Crime

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Making a Murderer documents the inexorable nightmare that is the criminal justice system

Posted By on 12.30.15 at 04:00 PM

Making a Murderer - COURTESY OF NETFLIX
  • Courtesy of Netflix
  • Making a Murderer

A junkyard. Row upon row of car carcasses spread across acres of land. That's Avery's Auto Salvage, the setting of the Netflix documentary miniseries Making a Murderer. But it's more than just a place—it's a visual symbol for the state of a town and its people.

Over ten hours covering 30 years, Making a Murderer repeatedly returns to the salvage yard in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. We see cars covered in snow; sun glinting off smashed windshields; rusting, bent fenders sinking into the earth as seasons pass. This is Steven Avery's world. We meet him just as he's being released from prison after serving 18 years for a rape he didn't commit. He's short, with a buzz cut and a beard worthy of Duck Dynasty, grinning ear to ear when he's back in his family's auto-wreck kingdom.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Why Milton Anderson asked Alderman Joe Moore to escort him to his confession

Posted By on 12.23.15 at 06:20 PM

Police released photos Sunday of a man suspected of robbing and assaulting a woman outside the Jarvis Red Line station. - CHICAGO POLICE DEPARTMENT
  • Chicago Police Department
  • Police released photos Sunday of a man suspected of robbing and assaulting a woman outside the Jarvis Red Line station.

This post has been updated.

Here's a routine crime story from my neighborhood:

Early Saturday morning, a man allegedly followed a woman out of the Jarvis Red Line station in Rogers Park. On the street, he grabbed her from behind, showed her a gun, and forced her into a more secluded area where he allegedly robbed and sexually assaulted her. CTA cameras captured footage of them leaving the station; by Sunday night, the man's picture had been released by the police. On Monday it appeared on the morning news.

Here's the part where the story gets a little odd:

Later Monday, 26-year-old Rogers Park resident Milton Anderson and a neighbor he knew through work presented themselves at 49th Ward alderman Joe Moore's office. Anderson confessed to the robbery (but not to the assault), and Moore escorted him to the Area One police station at Belmont and Western, where Anderson turned himself in. On Tuesday police charged Anderson with two felony counts, one for robbery and one for sexual assault, both with a firearm, and Moore posted the story on his website.

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Monday, December 14, 2015

Emanuel blows off another FOIA request for video of a fatal police shooting

Posted By on 12.14.15 at 12:49 PM


Speaking to the City Council Wednesday, Mayor Emanuel vowed swift reforms to restore public trust in police. - SCOTT OLSON/GETTY IMAGES
  • Scott Olson/Getty Images
  • Speaking to the City Council Wednesday, Mayor Emanuel vowed swift reforms to restore public trust in police.

Last Wednesday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel proclaimed the arrival of a fresh new era of sincerity and openness concerning policing in Chicago. "I know that personally, I have a lot of work to do to win back the public’s trust, and that words are not enough," the mayor told the City Council.

Referring to the video of the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, Emanuel said: "Every day that we held onto the video contributed to the public’s distrust. And that needs to change." 

And he wasn't content to wait for change, he made clear: "It starts today. It starts now."

But it hasn't started yet, as far as I can tell.  

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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Van Dyke said he feared McDonald's knife could shoot bullets

Posted By on 12.08.15 at 09:56 AM

A frame from the dash-cam video of the fatal shooting of  Laquan McDonald. The 17-year-old, carrying a knife,  walks down Pulaski Road as officers Jason Van Dyke and Joseph Walsh train their guns on him. Moments later, Van Dyke, the officer on the right in this frame, opened fire on McDonald. - CHICAGO POLICE DEPARTMENT VIA AP, FILE
  • Chicago Police Department via AP, File
  • A frame from the dash-cam video of the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald. The 17-year-old, carrying a knife, walks down Pulaski Road as officers Jason Van Dyke and Joseph Walsh train their guns on him. Moments later, Van Dyke, the officer on the right in this frame, opened fire on McDonald.

Jason Van Dyke shot Laquan McDonald because McDonald threatened him with a knife, Van Dyke told a detective at the scene of the fatal shooting. In a second interview a few hours later, Van Dyke, the Chicago police officer now charged with McDonald's murder, offered further reasons why he opened fire on the 17-year-old—including concerns that McDonald's knife could be spring-loaded or could shoot a bullet.

These were among the revelations in the hundreds of pages of reports from the McDonald shooting investigation released by the Chicago Police Department late Friday. The documents are a testament to the willingness of police officers, detectives, and supervisors to whitewash a shooting by one of their own, regardless of what video evidence shows.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Emanuel discovers the need for police accountability reforms

Posted By on 12.02.15 at 09:51 AM

Mayor Emanuel at a news conference yesterday morning, at which he announced the firing of Chicago Police superintendent Garry McCarthy and the creation of a task force on police accountability. - ASHLEE REZIN/SUN-TIMES MEDIA VIA AP
  • Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times Media via AP
  • Mayor Emanuel at a news conference yesterday morning, at which he announced the firing of Chicago Police superintendent Garry McCarthy and the creation of a task force on police accountability.
"You never want a serious crisis to go to waste," Rahm Emanuel famously said in November 2008. Then chief of staff to president-elect Barack Obama, Emanuel was referring to the nation's financial crisis. "It's an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before," he told the Wall Street Journal. "Things that we had postponed for too long...are now immediate and must be dealt with." 

Now he's mayor of Chicago, and in a crisis of his own making. Whether he'll survive it remains to be seen, but his future darkens by the day. 

