Law and Order

Law and Order
10:48 am
Sat August 23, 2014

Even Police Body Cameras Can Lose Sight Of The Truth

Many residents of Ferguson, Mo., would like to see the police wear video cameras, like this one worn by a Los Angeles police officer.
Damian Dovarganes AP

Originally published on Mon August 25, 2014 12:12 pm

Ferguson, Mo., found a degree of civic calm this week after days and nights of angry clashes between protestors and the police.

Now the city is working to restore trust with residents after a white police officer fatally shot black teenager Michael Brown on Aug. 9. City leaders and residents say one way to do that might be to equip police with personal video cameras.

"All the cops have to have body cameras and dashboard cameras," says resident Alonzo Bond, "so everybody can be accountable."

Read more
Law and Order
2:35 am
Tue August 19, 2014

Mental Health Cops Help Reweave Social Safety Net In San Antonio

Officers Ned Bandoske (left) and Ernest Stevens are part of San Antonio's mental health squad — a six-person unit that answers the frequent emergency calls where mental illness may play a role.
Jenny Gold Kaiser Health News

Originally published on Thu August 21, 2014 11:08 am

It's almost 4 p.m., and police officers Ernest Stevens and Ned Bandoske have been driving around town in their unmarked black SUV since early this morning. The officers are part of San Antonio's mental health squad — a six-person unit that answers the frequent emergency calls where mental illness may be an issue.

The officers spot a call for help on their laptop from a group home across town.

"A male individual put a blanket on fire this morning," Stevens reads from the blotter. "He's arguing ... and is a danger to himself and others. He's off his medications."

Read more
Law and Order
4:10 pm
Sun August 17, 2014

New Orleans Makes Big Push To Get More Cops On The Streets

After a hiring freeze caused by a budget crisis, New Orleans is now struggling to replace the roughly 100 officers a year it loses to retirements and officers quitting.
Rusty Costanza Getty Images

Originally published on Tue August 19, 2014 1:08 pm

New Orleans is still reeling from another spate of violence last weekend, when five people were killed by gunfire and 11 wounded, including two toddlers. The city has launched high-profile campaigns to address gun violence, but a big part of the problem is an acute shortage of police.

Karen Rogers lives in the lower 9th Ward, where a recent drive-by shooting left two people dead and several more wounded. Police say it was drug-related.

"This is not the first time [I've heard gunshots]," says Rogers. "This is the first time to actually see people murdered and shot."

Read more
Law and Order
11:02 am
Wed August 6, 2014

A State Court Says Rap Lyrics Can't Be Used As Evidence In A Criminal Trial

Vonte Skinner had his attempted murder case considered by New Jersey's Supreme Court, which ruled that lyrics he wrote years before the crime he was charged with were not admissible in the trial.
Uncredited ASSOCIATED PRESS

Originally published on Thu August 7, 2014 9:10 am

Just a few days ago, Code Switch wrote about the use violent hip-hop lyrics as evidence in criminal cases, a practice that some critics say violates defendants' First Amendment rights and plays up jurors' misunderstandings of the use of hyperbole in hip-hop.

Read more
Law and Order
2:49 am
Wed August 6, 2014

After Discrimination Finding, Jury's Out On Memphis Juvenile Courts

Juvenile wing of the Orleans Parish Prison in Louisiana. In Memphis, the juvenile court system was criticized for inadequate defense of their clients and treating minority children more harshly.
Richard Ross Juvenile In Justice

Originally published on Wed August 6, 2014 9:55 am

For people connected to the Memphis juvenile courts, April 2012 is unforgettable. That's when federal investigators determined that the Shelby County juvenile court system discriminated against African-American defendants.

The Justice Department said the system punished black children more harshly than whites. In the most incendiary finding, investigators said the court detained black children and sent them to be tried in the adult system twice as often as whites.

Read more
Law and Order
7:43 pm
Tue August 5, 2014

More Than 1,000 Undocumented Migrant Youth Harbored In Louisiana Homes Awaiting Trial

Originally published on Tue August 5, 2014 8:52 pm

A new investigation from the Lens looks at the case of thousands of unaccompanied minors from Central American countries who are facing court proceedings in New Orleans. 

Read more
Law and Order
9:56 am
Mon July 28, 2014

Do Heat-Sensitive Inmates Have A Right To Air Conditioning?

Inmate dormitories at Louisiana State Penitentiary, like this one photographed in July 2011, have heating in the winter and cooling by fans and open windows in the summer, but no air conditioning. A judge ruled earlier this year that that constituted cruel and unusual punishment, but installation is on hold pending a state appeal.
Scott Threlkeld The Times-Picayune/Landov

Originally published on Fri July 25, 2014 6:40 pm

The exact cause of prisoner Jerome Murdough's death at Rikers Island in February is still under investigation. But the temperature in the cell when he was found in New York City's biggest jail was at least 100 degrees.

The death of Murdough, who had severe mental illness, called renewed attention to a long-standing problem: maintaining reasonable temperatures in jails and prisons.

Read more
Law and Order
2:08 pm
Sun July 27, 2014

With Judges Overriding Death Penalty Cases, Alabama Is An Outlier

Courtney Lockhart is appealing a death penalty sentence that a judge gave him in 2011, which overrode the jury's recommendation of life in prison.
Dave Martin AP

When Courtney Lockhart was tried for murder in Alabama, the jury unanimously recommended a life sentence, but the judge overrode that recommendation and sentenced Lockhart to death instead. Now the convicted murderer is asking the state Supreme Court to examine Alabama's unique process of judicial override.

Alabama is an outlier. It's the only state in which judges routinely override jury decisions not to impose the death penalty.

Read more
Law and Order
9:44 am
Thu July 17, 2014

Study Reveals Worse Outcomes For Black And Latino Defendants

Cyrus Vance Jr., the district attorney for Manhattan, wanted to see if there were disparities in how the cases were disposed of.
John Minchillo AP

Originally published on Thu July 17, 2014 12:26 pm

There are a lot of steps that come between an arrest and a conviction, and between conviction and sentencing. And throughout that winding process, a prosecutor's decisions carry enormous weight.

Does the prosecutor accept the case? Does she have the defendant jailed before trial? Is a plea bargain offered to the defendant, and if so, what are the terms?

Read more
Law and Order
2:28 am
Mon July 14, 2014

How Banning One Question Could Help Ex-Offenders Land A Job

Sherman Justice says he struggled when he got out of prison after serving time for robbery and drug trafficking.
Pam Fessler NPR

Originally published on Wed July 16, 2014 6:40 pm

Washington, D.C., is expected to join four states and several cities soon in prohibiting companies from asking job applicants — up front — if they have a criminal record.

It's part of a growing movement called Ban the Box, a reference to that box on a job application form that asks, "Have you ever been convicted of a crime?"

Advocates for the laws say having to check the box prevents many ex-offenders from getting a fair shot at a job.

Read more

Pages