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Criminal (In)justice

Problems with police, prosecutors and courts have people asking: is our criminal justice system broken? University of Pittsburgh law professor David Harris interviews the people who know the system best, and hears their best ideas for fixing it. Criminal (In)justice is an independent production created in partnership with 90.5 WESA, Pittsburgh's NPR News Station.
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May 24, 2019

Hundreds of former federal prosecutors are now on record that -- but for the Justice Department's policy against prosecuting sitting presidents -- the Mueller report contains ample evidence to bring obstruction charges against Donald Trump.

May 21, 2019

In the metropolitan heart of the tech industry, San Francisco bars police and city agencies from using facial recognition software. The latest in a string of recent stories we've been following on evolving technologies of surveillance.

CI #36 Alvaro Bedoya

CI #49 Barry Friedman

 

May 18, 2019

Apropos of our recent episode on ALPRs, Holly from Idaho asks: what can we, as citizens, do about these surveillance systems that seem to be popping up in the digital world?

May 14, 2019

Mass incarceration remains the hallmark of the US justice system, as it has been for decades. In the last ten years, in some states, we see less jail in low-level cases and more electronic monitoring. But does this just trade one form of custody for another?

Our guest, law professor Chaz Arnett, reveals the new world of e-carceration. He’s the author of “Virtual Shackles: Electronic Surveillance and the Adultification of Juvenile Courts” and "From Decarceration to E-carceration."

May 10, 2019

A federal court ruling on the practice of marking tires with chalk to enforce parking ordinances delivers an unexpected reinterpretation of the Fourth Amendment.

May 5, 2019

Using ubiquitous traffic cameras that can read license plate numbers, cities are building automated surveillance networks that indiscriminately scoop up data on the movements of individual vehicles. When an Automatic License Plate Reader (ALPR) system sees a plate that matches one in a police database, officers are dispatched -- sometimes with guns drawn. These systems have shockingly high error rates. What could possibly go wrong?

Charlie Warzel, “When License-Plate Surveillance Goes Horribly Wrong”

Apr 30, 2019

The American criminal justice system is all about finding the bad guys, convicting them, and penalizing them -- often by sending them to prison. But what does that do to help victims restore themselves? Can we imagine a system not of criminal justice, but restorative justice?

Van Jones is a CNN contributor and host of The Redemption Project.

Apr 28, 2019

Where does U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr get off ordering immigration judges around? Turns out many federal officials commonly referred to as "judges" -- those appointed under Article I -- are actually employed by and accountable to federal agencies (in this case, the Justice Department).

Apr 24, 2019

Now that a redacted version of the full Mueller report is out, how do its contents stack up against initial reaction to A.G. Bill Barr's four-page summary? Strap in, there's a lot to cover.

Apr 16, 2019

American prosecutors have always been powerful figures in our justice system: they decide the charges, and offer the plea bargains. But our guest says they have become far too powerful – resulting in mass incarceration and the wrecking of human lives over trivial offenses.

Emily Bazelon, best-selling author and a staff writer at The New York Times Magazine, says it’s time for this to change. She’s the author of “Charged: The New Movement to Transform American Criminal Justice and End Mass Incarceration.”

Apr 12, 2019

The City of Pittsburgh made national news by passing gun control legislation that's all but certain to trigger lawsuits under a state law that bars municipalities from regulating firearm ownership locally. Will it hold up in court?

Apr 9, 2019

Two very different views on prosecuting financial fraudsters and corporate criminals: Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara says plausible deniability makes it all but impossible to go after high-level executives like those who caused the 2008 housing collapse and ensuing crises. Others, like journalist Jesse Eisinger and Bharara’s own SDNY predecessor (one James Comey), say effective deterrence means taking on tough cases even if there’s a risk of losing.

Apr 6, 2019

Reaction was swift and intense when news broke that special counsel Robert Mueller had concluded his investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. While Donald Trump takes a victory lap, both his opponents and his supporters are leaping to conclusions based on a four-page summary issued by AG William Barr. But until Mueller's full report is released, there's simply not enough information to properly characterize the investigation's outcome.

Apr 2, 2019

Jury service is THE way that members of the public participate in the criminal justice system. But who gets to serve? Are certain racial or ethnic groups excluded, and what’s the effect of these exclusions in the courtroom? An update on the groundbreaking “Jury Sunshine Project” from Professor Ronald Wright of Wake Forest University School of Law; he’s one of the co-leaders of the Jury Sunshine Project in North Carolina.

Mar 31, 2019

To mark the 100th episode of Criminal Injustice, Dave goes back to where the show began -- Pittsburgh's NPR station, 90.5 WESA -- for a chat with Kevin Gavin, host of WESA's The Confluence.

Mar 29, 2019

As discussed recently on Criminal Injustice, California may soon revisit the "reasonable objective officer" standard for use of force by police. The story caught the attention of NPR's Martin Kaste, who called Dave up to ask how that would work. Their conversation turned into a March 12 story on All Things Considered. Hear their full, unedited interview here.

Mar 26, 2019

Michael Rosfeld, the former East Pittsburgh police officer seen on video shooting 17-year-old Antwon Rose in the back as he runs away, has been found not guilty of the unarmed teen's murder. While Friday's verdict angered many and surprised some, it's only the latest in a long string of cases demonstrating the near-impossibility, under current statute and case law, of successfully prosecuting police officers for homicide.

Mar 23, 2019

Far from the most sordid detail of the R. Kelly case, but pretty messed up: Kelly's (apparently terminally ill) former defense attorney now says the singer was "guilty as hell" on child porn charges.

Mar 19, 2019

When policing has a major crisis – the 1980s crime wave, or the killings of unarmed black men by police in 2014 and 2015 – we often grab for a high-tech fix. But technology seldom becomes the silver bullet we hope for. Our guest has put this trend under the microscope. We talk with veteran investigative journalist Matt Stroud about his new book, Thin Blue Lie: The Failure of High-Tech Policing, published in April of 2019.

Mar 12, 2019

When deciding whether to charge a police officer with murder, prosecutors are bound to a stricter standard than applies in other murder cases. But that could change under a bill advancing in California's state legislature.

Mar 8, 2019

An Illinois police officer gets probation after shooting his own son.

Mar 5, 2019

Americans know that if they want a better criminal justice system, prosecutors must drive change. We’ve seen the result in election of more progressive prosecutors across the country. But what should this new wave of prosecutors do? What policies should shape their priorities?

Our guest Miriam Krinsky is a former prosecutor and now executive director of Fair and Just Prosecution, which has issued a new report, “21 Principles for 21st Century Prosecutor.”

Mar 2, 2019

Thousands of California police officers have been convicted of crimes, but their identities are kept secret under a state attorney general's policy. Now AG Xavier Becerra is threatening to prosecute journalists who obtained a list of criminal cops via an open records request.

Feb 26, 2019

As reported by WBEZ, there's been a rash of suicides in Chicago's police department, including officers who shot themselves while in uniform and on duty. 

Patrick Smith, "Chicago’s Police Suicide Rate Is Higher Than National Average. What’s Being Done About It?"

Feb 23, 2019

Civil asset forfeiture takes a hit in the Supreme Court: per this week's 9-0 decision, the constitutional prohibition against excessive fines applies to states under 12th amendment due process protections.

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