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The National Criminal Justice Association
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The Arizona State University School of Criminology and Criminal Justice
The Arizona State University Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication
Criminal Justice Journalists

All articles are chosen at the sole discretion of the Crime and Justice News editors. Any opinions expressed or positions taken here on Crime and Justice News are those of their respective authors.

Illinois Woman's Killing Prompts Renewed Police Reform Demands

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A newly released video of the fatal police shooting of a Black woman in Illinois who had called 911 for help is reigniting the push for police reform. The effort has taken a back seat over the past two years. However, the shooting of Sonya Massey and the 10th anniversary of Eric Garner and Michael Brown's deaths are bringing it back into focus , Axios reports . Prosecutors say Massey, 36, was killed in her home July 6. Authorities say she had called 911 to report a suspected prowler, and Sangamon County Sheriff's Deputy Sean Grayson, who is white, and another deputy arrived at her home to search the area. Video footage shows Grayson following Massey inside she removes a pot of hot water from the stove before Grayson demands that she drop the water. She apologizes and ducks before Grayson shoots her three times, including once in the head. He then discourages the other deputy from using a medical kit to save her. Though there have been other recent police shootings, none has drawn as much national attention as Massey's. After she announced her presidential bid on Tuesday, Vice President Kamala Harris invoked the case and urged Congress to pass the stalled George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a bill she coauthored while in the Senate. "Sonya Massey deserved to be safe. After she called the police for help, she was tragically killed in her own home at the hands of a responding officer sworn to protect and serve," she said. The momentum for major bipartisan police reform after the 2020 murder of George Floyd had stalled by late 2021 amid partisan bickering between progressives and moderate Republicans. Conservative backlash grew as proposals to stem systemic racism were deemed "woke" or anti-police. By the time the GOP recaptured the House in 2023, federal police reform was all but dead. Various states did pass laws restricting qualified immunity for police and requiring officers to wear body cams, but many fell short of the demands that emerged from the 2020 Black Lives Matter demonstrations.

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Illinois Woman's Killing Prompts Renewed Police Reform Demands

A newly released video of the fatal police shooting of a Black woman in Illinois who had called 911 for help is reigniting the push for police reform. The effort has taken a back seat over the past two years. However, the shooting of Sonya Massey and the 10th anniversary of Eric Garner and Michael Brown's deaths are bringing it back into focus , Axios reports . Prosecutors say Massey, 36, was killed in her home July 6. Authorities say she had called 911 to report a suspected prowler, and Sangamon County Sheriff's Deputy Sean Grayson, who is white, and another deputy arrived at her home to search the area. Video footage shows Grayson following Massey inside she removes a pot of hot water from the stove before Grayson demands that she drop the water. She apologizes and ducks before Grayson shoots her three times, including once in the head. He then discourages the other deputy from using a medical kit to save her. Though there have been other recent police shootings, none has drawn as much national attention as Massey's. After she announced her presidential bid on Tuesday, Vice President Kamala Harris invoked the case and urged Congress to pass the stalled George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a bill she coauthored while in the Senate. "Sonya Massey deserved to be safe. After she called the police for help, she was tragically killed in her own home at the hands of a responding officer sworn to protect and serve," she said. The momentum for major bipartisan police reform after the 2020 murder of George Floyd had stalled by late 2021 amid partisan bickering between progressives and moderate Republicans. Conservative backlash grew as proposals to stem systemic racism were deemed "woke" or anti-police. By the time the GOP recaptured the House in 2023, federal police reform was all but dead. Various states did pass laws restricting qualified immunity for police and requiring officers to wear body cams, but many fell short of the demands that emerged from the 2020 Black Lives Matter demonstrations.

