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.

While in this role, 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.

Outside of her role at NPR, Johnson regularly moderates or appears on legal panels for the American Bar Association, the American Constitution Society, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and others. She's talked about her work on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, PBS, and other outlets.

Her work has been honored with awards from the Society for Professional Journalists and the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. 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.

Pages

U.S.
4:54 pm
Tue June 19, 2012

Senators Get Time In Solitary Confinement

An exercise area for inmates in solitary confinement in California's Pelican Bay prison. Inmates are allowed to leave their windowless cells for 2 1/2 hours daily to exercise and bathe.
Michael Montgomery Center for Investigative Reporting

Originally published on Tue June 19, 2012 4:59 pm

At any given moment, about 15,000 men and women are living in solitary confinement in the federal prison system, housed in tiny cells not much larger than a king-sized bed.

"It is hard to describe in words what such a small space begins to look like, feel like and smell like when someone is required to live virtually their entire life in it," says Craig Haney, a psychologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

But Tuesday, Haney, who has studied life inside prisons for three decades, had an opportunity to paint that picture.

Read more
Law
1:57 am
Fri June 15, 2012

Legal Help For The Poor In 'State Of Crisis'

At Maryland's Legal Aid Bureau in Baltimore, the doors are open every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It serves as a kind of legal emergency room for people who need help but can't afford a lawyer.
Carrie Johnson NPR

Originally published on Fri June 15, 2012 8:56 am

Nearly 50 years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that people accused of a crime deserve the right to a defense lawyer, no matter whether they can afford to pay for one. But there's no such guarantee when it comes to civil disputes — like evictions and child custody cases — even though they have a huge impact on people's lives.

For decades, federal and state governments have pitched in to help. But money pressures mean the system for funding legal aid programs for the poor is headed toward a crisis.

A Legal ER

Read more
Law
3:06 am
Thu June 14, 2012

Michigan Finally Eyeing Changes To Lawyers For Poor

Edward Carter's conviction for a 1974 crime was vacated by a judge after it was shown that Carter was innocent — and after he had spent 35 years in Michigan prisons.
Brakkton Booker NPR

Originally published on Fri June 15, 2012 10:05 am

Lawyers on all sides agree the system enshrined nearly 50 years ago that gives all defendants the right to a lawyer is not working. The Justice Department calls it a crisis — such a big problem that it's been doling out grants to improve how its adversaries perform in criminal cases.

Read more
The Two-Way
2:08 pm
Wed June 13, 2012

Justice Department Is Dropping Case Against Edwards

Originally published on Wed June 13, 2012 2:49 pm

The Justice Department is walking away from its case against John Edwards.

Federal prosecutors have announced they will not retry the former Democratic presidential candidate on campaign finance charges. The decision comes soon after jury was unable to reach a verdict.

Government lawyers asked Judge Catherine Eagles to dismiss the case with prejudice, meaning they will not take another bite at the apple and try to resurrect their high profile case.

Read more
The Two-Way
3:03 am
Tue June 12, 2012

10,000 People Called Human Trafficking Hotline In 2011

Originally published on Tue June 12, 2012 8:14 am

A national hotline for human trafficking victims received calls from about 10,000 individuals last year, from every state in the union.

A new report out today by the Polaris Project, which runs the 24-hour hotline through a federal grant, says the volume of calls for help is on the rise, as awareness of the problem grows.

Read more
Law
2:29 pm
Fri June 1, 2012

Edwards Verdict: A Case Of Campaign Law Confusion

Former Sen. John Edwards leaves federal court in Greensboro, N.C., Thursday after jurors acquitted him of one felony count and a judge declared a mistrial on five other charges.
Sara D. Davis Getty Images

Originally published on Fri June 1, 2012 8:29 pm

From the day a grand jury indicted former Sen. John Edwards on six felony charges nearly one year ago, the case drew jeers from election lawyers and government watchdogs.

"It was an incredibly aggressive prosecution because it was based on a novel theory of the law," says Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. "There was literally no precedent. No case had ever been like this."

Read more
Law
2:13 pm
Thu May 31, 2012

When The Jury Becomes The Story

Former Sen. John Edwards leaves the federal courthouse in Greensboro, N.C., on Tuesday.
Chuck Liddy MCT/Landov

Originally published on Thu May 31, 2012 8:58 pm

They were called the "giggle gang" — four alternate jurors in the John Edwards trial who wore the same-colored shirt to court on several days.

