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Criminal justice

Just Mercy
Spring 2016

Just Mercy

Dozens of witnesses, including a police officer, saw Walter McMillian at a church fish fry when a young woman was killed in nearby Monroeville, Alabama in 1986.

Police later arrested the self-employed African-American tree trimmer anyway. A nearly all-white jury convicted him and a judge sent him to death row. That’s where Bryan Stevenson, a Harvard-educated lawyer, met McMillian.

Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, battled a hostile criminal justice system to uncover improperly concealed evidence that led to McMillian’s exoneration in 1993.

But the frightening way McMillian was so quickly condemned raises broader questions about America’s criminal justice system, which incarcerates more … » More …

Former Chief Deputy Marshal Eric Marks.
Spring 2015

Eric Marks ’86—Marshalling the deputies

Eric Marks, and the 39 deputy marshals who worked for him, always got their man (or woman).

“We’ve had prisoners escape from local jails. We catch them all,” says Marks ’86 MA, former chief deputy marshal in the U.S. Marshals Service for eastern Washington. “We’re dogged and we don’t give up.”

As the region’s chief deputy marshal from 2002 to last December, Marks led the deputy marshals as they hunted fugitives and provided enforcement and protection for the federal courts.

He joins a long legacy of deputy marshals that includes legends like Bat Masterson, Wild Bill Hickok, Wyatt Earp, and his brothers. In 1789 President … » More …

Faith Lutze
Spring 2015

Prisoner guardians

Criminal justice doesn’t end when the prison gate clangs shut behind the departing offender. Unseen, but of great value, are the officers who serve as guardians on the outside, watching over the former prisoners and guiding their integration back into society. While community corrections officers, generally known as parole and probation officers, help offenders transition from prison, they also safeguard the public.

The work of these officers in the criminal justice system only seems to come to light when an offender does something horrible. Considering that around 16,000 released prisoners are currently under supervision in Washington state, the many success stories of these officers usually … » More …

Hunting for Dirtbags cover
Spring 2015

Hunting for “Dirtbags”: Why Cops Over-police the Poor and Racial Minorities

Hunting for “Dirtbags”: Why Cops Over-police the Poor and Racial Minorities


Lori Beth Way and Ryan Patten ’03 PhD

Northeastern University Press, 2013


In this day of increased scrutiny of police, many people wonder about policing styles and how officers use their unassigned time. The high rate of minority arrests and stops as well as the higher level of surveillance in poor communities have also come into question.

With these things in mind, two political science colleagues at California State University, Chico explored what factors influence police officers’ decisions on their policing strategies. Patten and … » More …

Fall 2013

Kathleen McChesney ’71—Agent of change

One day during Kathleen McChesney’s senior year, an FBI recruiter came to campus. Everyone was impressed with the smart looking fellow in the three piece suit. His pitch dazzled the class. “We all wanted to apply,” says McChesney. “But then he passed out the applications. He gave one to each student until he got to me. Then he said, ‘I can’t give you one. The FBI doesn’t have women as agents.’”

It was an inauspicious beginning for the girl from Auburn who would eventually become the highest ranking woman in the agency. The next year J. Edgar Hoover died and the policy was changed. But … » More …

Bryan Vila (second row) joins police officers—his trainees—in a 1979 ceremony to celebrate Kosrae’s status as a state in the newly formed Federated States of Micronesia. Courtesy Bryan Vila
Summer 2013

Training the island police

When he learned about a job training police in the Pacific islands of Micronesia in 1978, former Los Angeles police officer Bryan Vila seized the opportunity to work in paradise. Little did he know that the hard lessons of teaching police officers from 2,000 different islands over six years would make him an expert on training in other cultures.

Vila, now a Washington State University professor of criminal justice and criminology at the Spokane campus, had been a Marine in Vietnam as well as a member of the sheriff’s department in Los Angeles, when he landed with a bang on an unpaved runway in Saipan.

» More …

Anna Wilson
Spring 2012

Anna Ballard Wilson ’04—CSI: Cheney

When Anna Wilson’s cell phone rings, there’s usually a dead body involved.

No matter if she’s in the shower or at the movies, she’s out the door in a matter of minutes, headed for the Washington State Patrol forensics lab at the edge of the Eastern Washington University campus. There she changes into lightweight boots, black pants, and a polo shirt emblazoned with “WSP CRIME SCENE” across the back. A quick check of supplies—gloves, gel lifts, camera cards, detection chemicals, evidence packaging, and the like—and the van is ready. Then she and a similarly clad coworker enter the address into a GPS unit, buckle up, … » More …

Summer 2007

Anatomy of Murder: Robert Keppel '66 Police Science, '67 MA Police Science

In 1974, during Robert Keppel’s second week as a major crimes detective with the King County Sheriff’s Office, he was assigned the cases of two women who had gone missing on the same day from Lake Samammish. They turned out to be two of Ted Bundy’s victims, and the beginning of Keppel’s career-long study of serial killers. Keppel left the Sheriff’s Office in 1982 to become the lead criminal investigator for the Washington State Attorney General’s office. At the same time, he worked on the Green River Killer Task Force. From death row in Florida, Bundy contacted Keppel, offering to help him find the Green … » More …