Where the Death Penalty Still Lives. In the U.S., 20 states and the District of Columbia have abolished capital punishment and four others have imposed a moratorium on executions. Of the 26 states that remain, only 14 handed down death sentences last year for a total of 50 across the country — less than half the number six years before. California, which issued more than one-quarter of last year’s death sentences, hasn’t actually executed anyone since 2006. A new geography of capital punishment is taking shape, with just two percent of the nation’s counties now accounting for a majority of the people sitting on death row. [more inside]
This past May on Metafilter, we looked at “Thirty Minutes Behind the Walls”, a wildly popular variety show that was broadcast every Wednesday night in the 1930's and 1940's from the state prison in Huntsville, TX. It featured performances by male and female prisoners. No recordings of the show have ever been found. In the early forties, eight inmates of the Goree State Farm prison unit formed one of the first all-female country and western acts in the country and their performances were broadcast on Thirty Minutes. The Goree All Girl String Band captured the hearts of millions of radio listeners but never cut a record or went on tour and have thus been ignored by music historians. When they were paroled, they nearly all vanished forever. [more inside]
Inside the Snitch Tank. After his arrest for the worst mass shooting in Orange County, CA history, Scott Dekraai poured out his feelings to a jailhouse informant. But instead of nailing down a death-penalty conviction against a confessed killer who was arrested with murder weapons in his car, the bugging of Dekraai’s cell touched off a legal storm over prosecutorial misconduct and the misuse of jailhouse informants which has delayed justice and drawn national attention. The Orange County Register has set up an extensive website to accompany their ongoing investigation and report.
How to Love Your Father When He’s in Prison for Child Porn, an essay by Lindsay Popper. SFW. Some may find the content disturbing.
During their Freedom Hosting investigation and malware attack last year, the FBI unintentionally obtained the entire e-mail database of popular anonymous webmail service Tor Mail. And now, they've used it in an unrelated investigation to bust a Florida man accused of stealing credit card numbers. [more inside]
On Wednesday, William Van Poyck was executed by the state of Florida for murdering a prison guard during a botched 1987 attempt to free an imprisoned friend. Poyck spent 25 years in solitary confinement on death row, during which time he wrote to his sister about his life in prison. Since 2005 she has published those letters to a blog called Death Row Diary. 'Poyck used to write about everything from the novels and history books he was reading and shows he watched on PBS to the state of the world and his own philosophy of life – punctuated by news of the deaths of those around him, from illness, suicide, and execution.' Excerpts. His final letter.
Greg Fleniken was a decent, honorable, smart, and successful man whom people liked. The sort of man nobody would murder—yet somebody had. But why? And how had The Body in Room 348 received its internal injuries? [more inside]
Ephemeral New York 'chronicles an ever-changing, constantly reinvented city through photos, newspaper archives, and other scraps and artifacts that have been edged into New York’s collective remainder bin.' [more inside]
In July 2007, NPR published a two part series (direct links: 1, 2) about a four year old uninvestigated rape case at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Sparked in part by a 2006 report (pdf) from Amnesty International that included a startling statistic: "One in three Native American women will be raped in her lifetime," NPR's investigation led to the reopening of the case and Congressional hearings. In February 2011, Harper's published an update of sorts: Tiny Little Laws: A Plague of Sexual Violence in Indian Country (Via)
"...whatever job you take, you're going to spend a lot of time there. You should try to make it fun."
In 2007, the Madison (WI) Police Department hired their first civilian Public Information Officer: former reporter Joel DeSpain. Over the last five years, Mr. DeSpain has reportedly combined "humor, a flair for the dramatic and sense of the absurd", and turned the mundane Madison Police Blotter into an "art form and a thing of joy." So Why Has Madison Wisconsin Has Become the Weird News Capitol of the Midwest? Meet the United States’ most whimsical police reporter. (Last one's a gawker link. If you dislike their site / interface, have no fear: all reports in that article (plus four extras) can be found after the jump.) [more inside]
On July 23, 1920, Charles Ponzi hired former Boston Post journalist William H. McMasters as his publicist, who quickly realized that his new client was defrauding the public. Just ten days later, McMasters wrote an exposé published in the Post that led to Ponzi's ultimate downfall. The newspaper won a Pulitzer. McMasters was The Man Who Time (Almost) Forgot (Via) [more inside]
The Burns Archive is a collection of over 700,000 historical photographs that document disturbing subject matter: obsolete medical practices and experiments, death, disease, disasters, crime, revolutions, riots and war. Newsweek posted a select gallery this past October, as well as a video interview and walk-through with curator and collector Dr. Stanley B. Burns, a New York opthalmologist. (Via) (Content at links may be disturbing to some.) [more inside]
Anti-Identity-Theft Firm Lifelock was fined $12 Million in March for deceptive business practices by the FTC. More bad news: their CEO had his identity stolen 13 times after posting his own social security number in company ads as proof they could protect him. [more inside]
It's been estimated that the average UK adult is now registered on more than 700 databases and is caught many times each day by nearly five million CCTV cameras. So how hard would it be for an average citizen to disappear completely? That’s the subject of a new documentary film: Erasing David, (Trailer: YouTube, Vimeo) which premieres this evening in the UK on More4. It's also now available worldwide online at the iTunes store and through several Video On Demand services, as well as through Good Screenings. [more inside]
The Rise and Fall of Frank Ma, Last of New York's Asian Godfathers: How a Chinese immigrant became a crime lord, ordered a hit that left the wrong men dead, sparked a 16-year international investigation and finally landed in prison for the rest of his life.