News Roundup

The Associated Press reports here that “[f]ive fired Memphis police officers were charged Thursday with murder and other crimes in the killing of Tyre Nichols, a Black motorist who died three days after a confrontation with the officers during a traffic stop.” The officers allegedly beat Mr. Nichols to death. All five have been charged with second-degree murder among other crimes. Video of the incident is expected to be released to the public today and those who have seen it describe it as “horrific.” In a local connection, the Chief of Police in Memphis is CJ Davis, who served in a similar position in Durham until 2021. Chief Davis fired the five officers and has described their conduct as “a failure of basic humanity.” The officers’ attorneys say that they have little information about the case but that none of the officers intended to kill Mr. Nichols. Keep reading for more news. Continue reading

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Case Summaries – N.C. Court of Appeals (Jan. 17, 2023)

This post summarizes the published criminal opinions from the North Carolina Court of Appeals released on January 17, 2023. These summaries will be added to Smith’s Criminal Case Compendium, a free and searchable database of case summaries from 2008 to the present.

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The Common Law is Dead; Long Live the Common Law!

In State v. McLymore, 380 N.C. 185, 868 S.E.2d 67 (2022), our Supreme Court held that Section 14‑51.3 “supplants the common law on all aspects of the law of self-defense addressed by its provisions,” and “the only right to perfect self-defense available in North Carolina [is] the right provided by statute.”  Id. at 191, 868 S.E.2d at 72-73.  At the same time, it interpreted the felony disqualifier provision of Section 14-51.4 – consistently with “common law principles” – to require a causal nexus between the felony and the use of force.  Id. at 197, 868 S.E.2d at 77.  The common law is apparently not so easily dispensed with.  This post – my first contribution to this forum – addresses the persistence of the common law in the area of self-defense.  My colleague Phil Dixon provided color commentary on McLymore here.  My colleague John Rubin discussed the felony disqualifier provision (and anticipated the holding in McLymore) here. Continue reading

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Nontestimonial Identification Orders in Delinquency Matters

The law that governs the use of nontestimonial identification procedures in delinquency matters is markedly different than the law that governs use of these same procedures in criminal matters. The Juvenile Code requires a court order prior to the use of most nontestimonial identification procedures, a nontestimonial identification order (NTO) can only be issued in relation to felony charges, there are specific statutes that govern the destruction of resulting records, and the willful violation of the juvenile NTO statutes carries a criminal penalty. This post describes when NTOs are needed, and the procedure that must be followed to obtain them, in matters under juvenile jurisdiction. Continue reading

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A Refresher on North Carolina’s Needle Exchange Law and Other Harm Reduction Immunities

In response to the opioid crisis, North Carolina passed several protections designed to alleviate some of the legal liability surrounding drug use in the interest of harm reduction and public health. One of those protections authorized needle exchange programs (alternatively known as safe syringes programs). G.S. 90-113.27. A recent study examined how the needle exchange program is working in seven North Carolina counties and found that the law was not consistently applied. Brandon Morrison et al., “They Don’t Go by the Law Around Here”: Law Enforcement Interactions After the Legalization of Syringe Services Programs in North Carolina, vol. 19, Harm Reduction Journal, 106 (Sept. 27, 2022). Considering the study’s findings, I thought a refresher on the immunity provisions for syringe exchanges and similar protections would be timely. Read on for the details. Continue reading

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News Roundup

The lead story in our December 9 news roundup was the Moore County power outage that resulted from the shooting of two local power substations. This week, several news outlets reported that another North Carolina power substation appears to have been damaged by gunfire. This time the damage occurred in Randolph County, was quickly contained, and no customers lost power. Local and federal authorities are investigating the incident. Continue reading

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Case Summaries – N.C. Court of Appeals (Dec. 29, 2022)

This post summarizes the published criminal opinions from the North Carolina Court of Appeals released on December 29, 2022. These summaries will be added to Smith’s Criminal Case Compendium, a free and searchable database of case summaries from 2008 to the present.

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Human Trafficking: New SOG Resource Explaining Your Obligation to Make a Report and How the Agency Responds

January recognizes the importance of knowing about human trafficking. The President has declared January Human Trafficking Prevention Month (see the proclamation here). The North Carolina Governor and the Chief Justice have both declared January Human Trafficking Awareness Month (see the Governor’s proclamation here and the Chief Justice’s proclamation here). The purpose of these declarations is both a recognition that human trafficking in the United States and North Carolina exists and to educate our citizens about this issue. Partnerships are required for a successful response to combat the crime of human trafficking, which involves both sex and labor trafficking. The national, state, and local responses involve the prevention of human trafficking, protection for victims and survivors, and the prosecution of traffickers. Continue reading

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Case Summaries: Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals (December 2022)

This post summarizes criminal and related decisions published by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals during December 2022. Cases of interest to state practitioners are summarized monthly. Previous Fourth Circuit case summaries are available here. Continue reading

News Roundup

The national news this week focused on the discovery of classified documents at President Biden’s home in Delaware and former private office in Washington. Yesterday, Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a former federal prosecutor as Special Counsel to investigate the matter. The Associated Press explains here that “The position of Justice Department special counsel is a fairly new creation, enacted by Congress in 1999 following a bruising and politically divisive independent counsel investigation that resulted in [impeachment proceedings against President Clinton]. The purpose was to ensure ultimate Justice Department oversight of sensitive investigations rather than vest them with an independent prosecutor who could operate unchecked and without supervision. Though the attorney general retains ultimate authority over a special counsel’s decisions, special counsels do have the latitude to bring whatever cases they see fit. They are funded by the Justice Department, can bring on their own prosecutors, are entitled to office space and are often expensive.” Keep reading for more news. Continue reading

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