Speaker Kirsten Danis talks about the importance criminal justice coverage

McKenzie Cunningham

The Marshall Project is one of the largest nonprofit news organizations in the country built to shed light upon the United States Criminal Justice System.

The Marshall Project is an outlet for a straightforward form of journalism that helps fill the remaining gap created by other news sources. It takes already covered subjects mostly lying in the criminal justice field and covers them in more depth to better educate people as well as bring justice to that particular case.

For example, this year is believed to count in part of the decrease in the death penalty but the reporters from The Marshall Project noticed a bit of rise in 2017. The Marshall Project did indepth research and found out that 2017 is in fact not a year the death penalty decreased. Problems like these that no one else is covering is what The Marshall Project was created for.

Another example is the cry of “rape”. Kirsten Danis, the managing editor for The Marshall Project, talked about an article the Marshall Project covered called “An Unbelievable Story of Rape” about a woman by the name of “Marie” who claimed she had been raped.

Her characteristics after the claim led police to believe that she was making a false report. It wasn’t until months later, when Marie had already been charged for the false report, that four more women were raped and the perpetrator was found.

Had Marie been believed aside from the assumptions made by her characteristics, four more rapes could have been prevented.

Not only does a problem sit within the stereotypical belief of what a trauma patient should act like but also with the four rapes. Each rape happened in a different jurisdiction, meaning that it would be hard for a person to catch on since most jurisdictions don’t speak day to day.

“There is no great data in criminal justice but the reason is because there’s no criminal justice system. There’s 18,000 different law enforcement agencies and 30,000 some-odd corporations that don’t talk to each other,” Danis said. “You’re dealing with hundreds of thousands of agencies who have no connection.”

Danis made a point that at any age it can be hard to find people that will disagree with you and engage respectfully while doing so.

“We deal with some really grim topics in this field,” said Danis. “It’s hard and it hurts your stomach but it’s important.”

Danis explained that the reporters she works with are not meant to be advocates and none of them are “married” to these stories. “Never make assumptions” and “don’t be afraid to ask questions” were a few bits of advice from Danis.

Danis also said that if a story doesn’t seem to be lining up and isn’t making any progress or could potentially be false, they have no problem dropping the story.

“What was interesting to me is that she said they sometimes take up to eight months to get these stories so they’re not like rushing to get all these sources,” Katie Burrell, journalism junior said. “It’s like a police investigation only they’re not police.”

The Marshall Project also has a live countdown on their website of people that are due on the death penalty and their countdown up until the exact second. This helps to better keep people accountable for the lives of those on the death penalty since it is known that many of these names are either done being talked about or at least will soon be.

“Seeing “The Next to Die” death penalty countdown was really interesting for me,” Haley Jenkins, journalism major said. “To see how many people are dying and how soon it’s coming up made things more realistic.”

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