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

The Two-Way
11:56 am
Wed October 10, 2012

Report: Solitary Confinement For Minors Could Have Lasting Consequences

A new report warns thousands of young people held in solitary confinement each year inside adult jails and prisons could suffer lasting consequences including hallucinations and mental illness.

The study by the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch reached out to 125 juveniles in 19 states. Many of them reported being isolated for weeks at a time, in small cells with little natural light, no access to education, and minimal opportunities to exercise.

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All Tech Considered
3:21 pm
Tue September 25, 2012

National Security Experts Go Rogue For 'Drone Smackdown'

Alice Beauheim, her father and Bill Love fly their homemade machines at the Drone Smackdown in Manassas, Va., on Sunday. Objections by the Federal Aviation Administration forced organizers to hold the tongue-in-cheek contest outside of Washington, D.C.
John Procter

Originally published on Tue September 25, 2012 6:39 pm

It started as trash talk between two contributors to a national security blog. They decided to host a drone smackdown to see if one guy's machine could take down another.

Unarmed drones, of course. The kind you can put together with a toy-store model and $200 in modifications. But the game turned out to have some serious undertones.

First, a word about the location. For a moment last week, the whole drone smackdown was up in the air.

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The Two-Way
5:17 pm
Wed September 19, 2012

Plans For John Hinckley's Transfer Have Been Put On Hold

Originally published on Wed September 19, 2012 5:49 pm

Plans that would allow John Hinckley to leave a mental institution and go live with his mother are on hold. His doctors say the man who tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan is well enough to deserve more freedom.

But a key part of the treatment plan is now up in the air.

Therapists in Virginia, near the home of John Hinckley's elderly mother, say they want to withdraw from a plan to treat him several days a week.

Hinckley's longtime defense lawyers say they want to quit too, because they're not getting paid any more.

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Law
2:04 am
Wed September 19, 2012

ACLU Pushes For Answers On Drone Strikes

A U.S. Predator drone flies through the night sky over Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan. Drone strikes ordered by the Obama administration have killed more than a dozen al-Qaida leaders around the world.
Kirsty Wigglesworth AP

Originally published on Wed September 19, 2012 7:28 am

Drone strikes ordered by the Obama administration have killed more than a dozen al-Qaida leaders around the world, in places ranging from Afghanistan to Somalia. In speeches and public appearances, U.S. officials say those attacks are legal and essential to protect the nation's security.

But when civil liberties groups asked for more information about targeted killing, the CIA told them it's a secret.

On Thursday, they'll square off in front of a federal appeals court in Washington.

Pushing For Records

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The Two-Way
2:51 pm
Thu August 30, 2012

Justice Department Closes Investigation Into Deaths Of Two Detainees

Originally published on Thu August 30, 2012 7:19 pm

The Justice Department has closed an investigation into the deaths of two detainees in American custody in Iraq and Afghanistan without bringing any criminal charges.

Attorney General Eric Holder said prosecutors had declined to proceed "because the admissible evidence would not be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt."

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Law
5:23 pm
Mon August 27, 2012

Judge Halts Ohio Law That Could Discount Votes

A judge has given Ohio unions a preliminary injunction stopping a new state law that could endanger provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct, even if the cause is poll worker error.

Law
3:01 am
Mon August 27, 2012

John Walker Lindh Sues For Prison Prayer Group

John Walker Lindh was captured in Afghanistan in 2002 after fighting with the Taliban.
File Photo AP

Originally published on Mon August 27, 2012 12:34 pm

John Walker Lindh was a middle-class kid in Northern California who converted to Islam and went to travel the world. U.S. authorities eventually captured him in Afghanistan after Sept. 11, when he was allegedly fighting alongside the Taliban.

His story was the focus of a Law and Order episode, and a song called "John Walker's Blues" by Steve Earle.

For the past five years, Lindh has been living in a secret prison facility in Indiana with convicted terrorists, neo-Nazis and other inmates who get special monitoring.

