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Carrie Johnson

Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.

She covers a wide variety of stories about justice issues, law enforcement, and legal affairs for NPR's flagship programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered, as well as the newscasts and NPR.org.

Johnson has chronicled major challenges to the landmark voting rights law, a botched law enforcement operation targeting gun traffickers along the Southwest border, and the Obama administration's deadly drone program for suspected terrorists overseas.

Prior to coming to NPR in 2010, Johnson worked at the Washington Post for 10 years, where she closely observed the FBI, the Justice Department, and criminal trials of the former leaders of Enron, HealthSouth, and Tyco. Earlier in her career, she wrote about courts for the weekly publication Legal Times.

Her work has been honored with awards from the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, the Society for Professional Journalists, SABEW, and the National Juvenile Defender Center. She has been a finalist for the Loeb Award for financial journalism and for the Pulitzer Prize in breaking news for team coverage of the massacre at Fort Hood, Texas.

Johnson is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Benedictine University in Illinois.

Newly disclosed documents from inside the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan capture a sense of panic and dread among prosecutors and their supervisors as one of their cases collapsed last year amid allegations of government misconduct.

Judges with backgrounds as prosecutors or corporate lawyers, who represent the majority of federal district court jurists, are significantly more likely to rule in favor of employers in workplace disputes, according to a new study of diversity on the bench.

Emory University law professor Joanna Shepherd conducted the study, which which she described as the first published research about whether judges from certain professional backgrounds are more likely to rule against workers.

Most people know Judge Merrick Garland for what didn't happen to him. Five years ago, the Senate never acted on his nomination to the Supreme Court.

This week, that will change, as a new chapter begins in Garland's lifelong commitment to public service. Garland, 68, will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday as President Biden's pick to serve as attorney general. This time, few obstacles stand in his path to confirmation. But the institution he's likely to join operates largely in a state of shock.

Two brothers who once expected to die in prison are now free — and home in Philadelphia.

Wyatt and Reid Evans spent 37 years behind bars for their part in a car-jacking gone bad. The brothers didn't intend to take a life in 1980. They stole a car and dropped off the driver at a pay phone booth. But the man later died of a heart attack.

The brothers refused a plea deal and were convicted of second-degree murder. Under Pennsylvania law, that meant life in prison.

A first-of-its-kind court case in Pennsylvania is asking a big question: How long do people need to stay in prison before they get a second chance?

More than 1,000 people are serving life without parole in Pennsylvania, even though they never intended to kill anyone. Seventy percent of those people are Black.

I met Tyreem Rivers on the phone in November, when his voice was a little muffled.

"Well, I have two or three masks on," Rivers said with a laugh. "I have at least two masks on, so I'm trying to stay safe."

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund is launching a scholarship program designed to produce a new team of civil rights advocates working for racial justice in the South.

Unveiled on Monday — Martin Luther King Jr. Day — the program will offer free tuition and room and board, a commitment intended to remove barriers for students deterred by the steep costs of law school.

Civil liberties advocates are warning that the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol could lead to new police and surveillance powers. If history is a guide, they say, those tools could be used against Blacks and other people of color in the justice system, not the white rioters who stormed Congress.

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Updated at 4 p.m. ET

Federal watchdogs who guard against fraud foresee plenty of work to keep them busy next year: from more than 100 investigations related to the coronavirus pandemic to new probes over misuse of some of the nearly $3.5 trillion in stimulus money.

Justice Department whistleblowers are calling on federal watchdogs and members of Congress to investigate what they call illegal and abusive government directives that waste money and chill "diversity-related speech across the entire federal workforce."

NPR has obtained a letter by a lawyer for the whistleblowers, who report that diversity and inclusion programs they had planned for the Justice Department earlier this year were branded "divisive propaganda" and had to be canceled.

Updated at 5:30 p.m. ET

The U.S. Justice Department has charged a Libyan man with constructing a bomb that detonated on a passenger plane over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, killing 270 people and launching a decades-long international manhunt for the culprits.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr announced Monday — exactly 32 years after that deadly flight — that the department is charging Abu Agela Mas'ud Kheir Al-Marimi.

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Attorney General Bill Barr is out, so starting next week, Jeffrey Rosen will serve as the acting attorney general for the final weeks of the Trump presidency. NPR's Carrie Johnson is here to tell us more about him. Hey, Carrie.

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Updated at 9:25 p.m. ET

President-elect Joe Biden plans to name Lloyd Austin, the retired U.S. Army four-star general, as his pick for secretary of defense in his incoming administration, two sources familiar with the decision confirmed to NPR.

