Last night FX premiered their true crime adaptation of The People V. O.J. Simpson, based on the Jeffrey Toobin's book The Run of His Life. Marcia Clark, a prosecutor in the case, has given an interview to Vox on, "on What Episode One of The People v. O.J. Simpson Got Right and Wrong". Briefly, Clark covers how the prosecutorial team considered race, liberties the show takes, her perception in the media circus the trial would inspire, the aftermath of the case (including O.J.'s later incarceration), and the meaning of the trial in the present day.
"Petitioner Montgomery was 17 years old in 1963, when he killed a deputy sheriff in Louisiana. The jury returned a verdict of “guilty without capital punishment,” which carried an automatic sentence of life without parole. Nearly 50 years after Montgomery was taken into custody, this Court decided that mandatory life without parole for juvenile homicide offenders violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on “ ‘cruel and unusual punishments.’" Today, the Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision, said that ruling will apply retroactively. [more inside]
12 reasons to worry about our criminal justice system, by 9th Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski [PDF]
stories.. that expose both the depths of what was taken from them and the challenges of rebuilding the lives they once had
Unlike the soft forms of social control — meaning the ameliorative and redistributive welfare programs of the Great Society — the new model of social control does not come with dangerous notions of "equality" and "social inclusion." Today, the poor are thoroughly locked down, as is our political imagination about what poverty means. Law enforcement has moved to the center of domestic politics; state violence is perhaps more than ever a constant, regular, and normal feature of poor people’s lives. —The Making of the American Police State, Christian Parenti
Cleveland Police Officer Acquitted of Manslaughter in 2012 Deaths [New York Times]
A police officer who climbed onto the hood of a car after a chase in 2012 and fired repeatedly at its unarmed occupants, both of them black, was acquitted of manslaughter on Saturday by an Ohio judge. The trial of the white officer, Michael Brelo, following harrowing episodes in communities such as Baltimore, Staten Island and Ferguson, Mo., played out amid broader questions of how the police interact with African-Americans and use force, in Cleveland and across the country.[more inside]
For every 100 black women not in jail, there are only 83 black men. The remaining men – 1.5 million of them – are, in a sense, missing. Among whites, the equivalent number is 99, nearly parity.
After sketching combat in WWII, Howard Brodie drew the Watergate trial, Klaus Barbie, and Jack Ruby. Bill Robles drew Charles Manson and his followers, Roman Polanski, and the Unabomber. Richard Tomlinson drew "Son of Sam" and John Gotti. Elizabeth Williams illustrated the Central Park Jogger Case, Martha Stewart, the Times Square bomber. Aggie Kenny sketched Oliver North, Angela Davis, and the Gainesville Eight trial. They are all featured on The Illustrated Courtroom blog*, and Kenny and Williams were interviewed about their craft. Their book, The Illustrated Courtroom: 50 Years of Court Art, came out last year from CUNY Journalism Press. [more inside]
What rights can a Deaf person who has been incarcerated expect? The National Association of the Deaf has a list of rights that correctional facilities must issue to Deaf people. However, a three-part documentary series done by HEARD (Helping to Advance the Rights of the Deaf) in conjunction with Al Jeezera (originally aired in December 2013) reveals that the actual experiences of Deaf prisoners diverge vastly from that of what they are entitled on on paper (trailer). [more inside]
Ghettoside is "about a very simple idea... Where the criminal justice system fails to respond vigorously to violent injury and death, homicide becomes endemic... The [problem]'s source was not general perversity of mind in the population that suffered. It was a weak legal apparatus that had long failed to place black injuries and the loss of black lives at the heart of its response when mobilizing the law, first in the South and later in segregated cities." - Jill Leovy (previously) [more inside]
Jed S. Rakoff, senior judge on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, former federal prosecutor and criminal defense attorney, sheds light on the problems with how over 90% of criminal cases are resolved and proposes that judges be permitted to participate in the plea bargaining process.
