Crime Story Daily Highlights – Week 18

This is a curated selection of highlights from Crime Story Daily this week.

On the criminal justice policy front: a new piece from the Marshall Project explores the role that violent offenders play in debates over mass incarceration and criminal justice reform. Although there is a broad political consensus around releasing more nonviolent offenders from prison and easing the sentencing laws that put them there, no such consensus exists when it comes to those convicted of “violent” crimes.

In muckraker/watchdog reporting: a new piece from the Atlantic examines the case of Derrick Clay, a Colorado man who was arrested in 2017. Clay had previously been diagnosed with psychosis and probable bipolar disorder; the judge deemed him mentally incompetent to stand trial, and he was sent to receive “competency-restoration services” at a state psychiatric hospital. But the hospital had no beds available, and Clay was put in jail instead, where he would remain for 55 days with no psychiatric treatment. Clay’s case is not an anomaly: across the US, thousands of people who “should be placed in mental-health facilities for treatment are instead detained in jail for unconstitutionally long periods – sometimes months –before they have been convicted or even tried for any crime.” And the Washington Post reports on a South Florida shootout that left four people dead, including a hostage and a 70-year-old bystander, after dozens of police officers opened fire on a hijacked UPS truck hemmed in by rush-hour traffic at a busy intersection. The case has raised questions about the officers’ response and fed into national debates around police tactics and the use of deadly force.

In complex crime storytelling: a piece from Longreads explores the case of Cody Eyre, a 20-year-old Alaskan Native who was shot and killed by police officers on Christmas Eve 2017. Cody was having a mental health crisis, felt suicidal and had a gun; his mother called 911 hoping that police would help deescalate the situation and calm him down. Instead, the opposite happened, and the night ended in tragedy. Almost two years later, Cody’s family still has questions about what exactly happened, and why: “Why is it that police are the first responders to mental health calls? In this case, why did they respond to someone going through a mental health crisis with deadly force?”. And a three-part story from the New Orleans Lens revisits the case of Erin Hunter, who was tried and convicted of murder in Louisiana in 1987. His case has long raised questions about police misconduct and poor defense lawyering – questions that, even three decades later, remain relevant today.

And in culture/true crime: the Guardian reviews “The Confession Killer,” a new series from Netflix that revisits the story of Henry Lee Lucas. In the mid-1980s, Lucas rose to infamy after falsely confessing to the murders of more than 600 women. Many of the cases had been botched or under-investigated, and Lucas’s handlers, the Texas Rangers, were happy to accept easily obtained, low-evidence confessions in exchange for the widespread acclaim that came with “catching” a prolific serial killer. Forty years later, the series attempts to finally parse fact from fiction and to explore the larger environment that fostered Lucas’s lies. And a piece from the Columbia Journalism Review examines the NYPD’s new podcast Break in the Case, as well as the broader questions it raises around journalistic integrity and transparency in true-crime reporting.

Friday December 13, 2019

Thursday December 12, 2019

Tuesday December 10, 2019

Supreme Court Won’t Allow Federal Executions to Resume Adam Liptak, New York Times

Why the Supreme Court Rebuked the Trump Administration’s Quest for Speedy Executions Mark Joseph Stern, Slate

When Mental Illness Becomes a Jail Sentence Paul Tullis, The Atlantic

California Is Letting Thousands of Prisoners Out Early. Its Housing Crisis Is Keeping Them From Starting Over. Marisa Endicott, Mother Jones

When a DNA Test Says You’re a Younger Man, Who Lives 5,000 Miles Away Heather Murphy, New York Times

‘Scot-Free’: What Happens When Prosecutors Behave Badly Cara Bayles, Law360

After Miramar shootout leaves 4 dead, a community asks: Did police get it right? Aaron Leibowitz, Samantha Gross, and David Ovalle, Miami Herald

Ex-cop details NYPD ‘collar quotas’ – arrest black and Hispanic men, ‘no cuffs on soft targets’ of Jews, Asians, whites: court docs Stephen Rex Brown and Graham Rayman, New York Daily News

Black BART riders received more than half of citations for ‘eating or drinking’ in last three years Angela Ruggiero and Nico Savidge, Bay Area News Group

This Judge Is Married to the Sheriff. Ethics Complaints Have Piled Up. (South Carolina) Joseph Cranney, ProPublica

Chicago Police Torture: Explained Kelly Hayes, The Appeal

Soaring Female Population, Racial Disparities Drive State Incarceration Numbers The Crime Report

Accidental shootings by police expose training shortfalls Martha Bellisle, Associated Press

New York City Jail Costs Reach Record Level Ben Chapman, Wall Street Journal

He served 43 years for a murder he didn’t commit. Now he’s suing the county, sheriff and SBI. (North Carolina) Josh Shaffer, Raleigh News & Observer

Crime Story Daily Highlights – Week 17

This is a curated selection of highlights from Crime Story Daily this week.

On the criminal justice policy front: a piece from the Philadelphia Inquirer details Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner’s plan to drop low-level drug charges in favor of addiction treatment. And from The Intercept, a comprehensive look at capital cases in active death penalty jurisdictions since 1976 reveals that “capital punishment remains as ‘arbitrary and capricious’ as ever.”

In muckraker/watchdog reporting: a new piece from ProPublica and the New York Times Magazine details the story of Paul Skalnik, a career criminal with a history of lying and fraud and “one of the most prolific jailhouse informants in US history.” Decades of collaboration with successive Florida prosecutors brought Skalnik favorable sentencing treatment in exchange for dramatic – although not necessarily true – courtroom testimony that has sent dozens of defendants to jail, and four to death row. And an investigation from The Intercept found that it is surprisingly easy – much easier than it should be – to qualify as an “expert” fingerprint examiner. In recent years, the reliability of forensic science as evidence has been called into question, but judges still widely allow fingerprint experts to testify in court after passing absurdly easy “proficiency tests.” As a result, jury verdicts that send defendants to prison are often influenced by largely debunked “junk science.”

In complex crime storytelling: a piece from the New Yorker from May 1996 details the murder of Harvard University junior Trang Ho by her roommate, Sinedu Tadesse. The story dominated national headlines at the time, and more than two decades later, questions continue to swirl around the case. And in an essay for the Boston Globe, Deanna Pan recounts the story of her rape and the subsequent feelings of guilt, regret, and shame that burden so many survivors of sexual assault.

And in culture/true crime: the Los Angeles Times reviews “After Parkland,” a new documentary that follows survivors of the horrific mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida as they attempt to cope with and find meaning in the tragedy. And a new podcast from the Arizona Republic focuses on the life and murder of Don Bolles, an investigative reporter who spent years working to expose corruption in Phoenix’s racing industry.