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Trump Shooter Researched JFK Death, Flew Drone Over Rally Site

The gunman who tried to kill former President Trump searched Google a week before the shooting for “How far away was Oswald from Kennedy,” referring to the 1963 presidential assassination, the clearest indication yet that the 20-year-old plotted a similar attack. FBI Director Christopher Wray disclosed the gunman’s search at a congressional hearing Wednesday where he provided new information on what led up to the July 13 shooting at a Trump campaign rally in western Pennsylvania. “That’s a search that obviously is significant in terms of his state of mind,” Wray said. The gunman, Thomas Matthew Crooks, researched the Kennedy assassination on July 6, around the time he registered to attend the rally, a search of his laptop found. “He was interested in public figures more broadly, and, I think this is important ... he became very focused on former President Trump and this rally,” the FBI director said, reports the Wall Street Journal. Multiple investigations are under way into how Crooks was able to open fire from the roof of a building 400 feet away from where Trump spoke, killing one spectator, critically injuring two others and leaving the former president with a graze wound to the ear. A Secret Service sniper team shot back, killing him. Crooks fired an AR-15 rifle with a collapsible stock, Wray said, a feature that may explain why no witnesses reported seeing him carrying the weapon before the attack. He had purchased a ladder the same day as the shooting. Authorities believe that he used mechanical equipment on the ground and piping on the side of the building to get on the roof. Searches of his cellphone and other electronics and interviews with hundreds of people paint a portrait of a loner with few regular face-to-face contacts, the director said. Crooks bought the rifle from his father, who kept 14 legally purchased firearms in the home they shared an hour south of the rally site in Butler, Pa. Crooks started planning the attack well before the rally, visiting the site a week earlier and on the morning of the shooting. About two hours before Trump was set to speak, Crooks was able to fly a drone over the vicinity for 11 minutes.

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Nevada Man Accused Of Threatening Federal Judges

A Nevada man accused of sending blunt death threats to federal judges, state officials and a member of Congress over the past eight months — vitriol one prosecutor likened to “the Holocaust” — was ordered detained pending trial by a magistrate judge who agreed the suspect was too dangerous to remain free, Politico reports. The startling criminal case unveiled this week against Spencer Gear, 32, is a stark illustration of the atmosphere of threats enveloping the federal judiciary, as well as for state judges and other officials handling cases against former President Trump. Prosecutors say Gear targeted five federal judges in Washington, D.C. He’s also accused of threatening U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, who oversaw two civil trials against Trump in suits brought by a writer accusing him of sexual assault, and New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan, who presided over Trump’s criminal hush money trial in Manhattan. Gear is accused of an extraordinary spree of violent threats and misogynistic profanity. Prosecutors say he left voicemail messages accusing the officials of corruption and declaring that they would soon be executed. “This defendant is a ticking time bomb,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Jacob Operskalski at a bail hearing for Gear in Las Vegas on Tuesday. “His words are reminiscent of the Holocaust as he dehumanizes his victims, calling them filth, calling them trash.” Operskalski said many of Gear’s messages were replete with “violent misogyny” and included a message to a federal judge repeatedly disparaging her for her gender and culminating in a threat. “You are a woman. You have to have men do things for you …You can’t do shit to Donald Trump unless you send a man to do it,” Gear said in the message. “If you keep trying to fight this war against liberty, you will be dead.” Operskalski did not identify any of the targets of Gear’s threats by name in court Wednesday, and the 22-count indictment references them by their initials. They include five district court judges in Washington — Beryl Howell, Reggie Walton, Christopher Cooper, Jia Cobb and Colleen Kollar-Kotelly. All of the district court judges cited have handled criminal cases stemming from the violent attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

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'Second Look' Movement Could Cut Prison Rolls, Save Tax Money

