Opening Statement
March 16, 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

Strike two. A federal judge in Hawaii Wednesday blocked enforcement of the Trump administration’s latest travel ban after concluding its purpose may have been to discriminate against Muslims. Honolulu Civil Beat (This morning a federal judge in Maryland did likewise. CNN) In support of the nationwide injunction, the Hawaii judge cited numerous examples of what he called “significant and unrebutted evidence of religious animus” by President Trump and administration officials and tribunes. The New York Times The president lashed out at the ruling and the judge who delivered it and promised to appeal his new ban to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary. Buzzfeed Related: Highlights from the ruling. The Guardian Analysis: A reminder about the lack of a link between immigrants and crime. Cato Institute Finally: Read the order. U.S. District Court, District of Hawaii

Welcome to the 1990s. Attorney General Jeff Sessions Wednesday delivered another stern speech in which he linked drug use to violent crime and linked marijuana and heroin use. But he also indicated that the Justice Department he leads isn’t likely to roll back all Obama-era marijuana enforcement directives. Reason Related: Progress on violent crime, finally acknowledged by Trump administration, is “at risk,” Sessions says. Department of Justice More: The rejuvenation of “Project Exile.” The Washington Post Still More: Even medical marijuana use is “hyped,” says A.G. Finally: Cannabis-related stocks fall after Sessions speech. Bloomberg

“When you put criminals in jail, crime goes down.” Meet Steve Cook, the prosecutor now leading the Trump Administration’s crackdown on “American carnage.” He’s linked violent crime to drug crimes and linked both to immigration. A year ago he was considered part of the “fringe” in criminal justice, say reform advocates concerned he’ll roll back Obama-era policies. His supporters say his tough approach to sentencing will help roll back the uptick in crime rates in some cities. The Trace

The Russians are coming (then again, maybe not). The Justice Department Wednesday announced sweeping criminal charges against two Russian officials and two hackers for a 2014 online attack on Yahoo that affected some 500 million user accounts. It is the first-ever criminal cyber case brought against Russian officials but it remains unclear on whether the feds can extradite those defendants still in Russia. The Washington Post Related: A largely “symbolic” but still “significant” indictment. USA Today More: Conduct “beyond the pale,” say prosecutors. The New York Times

“What does God think of the executioner?” Slowly, conservative support for the death penalty is ebbing. It’s too expensive for fiscal conservatives. It’s violates the sanctity of life for religious conservatives. Marc Hyden, a man with impeccable Republican credentials, embodies the change that has taken place over the past decade or so. His story is the story of a movement within a movement to end capital punishment in America. Harper’s Magazine


Jurors voted to spare his life. A trial judge overrode that verdict. Now a federal appeals court says an Alabama death row inmate is too old and ill to be executed. Related: Read the ruling. 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

The conditions for pregnant inmates at a federal jail in New York are so deplorable that judges are apologizing for it. So far, that hasn’t moved the Bureau of Prisons to remedy the problem. The New York Times

Lee Baca, the once-powerful sheriff of Los Angeles County, California, is convicted of lying to federal investigators to cover up abuses in county jails. Los Angeles Times

Older inmates in a Connecticut prison are being paired with younger prisoners in a European-infused mentoring program designed to reduce prison violence and fuel rehabilitation. Hartford Courant

Utah moves to lower its legal blood alcohol limit — one drink may put some people over that limit — and some industry groups aren’t pleased. Men's Journal


Life in the Gunshine State. It is about to be even easier to shoot and kill someone and get away with it in Florida thanks to a reinforced "stand-your-ground" law. Mother Jones

The no-deterrent effect. Take it from her, a young, non-violent drug dealer. She had no idea what mandatory minimum sentences were. The Patriot-News

Can lone wolves be stopped? Maybe not entirely. But they can be restricted. First, by being kept “lonely.” Second, with the help of Muslim communities here in the States. Lawfare

Kentucky doesn’t need a “Blue Lives Matter” law. Police there already have extraordinary legal protection and hate crimes should be reserved as protection for those historically threatened. The Courier-Journal

How not to freak out about cyber war. First, stop trying to win it and focus on trying to prevent it. The New Yorker


Report of the Day: The political argument linking immigration and crime has no basis in fact, a new study contends. The Sentencing Project

Charts of the Day: The number of federal heroin-related sentences is still relatively low compared with sentences for other drug-related crimes. How fast will that now change under the Trump administration? The Washington Post

Audio of the Day: Here’s more about the landmark class action lawsuit against a private prison company for forced labor in a federal immigration detention facility. WNYC

History of the Day: The “sanctuary” movement protecting immigrants has roots in the America’s West, particularly in Western churches. High Country News

Statistics of the Day: More than 200,000 Texans can't renew their licenses and approximately 400,000 have holds on vehicle registrations due to unpaid fines. The Texas Tribune

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