Opening Statement
September 8, 2017
Edited by Andrew Cohen
Opening Statement is our pick of the day’s criminal justice news. Not a subscriber? Sign up. For original reporting from The Marshall Project, visit our website.

Pick of the News

Sentenced to life in prison… and a job making furniture without any compensation. Jayson Hawkins will almost certainly die in prison in Texas for a murder he committed when he was 20 years old. Here he recounts his time on a work detail, a job without even the patina of rehabilitation but filled with plenty of sawdust, and nail guns, and camaraderie with his fellow prisoners. In collaboration with Vice, here is the latest in our “Life Inside” series. The Marshall Project

Good news for grandma. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Thursday affirmed and broadened a trial judge’s order staying implementation of the Trump administration’s revised Muslim travel ban, the one that sought to bar grandparents from entry into the U.S. CNN Feds say they’ll again ask the U.S. Supreme Court to intercede. Politico About 24,000 refugees said to be immediately affected by the ban. Los Angeles Times Related Commentary: Given their June guidance, don’t bet on the justices rushing to the rescue of a ban. The Washington Post

When prosecutors refuse to admit defeat. Even when murder or rape cases fall apart, even when the evidentiary bases for convictions unravel over time, prosecutors refuse to let go. In Baltimore, this routinely takes the form of an “Alford plea” in which innocent defendants are faced with an awful choice; plead guilty to crimes they didn’t commit so they can leave prison immediately or take a chance on prevailing in a new trial, which could take years. ProPublica More: To avoid embarrassing exonerations, dangling prison keys. ProPublica

St. Louis blues. The Trump administration’s strategy to lower violent crime rates is to steer more gun crimes into the federal system. It’s been a main point of emphasis in the speeches and policies offered by Attorney General Jeff Sessions But a quick look at what’s happening in St. Louis shows the tactic is designed to fail. Violent crime rates aren’t affected by longer sentences. By Mark Obbie. Politico Related: When the subject of your story on gun violence is shot and killed.

A presumption of guilt on campus. Pressed by Obama-era rules, many universities have gone too far in rejiggering burdens of proof in campus sex assault cases, precluding defendants from getting due process. Now Trump officials are pushing back in the other direction, seeking to better protect students accused of sexual assault. Is there any way to achieve a balance that satisfies both sides of these disputes? The Atlantic Related: Trump team to re-write Obama-era rules. Politico


Hurricane or not, one zealous Florida sheriff plans to check public shelters for those with outstanding warrants, promising to jail scofflaws. The New York Times Related: Some relevant background on the sheriff. Tampa Bay Times

Did you hear how “homeland security” officers in Tennessee spent $112,000 in asset forfeiture funds for catering and other “unallowable” expenses? The feds sure did. Justice Department/Office of Inspector General

A shooting in New York becomes a milestone; it’s the first one caught on mandated police body cameras. The New York Times

Police in Chicago, Illinois, are hoping they’ve found a strategy that is effective in limiting gun violence; they are taking away guns flooding the city from states like Arkansas. CBS News

The city of Los Angeles, California, settles with hundreds of people caught up in a surveillance scandal involving a notorious private eye who worked in tandem with a cop to get private records of celebrities. Los Angeles Times


Want to reduce crime? Increase immigration (and save DACA). It’s been nearly a century since the first canard linking immigrants and crime was debunked. Just Security

The “sanctuary city” fight and the First Amendment. Texas wrote its anti-immigrant law so broadly it impacted free speech rights as well. The Atlantic

Two sovereigns, one bad legal precedent. Time to end a huge exception to the protection against double jeopardy, a loophole that allows you to be prosecuted once by feds, once by the state, for the same crime. Cato Institute

Cover story. Did Vice President Pence commit obstruction of justice when James Comey was fired? Vox

Registration is punishment. A growing number of judges conclude that sex offender registration laws constitute illegal punishment. When will the Supreme Court agree? Reason


Crusade of the Day: Inside the movement to bring bail reform to every corner of America. Colorlines

Scandal of the Day: Did you hear about the DEA scandal and cover up involving a special agent who had an affair with a convicted criminal, which included having sex in a DEA office? Justice Department/Office of Inspector General

Redemption of the Day: A Louisiana prisoner transferred and punished for speaking to a journalist about misconduct within his prison saw his rights and privileges restored via a settlement with corrections officials. The Advocate

Question of the Day: Should states repeal or restrict the HIV-crime laws passed in the 1980s and 1990s? Pew Charitable Trusts

Report of the Day: Everything you always wanted to know about the corporate push to spread “ag-gag” laws across the country, aimed at journalists and whistleblowers who do undercover investigations of animal industries. Center for Constitutional Rights

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