Local Elections That Impact Criminal Justice | Crooked Media
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November 03, 2021
What A Day
Local Elections That Impact Criminal Justice

In This Episode

  • Election day has come and gone with several important contests on the line. In New York, Eric Adams triumphed to become the city’s next mayor. And in Minneapolis, voters struck down a ballot measure that would’ve transformed the city’s police department.
  • We also explain that there are a number of elected positions that have an enormous impact on your local community. We focus on three of them, in particular, and how they influence the criminal justice system.
  • And in headlines: the CDC approved Pfizer’s vaccine for kids 5-11, world leaders made pledges on methane emissions and deforestation at the UN Climate Summit, and Congressional Democrats are inching towards finalizing their social safety net plan.


Show Notes






Gideon Resnick: It’s Wednesday, November 3rd. I’m Gideon Resnick.


Josie Duffy Rice: And I’m Josie Duffy Rice, and this is What A Day, where we’re minding all of our 5-year-old listeners to go get their Pfizer vaccines.


Gideon Resnick: We know that you set a calendar notification, we know you have alarms and stuff like that, this just consider this a friendly reminder.


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, we know you’re on top of it. We know you would never forget an appointment. On today’s show, the first coronavirus vaccine is approved for kids. Plus world leaders in Scotland came together in a couple of measures to fight climate change.


Gideon Resnick: That’s right, but first in the US, Republican Glenn Youngkin defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the race to be Virginia’s next governor. As of record time, the Associated Press had not called the race, but Decision Desk did for Youngkin. It marks the first time that a Republican has been elected to statewide office in Virginia since 2009. President Biden won the state by a 10-point margin in 2020, but in plenty of areas, McAuliffe vastly underperformed his margins.


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, and there are few more important local races we’ve been following too. So what else do we know so far, Gideon?


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, we recorded this episode on Tuesday night the AP had called Eric Adams as the new mayor of New York City. That was to be expected. Plus, in Minneapolis, voters appeared to reject the ballot measure that would have transformed the city’s police department, which we’ve talked about here on the show. But tomorrow we are going to get into more on all of this, as well as other results from across the country.


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, regardless of how things turn out, we’re here to remind you that Election Day is only the beginning. Now begins the real tough work: holding the people you elected accountable. And we don’t just mean the president or your senator or even your governor, there are also people in elected office right in your neighborhood, and we wanted to take a moment to remind you that they have a major impact on your life and the lives of those around you.


Gideon Resnick: That’s right. So we’ve talked about some of these positions and tried to highlight the importance of local races overall. So Josie, let’s look at this through the lens of criminal justice, since that is what you’re all about.


Josie Duffy Rice: Yes, it is. It is what I’m all about. And there are a number of elected positions that have an enormous impact on how your local criminal justice system functions. So let’s talk about three of them in particular. The first is your local prosecutor, most commonly called the District Attorney. The prosecutor’s office is where most decisions in the criminal justice system are made, and they have enormous discretion. It’s up to the prosecutor to decide whether or not to charge someone with a crime, what charges to bring, and what sentences to seek. If you, or a friend or family member has ever been involved in the criminal justice system, you likely already know just how much power your local prosecutor has. In fact, its prosecutors, specifically local prosecutors, who have probably most directly contributed to mass incarceration.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, and it’s worth noting that recently across the country, we’ve seen a number of progressive prosecutors get elected. I’m thinking, you know, Larry Krasner, for one example of many in Philadelphia, but still with around 3,000 elected that are out there, there is a long way to go. So if you want to hold your local prosecutor accountable, what is the best way to do that?


Josie Duffy Rice: You know, Gideon, it can be really tough because these offices are not exactly transparent, and often they’re dealing with thousands of cases a year, sometimes hundreds of thousands. So one way to really push for accountability is to get involved with your local court watch program if you have one. If you don’t have one, you can always start one. Simply going to court, observing, and reporting back to your community helps make prosecutor offices much, much more accountable. And even if you can’t actually go sit in court, you can stay up to date on what court watchers are seeing. Also, the best way to know how your prosecutor functions is to get to know a local public defender, ask them, talk to them. They know exactly what’s going on in your local prosecutors’ offices, and they’re not afraid to tell you.


Gideon Resnick: That is great advice. So what are some other local positions that have a monumental impact on our criminal justice system?


Josie Duffy Rice: So one of the major ones is sheriff. Basically, the county-level cops, right? So in most places, police chiefs are appointed while sheriffs are elected, and sheriffs have an enormous amount of power and control. And many of them subscribe to the constitutional sheriffs movement, which is—get ready—a movement of sheriffs who, to quote The Washington Post, believe that “their power to interpret the law is above any state or federal authority, even the president.”


Gideon Resnick: Sounds totally normal and aboveboard to me.


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, it’s exactly what we learned in civics class. There’s been more talk about constitutional sheriffs lately because many of them refuse to enforce laws that they don’t personally like, including pandemic restrictions or mask mandates. If you don’t know anything about your sheriff, now is the time to find out and pay attention when there’s a race for that seat where you are.


