Shawn K. was 15 when he and three other teens broke into a neighbor's house looking for cash. Shawn's job was to guard the back door. Unfortunately, things did not go as expected and the homeowner was seriously injured and ultimately died. Although no one, not even prosecutors, accused Shawn of harming the victim, he was still found guilty of first-degree murder. How? The felony murder rule.
With constant calls for police to stop racial profiling, law enforcement agencies want concrete, race-neutral information to help them target people based on their behavior alone. Many officers believe that a small number of people are responsible for the majority of non-drug street crime. Identifying those people could be crucial to keeping crime down.
Proponents of longer prison sentences argue they accomplish multiple objectives, including properly punishing a person who commits a crime, making it safer for the rest of society and serving as a deterrent to others who may commit similar crimes.
District attorneys are among the most influential actors in the criminal justice system. They decide where to focus prosecutorial resources. They determine whether to charge the most serious provable offense or lesser offenses. They choose whether to stack charges, and whether to choose charges carrying harsh, mandatory minimum sentences. They decide what to offer in plea negotiations, and whether to threaten additional charges against uncooperative defendants.
ProPublica Illinois, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that does investigative journalism, recently published an article about inaccuracies in Chicago's gang database. Police and law enforcement officials routinely cite the gang database when investigating and prosecuting crimes. The database is also used for immigration enforcement, criminal background checks and other purposes.
An estimated eight million people use Amazon's Alexa, the virtual assistant that can make lists, set timers, dial phone calls and even tell jokes. Depending on your setup, it can turn off your lights, set your home security system, and turn on and tune your TV. She recognizes different voices and can key various activities and lists to individuals based on their voices. She can keep track of most everything you're up to, and she's always listening.
Studies have shown that invalid or inaccurate forensic science is a factor in almost half of wrongful convictions. In the approximately 354 cases where DNA later exonerated an Innocence Project client, poor forensic science contributed to most of the underlying convictions.
Two criminal justice experts have cast serious doubt on the legality of many police activities in Milwaukee. Just as many African-Americans and Latinos have claimed for years, the evidence shows that they and their neighborhoods are being unfairly targeted for police stops and pat-down searches -- often with no legal basis.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has just made his opposition to a bipartisan sentencing reform bill clear. Calling the legislation a "grave error," he said the proposed changes would reduce the sentences of "a highly dangerous cohort of criminals."
An unfortunate fact about our criminal justice system is that minorities are frequently sentenced to more time for the same crimes as whites. In the U.S., African-Americans, for example, make up 13.3 percent of the population but account for 38 percent of people incarcerated in state prisons, according to federal data.