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[Balko] How Bin Laden Won

In "The Looming Tower," the Pulitzer Prize-winning history of al-Qaeda and the road to Sept. 11, author Lawrence Wright lays out how Osama bin Laden's motivation for the attacks that …


[Balko] The ‘War on Cops' That Isn't

Despite what you may have read, it's safer to be a police officer today than it has been in 35 years.

[Balko] A History of Paternalism

Government-sponsored public health campaigns have given us many memorably mockable moments, from talking crash-test dummies to "I learned it by watching you!" Now, courtesy of the federal government's National Institutes …


[Balko] Failing Upward in Criminal Justice

When the SWAT team came for Richard Paey in 1997, officers battered down the front door of the Florida home he shared with his wife and their two children. Paey …


[Balko] How Drug Cops Go Bad

If you browse the website of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), you will notice a conspicuous theme: The war on drugs is corrupting America's cops.


[Balko] Getting Forensics Right

by Radley Balko March 14, 2011 After countless scandals in recent years, the problems with America's forensics system are finally getting some national attention. In December, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) …

[Balko] Leviathan's Lawyers

Attorney General Eric Holder's announcement last month that the U.S. Justice Department's Office of the Solicitor General would no longer defend the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act in federal court …


[Balko] You Can Have Sex With Them; Just Don't Photograph Them

In the spring and summer of 2006, Eric Rinehart, at the time a 34-year-old police officer in the small town of Middletown, Ind., began consensual sexual relationships with two young …


[Balko] Sticklers for Procedure

It would be difficult to cite a more shameful episode in the history of America's criminal justice system than the pedophilia panic of the 1980s and '90s. Hysteria overcame police, …

[Balko] The Anti-Cop Trend That Isn't

Between Jan. 20 and Jan. 25, 13 police officers were shot in the U.S., five of them fatally. Two officers in St. Petersburg, Fla., were killed while trying to arrest …

[Balko] Cops Beat Unarmed Future Cop

A year ago this month, Jordan Miles, an 18-year-old music student at Pittsburgh's Creative and Performing Arts High School, was walking to his grandmother's home in the city's Homewood neighborhood …

[Balko] Justice for Sal

Last week The Washington Post reported that Sal Culosi's parents have reached a $2 million settlement with Fairfax County, Va., police Detective Deval Bullock, who shot and killed the 38-year-old …


[Balko] The Year in Clemency

It was a strange year for clemency, the often misunderstood and generally misused power that allows the president and governors to grant pardons (which overturn convictions) and commutations (which reduce …

[Balko] The System's Epic Fail

When the SWAT team came for Richard Paey in 1997, it battered down the front door of the home in Pasco County, Fla., where he lived with his wife, Linda, …


[Balko] Conservatives Rethink 'Tough on Crime'

Last week I received an e-mail press release directing me to a new public-policy website. On that website, a quote from Reagan administration Attorney General Ed Meese says it's time …


[Balko] The SWAT Team Would Like to See Your Permit

In August, a team of heavily armed Orange County, Fla., sheriff's deputies raided several black and Hispanic-owned barbershops in the Orlando area. More raids followed in September and October. The …

[Balko] The Continuing Saga of Steven Hayne

Last week the Mississippi Supreme Court granted a new trial to Cory Maye, who is serving a life sentence for shooting and killing Prentiss, Miss., police officer Ron Jones during …

[Balko] Vanishingly Rare Misconduct Citations

In 2007, a court tried Sonya and Joseph Smith for felony murder in connection with the 2003 death of their 8-year-old son, Josef, who medical examiners said was beaten and …


[Balko] Draconian Gun Laws

Sue Aitken called the police because she was worried about her son, Brian. She now lives with the guilt of knowing that her phone call is the reason Brian spent …


[Balko] The Media Aren't Liberal

For the last few months, my colleague Matt Welch has been tracking the positions of California's newspapers on Proposition 19, the ballot measure that would have legalized marijuana for recreational …