Lawmakers across the U.S. have considered legislation this year that would allow courts or parole boards to reevaluate a person’s long prison sentence and decide whether the inmate can be safely released into society. The bills, known as “second look” legislation, often focus on older populations, people sentenced as minors, or those whose crimes might have had a mitigating factor such as self-defense against domestic violence. As the prison population both ages and increases, the “second look” movement has gained interest as a way to reduce overcrowding and potentially save money. Both Republicans and Democrats have sponsored the bills, but some advocates and prosecutors say the laws could retraumatize crime victims and burden a strained court system, reports Stateline. One second look bill, in Oklahoma, was signed this year. The new law requires judges to consider whether domestic violence was a mitigating factor in a crime. If so, a defendant would be eligible for a lighter sentence compared with the usual mandatory ranges. “We showed that you can pass significant criminal justice reform inside a conservative state,” said Republican state Rep. Jon Echols, one of the bill’s sponsors. “I think we did a lot of good with the legislation we did, and I’m hoping more states follow.” The Oklahoma law has a retroactive clause for current inmates. People who are now serving time can file a resentencing request once the law goes into effect. Some advocates think second look legislation could draw bipartisan support because the measures aim to address prison overcrowding and overspending by releasing people who are least likely to reoffend. “It can be a way to address excess spending,” said Liz Komar of The Sentencing Project. “We can reinvest scarce public safety dollars from being uselessly employed to keep people who are zero risk in prison to instead prevent crime in the community.” At least 12 states already have second look measures in place. At least 17 states have abolished discretionary parole for all or most offenses, according to Campaign Zero, a nonprofit social justice organization. This means people convicted in those states will not receive a parole-eligible sentence. Some prosecutors, victim rights groups and family members of crime victims have voiced concerns that victims and their families could be retraumatized by the resentencing process.

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Will Harris Try To Sell Voters On The Idea She Is Tough On Crime?

Vice President Harris is a “cop.” That’s how the progressive left attacked her the last time she ran for president . It’s also what might help her win this time, writes Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell. Republicans have suggested that Harris is poised to become the Democratic Party’s nominee solely because she must be a “DEI” or affirmative action case . Demographics aside, her professional CV is unusually well suited to the moment in one way: She’s credibly tough on crime, which is among both voters’ top concerns and Democrats’ biggest vulnerabilities . Harris began her career in the Alameda County, Ca., prosecutor’s office pursuing child abusers and sex traffickers. In a less partisan world, those legions of QAnoners who profess concern over sex-trafficked kids would back her rather than Donald Trump , who palled around with Jeffrey Epstein . As district attorney of San Francisco and eventually California’s attorney general, Harris spoke often about criminal justice reform and her place in it, as the member of a population historically mistreated by law enforcement. Her actual positions were relatively nuanced, and often centered on victims of crime rather than alleged perpetrators. This sometimes put her at odds with a far left that would later become synonymous with calls to defund the police. More controversially, Harris threatened criminal charges against the parents of chronically truant students , citing a connection between missing class and subsequent lawbreaking. Meanwhile, Harris’s rhetoric sometimes needled progressives, too. At a 2013 event, she gently chided slogans to “build more schools, less jails.” “I agree with that conceptually, but you have not addressed the reason I have three padlocks on my front door,” she said. “Part of the discussion about reform of criminal justice policy has to be an acknowledgment that crime does occur. And especially when it is violent crime and serious crime, there should be a broad consensus that there should be serious and severe and swift consequence to crime.” Voters believe Harris would do a worse job tackling crime than Trump would, per a YouGov poll conducted just before Biden announced his exit from the race, despite their records. Harris’s challenge now is to demonstrate she’s not only tougher on crime but a great saleswoman of that toughness, too, Rampell writes.

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Trump Was Wrong To Declare 'Our Crime Rate Is Going Up'

"Our crime rate is going up," former President Trump claimed during the Republican National Convention last week, when he vowed to "Make America Safe Once Again." Yet the most notable recent increase in the homicide rate happened on Trump's watch, and violent crime reports have been falling since then. That gap between Republican rhetoric and reality corresponds with long-standing public perceptions of crime, which Americans routinely say is going up even when it is going down, reports Reason Trump is hoping to capitalize on that misperception as he campaigns on a promise to reverse a nonexistent trend by "restor[ing] law and order." Violent crime in the U.S. has fallen precipitously since 1993, when the homicide rate was 9.5 per 100,000 residents. By 2013, the rate was less than half that number. Despite ups and downs since then, the homicide rate remains substantially lower than it was three decades ago. The same is true of robbery, aggravated assault, and property crime . The biggest recent spike in murders was seen in 2020, when the rate rose by a whopping 30 percent. It fell by about 7 percent in 2022, and preliminary estimates indicate that it fell again in 2023, by about 13 percent—one of the largest annual drops ever recorded. So far this year, according to data from more than 200 cities, the homicide rate is down by even more: about 19 percent. The major exception has been car theft, which rose by 4 percent in 2021 and by 10.4 percent in 2022. Fortunately for Trump, the data don't seem to have made much of an impression on most Americans. Last October, 77 percent of respondents told Gallup they believed crime had increased in the U..S. .compared to the previous year

