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.

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It's All Politics
10:43 am
Fri July 31, 2015

Despite High Expectations, Sentencing Reform Proposals Still On Ice

Expectations for movement on justice reform had been high, but sources tell NPR that concrete language on sentencing and criminal justice overhauls is still being hotly debated behind closed doors.
David Goldman AP

Originally published on Fri July 31, 2015 12:20 pm

Advocates and inmates working to overhaul the criminal justice system will have to wait at least a little longer for congressional action.

The Republican leader of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Charles Grassley, said he won't hold a public event on sentencing reform proposals until after the August recess, as language is still being drafted by a bipartisan working group. And in the U.S. House, lawmakers and their aides will spend at least the next five weeks making adjustments to a sweeping bill sponsored by 40 Democrats and Republicans, sources told NPR Friday.

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The Two-Way
10:16 am
Thu July 30, 2015

Justice Dept. Hires Compliance Expert In Fight Against Corporate Crime

Justice Department lawyers who prosecute errant corporations and executives are bringing in a new member to the team — a full-time expert in compliance programs.

Andrew Weissmann, who leads the Fraud Section in the criminal division at the Justice Department, said the new hire is all part of a plan to reduce corporate crime.

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It's All Politics
2:39 pm
Tue July 28, 2015

After Hope For Early Release, Prisoners' Applications Stuck In Limbo

Dana Bowerman's lifelong best friend Michelle Elliott holds a photograph of the two together. Bowerman is serving a nearly 20-year sentence for federal drug conspiracy charges. She was holding out hope for clemency for nonviolent drug offenders but it is unlikely that she will receive an early release date.
Matthew Ozug NPR

Originally published on Tue August 4, 2015 11:29 am

It took a while for Dana Bowerman's long prison sentence to sink in.

Bowerman is a onetime honor student and cheerleader whose brassy personality cleared most obstacles from her path. But there was one hurdle her quick mind couldn't leap. In early 2001, Bowerman got sent away for nearly 20 years on federal drug conspiracy charges, her first and only offense. It wasn't until two years in, in her bunk behind a fence in a Texas prison, that her fate seemed real.

"It was a hard swallow," Bowerman said.

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Law
6:36 pm
Fri July 24, 2015

Convicted Spy Jonathan Pollard Eligible For Parole In November

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The Two-Way
4:17 pm
Thu July 23, 2015

Official Watchdog Says He Needs Access To Sensitive Documents

Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department's inspector general, testifies before a House committee in 2012 critical of the department's "Operation Fast and Furious." Thursday, he said a legal opinion from the department could block his office from getting documents crucial to his watchdog role.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Thu July 23, 2015 7:12 pm

The Justice Department's top watchdog said Thursday a newly released legal opinion undermines his independence and makes it more difficult to do his job.

Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz said the memo will delay access to grand jury, wiretap and other documents he needs to investigate problems at the Justice Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI and elsewhere.

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Law
3:01 am
Tue July 14, 2015

Obama Shortens Prison Terms For 46 Drug Offenders, Vows More Commutations

Originally published on Tue July 14, 2015 11:03 am

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It's All Politics
8:52 am
Mon July 13, 2015

New Drug Agency Chief To Revive Take-Back Program

"Probably the most shocking thing to me was the number of people that die every day in the United States from a drug overdose. I knew there was a problem. I knew it was big. I didn't know it was 120 people a day," acting DEA Chief Chuck Rosenberg said in his first interview since taking over at the agency.
Dennis Cook AP

Originally published on Mon July 13, 2015 10:14 am

When Chuck Rosenberg took the top job at the Drug Enforcement Administration two months ago, the longtime prosecutor had a reputation as "Mister Fix It."

The DEA has had a rough time lately — including scandals like agents at sex parties financed by drug cartels. He's now going to be keenly interested in the whereabouts of Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, who recently escaped from prison.

But there was something else that has really taken Rosenberg's breath away these first few months on the job: drug overdose.

