Roundup: The DOJ's damning report on Louisville PD, Republicans work to disenfranchise urban voters on crime policy, Max's two-week adventure
Some programming notes:
— I’ve had some unanticipated delays, but I’m still working on my deep dive into ballistics matching. Hoping to publish next week!
— As always, feel free to send your questions for the next reader mail post.
On to this week’s roundup:
The DOJ’s latest damning investigation looks at the Louisville PD. Investigators found abuse and excessive force, rampant constitutional violations, racism and discrimination, and general thuggery. Money quote: "Some officers have videotaped themselves throwing drinks at pedestrians from their cars; insulted people with disabilities; and called Black people 'monkeys,' 'animal,' and 'boy.” The report also confirmed something I reported a few years ago — the department had been habitually executing illegal no-knock raids, with no pushback or oversight from judges or prosecutors. (As I understand it, since the Breonna Taylor raid the department has all but ceased not only no-knocks, but all forced-entry drug raids.)
Blistering report from civilian oversight board finds criminal gangs are a growing “cancer” within the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, and that gang members still occupy some of the highest-ranking position in the agency. This has been going on for decades. It’s one of those criminal justice stories that’s almost impossible to tell people about without sounding like a nutty conspiracy theorist. So just tell them to listen to Cerise Castle’s podcast.
New Jersey police officers shot and killed a man who worked with a violence interruption group. He was having a mental health crisis, had barricaded himself in his home, and was cutting himself with a knife. His colleagues — who of course specialize in counseling people in crisis — asked police to let them speak to him. The officers refused. Instead, they eventually lured him out of his bathroom and killed him. Police say he was still holding a knife when he emerged, though the officers stood behind ballistics shields.
Surveillance video shows at least 11 Virginia sheriff’s deputies and medical staff piled on a black man who was also having a mental health crisis shortly before he died.
Lance Reddick, RIP. A magnificent talent, a magnetic presence on screen, and by all accounts just a decent human being. His family has asked that memorial donations be made to a charity that assists low-income mothers in Baltimore.
Here’s a mini-round up of how Republican governors, legislatures, and attorneys general across the country are moving to disenfranchise voters in blue cities and counties: The Intercept reports that 17 states have now tried to strip elected reformist district attorneys of their power. In Texas, they’re trying to create a new court that would remove cases from Austin courts the legislature believes are too liberal. They’re doing the same thing in Jackson, Mississippi. In Florida, a New York Times investigation provides more confirmation for what was clear all along — that Ron DeSantis’ removal of Tampa prosecutor Andrew Warren was purely political, and had nothing to do with public safety. In St. Louis, the police union is working with state Republicans wrest control of the police department from city officials and put it under the control of the Missouri governor. And in D.C., Republicans in Congress are pushing a union-backed bill to unravel the city’s police reforms, including reforms that make it easier to fire abusive cops.
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A Brooklyn man has been freed after 18 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. According to the current Brooklyn DA’s office, the man was convicted despite the fact that police, prosecutors, and even the judge knew that the man an eyewitness picked from a photo lineup wasn’t the man who was later convicted. Instead, it was a different man who shared the same name.
An innocent Oregon man was incarcerated for nearly a year because of a glitch in the DMV database. No one listened to him, or bothered to check.
Indiana’s legislature is considering a bill that would let police bar anyone from recording them inside of a 25-foot perimeter. In urban areas, this would effectively stop people from recording police in public. If a similar law had been in effect in Minnesota, it would have allowed police to prevent the cell phone recordings of George Floyd’s death.
Video shows NYPD brass intervened to prevent an ex-cop from being charged after he allegedly pulled a gun on three teenagers.
In Chicago, two former prosecutors have been indicted for perjury, obstruction, and other crimes for their role in helping wrongly convict a man of murdering two police officers. The man served 36 years before he was freed. The case was part of the John Burge torture scandal which, incredibly, is still playing out more than 40 years later.
Lawsuit: Detroit man alleges police retaliated against him for challenging the city’s forfeiture laws by charging him with felonies.
Study from Europe finds that when countries decriminalize prostitution, rape rates go down. When they prohibit prostitution, rape rates go up.
A Florida professor was fired after the parent of an adult student complained about “critical race theory” in the professor’s lesson plan.
On the 60th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, a Sixth Amendment Center report on the state of public defense. One finding: States spend more on policing and prosecution than on public defense by about a 30-1 margin.
L.A. police union says LAPD should stop responding to non-emergency calls. Sounds good!
President Biden caved and signed a dumb, Republican-led bill to nullify a Washington, D.C. law that would have reformed the city’s criminal code. Paul Butler, who helped write the reform law, explains how the bill was badly mischaracterized (including by my former colleagues at the the Washington Post Opinion section).