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Law
1:47 am
Fri August 17, 2012

When The Lawyer Becomes The Object Of Prosecution

U.S. Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer says Charles Daum, a longtime lawyer, betrayed his profession.
Alex Wong Getty Images

Originally published on Fri August 17, 2012 10:06 am

For more than 30 years, Charles Daum made a living by defending people accused of run-of-the-mill crimes. Then he met a charismatic Washington, D.C.-area man charged with distributing cocaine.

What happened next is a plot worthy of a television crime drama.

The accused drug dealer, Delante White, turned the tables and helped convict his own defense lawyer of manufacturing evidence and putting on false testimony to help the drug dealer's case.

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U.S.
2:24 am
Fri August 10, 2012

Sikh Shooting Puts Focus On Hate Groups At Home

Rescue workers stand in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City after an explosion on April 19, 1995. The bombing killed 168 people.
David Longstreath AP

Originally published on Fri August 10, 2012 5:28 am

The slaying of six people at a Sikh temple by a gunman with ties to white supremacists has raised questions about the scope of domestic terrorism — and what law enforcement is doing to stop it.

Federal law enforcement agencies cracked down hard on homegrown extremists after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, which killed 168 people, including 19 children at a day care center. Many leaders went to prison, died or went bankrupt.

But in recent years, the spread of the Internet, the worsening economy and changing demographic patterns have been giving new voice to hate groups.

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The Two-Way
4:32 pm
Tue August 7, 2012

Fast And Furious Whistle-blower Reaches Agreement Over Retaliation Claims

Peter Forcelli, an ATF agent who blew the whistle on management lapses in the gun trafficking scandal known as Fast and Furious, has reached an agreement with the bureau over his retaliation claims.

A lawyer for Forcelli declined to disclose the terms of the settlement because it was the product of a confidential mediation process.

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The Two-Way
1:43 pm
Mon August 6, 2012

Men Convicted In Infamous 1984 D.C. Murder Lose Bid To Overturn Judgments

Originally published on Mon August 6, 2012 3:36 pm

A judge in Washington, D.C., has turned back an effort by seven men charged with a notorious 1984 murder to overturn their convictions, ruling the evidence against them remains "overwhelming" and the testimony of witnesses who changed their story are "not worthy of belief."

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The Two-Way
11:12 am
Thu July 26, 2012

Justice Department Employees Cited For Nepotism In Hiring

Originally published on Thu July 26, 2012 2:37 pm

The Justice Department inspector general has uncovered what he calls illegal hiring practices at the federal agency. In a new report he cites eight employees for trying to find jobs for their children and other relatives.

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The Two-Way
4:47 pm
Tue July 24, 2012

Judge Orders Release Of Man Accused Of Negotiating On Behalf Of Somali Pirates

A federal judge has ordered the U.S. government to free a man accused of negotiating on behalf of Somali pirates, pending a Justice Department appeal.

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The Two-Way
2:13 pm
Mon July 23, 2012

To Reduce Spending On Prisons, Justice Wants To Speed Up Release Dates

In a theme playing out all over the country, Justice Department officials are proposing new ways to put the brakes on massive prison expenditures that have been eating up a bigger portion of their flat-lined annual budget.

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Law
2:02 am
Wed July 18, 2012

For Pirates, U.S. Courts Offer No Safe Harbor

The German tanker Marida Marguerite, which was hijacked off the coast of Oman in 2010.
Dietmar Hasenpusch EPA/Landov

Originally published on Wed July 18, 2012 8:57 am

It's a bad time to be a pirate, at least in the American justice system.

Piracy on the high seas is one of the oldest crimes on the books. But U.S. authorities are using 18th century law in new ways to go after people who may never actually climb on board a ship and the men who negotiate and finance the plots.

About 1,000 pirates are in custody all over the world; about 30 of them are incarcerated in the United States.

Capturing Pirates Over Tea

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The Two-Way
1:58 pm
Thu July 12, 2012

Wells Fargo Agrees To $175 Million Settlement Over Lending Discrimination

Wells Fargo has denied claims of lending discrimination and said it's settling "solely for the purpose of avoiding contested litigation with" the Justice Department
Karen Bleier AFP/Getty Images

Wells Fargo Bank agreed to pay at least $175 million Thursday to resolve allegations it discriminated against black and Latino home buyers, in what the Justice Department called the second largest settlement over fair lending violations.