Gideon Resnick: And then one last position to talk about here, and it actually was somewhat new to me to think about it in this way. We talked about this yesterday with Amanda Litman.


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, yeah. County coroner. So you may think the coroner’s job is really straightforward and for lack of a better word, apolitical, right? They basically just determine how people died. And that’s that.


Gideon Resnick: Right.


Josie Duffy Rice: But the truth is that the coroner can be a really political position, especially when it comes to criminal justice. For example, if a cop shoots someone, the coroner decides whether or not to classify their death as a homicide. And—surprise surprise—a recent report by the University of Washington says local coroners often choose to classify the death as something other than a homicide in order to protect local law enforcement from consequences. In fact, that same report found that more than half of police killings have been mislabeled, largely because of coroners and medical examiners. So another fun—and by fun, I mean disturbing fact—coroners often aren’t even required to have any medical or forensic experience. So in theory, Gideon in many places you or I could be the coroner if we wanted, we could just run for that position and maybe win. In some places, including most counties in California, the sheriff-coroner is just one job which, as you may imagine, is a conflict of interest if, for example, someone in the sheriff’s office causes someone’s death.


Gideon Resnick: Right, I can only imagine where that goes. And so those are just some of the examples of many important local races that everybody should be paying attention to and invested in.


Josie Duffy Rice: Exactly. So judges are incredibly important to people in many communities, and who you elect to the bench could affect who gets incarcerated or who goes free. And even outside of criminal justice, right, there are elected positions like who’s on your local school board, that will have a big influence on things like, say, whether or not you have to wear a mask in school or how we talk about history in classrooms. So we just encourage you to always remember to follow these races too and make sure to hold these elected officials accountable even after Election Day is over. We’ll have a link to Vote Save America and a few other websites in our show notes so you can get a start with some resources to help you learn about these positions. More on all of this tomorrow, but that’s the latest for now.


It’s Wednesday, WAD squad, and today we’re talking about a casting announcement out of Hollywood that was carefully calibrated to produce a temporary feeling of insanity. Chris Pratt was announced as the voice of Garfield in a new animated movie on Monday, just a few weeks after he was revealed to be voicing Mario in the first theatrical adaptation of Super Mario Brothers to come out since 1993. Before all of this, Pratt was the voice of the lead Lego in The Lego Movie series, which gave him dominion over yet another character from our childhoods who has yet to be revealed as a secret racist or a pervert. He also lent his vocal talents to the Pixar movie “Onward,” which frankly, he can have anyway. It’s a bit overwhelming to watch Pratt slowly insert himself into all our cherished memories. So Gideon, I’m going to give you a huge, huge, huge responsibility by letting you choose which beloved piece of intellectual property we can make fully off limits to Chris Pratt and perpetuity. I’m sure Hollywood’s listening. They’re going to obey you. They always do. This is a segment called “Get Pratt to Where You Once Belonged.”


Gideon Resnick: They do always listen to me, which is why I don’t know what the movie Onward is. So I’ll leave it at that.


Josie Duffy Rice: OK, Gideon, are you ready for your options?


Gideon Resnick: I am, yes.


Josie Duffy Rice: Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes, Wallace, from Wallace and Gromit, the tree from the Giving Tree, or Shrek. And remember whichever character you don’t pick. You can assume that Chris Pratt will play at one time or another. Probably this year, probably this calendar year, probably before the year ends.


Gideon Resnick: I mean, he’s probably getting cast in these now. We just don’t even know, they haven’t been announced yet.


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, it’s true.


Gideon Resnick: This is true torture for me, because there are at least three here that I think would cross many lines. But I think I’m going to say Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes. I think if there was any sort of IP from Calvin and Hobbes that was not Calvin and Hobbes in physical I-can-hold-it-and-look-at-it format, I think I would be distraught.


Josie Duffy Rice: So it’s not just Chris Pratt, it’s anybody.


Gideon Resnick: It’s not just Chris Pratt. But I want to be clear, I think he would make it worse.


Josie Duffy Rice: I have to agree with you. I would also agree with Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes. And if I’m going to choose one that I am fine with playing, he can play the tree from The Giving Tree. That’s fine,


Gideon Resnick: Right. Yeah, that’s definitely the giveaway here. If there were a remade Shrek, I think that would be an atrocity for like a thousand different reasons, and Chris Pratt would not necessarily be the first one. Man, this is a torturous experience for me. That was hard to even conceive of.


Josie Duffy Rice: That was Get Pratt to Where you Once Belonged. We’ll be back after some ads.


[ad break]


Gideon Resnick:  Let’s wrap up with some headlines.


[sung] Headlines.


Josie Duffy Rice: The CDC gave its overwhelming approval for Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine yesterday for children ages 5 to 11. That means as early as today, kids can line up for the shots, which will be one third the strength of what people 12 and older get. Some officials on the CDC’s advisory panel had concerns about an extremely rare heart condition in young men who got an mRNA vaccine, and that it might affect young kids too. But as one pediatric cardiologist for the CDC said to the panel quote, “the risk of having some sort of bad heart involvement is much higher if you get COVID than if you get this vaccine.” Ultimately, the committee unanimously voted in favor of recommending the Pfizer vaccine for children in this age group, with CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky signing often it too, hours later. White House officials have said that they expect doses for these kids to be more widely available next week.


