This is a curated selection of highlights from Crime Story Daily this week.
On the criminal justice policy front: New York Magazine reports that last Friday, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was sentenced to 270 months, or 22.5 years, in prison for the murder of George Floyd. Pieces from Vox and the Washington Post offer reactions to and reflections on Chauvin’s sentencing, reiterating the idea that while the sentence should bring “a measure of satisfaction,” it alone does not mean true justice for George Floyd – or an end to the plague of police violence in America. Meanwhile, pieces from the Atlantic and New York Magazine offer context on, and insight into, America’s so-called “crime spike.”
In muckraker/watchdog reporting: As COVID begins to recede in US prisons, a piece from the Marshall Project/AP News asks, “will any lessons learned stick?” For the past 15 months, the Marshall Project and the AP tracked the spread of COVID through prisons nationwide, counting more than a half-million people living and working in prisons who got sick from the coronavirus. Prisons were forced to adapt to unusual and deadly circumstances; but now, with new cases declining and facilities loosening restrictions, there’s “little evidence to suggest enough substantive changes have been made to handle future waves of infection.” And a piece from the New York Times centers on the thousands of federal prisoners sent home early due to COVID-19 – who, with the worst of the pandemic now behind us, don’t want to go back behind bars. In the final days of the Trump administration, the Justice Department issued a memo saying inmates whose sentences lasted beyond the “pandemic emergency period” would have to return to prison. But some lawmakers and criminal justice advocates are urging President Biden to revoke the rule, arguing that the pandemic “offers a glimpse into a different type of punitive system in America, one that relies far less on incarceration.”
In complex crime storytelling: Rolling Stone recounts the wild true story of a modern-day plane hijacking: “How did Richard ‘Beebo’ Russell – a goofy, God-fearing baggage handler – steal a passenger plane from the Seattle-Tacoma airport and end up alone in a cockpit, with no plan to come down?” And a piece from the New Yorker dives deep into the story of 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, who has been embraced by far-right extremists – and the lawyers and media personalities who enable them – after fatally shooting two Black Lives Matter protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin last year.
In culture/true crime: The New Yorker highlights “This Life,” the “vital, inventive” debut novel by Quntos KunQuest. The book, narrated primarily through rap lyrics, tells an intergenerational story of men imprisoned together in the same penitentiary. KunQuest has been incarcerated at Angola prison, in Louisiana, for the past 25 years. The Texas Observer interviews Columbia law professor James Liebman, who spent decades investigating the wrongful execution of Carlos DeLuna in Texas in 1989. A new documentary, “The Phantom,” features and builds upon the work of Liebman’s team, bolstering the disturbingly convincing case that Texas executed the wrong man. And the documentary short “Omnipresence,” from filmmaker and Bronx, NY native Nadia Hallgren, explores “the controversial floodlights illuminating New York City’s public housing developments.”