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Opening Statement
March 2, 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

Did Attorney General Jeff Sessions lie to his fellow senators about his contact with Russian officials during the presidential campaign? He reportedly spoke twice with the Russian ambassador last July and last September — in meetings that were undisclosed until last night — but he did not mention those contacts when asked during his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing earlier this year about communications between Trump officials and the Russians. The Washington Post Sessions now is said to be under investigation; a DOJ spokesman says the meetings were taken in Sessions’ role as a senator and not as an advisor with the Trump campaign. The Wall Street Journal More: “I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false,” Sessions said late Wednesday. Los Angeles Times Still More: On Capitol Hill, calls for recusal, or resignation. Buzzfeed Related: Here’s video of Sessions’ testimony. The New York Times

A better way to treat addiction in jail. President Trump Tuesday night promised to provide better care and treatment for Americans addicted to drugs. He could do worse than look to how corrections officials in Rhode Island are handling their “medication-assisted treatment program” that allows inmates to get their regular doses of Suboxone or methadone. The idea is to reduce the risk of drug abuse, overdose, or recidivism, upon the prisoner’s release. TMP’s Beth Schwartzapfel has our story. The Marshall Project Related: Four things governors can do to help stem the opioid epidemic. The Week

Thanks but no thanks. Scores of police chiefs around the nation sent an open letter to U.S. senators this week expressing their unwillingness to have line officers serve as de facto immigration enforcers. The Guardian Related: They don’t want their federal funding cut off in the name of new immigration priorities, which the Trump administration has threatened. The Washington Post More: Yesterday the feds came for a DACA “dreamer” in Mississippi. The Clarion-Ledger Finally: In Alabama, immigration roundups for those without any criminal records. AL.com

The age of impunity. Fewer than half of all crimes go reported to police and fewer than half are solved, newly-released government statistics reveal. But there isn’t anything new about the low clearance rates; they’ve held relatively steady now for the past 20 years or so. What’s the major crime most likely to be solved by the police? Murder. In 2015, the last year for which figures are available, 62 percent of all murders were cleared — down from 90 percent in 1965. Pew Research Center

Can policing really change in the wake of federal probes? The Justice Department has signaled it will back away from reliance on federal probes of police departments accused of racism or other misconduct. But a look back at 20 years of federal consent decrees proves they have been worth the time, money, and effort. One important takeaway from the record: In contrast to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ view, “officer misconduct is not the result of the proverbial ‘bad apples’ but of systematic poor management. The Crime Report TMP Context: Policing the police. The Marshall Project

N/S/E/W

Colorado prosecutors are worried about their criminal cases now that undocumented immigrants, fearing deportation, are failing to show up in court as witnesses. 9News

Police reform advocates in California cannot find a brave legislator who will support measures to make police discipline records more public. Los Angeles Times

Alabama officials still are fighting over whether to compensate Anthony Ray Hinton for his decades on death row for a murder he did not commit. Prosecutors say the state shouldn’t owe Hinton anything since he’s not technically been found “innocent.” AL.com

Meet Michael Treadwell, the New Hampshire man who spent 575 days (and $43,000 in taxpayer funds) because of a trespass. New Hampshire Public Radio

Folks in and out of Texas who are interested in the death penalty are watching very closely how a new district attorney in Dallas is handling capital cases. Slate

Commentary

The Department of Justification. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has long shared the dark, dystopian view of America that now animates White House policy. And he already is moving his Justice Department toward implementing policies that track that view. The New York Times

When jail becomes a death sentence. The problems at a small jail in upstate New York are part of a broader problem of abuse and neglect of inmates around the nation. Jacobin magazine

The charade of a “death mask” conviction. And the even more egregious charade of review by the federal courts of MIssissippi. By Radley Balko. The Washington Post

New Mexico is in the midst of a constitutional crisis over the right to counsel. State legislators should help solve the problem. Santa Fe New Mexican

How to “Trump” the nation’s opioid crisis. By Newt Gingrich, Van Jones, and Patrick Kennedy (all of whom are paid advocates for an opioid recovery organization). The Hill

Etc.

Survey of the Day: 32 “Blue Lives Matter” bills have been introduced in 14 states already this year. The Huffington Post

Question of the Day: Why aren’t we paying attention to the slew of mosque burnings since the beginning of the year. BuzzFeed

Decision of the Day: Even when your attorney misses a crucial appeals deadline, after you repeatedly warned him not to miss it, federal law does not permit you to have your appeal heard on the merits, a federal appeals court ruled earlier this week. 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Study of the Day: When it comes to racially disparate traffic stops, cops in Cook County, Illinois, are the worst, a new statistical analysis reveals. Injustice Watch

Alternative Facts of the Day: Attorney General Jeff Sessions doubts that marijuana can help mitigate opioid abuse. The science says he’s wrong. The Washington Post

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