Crime

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Police say an elementary school teacher was hit in the face with a brick and dragged from her car in Pittsburgh after a dispute with the parents of one of her students.

They say the attack happened around 3:15 p.m. Wednesday as 46-year-old Janice Watkins was leaving Pittsburgh King PreK-8 on the North Side.

Authorities say she was being followed by a couple in a SUV, and when she stopped at an intersection near the West End Bridge, the woman threw a brick at her.

John Locher / AP

Gun violence kills thousands of Americans every year. It carries massive consequences in lives lost, injuries and medical treatment, but what about the economic cost – in jobs, businesses and community development? How can we measure the opportunity cost of gun violence?

Cliff Owen / AP

 

It’s been less than a week since U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Upper St. Clair) announced he’s resigning from Congress, and the field for a special election to fill his seat is already highly contested. Murphy was forced to resign amid revelations of an extramarital affair in which the anti-abortion lawmaker allegedly urged his mistress to get an abortion.

Kiichiro Sato / AP

Over the last 50 years, more than 8,000 people have been sentenced to die under the death penalty, and 1,500 of them were ultimately executed. But today, the death penalty has fallen out of favor.

Nyttend / Wikimedia Commons

A jury did not reach a verdict in Leon Ford’s federal case against two Pittsburgh police officers Wednesday and will return for more deliberations Thursday.

Ford is suing officers David Derbish and Andrew Miller in federal civil court for a 2012 shooting that left him paralyzed. Derbish faces an allegation of excessive force, and Miller is accused of assault and battery.

An-Li Herring

A jury began deliberations in Leon Ford’s federal civil trial against two Pittsburgh police officers following closing arguments Tuesday. The jury could deliver its verdict any day.

Colleen Long / AP

Police killings of unarmed black men, stop-and-frisk policies and racially disproportionate prison populations have all been called symptoms of a broken criminal justice system.

Courtesy of Phillip Atiba Goff

Fear, fatigue, mood and experience all affect how people interact with others. That's especially true when those actions have life or death consequences.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

Thirteen new surveillance cameras are now up and running through Pittsburgh’s South Side neighborhood.

Philadelphia Is The Latest City To Sue U.S. Government Over 'Sanctuary' Conditions

Aug 30, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

Philadelphia on Wednesday became the latest "sanctuary city" to sue Attorney General Jeff Sessions over what officials say are unconstitutional immigration restrictions placed on a major federal grant.

The city is asking the court to stop Sessions from adding these conditions to a its Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance grant, which it uses to pay police overtime, upgrade equipment and courtroom technology and train officers.

Wilfredo Lee / AP

The federal government doesn't track how often or what happens when police shoot civilians, and there's no official national database to show how big or complex the problem is.

Journalist Ben Montgomery said he learned a lot by requesting documents from more than 400 jurisdictions in Florida alone. In six years and more than 800 shootings, not one incident resulted in criminal charges.

Matt Rourke / AP

Philadelphia's police commissioner is challenging Attorney General Jeff Sessions for blaming immigrants for much of the nation's violent crime.

Commissioner Richard Ross says "young men from here" who are hopeless and dealing with poverty are a bigger problem.

Ross also says he doesn't think local law enforcement "belongs in the immigration business." He says it's tough enough for police to build bonds with local residents without having them worry about their immigration status.

Susan Walsh / AP

James Comey wasn’t the nation’s embattled former FBI Director in 2002, but the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan. He was giving a speech to a group of fellow attorneys -- men and women with impeccable courtroom records. 

Comey was not impressed.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

It's an oft-repeated mandate: law enforcement needs to change for the 21st century. But what does "21st century policing" actually mean, and how would a forward-thinking department be different than what most jurisdictions have now?

Eric Risberg / AP

The FBI has used the same protocols to process DNA for the last 20 years. It requires a human analyst to make comparisons based on subjective choices and simplified genetic samples.

Mark Perlin's product, True Allele, uses a different method. It's a program that lets computers process every high and low point in a piece of DNA – no comparisons or required.

On this episode of the Criminal Injustice podcast, host David Harris talks to Perlin about the program and how DNA analysis can be more powerful, faster and accurate.