Arlena Lindley’s boyfriend Alonzo Turner beat her for months and murdered her child — so why was she sent to prison for 45 years? "...looking back over the past decade, BuzzFeed News identified 28 mothers in 11 states sentenced to at least 10 years in prison for failing to prevent their partners from harming their children. In every one of these cases, there was evidence the mother herself had been battered by the man." [article contains graphic descriptions of abuse]
If our criminal-justice system had to pay a fair wage for labor that inmates provide, it would collapse
Slide show of Michigan prisoners sentenced to life for crimes committed while they were minors. [more inside]
The Economist takes aim at the American criminal justice system in three articles from their latest edition: An opinion piece on mandatory life sentences without parole, a more in-depth view of some specific instances and of the data, and a look at the practice of charging fees to those convicted, or even just accused.
A son kills a father and the question is why. In the case of 10-year-old Joseph Hall, the answer seemed simple: The boy had been raised around hate."
Amy Wallace digs into a case of a young boy who killed his Neo-Nazi father: "A Very Dangerous Boy"
Amy Wallace digs into a case of a young boy who killed his Neo-Nazi father: "A Very Dangerous Boy"
Football coach Todd Hoffner took a 92 second cell phone video of his children goofing around after bathtime. [autoplaying (sfw) video] A few months later, he lost his job and was under investigation for child pornography. [more inside]
Remember the Central Park jogger case from 1990? Here's a (lengthy, fascinating) New York Magazine article discussing the case just around the time of the 2002 exoneration of the initial five accused, four of whom had previously confessed to the crime. 24 years after the attack, a group of filmmakers, together with the five wrongly convicted men, have created a documentary telling the tale: The Central Park Five. Criminal reform activists everywhere are hoping the story might change a few minds. Previously
Can forgiveness play a role in criminal justice? This week, the magazine tells the compelling and difficult story of the Grosmaire and McBride families, who together sought an alternative approach to justice after Conor McBride shot and killed his girlfriend Ann Grosmaire in 2010.
After decades of increases, the number of adults in the U.S. who are in prison, jail, on parole, or on probation has declined over the last few years. The pdf of the report from the U.S. Department of Justice is here. Comments from Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution, Reason Magazine's Hit & Run blog, and Keith Humphreys.
Go to Trial: Crash the Justice System. Michelle Alexander argues that ubiquitous plea bargains have allowed America's politicians and judicial system to short-circuit constitutional due process and ignore the mechanics of mass incarceration. If everyone charged with crimes suddenly exercised his constitutional rights, there would not be enough judges, lawyers or prison cells to deal with the ensuing tsunami of litigation.
All this brings me to an Indian I want you to know better than his jury did—Douglas Ray Stankewitz, the longest tenured inmate on California’s death row. Like most Indians who find themselves in a group of non-Indians, he is currently known as Chief, but unlike many Indians, he is proud of the nickname. The government wants to kill Chief because Theresa Greybeal was shot dead in the course of a robbery by a group of people high on heroin, and there is no question that Chief was one of them. There is a serious question about who pulled the trigger, and juries are reluctant to kill individuals who did not pull the trigger. But as far as his jury knew, Douglas Stankewitz pulled the trigger. And he might have, but we will never know, based on his trial.
The Global Commission on Drug Policy is the latest group to advocate an end to the drug war - but also an unusually high-profile one, including former Presidents of Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Switzerland, Prime Minister of Greece, Kofi Annan, Richard Branson, George Shultz and Paul Volcker. Tomorrow, June 2, sees the launch of their report, which advocates treating recreational drug use (and abuse) as a public health issue rather than a criminal justice one. [more inside]
Within the realm of criminal justice policy, drug courts have received growing attention and widespread adoption in the United States as a solution to cycles of addiction and incarceration. Their effectiveness has again been questioned, however, in recent reports released by the Justice Policy Institute and the Drug Policy Alliance: Addicted to Courts: How a Growing Dependent on Drug Courts Impacts People and Communities and Drug Courts Are Not the Answer. The National Association of Drug Court Professionals issued a lengthy initial response, pointing to past research touting the success of the drug court model. [more inside]
"In many places the concentration [of convicted residents] is so dense that states are spending in excess of a million dollars a year to incarcerate the residents of single city blocks."
