This week at crimestory.com Amanda Knox and Christopher Robinson spoke with two Exonerees who were wrongfully convicted based on bad evidence. And we began a series of stories tracing the week by week development of the media coverage of COVID-19 pandemic in American prisons and jails.
On Monday, we published “Prisoners are humans as well”: An Interview with Marty Tankleff by Amanda and Chris.
In 1990, 19-year-old Marty Tankleff was wrongly convicted of the 1988 murder of his parents. After spending over 17 years in prison, a new investigation uncovered the real murderers and his conviction was vacated. Tankleff is now a lawyer, professor, and advocate for criminal justice reform who has been speaking out for prisoners’ rights in the midst of the pandemic.
OnWednesday, we presented Amanda’s and Chris’s “Life Moves So Fast Out Here”: An Interview with Chester Hollman III.
In 1993, 23-year-old Chester Hollman III was wrongly convicted of the 1991 murder of Tae Jung Ho in Philadelphia. The state’s case rested entirely on false eyewitness testimony. He spent 28 years in prison before he was finally exonerated and released in July 2019. His story is featured in the new Netflix docuseries The Innocence Files. Amanda reached out to Chester to learn what it was like for him to tell his story to Netflix, and to ask how he’s adjusting to freedom during the pandemic.
On Saturday, Sean Smith began a week by week analysis of the news stories aggregated in Crime Story Daily related to COVID-19 and our carceral system. By reconsidering early reporting on the crisis in the light of subsequent developments, Crime Story hopes to point out trends in the narrative of COVID-19 and the prisons. Crime Story Daily’s coverage of these stories began on March 15.
As is our new custom, we present a summary of Hannah Teich’s curated selection of some of the more interesting stories from 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 Intercept reports that even as COVID-19 continues to spread through America’s prisons and jails, very few inmates have actually been released. A piece for The Appeal by San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin’s chief of staff offers a successful model for decarceration and reform. A piece from the New York Times discusses potential changes to California’s “Three Strikes” sentencing law. And a piece from The Washington Post focuses on Florida’s ongoing battle over felony disenfranchisement.
In muckraker/watchdog reporting: Several pieces this week focused on the death of Ahmaud Arbery. The Washington Post locates Arbery’s death in a long American tradition of senseless – and unpunished – racial violence. The New York Times explores the troubled history of the Glynn County, Georgia Police Department; and a piece from Slate focuses on the district attorney who declined to prosecute Arbery’s murder. Finally, a piece for the New Yorker by Jelani Cobb highlights our racialized conceptions of danger and self-defense. Other stories this week focused on the legal doctrine of qualified immunity, which serves to shield law enforcement and other government officers from liability. A Reuters investigation published last week revealed courts’ “growing tendency” to grant police officers immunity from civil rights lawsuits. A piece from Reason summarizes the investigation’s findings and explores the legal origins of qualified immunity. And a piece from The Washington Post focuses on the 11 qualified immunity cases currently being considered by the Supreme Court.
In complex crime storytelling: The New York Times revisits the 1993 murder of Michael Jordan’s father, James. A 2018 article from the Chicago Tribune offers further insight into the case. A piece from The Marshall Project, also from 2018, focuses on the case of Johnny Lee Gates. The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported this week that Gates’ 40-year journey through the Georgia justice system – one of the longest-running capital cases in the nation’s history – could soon come to an end.
And in culture/true crime: Time reviews “Trial by Media,” a new docuseries from Netflix that explores the troubled relationship between journalism and justice. And the New Republic examines popular culture’s enduring fascination with Al Capone, the “all-American boogeyman.”
For those of you wondering how you can catch up on previous Crime Story newsletters, just click here and your question shall be answered.
And one final note. We wanted to let you know that Amanda and Chris continue to receive positive media coverage spotlighting their work for Crime Story during the pandemic. Entertainment Tonight’s Stacy Lambe presented a two-part video interview with Knox and Robinson. You can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here.
Thanks again for reading and listening.
Publisher/Editor, Crime Story