New York Times

Police chiefs have to lead officers toward strong relationships with the communities they serve, but in the past, the same department may have participated in or enforced racial discrimination.

That history can prevent healing and can make police reform a nonstarter.

Andrew Harnik / AP

Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded a 2013 memo last month written by his predecessor, Eric Holder. Sessions told prosecutors that not only will they abide by previously set mandatory minimum prison sentences, they would seek the harshest punishments possible.

Damian Dovarganes / AP

Automatic license plate readers – those cameras on police cars and light poles that capture plate numbers – have been in widespread use since the 1990s. But some argue regulations for how and how long police can use and store that information hasn’t kept up with the technology.

Eric Gay / AP

Attorney General Jeff Sessions declined to renew the National Commission on Forensic Science in April, effectively ending federal efforts to standardize how crime scene evidence is interpreted by local law enforcement agencies. It's not because the problems were solved. 

States Offer Breaks To Minority Marijuana Entrepreneurs

May 31, 2017
Eric Risberg / AP

Andre Shavers was sentenced to five years on felony probation after authorities burst into the house where he was living in one of Oakland's most heavily policed neighborhoods and found a quarter ounce of marijuana.

Evan Vucci / AP

The Trump administration has promised a return to "tough on crime" criminal justice policies, including a recent memo that instructs federal prosecutors to reverse Obama-era reforms meant to curb mandatory minimum sentences.

Final Cosby Jury Selections Made In Allegheny County

May 24, 2017
Gene J. Puskar / AP

**UPDATED: 6:12 p.m. Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Half of the new jury pool being questioned Wednesday in Bill Cosby's sexual assault case said they've formed an opinion on his guilt or innocence, and another knows Cosby or his family.

All 12 jurors and six alternates have been chosen this week for the case starting June 5 in suburban Philadelphia. Those who have opinions weren't necessarily disqualified if they convinced the judge they could put that aside and focus on the evidence.

Cosby's lawyers have complained about prosecutors striking two black women.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

**UPDATED: 4:45 p.m. Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled Monday that Pittsburgh Police officers don't have to live inside city limits.

Matthew Apgar / The Chronicle via AP

The exposure of wrongful convictions began in 1989, and it upended the idea that guilty verdicts were always trustworthy. When there’s a wrongful conviction, what has to happen to get a court to exonerate someone?

On this week’s episode of 90.5 WESA’s Criminal Injustice podcast, University of Pittsburgh law professor and show host David Harris talked to Marissa Boyers Bluestine, legal director for the Pennsylvania Innocence Project.

Matt Rourke / AP

Lt. Gov. Mike Stack "billed taxpayers for $34,000 worth of groceries, two leather cuff link boxes, flags and thousands of dollars of candy and snack bars while living at his state-operated mansion and collecting a $162,373 salary." 

Chicago Police Department / AP

The last few years have exposed major problems in policing: use of force, high-tech surveillance and a systemic lack of transparency. Some police tactics have even been called undemocratic, because the public isn’t involved on the front end.

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office / AP

Cell phone monitoring has come a long way since the likes of television shows like The Wire and CSI. But unlike fictional surveillance, some devices currently used by law enforcement don’t require a warrant... or any permission at all.

On this week’s episode of 90.5 WESA’s Criminal Injustice podcast, host David Harris talks to Adam Bates, who studies the secret use of Sting Ray devices at the Cato Institute in Washington D.C.

Their conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Americans who live in high-crime neighborhoods often get portrayed as anti-police, but an Urban Institute study released in February shows something different: strong respect for the law and a willingness to help with public safety.

United Artists / Library of Congress

If you’re a registered voter or have a driver’s license, odds are, you’re eligible for jury duty. But just because you’re called, doesn’t mean you’ll serve.

Research from the Jury Sunshine Project in North Carolina shows that some people get dismissed from the jury pool a lot more often than others.

On this week’s episode of 90.5 WESA’s Criminal Injustice podcast, University of Pittsburgh law professor and show host David Harris talked to Wake Forest School of Law professor Ron Wright, who’s finding those exclusions make a big difference in the outcome of some cases.

Associated Press

The state House has passed a bill to keep certain drug and violent crime offenders in prison longer.

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