Republican Senators appear to be pretty sure that Nina Morrison, a Biden judicial nominee who’s spent 20 years helping to free innocent people from death row, is personally to blame for all violent crime in America.
On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a confirmation hearing for three Biden judicial nominees, although Republican Senators were pretty singularly obsessed with Morrison, a senior litigation counsel at the Innocence Project whom Biden has nominated for a lifetime seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told Morrison point-blank that she and the policies for which she’s advocated — “letting violent criminals go,” as he described it —are directly responsible for “skyrocketing crime rates, homicide rates, burglary rates” and “carjacking rates” in America.
“Do you care about the innocent people being killed because of the policies you’re implementing?” Cruz asked Morrison, who then had to explain to the senator as one would a first-grader that the point of the Innocence Project is to free people who’ve been wrongly convicted for crimes they did not commit so that the real “violent criminals” of which he speaks can be held accountable. “When the wrong person is convicted of a murder, the person who’s actually committed the crime isn’t brought to justice,” she patiently responded to Cruz.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) then lost his shit and just started listing as many types of crimes as he could think of — “murders,” “throwing rocks” (lol), “gasoline,” “assault,” “looters,” and “rioting”— and proceeded to blame all of these supposedly skyrocketing crimes on Morrison’s work to exonerate innocent incarcerated people. He also insisted “pro-reform” lawyers like Morrison are, somehow, innately “pro-crime.” (Hawley, you’ll note, is currently fundraising off a photo of him cheering on violent insurrectionists at the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, which directly resulted in seven deaths.)
It should be noted that there’s no real evidence for any of these “skyrocketing” crime rates. And if these aforementioned crimes were on the rise, it’s far more likely they’d be driven by poverty and underfunded communities than litigation claims for access to post-conviction DNA evidence under civil rights law, which have been the focus of Morrison’s legal career. And, again, Morrison’s clients are a specific group of people whom the state was going to execute for crimes they did not commit.
But Republicans did not let such facts stop them from peppering Biden’s nominee all day with bizarre, misleading, and unabashedly stupid questions, few of which had anything to do with what she actually does at the Innocence Project. At one point, Morrison had to remind Cruz that in 2013, Republican state legislators in his own state of Texas unanimously passed a law named after her former client Michael Morton to help wrongly accused people access possibly exculpatory evidence in cases with proven misconduct.
But sure, every time a rock gets thrown at a windshield it’s probably because of Nina Morrison.