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Deputy Charged in Massey’s Death Worked 6 Agencies in 4 Years

The ex-sheriff's deputy facing murder charges for the death of Sonya Massey, a 36-year-old Black woman fatally shot in her Illinois home, previously worked for six different police agencies since 2020, state law enforcement records indicate. Sean Grayson’s career included short stints as a part-time officer at three small police departments and a full-time job at a fourth department as well as working full-time at two sheriff’s offices, all in central Illinois, reports the Associated Press. Grayson, 30, who is white, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, aggravated battery with a firearm and official misconduct charges in the July 6 killing. He was fired last week by the Sangamon County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriffs' body camera video confirmed prosecutors’ account of the tense moment when Grayson yelled across a counter at Massey to set down a pot of hot water. He then threatened to shoot the unarmed woman, Massey ducked and briefly rose, and Grayson fired his pistol at her. Massey was hit three times, with a fatal shot to her head. The Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board shows Grayson was hired part-time on Aug. 11, 2020, by the Pawnee Police Department. He also was hired part-time on Feb. 4, 2021, by the Kincaid Police Department and on May 20, 2021, by the Virden Police Department. Two months later, he was hired full-time by the Auburn Police Department and remained there until May 1, 2022, when he was hired full-time by the Logan County Sheriff’s Office. Grayson left Logan County on April 28, 2023, and was hired full-time on May 1, 2023, by the Sangamon County Sheriff’s Office. He received his part-time Law Enforcement Certification on June 5, 2021, according to the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board. His certification status currently reads as suspended on the board’s website. The family wants Congress to approve the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which aims to crack down on police misconduct, excessive force and racial bias in law enforcement,

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Secret Service Warns Against Big Trump Rallies After Shooting

Secret Service officials encouraged Donald Trump’s campaign to stop scheduling large outdoor rallies and other outdoor events with big crowds after the assassination attempt on the former president in Butler, Pa., aftermath of the shooting, agents from the Secret Service communicated their concerns about large outdoor rallies going forward to Trump campaign advisers, reports the Washington Post. For coming events, Trump’s team is scouting indoor venues, such as basketball arenas and other large spaces where thousands of people can fit. The campaign is not currently planning any large outdoor events. Trump has held hundreds of outdoor rallies since launching his first presidential bid, often bragging about — and sometimes falsely inflating — his large crowds. They have become something of a cult favorite among his most passionate fans, with tailgate parties in parking lots, vendors lining open areas near the rally and large parades of traffic, often with gargantuan pickup trucks. They usually include large rosters of speakers before Trump takes the stage, with crowds sometimes enduring the heat or the cold for many hours. The crowd sometimes departs before Trump, who is regularly late, finishes speaking. The rallies are often held at airports but are also at fairgrounds, football stadiums or other large outdoor venues.

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Texas Woman Gets 15-Year Term For Stealing $100M From Youth Project

A Texas woman who stole over $100 million from a youth development grant program aimed at helping children of military families and used the money to support a luxurious lifestyle has been sentenced to federal prison. Janet Yamanaka Mello, 57, pleaded guilty in March. Judge Xavier Rodriguez gave her a 15-year sentence on Tuesday. Mello was a civilian employee for the U.S. Army and worked as a financial manager for a child and youth grant program at the Fort Sam Houston Base,   the New York Times reports. Part of her job was to determine whether funding was available for various organizations that applied to the grant program, called the 4-H Military Partnership Grant. From the end of 2016 through at least August 2023, Mello formed a fraudulent business called Child Health and Youth Lifelong Development, which she used to steal Army funds by falsely claiming it provided services to military members and their families. Mello used her “experience, expert knowledge of the grant program, and accumulated trust,” to swindle her colleagues, prosecutors said. Once she received a grant check, Mello deposited it into her bank account and spent the money on “high-end jewelry, clothing, vehicles and real estate,” prosecutor Justin Simmons said. Mello and her husband purchased real estate in Texas, Colorado and Maryland, valued at $23 million. The couple also purchased a fleet of at least 82 vehicles, including cars, SUVs, motorcycles and a motor home. Mello filled out 49 applications in six years, stealing nearly $109 million. She lied on her income taxes for five years, resulting in a tax loss of over $31 million.

