Marshall Project News of the Day

Opening Statement
March 27, 2017
Opening Statement is our pick of the day’s criminal justice news. Not a subscriber? Sign up. For original reporting from The Marshall Project, visit our website.


Where’s a good Phaser when you need one? The quest for a nonlethal alternative to the police officer’s standard-issue service revolver goes on even as more cops use Tasers. One problem with the technology is that it cannot account for the medical condition of the person at whom it is directed. Another problem is user error, an officer who uses his “nonlethal” weapon in the wrong place at the wrong time. In collaboration with Wired, here from Robin Washington is the latest in our “Justice Lab” series. THE MARSHALL PROJECT
Number of rapes reported in 2016 in Yellowstone County: 60. Number of prosecutions: 0. Even though it can be difficult to obtain a conviction in a sex assault case, there appears to be a disconnect between police and prosecutors in one southern Montana county. A surprise, perhaps, since Missoula County, in the west of the state, was reprimanded by the Justice Department in 2014 for failing to adequately prosecute rape cases. Why are so many complaints translating into so few charges? BILLINGS GAZETTE
At least 23,000 drug convictions in Massachusetts will be vacated next month as the toll of the state’s drug lab scandal becomes clearer. Five years after chemist Annie Dookhan’s misconduct was discovered, prosecutors say they can only justify 500 to 1,000 of the 24,000 convictions tied to her work at the lab. A judge will consider those cases once they are identified on April 18th and could dismiss more. Left unclear is whether individual defendants whose convictions are sustained will be able to challenge those decisions separately. THE BOSTON GLOBE Related: Maryland prosecutors say they will seek to overturn convictions in cases tainted by police officers involved in racketeering scandal. BALTIMORE SUN
Lost in Translation. More than a dozen Chicago police officers have escaped punishment for misconduct simply because officials lost track of their cases within the city’s massive bureaucracy. The figure includes several cops still working despite having been violent or harassing toward women; officers who were supposed to be suspended. Officials were so clueless about the problem that it took a media investigation to alert them to the scope of it. CHICAGO TRIBUNE More: New study shows dramatic drop in street stops but still a pattern of racial disparities. CHICAGO TRIBUNE
Biker War. Remember that deadly motorcycle gang fight in Waco, Texas, two years ago? The one in which nine people were killed, 18 injured, and hundreds arrested and charged? The first trial emanating from that violence is set to begin next month; beginning a series of trials that could take years to complete. The controversial prosecutor at the helm of case hopes a few early convictions will generate a wave of subsequent plea deals. Defense attorneys, meanwhile, have filed scores of pretrial lawsuits contending that the “conspiracy” theory at the core of the prosecution violates the rights of many of the defendants. TEXAS MONTHLY


An Ohio grand jury declines to indict two police officers in a fatal shooting of a black man last year, and protests erupt anew. The officers now face an administrative review. THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Police in Jacksonville, Florida, used surveillance software to spy on Black Lives Matter activists and on other citizens who were exercising their right to speech and association, a new investigation reveals. FLORIDA TIMES-UNION
California man has filed a Florida lawsuit alleging outrageous conduct by employees of a prisoner extradition company, Inmate Services Corp., during a 15-day, 8,000-mile, 31-state journey. ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER TMP Context: How to investigate prisoner transport in your state. THE MARSHALL PROJECT
Oregon is confronting a new wave of racist vandalism and a new round of debate over the meaning of a hate crime. BUZZFEED
This medium-security prison in Connecticut has a hospice program — rare in the nation — where inmates help each other die with dignity. NARRATIVELY


Mob rules. The law exists to protect us from the mob. When a governor leads a mob you get what we have in Florida in the case of prosecutor Aramis Ayala. TAMPA BAY TIMES
When the punishment doesn’t end after prison. It’s time for state lawmakers to take a long, hard, new look “collateral consequences” — civil penalties such as banishment from certain jobs — that contribute to recidivism. THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION
Whose lives matter? A terror attack in New York typically generates an immediate and passionate outpouring of sympathy from public officials. Why the silence over white supremacist Timothy Caughman? THE NEW YORK TIMES
Kentucky killings. “We should not feel comfortable raising children in a world where they learn how to order flowers for their friend’s funeral before they learn how to buy a house or start a retirement fund.” THE COURIER-JOURNAL
A “reformer” who reformed nothing. Even apart from the corruption Philadelphia DA Seth Williams was a disappointment to those who hoped he would change an injustice system. SLATE


Leak of the Day: In which the secret disciplinary files of Daniel Pantaleo, the NYPD officer who killed Eric Garner in 2014, are reportedly made public. THINKPROGRESS
Public Shaming of the Day: Trump administration officials are scouring privacy law for ways to more freely disseminate personal information about immigrants. THE WASHINGTON POST
Transcript of the Day: In which the Supreme Court justices ponder the conflict between police immunity and Second Amendment gun rights. U.S. SUPREME COURT
Warning of the Day: How face recognition software threatens to turn police body cameras into surveillance machines. THE INTERCEPT
First Person of the Day: The scariest part of working in a prison is not the inmates it’s the way we set them up for failure and then punish them when they fail, says a substance-abuse counselor working with prisoners. THOUGHT CATALOG
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