Extra Extra : May 2005

Police chases lack restrictions

Eunice Trotter, Tom Spalding and Mark Nichols of The Indianapolis Star built a database of reports on police chases, showing that "police are virtually unrestricted when they chase suspects. They pursue fleeing vehicles at high speeds and usually for traffic infractions." One of five chases resulted in an injury or death, and state police chases averaged 88 mph. The paper analyzed records from nearly 1,000 chases in 2003 and 2004.

Prisoner complaints ignored by officials

Norman Sinclair, Melvin Claxton and Ronald J. Hansen of The Detroit News report that "Michigan lawmakers and prison officials have stymied investigations of sexual abuse in women's prisons, stifled inmate complaints and stripped away the rights of assaulted prisoners to sue for damages." Ten years after federal officials highlighted a problem with assaults of female inmates by guards, the number of complaints has risen slightly. Some of those complaints "have lingered for months and even years, while others were closed within days without talking to crucial witnesses or the Corrections employee accused." Michigan's Corrections Department also "has left ... Read more ...

Former security chief spent thousands on state issued gas card

Eric Eyre and Scott Finn of The Charleston Gazette continue their investigation of Neal Sharp, West Virginia's former homeland security chief, reporting that "Sharp purchased gasoline with his state credit card at least 30 times on days he wasn't working." In all, Sharp charged $6,764 to his state-issued credit card between July 2003 and March 2005. "On a single day in October 2004, he purchased 38 gallons of gas during three stops at service stations in Charleston and Beckley. Another day later that month, he bought 24 gallons of gas during two stops near his home in ... Read more ...

Governor ignores clemency board recommendations

Amanda J. Crawford and Ryan Konig of The Arizona Republic analyzed state records on clemency, finding that "the number of inmates recommended to the governor for shortened prison terms by the Board of Executive Clemency has skyrocketed" during the past 10 years. "But in the vast majority of cases, even in those where the trial judge agrees with the board that a sentence is too long, the governor has rejected the board's recommendations." Arizona "has more people per capita in prison than any other Western state, tougher sentencing laws than most states and no parole."

Cities, counties ignore misdemeanor warrents to save money

Chris Halsne of KIRO-Seattle reports on why many criminals with outstanding misdemeanor warrants don't have to worry about going to jail. The KIRO-Seattle investigative team analyzed 145,000 active misdemeanor warrants in Washington. They found "a growing number of cities and counties ... don't want to pay for the cost of jail time or transportation of a criminal with a misdemeanor warrant. Instead, they routinely tell the deputy to let the criminal go right there on the spot."

Sheriff deputized friends, family, supporters

Christine Hanley of the Los Angeles Times reports on an Orange County Sheriff who deputized friends, family and political supporters. "Of the original 86 reserve deputies, 29 had contributed to Carona's inaugural election campaign in 1998 and his re-election campaign in 2002." The Times used hundreds of documents received through public records requests and provided by other sources, along with interviews to uncover the appointments, which were rushed to avoid tougher training requirements.

Felons registering, voting in Oklahoma

Nolan Clay and John Perry of The Oklahoman used state voter data to show that "about 2,500 felons may be registered to vote. About 1,100 may have voted in last year's general election. An exact count is difficult — in part because voters sometimes sign the wrong lines in poll books." The paper found that Oklahoma election officials have ignored records on felons provided by prosecutors in and outside the state.

Police shooting probes flawed

Gina Barton of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reviewed police records to show that in the past 20 years, no police shooting inquest in Milwaukee County has resulted in criminal charges against an officer. "Inquest jurors never hear from the families of the dead or from their attorneys. There's no cross-examination. The only witnesses are those called by the prosecutors, who critics suggest have a vested interest in clearing shooters because of their relationship with police." The paper found two instances in which an inquest panel did not completely clear officers involved in a shooting.

Section 8 failing to provide adequate housing

Antonio Olivo, John Bebow and Darnell Little of the Chicago Tribune used local data to show that "private landlords are fast taking over government's traditional role of housing Chicago's poor. But these subsidized 'Section 8' landlords have been failing four out of every 10 inspections" during the last five years. "More than 6,000 landlords failed the majority of their inspections. Yet those landlords collectively received a quarter-billion dollars in taxpayer-funded rent subsidies in the last five years." Bebow emails that the paper's reporting "was complicated by the fact that the housing authority refused to release the ... Read more ...

New evidence casts doubt on convicted killer's guilt

Scott Glover and Matt Lait of the Los Angeles Times use scores of documents shedding doubt on the guilt of a man convicted of killing his mother over 20 years ago. Among the evidence discovered was a bloody footprint found at the scene that didn't match the convicted killer's shoes and a mysterious phone call made from the crime scene. The footprint was attributed to Bruce Lisker at trial. But a recent analysis by the Los Angeles Police Department concluded "that the footprint did not match Lisker's shoes, suggesting there was another suspect in the house at ... Read more ...