eric Siddall, Vice President of the Association of Deputy District attorneys about the impact of what he called “Judicial Inaction” in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency.
On March 24, Eric sent out an email excoriating the presiding judge of Los Angeles and calling the courts: “the weakest link in government’s response to the coronavirus. Los Angeles County can shut down visitation to the juvenile facilities and the jails, but if the lawyers are inadvertently infecting inmates, a public health crisis will ravage our juvenile detention facilities and jails. At that point the County will be left to contend with an even more dire situation.” You can find my conversation with Eric about these issues here.
We then presented Amanda Knox‘s interview with Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld, cofounders of the Innocence Project, about their experience executive consulting for the Netflix documentary series The Innocence Files.
The series explores eight wrongful convictions overturned by the Innocence Project and other organizations within the Innocence Network. Over the course of nine episodes, the filmmakers and attorneys expose flaws within our criminal justice system and point viewers towards tried and tested reforms that, if implemented, would make the system more fair and just.
On Wednesday, we presented Amanda Knox‘s interview with Ginny LeFever. In 1990, when LeFever was a 37-year-old nurse, she was convicted of murder after her husband committed suicide on the eve of their divorce. She spent 22 years in prison (which she likens to being “buried alive”) before her conviction was vacated and she was released.
Today, LeFever works as a nurse in an extended care facility in Ohio currently in lockdown due to the pandemic. Amanda spoke with her about how her experience of wrongful imprisonment has informed her work caring for the vulnerable, and uniquely prepared her for this time of crisis.
Finally, we announced this week that beginning Tuesday, April 21, our Crime Story Daily section expanded from one to two editions each day — an AM edition and a PM edition. We have decided that this is an appropriate time for such an expansion in order to keep our readers apprised of the impact of the COVID-19 public health emergency on the criminal justice and the prison communities around the country.
Hannah Teich expands her responsibilities as Crime Story Daily editor in curating the expanded Crime Story Daily coverage. Teich selects stories for each edition from national and local publications and groups the aggregation into four general topic areas: criminal justice policy reporting; muckraking/watchdog reporting; complex crime storytelling; and stories that examine the impact of criminal justice and true-crime in the culture.
As has become our custom, we present a summary of Hannah’s curated selection of some of the more impactful stories from the now-expanded Crime Story Daily over the past week. (In order to get to the full essay and the story links, please click through this link to Hannah’s piece at crimestory.com.)
On the criminal justice policy front: The Los Angeles Times reports that on Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that state jury verdicts in serious criminal cases must be unanimous. A piece from the New Republic focuses on the broader implications of the Court’s decision. A piece from the Brennan Center explains the latest changes to New York’s bail reform law; and a piece from the Marshall Project examines the implications of bail reform rollbacks in New York for other reform efforts around the country.
In muckraker/watchdog reporting: A piece from The Atlantic focuses on the spread of the coronavirus in prisons, jails, and ICE detention facilities, where the pandemic is testing Fifth Amendment protections on due process and humane conditions of confinement. A piece from the New York Times focuses on the first fatal coronavirus outbreak in the federal prison system, at FCC Oakdale in rural Louisiana. A piece from the Intercept details prison officials’ “absurd” attempts to track the spread of the coronavirus by monitoring inmates’ phone calls. And a piece from the Brennan Center emphasizes the need for prison labor reform.
In complex crime storytelling: A piece from the New Republic offers a “brief criminal history of the mask.” And a piece from Vanity Fair focuses on Jimmy Rackover, the “surrogate son – and alleged lover – of New York’s ‘jeweler to the stars.’”
And in culture/true crime: Vox reviews “The Innocence Files,” (also the subject of Amanda Knox’s piece referenced above), and “The Thing About Pam,” Dateline’s first foray into the narrative true-crime podcast genre.
Again, you can click here to go to Hannah’s weekly essay and find links to those articles.
And for those of you wondering how you can catch up on previous Crime Story newsletters, just click here and your question shall be answered.
Thanks for reading and listening.
Publisher/Editor, Crime Story