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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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Now displaying: 2019
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.

Feb 19, 2019

We try to solve the problem of mass incarceration by eliminating mandatory sentences, or by getting rid of cash bail. But what about a better method of providing criminal defense services? Could this cut prison and jail populations, AND secure public safety? There’s a way to do this: use a holistic model for criminal defense services.

Our guest is James Anderson, the director of the Justice Policy Program and the Institute for Civil Justice, and a senior behavioral and social scientist at the RAND Corporation, in Pittsburgh. He’s one of the authors of “The Effects of Holistic Defense on Criminal Justice Outcomes,” which will be published in the Harvard Law Review.

Feb 16, 2019

As reported by George Joseph and Debbie Nathan in The Intercept and The Appeal, inmates at many U.S. prisons are coerced to submit digital voice print samples before being allowed to use the telephone. 

Feb 13, 2019

Following up last week's Jamie Kalven interview (recorded late 2018), an update on major recent developments in the Laquan McDonald case.

Feb 12, 2019

Season 1 fan favorite Jordan Margolis, aka Excuseman: the hero we deserve, but not the one we need.

Feb 5, 2019

Chicago has seen police scandals for decades -- from torturing suspects into confessions to the Laquan McDonald murder and coverup. 

James Kalven has combined journalism and human rights work to spur police reform. Has it worked? And what lies ahead for a city awash in homicides and distrust of police?

Feb 2, 2019

An algorithm can't be racist, right? As it turns out, facial recognition software trained and tested mostly on white people is really good at identifying race and gender... as long as you're white and male. 

New York Times Jan. 24, 2019: "Amazon is Pushing Facial Technology That a Study Says Could Be Biased"

Jan 29, 2019

Criminal Injustice season 1 guest Sam Walker argues in the Illinois Law Review that criminal justice reform is still possible.

Jan 26, 2019

The Supreme Court delivers decisions on two criminal justice hot buttons: civil asset forfeiture and double jeopardy. 

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