This is a curated selection of highlights from Crime Story Daily this week.
On the criminal justice policy front: A piece from Politico focuses on felon voting rights. In recent years, many states have moved to restore the vote to people with felony records, creating a pool of as many as two million newly eligible voters ahead of the November election. The result means that a significant number of people with firsthand knowledge of the criminal justice system will regain their right to vote at a moment when law and order, police brutality, public safety and race are dominating the presidential contest. Reason highlights the Smarter Pretrial Detention for Drug Charges Act, a proposed bipartisan bill that could potentially keep people charged with federal drug crimes out of unnecessary pretrial detention. The Washington Post asks how – and if – this summer’s mass protests will impact the prosecution of police misconduct. And, as the pandemic continues to disrupt court operations across the country, new research from the Brennan Center examines the impact of video proceedings on fairness and access to justice in court.
In muckraker/watchdog reporting: A piece from the New York Times focuses on the case of Daniel Prude, an unarmed Black man who died in police custody in March. For months, the Rochester, New York police department treated his death as a drug overdose – until last week, when body camera footage was released showing Prude surrounded by police officers, naked, handcuffed and held face down in the street, with a hood pulled over his head. A piece from the New Republic outlines the long and gruesome history of “spit hoods,” the violent restraining device implicated in Prude’s death. And new research from the Brennan Center highlights the connections between law enforcement, white supremacy, and far-right militancy. Police reforms, often imposed after incidents of racist misconduct or brutality, have largely targeted implicit biases: the unconscious prejudices that subtly influence and inform police behavior. But these reforms, while well-intentioned, fail to address an especially harmful and pervasive form of bias: the explicit racism that remains entrenched within American law enforcement.
In complex crime storytelling: A piece from the Washington Post outlines one day in the life of gun violence in America. On September 5, 2019, 113 people were shot in 24 hours in the US. At least 36 of them died. What’s most remarkable about these numbers is that they’re not remarkable at all: every day since has seen appalling numbers of dead and wounded. A piece from the Los Angeles Times focuses on the case of Lee Arthur Hester. In 1961, Hester, then 14 years old, falsely confessed to the murder of a white schoolteacher in Chicago, Illinois. It took nearly 60 years to vacate the conviction and finally clear his name. It also took the help of Steven Drizin, co-director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University, who has spent decades working to exonerate the wrongfully accused. And the New Republic reports from Portland, Oregon, outlining how mass protests against racist police brutality sparked a historic federal crackdown on dissent.
And in culture/true crime: The New York Times reviews “A Knock at Midnight,” the new memoir by defense attorney Brittany K. Barnett. Chronicling her path from idealistic law student to prominent voice in the movement for criminal justice reform – Barnett is a co-founder of Buried Alive, an organization dedicated to eliminating life sentences for nonviolent drug offenders – the book is both a coming-of-age story and an “urgent call to free those buried alive by America’s legal system.” And The Athletic profiles journalist Keri Blakinger, from her childhood as a promising figure skater; to her own experiences of homelessness, addiction, and incarceration; to her current gig covering criminal justice for The Marshall Project.