Gideon Resnick: Jump in your Hummer’s and head to CVS, children.


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah.


Gideon Resnick: All kids drive hummers. World leaders wrapped up their time at the ongoing U.N. Climate Summit in Glasgow, Scotland, yesterday. Officials from more than 100 countries, including the U.S. and Brazil, pledged to curb emissions of methane by 30% and end deforestation by 2030. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the pledge a landmark agreement that includes countries that are home to 85% of the world’s forest land. But this deal isn’t legally binding, and details about how it would be executed have not yet been ironed out, and experts say the agreement at the summit will not be enough to stop extreme climate change. President Biden delivered a speech at the summit yesterday as well about the US cooperating with the rest of the world on the environment. And his administration went a step further and unveiled a sweeping set of domestic policies to cut emissions of methane from oil and gas across the US. Biden also used his time on the world stage to push for domestic policies, specifically his Build Back Better plan:


[clip of President Biden] When I think of climate crisis, I think it jobs, and that’s what the Build Back Better framework will do for the American people.


Josie Duffy Rice: Love that quote? Speaking of Build Back Better, congressional Democrats are inching towards finalizing their social safety net plan. Yesterday, they reached an agreement to lower prescription drug costs, particularly for seniors. This is one of the party’s key disputes and the $1.85 trillion bill. Senator Kyrsten Sinema, who had been holding out, brokered an agreement with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and finally got on board with Americans not going into debt so that they can afford medication. How kind of her. Although this is a step in the right direction, democrats still have other policy obstacles ahead as they negotiate what’s in the final bill, including immigration and paid family leave. And yesterday afternoon, five centrist House Democrats penned a letter to Pelosi, saying they want an official cost estimate of the legislation quote, “before any floor consideration.” This could yet again delay the party leaders plans to hold a vote in the next two weeks. Thanks, guys. Really appreciate it.


Gideon Resnick: It’s a real like Lucy-and-the-football situation in terms of the timing of this, and that’s thrilling for me and everybody that I know.


Josie Duffy Rice: Like, we’re just going to write a letter, you know.


Gideon Resnick: Write a letter, a strongly-worded one. Yesterday marked a huge defeat for supporters of the conspiracy theory that’s really funny until it is really not funny, QAnon: a prediction that the late John F. Kennedy Jr. would reappear near the site of his father’s assassination did not come true. Disappointing hundreds of people who traveled to Dallas to witness the event. JFK Jr. is an important figure within Q lore, law despite having died in a plane crash in 1999. The basic idea is that he faked his death because that was the only way he could become a Republican. Yesterday, some prominent QAnon promoters, or “Q-fluencers” said JFK Jr. would announce that Trump was president again around 12:30 p.m., while others believe that JFK Jr. would become president while Trump would be crowned quote, “King of Kings.” Instead, a completely unexpected third scenario played out: nothing happened and then it started raining. But that didn’t stop Q fans on sites and following along on livestream from letting their imaginations take the driver’s seat. They reportedly began predicting the return of other deceased celebrities like Dale Earnhardt, Richard Pryor, and Robin Williams, and then started spotting these celebrities in crowds of random people that they encountered in Dallas.


Josie Duffy Rice: Naturally, naturally, naturally.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah. A reminder that the real Q, who originated the conspiracy theory, has not posted since before January 6th, meaning that fans have been running on Q fumes for almost a year. It also means there is an opening if it’s always been your dream to work up this country’s paranoid aunts and uncles until they’ve drained their retirement accounts buying equipment to tear down 5G towers and then eventually run and win public office.


Josie Duffy Rice: There’s also another opening to be crowned quote, “King of Kings” and I volunteer myself.


Gideon Resnick: Here you go. It’s you vs. Trump as it’s always been for all contests. And those are the headlines. One more thing before we go: Election Day 2021 might be over, but the stakes could not be higher as we head into 2022. That is why Vote Save America is working to raise $1.5 million through the No Off Year fund.


Josie Duffy Rice: Donations will go to help voter registration efforts in places where reaching new voters will help make the difference in our ability to win next year and beyond, like Florida, North Carolina and Texas. Over $330,000 has been raised so far, which will help organizers get a critical head start on building relationships and expanding their work to reach every last voter. But we need more.


Gideon Resnick: Yes, and you can help by heading to VoteSaveAmerica dot com/donate. That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, become Q but for good, and tell your friends to listen.


Josie Duffy Rice: And if you’re into reading, and not just a statement from Chris Pratt pulling out of Calvin and Hobbes the movie like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Josie Duffy Rice.


Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.


[together] And all hail King of Kings.


Josie Duffy Rice: That’s me, by the way.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah.


Josie Duffy Rice: Honestly, if we just made Trump King of Kings, I bet he would forget the whole election thing and we could just keep it moving, you know.


Gideon Resnick: It’s a better title.


Josie Duffy Rice: It’s a better title.


Gideon Resnick: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lance. Jazzi Marine is our associate producer. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and myself. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.