Opening Statement
November 16, 2016
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

$19 million on judicial races just doesn’t get you what it used to. Special interest groups spent a record-breaking amount trying to influence the outcome of judicial races in states all over the nation but largely failed to oust incumbent jurists who were often tagged as “soft-on-crime.” But it wasn’t exactly an unfair fight. Supporters of the judges also spent plenty trying to convince voters that the makeup of their local benches needed no changes. TMP’s Christie Thompson continues her coverage of judicial elections. The Marshall Project

“An innocent misadventure.” The Oklahoma execution of Clayton Lockett, which took 43 minutes and caused him excruciating pain, was not “cruel and unusual” punishment under the Eighth Amendment but was instead akin to an “innocent misadventure” or “isolated mishap,” a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday. The question arose in a civil case brought by Lockett’s family, a case that now has been dismissed twice. Tulsa World Related: Read the decision. 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Location, location, location. The Bureau of Prisons does a lousy job of placing newly-released inmates in residential reentry centers and home confinement, the Justice Department’s watchdog reported Tuesday. The policies themselves are reasonable, the Inspector General found, but are not being regularly followed by federal prison officials when deciding which inmates ought to be transferred into which step-down facility. Home confinement especially is being underused, with low-risk offenders being placed in supervised housing that ought to be reserved for higher-risk transferees. Justice Department/Office of Inspector General

When a sibling goes to prison. We know that over five million children in America have or have had a parent in prison but there are no statistics that track how many children have a brother or sister in confinement. For these kids the daily level of “emotional stress” can be overbearing, especially at school, where they are ridiculed and bullied by their peers. The Atlantic Related: From foster homes to the big house. The Atlantic

Canine lives matter. No one knows for sure how many pet dogs are shot by police during drug raids and other interactions with civilians. A Justice Department official speculated in 2012 that the figure may be as high as 10,000, although there is no solid data. But the experience of one city — Detroit — shows the extent of the phenomenon and the lack of accountability by police officials when animals are killed or wounded. Two Detroit cops killed over 100 dogs. Sometimes the police settle the lawsuits that follow. And sometimes they don’t. Reason


Georgia tonight plans to execute Steven Spears, convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend. He has refused to pursue appeals to overturn his sentence. If the execution is carried out, it will be the eighth in Georgia in 2016, the most in any state this year. The Marshall Project

An Ohio sheriff, an outspoken critic of undocumented immigrants, is no longer a fringe figure in local law enforcement — or the Republican establishment, for that matter. ProPublica

In Illinois, with cash bail systems about to undergo an overhaul, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart continues to raise his voice in favor of reform. Chicago Tribune

The police chief of Los Angeles California, says the LAPD won’t help the Trump administration round up immigrants who haven’t otherwise broken the law. Los Angeles Times

Two Missouri police officers, both grievously wounded in the line of duty, find themselves together, in Colorado, trying to recover. St. Louis Post-Dispatch


Tipping the scales of justice. Why are police and prosecutors allowed to use special presentations to persuade sitting judges about the reliability of drug tests? Pacific Standard

Recount! There simply aren’t two-to-three million undocumented immigrants with criminal records for President Trump to deport. FiveThirtyEight

Pedal to the metal. President Obama must speed up his clemency work before he leaves office in two months — and there are reasonable ways he can. U.S. News & World Report

Nature v. nurture. What does a science-hostile Trump administration portend for criminal justice reform? The Crime Report Related: It sure doesn’t bode well for the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department. Huffington Post

The terrifying prospect of Rudy Giuliani as attorney general. His record in New York, and since, suggests a level of authoritarianism that would be dangerous to a rule of law. By Radley Balko. The Washington Post So now he’s rumored for Secretary of State — and that raises questions about his global business dealings. The New York Times


Flawed Data of the Day: Sure, reported hate crimes are up. But the government still isn’t keeping good track of them. ProPublica

Job Posting of the Day: Some police departments are so desperate for new recruits that they are lowering their application standards. In some cases prior marijuana use, or a lack of any meaningful college education, won’t be a barrier to employment. Associated Press TMP Context: How to recruit black officers. The Marshall Project

Report of the Day: Suicides in jails in Indian Country have decreased significantly in the past 13 years, a new federal report reveals. There were 53 attempts and only one suicide in the last 12-month period reported. Bureau of Justice Statistics

Cognitive Dissonance of the Day: Police in San Francisco keep issuing “quality of life” citations to local residents — and local judges keep refusing to enforce them. San Francisco Chronicle

Gall of the Day: A Tennessee prosecutor, under investigation for misconduct in a murder trial, says she shouldn’t be disciplined by her peers because the judges who presided over the case in question failed to rat her out first. The Open File

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