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

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.


6:59 pm
Tue June 19, 2012

Senators Get Time In Solitary Confinement

An exercise area for inmates in solitary confinement in California's Pelican Bay prison. Inmates are allowed to leave their windowless cells for 2 1/2 hours daily to exercise and bathe.
Michael Montgomery Center for Investigative Reporting

At any given moment, about 15,000 men and women are living in solitary confinement in the federal prison system, housed in tiny cells not much larger than a king-sized bed.

"It is hard to describe in words what such a small space begins to look like, feel like and smell like when someone is required to live virtually their entire life in it," says Craig Haney, a psychologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

But Tuesday, Haney, who has studied life inside prisons for three decades, had an opportunity to paint that picture.

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6:31 pm
Tue June 19, 2012

Senate Holds First Hearing On Solitary Confinement

Advocates for prisoners rights say too many inmates spend years in solitary confinement — in violation of the constitutional bar against cruel and unusual punishment. Today, they persuaded the U.S. Senate to hold the first hearing on the issue, as state and federal prison systems fend off new lawsuits over the practice.

3:57 am
Fri June 15, 2012

Legal Help For The Poor In 'State Of Crisis'

At Maryland's Legal Aid Bureau in Baltimore, the doors are open every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It serves as a kind of legal emergency room for people who need help but can't afford a lawyer.
Carrie Johnson NPR

Originally published on Fri June 15, 2012 10:56 am

Nearly 50 years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that people accused of a crime deserve the right to a defense lawyer, no matter whether they can afford to pay for one. But there's no such guarantee when it comes to civil disputes — like evictions and child custody cases — even though they have a huge impact on people's lives.

For decades, federal and state governments have pitched in to help. But money pressures mean the system for funding legal aid programs for the poor is headed toward a crisis.

A Legal ER

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5:43 am
Thu June 14, 2012

Michigan Finally Eyeing Changes To Lawyers For Poor

Edward Carter's conviction for a 1974 crime was vacated by a judge after it was shown that Carter was innocent — and after he had spent 35 years in Michigan prisons.
Brakkton Booker NPR

Originally published on Fri June 15, 2012 12:05 pm

Lawyers on all sides agree the system enshrined nearly 50 years ago that gives all defendants the right to a lawyer is not working. The Justice Department calls it a crisis — such a big problem that it's been doling out grants to improve how its adversaries perform in criminal cases.

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The Two-Way
4:08 pm
Wed June 13, 2012

Justice Department Is Dropping Case Against Edwards

Originally published on Wed June 13, 2012 4:49 pm

The Justice Department is walking away from its case against John Edwards.

Federal prosecutors have announced they will not retry the former Democratic presidential candidate on campaign finance charges. The decision comes soon after jury was unable to reach a verdict.

Government lawyers asked Judge Catherine Eagles to dismiss the case with prejudice, meaning they will not take another bite at the apple and try to resurrect their high profile case.

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5:28 pm
Tue June 12, 2012

Attorney General Grilled On Security Leaks

Originally published on Tue June 12, 2012 8:02 pm



This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Audie Cornish. Attorney General Eric Holder was called to testify on Capitol Hill today where Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee skewered Holder. They challenged his ability to oversee a rigorous investigation of national security leaks. They demanded more information about the botched gun operation known as Fast and Furious, and they even called for Holder's resignation. NPR's Carrie Johnson reports.

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The Two-Way
5:03 am
Tue June 12, 2012

10,000 People Called Human Trafficking Hotline In 2011

Originally published on Tue June 12, 2012 10:14 am

A national hotline for human trafficking victims received calls from about 10,000 individuals last year, from every state in the union.

A new report out today by the Polaris Project, which runs the 24-hour hotline through a federal grant, says the volume of calls for help is on the rise, as awareness of the problem grows.

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4:29 pm
Fri June 1, 2012

Edwards Verdict: A Case Of Campaign Law Confusion

Former Sen. John Edwards leaves federal court in Greensboro, N.C., Thursday after jurors acquitted him of one felony count and a judge declared a mistrial on five other charges.
Sara D. Davis Getty Images

Originally published on Fri June 1, 2012 10:29 pm

From the day a grand jury indicted former Sen. John Edwards on six felony charges nearly one year ago, the case drew jeers from election lawyers and government watchdogs.

"It was an incredibly aggressive prosecution because it was based on a novel theory of the law," says Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. "There was literally no precedent. No case had ever been like this."

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4:13 pm
Thu May 31, 2012

When The Jury Becomes The Story

Former Sen. John Edwards leaves the federal courthouse in Greensboro, N.C., on Tuesday.
Chuck Liddy MCT/Landov

Originally published on Thu May 31, 2012 10:58 pm

They were called the "giggle gang" — four alternate jurors in the John Edwards trial who wore the same-colored shirt to court on several days.