A Florida man sentenced to 400 years in prison for an armed robbery has been exonerated. Florida is among the country’s leaders in both exonerations and death row exonerations. Still, Ron DeSantis wants to make it easier for the state to execute people.
The FBI has admitted to purchasing cell phone location data from marketing firms. The agency has previously denied purchasing such data.
Toronto police are accused of stealing cash after their own photos of money they seized during a drug raid showed larger stack of bills than what they checked into evidence.
Federal judge Robert Benitez ordered a 13-year-old girl to be handcuffed in his courtroom while he berated her. She had done nothing wrong. Benitez just wanted to make sure she didn’t turn out like her dad, whom Benitiz had just sentenced for drug possession. Incidentally, after George W. Bush nominated Benitez, the ABA declared him unfit for the bench, citing colleagues who had described him as, among other things, “arrogant, pompous, bullying, short-tempered, condescending, unnecessarily mean, and utterly lacking in people skills.” He was confirmed anyway, with support from California’s two Democratic senators.
The FBI seized all $40,000 of Linda Martin’s life savings. She was hoping to buy a home. The agency never explained why, and never charged her with a crime. This isn’t uncommon. Martin is now part of a class action lawsuit brought by the Institute for Justice.
In-depth investigation into how four teens were charged with felony murder after a Phoenix police officer shot and killed one one of their friends. There are major discrepancies in the police narrative.
Here’s a follow-up on the case of Charles McCrory, an Alabama man who was convicted of his murder due primarily to bullshit bitemark testimony. He remains in prison even though the state’s bitemark “expert” has since recanted his testimony. The state argued — and the courts so far have agreed — that the recantation is irrelevant because jury could have engaged in its own bitemark analysis. Which, of course, juries aren’t supposed to do.
Aggressive policing tactics in Memphis aren’t limited to the “Scorpion” units.
A story that’s becoming all too common: Fearing prosecution, Tennessee doctors refused to help a woman end her ectopic pregnancy, putting he life at risk. Meanwhile, 21 South Carolina lawmakers now want to execute women who get abortions.
Related: Two mothers are suing hospitals who drug tested them without their consent shortly after they gave birth. Both women say poppyseed bagels resulted in false positives, which then triggered investigations into possible abuse or neglect. Given the current climate, it shouldn’t be at all surprising pregnant women with drug and alcohol problems are increasingly avoiding treatment out of fear of prosecution.
Here’s a compelling piece on the ongoing crisis in public defense. I’d just add that the attorney profiled here works in New York city. And as overworked as he clearly is, New York still has one of the better public defender systems in the country.
Yet another study finds that New York’s bail reform laws did not increase recidivism.
Arkansas Gov. Sarah Sanders is pushing a bill that would require state residents to provide a government-issued ID in order to use social media.
In May of 2022, President Biden signed an executive order requiring the Justice Department to set up a database of police misconduct within 240 days. That was 301 days ago. There is still no database.
Report: Kids in a Baltimore youth jail facility are kept in rodent-infested cells that sometimes flood with sewer water. Some are kept in cells for 23 hours per day, and have been incarcerated for months without formal charges.
The DEA has known for years that some Mexican pharmacies have been selling oxycodone that is actually fentanyl. The agency never bothered to issue a warning, which has almost certainly resulted in unnecessary deaths. All in keeping with the agency’s unofficial motto: better dead than high.
One third of the East Cleveland, Ohio police department has now been indicted for civil rights abuses or public corruption.
Study finds that “municipalities that rely more on fines and fees have more police killings, suggesting municipal fiscal imperatives influence police violence.”
Video of the week: Michigan state trooper Paul Arrowood is facing criminal charges after confronting a black man who was walking to work, throwing him to the ground, and punching him.
Tweet of the week:
This week in dog history:
For the last couple weeks, our neighborhood here in East Nashville has been frantically trying to help find a lost dog named Max. He was visiting the city with his family as part of a cross-country trip. It’s been pretty inspiring — with some occasional drama and conflict — as folks came together to put up posters and post sightings on neighborhood Facebook pages. After nearly two weeks, Max was finally trapped by a rescuer from Dog Days Search & Rescue in Cookeville. She had volunteered her services.
Max had a hell of an adventure. Word on the street is that he’s already under contract to publish his memoir, Twelve Days a Wolf.
You can watch a delightful video of Max’s rescue and reunification with his family here.
Photo: Denali National Park, Alaska
Re Max, we lost our Border Collie Zach for 10 days in 2017, and I swear he wore that same guilty look when I found him.
Wow, The Roundup is a litany of headlines that are depressing. Need to sprinkle in some good news, too (in addition to the dog story).