[Balko] More Democracy, More Incarceration

Last year the U.S. prison population declined for the first time in a generation. That's good news, but it doesn't begin to offset the damage done by a 30-year incarceration …

[Balko] America's Most Successful Stop Snitchin' Campaign

Last month when U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson awarded Baron Bowling $830,000 for the beating he suffered at the hands of a Drug Enforcement Administration agent in 2003, she went …

[Balko] Abolish Drunk Driving Laws

Last week Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo advocated for creating a new criminal offense: "driving while ability impaired." The problem with the current Texas law prohibiting "driving while intoxicated," Acevedo …


[Balko] Guilty Before Proven Innocent

Last week, USA Today published the results of a six-month investigation into misconduct by America's federal prosecutors. The investigation turned up what Pace University law professor Bennett Gershman called a …

[Balko] How to Record the Cops

This summer the issue of recording on-duty police officers has received a great deal of media attention.

[Balko] The Case for Bifurcated Trials

In July, the Texas Forensic Science Commission found that arson investigators used flawed science in the trial of Cameron Todd Willingham. Willingham was convicted of setting a 1999 fire that …


[Balko] Killed on a Technicality

In 1994 Eddie Lee Howard was convicted of raping and murdering 84-year-old Georgia Kemp. Firefighters found Kemp dead in her Columbus, Miss., home after a neighbor noticed smoke coming from …

[Balko] Trust Me: You Can Trust Us

In April I wrote a column about the secretive habits of three large police departments in Virginia's Washington, D.C., suburbs: Fairfax County, Alexandria and Arlington. As Connection Newspapers reporter Michael …


[Balko] The Government's License To Steal

In the February issue of "Reason," I wrote a feature story on civil asset forfeiture, the process by which law enforcement groups can seize property, usually in drug cases, sometimes …


[Balko] Cops Don't Check Civil Rights at State House Door

The debate over whether citizens should be permitted to record on-duty police officers intensified this summer. High-profile incidents in Maryland, Illinois, Florida, Ohio, and elsewhere spurred coverage of the issue …


[Balko] Ignorance of the Law is No Excuse

"Ignorance of the law is no excuse." That's the standard line motorists hear when they say they weren't aware of the speed limit, or gun owners hear when they say …

[Balko] Justice For Johannes Mehserle

Early the morning of Jan. 1, 2009, in a now-infamous incident that dozens of cell phones captured on video and then replayed across the globe, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) …

[Balko] A Case Study in Local News Futility

The Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism recently surveyed 490 hours of local news reports in the Los Angeles area and …

[Balko] Confirmation Theater

My task this week is to write a column on how criminal-justice issues are likely to play out at the Elena Kagan confirmation hearings, and how her expected confirmation will …

[Balko] Another Marylander Arrested for Recording the Police

The city of Annapolis, Md., recently received a Homeland Security grant for 20 new surveillance cameras in the downtown area. The city of Baltimore already has nearly 500.


[Balko] 'I Find that Inexcusable'

At a stoplight just a few miles from his home, Nicholas Beltrante, 82, puts on his flashers, opens the driver's side door to his car, gets out, and approaches my …

[Balko] The Subversive Vending Machine

In 1819 the English publisher, bookseller, and radical Richard Carlisle was sentenced to three years in prison for blasphemy and seditious libel. Carlisle's imprisonment was partly due to his publication …


[Balko] Lessons From the Death of Aiyana Stanley-Jones

On the morning of May 16, a Detroit police officer fatally shot 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones in the throat during a police raid on her home. The police were looking for …

[Balko] A Drug Raid Goes Viral

Last week, a Columbia, Mo., drug raid captured on video went viral. As of this morning, the video had garnered 950,000 views on YouTube. It has lit up message boards, …


[Balko] How Many More Are Innocent?

America's 250th DNA exoneration raises questions about how often we send the wrong person to prison.


[Balko] Watching the Detectives

George Orwell famously said, "If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face–forever." He may still be right.