During nine days of deliberations, much attention was given to the merry band of alternates in the high-profile campaign finance case.

On Thursday, attention swung back to the jury itself, which found Edwards not guilty on one count. The judge declared a mistrial on the other five charges.

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The Two-Way
11:59 am
Fri May 18, 2012

Study: 1 in 10 American Inmates Experienced Sexual Violence

Originally published on Fri May 18, 2012 12:28 pm

A newly released Justice Department study reports nearly 1 in 10 inmates have experienced sexual violence.

The data, based on a 2008 survey of people who served in state prisons, says the abuse disproportionately hits gay and bisexual inmates. And victims who reported the problems often were retaliated against or ignored, the study said.

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7:03 am
Wed May 2, 2012

Justice Department Downplays Hate Crime Law Expectation

Originally published on Wed May 2, 2012 7:53 am



On a Wednesday, it's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm David Greene. Nearly three years ago, Congress passed a federal hate crime law. It makes it illegal to target victims because of their race, religion or sexual orientation. The law drew protests from some Republican lawmakers and religious groups, who said it threatened their free speech rights. And the law has been used sparingly.

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4:19 pm
Fri April 27, 2012

Holder: 'More Work To Do' Before Term Is Over

Attorney General Eric Holder, shown speaking at the 2012 National Law Enforcement Training on Child Exploitation earlier this month, tells NPR he's achieved his highest goal: leading a Justice Department that shaped him as a lawyer and as a person.
David Goldman AP

Originally published on Fri April 27, 2012 6:05 pm

Attorney General Eric Holder — the first African-American to hold the nation's top law enforcement job — is in the homestretch of his first, and probably last, full term in the post.

And after more than three years on the job, Holder is in an unusually reflective mood. He's thinking about the country's ongoing struggle over civil rights and what he wants to accomplish in his last months of government service.

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Around the Nation
3:03 am
Wed April 25, 2012

Holder Vows 'Zero Tolerance' To Human Trafficking

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said human trafficking will not be tolerated in the U.S. during a speech at the Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock, Ark., on Tuesday.
Danny Johnston AP

Originally published on Wed April 25, 2012 8:13 am

Forced labor and underage prostitution are hiding in plain sight in cities all over the U.S. and are no longer problems confined to the developing world, according to Attorney General Eric Holder.

In a major speech on human trafficking Tuesday in Little Rock, Ark., Holder said far too many reports of abuse cross his desk each week, more than 40 percent of them involving children.

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The Two-Way
2:57 pm
Mon April 23, 2012

Six Men Ask Judge To Overturn Convictions In Notorious D.C. Murder Case

In 1985, Chris Turner was convicted of the murder of Catherine Fuller. After spending decades in prison, Turner is now out on parole; he maintains his innocence. He is shown here in his childhood neighborhood in Northeast Washington, D.C., about 100 yards away from what was Fuller's home.
Amanda Steen NPR

Originally published on Mon April 23, 2012 3:39 pm

Six men wearing bright orange prison jumpsuits appeared in a D.C. courtroom today, seeking to overturn their decades-old convictions in a brutal murder by arguing the Justice Department failed to turn over critical evidence that could have helped them assert their innocence.

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3:20 am
Thu April 12, 2012

Does The Case Against John Edwards Go Too Far?

Former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards (left) speaks to the media with attorney Abbe Lowell last October. His trial on alleged campaign finance violations is set to begin Thursday.
Chuck Burton AP

Originally published on Fri April 13, 2012 10:22 am

Prospective jurors head to court in North Carolina on Thursday to find out whether they'll be chosen to sit in judgment of former U.S. Sen. John Edwards.

Only four years ago, Edwards was running for the White House as a Democratic candidate. Now, he's a defendant, fighting campaign finance charges that could send him away for as long as 30 years.

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It's All Politics
5:10 pm
Wed March 28, 2012

Supreme Court Limits Damage Payments To Whistle-Blowers

Under Wednesday's Supreme Court ruling, whistle-blowers like Linda Tripp (seen here in 1998) have few options in suing the government for damages.
Mark Wilson Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Fri March 30, 2012 2:14 pm

The Supreme Court has dealt privacy advocates a huge setback. By a 5-3 majority, the court ruled that people who sue the government for invading their privacy can only recover out-of-pocket damages. And whistle-blower lawyers say that leaves victims who suffer emotional trouble and smeared reputations with few if any options.

Justice Samuel Alito and all four of his conservative colleagues turned back a challenge from a pilot named Stan Cooper. (Justice Elena Kagan did not participate in the case.)

