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News Roundup

February 21st, 2014
By Jeff Welty

WRAL reports here on the top local story this week: the SBI is “looking into allegations that former Wake County court employees improperly released jail bondsmen from their obligations to pay bond forfeitures.” It sounds as though criminal charges may be forthcoming. Other sources indicate that one or more employees of the clerk’s office have been fired as a result of the investigation, and that the school system, which was due the forfeited money, may sue to recoup hundreds of thousands of dollars from the bondsmen who benefitted from the improper forfeiture set asides.

In other news:

Is this technocorrections stuff really working? Another report has surfaced of problems with GPS monitoring of people involved with the criminal justice system. This one comes from California, where probation officers “are drowning in a flood of meaningless data . . . [They] are inundated with alerts . . . as many as 1,000 a day. Most of the warnings mean little: a blocked signal or low battery. The messages are routinely ignored and at times have been deleted . . . Auditors making a spot check last fall found more than a dozen cases in which officers failed to notice that the devices were dead and probationers roamed unmonitored, some for weeks.” My anecdotal impression is that many agencies here in North Carolina are happy with GPS monitoring, but I would be interested in input from others with more direct knowledge.

Climate change and crime rates. Although it has been a cold and snowy winter, this Los Angeles Times article reports on a new study that concludes that “global warming will trigger more crimes . . . over the next century,” including 22,000 murders, 180,000 rapes, and millions of assaults and property crimes. I knew there was a reason I didn’t like hot weather.

Supreme Court to consider prosecutorial misconduct? This Atlantic article highlights Wolfe v. Clarke, a case the Court is likely to decide today whether to review. The article describes it as “a case about state prosecutors getting caught hiding exculpatory evidence, and getting scolded for it by the federal courts, and then violating the federal court order sanctioning them by threatening a witness and spoiling the retrial of a man they helped to wrongly convict. It is a case where prosecutors did all of this, right up to the brief they filed with the justices, without an evident shred of public contrition for their improper conduct.” Is there more to it than that? You decide: the Fourth Circuit’s opinion is here, and SCOTUSBlog’s page about the case is here.

As I have noted before, Scandanavian prisons are different. Remember Anders Breivik, the right-wing terrorist who killed 77 Norwegians in 2011? He’s in prison but he’s not happy about the conditions of his confinement. According to this story, he has filed a complaint with prison authorities and is “threatening to go on a hunger strike” unless he gets “an upgrade from his current PlayStation 2 to a PlayStation 3 ‘with access to more adult games that I get to choose myself.” It may be worth noting that Breivik “said he had ‘trained’ for his attacks using games like Call of Duty.” He also wants “a more generous weekly allowance.”

Finally, closer to home . . . a South Carolina woman was arrested for failing to return a VHS copy of Monster in Law, starring Jennifer Lopez and Jane Fonda, that she rented nine years ago. The backstory’s not that exceptional – it sounds like the store sought criminal charges and a warrant issued and was never served. But could the defendant have an interesting defense? This Ars Technica story thinks she “was doing her community a favor” by preventing anyone else from suffering through the epically terrible movie. Necessity doctrine, perhaps?

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One Response to “News Roundup”

  1. Jim says:

    I suspect there are NC State prosecutors “hiding exculpatory evidence”, such as applications for hearings and orders issued by Judges. I know of a matter where there was a timely request for a sort of pretrial hearing done with the proper filings, on the proper forms, and an Order made by the Judge that mysteriously has disappeared from the shuck.

    On the face of the shuck the date of the hearing is noted then crossed out. That State (prosecutor) at this hearing clearly stated that the State did not wish to pursue the matter, and the signed and dated Oder implied that the hearing was completed timely, that at least one of the conditions alleged made by an Officer (Burden of Proof) was not met, and as a result the court concluded that previous orders were rescinded.

    With that proof the matter should have been concluded, but there were more that 20 continuances mostly at the request of the State over nearly a three year period. Then finally there was a bench trial wherein the Defendant was found guilty of the charge alleged by the Officer that had previously been brought to court and determined to not be sufficient evidence to issue the original order that was rescinded.

    A proper notice of Appeal was filed, and over 10 months later there has yet to be a hearing.

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