2023 Excellence in Newsletters, Single Newsletter finalist

Closing Argument

About the Project

So many of the news stories that capture our national attention today — mass shootings, police violence, and major Supreme Court decisions, just to name a few — are deeply enmeshed in the contours of the criminal legal system. The Marshall Project’s Closing Argument tackles one of these stories or topics every week, adding context, expert analysis and linked additional reading to the best journalism around the country.

The newsletter is reported and written by Jamiles Lartey, built on the efforts of our entire staff, who each day comb through and catalog dozens of criminal justice-related news stories. The goal of Closing Argument is to whittle down this virtually endless stream of information into a product that the average reader can easily digest and use to better understand the world around them. It is our hope that recipients will also read some of the work we share links to every week, but we pride ourselves on conveying complex topics with enough nuance and clarity that even casual readers will leave their inbox knowing more than they did before opening the email.

In 2022, we focused on a diverse array of criminal justice topics, from the nuances of the little-known “felony murder rule,” to the dangerous heat that brutalizes incarcerated people during the summer. In November, after the U.S. Department of Justice announced an investigation into a Massachusetts police department, we walked our readers through how these investigations work, what typically happens when they end, and what their limitations are. By highlighting stories about actual brutality and misconduct from around the country that week, we also sought to take the problem of police violence out of the theoretical, and to highlight the impacts on real people. We also published an edition holding the Biden Administration accountable for failing to deliver on a promised national police misconduct database.

In the lead up to the midterm elections with crime a major focus of many candidates, we explained how public perception of crime is often (and increasingly) out of sync with the data. And in the aftermath of a Supreme Court decision on immigration, we walked readers through the concept of “prosecutorial discretion” and how it shapes the justice system on issues from gun control to abortion.