Joaquin Sapien

Reporter

Photo of Joaquin Sapien

Joaquin Sapien was one of the first reporters hired at ProPublica in its first year of publishing in 2008. Since then, his journalism has explored a broad range of topics, including criminal justice, social services, and the environment. In 2019, he was a co-producer and correspondent for “Right to Fail,” a film for the PBS documentary series Frontline. The film was based on his 2018 examination of a flawed housing program for New Yorkers with mental illness, which appeared in the New York Times. The story immediately prompted a federal judge to order an independent investigation into the program. It won a Deadline Club Award and a Katherine Schneider Journalism Award for Excellence in Reporting on Disability.

In 2015, Sapien wrote about care for troubled children, beginning with a story in the California Sunday Magazine on a group home that descended into chaos. His work helped an abused boy receive a $12 million jury award and led to the closure of another embattled home in Long Beach.

Past areas of focus include New York City Family Court, prosecutorial misconduct, traumatic brain injury, natural gas drilling, and contaminated drywall used to rebuild after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Sapien’s work has earned awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Society of Environmental Journalists, and Investigative Reporters and Editors. He was a four-time finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists. Before joining ProPublica, Sapien was a reporter at the Center for Public Integrity.

Investigations of California Group Homes Marked By Delays and Uncertainty

When California’s Department of Social Services investigates reports of serious harm in its homes for troubled children, the results are often deemed “inconclusive.”

How We Reported 'Level 14'

Level 14

How a home for troubled children came undone and what it means for California’s chance at reform.

In Complicated Patz Case, Informant Could Testify About Suspect Not on Trial

The defense in the Patz murder trial will argue another man is more likelier the killer of the young boy. Jack Colbert might help make that case.

New York City Will Pay $10 Million to Settle Wrongful Conviction Case

Revelations about the prosecution of Jabbar Collins, who served 15 years for a murder he did not commit, helped to bring down longtime Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes

New York State to Pay Millions in Wrongful Conviction Case

A Brooklyn man who spent more than a dozen years in prison for a crime he likely did not commit will receive $3 million from New York State. He may get even more from New York City.

For a Respected Prosecutor, An Unpardonable Failure

Evidence of a convicted murderer’s possible innocence sat buried in a case file for more than two decades. Now, a prosecutor in Brooklyn will have to answer for the mistake.

Attorney General Holder Requires Recording of Interrogations, Unlike New York City

A new Department of Justice policy says federal agents must record interrogations, as a way to protect against coercion and false confessions.

Sentenced to Wait: Efforts to End Prison Rape Stall Again

The Prison Rape Elimination Act was passed in Washington 2003. It still hasn’t been fully implemented.

Death Penalty Report Cites Value of Taping Interrogations

A report advocating death penalty reforms finds that false confessions in capital cases can be limited by recording the questioning of suspects.

Brooklyn Man Walks Out of Court, Cleared of Murder After 24 Years in Prison

Jonathan Fleming and his family were overjoyed today after the Brooklyn District Attorney dismissed murder charges against him based on evidence withheld at his 1990 trial.

Brooklyn DA Moves to Free Man after Long-Buried Evidence Surfaces

Jonathan Fleming has served more than 24 years in prison for a 1989 murder. Now it has emerged that law enforcement had evidence all along showing he was in Florida at the time of the shooting.

In Etan Patz Case, The Verdict Is...

Nearly two years after Pedro Hernandez was arrested for murdering Etan Patz, he has yet to have an essential hearing on whether the central evidence against him is even admissible.

Are You Etan Patz?

Even with a suspect awaiting trial for the murder of Etan Patz, the FBI last month still chased down a tip that America’s most famous missing child was still alive.

Guards May Be Responsible for Half of Prison Sexual Assaults

A Department of Justice study also shows the number of reports of sexual assaults is rising, but rarely results in prosecution.

Guarded Optimism

After years of frustration and delay, some hope in the fight against sex abuse in the nation’s juvenile jails.

For Brooklyn Prosecutor, a Troubled Last Term, and a Trail of Lingering Questions

It may take years to assess the lasting damage of Charles J. Hynes’ final term as Brooklyn district attorney.

Missing: A Boy and The Evidence Against His Accused Killer

Three decades after 6-year-old Etan Patz disappeared, police suddenly had a suspect. Then they chose not to record his interrogation, a decision that could affect their case.

Polarizing Brooklyn Prosecutor Retires Amid Scrutiny

Top Brooklyn prosecutor Michael Vecchione is retiring his post after a career spanning more than two decades. He leaves a troubling legacy, including allegations that he convicted an innocent man of murder in a case that could cost New York City millions.

For Prosecutor Under Fire, A Verdict at the Polls

It’s been nearly 60 years since an incumbent district attorney in New York City has been removed from office via the vote. Joe Hynes in Brooklyn could be in danger of breaking the streak.

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