[Balko] Justice Stevens' Mixed Record on Civil Liberties

Many hail retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens as a champion of the accused. Stevens, The New York Times editorial board opined, has a "record of being on the …


[Balko] The Police Blackout

Last November along the roadside of Richmond Highway, a major thoroughfare in Fairfax County, Va., a police officer shot and killed David Masters, an unarmed motorist, as he sat in …


[Balko] Another Senseless Drug War Death

The Jonathan Ayers story was already outrageous enough. Last September, a North Georgia narcotics task force gunned down Ayers, a 28-year-old Baptist pastor from Lavonia, Ga., in the parking lot …


[Balko] Progress and Challenges in Mississippi

Last week Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour signed House Bill 1456, which would require anyone conducting autopsies in the state to be certified in forensic pathology by the American Board of …


[Balko] Pre-Crime Policing

To hear them tell it, the five police agencies who apprehended 39-year-old Oregonian David Pyles early on the morning of March 8 thwarted another lone-wolf mass murderer. The police "were …

[Balko] The Other Broken Windows Fallacy

One of the central themes of the critically acclaimed HBO series "The Wire" was the pressure politicians put on police brass, who then apply it to the department's middle management, …

[Balko] 4.5 SWAT Raids Per Day

During the last six months of 2009, police deployed SWAT teams oyed 804 times in the state of Maryland, or about 4.5 times per day. In Prince George's County alone, …

[Balko] Is Texas About to Execute Another Innocent Man?

Henry Watkins "Hank" Skinner was supposed to be executed tomorrow, but last Tuesday a Gray County, Texas, district court judge pushed the date back one month, to March 24. Skinner …

Green Girl

[Balko] Flashbangs Under Fire

The New York Times reported last week that the New York City Police Department has halted the use of "flashbang" stun grenades. The department began phasing out the devices in …


[Balko] How Many More Are Innocent?

Calculating the percentage of innocents now in prison is a tricky and controversial process. In hundreds of cases, courts have overturned convictions due to lack of evidence, recantation of eyewitness …

[Balko] Ruining Kids in Order to Save Them

That the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals would even need to hear oral arguments in the case of Miller, et al. v. Skumanick last week is a pretty good …


[Balko] That Other War

Drug War deaths show that the Verndun mentality continues to thrive in America's effort to protect its citizens from themselves. Law enforcement officials shrug off the deaths of innocents and …


[Balko] ‘Sugar Daddy' Shakedown

In May the FBI arrested cardiologist Roger Weiner at a Mississippi gas station for violating the Mann Act, a century-old law prohibiting the transport of women across state lines for …


[Balko] The Criminalization of Protest

Police and politicians ignore the First Amendment when we need it the most.


[Balko] Kern County's Monstrous DA

Farewell to Ed Jagels, a man who put 25 innocent "child abusers" in prison.


[Balko] Chicago's Thick Blue Wall

The Windy City's notoriously aggressive police department fights for less accountability.


[Balko] Clemency on Trial

Most governors grant clemency for the wrong reasons, including Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour. Here's what coverage of the Huckabee/Clemons case is missing.


[Balko] Criminal Justice Reform Alliance? Doubt It.

Why talk of a left-right alliance to fight the prosecution state seems unlikely.


[Balko] ‘It Opened Our Eyes'

How the paths of two very different families crossed to cheer the release of a wrongly convicted man.


[Balko] A New Trial for Cory Maye

Mississippi's Court of Appeals affirms a right to a local jury.


[Balko] Absolute Immunity on Trial

Bush's former solicitor general tries to roll back prosecutorial abuse.


[Balko] Death of a Watchdog

In an age when journalism has been inflicted not only by ballyhooed budget woes and challenges from new media, but also a glut of dubious trend stories, horserace political coverage …


[Balko] Bad Prosecutors, Mississippi and Beyond

Anthony Caravella walked away from a Florida prison last month. He served 26 years for a rape and murder that DNA testing has shown he didn't commit. Caravella was 15 …


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