During nine days of deliberations, much attention was given to the merry band of alternates in the high-profile campaign finance case.

On Thursday, attention swung back to the jury itself, which found Edwards not guilty on one count. The judge declared a mistrial on the other five charges.

Read more
Politics
2:36 pm
Fri April 27, 2012

Holder: 'More Work To Do' Before Term Is Over

Attorney General Eric Holder, shown speaking at the 2012 National Law Enforcement Training on Child Exploitation earlier this month, tells NPR he's achieved his highest goal: leading a Justice Department that shaped him as a lawyer and as a person.
David Goldman AP

Originally published on Fri April 27, 2012 4:05 pm

Attorney General Eric Holder — the first African-American to hold the nation's top law enforcement job — is in the homestretch of his first, and probably last, full term in the post.

And after more than three years on the job, Holder is in an unusually reflective mood. He's thinking about the country's ongoing struggle over civil rights and what he wants to accomplish in his last months of government service.

Read more
Around the Nation
1:03 am
Wed April 25, 2012

Holder Vows 'Zero Tolerance' To Human Trafficking

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said human trafficking will not be tolerated in the U.S. during a speech at the Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock, Ark., on Tuesday.
Danny Johnston AP

Originally published on Wed April 25, 2012 6:13 am

Forced labor and underage prostitution are hiding in plain sight in cities all over the U.S. and are no longer problems confined to the developing world, according to Attorney General Eric Holder.

In a major speech on human trafficking Tuesday in Little Rock, Ark., Holder said far too many reports of abuse cross his desk each week, more than 40 percent of them involving children.

Read more
The Two-Way
12:57 pm
Mon April 23, 2012

Six Men Ask Judge To Overturn Convictions In Notorious D.C. Murder Case

In 1985, Chris Turner was convicted of the murder of Catherine Fuller. After spending decades in prison, Turner is now out on parole; he maintains his innocence. He is shown here in his childhood neighborhood in Northeast Washington, D.C., about 100 yards away from what was Fuller's home.
Amanda Steen NPR

Originally published on Mon April 23, 2012 1:39 pm

Six men wearing bright orange prison jumpsuits appeared in a D.C. courtroom today, seeking to overturn their decades-old convictions in a brutal murder by arguing the Justice Department failed to turn over critical evidence that could have helped them assert their innocence.

Read more
The Two-Way
5:38 am
Mon April 16, 2012

Prosecutor Who Led Ill-Fated Ted Stevens Case To Leave Justice Department

A federal prosecutor who led the elite public integrity unit when the case against the late Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens collapsed has told associates he will leave the Justice Department.

Read more
Law
1:20 am
Thu April 12, 2012

Does The Case Against John Edwards Go Too Far?

Former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards (left) speaks to the media with attorney Abbe Lowell last October. His trial on alleged campaign finance violations is set to begin Thursday.
Chuck Burton AP

Originally published on Fri April 13, 2012 8:22 am

Prospective jurors head to court in North Carolina on Thursday to find out whether they'll be chosen to sit in judgment of former U.S. Sen. John Edwards.

Only four years ago, Edwards was running for the White House as a Democratic candidate. Now, he's a defendant, fighting campaign finance charges that could send him away for as long as 30 years.

Read more
The Two-Way
4:04 pm
Thu April 5, 2012

'Enforcer' For Violent Mexican Drug Cartel Faces Life Sentence

The self described enforcer for a violent Juarez, Mexico, drug cartel has pleaded guilty to conspiracy, racketeering and murder charges that could send him away for the rest of his life.

Read more
The Two-Way
3:25 pm
Thu April 5, 2012

Former CIA Officer Indicted For Allegedly Sharing Secrets With Reporters

Former CIA officer John Kiriakou, leaves federal court in Alexandria, Va., in January.
Jacquelyn Martin AP

Originally published on Thu April 5, 2012 4:49 pm

A federal grand jury in Virginia has indicted former CIA officer John Kiriakou on charges that he violated the Espionage Act by allegedly sharing secret information about some of his colleagues with reporters.

Read more
The Two-Way
9:55 am
Fri March 30, 2012

FBI's Outgoing Cyber Cop Says Americans Don't See Size Of Threat

Outgoing FBI Executive Assistant Director Shawn Henry.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Originally published on Fri March 30, 2012 11:17 am

The FBI's top cyber cop retires today after nearly a quarter century in federal law enforcement.

