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Jessica S. Henry
Jessica S. Henry is an Associate Professor in the Department of Justice Studies at Montclair State University. After serving as a public defender for nearly a decade, Professor Henry joined the Justice Studies faculty in 2005. Professor Henry teaches a wide range of courses, including Death Penalty Perspectives, Wrongful Convictions and Hate Crimes. Professor Henry appears as a frequent commentator on national television, radio, and in print media. Her areas of research include severe sentences (including the death penalty and life without parole), prisoner reentry and hate crimes.

Entries by Jessica S. Henry

Tsarnaev's Sentence: A Deeply American Choice

(17) Comments | Posted May 4, 2015 | 1:50 PM

Jurors in the Boston bombing trial have found Dzhokhar Tsarnaev guilty of murder and other horrific acts of violence. They now have to make the difficult choice of deciding which punishment is most appropriate for his crimes: the death penalty or life without parole (LWOP).

The sentencing decision would be...

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The Slender Man Stabbings: Is Everything About the Suspects Based on Fiction?

(14) Comments | Posted March 19, 2015 | 11:44 AM

The tale of the Slender Man stabbings is a surreal one. For those of you not in the know, last May, in a small town in Wisconsin, two 12-year-old girls were accused of stabbing a fellow 12-year-old classmate 19 times. As the story goes, the two girls did so to...

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Another Innocent Black Man on Death Row

(7) Comments | Posted March 9, 2015 | 8:40 AM

As President Obama proclaimed at the Selma memorial march, race relations may have improved in the last fifty years, but there is still much work to be done.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the case of Rodney Reed.

Reed, who is black, was convicted in Texas...

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For the Mentally Disabled, Some States Are Deadly

(1) Comments | Posted January 26, 2015 | 7:08 PM

One of the major problems that I have with the death penalty is its randomness. Geography, for instance, matters in ways that has nothing to do with the crime. A person who commits murder in a state without the death penalty will not be sentenced to death, while someone who...

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Top 10 Ways to Fix the Criminal Justice System

(18) Comments | Posted December 22, 2014 | 10:11 AM

It's that time of year when people are making lists and checking them twice. Here is my action list about ways to fix the criminal justice system, with suggestions for steps we all can take. What would be on your list?

10. Return to Community Policing. If the police...

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In the Wake of Garner, A Plea for Hope

(0) Comments | Posted December 7, 2014 | 5:34 PM

In the days after Ferguson, and just before the Garner decision, I spoke with a group of high school students about race and the criminal justice system. A young black teen in the audience asked a devastating question: "How come we [the black community] always have to be the ones...

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Race Matters, Even Though It Shouldn't

(12) Comments | Posted November 14, 2014 | 11:46 AM

You do the crime, you do the time.

But not always for the reasons you may think.

Because it's not just about crime. Or about whether an accused person in fact committed the crime. It's not just about the quality of the evidence, or whether the prosecution can prove...

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When Children Are Not Children: A 10-Year Old Murder Suspect Is Charged as An Adult

(37) Comments | Posted October 23, 2014 | 4:38 PM

10-year-old Tristen Kurilla has been charged as an adult in Pennsylvania in the murder of a 90-year-old woman in his grandfather's care. According to reports, the woman yelled at the fifth-grader after he asked her a question and, in response, he reportedly held a cane to her neck...

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Another Day, Another Death: A Mother Dies in Prison After Reporting Threats

(10) Comments | Posted October 14, 2014 | 2:09 PM

Latandra Ellington, a 36-year old mother of four children, died in a Florida prison last week. Ellington had just seven months left to serve of her twenty-two month sentence for grand theft when she was found dead in her cell.

Before her death, Ellington feared for her life. On...

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When Prison Guards Kill Inmates: Florida's Prison Massacre Revealed

(6) Comments | Posted September 29, 2014 | 9:25 PM

Prisoners are forgotten people. Locked away, they are totally out of sight, and even more out of mind.

Yet prisoners are among society's most vulnerable populations. Like children, they are completely dependent on others for everything from food to clothing to medical care. But unlike children, who are mostly...

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The Truth About False Confessions

(3) Comments | Posted September 22, 2014 | 1:07 PM

It is hard -- near impossible -- for most of us to believe that innocent people sometime falsely confess to committing horrible crimes. In fact, most people insist that they would never confess to a murder or rape that they did not commit. Not under any circumstances.

But Henry...

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Death Row Roulette: Innocence Revealed

(3) Comments | Posted September 8, 2014 | 2:50 PM

Henry McCollum spent 30 years on North Carolina's death row for a rape and murder he did not commit. Leon Brown, McCollum's half-brother, also was convicted and sentenced to death for that crime. The men, both intellectually disabled, languished in prison for three long decades, all the while recanting the...

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A Deadly Secret: States Refuse to Share the Source of Lethal Injection Drugs in Executions

(5) Comments | Posted July 28, 2014 | 3:31 PM

Shhh. It's a secret. No, it's not an invitation to a surprise party. Instead, it's the State of Arizona refusing to reveal the source of the drugs used to inject people in death penalty executions.

Arizona, one of 32 states in the United States that still retain...

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Killing to Heal?: One Year After the Boston Bombing

(15) Comments | Posted April 17, 2014 | 10:35 AM

This week marks the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing. The bombing was a stunning display of domestic terror that blew apart an April day that should have been full of celebration and accomplishment. Three people, including an eight-year-old boy, were killed and two-hundred people were injured, some severely,...

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