Opening Statement
December 19, 2017
Edited by Andrew Cohen
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Pick of the News

The Marshall Project, 2017. As December winds down, and before you all get on planes, trains, and automobiles, we want to share with you what we consider some of our best work during this remarkable year of news about criminal justice. Here are some of the powerful videos, deep investigations, and wrenching stories we published -- and shared with our media partners. Opening Statement will be delivered through the rest of the week and then we’ll hibernate for a week until the new year. The Marshall Project

Judge Alex Kozinski resigns in disgrace. The colorful 9th Circuit judge, a Reagan appointee, abruptly resigned from his life-tenured position Monday as more sexual harassment allegations surfaced against him. Los Angeles Times From the outspoken jurist, an apology to his clerks but not to others who alleged inappropriate conduct. The Washington Post Related: It is unclear how resignation affects the federal judiciary inquiry into allegations now headed by judges on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. NPR

The myth of the playground pusher. The “drug-free school zone” craze, popularized during the height of the drug war in the 1980s, has gotten so out of control in many jurisdictions prosecutors and politicians are beginning to balk at enforcing it. The problem is particularly acute in Tennessee, where the zones are so broad they swallow up drug suspects who are nowhere near any children and not even within sight of the schools the laws are supposed to protect. Reason Related: When prosecutors treat opioid overdoses as homicides they tend to take down friends and relatives. The Wall Street Journal

“Am I a murderer? Or am I not a murderer?” Longtime cop John Tennis was fired from the Sacramento police department in September, roughly 15 months after he and his partner shot and killed a civilian in an incident captured on video. Turns out Tennis had a long history of dubious confrontations with civilians, a fact prosecutors discounted when they decided not to press charges against him.. Here he shares his own story, a defiant one. Sacramento News & Review

When cops aren’t what they seem. Police impersonators were really a thing in New York City two decades ago. Fake cops, hitmen for drug lords, didn’t just rob and steal, they killed. It took two honest cops, one from the NYPD and one from the ATF, to figure out what was going on and do something about it. They settled on making federal cases, under a law originally designed to take down labor racketeers, and it took only 17 years to get the job done. The Daily Beast


The police chief in Charlottesville, Virginia, resigns less than three weeks after a scathing report faulted his department’s handling of the white supremacist protest this summer. The Washington Post

You can add Oregon to the list of states where cops can be fired for egregious misconduct but still somehow keep their badges and be available for new jobs in other departments. The Oregonian

You can add Nashville, Tennessee, to the list of places where the mothers of victims of gun violence are banding together to try to help each other cope with the loss of their children. The Tennessean

Drug court enrollment is falling in Utah as the state endures its share of the opioid epidemic. Why? Reduced sentences for drug offenders is one big part of the answer. Deseret News

What happens when court staff accidentally destroy evidence a death row inmate says could spare him from execution? California is soon going to find out. Los Angeles Times


Never mind Mueller. It’s Rosenstein’s firing that ought to scare people who want a full and fair investigation into the Trump team’s ties to Russia. Just Security Related: No, Mueller didn’t likely violate the Fourth Amendment when he got those transition emails. Lawfare

An obscene invasion of privacy. When over-criminalization of the law meets excessive policing you get cops telling teenagers to masturbate in sexting investigations. NBC News

Falling for technology. Gunfire sensors are expensive. Whether they actually reduce gun violence is an open question. The Atlantic

Connecticut still has a problem of race and jury selection. And so does the rest of the nation thanks to lax rules that permit discrimination. USA Today

The Codfather. Now that a vast fishing conspiracy has been exposed, and taken down, it’s time to redistribute its wealth to innocent victims. The Boston Globe


Decision of the Day: In which a federal appeals court revives a civil rights lawsuit brought by a prisoner who says he was retaliated against by guards with a “rough ride” in a transport van. 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals TMP Context: Inside the deadly world of private prison transport. The Marshall Project

Guardian of the Day: Meet Nora Sándigo, an immigrant advocate and former refugee, who has promised to take over parental duties for thousands of children whose parents may be deported by federal immigration officials. The New York Times

Question of the Day: Why was a Pennsylvania man charged so aggressively by prosecutors in a case about an accidental drug overdose? The suspect, on his way to becoming a doctor, subsequently killed himself. The Times-Tribune

Video of the Day: Take a walk through the Cook County jail to see whether the famous detention center has been reformed. The New York Times

Contract of the Day: Meet the California police chief who can only be fired if he commits a felony. Los Angeles Times

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