Shawn Henry started looking into computer issues in the run up to Y2K (the arrival of the year 2000). He says that experience left him hungry to learn more about the way electronics were changing the way we live — and the way criminals operate.The movement of so much sensitive information online poses an "existential threat," according to Henry.

Read more
It's All Politics
3:10 pm
Wed March 28, 2012

Supreme Court Limits Damage Payments To Whistle-Blowers

Under Wednesday's Supreme Court ruling, whistle-blowers like Linda Tripp (seen here in 1998) have few options in suing the government for damages.
Mark Wilson Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Fri March 30, 2012 12:14 pm

The Supreme Court has dealt privacy advocates a huge setback. By a 5-3 majority, the court ruled that people who sue the government for invading their privacy can only recover out-of-pocket damages. And whistle-blower lawyers say that leaves victims who suffer emotional trouble and smeared reputations with few if any options.

Justice Samuel Alito and all four of his conservative colleagues turned back a challenge from a pilot named Stan Cooper. (Justice Elena Kagan did not participate in the case.)

Read more
The Two-Way
2:15 pm
Wed March 28, 2012

Prosecutor Says A Desire To Win Led To Misconduct In Sen. Steven's Case

Special federal prosecutor Henry F. Schuelke testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday.
Haraz N. Ghanbari AP

Originally published on Wed March 28, 2012 2:26 pm

A special prosecutor who spent two years exploring Justice Department misconduct in the botched case against late Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) said "contest living" — the desire to win a big case — explained the failure to follow the rules in one of the biggest political corruption prosecutions in decades.

"[Lawyers] do not want to have to undermine our case if it can possibly be avoided," investigator Hank Schuelke told the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday. "That motive to win the case was the principal operative motive."

Read more
The Two-Way
7:50 am
Tue March 27, 2012

Justice Department's Handling Of Sen. Stevens Case To Be Aired On Capitol Hill

Former Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, in 2008.
Alex Wong Getty Images

Originally published on Tue March 27, 2012 7:54 am

The Justice Department's 'systematic concealment" of evidence that might have helped the late Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, defend himself in a corruption case will get a fresh airing Wednesday, when special prosecutor Henry Schuelke offers Senate testimony about his blistering 500-page report.

He's due to be before the Senate Judiciary Committee at 10 a.m. ET.

Read more
Law
2:04 am
Wed March 21, 2012

FBI Still Struggling With Supreme Court's GPS Ruling

FBI Director Robert Mueller testifies before a House Appropriations Committee panel on March 7.
T.J. Kirkpatrick Getty Images

Originally published on Wed March 21, 2012 11:11 am

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court said police had overstepped their legal authority by planting a GPS tracker on the car of a suspected drug dealer without getting a search warrant. It seemed like another instance in a long line of cases that test the balance between personal privacy and the needs of law enforcement.

Read more
Law
1:11 pm
Tue March 20, 2012

Without Parole, Juveniles Face Bleak Life In Prison

Charles Dutton is an award-winning actor. But as a juvenile, he wound up in prison for manslaughter and other crimes.
Andrew Kent Getty Images

We hear a lot about juvenile offenders when they commit a crime — and again, when they're sentenced to spend the rest of their lives in prison. But not much is known about what happens after the prison gates slam shut.

Read more
The Two-Way
8:05 am
Fri March 16, 2012

Obama Needs To Share More About Patriot Act Program, Senators Say

Originally published on Fri March 16, 2012 12:03 pm

Two Senate Democrats want the Justice Department to share more details about how it interprets a key provision of the Patriot Act. The lawmakers say the public has a right to know about a sensitive intelligence gathering program.

So Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden and Colorado Democrat Mark Udall have sent a letter of complaint to the attorney general. The senators say people would be stunned to know how the government is going about getting business records and other information under the U.S. Patriot Act.

Read more
Law
3:56 pm
Thu March 15, 2012

Report: Prosecutors Hid Evidence In Ted Stevens Case

Then-Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, in 2008.
Alex Wong Getty Images

An extraordinary special investigation by a federal judge has concluded that two Justice Department prosecutors intentionally hid evidence in the case against Sen. Ted Stevens, one of the biggest political corruption cases in recent history.

A blistering report released Thursday found that the government team concealed documents that would have helped the late Stevens, a longtime Republican senator from Alaska, defend himself against false-statements charges in 2008. Stevens lost his Senate seat as the scandal played out, and he died in a plane crash two years later.

