News Roundup

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The Durham Herald-Sun reports that the long saga of the Michael Peterson murder case may conclude later this month with a plea bargain. As the Herald-Sun article recounts, Peterson was incarcerated for eight years after being convicted in 2003 of murdering his wife, Kathleen Peterson. He was granted a new trial in 2011 based on a court’s finding that former SBI analyst Duane Deaver had given misleading and false testimony at the original trial. The Herald-Sun article does not have details of the agreement, but a report from WRAL says that Peterson will enter an Alford plea to voluntary manslaughter. Keep reading for more news.

New A.G. As the New York Times reports, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions was confirmed this week as Attorney General. According to the Times, “Sessions brings a sharply conservative bent to the Justice Department and its 113,000 employees. A former prosecutor, he promises a focus aligned with Mr. Trump in pushing a ‘law and order’ agenda that includes tougher enforcement of laws on immigration, drugs, and gun trafficking.”

Pay Raise. The News & Observer reports that many Raleigh city government employees are getting a pay raise, and city police officers are among those getting the biggest raises. According to the report, “[t]he city plans to boost entry-level police officer salaries to $40,000, up 13 percent from the current annual salary of $35,310.”

Bald Eagle. Earlier this week a state trooper found a dead bald eagle in Chatham County that appeared to have been shot. A report from WRAL notes that it is a federal crime to kill the majestic creature, and I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it is probably not a crime frequently punished with leniency.

Bail Reform. According to an article from The New York Times, the New Jersey bail system has been “sharply altered” by an amendment to the state’s constitution that went into effect in January and has “nearly eliminate[d] cash bail.” The article says that out of 3,382 cases processed in the first four weeks of January, judges set bail only three times while 283 defendants were held without bail because of the serious nature of the charged crime or because of flight risk. The new system involves a computer-generated risk assessment, and the Times article includes a judge’s explanation of how the assessment is augmented by the “careful consideration and contemplation” of individual judges on a case-by-case basis.

Solitary. The Marshall Project says that HBO has released a documentary entitled “Solitary: Inside Red Onion State Prison” that provides “incredible access” to a supermax facility in Virginia. Excerpts from the film are available at the link.

Ad Hoc Condition. Idaho news outlet The Times-News reports that after sentencing a Twin Falls man on a rape charge last week, a judge added an “unusual caveat” to the sentence in the form of a probation condition requiring that the man not have sexual relations with anyone other than a spouse. According to Jamie, reviewing courts tend to be suspicious of ad hoc probation conditions directed at a defendant’s personal relationships. Regardless of the validity of the condition, a University of Idaho law professor quoted in the report has concerns about enforcement, musing: “It seems to be quite intrusive if they can just bust into his bedroom to make sure he’s not getting it on.”

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