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Criminal Justice

Series

Blood Will Tell

Investigating the Science Behind Forensic Science

Accused in Elkhart

Justice in an Indiana County

A Sick System

Repeat Attacks After Pleading Insanity

Stuck Kids

Illinois Children Languish in Psychiatric Hospitals

Police Accountability in Chicago

Monitoring the Chicago Police Department

Ignoring Innocence

The Wrongfully Convicted Forced Into Plea Deals

Busted

Examining Chemical Field Tests

Nuisance Abatement

The NYPD’s Aggressive Enforcement of a Little-known Law

Out of Order

When Prosecutors Cross the Line

Post Mortem

Death Investigation in America

Law & Disorder

After Katrina, New Orleans Police Under Scrutiny

Stories

Texas Panel Faults Lab Chemist in Bryan Case for “Overstated Findings” and Inadequate DNA Analysis

The Texas Forensic Science Commission called out a second prosecution expert for her work on the murder case of the former high school principal convicted of the 1985 murder of his wife.

The Child Abuse Contrarian

Michael Holick, a renowned scientist turned expert witness, relies on his own controversial theory to help alleged abusers avoid prison and regain custody of the babies they were accused of harming.

Los Desaparecidos

La policía de Long Island dio como fugitivos de sus hogares a adolescentes inmigrantes perdidos. Una de las madres presintió que algo andaba mal y buscó las respuestas en los campos de matanza de la MS-13.

He Said He Faked Mental Illness to Avoid Prison. Now, Accused in 2 Killings, He’s Sent Back to a State Hospital.

A judge ruled that Anthony Montwheeler was not competent to stand trial for an assault and two murders that prosecutors say he committed just weeks after his release from the Oregon State Hospital.

The Disappeared

Police on Long Island wrote off missing immigrant teens as runaways. One mother knew better — and searched MS-13’s killing fields for answers.

Blood-Spatter Expert in Joe Bryan Case Says “My Conclusions Were Wrong”

The expert whose testimony was key to Bryan’s conviction for his wife’s 1985 murder says he now believes that some of his techniques were incorrect. His admission comes as a judge considers whether Bryan, whose case was the subject of a ProPublica and New York Times Magazine investigation, should get a new trial.

How the Trump Administration Went Easy on Small-Town Police Abuses

The Obama Justice Department thought Ville Platte, Louisiana — where officers jail witnesses to crimes — could become a model of how to erase policing abuses that plague small towns across the nation. Jeff Sessions decided not to bother.

Joe Bryan’s Attorneys Ask For New Trial, Say Murder Conviction Built On Faulty Forensics

During a three-day hearing in Texas, a succession of witnesses criticized the bloodstain-pattern analysis and exposed other flaws in the prosecution of a former high school principal convicted of the 1985 murder of his wife.

Bill Proposes Greater Accountability for New York Prosecutors Who Break the Law

With his signature, Gov. Andrew Cuomo could create an independent state commission to investigate and sanction prosecutors who withhold evidence or commit other abuses.

When Public Records Aren’t Public

In Elkhart, Indiana, even easy records can be hard to get. Trial exhibits? No. Appellate briefs? No. Police reports in the court file? No. And don’t even ask about moving those boxes.

Standing by Their Convictions

The DNA didn’t match. The witnesses weren’t sure. But the prosecution persisted.

Influential Texas Commission Says Blood-Spatter Testimony in Joe Bryan’s Murder Case Was “Not Accurate or Scientifically Supported”

The findings of Texas Forensic Science Commission will make it harder to deny a new trial to Bryan, a high school principal convicted of murdering his wife. The case was the subject of an investigation by ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine.

Like Chicago Police, Cook County and Illinois Officials Track Thousands of People in Gang Databases

Gang files at other agencies include missing information and dead people.

Federal Judge to Consider Independent Monitor for Illinois Child Welfare Agency

State officials have failed to deal with children stuck in psychiatric hospitals.

