Opening Statement
April 4, 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

Sessions orders DOJ review of all police reform agreements between feds and local law enforcement. Administration says it wants to make sure consent decrees aren’t undermining Trump's goal of promoting officer safety and morale. The Washington Post Related: It’s unclear how far feds could go to unilaterally unwind court-monitored reforms. The New York Times More: Feds ask judge overseeing enforcement of the Baltimore decree for a 90-day pause to “review and assess” broad agreement reached there. Baltimore Sun Police and city officials decried delay. Associated Press Still More: Chicago officials also unhappy with DOJ review. Chicago Tribune And: Ferguson mayor says city still committed to reform. St. Louis Post-Dispatch TMP Context: Why Jeff Sessions should police the police. The Marshall Project

Gorsuch one step closer to high court; Senate one step closer to end of the judicial filibuster. The Senate Judiciary Committee Monday, on a straight party-line 11-9 vote, favorably recommended the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court. Politico The Democrats say they have enough votes to sustain a filibuster of the nomination. The Washington Post Republican lawmakers in turn promise they intend to employ the “nuclear option” to get the nominee confirmed. Roll Call Finally: Is there an end in sight to the tit-for-tat recriminations in the Senate? The New York Times More: Or maybe a compromise is in the works? Los Angeles Times

The governor strikes again at the prosecutor. Florida governor Rick Scott Monday reassigned 21 more first-degree murder cases from Aramis Ayala, the new district attorney who said she would not seek the death penalty in her pending cases. Scott said he expanded the scope of his interference into Ayala’s caseload because every case merited an individual death penalty evaluation. Ayala says the move is further evidence of Scott’s abuse of discretion. Some experts agree. Orlando Sentinel Related: State lawmakers last month moved to reduce Ayala’s budget; some want her removed from office. Tampa Bay Times

The rapist who kept getting away with it. The story of Keith Edwards Hendricks, a serial rapist who roamed the streets of Houston for years preying on homeless women, played out on the national stage last year when one of his victims was jailed to ensure her testimony. But the real scandal is how Hendricks evaded a meaningful sentence year after year, even when he was arrested and charged with sexual assault. Here is a longform investigation of the case. Houston Chronicle

When is a computer programmer criminally responsible for the actions of his users? Arkansas resident Taylor Huddleston is the author of a tool that hackers like to use. So much so that the program has been linked to intrusions in at least 10 countries. In December, the feds charged Huddleston with conspiracy and aiding and abetting computer crimes. He compares his prosecution to a gun manufacturer being charged with murder because a customer fired a fatal shot. The Daily Beast


A former district attorney in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has sued Seth Williams, the current district attorney, seeking his removal from elected office after his law license was suspended as part of the federal corruption case.

How the Hawaii police union is helping keep bad cops on the beat — and on the payroll. “I’m extremely concerned,” says Honolulu’s police commissioner. Honolulu Civil Beat

A white Oklahoma police officer kills an unarmed black man, then cries about it on television, roiling the pretrial landscape in advance of her May manslaughter trial. CBS News

How a social media stunt by police in Washington, D.C., designed to help an investigation, turned into a fake national crisis about #missinggirls. The Washington Post

The California Supreme Court would essentially become a “death” court if the ballot initiative designed to expedite executions goes into effect, experts fear. Los Angeles Times Related: The political and legal debate over Nevada’s death penalty heats up. Reno Gazette-Journal


A system designed to make people disappear. One earnest attorney tried to represent an undocumented person rounded up by the feds. The hurdles he faced were monumental. Slate Related: Allegations of forced labor in private detention centers. Mother Jones

The death penalty targets those with mental illness. Why a new study ought to animate the legal and political debate over new restrictions on capital punishment. The Washington Post

Doubting Thomas. The Supreme Court justice recently re-sounded the alarm on civil forfeiture abuse. Now the Justice Department has issued a report that backs him up. The Atlantic

“Facilitated communication” and sexual assault. A New Jersey judge denied a defendant a fair trial by precluding critical testimony about the alleged victim, who was incapable of communicating in any traditional way. The New York Times

On “Missing White Woman Syndrome.” Initial research suggests there are disparities in coverage depending on race. The Crime Report


Double “Jeopardy” of the Day: First Walter Goudy was wrongfully convicted after prosecutors withheld evidence. Now, as he fights for compensation, two more attorneys have been sanctioned for refusing to share evidence with him. The Indianapolis Star

Slave Labor of the Day: Alabama prisoners make between 25 to 75 cents an hour producing a variety of commercial products. That’s more than inmates in the federal system.

Students of the Day: Another year, another series of classes for inmates fortunate enough to be enrolled in the Bard Prison Initiative, now nearly 20 years old. NPR

Ethics of the Day: North Carolina now requires all lawyers — not just prosecutors — to reveal evidence of innocence following a conviction. ABA Journal

Book Review of the Day: Chris Hayes’ book, “A Colony in a Nation,” chronicles how America incarcerated people of color as a matter of policy. The Washington Post

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