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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.

Updated September 15, 2021 at 4:49 PM ET

People locked up in the Leavenworth Detention Center in Kansas have been reaching out for help nearly every day.

The for-profit facility, which houses federal prisoners awaiting trial or sentencing, has been on 24-hour lockdown since a person died there last month. The death followed months of violence targeting both detainees and corrections officers inside the center just 30 miles from Kansas City.

Updated September 9, 2021 at 6:25 PM ET

The Department of Justice has sued the state of Texas over a new law that bans abortions after about six weeks, before most people realize they are pregnant, all but halting the procedure in the country's second-largest state.

The lawsuit says the state enacted the law "in open defiance of the Constitution."

The Justice Department calls the Voting Rights Act of 1965 "the most successful piece of civil rights legislation ever adopted by the United States Congress."

The law put an end to literacy tests, which prevented many people from registering to vote, in a half-dozen states, granted the attorney general the power to send observers to witness elections and gave the federal government the authority to preapprove voting and election changes in places with a history of discrimination.

COVID-19 has exacted a terrible toll inside America's prisons, spreading there at six times the rate as among the general population.

The coronavirus pandemic motivated tens of thousands of incarcerated people to request early release on the grounds that their old age and health troubles made them especially vulnerable.

But the Federal Bureau of Prisons told lawmakers that of the nearly 31,000 prisoners to request compassionate release, the BOP approved just 36.

The Justice Department is launching an investigation of the Phoenix Police Department over allegations of excessive use of force and homeless abuse.

"When we conduct pattern or practice investigations to determine whether the Constitution or federal law has been violated, our aim is to promote transparency and accountability," Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement announcing the investigation Thursday afternoon. "This increases public trust, which in turn increases public safety. We know that law enforcement shares these goals."

The Justice Department has paved the way for a House panel to get former President Donald Trump's tax returns in what could be the beginning of the end of years of delay and court battles.

In a new legal opinion released Friday, the department concluded that the House Ways and Means Committee has invoked "sufficient" legislative reasons for access to the sensitive materials, including what the panel said were "serious concerns" about how the Internal Revenue Service is operating an audit program for presidents.

The Justice Department is putting states on notice about their obligations under federal law as GOP-led efforts to conduct reviews of the 2020 election intensify.

Federal authorities on Wednesday issued a pair of new guidance documents to states and voters to remind them of their responsibilities — and their rights.

The moves are part of the Biden administration's push to demonstrate it is on guard amid new voting restrictions proposed and enacted by Republican-led states across the nation — and as Democratic-led federal voting legislation has stalled in Congress.

A lawsuit against the men who spoke at a rally before the Capitol riot on Jan. 6 is putting the Justice Department in a tricky position.

The department is considering whether those federal officials acted within the scope of their jobs that day, which would trigger a form of legal immunity. Government watchdogs said the case has serious implications for who's held accountable for violence that delayed the election certification and contributed to the deaths of five people.

Six months after the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol, attorneys who promoted former President Donald Trump's false claims about election fraud are being forced to defend their actions in court.

But some experts say the abuses over the past four years compel the legal profession to perform some deeper soul-searching.

Updated June 30, 2021 at 12:26 PM ET

A new proposal from District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine could overhaul the way juveniles are charged as adults and offer greater opportunities for rehabilitation than a federal prison.

If passed, the proposal would impact people like Charlie Curtis, who was charged with armed robbery and sent to adult court at the age of 16 — a decision that he said left him confused and adrift.

Updated May 25, 2021 at 11:30 AM ET

The Justice Department released a portion of an internal memo cited by former leaders as part of their decision concluding that former President Donald Trump did not obstruct justice, but in a court filing late Monday said it would seek to block the full document from release.

Updated May 17, 2021 at 12:12 PM ET

A new program run by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund seeking to launch the next generation of civil rights lawyers has named its inaugural class of 10 scholars.

LDF sifted through hundreds of applications for the Marshall-Motley Scholars Program, named after the late Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first Black member of the Supreme Court, and Constance Baker Motley, the first Black woman to serve as a federal judge.