Oregon Court System Shields Evaluation of Alleged Killer

Last year, Oregon officials tried unsuccessfully to keep secret records on a man found “guilty except for insanity” in a 1996 kidnapping. Now, the state court system is refusing to release a key record in his new murder case even though it's not “legally confidential.”

Illinois Lawmakers Demand Explanation on Children Stuck in Psychiatric Hospitals

A call for state welfare officials to appear at a public hearing follows our ProPublica Illinois investigation.

The Administration of Mayor Rahm Emanuel Keeps Monitoring Protesters

Chicago police and City Hall tracked anti-Trump demonstrators — and now state legislators want to let them use drones.

Where Is “Home” for Children in State Custody?

Many of us have distinct memories of our own childhood homes. That’s not the case for hundreds of children trapped in Illinois psychiatric hospitals.

Hundreds of Illinois Children Languish in Psychiatric Hospitals After They’re Cleared For Release

The Department of Children and Family Services struggles to find appropriate homes for young people with mental illness.

Every Day, a Child is Held Beyond Medical Necessity in Illinois

Hundreds of children and teens in state care are held each year in psychiatric hospitals for weeks or months at a time — even though they have been cleared to leave.

Blood Will Tell, Part II

Joe Bryan has spent the past three decades in prison for the murder of his wife, a crime he claims he didn’t commit. His conviction rested largely on “bloodstain-pattern analysis” — a technique still in use throughout the criminal-justice system, despite concerns about its reliability.

How an Unproven Forensic Science Spread Through the Criminal Justice System

Bloodstain-pattern analysis has been accepted as reliable evidence by appellate courts in one state after another with little or no examination of its scientific accuracy.

Blood Will Tell, Part I

The murder of Mickey Bryan, a quiet fourth-grade teacher, stunned her small Texas town. Then her husband, a beloved high school principal, was charged with killing her. Did he do it, or had there been a terrible mistake?

Group to Send Lawyers to Help Incarcerated Teens

Controversy at youth facility in southern Illinois sparks a nonprofit to act.

Oregon Doctors Warned That a Killer and Rapist Would Likely Attack Again. Then the State Released Him.

Charles Longjaw was being held at the Oregon State Hospital after being found insane. Oregon changed its interpretation of the law and he was released, raising questions about how states manage violent offenders with mental illness.

How an Oregon Weekly Forced Release of Key Records in Murder Cases

Oregon sued a tiny newspaper to keep records secret relating to the state’s release of defendants found “guilty except for insanity.” The paper prevailed and is using the records to explore a series of troubling cases.

Oregon Board Explains Why It Repeatedly Released Killer From Psychiatric Hospital

In response to our questions, the Psychiatric Security Review Board explains why danger alone is not enough to keep violent people with mental illness under state jurisdiction.

A Betrayal

The teenager told police all about his gang, MS-13. In return, he was slated for deportation and marked for death.

A Chicago Cop’s Facebook Posts and a City’s Struggle With Racism

In 50 years, only one officer has been fired for abuse involving racial or ethnically biased language.

Chicago Cop Under Investigation Again Over Social Media Posts

Officer John Catanzara describes himself as a “give no f#$%s, say it like it is man.” His Facebook and Instagram posts have prompted investigations.

Baltimore Judge Tosses Alford Plea, Rebuking Prosecutor

Demetrius Smith has long maintained he pleaded guilty to a shooting he did not commit. Now, over the prosecutor's objections, his conviction has been set aside.

Innocent But Still Guilty

Inmates are sometimes offered freedom in exchange for pleading guilty to a crime they probably didn’t commit. It’s a bad deal.

In New York, Crime Falls Along With Police Stops

Police have radically cut back their use of stop-and-frisk policies. To the surprise of some, crime didn’t spike, but tumbled yet again.

Baltimore Prosecutor Admits He Was Wrong to Block Request to Alter Alford Plea

A ProPublica story last month pointed out that the prosecutor had given up his right to veto changes to the unusual plea deal. Demetrius Smith, who was wrongfully convicted of murder when he agreed to the deal, will get a new hearing.

Taking Care to Get a Mississippi Scandal Right

People in the state took a chance that I would resist stereotypes and report an important truth about the crisis in mental health resources.