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Monday, November 30, 2015

Why do cops in trouble get the benefit of the doubt?

Posted By on 11.30.15 at 12:17 PM

Chicago police stood guard Wednesday as demonstrators protested the death of Laquan McDonald. - SCOTT OLSON/GETTY IMAGES
  • Scott Olson/Getty Images
  • Chicago police stood guard Wednesday as demonstrators protested the death of Laquan McDonald.

When cops in trouble enjoy the benefit of the doubt, is it because they’ve earned it? Or is there something else going on? Do the people in charge think cutting cops some slack is the prudent thing to do?

In Baltimore, six cops are in trouble. Last April, Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man, suffered a spinal injury while in the custody of Baltimore police and died a few days later. Counts against the six charged officers range from second-degree murder to manslaughter to false arrest, and the first of the trials begins Monday. Though it’s remarkable that the officers were charged at all, said Todd Oppenheim, a Baltimore public defender, in an op-ed in the Sunday New York Times, they have since received "extraordinary treatment." For instance, their bail was "disproportionately low," they were excused from showing up in court for pretrial motions, and their cases moved through to legal system to trial on an accelerated schedule.

This "preferential treatment," as Oppenheim calls it, is put in the shade by Chicago’s response to the October 2014 killing of Laquan McDonald. Though a video showed the 17-year-old being fired at by a police officer he wasn’t threatening, an autopsy report said he’d been shot 16 times, and eyewitnesses were plentiful, Officer Jason Van Dyke wasn’t charged with murder until last Tuesday, the same day the video finally was made public.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Essential stories of Chicago Police Department misconduct

Posted By on 11.25.15 at 06:48 PM

Chicago police torturer Jon Burge
  • Chicago police torturer Jon Burge

The shocking dash-cam video released Tuesday, apparently showing Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting Laquan McDonald 16 times, thrust the Chicago Police Department into the national spotlight.

The Reader has covered the issue of CPD misconduct, particularly officer-involved shootings, for decades. If you're new to the issue, or just need a refresher, here are a handful of stories from the archive that give context to the recent events. 

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What Mayor Emanuel needs to learn from the killing of Laquan McDonald

Posted By on 11.25.15 at 10:24 AM

Mayor Emanuel and police superintendent Garry McCarthy at a press conference yesterday afternoon. - AP PHOTO/CHARLES REX ARBOGAST
  • AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
  • Mayor Emanuel and police superintendent Garry McCarthy at a press conference yesterday afternoon.

It's hard to put a positive spin on the release of a video showing a white Chicago police officer needlessly snuffing out the life of a black teen, but Mayor Emanuel did his best Tuesday afternoon. ​​"This episode can be a moment of understanding and learning," ​the mayor said at a press conference at police headquarters​.​

​He himself has a lot to learn. ​

​You ​may recall ​the mayor sounding an alarm last month about policing in Chicago and throughout the nation. ​​​​At a summit of mayors and law enforcement leaders in Washington​, Emanuel ​called attention ​not ​to the unjustified harm that ​​some officers were doing to civilians, as revealed by numerous videos, ​but to the harm ​​videos were doing to policing​. 

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Friday, November 20, 2015

Two shooting deaths, two paths to justice

Posted By and on 11.20.15 at 03:15 PM

Attendees raise their fists in protest during the November Police Board meeting Thursday. - JONATHAN GIBBY
  • Jonathan Gibby
  • Attendees raise their fists in protest during the November Police Board meeting Thursday.

Just hours after the city of Chicago stunned many onlookers by agreeing to release video of the fatal police shooting of a 17-year-old boy, the brother of another black Chicagoan shot and killed by police donned a familiar uniform of all-black clothing to attend a Chicago Police Board meeting, which he's done every month for about half a year.

"I'm just asking that you fire him," said Martinez Sutton Thursday night, clearly frustrated by police superintendent Garry McCarthy's continued silence on punishment for Dante Servin, the Chicago police officer who killed his sister, Rekia Boyd, near Douglas Park in March 2012.

"I am tired of coming here . . . every month," he said, pounding his fist once on the podium before imploring the standing-room-only crowd to raise their fists for a full minute in Boyd's honor. In solidarity, the crowd, a multiethnic and multigenerational mix of supporters—some wearing yellow T-shirts embossed with “#SayHerName”—chanted “I am Rekia Boyd” for a full minute.

"It was my sister's birthday this month," Sutton said. "She would have been 26."

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Showing rape victims how to think beyond 'report to the police'

Posted By on 11.10.15 at 07:00 AM

THINKSTOCK
  • Thinkstock

One of the most common questions a rape victim hears aside from "What were you wearing?" and "Were you drinking?" and "Why didn't you fight back?" is "Did you report it to the police?" Despite studies that show that police officers are just as likely as anyone to accept rape myths along the lines that men can't be raped, that women should be able to fight off rapists if they really want to, and that women are likely to make false rape accusations because they like the attention; and despite statistics that show that only 2 to 3 percent of rapists are ever convicted and jailed; and despite flaws in standard investigative procedures and reports of hundreds of untested rape kits; and despite reports of rapes perpetrated by cops, there still seems to be a perception, maybe perpetuated by Law and Order: SVU, that reporting a rape to the police is the first step in getting justice.

That's what Michele Beaulieux thought, anyway. She'd been raped by a man she was dating back in January 1979, during her first year at the University of Chicago. It took her a long time to realize that what had happened was a rape; she continued to date him for six more months. In 2004, her assailant found her contact information through the university's alumni website. "I started shaking," Beaulieux remembers now.

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