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.

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.

In Effort to End Prison Rape, Questions About a Monitor’s Independence

It took years to enact tougher standards for investigating and punishing sexual violence in the nation’s jails and prisons. Now, there is frustration over how those reforms will be enforced.

A Powerful Legal Tool, and Its Potential for Abuse

For years, prosecutors in New York have been using what are known as material witness orders to compel testimony from reluctant witnesses in criminal trials. But has the power to persuade led to coercion and tainted convictions?

Boys in Custody and the Women Who Abuse Them

The nation’s system of juvenile justice has long been troubled. But recent studies have revealed a surprising new menace: female staffers at detention facilities sexually abusing the male youngsters in their care.

Watching the Detectives: Will Probe of Cop’s Cases Extend to Prosecutors?

A review of 50 Brooklyn murder prosecutions could free men from prison and ruin the reputation of the former detective who helped make the cases. Some insist the prosecutors who worked alongside the accused detective should not be spared scrutiny.

Objection Overruled: Top Prosecutor Must Testify in Wrongful Conviction Case

Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes will be deposed by the lawyer for a man who has accused Hynes of running a prosecutor’s office where misconduct is condoned, even rewarded. Hynes, who has denied the allegation, had sought to avoid answering questions under oath, but a federal judge ruled that he must.

Time Out: Federal Complaint Alleges Rampant Abuse in Texas Truancy Program

Students are handcuffed, and often jailed. Fines can reach into the thousands of dollars. Accused students and their families are never provided with legal counsel. That, according to a complaint seeking federal intervention, is the strange and possibly illegal world of the Dallas County truancy court, where thousands of students are prosecuted for missing school or arriving late.

Rape and Other Sexual Violence Prevalent in Juvenile Justice System

The greatest rates of sexual assaults in the country’s juvenile detention facilities involve the very staff members charged with supervising and counseling the troubled youngsters.

A Prosecutor, a Wrongful Conviction and a Question of Justice

Jabbar Collins spent 16 years in prison for murder before he won his freedom, and with it a chance to take on the man who put him behind bars. Collins has accused Michael Vecchione, a senior Brooklyn prosecutor, of repeated acts of misconduct, and two federal judges indicated they think he may have a case. ProPublica examines Vecchione’s career, the allegations against him, and what strikes many as an inexplicable lack of accountability.

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