This week at crimestory.com we presented a series of conversations with lawyers, each of whom brings an incredibly distinctive perspective to their respective practices. We also broke some news on the Robert Durst trial. And we continued our series of stories tracing the week by week development of the media coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic in American prisons and jails.
On Monday, we published a piece entitled “The Guilty Project,” Amanda Knox’s interview with Michael Romano and Susan Champion of Stanford Law’s Three Strikes Project, who work to find people serving the longest and most unjust sentences and pursue reversals or commutations of those sentences.
The focus of their conversation was the recent release from prison of James Washington and Pablo Garcia. After fighting their liberation for over seven years, in a stunning reversal, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office conceded that the two men, who had each already served over two decades in prison, should be released and their crimes reclassified as misdemeanors.
Kian spent nine years in prison on a wrongful stabbing conviction before he was finally exonerated and released after his brother confessed to the stabbing and it was revealed that the police withheld video evidence that gave Kian an alibi. After his release, Kian got a law degree and now practices law in New York.
On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday we presented parts One, Two and Three of my exclusive three-part conversation with Eric Siddall Vice President of the ADDA the professional association for Deputy District Attorneys of Los Angeles county. In his capacity as Vice President of the ADDA, Eric spoke with me about his path to becoming a prosecutor, his work as a deputy DA and as a leader of the ADDA. We also explored his response to initiatives aimed at reforming the criminal legal process.
On Friday, CRIME STORY broke the story that the murder trial of Robert Durst for the murder of Susan Berman, will resume on July 27 and that it will move from Department 81 in the Airport Courthouse to Department 1 in the Inglewood Courthouse, a bigger courtroom that, in Judge Mark Windham’s view, can more readily accommodate the social distancing necessary to keep the jury, the litigants and the courthouse staff safe from transmission of the COVID-19 virus.
On Saturday, Sean Smith continued his week by week analysis of the news stories aggregated in Crime Story Daily related to COVID-19 and our carceral system. In this installment, Sean looked at stories from the week of March 22.
As is our 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 Huffington Post explains how officials at California’s Terminal Island federal prison successfully curbed a deadly coronavirus outbreak. USA Today outlines three much-needed criminal justice reforms. A piece from the Wall Street Journal illustrates the challenges faced by courts around the country as they attempt to resume jury trials. And the New Yorker questions the future of mass incarceration in a post-pandemic world.
In muckraker/watchdog reporting: A Reuters investigation reveals the “hidden toll” of COVID-19 behind bars. Slate highlights the disturbing lack of transparency in the criminal justice system – a design feature, not a bug. A piece from The Marshall Project focuses on the plight of mentally ill criminal defendants during the pandemic. And a piece from the Washington Post recounts the “last days of a COVID-19 prisoner.”
In complex crime storytelling: Jacobin Magazine revisits the “stranger danger” panic of the 1980s and its role in the rise of mass incarceration. A piece from the New Yorker from 1986 goes inside the world of a top crime reporter. And The Appeal recounts the story of Willie Mae Harris, whose life sentence was commuted this week after 34 years in an Arkansas state prison.
And in culture/true crime: The Atlantic reviews Hightown, an atypical crime drama from Starz. AnOther Magazine interviews the artist Sterling Ruby, whose work confronts the social and environmental impacts of mass incarceration. And the Hollywood Reporter reviews American Trial: The Eric Garner Story, a new film that stages the imaginary trial of Daniel Pantaleo with real-life prosecutors, defense lawyers, and witnesses.
Again, you can click here to go to Hannah’s weekly essay and find links to those articles.
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 again for reading and listening.
Publisher/Editor, Crime Story