Read more
U.S.
10:01 pm
Tue March 13, 2012

As Gangs Move To New York Suburbs, So Does Crime

Law enforcement agents raid a home where the occupants are suspected of selling drugs last month in Middletown, N.Y. For three months, court papers say, authorities tracked them using wiretaps and cameras set up on telephone poles and trees.
Chet Gordon AP

Originally published on Fri December 14, 2012 9:45 am

Over the past few years, authorities have arrested more than 200 gang members in an unexpected place: the tree-lined suburbs along the Hudson River in New York.

Drug traffickers with ties to the Bloods, the Latin Kings and other gangs have put down roots there. Authorities say they brought shootings and stabbings with them.

Middletown, N.Y., is 90 minutes northwest of the city. On West Main Street, you can find tidy brick buildings from the 1800s, a brew pub, and a restaurant that sells fresh mussels and escargot.

Read more
The Two-Way
2:30 pm
Thu March 8, 2012

Congressman Proposes Stiffer Penalties For Those Who Lie To Buy Guns

A Democratic Congressman has introduced legislation that would impose tough new penalties on people who lie when they buy guns.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Ca.) says the bill, the Straw Purchaser Penalty Enhancement Act, would give federal agents new tools to crack down on the flow of weapons across the Southwest border into Mexico.

Nowadays, many episodes where people lie about the true identity of the purchaser of guns, or engage in straw purchases, never get prosecuted at all, Schiff says in an interview with NPR.

Read more
Law
2:54 pm
Tue March 6, 2012

To Solve Hacking Case, Feds Get Hacker Of Their Own

The LulzSec icon on Twitter.
Twitter

Federal prosecutors have charged five men with responsibility for some of the biggest computer hacks in the past few years. The FBI says the hackers penetrated the computer systems of businesses like Fox Broadcasting and Sony Pictures, stole confidential information and splashed it all over the Internet.

But what's most unusual about the case is how investigators cracked it — with the help of an insider who became a secret government informant.

Read more
The Two-Way
10:40 am
Tue March 6, 2012

FBI Offers $1 Million For Information Leading To Safe Return Of Retired Agent

Robert Levinson in an FBI array.
FBI

The FBI is offering a $1 million reward for information leading directly to the safe return of one of its retired agents.

Robert Levinson disappeared five years ago this week on Kish Island, Iran. He worked at the FBI for 22 years before he retired, taking as a private detective. It was that job that sent him to Iran in March 2007, where he went missing.

Read more
Law
5:34 pm
Mon March 5, 2012

Holder Spells Out Why Drones Target U.S. Citizens

Attorney General Eric Holder discusses the controversial U.S. drone program during a speech at Northwestern Law School in Chicago on Monday.
John Gress Getty Images

Originally published on Mon March 5, 2012 10:01 pm

It's one of the most serious actions the U.S. government could ever take: targeting one of its own citizens with lethal force.

Since last year, U.S. drones have killed three Americans overseas. But Attorney General Eric Holder says the ongoing fight against al-Qaida means those kinds of deadly strikes are now a way of life. And judging from the reaction to his national security speech at Northwestern University Law School on Monday, so is the hot debate over the legality of the U.S. drone program.

Read more
News
1:00 pm
Mon March 5, 2012

Holder Addresses Killing Of American Terrorism Suspects

Attorney General Eric Holder spoke in Chicago on Monday on the legal rationales for targeting and killing Americans suspected of terrorism overseas. Carrie Johnson talks to Melissa Block.

The Two-Way
4:23 pm
Thu March 1, 2012

Judge Who Emailed Racist Obama Joke Calls For Investigation On Himself

Originally published on Thu March 1, 2012 4:32 pm

U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull says he will apologize to President Obama and ask for a panel of judges to investigate his conduct after a Montana newspaper reported he had sent a racially inflammatory message using his courthouse email account last month.

The Great Falls Tribune reported the judge had forwarded the following message to six of his friends February 20:

Read more
National Security
1:00 pm
Wed February 29, 2012

White House Issues New Rules On Al-Qaida Suspects

In defiance of Congress, the Obama administration has issued new rules on how it will comply with a defense law mandating that many al-Qaida suspects be sent into military custody: It will issue waivers in many cases. Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing Wednesday on the trouble with waivers and the need for flexibility in dealing with suspects.

Pages