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News Roundup

December 16th, 2011
By Jeff Welty

Happy belated Bill of Rights Day! The end of the year is supposed to be slow, but this week has been completely full of criminal justice news. Among the major stories are the following:

1. In Raleigh, Governor Perdue vetoed the de facto repeal of the Racial Justice Act. Republicans have the votes to override the veto in the Senate, but probably not in the House, as discussed here.

2. In Durham, novelist and formerly convicted murderer Michael Peterson has been awarded a new trial. Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson found that perjured testimony by ex-SBI agent Duane Deaver so required. Peterson has been released on bond while the state appeals the new trial order. The News and Observer is on top of the story here.

3. The Death Penalty Information Center released its 2011 year end report, available here. The first sentence of the report is “The number of new death sentences dropped dramatically in 2011, falling below 100 for the first time in the modern era of capital punishment.” The reasons for, and the significance of, the decline, are disputed. The DPIC report presents one view; a contrasting view is set forth here.

4. The National Transportation Safety Board, a five-member federal board responsible for, you guessed it, transportation safety, wants a national ban on the use of cell phones while driving, including hands-free devices. One of the board members called distracted driving the “new DUI.

5. A little farther afield, n Arkansas defendant who was convicted of murder and sentenced to death was awarded a new trial because a juror disregarded the judge’s instructions and tweeted/Twittered about the case. The posts themselves were infrequent and fairly opaque. For example, the juror wrote “Choices to be made. Hearts to be broken. We each define the great line.” But the juror lied about his activity when first confronted about it, and then continued to do post even after being admonished by the trial judge. Seems like the juror might be in a bit of hot water.

5. Finally, a colleague pointed me to the Forensic Resources blog, launched in August 2011 by Sarah Rackley, the Forensic Resource Counsel at IDS. Posts are episodic, but you can sign up for an email subscription if the content interests you. It covers subjects like DNA analysis, blood alcohol testing, digital evidence, and the like.

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2 Responses to “News Roundup”

  1. Jim says:

    Thank you, Mr. Welty, for your dedication and efforts. I wish you a Happy Bill of Rights (BOR)Day as well. It is a lesson for me that I had not considered (The Ratification Date). It seems as if the Bill of Rights which was created and ratified into law in order to secure the natural rights (“Civil rights”) of men (mankind) against abuse of power and authority delegated to government actors (Federal/State/County/City agents) by the Citizens of the several states is not well adhered to or enforced. Our (Citizen’s) agents (Governmental Actors) seem to be above the laws that created, and regulate them.
    In this roundup you bring light to the fact that a person (Citizen) has been charged, tried, and convicted of the heinous act of murder. Apparently the conviction relied on the false statements (perjury) of one of ‘our’ agents. Now all the ‘good Citizens of North Carolina state’ shall be held to pay via unreasonable taxation for a new trial. The very rights alleged to be secured by the BOR must necessarily be infringed on in the interest of fairness and justice. If it is true that a person (SBI) acting as ‘our agent’ (Citizen’s) lied under Oath, I feel this act is at least as heinous act as murder itself. I feel that there should be very harsh punishments imposed against ‘our actors’ acting under the color of law and official right while in fact they are violating the law.

  2. Jim says:

    The matter of death sentences.

    Personally I feel that the death penalty is a fitting punishment ‘IF THERE IS NO REASONABLE DOUBT’. Further, I feel the final decision needs to be left to the victims, and or their family not their agents (government).
    I feel that our entire system of law enforcement and justice is overrun with corruption. I know this is not a ‘popular opinion’ concerning law enforcement or the courts. The thought that agents acting in our name funded by us may be acting outside the scope and purview of their actual job descriptions, hiding their acts under the color of law and official right ‘is not an easy pill to swallow’ for any rational person.

    To think that the ‘People we entrust to act in our collective names’ (City of/ County of/ State of/ United States of) ‘are not actually supra natural persons’ with the natural capacity to act above and beyond any temptations to act unlawfully for any self-interests they may have is disheartening. But this is the reality of it all. Fact is there is not a single supra natural being or person anywhere that is not subject to ‘mistakes, inadvertence, and neglect to duty or care’.

    In some instances I feel these abuses of trust and powers are purposeful to satisfy some personal need or desire. It has been said that ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely’ and I tend to agree. Our Republic was designed to prevent this by the blending of the principles of Direct and Indirect representative democracies combined with the securities created within the Supreme Law of the Land and it’s Bill of Rights.

    Many advocate Tort reforms, I feel Court reforms should come first.

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