Using rarely accessible data from the criminal justice system, the Spatial Information Design Lab and the Justice Mapping Center have created maps of these “million dollar blocks” and of the city-prison-city-prison migration flow for five of the nation’s cities. The maps suggest that the criminal justice system has become the predominant government institution in these communities and that public investment in this system has resulted in significant costs to other elements of our civic infrastructure — education, housing, health, and family. Prisons and jails form the distant exostructure of many American cities today.See the several linked pdfs.
The Lucretian swerve: The biological basis of human behavior and the criminal justice system
As de Duve has written, “If … neuronal events in the brain determine behavior, irrespective of whether they are conscious or unconscious, it is hard to find room for free will. But if free will does not exist, there can be no responsibility, and the structure of human societies must be revised”.Ben Libet & free will, previously on metafilter. (And more on: Lucretius, Dualism, Philosophy of mind, and Free Will 1, 2.)
The High Budgetary Cost of Incaceration (Full pdf) "The United States currently incarcerates a higher share of its population than any other country in the world. We calculate that a reduction in incarceration rates just to the level we had in 1993 (which was already high by historical standards) would lower correctional expenditures by $16.9 billion per year, with the large majority of these savings accruing to financially squeezed state and local governments. As a group, state governments could save $7.6 billion, while local governments could save $7.2 billion."
Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) are registered nurses who have special training and experience in forensic evidence collection (conducting “rape kits”) and survivor-centered care. They also increasingly conduct forensic examinations on suspects accused of sexual assault(PDF). There is evidence that, through this work, SANE programs increase the prosecution rates of sexual assault cases. However, as a result of a recent Supreme Court Case, Crawford v. Washington, the role of SANEs is being increasingly curtailed(behind a pay wall). [more inside]
Andrew O’Hagan writes in the London Review of Books on the James Bulger murder. It really should be read in conjunction with his earlier piece from 1993 to fully appreciate his stance. Previously   [more inside]
Radley Balko (mefi’s own), a journalist for reason magazine and writer of theagitator.com blog, published a startling story at reason online today (warning: disturbing photos and video) that convincingly suggests that the embattled doctors Steven Hayne and Michael West may have engaged in criminal evidence tampering that supported a capital murder conviction in the death of a 23 month old girl in Louisiana. Jimmie Duncan, the defendant, currently sits on death row. [more inside]
In the 1981 film Escape from New York, the entire island of Manhattan had been converted to a self-sufficient, walled off open air prison, devoid of guards & cells. The fiction of the film bears an alarming similarity to the reality of life in San Pedro Prison, a walled off, police-free convict slum in Bolivia's capital city, La Paz. This fascinating/horrifying experiment in criminal justice is the feature of a 2003 eponymous documentary; some of the details include the story of a drug kingpin, unhappy with his cell, who had a second story constructed to allow more breathing room; or the prison soccer team, sponsored by coca-cola, or even the non-prisoner children of the imprisoned, who roam the streets of San Pedro ("At least this way the parents live with their kids, and the family stays together. Outside, they’d have nowhere to live").
Blunkett charges miscarriage of justice victims ‘food and lodgings’ We locked you up in jail for 25 years and you were innocent all along? That’ll be £80,000 please.
A report commissioned by outgoing Maryland governor Parris Glendening has found interesting racial disparities in the death penalty: although it appears the race of the defendant is irrelevant individually in the application of capital punishment, such is is not the case when one weighs in the race of the victim of a crime, in which the killing of a white person by a black person nearly doubles the likelihood of the defendant receiving the death penalty, "primarily because they are substantially more likely to be charged by the state's attorney with a capital offense."
And now for something really depressing - the Texas Department of Criminal Justice maintains a database including the 'last statements' of all inmates executed since 1982.