Austin joins a growing and diverse list of nominees for Biden's cabinet, which the president-elect has said he wants to reflect the diversity of America. If confirmed, Austin would be the first African American to lead the department.

Six months after Donald Trump became president, he delivered remarks about law enforcement that set the tone for civil rights.

In a speech to law enforcement officers on Long Island, Trump said: "Please don't be too nice." To applause from the crowd, the president added that it might not be necessary to protect the heads of suspects being folded into the back of police cars.

For former civil rights prosecutor Kristy Parker, those words marked a major turnaround.

Updated at 10:40 a.m. EST 11/20/20

Choosing an attorney general is a critical task for a new president in normal times.

But after nearly four years of attack from President Trump, who pushed the Justice Department to punish his enemies and protect his friends, these are not normal times, as former Solicitor General Don Verrilli pointed out recently to an online audience at the Brennan Center for Justice.

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Updated at 4:47 p.m. ET

An attorney for former national security adviser Michael Flynn said she briefed President Trump and a lawyer working for him on the status of Flynn's criminal case in the past two weeks, according to statements in court on Tuesday.

The lawyer, Sidney Powell, initially told the judge she was wary of disclosing the contact because of so-called executive privilege, even though she does not work for Trump or the White House.

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Republicans expect President Trump to name Judge Amy Coney Barrett as the next nominee to the Supreme Court, according to a source with knowledge of the process, but the source cautioned that Trump could change his mind.

The source declined to be named, because the individual was not authorized to confirm the selection before the president announced it.

The White House declined comment.

In 1999, Christopher Vialva hitched a ride with a married couple visiting West Texas for a church revival meeting.

Authorities later found the bodies of Todd and Stacie Bagley in the trunk of their car. Todd Bagley died of a gunshot wound. Stacie Bagley died of smoke inhalation after the car was set on fire.

On Thursday, 20 years after he was convicted of that brutal crime, Vialva is scheduled to face lethal injection. His case stands out only because he's like most inmates on federal death row: a Black man who murdered white people, when he was very young.

Updated at 7:28 p.m. ET

Judges Amy Coney Barrett, Barbara Lagoa and Allison Jones Rushing are emerging as serious contenders to fill the seat on the Supreme Court vacated by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, according to sources familiar with the process.

An announcement on the nominee could come as early as Monday or Tuesday.

Candidates on the short list for a Supreme Court vacancy undergo intense vetting that typically culminates in a one-on-one interview with the president.

The process is shrouded in secrecy, but President Trump's flair for the dramatic has introduced a sense of showmanship to the highly choreographed rollout.

Prosecutors in New York have some required reading to do: a scathing opinion from a federal judge who identified a stream of mistakes and misconduct in a prosecution gone bad.

U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan directed the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York to ensure that all of its prosecutors read her decision.

But the matter won't end there.

Updated at 8:22 a.m. ET

Attorney General Bill Barr blasted his own Justice Department prosecutors as a "permanent bureaucracy" that all too often abuse their power to go after high-profile targets in a process he likened to "headhunting."

In remarks Wednesday to a largely conservative audience celebrating Constitution Day at Hillsdale College, the leader of the Justice Department asserted that he's the one who should make the big calls in cases of national interest.

Updated at 1:56 p.m. ET

A federal grand jury has issued criminal subpoenas to a publishing company and a literary agency in connection with a book by former Trump national security adviser John Bolton, NPR has confirmed.

The move signals the Justice Department has launched a criminal investigation surrounding the publication of Bolton's book The Room Where It Happened after an unsuccessful effort to block it from being published in June.

President Trump is making crime a key issue in his reelection campaign, but criminologists worry he and the administration are more interested in using it for political advantage.

Trump's public statements about violence and the actions of his administration in response to this summer's demonstrations don't represent efforts likely to produce a meaningful long-term reduction in crime across the United States, specialists said.

If Joe Biden wins the presidency, his Justice Department will face a decision with huge legal and political implications: whether to investigate and prosecute President Trump.

So far, the candidate is approaching that question very carefully.

In a recent interview with NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro, Biden said: "I will not interfere with the Justice Department's judgment of whether or not they think they should pursue a prosecution."

Seven years ago, a white police officer pulled over Black man driving through Mississippi in a newly purchased Mercedes convertible.

For nearly two hours, the officer pushed to search the vehicle, allegedly lied to its owner, enlisted a drug detection dog and ultimately left the exhausted man by the side of the road to put his car back together again.

The Mercedes had been ripped apart and the driver was so shaken he sued the police officer.

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