New York City Moves to Create Accountability for Algorithms

Spurred by a ProPublica report, the New York City Council passed the country’s first bill to address algorithmic discrimination in city government.

Chicago Police Win Big When Appealing Discipline

Analysis shows hundreds of misconduct findings overturned.

Chicago Police Department Grievances

A Chicago Tribune-ProPublica Illinois investigation tracked more than 300 police disciplinary cases appealed through the department’s labor office. We analyzed changes between original discipline orders and what officers actually served.

Illinois Legislators Pledge to Deal with ‘Pipeline to Prison’ at Juvenile Correctional Facility

Sending teenage inmates to adult prisons for minor incidents undermines state’s reform efforts, witnesses say.

A Dubious Arrest, a Compromised Prosecutor, a Tainted Plea: How One Murder Case Exposes a Broken System

One innocent man’s odyssey through the justice system shows the cascading, and enduring, effects of a bad conviction.

For Some Victims, Reporting a Rape Can Bring Doubt, Abuse — and Even Prosecution

False reporting is a crime, one that some police would like to make a priority. But history shows the police can’t always tell the truth from a lie.

Police Oversight Ordinance Promised Transparency But Doesn’t Fully Deliver

A revamped agency takes a step backward in informing the public.

Returning to the Scene of a Trauma

At 16, Brandon Whitehead and his father were held at gunpoint by an off-duty Chicago police officer. The cop got suspended for five days, which he served 11 years later. Brandon, now 27, goes back to the scene.

Nevada Pardons Wrongfully Convicted Man Featured in Our Story

The pardon clears Fred Steese’s name after state prosecutors had pushed him into an arcane plea deal even though a judge had declared he was innocent. “I’m not a felon anymore,” Steese said.

Chicago Police Skirt Punishment as Disciplinary System Fails Yet Again

Even after reporters identified lost cases, only some officers served suspensions.

Have You Ever Filed a Complaint Against a Chicago Police Officer? Tell Us What Happened.

There may be information about your case you’re unaware of.

Despite Mayor’s Pledge, Hundreds of Chicago Cops Still in Desk Jobs

Emanuel still hasn’t delivered on promise to put more civilians in desk jobs and get additional officers on the street.

Concern Grows Over Youths at Juvenile Correctional Facility Being Sent to Adult Prison

Juvenile justice officials, advocates and a federal judge expressed worry over legal representation for youths.

Time Spent in Solitary Confinement Drops Dramatically in Illinois Youth Facilities

The recognition that solitary confinement can harm young offenders led to a move away from harsh punishment at juvenile correctional centers.

For Some Youths, ‘Minor’ Offenses Lead to Major Sentences in Adult Prison

Cases threaten to undermine Illinois’ efforts at juvenile justice reform.

Why (Almost) No One Is Charged With Gun Trafficking in Illinois

It’s how the laws are written, and trafficking is hard to prove.

Putting Crime Scene DNA Analysis on Trial

We reported on a dispute over the methods used by New York City’s crime lab to analyze complex DNA samples. Now similar concerns are prompting a national study. In this Q&A, a leading expert explains why labs may be making mistakes — and what can be done about it.

How Chicago Gets Its Guns

It’s not big trafficking rings. Mostly, it’s through little guys like John Thomas.

Vegas Judge Featured in ProPublica Story Reprimanded for Ethics Violations

Judge William Kephart, who was repeatedly criticized for misconduct as a prosecutor and put at least one innocent person in prison, has been censured for a lapse on the bench.

ProPublica Seeks Source Code for New York City’s Disputed DNA Software

We’re asking a federal court for the code behind a technique that critics say may have put innocent people in prison.

What Does an Innocent Man Have to Do to Go Free? Plead Guilty.

A case in Baltimore — in which two men were convicted of the same murder and cleared by DNA 20 years later — shows how far prosecutors will go to preserve a conviction.