Davon-Marie Grimmer has been struggling to get help for more than year for her cousin, Kent Clark. Sometimes, when he calls from prison, he asks to speak with relatives who are no longer alive. Sometimes, he forgets the name of his cellmate.

"As far as I know, he hasn't received any medical attention for the dementia, and he's just so vulnerable in there," Grimmer said. "He's 66 years old. He can't take care of himself."

Updated May 7, 2021 at 12:29 PM ET

The Justice Department has filed federal criminal charges against Derek Chauvin, accusing the former police officer of using excessive force and violating the civil rights of George Floyd. Floyd died after Chauvin pressed on his neck for more than nine minutes on the pavement outside a convenience store last year in Minneapolis.

Updated April 29, 2021 at 12:01 AM ET

Federal investigators in Manhattan executed a search warrant Wednesday at Rudy Giuliani's apartment as part of a probe into the former New York City mayor's activities involving Ukraine, his attorney told NPR.

A major civil rights group says the Justice Department has more a lot more power than it's using to change the behavior of local police departments.

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund wants Attorney General Merrick Garland to suspend grants to local law enforcement until he's sure that no federal taxpayer money is funding police departments that engage in discrimination, according to a letter obtained by NPR.

Updated April 21, 2021 at 6:03 PM ET

One day after a jury convicted former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on murder charges, the U.S. Justice Department launched an investigation into possible patterns of discrimination and excessive force among the police department there.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Well, to talk about the legal implications of this verdict, we're joined now by NPR national justice correspondent Carrie Johnson.

Hi, Carrie.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

Updated April 14, 2021 at 2:22 PM ET

Kristen Clarke grew up in public housing in Brooklyn, as the daughter of Jamaican immigrants.

Now, she's in line to become the first woman and the first woman of color to formally lead the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division since it was created in 1957.

That's if she can get through a closely divided Senate, where Republicans have signaled they will put up a fight.

Updated April 1, 2021 at 9:28 AM ET

Current and former officials at the U.S. Marshals Service said they are worried about an executive order from the Biden administration that phases out contracts with private prisons and jails.

It's a staple on some of the longest-running crime shows on television: Communications between people charged with crimes and their lawyers are protected from government snooping under what's known as attorney-client privilege.

In practice, things don't always work that way, especially when it comes to email messages between incarcerated people in the federal system and their attorneys. That's because within the Federal Bureau of Prisons, inmates are asked to "voluntarily" agree to electronic monitoring in order to use the bureau's email system.

Christopher Wray is only the eighth director to lead the FBI — and the only one whose appointment was announced on Twitter.

For the past 3 1/2 years, he has been grinding through fierce criticism by former President Donald Trump. He's also guided the bureau through some wounds the FBI inflicted upon itself, including employees' text messages about political candidates in 2016, the guilty plea by an FBI lawyer for altering a document, and a watchdog report that uncovered surveillance applications filled with big mistakes.

Two whistleblowers assert that a Justice Department official improperly injected politics into the hiring process during his waning days in the Trump administration, according to a new filing obtained by NPR.

A new chapter of Merrick Garland's long career in the law has opened after the Senate voted to pave the way for him to serve as attorney general.

The 70-30 vote for his confirmation comes five years after then-President Barack Obama nominated Garland to serve on the Supreme Court — a goal frustrated by Senate Republicans who refused to even consider a hearing for that post.

Garland, a moderate judge with deep prosecutorial experience, will soon lead a Justice Department reeling from political scandals and racing to confront the threat from violent homegrown extremists.

The new team President Biden has picked to run the Justice Department will come into focus this week, as Attorney General nominee Merrick Garland awaits a confirmation vote and two more presumptive leaders prepare to face questioning in the Senate.

Lisa Monaco, a national security expert, and Vanita Gupta, a longtime civil rights advocate, will appear before the Judiciary Committee Tuesday in their bids to serve as deputy attorney general and associate attorney general, the department's second and third in command.

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.

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.

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