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Hurricane Carter Dies; Was Face of Wrongful Convictions

Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, who died of prostate cancer Sunday, left a legacy as a forerunner of the American focus on wrongful convictions and racial injustice in the nation's court system, reports USA Today. Carter, a former boxer who spent 19 years in prison in New Jersey until a federal judge ruled in 1985 that he'd been wrongfully convicted of three murders, was a founder of the Toronto-based Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted.

Carter's story was told in books and a film, "Hurricane." After his exoneration, he spent a decade advocating for other wrongfully convicted prisoners. His group has assisted with the exonerations of 18 Canadians, most of whom had been convicted of murder. "Of all the wrongful convictions, I would think that Rubin's is probably the best known worldwide," said Win Wahrer, his cofounder in the Toronto group. "Certainly, there are a lot of cases that make it into the news. But the thing is you read them today, do you remember them tomorrow? Rubin's is one of those (you remember)."

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5 Years Later, Detroit Rape Kits Still Untested

Nearly five years after the discovery of 11,000 abandoned rape evidence kits in a Detroit police warehouse sparked outrage, only about 2,000 of the kits have undergone DNA testing, reports the Detroit Free Press. All the kits are finally expected to get tested this year because the state Legislature appropriated $4 million to send them to private labs. Testing on the kits has already produced more than 500 hits with named suspects on a national DNA database, but police and prosecutors haven’t even begun to follow up on more than 150 of those leads.

The reasons for the delays vary, but followups take time. Once evidence is tested, victims must be found, witnesses must be interviewed or re-interviewed, and old police files must be located or reconstructed. Further complicating matters has been a lack of resources — money, as well as police, prosecutors and investigators — a lack of communication and coordination among the investigating agencies, and a loss of trust among victims in the agencies that seemingly mishandled their cases.

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Bias Alleged in Firing of Lesbian Police Chief in SC

The mayor of Latta, S.C., has triggered protests, prayer vigils and a city council vote to weaken his powers after he fired the small town's longtime police chief, Crystal Moore, who is a lesbian, reports Huffington Post. Latta Mayor Earl Bullard fired Moore last week shortly after she received seven reprimands alleging she had failed to maintain order and questioned authority, among other offenses.

The reprimands were Moore's first after more than 20 years on the job. City council members said Bullard, mayor since December, broke with protocol by not giving Moore a verbal or written warning and by failing to discuss the matter with the council before taking action. Dozens of residents picketed outside town hall, calling for Moore's reinstatement. A council member leaked an audio recording of a phone call in which Bullard said, "I'm not going to let two women stand up there and hold hands and let my child be aware of it."

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NH Senate Narrowly Defeats Death Penalty Repeal

New Hampshire's Senate narrowly failed to repeal the death penalty on Thursday, in a vote that capped weeks of emotional debate while focusing attention on the state's lone death row inmate, reports Reuters. The Senate deadlocked 12 to 12 on a bill to abolish capital punishment. Passage required a simple majority. New Hampshire's House had earlier passed the bill, and first-term Governor Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, had said she would sign it.

 

New Hampshire would have been the 19th state to scrap the death penalty. The repeal would not have been retroactive, but the debate focused attention on Michael Addison, 33, who became New Hampshire's only death row inmate in 2008 for fatally shooting a policeman. New Hampshire has not executed a prisoner since 1939. There have been 17 executions in the U.S. so far this year. A Gallup poll released in October showed 60 percent of Americans favor capital punishment for convicted murderers, the lowest percentage since 1972.

 

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Missouri Authorities Charge Man in KC Highway Shootings

Mohammed Whitaker, 27, of Grandview, Mo., was charged with 18 felony counts related ta recent series of highway shootings in the Kansas City area, reports the city's Star. More charges may be added, prosecutors said. A series of at least 12 shootings started in early March, with the latest on April 6. Three victims were wounded in the spree.

Authorities said they knew of no motive, they believe Whitaker acted alone and that he had little criminal record. Whitaker was arrested Thursday night after police raided his residence. Tactical officers towed away a green Dodge Neon with Illinois license plates. The plates were registered to the suspect’s father, who said he was shocked by the developments. “I thought everything was okay with him,” his father said. “I just thought he was working and trying to pay off his college bills.”