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Law
2:43 pm
Tue July 10, 2012

Justice Delayed: After Three Decades, An Apology

Kirk Odom and his wife, Harriet, outside the H. Carl Moultrie Courthouse in Washington, D.C. On Tuesday, the Justice Department said there was "clear and convincing evidence" that Odom is innocent of a 1981 rape and robbery, for which he spent more than two decades behind bars.
Carrie Johnson NPR

Originally published on Tue July 10, 2012 6:34 pm

Nearly 31 years after he was convicted of rape and armed robbery, Kirk Odom on Tuesday all but won his fight to be declared an innocent man.

The Justice Department filed court papers saying, "There is clear and convincing evidence that Mr. Odom is innocent of the charges for which he was convicted," and apologized for the "terrible injustice."

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The Two-Way
2:09 pm
Mon July 9, 2012

Four More Charged In Border Patrol Killing Linked To 'Fast And Furious'

With wanted posters off to the side, James L. Turgal, Jr., right, FBI Special Agent in Charge, listens as Laura E. Duffy, United States Attorney Southern District of California, announces the indictments on five suspects involved in the death of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry on Monday.
Ross D. Franklin AP

Originally published on Mon July 9, 2012 2:14 pm

The Justice Department has unsealed criminal charges against four more people it says are connected to the death of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, as the FBI offered a $1 million reward for information leading to the capture of the fugitives.

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Governing
2:05 am
Mon July 9, 2012

Justice's New Watchdog Meets Fast And Furious

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz is reviewing secret emails about the department's Fast and Furious operation.

Originally published on Mon July 9, 2012 4:28 am

The legal battle between Republican lawmakers and Attorney General Eric Holder over access to documents in a gun scandal could take months, if not years, to resolve.

But one man has already been sifting through secret emails about the operation known as Fast and Furious. He's Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department's new watchdog.

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Law
1:39 pm
Fri July 6, 2012

How The Health Care Ruling Might Affect Civil Rights

People gather outside the Supreme Court on June 28, the morning the health care ruling was announced. Lawyers say they're still teasing out the consequences for other key areas of the law — including civil rights.
David Goldman AP

Originally published on Tue July 10, 2012 3:46 pm

There's been lots of talk about how the Supreme Court's landmark decision to uphold the health care law could affect the federal Medicaid program and President Obama's political standing. But days after the historic ruling, lawyers say they're still teasing out the consequences for other key areas of the law — including civil rights.

At first blush, it might seem odd that a case about the Affordable Care Act would send civil rights experts scrambling back to their law books.

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NPR Story
4:12 pm
Mon June 25, 2012

Justices Bar Mandatory Life Terms for Juveniles

Originally published on Tue June 26, 2012 4:27 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

In today's program. we're covering three new rulings issued by the Supreme Court. One of them, a decision against mandatory life sentences for juveniles in homicide cases. In a five-to-four ruling, the justices said such blanket sentences violate the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment. They said children who commit crimes, even serious ones, are different from adults.

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Politics
5:23 pm
Wed June 20, 2012

House Cites Attorney General Holder For Contempt

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted today to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. He's accused of refusing to turn over certain documents related to the controversial gun-trafficking operation known as Fast and Furious.

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U.S.
5:59 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

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.

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Law
5:31 pm
Tue June 19, 2012

Senate Holds First Hearing On Solitary Confinement

Advocates for prisoners rights say too many inmates spend years in solitary confinement — in violation of the constitutional bar against cruel and unusual punishment. Today, they persuaded the U.S. Senate to hold the first hearing on the issue, as state and federal prison systems fend off new lawsuits over the practice.

Law
2:57 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 9:56 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

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Law
4:40 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 11:05 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.

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The Two-Way
3:08 pm
Wed June 13, 2012

Justice Department Is Dropping Case Against Edwards

Originally published on Wed June 13, 2012 3:49 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.

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The Two-Way
4:03 am
Tue June 12, 2012

10,000 People Called Human Trafficking Hotline In 2011

Originally published on Tue June 12, 2012 9:14 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.

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Law
3:26 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 9:29 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."

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Law
3:13 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 9:58 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.

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