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Jordan Demands Briefing On Supreme Court Justice Security

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) on Tuesday accused Democrats of using incendiary rhetoric toward the Supreme Court and asked for a briefing from the Department of Justice on efforts to ensure the justices’ safety, Courthouse News reports. In a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, Jordan said a staff-level briefing on bolstering the justices' security is needed by Aug. 6. Jordan claimed Democrats’ criticism of the court necessitated additional security checks after the attempted assassination of former President Trump. “In recent years, left-wing groups and partisan activists have been unrelenting in their attacks on the court and its independence,” Jordan wrote.  Jordan said these attacks included protests outside the justices’ homes after a draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade was leaked. The groups targeted the courts' six Republican appointees, Jordan said, noting that one group posted the justices’ home addresses online. Jordan said this was an attempt to influence the court’s rulings. While the majority of protests at the justices’ homes were peaceful, an armed man was arrested outside of Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s residence after threatening to kill the Trump appointee. A week later, lawmakers passed a bill providing extra security for the justices’ families.  Jordan put Democrats’ calls for court reform into the same bucket, suggesting that lawmakers wanted to undermine and delegitimize the court. Jordan specifically cited Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden's call for a special counsel to investigate Justice Clarence Thomas’ financial disclosure omissions.

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Omaha's $27M Juvenile Jail May Never Open

The new juvenile detention center in downtown Omaha, Neb., features comfortable rooms, common spaces with flat-screen TVs and orderly classrooms. However, something is missing in the county’s new juvenile detention center: the juveniles. A year after the completion of the controversial project, the $27 million center remains unoccupied, and it may never be utilized for its original purpose. Members of the Douglas County Board have begun floating potential alternative uses for the four-story building as the number of kids in custody exceeds the number of beds in the new facility, Flatwater Free Press reports . Detained children remain in the 27-year-old Douglas County Youth Center (DCYC), a midtown Omaha facility that critics say is built more like an adult jail than a therapeutic environment for kids. In addition to the millions taxpayers put toward the construction of the building, the unopened facility has cost the county about $177,000 in utilities and maintenance since last July. Upkeep is due to cost taxpayers at least $20,000 a month going forward. Longtime opponents of the project led by County Board member Jim Cavanaugh said the undersized facility was doomed from the start and has turned into a money pit for taxpayers. “The money has been spent. No child nor family has been helped,” said Bellevue activist Nicole Le Clerc. “In this trying time, to have built that building, it’s unfathomable what they’ve done.” Project proponents, led by County Board member Chris Rodgers, say the building can still be used for its intended purpose if the number of kids in detention falls. But, that increase is due in large part to the number of kids brought in on gun charges, said Deputy County Administrator Kim Hawekotte. It’s part of a national trend where youth detention facilities are overwhelmed by a rise in violent and gun-related crime, said Mike Dempsey, director of the Council of Juvenile Justice Administrators. Some officials contend that the state should take more responsibility for certain repeat offenders kept at the Douglas County Youth Center and that social service programs meant to reduce recidivism need more time to work after pandemic disruptions.

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About Crime And Justice News
Crime and Justice News is a daily digest of criminal justice stories from across the nation. Each day, veteran journalists led by Ted Gest provide summaries of newsworthy reporting on all aspects of crime and punishment. Our news coverage is complemented by expert commentary and research to provide insights into important criminal justice issues and a deeper understanding of the criminal justice system.
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The National Criminal Justice Association
The School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Arizona State University
The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University
Criminal Justice Journalists
All articles are chosen at the sole discretion of the Crime and Justice News editors. Any opinions expressed or positions taken here on Crime and Justice News are those of their respective authors.
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