Get Informed

Regular updates, analysis and context straight to your email

Close Newsletter Signup

Arpaio disgrace complete, but Maricopa County must now deal with damage

Joe Arpaio

Arpaio disgrace complete, but Maricopa County must now deal with damage


He was once praised for being “America’s toughest sheriff.” But as of yesterday, former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio was convicted of a crime of his own.

Arpaio’s rise and fall mirror the way America has looked at criminal justice in the 21st Century. Once an icon of the right, Arpaio’s approach to policing has proven to be ineffective. For many, he was an embarrassment even before his conviction.

Arpaio was convicted earlier this week of criminal contempt for defying a judge’s order to stop criminally profiling Latinos and turn them over to federal authorities. He faces up to six months in jail and has vowed to appeal his conviction.

He was first elected sheriff in 1992 and was the top law enforcement officer in Maricopa County until 2016, when he lost a bid for a seventh term in office.

During his 24-year tenure Arpaio gained national attention for making prisoners in the Maricopa County jail wear pink underwear, and setting up tents in 120 degree weather for prisoners to sleep in.

He also gained a national reputation for being virulently anti-immigrant, conducting raids that locked up numerous Latinos, many of whom turned out to be American citizens, and joined Donald Trump in insisting that Barack Obama was born in Kenya.

Under Arpaio people in jail were also forced to give birth while shackled and the number of people who died while in custody was significantly higher than in other jails.

In the end, Arpaio’s approach was not only barbaric — it didn’t actually stop crime. “Although MCSO is adept at self-promotion and is an unquestionably “tough” law-enforcement agency, under its watch violent crime rates recently have soared, both in absolute terms and relative to other jurisdictions, said a 2008 report written by the conservative Goldwater Foundation that critiqued Arpaio. “It has diverted resources away from basic law-enforcement functions to highly publicized immigration sweeps, which are ineffective in policing illegal immigration and in reducing crime generally.”

And Arpaio’s obsessions came with a cost. At last count, legal fees for lawsuits filed against him cost over $140 million to taxpayers. What’s more, response times and cases solved lagged behind other police departments since Arpaio devoted so much time to undocumented immigrants, using resources that should have been used for regular police work. And courts repeatedly ruled that Arpaio’s actions were illegal, and violated the constitutional rights of many of the people the sheriff was sworn to protect.

Now, the man who defeated him in 2016, Sheriff Paul Penzone, must clean up the mess and try to win back the trust of Latinos and many others who lost all faith in a criminal justice system that gave someone like Arpaio so much power.

As Casey Tolan previously reported at Slate, Penzone’s record so far has been mixed, with Penzone reversing a decision not to hand over undocumented immigrants to federal authorities a week after he announced it.

But Penzone has pledged to go back to making his office an effective and reasonable police force. Some people have called Penzone boring, and after a generation of Arpaio’s shenanigans, boring sounds pretty good.

Illicit affair of Kentucky prosecutor leads to murder conviction being thrown out

Illicit affair of Kentucky prosecutor leads to murder conviction being thrown out


A Kentucky murder conviction has unraveled amid allegations that the elected prosecutor was having an affair with the lead detective on the case. The prosecutor’s office is also being accused of failing to disclose critical evidence to the defense.

David Wayne Dooley was convicted of the 2012 murder of Michelle Mockbee and sentenced to life in prison. The two were coworkers at the Thermo Scientific facility in Florence and Dooley was convicted even though prosecutors didn’t have any physical evidence that proved Dooley’s guilt.

Prosecutors said Dooley was the killer because he wouldn’t admit to having found her body, and because Mockbee’s husband, who also worked at Thermo Scientific, said he’d had issues with Dooley in the past.

But Dooley’s 2014 conviction was thrown out in May after Boone Circuit Court Judge James R. Schrand ruled that evidence that could have aided his defense was kept from his defense attorneys.

The withheld evidence involved a man visible on security cameras at Thermo Fisher Electric walking up to an outside door and attempting to enter about 10 hours before Mockbee was found beaten to death outside of the building.

The video of the unknown man was not handed over to defense attorneys before trial.

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear asked for the hearing that led to the conviction being thrown out. Beshear’s office did not support a new trial for Dooley, but said the hearing was necessary to make sure proper procedure was followed.

Beshear’s office took over the case after questionable conduct by Kentucky Commonwealth Attorney Linda Tally Smith, and will be responsible for retrying Dooley. After Dooley was convicted it came out that Tally Smith, who is married to a district court judge, was having an affair with then-Boone County Sheriff’s investigator Bruce McVay, the lead detective on the case.

Tally Smith and McVay contradicted each other at the postconviction hearing with McVay claiming he told Tally Smith about the video of the unknown man before the trial began and Tally Smith claiming she knew nothing about the video until after the trial was over.

Tally Smith has said the affair began after the Dooley trial concluded and lasted for six months. She has refused to resign as Commonwealth Attorney for Boone and Gallatin counties and will face a challenger when she runs for reelection in 2018.

More disturbing is a long letter Tally Smith wrote to McVay but says she never sent. Portions of that letter were published by the Northern Kentucky Tribunethat said “Even if I was aware that you had lied here or there on cases, I wouldn’t have wavered in that loyalty to you and ‘having your back.’”

A special prosecutor has been appointed to look into Tally Smith’s actions.

More in Explainers

Fake subpoena issue continues to haunt New Orleans District Attorney

Orleans Criminal District Court

Fake subpoena issue continues to haunt New Orleans District Attorney


Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro announced in April that his office would no longer send out fake subpoenas to witnesses after he was roundly denounced for the practice.

But the issue hasn’t gone away, and now one of those fake subpoenas could put a high-profile conviction in danger. According to the New Orleans Times Picayune and The Lens,Cardell Hayes, convicted of manslaughter in the death of New Orleans Saints football player Will Smith, is citing the fake subpoenas in an effort to get a new trial.

Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro

The mother of Hayes’ son, Tiffany LaCroix, got one of the fake subpoenas before Hayes went on trial in 2016, court documents said. The documents had the word “subpoena” on them but were not signed by a judge, meaning that the law didn’t require the person to comply with the document

A lawyer for LaCroix later showed up in court to quash the subpoena. Cannizzaro’s office then sought to issue a real subpoena that had been signed by a judge. But LaCroix never testified at the trial.

The fake subpoena is one of 13 issues that defense lawyers are raising in appealing Hayes’s conviction.

A judge has ordered Cannizzaro to reveal the names of all prosecutors in his office who issued fake subpoenas. But Cannizzaro is appealing that ruling, saying it would be too time consuming.

Cannizzaro’s office stopped using the fake subpoenas after the issue was publicized while insisting there was nothing wrong with the practice. Protesters called for Cannizzaro to be removed from office.

The issue got attention after Cannizzaro’s office threatened to jail a domestic violence victim after she didn’t respond to a fake subpoena.


Thanks to Josie Duffy Rice.

More in Podcasts