The Freedom Plea: How Prosecutors Deny Exonerations by Dangling the Prison Keys

New evidence pointed to innocence in the cases of these four Baltimore men, yet prosecutors would only let them go if they agreed to controversial plea deals.

Thousands of Criminal Cases in New York Relied on Disputed DNA Testing Techniques

New York City’s crime lab has been a pioneer nationally in analyzing especially difficult DNA samples. But the recent disclosure of the source code for its proprietary software is raising new questions about accuracy.

Misdemeanor Defendants Facing Jail Time Not Told They Have a Right to Counsel, Bar Association Finds

American Bar Association monitors report misdemeanor defendants in Nashville often aren’t told they are entitled to a lawyer even when their charges mean they could end up behind bars.

On Rikers Island, a Move Toward Reform Causes Trouble

Inmates in a new secure housing unit risk harm while shackled to desks, according to a New York City Board of Corrections report.

How (and Why) We’re Collecting Cook County Jail Data

ProPublica Illinois is restarting a collaborative data collection project to better understand what happens to inmates at Cook County Jail.

Houston Police End Use of Drug Tests That Helped Produce Wrongful Convictions

The cheap kits were often the sole evidence used to win guilty pleas, against the innocent as well the as guilty.

Victims in Thousands of Potential Hate Crimes Never Notify Police

A new federal survey on hate crimes offers cause for both alarm and confusion.

Former Texas Nurse Convicted of Baby-Killing Told Authorities ‘I Was Heinous.’

In a letter from prison, Genene Jones appeared to acknowledge her guilt and asked Texas nursing regulators to forgive her for a crime she committed when she was not “of sound mind.”

The Last Shot

Amid a surging opiate crisis, the maker of the anti-addiction drug Vivitrol skirted the usual sales channels. It found a captive market for its once-a-month injection in the criminal justice system.

Despite Exposés and Embarrassments, Hundreds of Judges Preside in New York Without Law Degrees

A review of the work of the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct chronicles the costs of a tradition resistant to change.

Nevada Passes Modest Measures to Curb Prosecutorial Misconduct

Lobbying by prosecutors and police guts law that would have punished prosecutors who didn’t share evidence with defense. Debate cited case of Fred Steese, subject of ProPublica and Vanity Fair story.

Kafka in Vegas

Fred Steese served more than 20 years in prison for the murder of a Vegas showman even though evidence in the prosecution’s files proved he didn’t do it. But when the truth came to light, he was offered a confounding deal known as an Alford plea. If he took it he could go free, but he’d remain a convicted killer.

Vegas Judge Had Long History of Prosecutorial Misconduct

The behavior of Bill Kephart, who led the murder prosecution of Fred Steese, was repeatedly lambasted by the Supreme Court of Nevada. But that didn’t stop him from becoming a judge. This month he was charged with misconduct in that position too.

Millions for New York Man Wrongly Convicted of Murder

The award of $4.5 million by New York state is just part of a claim by a man who spent more than two decades in prison based on a dishonest prosecution.

Another Startling Verdict for Forensic Science

A recent study on the reliability of hair analysis is only latest to shake public confidence.

Busted

Tens of thousands of people every year are sent to jail based on the results of a $2 roadside drug test. Widespread evidence shows that these tests routinely produce false positives. Why are police departments and prosecutors still using them?

System Failures

Houston cases shed light on a disturbing possibility: that wrongful convictions are most often not isolated acts of misconduct by the authorities but systemic breakdowns — among judges and prosecutors, defense lawyers and crime labs.

Machine Bias

There’s software used across the country to predict future criminals. And it’s biased against blacks.

Listen to Our Collaboration with ‘This American Life’

“An Anatomy of Doubt,” a young woman’s story of rape and redemption, debuts Friday.

A Brutal Crime, Often Terribly Investigated

ProPublica and The Marshall Project’s “An Unbelievable Story of Rape” underscored the need for improving rape investigations. Here’s how.

Rape is Rape, Isn’t It?

It depends on who is counting, and what they count.

An Unbelievable Story of Rape

An 18-year-old said she was attacked at knifepoint. Then she said she made it up. That’s where our story begins.

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