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12:25 pm
Mon March 26, 2012

DOJ Follows Its 'Conscience' In Civil Rights Battles

Attorney General Eric Holder arrives at a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on Feb. 2. Holder says, "The Civil Rights Division ... is the conscience of the Justice Department."
Mark Wilson Getty Images

When community leaders wanted justice for the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, they went knocking on the door of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. And that's been happening a lot lately.

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4:04 am
Wed March 21, 2012

FBI Still Struggling With Supreme Court's GPS Ruling

FBI Director Robert Mueller testifies before a House Appropriations Committee panel on March 7.
T.J. Kirkpatrick Getty Images

Originally published on Wed March 21, 2012 1:11 pm

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court said police had overstepped their legal authority by planting a GPS tracker on the car of a suspected drug dealer without getting a search warrant. It seemed like another instance in a long line of cases that test the balance between personal privacy and the needs of law enforcement.

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3:11 pm
Tue March 20, 2012

Without Parole, Juveniles Face Bleak Life In Prison

Charles Dutton is an award-winning actor. But as a juvenile, he wound up in prison for manslaughter and other crimes.
Andrew Kent Getty Images

We hear a lot about juvenile offenders when they commit a crime — and again, when they're sentenced to spend the rest of their lives in prison. But not much is known about what happens after the prison gates slam shut.

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5:56 pm
Thu March 15, 2012

Report: Prosecutors Hid Evidence In Ted Stevens Case

Then-Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, in 2008.
Alex Wong Getty Images

An extraordinary special investigation by a federal judge has concluded that two Justice Department prosecutors intentionally hid evidence in the case against Sen. Ted Stevens, one of the biggest political corruption cases in recent history.

A blistering report released Thursday found that the government team concealed documents that would have helped the late Stevens, a longtime Republican senator from Alaska, defend himself against false-statements charges in 2008. Stevens lost his Senate seat as the scandal played out, and he died in a plane crash two years later.

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10:01 am
Wed March 14, 2012

As Gangs Move To New York Suburbs, So Does Crime

Law enforcement agents raid a home where the occupants are suspected of selling drugs last month in Middletown, N.Y. For three months, court papers say, authorities tracked them using wiretaps and cameras set up on telephone poles and trees.
Chet Gordon AP

Originally published on Fri December 14, 2012 11:45 am

Over the past few years, authorities have arrested more than 200 gang members in an unexpected place: the tree-lined suburbs along the Hudson River in New York.

Drug traffickers with ties to the Bloods, the Latin Kings and other gangs have put down roots there. Authorities say they brought shootings and stabbings with them.

Middletown, N.Y., is 90 minutes northwest of the city. On West Main Street, you can find tidy brick buildings from the 1800s, a brew pub, and a restaurant that sells fresh mussels and escargot.

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4:54 pm
Tue March 6, 2012

To Solve Hacking Case, Feds Get Hacker Of Their Own

The LulzSec icon on Twitter.

Federal prosecutors have charged five men with responsibility for some of the biggest computer hacks in the past few years. The FBI says the hackers penetrated the computer systems of businesses like Fox Broadcasting and Sony Pictures, stole confidential information and splashed it all over the Internet.

But what's most unusual about the case is how investigators cracked it — with the help of an insider who became a secret government informant.

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12:01 am
Tue March 6, 2012

Holder Spells Out Why Drones Target U.S. Citizens

Attorney General Eric Holder discusses the controversial U.S. drone program during a speech at Northwestern Law School in Chicago on Monday.
John Gress Getty Images

It's one of the most serious actions the U.S. government could ever take: targeting one of its own citizens with lethal force.

Since last year, U.S. drones have killed three Americans overseas. But Attorney General Eric Holder says the ongoing fight against al-Qaida means those kinds of deadly strikes are now a way of life. And judging from the reaction to his national security speech at Northwestern University Law School on Monday, so is the hot debate over the legality of the U.S. drone program.

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10:20 am
Wed October 26, 2011

As It Turns 10, Patriot Act Remains Controversial

Protesters hold up signs outside of Federal Hall during a demonstration against then-U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft in 2003 in New York City.

Spencer Platt Getty Images

Originally published on Wed October 26, 2011 10:27 am

Ten years ago, on Oct. 26, 2001, President George W. Bush signed the USA Patriot Act.

Congress overwhelmingly passed the law only weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks. It's designed to give the FBI more power to collect information in cases that involve national security.

But in the decade since then, civil liberties groups have raised concerns about whether the Patriot Act goes too far by scooping up too much data and violating people's rights to privacy.

Nicholas Merrill is one of the people sounding an alarm.

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