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Gun Giveaways Thrive in GOP Campaign Playbook

Gun giveaways through online sweepstakes "have become one of the most useful tools for campaign outreach in the 2014 Republican primaries," reports the New York Times. Across the country, from a race for sheriff in California to the United States Senate primary in South Carolina, candidates are using high-powered pistols and rifles as a lure to build up their donor lists and expand their base of support.

The method may be new, but the concept is a durable campaign device. Those who enter gun sweepstakes often are solicited for contact information, then for support and money for a candidate. The NRA, which has been doing Publishers Clearinghouse-style gun sweepstakes since the 1980s, figured out the allure of free guns years ago. Instead of direct mail, it now employs a range of online campaigns, including Facebook-based contests that provide the organization with information-rich public profiles and lists of their friends. Millions of people have entered these contests, the group said.

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NM to End Conjugal Visits for Married Inmates

New Mexico will end conjugal visits between inmates and their spouses next month, leaving the once-widespread practice in place in only three U.S. states, reports Reuters. In addition to addressing concerns over pregnancies, the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, and smuggled contraband, eliminating the program will save the state about $120,000 per year, New Mexico Department of Corrections spokeswoman Alex Tomlin said.

He said the state's research showed the overnight stays "had no impact on decreasing the rate of inmates returning to jail." The debate over conjugal visits has pitted political conservatives who view the practice as inconsistent with the ethic of punishment against some prison officials who say the visits improve inmate behavior and maintain family bonds. Soon only California, Washington and New York state prisons will permit conjugal visits. Federal prisons do not allow them. Mississippi, the first U.S. state to sanction sex for prisoners, ended its century-old program of conjugal visits in February.

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Sig Eps Close Ole Miss Chapter Over Noose Incident

The Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity has closed its University of Mississippi chapter after three members were accused of tying a noose around the neck of a statue of the first black student to enroll in the Southern college, reports the Associated Press. The decision was made by the national office of the fraternity, based in Richmond, Va., the university said.

The noose and a Confederate flag were placed on the James Meredith statue on the Oxford campus on Feb. 16. Three students, Sigma Phi Epsilon members whose names have not been released, are the subjects of ongoing university disciplinary proceedings, a spokesman said. The FBI also is still investigating. The local district attorney has said state charges won't be brought because no state laws were broken.

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Men Held Years Without Trial at Troubled MS Jail

A troubled county jail in Raymond, Miss., houses nearly 130 inmates who have been held for a year or more without trial, reports the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. And two men have been in the Hinds County Detention Center, 15 miles west of Jackson, for eight years and seven years, respectively, without going to trial. Each were known to have mental health issues when they were incarcerated.

Marktain Kilpatrick Simmons, 43, was jailed in November 2006 in connection with a stabbing death. Simmons had spent time in a state mental hospital and had been arrested at least twice on "lunacy" complaints. Jail records also show Lee Vernel Knight, 47, has been in the Raymond facility since December 2007, accused in the Christmas Day stabbing death of his brother. The Hinds County facility has been under scrutiny since a riot broke out there three weeks ago, leaving one inmate dead and seven injured. The county board of supervisors declared a state of emergency for the facility.

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Feds May Expand 'Active Shooter' Training at Texas School

A law enforcement training center based at Texas State University in San Marcos may receive millions of federal dollars to support programs that train officers how to handle situations like the recent Fort Hood shooting, reports the Texas Tribune. U. S. Attorney General Eric Holder this week cited the shooting as he asked Congress to authorize a combined $15 million for “active shooter response training” and other officer safety initiatives.

Texas State University is the national leader for active shooter training programs funded by the Department of Justice. It has trained more than 50,000 officers nationwide in the past decade, using more than $30 million in state and federal grant money. Active shooter training teaches law enforcement how to isolate, distract and neutralize an active shooter. It also shows officers how to effectively enter and move around a room when they’re handling a situation alone.

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