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The Two-Way
11:55 am
Fri July 10, 2015

FBI Says Background Check Error Let Charleston Shooting Suspect Buy Gun

Dylann Roof appears via video at his bond hearing on June 19 in North Charleston, S.C. Roof is charged with nine counts of murder and firearms charges in the shooting deaths at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Getty Images

Originally published on Fri July 10, 2015 1:40 pm

Updated at 3:30 p.m. ET

FBI Director James Comey said the man accused of killing nine people in a Charleston, S.C., church should never have been allowed to purchase a weapon.

Comey said flaws in paperwork and communication between a federal background check worker and state law enforcement allowed Dylann Roof to buy a handgun in South Carolina on April 16 — weeks before he allegedly attacked black churchgoers in a failed attempt to fuel a race war.

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It's All Politics
2:52 pm
Thu July 9, 2015

FBI Says It Thwarted Attempted July 4th Attack

FBI Director James Comey speaks at FBI headquarters in Washington.
Evan Vucci AP

Originally published on Thu July 9, 2015 3:49 pm

FBI Director James Comey said authorities have arrested "more than 10 people" over the past four weeks who have been radicalized through slick electronic recruitment efforts tied to the self-proclaimed Islamic state.

"We arrested them to try to thwart what they were up to," the FBI director said in a briefing with reporters Thursday in his Washington conference room.

"I do believe our work disrupted efforts to kill people, likely related to the Fourth of July," Comey added.

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Law
9:48 am
Fri June 26, 2015

Breaking Down A Legal Landmark: The Justices' Opinions In Obergefell V. Hodges

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Politics
2:28 pm
Wed June 24, 2015

Federal Employees Criticize Government Response To Massive Data Breach

Originally published on Wed June 24, 2015 6:01 pm

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It's All Politics
12:34 pm
Mon June 22, 2015

Released From Prison, Nuclear Protest Nun Now Likely To Stay Free

A sign warns against trespassing onto the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn. Sister Megan Rice and two other anti-war protesters cut through three fences and spray-painted slogans on the wall of a weapons-grade uranium facility in 2012.
Erik Schelzig AP

Originally published on Mon June 22, 2015 1:29 pm

Federal prosecutors in Tennessee have notified an 85-year-old nun they will not seek to reinstate her sabotage conviction for breaking into a nuclear facility.

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It's All Politics
10:28 am
Fri June 19, 2015

Settlement Reached To Overhaul Mississippi Juvenile Courts

The Department of Justice headquarters building in Washington.
J. David Ake AP

Originally published on Fri June 19, 2015 3:36 pm

The U.S. Justice Department has reached a settlement with the state of Mississippi to overhaul the way young people are arrested and processed through the juvenile courts, NPR has learned.

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Sports
2:30 pm
Tue June 16, 2015

FBI Investigates St. Louis Cardinals For Alleged Hack Of Astros System

Originally published on Wed June 17, 2015 4:20 am

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National Security
2:34 pm
Thu June 11, 2015

Virginia Teen Pleads Guilty To Conspiring To Support Islamic State

Originally published on Thu June 11, 2015 4:53 pm

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It's All Politics
3:02 am
Thu June 11, 2015

Experiencing The 'Realities Of Being A Police Officer'

NPR reporter Carrie Johnson runs through a target practice drill with instructor Bryan Patterson as part of the Use of Force simulation at the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund in Virginia.
Ariel Zambelich NPR

Originally published on Thu June 11, 2015 11:42 am

The office hallway could be in Anytown, America, with its gray walls, bad lighting and piles of photocopy paper. That is, except for this distinguishing feature: an unknown man, armed with a weapon, who popped into view.

"Do I want to shoot this guy?" I asked the law enforcement trainer beside me.

The reply came fast: "Well, he's got a gun."

My weapon: a Glock equipped with a laser, not live ammunition — and thank goodness for that.

