justice from the frontlines: Oct. 15, 2023

Surviving D.C.’s 911 nightmare

Witnesses such as Toni Barnes discussed the long-term trauma and health problems that survivors of emergencies experience as a result of D.C.’s dysfunctional 911 system, noting instances of unanswered calls and dispatch delays. Increased openness and dependability are being demanded by the public as a result of systemic failures, such as holding callers during vital times. The Washington Post (Oct. 7, 2023)

Returning citizen inspires redemption 

After being imprisoned at the age of 16, Raymond Garrett spent 40 years in prison before turning his life around. After being released from prison, he obtained a college degree and found work. He now exhorts young people in D.C. to make informed decisions and concentrate on their future, emphasizing that one’s beginning position does not define their potential but rather the path they ultimately pick. WUSA 9 (Oct. 9, 2023)

D.C. homicide surge strains mental health support

The Metropolitan Police Department announced at the beginning of October that 217 homicide cases were under investigation, marking a record 38% rise over the previous year. Despite efforts to bill insurance and increase capacity, the Wendt Center for Loss and Healing—a crucial mental health resource for victims of violent crime in D.C.—is experiencing financial difficulties, which are causing lengthier wait times for people seeking therapy. ABC 7 (Oct. 10, 2023) 

Quest for justice in D.C.

The goal of a recent bill introduced by D.C. Council Member Robert White is to improve public safety by strengthening the government’s response to crime and increasing coordination among various programs. Meanwhile, activists gathered outside D.C. police headquarters to demand justice for those killed during police encounters. Additionally, a lawyer emphasized the effects of state-sanctioned violence on impacted communities and expressed worries about the lack of accountability for police officers engaged in civilian murders. The Washington Informer (Oct. 10, 2023) 

Year-long Baltimore prison death mystery

Quinette Gantt had been waiting more than a year for answers regarding her deaf son Javarick’s death in a Baltimore jail, where it is believed that Gordon Staron, a cellmate who is accused of murder, strangled him. The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services has not given the family or the public comprehensive information about what happened in this case, and advocates are expressing concerns about the facility’s capacity to keep people with disabilities safe. The Baltimore Banner (Oct. 11, 2023)

Virginia advocates challenge traffic stops

The Virginia Municipal League (VML) has been urged by a number of criminal justice advocacy groups in Virginia, notably Justice Forward Virginia, to rescind its support for laws that permit police enforcement to do pretextual traffic stops. These groups contend that such stops can result in racial profiling. Since the VML is still developing its policy, a decision has not yet been taken on the subject. 13 News Now (Oct. 5, 2023)

Record $48 million exoneration in Baltimore

Baltimore is set to pay $48 million to three men wrongfully convicted of a 1983 murder, known as the “Harlem Park Three,” who spent 36 years in prison before being exonerated in 2019. They alleged in a lawsuit that Baltimore Police detectives coerced false witness statements, and the proposed settlement is due to issues like recanted testimonies and the passage of time, as corroborating evidence has become nearly impossible to obtain. Baltimore Brew (Oct. 12, 2023)

in other news

Texas execution challenge denied. A federal judge denied a request to halt the execution of Texas inmate Jedidiah Murphy, who alleged that the execution drugs had been exposed to extreme heat and smoke during a recent fire, making them unsafe. The Texas Attorney General’s Office conducted tests showing the drugs remained potent and sterile, leading the judge to reject Murphy’s claims and allow the execution to proceed on Tuesday for Murphy, who was convicted of a fatal carjacking in 2000. DC News Now (Oct. 7, 2023)

Police protest shooting sparks controversy. Georgia state troopers who shot and killed a protester in a forest near Atlanta during demonstrations against a new police training campus in January will not be criminally charged, with the prosecutor deeming their use of force as reasonable. The incident has been a focal point in the ongoing conflict over the police training center, which opponents say will militarize law enforcement and harm Atlanta’s tree canopy, and activists have questioned the official account of the shooting, demanding an independent investigation. The New York Times (Oct. 6, 2023)

DA’s death penalty dilemma. Washington County District Attorney Jason Walsh has faced criticism for his frequent use of the death penalty in Pennsylvania, leading to concerns about the high costs of capital cases and the lack of state funding for indigent defense. His political motivations are being questioned as he seeks reelection, while his opponent, Christina DeMarco-Breeden, advocates for a more cautious and ethical approach to seeking the death penalty. Bolts (Oct. 6, 2023)

Judge greenlights negligent homicide charge. A judge allowed the most serious charge of negligent homicide to proceed against a white Louisiana state trooper involved in the deadly 2019 arrest of Ronald Greene, a Black motorist, captured on body-camera video. The case had faced uncertainty after charges were dismissed against two other troopers, leaving three officers still facing charges, with ongoing calls for federal involvement in the case. AP News (Oct. 9, 2023)

3-decade wrongful imprisonment reversed. An Oklahoma judge exonerated a man who spent 30 years in prison for a 1987 rape and burglary based on DNA evidence, and the case was dismissed. The man, Perry Lott, had been released in 2018 under an agreement with a former district attorney, and the Innocence Project played a role in securing his exoneration. CBS News (Oct. 11, 2023)

community board

  • Read | Editorial: Guns are seized in U.S. schools each day. The numbers are soaring.
  • Read | Article: How a Former Prison Cook Became One of the Country’s Top Pizza Chefs
  • Read | Editorial: How a New Approach to Public Defense Is Overcoming Mass Incarceration
  • Read | Commentary: As LGBTQ+ Rights are Challenged, Matthew Shepard’s Story is More Vital 25 Years Later
  • Read | Report: Ending Racial Inequity in Incarceration

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Research and Reporting Intern