Season 4

bonus: 2017 crime stats revisited


To hear Attorney General Jeff Sessions talk, you'd think violent crime in the U.S. was spiraling out of control. But as journalist and past Criminal Injustice guest Brenton Mock writes, the data paint a very different picture. 


Episode 72


An important rule of legal ethics is the obligation to keep client information confidential. Lawyers say that rule is fundamental to the attorney-client relationship, so clients can speak freely. But what happens when following that rule keep someone else – an innocent person – in prison? That’s what happened to Alton Logan, who sat in prison in Illinois for 26 years, even though two lawyers who represented the real killer knew the truth all along.

David talks to author and journalist Berl Falbaum, who helped Logan tell his story in "Justice Failed: How ‘Legal Ethics’ Kept Me in Prison for 26 Years.”


bonus: how much trouble is roy moore in?


Sexual abuse allegations against Alabama Judge Roy Moore have dealt a blow to the Republican candidate's Senate campaign. But could he also face criminal charges? 


Episode 71


When bad behavior by a police officer makes news, police often say that it’s just about one bad officer. But police departments seldom make the character of each officer the biggest factor in who they hire.

Sheriff Jack Serier of Ramsey County, Minnesota explains how his department made character-driven hiring the centerpiece of local reform.



Bonus: Do Suspects Have a Right to a Lawyer, Dog?


Many people are incredulous at the Louisiana Supreme Court's refusal to hear an appeal over the conviction of a man who asked police during his interrogation to "give me a lawyer, dog."

According to an opinion written by one of the justices, the request was too ambiguous to count as an invocation of the suspect's Miranda rights. David explains why that's actually correct -- for reasons entirely unrelated to the vernacular usage of "dog."


Episode 70


Criminal prosecutors can protect the public and build up their communities, but they can also make the system more punitive and send many more people to prison and jail. Yet for all of their importance, many prosecutors, once elected, serve for multiple terms and often run unopposed. 

Whitney Tymas is a consultant for the Safety & Justice political action committee. Since 2015, the PAC has helped swing most of the 16 liberal candidates it's backed in local elections nationwide.

What inspired a career attorney to dive into local politics in places she'd never even visited? 

It was clear to me that there were some prosecutors who were definitely part of the problem, but also that there were some who offered some hope.
— Whitney Tymas

bonus: the end of the beginning for trump


What do the indictments of two former Trump campaign aides, and the guilty plea entered by a third, tell us about the status of special prosecutor Robert Mueller's investigation?

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Episode 69


Since they began in the early 20th century, juvenile courts always treated kids differently – as people who were young enough to change. This began to change in the 1980s and 1990s when crime really spiked and we began putting some kids in adult courts and prisons – even giving life without parole and death penalties.

Marsha Levick, deputy director and chief counsel for the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia, explains what changed.


bonus: police body cams revisited


There were high hopes for police body cameras in the wake of Ferguson. But three years later, have they lived up to the hype? A new study says no.


Episode 68


Police have endured harsh public scrutiny over use of force cases, but prosecutors have also taken heat for choosing not to pursue cases when civilians are shot by police.

Older, more traditional prosecutorial professional organizations, such as the National District Attorneys Association, have fought against any changes. But one group, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, has taken a more open approach, arguing for the importance of prosecutorial independence and transparency.

David LaBahn is the CEO and president for the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, a national association representing elected and appointed prosecutors. You can find the APA's Use of Force Project report here


Bonus: groping with impunity... again


Harvey Weinstein is heard on tape admitting to criminal acts, and there's more than enough evidence to prosecute him. So why isn't he facing charges? And does this sound familiar?

Courtesy of the Urban Institute

Courtesy of the Urban Institute

Episode 67


Gun violence kills thousands of Americans every year. It carries massive consequences in lives lost, injuries and medical treatment, but what about the economic cost – in jobs, businesses and community development? How can we measure the economic opportunity costs of gun violence?

Dr. Yasemin Irvin-Erickson is a senior researcher at the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center.

She's the lead author of "The Effect of Gun Violence on Local Economies."


Episode 66


The death penalty – once a constant in U.S. criminal justice – has actually declined for more than a decade. In the last few years, it’s fallen dramatically, with death sentences handed down and executions way off. Why? And what does it mean for the rest of the criminal justice system?

Brandon Garrett is a law professor and author of End of Its Rope: How Killing the Death Penalty Can Revive Criminal Justice.


Bonus: SCOTUS and Cell Phone Records


The U.S. Supreme Court is back in session this week with a major criminal justice case on the docket. In this bonus episode, a quick primer on what's at stake in Carpenter v. U.S.

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Episode 65


The Chicago Police Department has a big problem with misconduct against civilians – both now and in the past. How much does this cost the city financially? What do the patterns of misconduct tell us? And why has the city done almost nothing to address those patterns?

With his colleagues at the Chicago Reporter, journalist Jonah Newman created a database with over 900 misconduct payouts over six years. He says not only can police misconduct can do a lot of damage -- inciting fear or upsetting the public trust that officers need to do their jobs, especially when their actions affect primarily people of color -- but also costs taxpayers millions.

Check out their reporting project here.


bonus: where are they now?


Updates on a pair of stories we've covered in the last year: Lawyers Behaving Badly alumnus Roy Moore becomes Alabama's GOP nominee for U.S. Senate, and a D.C. court puts new limits on police use of "Stingray" surveillance technology re: Episode 48).


Episode 64


Police killings of unarmed black men, stop-and-frisk policies and racially disproportionate prison populations have all been called symptoms of a broken criminal justice system.

Georgetown law professor and author Paul Butler says no – this is exactly the way the system was designed to work.

His new book, "Chokehold: Policing Black Men" is out now.


Bonus: Why So Few Jury Trials for Police Defendants?


The acquittal of a St. Louis police officer charged with shooting a civilian has raised the question: why wasn't the case heard by a jury? David explains why police facing trial often opt to be tried by a judge.

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Episode 63


Mass incarceration in the U.S. created crisis conditions in prisons everywhere, and modern prison systems now have to address much more than just locking inmates up. 

State Corrections Secretary John Wetzel explains the unique challenges of providing for Pennsylvania's inmate population, and what his team does to get them ready for life on the outside.

Wetzel is the Secretary of Corrections for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He came to the job in 2010 after decades as a corrections officer, counselor, trainer, and warden.


Bonus: (Russian) Signals and Counter-Signals


Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller is teaming up with the New York Attorney General's office. What does it mean for the investigation into the Trump White House's Russia connection?

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Episode 62


Killings of unarmed black people by police have worsened historically troubled police-community relations. Until recently, little research existed that might help explain this or improve the situation. Social psychologists have created work that helps us understand why things go wrong in policing, what role race plays, and how we can do better.

Dr. Phillip Atiba Goff is the Thomas Professor of Policing Equity at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the president and co-founder of the Center for Policing Equity. He's one of the nation’s leading researchers in the field.

Keep up with his work on the National Justice Database here.

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After riots erupted Ferguson in 2014, investigations revealed that the entire criminal justice system in St. Louis County – not just the police department – levied massive amounts of fines and fees on its poorest citizens in order to fund itself.  It was a wake-up call, but one organization had been in place working on these issues for five years.

Thomas Harvey is one of the co-founders and the executive director of the Arch City Defenders, an organization he helped build to take on systemic injustices and defend those who couldn’t get help elsewhere.