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It's All Politics
2:10 pm
Tue June 9, 2015

Advocates Push To Bring Solitary Confinement Out Of The Shadows

A guard looks over an empty inmate cell at the Northern Correctional Institution in Somers, Conn., in 2001.
Steve Miller AP

Originally published on Thu June 11, 2015 7:53 am

By last count, the Justice Department estimates about 80,000 U.S. inmates live in some kind of restricted housing.

That means being confined to a cell for about 22 hours a day.

"You are going to eat, sleep and defecate in a small room that's actually smaller than the size of your average parking space," said Amy Fettig, a lawyer who runs the Stop Solitary campaign for the American Civil Liberties Union. "And you're going to do that for months, years and sometimes even decades on end."

Fettig said solitary confinement is brutal and expensive.

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U.S.
12:59 pm
Sat June 6, 2015

Jury Acquits Ex-BP Exec Of Lying In Oil Spill

David Rainey, second from right, leaves Federal Court after being arraigned on obstruction of a federal investigation in New Orleans in 2012. Rainey was acquitted Friday.
Matthew Hinton AP

Originally published on Mon June 8, 2015 8:57 am

More than two years ago, Justice Department officials held a news conference to unveil criminal charges against BP and several executives in connection with the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

But the Department of Justice task force created to hold the company and responsible individuals to account has a track record that's spotty at best.

On Friday, a federal jury in New Orleans acquitted the highest-ranking BP executive charged in connection with the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion, after just five days of trial.

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The Two-Way
8:00 am
Wed June 3, 2015

Sen. Menendez's Corruption Trial Hasn't Begun, But Legal Sparring Has

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., (right) speaks alongside his lawyer, Abbe Lowell, after being indicted on corruption charges in April.
Kena Betancur Getty Images

It's been just two months since the Justice Department indicted Sen. Robert Menendez on bribery and conspiracy charges. But lawyers in the case already seem to be, well, getting under each other's skin.

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Law
4:22 am
Wed June 3, 2015

Sons Ask Supreme Court To Resolve Jim Thorpe Burial Case

Originally published on Wed June 3, 2015 5:59 am

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It's All Politics
2:53 pm
Mon June 1, 2015

Supreme Court Sides With Immigrant Caught With Pills In His Sock

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who wrote for the court majority, said Moones Mellouli's crime should not be considered enough to remove someone from the country under federal law. In dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote he sees "nothing absurd about removing individuals who are unwilling to respect the drug laws" where they live.
Mandel Ngan AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon June 1, 2015 8:46 pm

The Supreme Court has dealt a blow to U.S. immigration officials in a closely watched case by ruling that a broad state anti-drug law may not be enough to justify deportation.

By a 7-2 vote, the court ruled that a Tunisian man convicted of carrying pills in his sock should not have been removed from the U.S. for that reason.

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Law
1:37 am
Mon June 1, 2015

No. 2 At Justice Warns Growing Prison Budget Detracts From Public Safety

Deputy Attorney General nominee Sally Yates testified in March before the Senate Judiciary Committee on her nomination. The Senate confirmed her last month to be deputy attorney general, putting two women in the top posts at the Justice Department.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

Originally published on Mon June 1, 2015 1:49 pm

Prosecutors usually spend their energy putting criminals behind bars, not urging their release. But racial disparities in the system and the huge costs of locking up so many people are pushing some government officials to call for a new approach.

One of them is the woman who now runs day-to-day operations at the Justice Department. Sally Yates says she's hardly soft on crime: "I'm a career prosecutor."

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Law
2:45 pm
Wed May 27, 2015

U.S. Justice Department Files Corruption Charges Against FIFA

Originally published on Wed May 27, 2015 5:11 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Law
2:37 pm
Wed May 20, 2015

ConAgra Foods To Face Criminal Charge For 2007 Peanut Butter Recall

Originally published on Wed May 20, 2015 5:17 pm

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It's All Politics
4:58 pm
Thu May 14, 2015

After Baltimore And Ferguson, Major Momentum For Criminal Justice System Reform

Demonstrators participated in a March2Justice for criminal justice reform legislation outside the Capitol in April. Lawmakers who are working to on fixes to the justice system say recent unrest is pushing them to act.
Saul Loeb AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sat May 16, 2015 5:46 pm

Lawmakers working on fixes to the justice system say that unrest in places like Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore is pushing them to act.

"The whole idea of a young man dying in police custody, the confrontations with police, the looting and burning of innocent minority owned businesses," Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn said on the Senate floor this month. "The question arises, what can we do?"

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It's All Politics
3:07 am
Wed May 13, 2015

Court Throws Out Nun's Sabotage Conviction For Nuclear Site Break-In

Anti-nuclear activists Gregory Boertje-Obed, Sister Megan Rice and Michael Walli in Knoxville, Tenn., in 2013.
Linda Davidson The Washington Post/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed May 13, 2015 7:51 pm

From the moment she was taken into custody in 2012, outside a building that stores enriched uranium in Oak Ridge, Tenn., Sister Megan Rice has argued she has been driven by one thing — a desire to spread a message.

"And we all know that nuclear energy is linked inextricably with nuclear weapons," Rice told a group of activists in remarks captured on YouTube.

Prosecutors accused her of violating the Sabotage Act, intending to hurt the government's ability to wage war or defend itself.

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It's All Politics
11:56 am
Tue May 12, 2015

Reagan Shooter John Hinckley's Lawyers Say He's Ready To Be Free

John Hinckley currently enjoys 17-day visits to his mother's home in Williamsburg, Va., every month. Prosecutors voiced concern over what would happen when his 89-year-old mother dies.
Steve Helber AP

Originally published on Tue May 12, 2015 2:34 pm

A lawyer for John Hinckley told a federal judge Tuesday that it's time to grant the thwarted presidential assassin the power to leave a psychiatric hospital and live full time with his elderly mother in Virginia.

"Every witness agrees that he's ready and every witness agrees that the risk of danger is decidedly low," lawyer Barry William Levine argued.

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It's All Politics
2:34 pm
Fri May 8, 2015

Justice Dept. Hopes Investigation Will Create A 'Stronger' Baltimore

Attorney General Loretta Lynch, seen here with Baltimore police Commissioner Anthony Batts, met Tuesday with the city's police officers, faith leaders and the family of Freddie Gray.
Getty Images

Originally published on Fri May 8, 2015 8:38 pm

The new U.S. attorney general said she watched the scenes of riots on the streets of Baltimore last week, her first day in office as the country's top law enforcement officer.

"I would have to say that my first reaction was profound sadness, it truly was," Loretta Lynch said.

But after meeting with community leaders and clergy Tuesday, and hearing their frustration over the death of a 25-year-old man who suffered a spinal injury in police custody, Lynch said her sadness hardened into resolve.

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The Two-Way
8:34 pm
Thu May 7, 2015

Baltimore Police Will Be Target Of Broad Justice Department Inquiry

Attorney General Loretta Lynch prepares to testify Thursday at a budget hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Susan Walsh AP

Originally published on Thu May 7, 2015 9:12 pm

Two federal sources tell NPR that the Justice Department is preparing to launch a broad investigation into possible discriminatory policing in Baltimore.

The officials spoke anonymously because no formal announcement has been made, though the Associated Press says that could come as soon as Friday. The probe follows a request from city leaders and members of Congress.

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The Two-Way
2:33 pm
Thu May 7, 2015

FBI Says It Sent Bulletin On Texas Assailant Hours Before Attack

FBI Director James B. Comey takes a question during a news conference in March. Comey says the FBI issued a bulletin to local law enforcement about one of the Garland, Texas, assailants three hours before the attack.
Joshua Roberts Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Thu May 7, 2015 4:01 pm

Updated at 6 p.m. ET

FBI Director James Comey says the bureau issued a bulletin on one of the two assailants at a Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest in Garland, Texas, just three hours before the attack earlier this week.

Comey told reporters Thursday that the FBI had sent an Intel Bulletin to local law enforcement with a photo of Elton Simpson, his license plate number and other information without stating directly that he was heading to Garland.

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